I recently praised Irish cooks for including kale and other vegetables in mashed potatoes, turning them into especially healthful dishes. In my travels to Ireland, I have found other memorably great food, thanks to the culinary revolution that has encompassed much of the country, from Dublin to Derry and Galway to Ballylickey. Like the improvement in food in this country, it comes from the work of local farmers, cheesemakers and other food artisans, along with chefs who use their ingredients to make not only creative contemporary dishes but also food that is comfortingly traditional.
Since I love oats and am mildly allergic to wheat, pursuing wheat-free oatcakes is a particular passion for me. What I find turns out to be hit and miss.
Originally, Irish oatcakes were simply oats mixed with water, shaped into a flat cake and baked on hot stone or a griddle. Even today, I have enjoyed simple, round oatcakes, thin and crisp, that include only modest amounts of added fat and sugar. These modest crackers are a treat topped with sharp Cheddar or served with a spinach salad. My personal favorite among commercial versions currently available is produced by the food company Prince Charles founded to help preserve British foodways.
As one of my Irish hostesses observed, it takes patience and a little experience working with so few and such simple ingredients to produce a good oatcake. But, for those who would like to try their hand at a homemade version, the recipe for Scottish Crackers, in AICR’s The New American Plate Cookbook, is easy and as foolproof as they come.
My best oatcakes are more like a cookie than a cracker. I use quick-cooking oats, which are rolled thinner than old-fashioned oats, making tender oatcakes that don’t taste like wood shavings. Using eggs and a little butter helps keep them together and avoid crumbling. Even when they cool, these golden oatcakes stay pleasantly chewy and soft, yet crisp at the edges, just right with a good cup of tea.
Oatmeal Cookies – Makes 32 cookies.
Canola oil spray
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup lightly-packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.
Combine the oats, nuts, raisins, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a larger bowl, use a hand mixer on medium speed to blend the butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients by hand until they are well combined.
Drop the batter by tablespoons onto the baking sheets, spacing the cookies 1-inch apart. Using your fingers, press each firmly into flat 2-inch rounds. If the batter sticks to your fingers, moisten them lightly with cold water.
Bake 7 minutes. Switch the position of the baking pans and bake 7 minutes longer, or until the cookies just begin to brown lightly around the edge. Transfer the baking sheets onto racks to cool for 5 minutes, than transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely.
Per cookie: 75 calories, 3 g. total fat (1 g. saturated fat), 11 g. carbohydrate, 1 g. protein, 1 g. dietary fiber, 29 mg. sodium.
“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
AICR’s Nutrition Hotline is a free service that allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. Access it online at www.aicr.org/hotline or by phone (1-800-843-8114) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday. AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides education programs that help Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers. It has provided more than $82 million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR’s Web address is www.aicr.org.
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