THE BEST WAYS TO EAT STAFFORDSHIRE OATCAKES
A rise in using local, seasonal produce and cutting food miles is bringing a resurgence in traditional, regional food. This means it’s time to celebrate one of the very best – Staffordshire oatcakes. Delicious, nutritious, versatile, and fun, this Midlands’ masterpiece can be savoury or sweet and eaten on a plate or on the move. Read on to find out the best ways to eat Staffordshire oatcakes, and celebrate this iconic Potteries food.
Anyone from the West Midlands won’t have to ask. But some people from further afield don’t know what Staffordshire oatcakes are. The word “cake” is a bit misleading – the easiest explanation is that Staffordshire oatcakes are a kind of savoury pancake. They look a bit like the ones you might rustle up on pancake night, but are made from wholemeal flour, oatmeal, milk or water, and often a bit of yeast.
In many early recipes oats aren’t accompanied by wheat flour, but these days most people add it – some prefer just wholemeal flour, others blend it with white. You can also choose how to create the batter. Purists might opt for water; some go for a mix of water and milk. Some prefer their batter thick, others thin.
The trick is to come up with something that suits the way you want to eat your oatcake, and the filling you’re going to choose – for more on the best way to eat Staffordshire oatcakes, see below.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY OF STAFFORDSHIRE OATCAKES?
Before we get onto the fillings, it’s worth exploring the history of Staffordshire oatcakes – how they were created and why they became such a popular local food. The answer to the first question – why – probably lies in the nutritional content and the fact that they’re effectively a thin, easy-to-cook flatbread.
Like any region of hard-working folk, centuries ago the people of Staffordshire really needed cheap food that provided good fuel. Oatmeal is ideal – high in carbohydrates, it also has a reasonable quantity of protein, a good dose of fibre and some fats. Depending on the filling, Staffordshire oatcakes can actually be a relatively balanced meal. Oatmeal was readily available too - with local farmers growing it instead of wheat.
The thin, floppy nature of the oatcake also helped ensure its popularity. In an age when most people didn’t have an oven at home, it was hard to bake your own bread. But the batter could be turned into a Staffordshire oatcake on the hearth – meaning families could enjoy relatively cheap, quick, nutritious meals that they’d made at home.
WHO USED TO MAKE STAFFORDSHIRE OATCAKES?
While Staffordshire oatcakes were easy for families without ovens to make at home, there was also a market for people to make this marvellous Midlands fast food and sell it on. Enterprising families would cook up batches of oatcakes and sell them directly from the sash window of their house to people passing by. These “Hole in the Wall” establishments were forerunners of today’s pop-up eateries and fast food carts.
If you bought a batch of flat Staffordshire oatcakes you could warm them up once you got home by popping the oatcakes between two plates and gently steaming them over a pan of bubbling water. And one more quirk – while outsiders call them Staffordshire oatcakes, in the Potteries they’re just “oatcakes”. After all, local people know perfectly well where they’re from
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO EAT STAFFORDSHIRE OATCAKES?
As with opinions on any traditional regional foods, there are a range of views on the best way to eat Staffordshire oatcakes. It’s a bit like Cornish pasties – people have strong feelings on the right and wrong ingredients to use.
Favourite Staffordshire oatcakes fillings include cheese, bacon, egg and sausages, or mushrooms and beans. Pretty much the perfect breakfast. More modern-day options include sweet fillings – some swear by a drizzle of golden syrup, or even a serving of banana or jam.
Of course, using gluten free ingredients means these days you can enjoy gluten-free Staffordshire oatcakes as well.
HOW SHOULD I EAT MY STAFFORDSHIRE OATCAKES?
You’ve got two main options: rolled or folded. But answering the question of how to eat Staffordshire oatcakes really comes down to how you made them, what’s in them and where you are. Some chefs believe using certain ingredients (such as milk) makes the oatcakes softer. If the batter is thicker some find the oatcakes easier to roll and turn in the pan. Others find a thinner batter easier to work with.
Some ingredients are easier to roll up in oatcakes than others – bacon, egg and sausages might work better folded; mushrooms and melted cheese can work well rolled. If you’re on the move a rolled oatcake is probably easier to handle. But really the only answer to how to eat Staffordshire oatcake is – enthusiastically!
ENJOYING STAFFORDSHIRE FOOD AT THE MOAT HOUSE HOTEL
So all in all, Staffordshire oat cakes are definitely something to celebrate. And celebrating regional food is at the heart of meals at the Moat House Hotel. A beautiful Grade II listed manor house, it’s set in fine Staffordshire countryside – it even has its own tranquil lake.
The Moat House is one of the best country house hotels in Staffordshire. And Head Chef James Cracknell puts food provenance at the heart of his award-winning 2AA meals.
Expect prime Dunwood Farm rib eye steak; tempting charcuterie and local cheeses from Harvey & Brockless; superb dairy produce from the Holt family’s Wells Farm; excellent fruit and veg from Birmingham’s best: Interfruit, and a wealth of local meats from one of the Midlands’ most trusted suppliers: the Catering Butcher. Just like Staffordshire oatcakes – the Moat House combines tradition and prime produce – plus a wealth of culinary creativity on a plate.