As I’ve mentioned a number of times, my mum is from England, specifically The Midlands, more specifically, Staffordshire, and even more specifically, The Potteries or Stoke-on-Trent, a polycentric city consisting of six towns: Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton, and Longton.
I found all of these names for the place she grew up very confusing as a child, almost as confusing as I found my mother’s multiple names.
Her name is “Kathleen,” but her parents called her “Kath” when they spoke to her or “Our Kath” when they spoke about her; her Canadian friends called her “Kay”; her Air Force friends called her “Paddy” or “Pat”; my father called her “Kate.”
So confusing were these many names that when I split my lip in grade one and had to be taken to the hospital, I couldn’t give my mother’s name to the intake nurse.
She finally asked, “What does your father call her?”
“Cake,” I said, “It really sounds like he calls her ‘Cake’.”
This, of course, became a family joke because what kind of six-year-old child doesn’t know her mother’s name?!
In my defence, I was the fifth of six children, and the effort to impart essential information was expended on the first four kids. I never even got the sex talk! I had to learn about reproduction from an Art Linkletter recording played over the PA system at school. My sister whispered the gritty details on the school bus ride home.
But back to Stoke-on-Trent….from my mother’s oft-told formation stories, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Stoke. However, on one of my backpacking trips around Europe, I stayed with my Auntie Sheila, who was horrified to learn that I had never tasted (or even heard of) the Staffordshire Oatcake–a Stoke-on-Trent specialty.
From the name, I expected a cross between a scone and a cupcake, so you can imagine my surprise when Auntie Sheila produced what looked like a huge, thin pancake with a pat of butter in the middle. “Delicious!” I declared, but my twenty-year-old self really wasn’t sure whether I liked these odd floppy pancakes at all.
But I got to thinking about Auntie Sheila’s oatcakes the other day when I was making lentil tortillas and I decided to try mixing up the ingredients a bit. First, I tried half almond flour and half lentil flour, and then I tried half oat flour and half lentil flour. James and I did a taste test and both enjoyed the oat-lentil ones much better, and then I remembered Auntie Sheila’s oatcakes.
So I set about researching the oatcake, starting with my Stoke relatives. As it turned out, my cousin’s son’s wife has an entire blog post about the oatcake!
I was also informed that Stokies don’t make their own oatcakes; they buy them!
Since it’s unlikely I’ll find an oatcake distributer on Denman Island, I decided to attempt my own version, and what the hell, let’s make it vegan!
I used this recipe as my guide, but replaced the milk with almond milk, added a teaspoon of maple syrup, reduced the flour by 20 grams and added 20 grams of vital wheat gluten because the original recipe calls for “strong flour,” which apparently means higher protein (which means a higher gluten content). Oh, and there’s really no need to add bacon fat to the pan–if it’s the right temperature, it will cook just fine without any fat or oil.
As an aside, I have to say I love British recipes not only because they call eggplant “aubergine” and zucchini “courgette,” but also because their directions include things like, “heat until about blood temperature.”
Vegan Staffordshire Oatcakes
450 ml almond milk
450 ml warm water
1 tsp maple syrup
250 grams oats, ground to a fine flour
90 grams whole wheat flour
90 grams white flour
20 grams vital wheat gluten
1 tsp sea salt
4 g yeast
Mix the water, almond milk, and maple syrup and microwave for a minute and a half–it should be about 100 degrees–don’t let it get too hot or it will kill the yeast. Add the yeast to the mix and let it get a bit frothy. Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients; mix well and let it sit, covered, it a warm spot for an hour. The batter will bulk up and start bubbling:
Pour a couple of ladlesful of the mix onto a hot pan and spread out quickly with the back of the ladle. You can also try moving the pan, so the batter spreads out, but you have to move quickly. The oatcakes should be very thin. Bubbles should form on top–like a crumpet–and when the top is mostly dry, flip the oatcake and cook the other side for another minute or so. When both sides are nicely brown, remove from the pan to a cooling rack.
The result is exactly what I was hoping for! The flavour is kind of neutral, but a bit oaty-nutty. The texture is nicer than the lentil version–not quite as rubbery. Plus, they have more tensile strength–somewhere between a flour tortilla and a lentil tortilla. And, most important, James loved them, so I think they’ll be replacing my beloved lentil tortilla for the next little while anyway.
We had the oatcakes as wraps last evening: I made James a couple of BBQ seitan steak strip wraps, and I had an avocado wrap–both versions were delicious. The recipe above makes ten large oatcakes, so we’ll be eating them for a couple of days with various fillings. Apparently, they are good with sweet fillings as well, so I might try one filled with PB&J!
Oh, and in case you’re wondering why my mum’s RCAF friends called her “Paddy” or “Pat,” it was because she was (and is) Irish. Apparently, the minute they heard her Irish name–Kathleen Gallagher–they started calling her “Pat” and “Paddy” and never stopped…even when she married a Canadian and moved to Montreal. I wonder how that would go over today.
And if you want more information on the Staffordshire Oatcake, here is a documentary. I truly wish the video had subtitles though–some of those Staffordshire accents are a bit hard to understand!
And the song of the day is from Stoke-on-Trent musician, Robbie Williams, of course!