But strangest of all was Jenny’s absence. She was the hearthfire of Lallybroch; I had never been in the house when it was not suffused with her presence, all the inhabitants in orbit about her like planets about the sun. I could think of nothing less like her than that she should leave her kitchen with such a mob of company in the house.
Her presence was a strong now as the perfume of the fresh pine boughs that lay in a large pile in the back pantry, their presence beginning to scent the house; but of Jenny herself, not a hair was to be seen.
She had avoided me since the night of my return with Young Ian — natural enough, I supposed, under the circumstances. Neither had I sought an interview with her. Both of us knew there was a reckoning to be made, but neither of us would seek it then.
It was warm and cozy in the kitchen — too warm. The intermingled scents of drying cloth, hot starch, wet diapers, sweating bodies, oatcake frying in lard, and bread baking were becoming a bit too heady, and when Katherine mentioned the need of a pitcher of cream for the scones, I seized the opportunity to escape, volunteering to fetch it down from the dairy shed.
Diana Gabaldon, Voyager (Chapter 38 – I Meet a Lawyer)
Jenny the sister, wife and matron? Love her. Up to this point, she was always the consummate Highland hostess who kept Lallybroch in line with her sharp tongue and a penetrating look from her gimlet eye. My kind of woman.
Jenny the matchmaker? Not so much. Oh, her intentions may have been good, but they ended in disaster. And 4 books on, I have to admit, I’m still a little PO’ed at her.
But I have a feeling Claire is going to be verra happy that Jenny has come along for the ride in MOBY. Especially once Jamie gets back from his tête-à-tête with Lord John…
Does my crock of bacon fat scare you? Then don’t go looking for any stone circles with time travel in mind. Two hundred years ago, before our modern “fat wars” began, for good or ill, everything was cooked in animal fat.
Lard adds flavour to any dish, but most especially to a batch of otherwise bland oatcakes. And since most of us don’t have big blocks of pork fat hanging around anymore (heck, you have to pre-order it from most butchers these days), the easiest source for flavour is bacon drippings.
I strain the fat from our weekend bacon pans through a small strainer lined with paper towel and keep the crock in the fridge. I use it in oatcakes and sometimes savoury scones, but I also sometimes use a teaspoon or 2 to start my soups and pasta sauces.
It adds a salty smokiness that olive oil just can’t beat.
Traditionally, oatcakes were made in dessert-plate size rounds, and then cut into quarters, also known as farls. Around here, we prefer our savoury oatcakes round, more like a cracker.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
Traditionally served with butter and honey, oatcakes make a great gluten-free alternative to crackers or bread, and are delicious served with jam and cheese for a light lunch.
Yield: (8) 3” Oatcakes or (1) 8-9″ Oatcake
- Rolled Oats – 1½ Cups
- Baking Soda – 1 tsp
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Bacon Fat or Butter, melted – 1 Tble
- Boiling Water – ¼-⅓ Cup
- Bacon Fat or Butter – to grease the pan
Grind the rolled oats a coffee grinder in small batches, until a coarse meal — about (3) 1 second pulses. Reserve 2 tablespoons ground oats for dusting the counter.
Mix the ground oats, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Pour the melted fat and ¼ cup boiling water into the centre of the mixture. Stir well with a wooden spoon, adding more water as required to make a stiff dough.
Roll the dough onto a counter dusted with the reserved ground oats. Working quickly while the dough is still warm, roll the dough out to a disc ¼” thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds, or, alternatively, use a plate to cut one large circular oatcake, then cut that into quarters.
Heat a heavy (preferably cast iron) pan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Brush the pan with bacon fat or butter and cook the oatcakes until the edges just begin to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side.
Store in a covered container and reheat lightly if desired.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- Slightly sweet oatcakes are a wonderful accompaniment to afternoon tea. Add 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar to the dough.
- Not all oats are guaranteed gluten-free. Check the label.
- You can also bake these in a 375° F oven until very lightly golden, about 8-10 minutes.
- And of course, if you prefer, the oatcakes can be cooked in a dry pan. No fat required. But what fun would that be?
Oatcakes, cheese, piccalilli and fig jam.