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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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oatcakes made from oats (in the form of oatmeal), salt, and water, sometimes with a little fat added, were the staple food of the inhabitants of the Pennines and the Lake District in England and of the Scottish Highlands for centuries. In these upland regions oats are the only cereal which will ripen in the cold wet climate. Oatcakes, together with barley bread, were also of some importance in Wales and Ireland. They remain popular, and are now generally regarded as a Scottish speciality.

Scottish oatcakes include a little fat and are raised with baking soda. The old way to make them required the dough to be rolled out; one side was baked on the girdle (see griddle) and the other toasted before the fire (nowadays oatcakes are more likely to be baked in the oven). Cut in quarters, they were called farls. For storage they were buried among the dry oatmeal in the meal chest. Oatcakes had some importance as festive foods, especially at Beltane (1 May, an ancient Celtic festival) and Christmas.