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Mairi Sawyer’s oatcakes

Written by Claire Jessiman –
A stack of wedge-shaped oatcakes rest on a cooling rack on top of a cloth. One oatcake has slices of Cheddar cheese on it. A block of cheese stands to the side of the image,
Mairi Sawyer’s oatcakes
Food blogger Claire Jessiman tackles a Scottish classic.

The recipe for oatcakes in Mairi Sawyer’s Inverewe cookbook has the intriguing addition of ‘Fochabers’ in its title. There’s no explanation of what this signifies, but it immediately made me think of Baxters of Fochabers – perhaps Ena Baxter gave the recipe to Mairi Sawyer?

The precise details of how the oatcakes should be made are also rather fuzzy:

‘Take 3 handfuls of oatmeal, 2 tablespoons of hot dripping, one teaspoon carbonate of soda, a pinch salt, 1 quart hot water. Mix all together, turn out onto a board, sprinkle meal on top, knead and roll, brush off loose meal, trim into a circle slightly smaller than the girdle, place another board on top and turn the two boards over, brush the other side, turn back to the original board, slide on to the girdle and bake.’

But how big is a handful, and how much is a quart? I went with 50g for a handful, but the quart proved trickier. Conversion charts told me just over a litre, but that would have produced brose (an uncooked form of porridge), not oatcakes, so I trusted my instincts and went with two tablespoons, converting the recipe as shown below.


  • 150g medium oatmeal
  • 2 tbsp (approx. 25g) melted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp boiling water


The traditional way to make oatcakes is to cook them on an iron girdle (griddle) and then finish them off on a toasting stone in front of the fire. To replicate this method in a modern home, I baked mine in the oven on a pizza stone for 25 minutes at 160C, having cut the mixture into eight wedges. This aside, I followed Mairi’s methodology exactly. I used pinhead oatmeal for my first batch, but the results were far too crumbly and really didn’t hold together, so I swapped to medium oatmeal and tried again.

I also felt that a teaspoon of bicarb gave too bitter a flavour, so I reduced this to a pinch. The oatcakes produced by this revised method were still somewhat fragile, but they looked great and tasted amazingly good with a slice of Scottish cheddar.

Read more about Claire’s culinary adventures at

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