Posts Tagged ‘Alec Finlay’

Isles and Lakes

July 20, 2009 3 comments

Isles and Lakes by Alec Finlay, Plate 1


Isles and Lakes by Alec Finlay, Plate 2


Isles and Lakes by Alec Finlay, Plate 3


Isles and Lakes by Alec Finlay, Plate 4


Isles and Lakes by Alec Finlay, Plate 5


Isles and Lakes by Alec Finlay, Plate 6

Six oatcakes in the forms of isles and lakes, by Alec Finlay

Alec explains the piece as follows:

“I often work with simple forms and I conceived this piece from my occasional habit of making oatcakes — the outlines always look geographical, often northerly. I chose isles and lakes as the positive and negative, here united in one idiom, and as they are the Romantic destinations par excellence. Some choices were autobiographical, some for the sake of predecessor poets or artists, some for form alone.”

The Isles and Lakes are: the Isle of Sado, Walden Pond, Cythera, Aral Sea, White Lake and Derwent Water. Alec leaves it to the reader to guess or imagine which is which. (The original piece won Alec the 2006 International Edible Art Award. Caroline Smith baked the oatcakes here. The Village Bakery commissioned the cutters. Photographs by Alexander Maris.)

Oatmeal became the staple grain of Scotland because it is better suited than wheat to the country’s short, wet growing season. It therefore has a long culinary history going back many centuries, so much so that Scotland’s ancient universities had a holiday called Meal Monday, to permit students to return to their homes to collect more oats for food.

Scottish oatmeal is created by grinding oats into a coarse powder. Various grades are available depending on the thoroughness of the grinding, including coarse, pin (head) and fine oatmeal. It has many uses, including being the main ingredient of bannocks or oatcakes.

In celebration of Alec’s project, and the oatcake, we thought it might be good idea to provide an oatcake recipe, and this one comes with the kind permission of Wendy Harrison at A Wee Bit of Cooking, a Scottish food blog:


225g oats

60g whole wheat flour

30g butter

30g lard or vegetable fat

1 tspn salt

1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda

50 ml boiling water

  • Mix together the oats, flour and bi-carb.
  • Add the butter and lard and rub together until the fats are incorporated and look like big breadcrumbs (this took the full length of Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” when I last did it).
  • Add the boiling water little by little and combine until thick, stiff dough is formed.
  • Scatter extra flour and oats on a surface and roll out the dough until 1/2 cm thick (or thinner if you prefer daintier biscuits). Use cutter to cut out shapes.
  • Reroll dough and cut again until dough is used up.
  • Place shapes on baking tray and bake in 190oC oven for 20-30 mins until brown and crisp around the edges.
  • Remove from oven when golden and crisp around the edges.

—Anna Dickie and Pamela Hart, eds.

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