Traditionally Staffordshire oatcakes are a savory, yeasted pancake made from oats, flour and milk. This is a vegan, sourdough version that we think is even tastier, and also incredibly versatile. It’s a perfect recipe to add to your sourdough baking repertoire.
My British food history (abbreviated)
When I first moved to Britain in the 1980s the food was, how shall I put this, dull. Another word would be beige.
And before I go on I must report that now British food is AMAZING! We grow more varieties of crops, we travel more, we have more adventurous palates. Now.
But in those days of mullets, polyester and a mere three TV channels, Brits ate lots of porridge, roast dinners with boiled veg on the side, macaroni cheese, and very brown stews.
Not all of these foods were bad by any means, but the lack of choice was what stunned me. With the exception of my wonderful mother-in-law, Ann – who lived for quite awhile in Africa – British interest in food was not very apparent to me. Food seemed geared towards those with the “eat to live” rather than “live to eat” mindset. I couldn’t relate. Because of digestion-related issues, I became a vegetarian. This in itself posed a problem in that all of the fruits and veg I grew up eating were completely different to what I saw in the shops. Obviously I adapted and learned. Quite quickly too as I am not fond of not eating. But it was a huge learning curve.
A sourdough and oatcake mash up
Before I felt confident with buying and cooking these strange-to-me foods, I made a discovery that still makes me happy to this day. Staffordshire oatcakes.
Edinburgh is nowhere near Staffordshire, but happily Sainsbury’s didn’t care. Every week I would toss a pack or two of these English-made floppy, savory pancakes into my basket, looking forward to slathering them in the saltiest foods possible – feta cheese AND black olive tapenade.
At the time I never thought to make them myself. I didn’t consider myself a baker – still don’t. Fast forward a bit and I have occasionally made them to a traditional recipe. And they are really lovely. Soft, pliable; a great conduit for butter.
But recently I have been playing with my sourdough starter to inject traditional British baking recipes with the characteristic tang of sourdough. A few posts back I shared my waffle recipe with you, and my crumpet recipe is over on Instagram. While my sourdough starter mainly goes towards making a crusty, holey loaf (see above for my latest loaf), I often branch out with other baking projects. I’ve made cakes, American biscuits, crackers, bagels, and spectacular but uuuuugly pretzels. Basically anything that calls for yeast I will have a go at a sourdough version.
These days I don’t tend to slather on the butter. Nor do I whap out the feta and tapenade (at least together). Instead I treat my Staffordshire oatcakes to various, easily-put-together toppings. My favourites are outlined below.
How to top your Staffordshire oatcake
Stir-fried Brussels sprouts, kale or chard + cooked vegan tempeh bacon + smoked preserved tomatoes (Rachel’s fave)
Hummus + mashed avocado/guacamole + rocket/arugula salad + sweet red pepper
Galette complète-style: buckwheat and white flour in the batter + Gruyère/Comté/Emmental-style cheese + vegetarian ham or tempeh bacon + fried egg
Cheddar cheese + fried egg + tempeh bacon
Nut butter + blueberries + sliced banana
Bakes beans (my recipe for Bloody Mary Baked Beans!)
Slow-cooked onions + BBQ pulled jackfruit
Apricot compote + raspberries
Eggs Benedict Florentine/Salmon: poached egg + Hollandaise sauce + wilted spinach/Scottish salmon (here is my vegan, whole food Hollandaise sauce recipe)
Quesadilla-style: refried beans + salsa + avocado + spring onions + optional cheese
and, of course, black olive tapenade + a little feta cheese + salad leaves + lemon
How to make sourdough Staffordshire oatcakes
It is very simple to prepare the batter. All you do is combine water and sourdough starter until the sourdough melts into the water, then whisk in flour, blended oats and a pinch of salt (I like smoked salt if keeping everything savory).
Once mixed you need to cover it and let it sit to ferment and bubble up – overnight or at least 6 hours. This is when it really gets the tangy, savory taste that my family loves. I hope you do too!
If it seems a bit thick to spread come morning time, thin it down a little with more water. Maybe do a tester pancake if you aren’t sure. Everyone’s sourdough starter is different so you may need to adjust.
Then it is a case of heating a little fat in a medium-hot skillet or two (a heavy, cast iron one if possible; otherwise use your most reliable, non-stick pan), flicking in a little batter when it seems ready. If the batter sizzles, pour in the batter – enough to make a 8-9 inch pancake. The first one is always an experiment. I like to pour the batter in from a lipped measuring cup in a non-touching spiral, then tilt the pan around so that it all joins up and sizzles at the edges.
But do what works best for you. When the batter goes from shiny to dull (about two minutes), flip and cook for a further minute or two. Keep the cooked oatcakes in a warm oven if you like while you cook the rest up. Those that aren’t eaten can be interleaved with baking parchment and frozen for another day.
But Kellie, I don’t have a sourdough starter!
If you don’t have sourdough starter and wish to make these, why not try either my friend Jac’s nearly traditional Staffordshire oatcake recipe, or one from Felicity Cloake at The Guardian newspaper? Traditional recipes use either dried or fresh yeast and are quicker to make. You can also find the history of the Staffordshire oatcake on their sites.
Now, let’s eat!
Have you heard of Staffordshire oatcakes? what’s your favourite way to eat them? Are you a sourdough bread baker? Do you experiment with the starter too? What are you making with it?
**Remember to follow me on Pinterest and, if you make my Sourdough Staffordshire Oatcakes, click on the pin below the recipe card and leave a photo of your make with a comment telling me what you think, or any awesome changes that you made. Similarly, any Instagram posts tagged @food_to_glow using my recipes will go on my Story if I see them. I’m always so proud when you share my recipes with the world. Yay!!!
Sourdough Staffordshire Oatcakes (Savory Pancakes)
Traditionally a savory, yeasted pancake made from oats, flour and milk this is a vegan, sourdough version that we think is even tastier, and also incredibly versatile. It's a perfect recipe to add to your sourdough baking repertoire.
- 85 g oats wholegrain, rolled
- 150 g spelt flour or buckwheat flour
- 150 g sourdough starter
- 365 ml water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Oil or fat of your choice to fry
Add the oats to a blender or food processor and process just until the oats are nubbly and broken down. You want it to still have texture.
Pour the water and sourdough starter into a large mixing bowl (not metal) and whisk until the starter dissolves. Add in the remaining ingredients and whisk well. Cover with clingfilm, or something eco-friendly like a beeswax cover. Leave at room temperature overnight, or at least six hours. It will get frothy and bubbly.
In the morning, if it seems a bit thick to spread, thin it down a little with more water. Maybe do a tester pancake if you aren't sure. Everyone's sourdough starter is different so you may need to adjust.
When you are ready to make the oatcakes heat a little oil in a medium to large heavy skillet or fry pan (I like my cast iron Staub skillet). Pour in enough batter to make a 8-9 inch pancake. I like to swirl it in in a spiral then tilt the pan for it all to meet up and geo to the edges. As with most pancake making, the first one might be a duffer, so that will be the cook's perk. Cook until the shininess goes and the surface is dull - about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook a further one and a half to two minutes. Keep the pancakes holding in a warm oven while you make the rest.
Serve with a variety of savory and sweet toppings. Ideas are listed and illustrated in the body of this blog post (above). The oatcakes are best served warm. but we like them room temperature as well.
RIPE FOR PINNING!