A field of oats. By Fk via Wikimedia Commons
I took a circuitous route to arrive at the story idea for today’s post. Several months ago over lunch, friends from the Open Studio were talking about wheat and gluten, the connection between wheat and inflammation specifically. I became further interested and, since then, the inflammatory properties of foods has become a research focus. Fast forward to last week when I further learned that inflammation is also caused by eating finely ground wheat flour. Well, we bake bread, so I started wondering about where we could go from here. Then, I remembered that I’d bought a double bag of steel cut oats from Costco. Previous to that, I’d never had them before, but they’re delicious with golden syrup, which has the flavor of burnt sugar. Steel cut oats are much less processed than the rolled oats used to in North America. And
oats have a low inflammation rating. Soon, my mind traveled from that to oatcakes. Oatcakes are a common foodstuff in the British Isles and Ireland. Next, I was looking them up on yahoo.uk. Well, practically every corner has its own type of oatcake. I also came upon something called “Potteries Oatcakes.” I stopped when I saw that and mouthed ‘pottery?’ I learned that Potteries Oatcakes are synonymous with Staffordshire oatcakes. Geography.
Steel cut oats. By Spunkybart at Wikimedia
I hadn’t realized that the locale around Stoke-on-Trent is actually called The Potteries. According to Wikipedia, The Potteries is a city and industrial area made up of Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton.”Together with the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke forms The Potteries Urban Area.” Now, I have been covering news about Stoke-on-Trent for a over a year, focusing on stories about historic potteries that have been renovated. A number of these rambling old sites are once again being used for potteries and whole neighborhoods nearby are being gentrified. It’s quite thrilling, but I didn’t know the entire area was called The Potteries. Getting back to oatcakes, I started looking for information about the potteries variety and hit the jackpot.
Staffordshire or Potteries Oatcakes. By Goose at Wikimedia
There appear to be oatcakes shops everywhere! There are also scads of oatcake recipes and just as many varieties. Round, square or triangular…made with cookie cutters or in sheet pans. Some Scottish recipes are basically oats, lard, and water; others from Scotland combine oats and wheat flour. Then you have all the Irish and English versions…. In addition, the oat itself is milled different ways, and most of these recipes seem to call for fine or medium grind. Other recipes call for wheat or oat flour. Then there is the regional nomenclature: steel cut oats are also called pinhead oats. Plus, some oatcakes have other ingredients, like raisins. As it turns out, the type that are called Potteries Oatcakes are somewhat like crepes, stuffed with sweet or savory fillings. The ones in the photograph above appear to be filled with ham slices. Staffordshire Oatcakes sells mixes online and one can buy fresh ones at the Potteries Oatcake Co. in Longton. Looking back in time, I can imagine pottery workers flying to their lunch boxes when the noon whistle blew and filled oatcakes gobbled up before the back to work whistle sounded. This created a desire to find an ‘authentic’ Potteries Oatcake recipe. I found the one which runs below at the Recipe Database EU site. The poster of the recipe isn’t named, so I cannot credit him or her, but here it is, slightly edited:
Ingredients for 4 servings
2 oz. white flour; sifted
2 oz. oatmeal
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 fluid oz. milk
1 T butter, melted
This recipe is from a local women’s group’s Potteries Cookbook. Homemade oatcakes never seemed as good as the shop-bought thing, strangely, but this is the best recipe I’ve found.
Mix the flour, oatmeal, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the beaten eggs and milk. Mix with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating more of the flour until the mixture forms a smooth batter. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Use hot frying pan or griddle, and grease it with melted butter. Place 3 or 4 tablespoons of mixture on it, well-spaced, and cook for 1 minute.
The traditional way to serves them seems to be with butter and jam, but our family always preferred them as a savoury dish, with melted cheese and eggs.
Now, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it; however, my story about oats can’t be written without a small addition. My favorite underground cartoon character is Gilbert Shelton’s “Oat Willie,” who is “the most thoughtful guy in the world.” In the 1980s, I became very ill, but basically laughed myself through it because my friend, Rhonda, gave me a complete set of Oat Willie comic books before she moved to Seattle. I treasure them to this day and adore Oat Willie. A true fan, I also have an Oat Willie mug and t-shirt. So, there you have it. From grain to oatcake to Oat Willie! It’s a wrap…