Gardening Scotland was rather good to me when I think of some of the rather lovely goodies I brought home with me. One of those was a marvelous sea salt, or Salann na Mara as it is in Gaelic, from the Isle of Skye Salt Company. What could I make to showcase this wonderfully flavoursome salt – Salt and Pepper Oatcakes of course!
Scotland is no stranger to salt making, in fact the neighbouring town to us when I was growing up in Musselburgh on the East coast was Prestonpans where there were salt pans (hence the name) a long, long time ago.
Anyway I wasn’t well up on modern-day salt making in Scotland so was thrilled to meet Nanette Muir the director of the company who told me more about their production of the finest fine grain and premium crystal salt.
They have built simple polytunnels on the edge of Loch Snizort on the Isle of Skye and using only the crystal clear and mineral rich waters that are the purest in the UK and the heat from the sun (yes folks, we so get some sun in Scotland) they very slowly convert it to crystals of the finest salt. Everything is done by hand, from the harvesting and sorting of the precious crystals to the packaging in beautifully designed tubs created using recycled materials.
It is hard to believe that this little company only started in 2013 as it has already claimed some of the top foodie awards in the UK.
I’m a bit of a salt freak and collect all types of this precious (and so often taken for granted) seasoning. From the pink to the black, the smoked to the flakiest of French, I just love to use good salt in my cooking and for last-minute flavouring of food. Forget the cheapo boxes of table salt packed with chemicals and give me the real thing any day.
Here’s how I used my Isle of Skye sea salt in a traditionally Scottish way with my Salt and Pepper Oatcakes.
Oatcakes are a stalwart of the Scottish kitchen and were in fact one of the first forms of bread going way back in history. Warriors could throw together oats and fat and bake their oatcakes in a simple griddle over an open fire even on the edge of a battle field. The oats gave energy and stamina and kept the troops going for hours.
While most of us thankfully don’t have to go into battle on a day to day basis, the humble oatcake makes a great snack to keep you going or a perfect addition to your lunch time soup or salad.
Adding flavours to oatcakes takes them into a new sphere of sophistication, they can become party nibbles, scoops for the most luscious of dips or just the perfect healthy treat to reach for when the savoury snack craving hits you.
I used a mixture of both porridge oats (never buy quick cook porridge as it is already partly cooked and won’t work for cooking and baking recipes, go for the old-fashioned stuff every time!) and pinhead oatmeal so that I could give my oatcakes more texture and bite.
The only other ingredients in my Salt and Pepper Oatcakes are sea salt and coursley ground black pepper, some bicarbonate of soda, melted butter and a little hot water.
This is what I call a simple mix, roll and bake recipe, just remember to sprinkle the oatcakes with some extra salt and pepper just before you bake them.
Sometimes the simplest things really are the best!
- 250g/9oz mixed porridge and pinhead oats
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp coursley ground black pepper
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 60g/2½ oz melted butter
- 75ml/3 fl oz approx hot water
- extra salt flakes and black pepper to sprinkle
- Heat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lightly grease a baking tray.
- Mix together all dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
- Make a well in centre and pour in melted butter and stir well.
- Add enough hot water to make a dough.
- Roll out on floured surface to approx 5mm/1/4" and use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds.
- Place on baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes till oatcakes are golden and just firm. They will crisp up as they cool.
- Cool on a wire rack.