Skip the woman’s gibber-jabber and get the recipe: Oatcakes with Apple Compote
I’ve been MIA for a few months now because I have trouble lifting my face out of George R.R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire. Mainstream, out of the fantasy-genre-loop people, like myself, learned of the series from the HBO hit TV show named after the first book, A Game of Thrones.
Martin has been called the “American Tolkien” for his epic masterpiece that so far is 5 books; I’m on Book #4, A Feast for Crows. Aside from the brilliant plot twists that keep me up so late I feel like a college student again, Martin has absolutely delicious and thorough descriptions of the food the characters eat. Usually this kind of description is something I gloss over in my hunger for story. Ironically enough, I first noticed how often Martin writes about the food as I was participating in a food/body cleanse, in other words, I noticed how often he writes about food while fasting.
For the cleanse itself, my husband and I had a liquid meal for both breakfast and dinner. Lunch was our only solid meal of the day, and let me tell you, when you only have 1 meal a day that you can chew and feel all the textures and complexity of tastes, your tongue riots in delight and seeks out that window of pleasure each day. Flavors seem to magically multiply a hundredfold when they are in such scarcity.
Here’s how a typical evening read would go:
It’s evening and I’ve had my bowl of raw, blended butternut squash and spinach puree enhanced with filtered water. I can only stomach half of the soup because the flavor has a bitter uncookedness about it that makes me gag. To forget my half eaten watery squash-spinach soup, I seek escape. Curled up on the couch with a book to distract my mind and stomach from its hunger, I read this, “They broke their fast on black bread and boiled goose eggs and fish fried up with onions and bacon…” (311) or this “The eight soon-to-be brothers feasted on rack of lamb baked in a crust of garlic and herbs, garnished with sprigs of mint, and surrounded by mashed yellow turnips swimming in butter…. There were salads of spinach and chickpeas and turnip greens, and afterwards bowls of iced blueberries and sweet cream” (445) or this “Jon was breaking his fast on applecakes and blood sausage…” (515). All quotes are from the first book, A Game of Thrones.
It’s torture. Martin’s tantalizing descriptions of meals and feasts only reminded me that all I could have was water. And so, I drank. Water helped me persevere through his meticulously detailed food descriptions.
One of the most common food items in Westeros, one of the fictional settings of the series, is oatcakes. Many characters break their fast (translation eat breakfast) on oatcakes which are a grain staple of choice in Scotland. With a little research, an idea here, another there, I came up with my own version of oatcakes. PS the recipe is at the beginning of the post. I’m so flatter that you decided to read my gibber-jabber in lieu of just seeking the recipe.
Start with your dry ingredients:
Fluff these together until mixed.
Now we’ll add our wet ingredients. The baking soda needs something to react with, so I’m adding buttermilk which also helps with soft chewiness in baked goodies. This is 1/4 cup of buttermilk and 1/4 cup of water.
I got a little excited which is why the measuring cup is so close and slightly out of focus.
Next, pop a stick of butter, 1/2 cup in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until melted. Then add it to your mixing bowl.
Mix it all together. It should have a sticky, thick, but well integrated consistency.
Now lay it out flat with a rubber spatula. Aim for about 1/2 inch thickness. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Oatcakes are a rustic, everyday food item in Scotland; your edges do not need to be absolutely straight edged. It’s not like we’re feeding a queen here.
At this point, you can score the dough, by lightly running a knife over the batter to mark the portion cuts enough, just a gentle line here.
Then, bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes until GBD, golden, brown, and delicious. For impatient people, like me, once they come out of the oven they fall apart easily. When allowed to cool, they stick together better.
Using a paring knife, peel the apples by starting at the stem and moving just underneath the peel in circles until you get to the end. Don’t worry if you lose your flow, just place the knife under the skin again and keep circling around and around.
Core the apples by chopping chunks away from the center.
Note about apples: I recommend you use Gala apples because they are soft and some pieces will begin to disintegrate and create liquid apple gravy as you cook them, while other pieces will remain intact giving you the best of both worlds: chunky and creamy.
In the final shot here, I used Granny Apples which are, like any grandmother, hardy and built to last. Every piece maintained its chopped form, and I didn’t get any of the oozing apple gravy I got the previous week I made the compote with Gala apples. It was still a taste of fall on my mouth, but i most definitely will always make this compote with Gala apples.