|Bannocks or oatcakes|
Great Uncle Gordon, I've always been told, was put into the Army Catering Corps for his National Service, and learned to cook. He came home on leave, full of tales of army life and eager to show off his new skills.
His mother, Great Gran Price, went off to bed early, leaving the young folk - Gordon's younger sister and his cousins, gathered in the kitchen. Gordon declared he was going to make them all some "Scottish Bannocks, like we make in the army."
Great Gran, upstairs in her bed, heard a lot of clattering and banging coming from downstairs, which instantly made her suspicious (she'd raised a large and unruly family.) She yelled out, "What are you doing down there?"
|Great Uncle Gordon, poised to make bannocks|
Great Gran could hear things like pots and pans being rattled, but she always had a problem hearing what people said. "Eh?"
"I'm showing 'em what they taught me in the army - I'm making some Scottish Bannocks!"
"I'm making some Scottish Bannocks!" Gordon yelled.
"I'm making some bannocks, Scottish bannocks, like they - oh, what's the - !"
"I'm making! Scottish! Bannocks!"
"I'm making bannocks!"
"You'm making what?"
"Bannocks! Scottish Bannocks!
"Bannocks! Bannocks, bannocks, bannocks!"
And then Great Gran rushed down the stairs in her nightie, her long grey plait swinging, and thumped him from the bottom of the stairs back into the kitchen, shouting, "I'll teach you to use that language to me!"
I've been keeping up the family tradition in past weeks - making oatcakes, that is, not rushing downstairs and thumping people. I have been known to do that, but not for many years.
What I have done a lot in recent years is buy packs of oatcakes rather than bread. I could never eat the bread before it went stale, and it always made me bloated anyway. I prefer oatcakes, and I find the description on the packet, 'Rough Scottish Oatcakes,' strangely alluring. But a couple of weeks ago I found I'd run out, and I didn't want to make another trip to the shops because I was trying to get some work done. So I looked up a recipe and made some. I had everything I needed in my cupboards, and it was quick and dead easy.
This is what you need: 225g of oats, 60g wholewheat flour, half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 60g butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of sugar and 60-80ml of hot water.
Heat your oven 190c or Gas Mark 6.
Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Rub in the butter - or whizz it all up in a blender until it's like breadcrumbs.
Then add the hot water, from a kettle, and mix together into a thick dough.
Roll out - or press out with your hands - until it's half a centimetre thick. Then cut into rounds with an upturned glass or cutter - or just cut into triangles, or 'farls' (as Davy tells me they're called.)
Put on a baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes. Let them cool before storing in a tin.
I think they're better than the shop-bought ones.
I've been experimenting. Make them with the coarse porridge oats that I make my breakfast porridge with and you get a spongy sort of bannock, which is still tasty. Whiz the porridge oats in a blender for a few seconds, and you get a fine oat flour, which makes a smoother, crisper, crunchier bannock.
Since I've cut out sugar and cut down on salt, I missed these out altogether, and still got a good bannock - though I think a little salt does add a savour. The teaspoon given in the recipe seems far too much to me, though, and I would half or even quarter it.
Instead of rubbing in the butter, or whizzing in the blender, you can melt the butter in the 80ml hot water, and stir it in. If the oat-flour is very fine, you'll probably need to add more water.
I've been adding flavourings too. Fennel worked very well. Hazelnuts too. Someone suggested that I soak some raisins in the hot water, and add them, and I'll try that soon.
I'm not sure that I'll ever bother to buy bannocks again.
Bannocks! I said, I don't think I'll ever - oh, bannocks.
I had to look it up. The OED says it's 'Scottish and Nrth Eng. OE bannuc, prhps fr Celtic.' If only Great-Gran had known that.
And 'farl' is 'Scottish 'thin cake, originally quadrant shaped, of oatmeal or flour, from obsolete fardel, quarter or fourth.' More of that 'slang' that Davy was tawsed for using. And I think it's a bit of a cheek to call a word that's still commonly used 'obsolete.'