How would you like to spend a year living as an 18th century
woman? I am reading a fascinating book at the moment about
just such a woman called Fiona Houston, who decided to live for
year in the shoes of one of her ancestors as a school master's
wife. Spurred on by her desire to prove that people ate
better 200 years ago compared to today's modern diet, Fiona
challenged herself to take up residence in a humble cottage in the
Scottish borders and live life as if in the 1790's, eating only
food she had grown or foraged herself. It is a wonderful
story full of everyday details of the period that make me feel very
grateful for my instant central heating and flushing loo, and yet
wistful for days when we lived a life closer to the rhythms of
nature and arguably had a deeper gratitude for food, given its
rarity at certain times of year and the enormous efforts involved
in preparing even a humble meal.
So with Shrove Tuesday just around the corner next week and
pancakes in mind, I was intrigued by an old recipe in the book for
'Derbyshire oatcakes'. Don't be put off by the name - they
really are what we would know as pancakes! The recipe worked
out fine, helped I am sure by a very good non-stick pancake pan I
have recently acquired. And as for the filling - well, my
preference is a savoury pancake and so sticking with a humble,
seasonal theme, I used some traditional haggis, kale and a bit of
So if you'd like to give it a go, here is the recipe.
You can increase the proportion of oatmeal at the expense of the
wholemeal flour if you prefer. This recipe made about 12
pancakes when I tried it, but it rather depends on the thickness
you prefer and the size of your pan.
1/2 pint milk
1/2 pint of warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 heaped tsp dried yeast
1/2 lb fine oatmeal (or whizz porridge oats in the food
1/2 lb wholemeal flour
2 tsp salt
Butter for frying
Combine the milk and warm water in a mixing bowl. (You are
aiming for just above blood heat but not so hot you kill the
yeast). Add the sugar and yeast and then set the bowl in a
warm place for about 20 minutes to get the fermentation process
going. Now stir in the oatmeal and flour, adding the salt
last. You should have a fairly thin batter. Leave this
to froth up, which should take about 20 minutes in a warm place,
but longer if it's cooler.
Now butter the frying pan and heat it well, but not enough to
burn the butter. Use a cup or a ladle to measure out a
portion of the mixture into the pan, bearing in mind how many
oatcakes you're aiming for. Fry the mixture over a moderate
heat for several minutes, resisting any impulse to poke at it, or
attempt to turn it until the surface has dried and the edges come
away from the pan. The second side will cook quickly (I tend
to have 2 pans on the go at the same time to speed things
up). Completed oatcakes can be kept hot by wrapping them in a
clean tea towel and stowing them in a cool oven; or they can be
reheated later if you prefer.
For Jo's savoury filling - about 10 or so
Haggis serves 2-3, which weighs about 1 lb / 454 g hot
Kale (I used Cavelo Nero leaves) - about 1 leaf per pancake,
chopped and cooked
Cheese sauce - about 3/4 to 1 pint
1. Heat the haggis - you can do this in a matter of minutes
in the microwave by chopping the haggis into chunks. Remember
to take the casing off first!
2. Steam the chopped kale until softened.
3. Make up a batch of cheese sauce - the amount depends on
how much sauce you'd like both inside the pancake and for pouring
over the top. Use a standard recipe and add your preferred
4. For assembly, spoon the hot haggis and kale leaves down
the middle of the pancake, pour over a bit of sauce and roll the
5. Place completed pancakes into an oven proof dish, pour the
sauce over the top and bake in a moderate oven (160C) for about 20
minutes until the sauce is bubbling and turning brown on top.
6. Serve with a crunchy salad.
Read the book
The Garden and Cottage Diaries. My year in the eighteenth
By Fiona Houston.
Published by Saraband.
It is a delightful book, fill of pictures, recipes, nature
notes, gardening tips and of course Fiona's amazing story of her
Got any good pancake recipes or stories to tell us?