A warning about oatcakes

“I warn you, i you once turn out good oatcakes, you have sentenced yourself to a life job,…”

This is the opening sentence of Janet Murray’s oatcake recipe; Janet shared recipes on a radio programme, some of which found themselves into a little booklet which cost 2/6d – two shillings and six pence. She seems a warm and funny person, full of good humour and practical tips in the recipes she gives. In case you fancy making her oatcakes, condemning yourself to a life-long task, here is how her recipe continues:

I warn you, i you once turn out good oatcakes, you have sentenced yourself to a life job, even although there is not perhaps the demand for them that there used to be. I can remember when there was a huge baking of oatcakes every week, and the delcious smell greeted one from quite a distance.

1 lb fine oatmeal; 1 tablespoonful liquid fat; pinch of salt; 1 small teaspoonful baking soda/

Put the oatmeal in a roomy basin and add the liquid fat, salt and baking soda. Mix, well, and then make a pliable dough with luke-warm water, adding the water slowly but handling the dough quickly, as oatmeal absorbs liquid quickly and you may find the mixture dry and crumbly.
Scatter oatmeal over the baking board, turn dough on to it and knead well into a smooth ball. After kneading, spread the dough out, using the knuckles, spreading oatmeal over and under as required, then roll out with a rolling-pin to about an eight of an inch in thickness.
Using the palm of the hand, give a brisk rub over the cake to slacken loose oatmeal, then brush off. A brush of hens’ feathers used to be kept especially for this purpose. Cut the cake into triangles or quarters (corters as we call them in the North-east). Put the cakes on a fairly hot girdle and when they are beginning to brown turn them and cook them on the other side. Finish off on a brander in front of the fire, or in a hot oven.

I love old cookery books for the insights they give into past kitchens and cooks; a girdle is what us southerners would call a griddle, but what a brander is I’m not sure. Whatever a brander might be, I’m guessing something made of metal which is heated to cook/toast something by pressing the hot surface against the food, or put the food upon, but I will investigate further!

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