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Celtic Cookery : Beltane Bannocks ,Bread, and Other Foods Recipes

The Beltane bonfire festival is really uncomplete without a meal to go along with it. For Beltane, celebrate with foods that honor fertility of the earth. But probably the most widely spread tradition is the one regarding "Scottish Bannocks"

It is is a form of flat bread, the same thickness as a scone cooked on a griddle or fried in a pan. Today it may also be baked in an oven.
Originally made of oatmeal, it takes the form of a large oatcake. Many variations exist, both in Scotland from where it originates and in other countries, like Wales, and USA.

Particularly well-known is the Selkirk bannock, which is more like a fruitcake. Follow this link for further information on this subject

In Scotland, four main variations of bannock were historically tied to the druidic divisions of the year: Imbolc (February 1st), Beltane (May 1st), Lammas (August 1st), and Samhain (October 31st). Thus, special bannocks were made for each of these celebrations.

As Christianity took over, bannocks also became assimilated. The Lammas bannock became the Marymas bannock in honor of the Virgin Mary and the Selkirk bannock became a popular Christmas treat

It's said that if you eat one on Beltane morning, you'll be guaranteed abundance for your crops and livestock. Traditionally, the bannock is made with animal fat (such as bacon grease), and it is placed in a pile of embers, on top of a stone, to cook in the fire. Once it's blackened on both sides, it can be removed, and eaten with a blend of eggs and milk. This recipe doesn't require you to build a fire, and you can use butter instead of fat.

Scottish Bannocks or Oatcakes

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

* 1 1/2 C oatmeal
* 1/8 tsp. salt
* 1/4 tsp. baking soda
* 1 Tbs. butter
* 1/2 cup hot water


Combine oatmeal, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Melt the butter, and drizzle it over the oats. Add the water, and stir the mix until it forms a stiff dough. Turn the dough out on a sheet of wax paper and knead thoroughly.

Separate the dough into two equal portions, and roll each one into a ball. Use a rolling pin to make a flat pancake that is about ¼" thick. Cook your oatcakes on a griddle over medium heat until they are golden brown. Cut each round into quarters to serve.

Traditionally, the Beltane bannock would have been made with meat fat, such as bacon grease, instead of butter. You can use this if you prefer.

To serve, split the bannocks and spread with butter. They’re excellent with soups or with a big dollop of honey.

Selkirk Bannock

This is unlike the traditional oatcake bannock, more of a fruit cake. It was first made by a baker in Selkirk and was initially only made for festive occasions such as Christmas.


1 lb flour
8 oz sultanas (seedless white raisins)
4 oz sugar
2 oz butter and 2 oz lard
2 oz chopped mixed peel
Quarter pint milk
Quarter ounce dried yeast
A tablespoon of milk and sugar for the glaze

Sieve the flour and sugar into a bowl, add the yeast and mix well. Melt the butter and lard in a saucepan on a low heat. Remove as soon as it is melted. Warm the milk in another saucepan and then pour it into the melted fats.

Create a hole in the middle of the flour, sugar and yeast and mix well into a smooth dough. Cover the bowl with a warm, damp towel (or plastic clingfilm) and leave in a warm location for 45 minutes. The dough will rise, doubling in size.

Knead the dough (with flour on your hands to stop it sticking) for five minutes. Add the sultanas and mixed peel and knead well again for another five minutes. Place the dough in a loaf tin and cover with a plastic pollythene bag (tied at the top) and leave in a warm place for 20 minutes to allow it to rise again.

Remove the tin from the bag and bake in a preheated oven at 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4 for an hour. Mix the tablespoon of milk and sugar. Remove the cake tin from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface. Brush the top with the milk and sugar, using a pastry brush. Return the cake tin to the oven (using oven gloves - it's still hot) and bake for another twenty minutes. Test with a skewer - if it is wet, continue baking for another ten minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing. Store in an airtight container.

Beltane Bread

Recipe by Ann Moura (Aoumiel)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and combine:
4 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 cups sugar
1 tube almond paste
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 eggs

When dough is worked to medium soft, shape into flattened balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool, ice with white Solar Cross. You could try this as a single loaf. I also like to make an almond biscuit with biscuit mix, almond extract, sugar, cinnamon, and eggs, but in smaller proportions. (A lot of my cooking is unmeasured, which doesn't help for making recipes.)

(The above recipe for "Beltane Bread" is directly quoted from Ann Moura (Aoumiel)'s book "Green Witchcraft: Folk Magic, Fairy Lore & Herb Craft", page 218, Llewellyn Publications, 1996.)

Beltaine Cream Pie

Recipe by Edain McCoy

Prepare and pre-bake a pie shell and have it ready in the pie dish. The pie filling will be warmed but not baked.

1 cup whole milk
1 cup rich cream
1/2 cup or one stick of butter (don't use margarine)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/14 teaspoon vanilla
ground nutmeg

Melt the butter in a wide cooking pan. (The mixture heats more evenly in this than in a taller more narrow pan Traditionalists will use a heavy cast iron pan.)
In a separate bowl slowly add the milk to the cornstarch making sure it is fully dissolved and absorbed before adding more milk. When the cornstarch is fully blended add this and all the other ingredients, except the vanilla, to the cooking pan.
Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture becomes thick like a pudding. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the mixture into the waiting pie shell and sprinkle with nutmeg. the pie may be eaten while it is still warm as long as it has cooled just enough to set. Or the pie may be chilled and eaten later.
(The above recipe for "Beltaine Cream Pie" is directly quoted from Edain McCoy's book "Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition", page 187, Llewellyn Publications, 1993/1994)

Hereby some further sources and cool links regarding Beltaine Foods:

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