A crunchy, crumbly oat cookie cures all ills
Health gurus today recognise the slow energy release provided by humble oats
Photograph: Harry Weir
So many ingredients are being “rediscovered” in the renewal of Ireland’s almost lost traditional food heritage.
Not too long ago in modern kitchens, oats were simply present in the store cupboard to make porridge for a hearty breakfast. It is startling to think that as a child we used a flapjack recipe where cornflakes substituted for oats. I now wonder how such a nutritious and vital ingredient could be so wantonly discarded.
Thankfully, home bakers all over Ireland passed down their flapjack recipes to sustain hordes of marauding kids who arrived into the house from goodness-knows-where with grazed knees and grass marks on their pants. An oat cookie cured all ills, scrapes and bruises.
Someone once told me a story about how farmers coped through brutal weather conditions tending their sheep and cattle across acres of undulating fields in rural Ireland. Many filled a pocket with dried oats and this sustained them until they returned to the farmhouse hearth for their tea.
We have a great tradition of processing oats in Ireland. There are many different types of oats, from coarse groats to pinhead oatmeal. First the oat groats are dehusked and steamed, before being rolled into flat flakes under heavy rollers and stabilised by being lightly toasted.
Health gurus today recognise the slow energy release provided by humble oats. Soaking oats makes the flakes more digestible, so overnight oats are de rigueur among the health-conscious. The creamy consistency provides a blank canvas for mouth-watering layers of yogurt, fresh berries, toasted nuts and a sprinkling of chia seeds on top. Many can wax lyrical about the incredible no-cook protein balls they are inventing where oats, dates and nut butters provide a tacky starting point, after which lots more nutritious ingredients can be incorporated before rolling them into superfood protein balls. Pop one in your handbag for a lifesaver on a busy day.
Many nations have their own iconic oat-filled recipes such as Scottish oatcakes and Anzac biscuits. We in Ireland have been sneaking them into bread, crumbles, black pudding and thickening soups with oats for generations. These oat cookies have all the delicious taste of a flapjack but are not made as a tray bake – I find they do not require golden syrup or extra sugar. They have a less chewy, more crunchy texture. They are also easier to make than flapjacks as they can be stamped out into neat circular cookies (sometimes people find tray bake flapjacks difficult to cut into neat bars). Medium porridge oats work best in the recipe but you can also use jumbo oats.
ALMOND OAT COOKIES
225g softened salted butter
150g caster sugar
½-1tsp almond essence
150g self-raising flour
250g rolled porridge oats or jumbo oats (not instant oats)
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (fan). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and pale (you can do this with a wooden spoon if the butter is soft). Stir in the almond essence. Using your hands, first mix in the flour, then the oats until everything is well combined. Bring the dough together into a patty and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
3. On a floured work surface, roll out the cookie dough with a rolling pin (if the mixture crumbles, just press it back together with your hands. Use a medium-sized cookie cutter to stamp out cookies and evenly space them apart on the parchment paper.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes (it is normal that they will be quite pale in colour). Leave to cool for a few minutes before carefully lifting off the baking tray and transferring to cool fully on a wire rack.
As an alternative to an almond flavour, you can add in all sorts of other ingredients just like in any oat or muesli bar. Cinnamon is great with oats. Chocolate chips, desiccated coconut, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit and even goji berries can be worked into the oat mixture.