Staffordshire oatcakes

Few things can make me homesick like the memory of an oatcake… These have nothing to do with the Scottish biscuits (except the oats): Staffordshire oatcakes are thin, savoury pancakes, cooked on a hot plate and filled with a variety of healthy, low fat ingredients like bacon, cheese, and sausage.
20140622-154037-56437708.jpg
I’ve tried to make them a few times since moving to Australia, and each attempt has left me frustrated, and missing even the slightly dodgy mass produced versions you can pick up in a Co-op or Tesco Extra. I’ve found that the hardest part is actually cooking them- you need to be quick to get them thin enough, and the heat has to be exactly right. Finally though, I think I’ve cracked it. This is basically the recipe from The River Cottage Bread Book, with a few tweaks to the method and a touch more liquid.

20140622-154126-56486867.jpg
Assume that things might go slightly wrong: the batter will be too thin, then too thick. The pan will be too hot, and then too cold. The first couple will end up wrecked, and you will get frustrated. But persevere. They’re worth it.

Staffordshire Oatcakes makes 10

225g wholemeal flour
225g fine oatmeal
5g yeast
10g salt
500ml warm water
500ml warm milk
Extra water
Oil, for cooking
Cheese and bacon, to serve.

1. Combine all of the ingredients except the extra water and oil. Whisk well. As the original recipe states, at this stage it will be very runny, but don’t worry.
2. Rest for an hour an a half in a warm spot, until the batter is very bubbly.
3. Heat a large, heavy pan over a medium high heat. Put a drop of oil in the pan and use some kitchen paper to spread it around.
4. Add about half a cup of water to the batter if it has thickened too much- it should be about pancake batter consistency.
5. Working quickly, put a ladle full of batter into the pan. Use a silicon spatula to spread it around until it is about 2-3mm thick. Cook for 2 minutes, flip, and cook for a further minute.
6. Remove and keep warm under a tea towel whilst you repeat. Any left over batter can be frozen.
7. To serve, cover with grated cheese and bacon and place under a hot grill until the cheese melts. Cover in ketchup.

20140622-154817-56897254.jpg

20140622-154816-56896452.jpg

20140622-155507-57307959.jpg

Cachapas

Cachapas are a Venezuelan corn flatbread, which are often stuffed with slow cooked meat or cheese. We first encountered them, not in Venezuela, but in a pop-up food stall in Camden Market, London. Since trying them, several years ago, we have been trying to perfect a recipe that does these delicious yellow flatbreads justice. The recipe here is a combination of a few recipes from the internet and a lot of experimentation, with the final recipe perfected (at least we think so) by my wife late last year.

Egg and polenta - just two of the ingredients that we experimented with
Egg and polenta – just two of the ingredients that we experimented with

Instead of the slow cooked meat or stringy, mozzarella-like cheese we tend to go for a filling of cottage cheese and a peppery tomato sauce, finished off with coriander, lime and avocado. The result is very similar to those first cachapas we ate in London, albeit slightly thicker and more suited to eating from a plate than rolled up in a piece of greaseproof paper. Over the course of our experiments we have tried plain flour, corn flour, polenta, fresh corn, tinned corn, and just about every variation on the quantities of liquids. This is what we came up with:

Cachapas with tomato and pepper sauce serves 2

Sauce

  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers
  • 2 tbs hot water
  • pinch of paprika
  • salt and pepper

Cachapas

  • 400g tin corn, drained, or 2 fresh corn cobs
  • 3 heaped tbs plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup polenta
  • 1/2 egg, beaten
  • 2tbs cottage cheese
  • small knob of butter and 1/2 tbs olive oil, for frying
  • avocado, sliced, to serve
  • coriander leaves, to serve
  • lime wedges, to serve
  1. Combine all of the cachapas ingredients except the oil and butter in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. For the sauce, cook the onion, garlic and chilli in olive oil over a medium heat until softened.
  3. Add the tomato paste, peppers, paprika and water. Stir and season. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan. Pour out the cachapas mix and spread evenly with a spatula.
  5. Cook cachapas mix for 5 minutes, then spread cottage cheese over the top. Place under a grill on high. Grill for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from grill, divide in half and serve with sauce, avocado, coriander leaves and lime wedges.
Cachapas with tomato and pepper sauce
Cachapas with tomato and pepper sauce