Tag Archives: River Cottage

Feeding our wanderlust: honey, lavender, pepper oatcakes; photos of Iona


Sometimes, a phrase, an image, or an object triggers your memory and it’s as though you are transported back to another place. Last night, reading Laura’s blog, Laura’s Mess, I remembered standing under Western Australia’s big, open sky, with its sense of so much space, feeing the warm wind and warmer sun, and ouch-hot white sand under my feet.

Earlier that evening, we were planning a dinner party for 12 (!). Cheese and oatcakes got on the menu. And I remembered the oatcakes we had in Scotland. And that story on a packet of oatcakes, solemnly explaining that oatcakes began from the Scottish people’s frugal habits, when they would save their morning porridge by drying it into a cake for supper.

Dried leftover porridge. Yum.

So it was that I found myself making oatcakes that evening.

I used a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who introduced it thus: “This recipe is Bill Cowie’s, island manager of Rona in the Inner Hebrides. He made a batch when we were filming and fishing with him in July. We devoured every last one, with cheese and homemade chutney.”


I almost followed the recipe, the only changes I made were adding a bare half teaspoon of crushed lavender, and an overflowing teaspoon of honey, into the oatcake mix. I’ve been reading about lavender pepper spice mixes, and oats just love honey, and the whole thing just came together.

The oatcakes had a healthy back of the throat kick from a mixture of black and white pepper – I’d like to use the sweeter pink pepper next time – a bare hint of open grassland from the lavender, and the barest mellowness from the honey. Their flavours played off each other and made me want to use the lavender, honey and pepper combination in other things. 

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Hot cross buns, or, how not to make rock cakes


(with apologies for the photos taken on a phone)

I remember the first time I saw home made hot cross buns. A colleague in Canberra had worked as a chef in a former life, and to mark our first Easter in the nation’s capital, he brought enough hot cross buns for everyone in our graduate year.

It seemed a miraculous thing to me, the ability to pull real hot cross buns out of a home oven. I also remember the buns were moist, darkly spiced, laden with plump raisins. But more than anything I remember his assurance “they are easy to make.”

A few years later, I have learned to make things with yeast – croissants, pizza, ciabatta – and this year, I was determined to tackle hot cross buns. After all, Alan said they were easy.

My first attempt was a dismal failure. The recipe called for far too much flour compared to the amount of milk, egg and butter. The dough had the texture of scones (or American biscuit) dough. Even after adding extra milk, what came out of the oven was more like rock cakes than English buns. (this really tested my faith in Australian Gourmet Traveller)

For the second attempt, I turned to my bread bible, the River Cottage Bread Handbook.

And, almost miraculously, the buns came together just like that. And the whole Gander household (including Mr Gander’s mum and grandmother – more brownie points for me) had toasted home made hot cross buns for Easter Friday.



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