Courtyard Updates

A key feature of our new house is a large central courtyard (posted earlier). It gives us an outdoors, tropical feel even in the middle of a very cold Canadian winter. We have now started to decorate the courtyard.

When Lindy and I were first married we had a large wall hanging made from a Marimekko printed fabric from Finland – at the time, the 1970’s, it was in fashionable colours of brown and gold. We hung it on our walls as we moved several times, and then it graduated to be cushion covers before ultimately being discarded. When it came time to decorate the new courtyard Lindy suggested Marimekko again. Courtesy of Google, we found a nearby supplier in Toronto: Finnish Place. Ten days ago we visited the store and found a couple of really good matches of colour and theme. After mounting on stretchers, here are the results:

Courtyard Hangings - Marimekko... Posted by Hello

Courtyard Hangings - Marimekko Posted by Hello

Second Oatcake Experiment

In my quest for the Lancashire oatcakes of my childhood, next I tested my theory that maybe they were based on fried porridge. So:
· 2 ¼ cup milled ‘quick’ oats
· 1 cup cold water
· A pinch of salt
· Brought to a boil, stirred until porridge-like consistency was reached and allowed to cool somewhat
· 1 tsp baking powder added and mixed in
· Cooked with a little oil in a non-stick frying pan

The result with the first one was certainly more to the grey side, but had trouble sticking together - presumably the released gluten from wheat flour really helps to hold pancakes together, which is why oatmeal pancake recipes always seem to have at least 1/3rd flour to oatmeal. Eggs can also help, so I mixed in an egg to the remaining batter, and cooked another. The result was a little more cohesive but noticeably more yellow. For the third I watered down the batter to make it run more. Here are the results:

The largest at the bottom is the first, the one on the left the second and the third on the right. As for taste, well... not bad but not worth repeating.

 Posted by Hello


First Oatcake Experiment

I decided it was time to start experimenting how to make oatcakes according to the Lancashire style that I remember from my childhood.

Lindy (my wife) had a great and obvious idea: she suggested that I look in ‘The Joy of Cooking’ which has been our primary cooking resource book for the last 30 years. There is no listing for Lancashire Oatcakes, but there was a listing for Oatmeal Griddle Cakes. More importantly, this recipe was in a whole section on ‘Griddle Cakes and Fritter Variations’. Under this category there are pancakes, crêpes, waffles, flapjacks, etc. The basic recipe is for a batter made of flour and a liquid (water, milk, eggs), possibly with salt, sugar, baking powder, yeast, etc. cooked in a hot pan or even a hot rock in just a few minutes; this approach to cooking the batter contrasts to the family of boiled-batter foods like noodles and baked-batter like bread and cakes.

Once I made that obvious connection it was time to start experimenting. I’ve made crepe-style pancakes for many years using wheat flour, eggs and milk in a hot non-stick pan with minimal grease. The two recipes I’d found before (the BBC Staffordshire and the Staffordshire recipes) were clearly variants on the standard European flat crêpe style pancake, where oats are used in place a portion of the wheat flour.

Reading about oatcakes it was clear that they were food for the working man in industrial Lancashire. Oats grow locally because of their resistance to the prevailing cold and winds of the area. My guess is that wheat flour would be more expensive, so perhaps the cheapest form would have been oats (flakes or milled flour) and water cooked on a griddle, maybe sweetened with sugar or molasses and with yeast to make them rise (but only a little). There is also the possibility that the flakes may have been boiled first in water to break then down, essentially making porridge; in that case oatcakes could simply have been fried porridge. That sounds horrible! But, it would certainly explain the grey colour I remember…
However, to start, I decided to try a simple crêpe variation as follows:

• ¾ cup wheat flour
• 1 ¼ cup minute oats (partly milled)
• 1 tsp. brown sugar
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• Milk mixed in to give a typical crêpe runny consistency
• Let sit 1 hour covered at room temperature
• At this point I had to add more water as the oats had hydrated and the mix was too thick
• Fried in a hot pan non-stick pan for a few minutes on each side

Here’s the result:

First Oatcake Experiment Posted by Hello

My family said they were quite good with jam or syrup; I agreed. But, they were much close to ‘normal’ crepes than oatcakes, so I need to try a simpler, ‘oatier’ mix next time.


Feeding Turkeys Too!

In an earlier post I talked about our Rabbit feeder cum Goshawk feeder, but it's also a Turkey feeder. Our good friend Rolf has threatened to make it a Turkey feeder cum Human feeder - apparently he likes the taste of wild turkey.

Turkeys... Posted by Hello


Another Oatcake Recipe


On the Hunt for Lancashire Oatcakes

When I was young and living in Bristol (SW England) my Grandmother used to bring Lancashire Oatcakes when she came to visit from Wigan, Lancashire. I fondly remember the oatcakes as a special breakfast treat. She bought them in the local market, wrapped them in a damp tea cloth to keep them moist and we ate them the next day after she arrived. They are best described as soft oval pancakes – but bubbly and grey. I’ve decided to find out more about them, and hopefully to be able to make them. Here’s the best page I’ve found so far (where they describe oatcakes as looking like a wet flannel), although they talk about Staffordshire Oatcakes – other websites point out that oatcakes vary considerably by region and are largely unknown in many parts of England. I also get the sense they are dying out. I’d love to get a recipe, but I expect I’ll have to experiment a bit to create one that matches my memories. We’ll see…

BBC - Stoke & Staffordshire - The Staffordshire Oatcake


Technology Enabled Clothing!

I take lots of business trips and I take lots of gadgets on those trips - I think my electronics probably make up at least 50% of my luggage by weight. I've seen laptop bags that have pockets for 'everything' as well as ways to inteconnect the gadgets within the bag. But it's a first for me to see technology-enabled clothing. I guess I haven't been reading the right geeky 'zines.

Welcome To Technology Enabled Clothing