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Oat Bannocks

Thursday, April 20, 2017 20:09
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In my previous marriage, we used to spend a lot of time on Prince Edward Island in the summer.  Although I was born on the Island, it was only an accident of birth, because that was where my father was posted with the Canadian Airforce at the time. My ex-husband’s family, however, had a long history there, going back to some of the first Scottish settlers on the Island, back in the days when the Island was nothing but trees and native North Americans.  The Ramsays ended up on the Island when their ship, The Annabella, was ship-wrecked in Malpeque Bay.  The Annabella had been heading for the Virginia Colonies when a storm blew it off course and the rest is history.  It is said that the survivors would have starved or frozen to death that first winter, were it not for the Natives who so generously helped them out.
My late father in law came from a very large farming family, consisting mainly of girls.  I think there were only two or three sons.  He was the baby of the family.  Most of his sisters, with the exception of one, had moved down to the Boston, New England area before and after WW2. The same thing happened in my own family. There was a lot of prosperity in America as compared to the Maritimes, which was than and still is a somewhat economically depressed area.

The old gals (as we called the sisters) used to come up to their cottage on the Malpeque Bay every summer, where they would spend a couple of months taking in the sea air and re-connecting with their roots.  The air rang with the sound of hearty card games and raucous laughter.  I think the game was 45′s but I can’t say for sure, because I have never been a great card player.

I loved to watch however, and many an afternoon was spent watching the cards being dealt and listening to all the war stories and family tales.  The Sister that had stayed back on the Island used to do all the cooking.  She would bake these Bannocks frequently.   Her name was Rita.  She was like a little bird. I loved her to pieces.  She had class.

Ever the foodie, I would watch her making these.  All of the ingredients used to get measured right out onto the counter-top, her quick hands deftly managing them into a dough that was then cut and baked into these beautiful light and oaty bannocks.

 I can still remember the first time I saw her, I thought it was cheese she was mixing in, but it was cold butter which she had grated.  I tend to cut the butter into bits and rub it in with my fingertips.  Both ways work well.

Don’t be tempted to use old fashioned oats in these, unless you blitz them in a food processor for a few seconds to break them down.  This is one time you want to be using the quick oats.  

Aunt Rita cut hers into squares, I cut them into rectangles.  Not a scrap of the dough is wasted.  With a light touch, and no re-working of scraps you are rewarded with a dozen light as air golden brown slightly nubbly/nutty textured scones.  Because that is really all a Bannock is . . .  a Scottish Scone. But shhh . . .  don’t tell anyone I said that.  I wouldn’t want to start a War over it or anything. 

What a wonderful time those years were, spending those summer afternoons out on the bay.  The air was cool because we were right on the water and the children and I used to walk up and down the sand and grasses, picking  wild rhubarb that I would then make into pies and jam. Good times!  

I don’t know how the rhubarb ended up growing there but it worked kind of the same as wild strawberries do . . .  it was thinner, smaller and filled with a lot more flavour than the regular stuff.

In any case, I hope you will bake these lovely Bannocks, and when you do, please raise a nic hot cuppa to Aunt Rita and the old gals . . .  and hot summer afternoons spent playing cards and picking wild rhubarb on sands of Malpeque Bay  . . .

*Malpeque Oat Bannocks*

Makes 12

A very old family recipe. Those are the best kinds of recipes don’t you think?  Serve warm, fresh from the oven with plenty of cold butter and jam. Light as a cloud. 

280g plain flour (2 cups all purpose), plus more for kneading and patting

80g quick cooking oats (1 cup)

1 TBS baking powder

1 TBS granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

60g cold butter (1/4 cup), cut into bits

180ml whole milk

120g plain yogurt (1/2 cup) 

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Line a baking tray with baking paper. Set aside. 

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Whisk in the oats, salt, and sugar.  Drop in the butter.  Rub it into the mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Whisk together the milk and yogurt and stir this into the flour mixture with a fork to form a soft dough.  Tip out onto a well floured surface and knead gently a couple of times with floured hands.  Pat out to an 8 inch square, which is approximately 1/2 inch thick.  Cut in half down the middle in both directions and then cut each quarter into 3 equal strips, using a floured knife.  Place leaving plenty of space between on the baking sheet. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes until well risen and light golden brown.  Serve warm with whatever you desire.  Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Its hard to believe we are at the end of the week already. Hasn’t this past week just flown by!  Bon Appetit!

Debunking the myths of English Cookery, one recipe at a time.
The English Kitchen


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