As a Derbyshire lass, my favourite Saturday treat was an oatcake with bacon and eggs for breakfast. Sometimes, lunch and even tea. It’s a cross between a pancake and a crumpet and you wouldn’t think that something so humble could cause rivalry across boundary lines. That’s because they make them in Staffordshire too, a bit different, but I’m not going to get into debate here about which are best. Remember though, I’m Derbyshire born and bred.
My Mum made them by mixing ground oatmeal with yeast and water, setting it aside to activate, I think is the term. She added flour, salt and sugar to the batter before pouring some of the mixture into a frying pan to make neat round circles – except hers came out looking like Iceland a lot of the time.
They are nutritious and so versatile you can fry or grill them and have them with any filling of your choice. These days my husband makes them for me with gluten free flour, equally as delicious but I’ve always thought there was something missing.
A well -known maker of oatcakes are the folks out at Owlgreave Farm in Comb, a tiny village in the heart of the High Peak. (near Chapel en le Frith and Castleton). They’ve been producing oatcakes using a recipe with a secret ingredient since 1949. So that’s it. I knew there was something special about the ones we used to buy in Bakewell.
In my new novel, Edna’s Death Café, eighty year old Edna runs a café called The Happy Oatcake. Her speciality is the oatcakes from her mother’s recipe. I wanted readers to discover this delicious product for themselves. She so happens to run meetings where locals can talk about the things in life that make them happy, (oatcakes) and how they feel about their eventual demise. Set against the stunning backdrop of Castleton in a hard winter, the novel explores community, simple pleasures, good food and how to approach the end of life. They chat over tea and, of course, oatcakes.
I spent a couple of weeks in Castleton in May 2017, staying at the quaint and utterly delightful Oatcake Cottage whilst polishing the book for publication. It was the time of the Garland Ceremony and this is plays a significant part in the novel. Here’s a link for those of you interested in English history.
It was wonderful revisiting old haunts – Hope, Hathersage where I used to swim in the outdoor Lido, Surprise View where I climbed onto the granite boulders with my grandad and ice-creams by the river in Bakewell. I may have travelled round the world since I left Derbyshire in 1974, but my heart belongs in the Peak District which is why I wanted to bring this new book and a little bit of me to my loyal readers and hopefully some new ones this year.
Edna’s Death Café is available from September 5th 2018 from all on-line retailers. The paperback is planned for early next year.
Why not get yourself a copy. Put on the kettle and where ever you are in the world, pop an oatcake under the grill and load with your favourite filling. Enjoy.