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A Taste Of Arran

Bran Oatcakes

Oatcakes

Oatcakes might well be one of the definitive Scottish foods. Goodness knows, they’ve been around for a long time. According to my Little Scottish Cookbook [1], the 14th century chronicler Jean Froissart [2] recorded that Scottish soldiers would carry a flat plate and a wallet of oatmeal. Using a little water, they could always make themselves an oatcake over an open fire.

In their traditional form, they are an austere kind of food. Just oats, salt and bread soda mixed with a very small amount of liquid fat and water. That doesn’t mean that they’re not good, though. I became very fond of the excellent bran oaties from Wooleys of Arran [3], which add wheat bran and a small amount of brown sugar to what otherwise seems a fairly traditional formula. Having very quickly eaten through my stash of said oaties, I found myself needing to recreate them and fast.

Taking Wooley’s lead and replacing some oats with wheat bran and adding a spoon of sugar, I ended up with something that wasn’t a bad approximation of the original. Not as crisp and perfectly baked, mind, but I was still happy to scoff them. I also took the step of toasting the oatmeal first to try and bring out its nuttiness, though feel free to skip that step if you like.

You’ll need:
  • 175g porridge oats (rolled oats) plus a little extra for rolling out, or substitute with fine oatmeal
  • 75g wheat bran
  • 0.25 tsp of salt
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tblsp demerara sugar
  • 1 tblsp butter, melted
  • approx 150ml to 250ml just-boiled water
You’ll also need:
  • A couple of large baking sheets (mine were 30cm x 40cm) and a coffee or spice grinder for grinding the oats.
The Steps:
  • Preheat your oven to 200C
  • If using porridge oats and you want to toast them first, spread them onto the baking sheets and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, just until the flakes have browned lightly and being careful not to let them burn. Allow them to cool slightly and grind to a coarse flour texture using a spice grinder. Alternatively, you can grind the porridge oats directly or just use fine oatmeal.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, bran, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Make a well in the centre and add the melted butter and about 150ml of the just-boiled water. Mix together to form a stiff dough – adding more water if the mixture is too dry. Knead the dough so that it comes together smoothly.
  • Roll the dough out to a thickness of around 3mm on a surface sprinkled with some additional oatmeal. Cut into triangles, rounds or squares as you prefer.
  • Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the oatcakes have firmed up and are starting to turn golden brown at the edges.
  • Cool on a wire rack and enjoy spread with butter or topped with cheese.
The Variations:
  • For regular oatcakes, replace the bran with additional oats. You could also try adding some grated cheddar to the mixture to make cheese oaties.
The Results:
  • Makes around 20 to 25 x 7cm round oatcakes.