For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you’ll have probably guessed that I wasn’t in Devon last week: I was taking a little holiday to stay with my parents in Buxton, Derbyshire. In the heart of the Peak District, the scenery is amazing and surprisingly, the whole area seems to me to be a bit of an undiscovered foodie hotspot. So in the first of four instalments on the area, allow me to introduce you to a local specialty, the Derbyshire oatcake.
Oats are typically more associated with Scottish cuisine than English, as was famously remarked by dictionary writer, Dr Johnson, but the harsher landscape of the Peaks and Pennines made them once a staple there too as wheat was harder to grow. Once common from the Potteries to Teeside, pancakes made from oatmeal, wheat flour and yeast are now only a common sight in North Staffordshire and Derbyshire where you’ll find them on breakfast menus of the many cafés in the Peak District, served with bacon and eggs.
With local British products at the centre of a “food revolution” in this country, I’m surprised that oatcakes haven’t taken off. As well as their cultural value as a traditional staple, oats are popular with health-conscious consumers for their complex carbohydrates and cholesterol-busting properties. A recent survey (that I can’t find where the link to where I read it, so you’ll just have to trust I’m not making it up) showed that approximately half the British population were eating porridge in some form for breakfast on a regular basis, myself included: a bowl for breakfast got me through lots of long days in the library at university.
The half a dozen oatcakes I brought back to the South-west have all gone, spread with a little jam for a snack or filled with stilton for a quick lunchtime sarnie, so sadly I can’t experiment with them more unless I make my own (watch this space!). Ideas for what I could do are numerous though: vanilla ice cream and warm berry sauce or as a replacement for corn tortillas to make burritos and enchiladas to name just two.
In the next post, I’ll be looking at a good filling for oatcakes: cheese!