Pancake Day is one of those not-to-be-missed moments in the calendar, one of the days when your childhood is brought back amongst memories of flipping batter into pancakes, squeezing lemons and shaking sugar before the long Lenten stretch til Easter.
In our more secular age, today we’ve been banking up future memories and cooking our pancake lunch in the wood fired oven, a little off-piste maybe, with Staffordshire oatcakes. These aren’t like Scottish Oatcakes, dry, nutty and perfect with cheese but moist, lacy and oh yes – perfect with cheese. They are in fact much more like a pancake or crepe and I’m sure if you were far enough from Stafford you could say they were like a French Galette and stuff them with whatever filling you wanted.
Pancakes may not be associated so much with wood fired cooking but as we’ve said before, anything you can cook you can cook in a wood fired oven, you just have to work out how it’s going to happen.
We fired up the oven and created a big bed of embers giving out lots of heat. Then we heated 2 of our pancake pans – heavy cast iron are perfect as they won’t warp. Put them in the oven to heat through and once hot, add a swirl of sunflower oil.
Then we swirled a good ladleful of the oatcake batter into each pan and cooked them for a minute before flipping over with a palette knife. Once cooked, we stacked and wrapped them in foil while cooking the rest of the batter and then cooked some bacon rashers in the same pans.
It was back bacon from the Dartmouth butchers with a good rind of fat on it so no need to oil the pan as the bacon will let its own fat out. Once that’s cooked, pile a couple of rashers on an oatcake with some grated cheese on top in one of the pancake pans; put back in the oven to melt the cheese and serve with fresh tomato relish on top. (This was cooked at the side of the oven away from the high heat while we were cooking the oatcakes – soften 1 finely chopped red onion in 1tbsp olive oil, add 1 clove crushed garlic and 3-4 roughly chopped fresh ripe tomatoes with some chopped fresh wild garlic or basil (about 1tsbp) and season well; cook until softened and serve).
Whatever’s topping your pancakes, have a great day, enjoy making your own memories and here’s our recipe from our new book if you fancy trying those oatcakes yourself.
250g fine oatmeal
150g plain flour
150g wholemeal flour
10g fine seasalt
5g fast acting yeast
30ml sunflower oil
Makes 12 oatcakes
Oven temperature 3 Mississippi ie between 250°C and 275°C
- Put the oatmeal, flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in the milk and water gradually to make a batter that looks like double cream. Beat well to combine everything and to start the yeast working.
- Cover the bowl and leave for 2 hours until the batter is thick but frothy.
- When you’re ready to cook, put a large frying pan in the oven and heat it through.
- Wipe out the pan with a little of the sunflower oil using a piece of kitchen paper.
- Swirl in a ladleful of the batter and cook the oatcake for a minute on each side until golden brown.
- Take the oatcake out of the pan and keep warm while you make the rest of the batter into oatcakes.
- While you’re cooking the oatcakes, put a roasting tin of bacon slices alongside the pan in the oven and cook through. Keep them warm too.
- Serve the oatcakes with a few rashers of bacon on each one and some grated Cheddar cheese sprinkled over. Keep the loaded oatcakes in the oven for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted and serve at once with a big mug of tea.