An oatcake is a type of cracker or pancake, made from oatmeal, and sometimes flour as well. Oatcakes are cooked on a griddle or baked in an oven. In Scotland, oatcakes are made on a girdle or by baking rounds of oatmeal on a tray. If the rounds are large, they are then sliced into triangular shapes. Oats are one of the few grains which grow well in the north of Scotland and was, until the 20th century, the staple grain used.
Scottish soldiers in the 14th century carried a metal plate and a sack of oatmeal. According to contemporary accounts, one would heat the plate over fire, moisten a bit of oatmeal and make a cake to "comfort his stomach. Hence it is no marvel that the Scots should be able to make longer marches than other men."
Samuel Johnson referred, disparagingly, to this staple diet in his dictionary definition for oats:
- A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.
Lord Elibank was said by Sir Walter Scott to have retorted:
- Yes, and where else will you see such horses and such men?
The texture may vary from rough to fine depending on how the oats are ground. Oatcakes may be slightly chewy or hard depending on the water content and how long they are cooked. Oatcakes were traditionally eaten with every meal as a major source of carbohydrate in the diet. From the 19th century onwards they were commonly served to accompany soups, meat and fish dishes. Today they are sometimes eaten as an alternative to bread or toast at breakfast.
Nowadays, many brands of oatcakes are commercially available, such as Nairns, Paterson's, and Walkers. Apart from those larger commercial manufacturers of oatcakes, there are many local bakers providing variations on the basic recipe.
Similar oatcakes are produced in Ireland, in a shared tradition with the Scottish. Ditty's is a brand of Irish oatcake.
Queen Elizabeth II typically has Scottish oatcakes for breakfast and Walkers Oatcakes carry a Royal Warrant. British Prime Minister David Cameron named Scottish oatcakes as his favorite cake.
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Traditional Scottish oatcakes from Walkers, www.walkersshortbread.com
welcome to the Handmade Oatcake Company, www.thehandmadeoatcakecompany.co.uk