Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Oatcakes, Redux.

 So. It was Robbie Burn's Day. And while I can be very open-minded about what may constitute a Robbie Burn's Day dinner.... (ie. I'm not committed solely to haggis), I do tend to always think of athol brose.)

 Now even recipes for Athol Brose have many variations. I just looked out a quick one from a cookbook and it says: whiskey, honey, cold water.
 But the one I've done for years has been to take oatmeal and soak it in water, then drain off the water, add honey, whiskey, and cream. (I don't even remember where that version came from, but it's danged tasty.)

 However, it leaves you with some soaked, softened oats..

 On an energetic Robbie Burn's Day, I've taken those softened oats, and made them into a pudding of some sort. Maybe adding fruit, like raspberries. Maybe not... but they've been used then.

 This time I put them aside to use the next day.
 Now I could have just made them into porridge. But I was slow off the mark and it didn't happen. And then, because I'd already been thinking about this blog, I decided to try some more oatcakes. What the heck, why not? [NOTE: it was soaked rolled oats, not steelcut oats.]

So, because I was thinking of oatcakes, and had bacon, I thought about oatcakes fried in bacon grease. And decided on aiming towards savoury flavours, since I often make oatcakes with dried fruit, and a change is a good a a rest. (Don't they say?)

 I had recently purchased some fresh sage, and had some left over, so I finely chopped some green onion, some sage, and crumbled in a small bit of dried dulse. I seasoned it with a small pinch of Breton grey sea salt. (Thank you, Diane.) I added flour to the batter; fortunately the flour I have on hand is an unbleached flour, since my alternate grain flours didn't come with me.At least unbleached wheat flour is a bit less in-your-face modern! (If I'd drained the oatmeal mixture again, it might have required less flour, but of course, I thought of this after the fact!)

 After reaching a workable consistency of the soaked oats and flour, I shaped some oat cakes. I rendered some bacon in a pan. (Not wasted, I ate it!) And cooked the oat cakes in the reserved bacon fat. I also took a second batch of oat cakes, tossed them in the warm pan to absorb any leftover bacon fat, and baked them on a sheet in the oven at 325 F.

 Admittedly, EVERYTHING with bacon is better, but the oatcakes were pretty good! Of course, because it had also crossed my mind I decided to make a quick cheese, a paneer, to go with them.

 At Christmas I'd treated myself to a favourite cheese, Boursin, a cow's milk cheese with pepper, and had wondered to myself if I could make a paneer that reminded me of it. I'd recently made a ricotta/paneer cheese that had left me with some ingredients on hand, so I just replayed that process, and flavoured it with some of the Breton salt and ground black pepper. I'd also decided to make the paneer with lemon juice this time, although I'd been warned it might be less precise. So actually, in the end I used lemon juice MOSTLY, and a bit of vinegar. [If I were doing this at a historic camp, I think I'd use vinegar for a more neutral flavour, though the lemon juice had a nice tang. Just not a Viking Age tang. And actually, to provide the tang I'd hoped for, I might try remaking this with a drained yoghurt cheese....

 But on the whole, the oatcakes were very tasty. (They were cooked in bacon fat, how could they fail to be tasty?) But also strike me as a very do-able bread for a camp. And not completely improbable for a Norse homestead. I think the jump would have to do with the bacon fat. a) is bacon likely? b) if bacon is a probable food item, would it be saved bacon fat, and how would they save it, or would it only be something they made when there was bacon fat?

 But I liked the savoury approach to the oatcakes. Very much. When fresh they were tender. Even better with the cheese. A day later, out of the fridge, they're tough,and dangerous to cut, but warm up to totally pleasant again, though maybe better with some broth to moisten them in. I can see them as a camp-bread! And if we answer the bacon and bacon-fat question, could easily imagine them as a norse food-stuff.

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