In the West Riding of Yorkshire where much of the land was poor and hilly, oats were the only cereal crop that could be successfully grown. They therefore became a staple of the diet. There is much regional variation in the making of oatcakes, and those of the West Riding were long, thin and oval shaped compared to their thicker rounded counterparts of the Yorkshire Dales.

A meal of oats, salt and water was left overnight to ferment. The following morning, a scoop of the batter would be poured onto a backboard, a ridged tray dusted with more oatmeal. The backboard was then swirled about to spread the mixture. This was then turned out onto a linen cloth from which it was deftly thrown onto a bakestone. The bakestone was a large flat stone to one side of the open fire. After only about a minute, the oatcake was turned and cooked for another minute. It was then draped over a hanging rack known as a flake or fleeak to dry. The flake resembled a Sheila Maid used for drying clothes.

Oatcakes would have been eaten with most meals as a filling source of carbohydrate.

As I imagine there are not too many people with backboards and bakestones in their kitchens, this is an adapted recipe for modern times!

  • I pint boiling water
  • ½ lb oatmeal
  • Generous pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients in a large bowl and leave uncovered overnight. Alternatively to speed the process up, add 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda to the mix and leave for an hour.

Ladle a spoonful of the mixture onto a hot griddle or frying pan greased with a little butter or oil (do not spoon on too much mixture as the cakes are difficult to turn). Cook for approximately one minute and then turn. Cook the same on the other side. When golden brown remove from the pan. Leave to dry out over night or to speed matters up, place in the bottom of a cool oven. Enjoy!

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