Thursday, October 06, 2011
There's no Cheddar without an oatcake
We've been eating lots of cheese recently. Upon returning from France in early September, we brought along some wonderful French cheese - Livarot (aka 'the Colonel'), Pont-l'Évêque and an excellent Camembert by Domaine the Saint-Loup (after all, we had been travelling in Normandy with our family, so we had to include a Camemembert as well). We had a nice cheese tasting evening with our friends - enjoying those three cheeses, a nice crusty baguette, fig and apricots jams, nice wine and even some apples from the orchard of Olivier Roellinger's chateau :)
Just days later K. went on business to my dear old Edinburgh. While there, he visited the best cheesemonger in town, Iain Mellis, and brought back a wonderful selection of British cheese - my old favourite, Cashel Blue (an Irish farmhouse cheese that I've mentioned here earlier), as well as two new cheeses - an excellent Cheddar called Keens Cheddar (from Somerset) and a gem of a find, Berkswell (from West Midlands). We had invited the same cheese-tasting buddies over, and had another very enjoyable night contemplating the characteristics of the cheeseboard. While preparing for the night, I knew from the beginning that a baguette alone - however lovely and crusty - will not do. You simply cannot have a good British Cheddar without an oatcake :)
While I was still living in Scotland, I had a good choice of various oatcakes to go with cheese. However, my favourite was a small oatcake from the selection of Marks & Spencer that was speckled with coarsely ground black pepper. They used to sell them in the little M&S outlet at the Waverley train station, and I often bought a box to nibble on my commute from Edinburgh to Stirling (I did a 9-month post-doc at the University there during my last year in Scotland). And that's the kind of oatcake I wanted to serve with our selection of British cheese. After some searching, I came across just the thing. You'll find the original recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day (look for Bill's Rona oatcakes, or see the recipe in The Guardian), here's a very slightly tweaked version that we loved and that I'll keep.
Makes about 30-40 small oatcakes
150g medium oatmeal (I used Veski-Mati kaerajahu)
150g wholemeal oats
0.25 to 0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
0.5 tsp salt
5 Tbsp or 75 ml rapeseed oil or olive oil
about 150 ml freshly boiled water
Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F and line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the centre. Pour the oil into the well, then pour in enough boiling water to bind it into a firm, not sticky, dough. Work quickly. Don't worry if you over-water a bit - you can remedy the situation by adding more oatmeal.
Form the dough mixture into a ball and leave it to rest for 15-30 minutes.
Dust your worktop with some extra oatmeal, and roll out the dough to about 5 mm or 1/5th of an inch thick.
Cut out discs with a cookie cutter (I used a 5 cm one). Place the oatcakes onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then turn and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Store in an airtight container and serve with your favourite Cheddar.