is a Staffordshire Oatcake?
Oatcake is completely different to a Scottish Oatcake. It's
vaguely like a pancake, but has more texture (because of the
oats). It's usually (but not always) a savoury dish, and tends to be
eaten for breakfast or lunch.
Devotees will spend a long time arguing what the best filling should
be, but cheese, bacon and sausage are popular fillings.
History of the Staffordshire Oatcake
There's a lot of myths
about Staffordshire Oatcakes - some have argued that the "Potteries
Poppadom" originated after soldiers returned from India.
However their history is far older than that. You
can find similar oatcakes in Derbyshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire, and
recipes date back at least as far as the 15th century.
Food historian Pamela Sambrook has written an excellent book The Staffordshire Oatcake: A History, and I recommend this to
anyone interested in this subject. They became very popular
in Victorian times, when many women worked in the Potteries - so it was
an early fast food.
Many were made in people's houses and sold through the window, but
sadly the last remaining shop of this sort:
in the Wall closed on the 25 March 2012.
Oatcake recipes are
kept secret. In fact many oatcake shop owners say they'd have
to shoot you if they gave you their recipe! However if you
look on the Internet you can find recipes like this one
on the BBC's web site. Chloe Scott has
done a useful summary here in The Metro.
Coeliacs will be pleased that some oatcake shops do gluten free
Many shops also sell pikelets:
(not to be confused with a thin crumpets which are also know as
Pikelets are thicker and sweeter with currants, sultanas and raisins
oatcake is cooked on a baxton (a kind of griddle). The
name comes from the term "baking stone" and many years ago
they would have been cooked on hot stones. In more recent times baxtons
are made of metal and usually heated by gas. In many shops the mixture
is poured out of a jug directly onto the baxton:
However some shops,
and Povey's have machines to make their
oatcakes. Some of these machines are quite old, and are
fascinating to watch in action.
The mix needs to be finer, if it goes
through a machine, so machine made oatcakes tend to be thinner, whereas
ones from a jug have more texture.
For a long time I claimed to have visited every oatcake shop.
However new ones keep opening and occasionally some close.
There's now The Staffordshire Oatcake Shop in Llandudno (a popular
holiday destination with some Stokies).
Some have moved to
Spain, apparently you can buy them in Zocco market, near Quesada, in
the Costa Blanca. Neil Ward from Leek has set up a Staffordshire
oatcake shop in Auckland in New Zealand (see here).
I must also mention Kay
Mundy, who runs the Oatcake Boat. This is a
narrowboat from which Kay sells freshly cooked oatcakes, click here to
see a video.
I recommend you visit
a few, to find out which sort you like best! Go early and
avoid shops that heat them up in a microwave! Some of the shops have great names, like Oatcake Corral and Oat Cuisine!
A film about Staffordshire Oatcakes
A Staffordshire film company, the Seventh Town, has made a wonderful feature film about Staffordshire Oatcakes.
It's directed by Robert Burns and produced by Toby DeCann, and made with love!
If you're not from
Stoke on Trent, it's also well worth visiting one of my favourite museums whilst you're in the area.
Here's my map of oatcake shops - please email
me if you
spot any errors or ommissions.
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