Tuck into some oatcakes this month.
Robert Burns Day is Jan. 25, and these cracker-like cookies are a Scottish tradition.
My favourite memory of oatcakes is watching my grandmother roll out the dense dough, cut it into squares, place them on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven.
Later, I recall enjoying their sweet flavour, when she gave me a couple to munch on, with a glass of milk.
So, when clansman Roddie MacLean offered me some of his famous oatcakes during a visit this past Monday, I was delighted.
They were delicious.
“They’re a recipe from way back,” says MacLean, who is making hundreds of the sweet treats to serve at intermission during the Robbie Burns concert, put on by the Caledonian Club of Prince Edward Island on Jan 25 .
He was introduced to oatcakes by his grandmother, Louise MacDonald MacLean.
“But hers didn’t have sugar. She didn’t make them the way that Buddy Dunlop did at the Telegraph House in Baddeck,” says MacLean, who got his recipe 35 years ago, during a trip to Cape Breton with his wife, Miriam.
Later, when someone suggested he add bran flakes into the mix he did. MacLean was so pleased with the results he modified the recipe once again.
“Bran flakes really add flavour and fibre.”
In addition to providing oatcakes, MacLean will provide an important role at the concert, which features Celtic tenor Tom MacDonald, guitarist Rob Wolfe, a trio of Todd MacLean, Aaron Crane and Jon Rehder, the family of Flora, Matt and Kirsten MacLaine and step dancer Janelle Banks.
That night MacLean, dressed in a modern hunting tartan and a Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket, will be piped into the room to recite, “The Address to the Haggis”.
“It’s one of the greatest poems he wrote, with eight verses,” says MacLean who memorized the famed work by Robert Burns in 2009.
That year he was one of 40 athletes who went to Scotland for the Strathcona Cup, a competition between Canadian and Scottish male curlers.
It was a life-changing experience. Not only did the Canadians win the cup, MacLean travelled all over the country, embracing his Scottish roots during his 26-day stay.
“It was Burns 250th birthday. And everywhere we went, people were celebrating it. Not only were they doing ‘Address to the Haggis’, they were reading stories and poems and giving haunted readings where they turned the lights down low. I really enjoyed it.
“That trip was one of the highlights of my life.”
Here is his recipe:
2 cups oatmeal
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups bran flakes, crushed
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup water, boiled
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cup shortening
Preheat oven to 425 F degrees
Drop soda into a cup of boiling water and chill in the fridge.
Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender.
Once water has cooled, gradually add it to the mixture until the dough begins to hold together, like a big ball.
Cut ball into two sections, cover with food wrap. Roll out dough on a floured surface, cut with your favourite cookie cutters and place on a baking sheet.
Bake 11-12 minutes
- What: Caledonian Club of Prince Edward Island’s Robbie Burns concert.
- When and where: Jan. 25, 7 p.m., Carrefour Theatre, 5 Acadian Dr., Charlottetown. Storm date is Jan. 26.
- Ticket information: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 902-675-2359.
Call in and win
- The question is: Who is providing the oatcakes at intermission?
- The prize: A pair of tickets to the Robbie Burns concert on Jan. 25.
- Last week’s winner: Gail Feehan won a pair of tickets to see Aaron Hastelow and Friends.
- To enter: Call The Guardian’s Phone and Win contest line at 902-629-1707.
Sally Cole is an entertainment writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.