My recent cheese degustation at ‘La Fête des fromages d’ici’ event during 2014 Montreal en Lumiere prompted me to throw my own wine and cheese party for ‘the Oscars’. It would be like any other cheese and wine gathering, except this time it wasn’t. It was much more than that due to the two new players in the setting, namely, the Rosemary Oatcakes and three- fillings Eccles cakes (will follow shortly). The salty-sweet combo really wowed my guests who were seriously hooked on them urging me to eventually write this post. This column is about the oatcakes, a wonderful day or night snack or tapas base with full, nutty and robust flavor that I can personally munch on all day long.
Oatcake is a traditional Scottish flatbread, an equivalent of what baguette is for French, although the oatcake it’s more of an acquired taste for non-Scottish. I’ve fallen in love with it the day I tried it first and have been baking the basic oatcakes since.
Oatcakes make a great substitute for bread or crackers and a flawless combo with cheese, which is my idea of a great breakfast, quick bite or travel companion. In this case, the herbs (you can use dried oregano, tarragon, sage instead of rosemary) and cracked pepper add some charmingly snooty touch to otherwise humble oatmeal snack.
I love to try local artisan cheeses. There are over 100 cheese producers in Quebec
, the province that still remains the leader in Canadian artisan cheese-making. Each of them has his own unique variety of cheese worth trying. But here comes what I don’t like – the price of it. You step into any given grocery and see an impressive display of alluring artisan cheeses.
But you know that the way it looks is as good as this display is ever going to get. Once you turn a little cheese sliver wrapped by the hands of a concerned middleman, you put is back feeling like you just got beaten in a dark alley. This article
would be more fluent on the subject of unaffordability of cheese all over Canada to the point that even policemen get caught trying to smuggle cheese from the US into Canada
for the profit.
But I won’t rock the boat any further since the good news is the newly signed Free Trade agreement with European Union will supposedly give us a break in 2015. For now I’ve discovered my own way to procure local prize winning cheeses for less … by going directly to the cheese farm. The renown Fritz Kaiser inc for example has a great boutique at their manufacturing facility where they sell plethora of their own cheeses for at least 30% less. We have been going there regularly and each time it feels like a blast.
Assets on display at fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc.: FYI, you will notice the slight price change (from 2013 to 2014), but still this is nothing compared to the wallet abuse you will experience in a regular store.
Visiting farms on week-ends has many other perks – you have a gulp of fresh air, enjoy peaceful countryside winter stillness, take notes of the new destinations and share all of this with friends and family afterwards during cheese and wine impromptu. Marvelous!
It’s when cheese and wine usual hubbies step in: nuts, dried fruits, berries, honey and of course baguette. This time though (as I already revealed it to you) I decided to replace the traditional bread with Eccles (sweet)and oatcakes (salty) for a gorgeous mouthful.
The advantage of the oatcakes is that it’s easy and fast to make and you can make it gluten free applying gluten free flour. In the meantime, set your cheese out to get to the room temperature (covered with a damp cheese cloth to prevent drying out) as it will taste best when ‘relaxed’ just by the time your oatcakes will be cooling on the rack.
I’ve experimented with a few savory versions and this one is close to the real deal. Try it with your own added touch of sophistication (herbs & spices) and you might never want to buy crackers again. Cheers and Say Cheese!
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup all-purpose OR gluten free flour
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp freshly ground pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp crushed rosemary leaves
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 stick (1/3 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Put the oats into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add flour, salt, pepper, rosemary, baking powder and butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and pulse for about 15 seconds until a dough forms. Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and cut out about 30 rectangular or 60 square oatcakes. Arrange the oatcakes on the baking sheets 1/2 inch apart and bake in the middle of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until brown on the bottom. Transfer oatcakes to a rack and cool completely.