The Staffie Oatie

Takes me back two years - when I used to work in the sleepy town of Stafford at the UK, one or other of my colleagues would prepare & distribute a quick lunch at the office on friday noons for a small sum – stuff like burgers, pasties etc. This was convention, and I was slow on the take actually since they almost always made it with bacon or other meat that I did not quite like, not cooked to my liking at least. After a while the guys stopped asking since they did not have a variation suiting me.

However one day, one of them made something and called me to inform that it was vegetarian, filled with cheese. With great trepidation, I took a look at what he was making, before finalizing my reply. I was surprised; it looked like a limp Dosa actually. Then he put in the cheese, some hot chilly sauce, rolled it up and gave it to me. It was not too bad for a hungry stomach. The chap, a local lad from Stafford, stated that those were called Staffordshire oatcakes or Staffie Oaties. Then he asked me if I knew the history behind this oatcake and I confessed that I did not have the faintest. Apparently some Colonel (now why is it that Colonel’s always end up with the recipes? Like our KFC Chicken colonel? Did they not have anything better to do?) from the Staffordshire regiment based in Madras during the late 19th century brought home the idea to UK. He and his blokes liked the Dosa in Madras very much and came back to try out all the combinations. After many efforts, a version was made with oatmeal and it is now the ever so popular Staffordshire oatcakes. Well the South Indian connoisseur will balk at the version, no doubt, but it was an interesting trivia …Instead of eating it with Chutney, Podi, Chammandi, Sambar and so on, they eat it with all kinds of hot sauces, with the oatcake packed like a masala dosa, together with bacon, fried eggs, meat, sausage, cheese and so on…Most people had forgotten the real origins and knowing only Chappati and Poppadom (remember our Shilpa Shetty & big brother crisis??) started equating the oatcake to both those Indian items, I am rather sure about this, it simply does not share any constituency with a Phulka or Pappadum.… So if you Google around, you may find it called as ‘Potteries Poppodum’

Some even call it an ‘oatcake – a produce from the gods’. To sum up – it looks & tastes much like our Wheat dosa or Gothambu dosa…Imagine, some even consider this oatcake an aphrodisiac…well, the dosa does not do any such thing..

You can find a number of Staffordshire oatcake recipes on the BBC Stoke site. Staffies are very fond of it and Stoke on Trent incidentally is a place close to Stafford. All the famous potteries were located in Stoke, once upon a time but today it is mainly home to a lot of people of foreign origin – like Pakistanis, Africans, Arabs etc…

As one magazine article explains: "What divides Britain Рmore surely than accent or class Рis where you can find the Staffordshire Oatcake". And another, while asking "Well, how do you eat yours?" goes on to say: "Whatever your preference, you can bet that you'll be eating this regional food exclusively in only one corner of the world, and for those of you who are reading this article outside North Staffordshire, I'm talking about the oatcake Рthat is, the oatcake of the Potteries and its surrounding towns". Nothing at all like its Scottish or Derbyshire cousins, it has the appearance of a moist pancake, or cr̻pe, and is made (usually from a 'secret' recipe) largely from oatmeal and yeast. To some, it's the 'Oat cuisine' of The Potteries; others still describe it as the 'Tunstall tortilla', 'Potteries poppadom', or 'Clay suzette'. Oatcakes tend mostly to be eaten warm, with the choice of sweet or savoury filling placed on the top and then rolled into a 'wrap'. And while an increasing number of leading restaurants and teashops now include them on the menu, they remain one of the healthiest of all fast foods. Not to mention (according to some) an aphrodisiac! Described as a "delicacy in its own right", the oatcake is longed-for by Potteries' 'exiles', and has won fans for as long as it has been made. TV celebrity chef Lesley Waters is one of its greatest fans. Jane Grigson is a convert. And Rick Stein waxed lyrical about them on TV. Though, not quite as lyrically as artist and poet Arthur Berry, who penned an Ode to the Oatcake Рand who also issued the warning that: over-indulgence can lead to bulgence. РJane Randall Stoke City tourism manager

This page links all other BBC Staffie Oatie pages.

Oatcake origin - The word oatcake is acually a derivation of 'hosecake ' and dates from the time of the Chartist riots in the 19th century, when there was an acute shortage of shoe leather. It was found that when oats were mixed with water and baked it was equally as tough as leather and could be used as a substitute, hence hosecake. When the leather shortage was over, since their was no further use for the hosecake, the locals decided to eat them and the name was changed to oatcakeBill Carr - Fegg Hayes, Stoke-on-Trent

There are even more connections between the dosa, Stafford, dogs and Madras. Dosa is a Korean dog (actually called Tosa)…and well, in Korea they did eat dogs. Staffordshire terrier – is a famous breed of dog that was brought to madras by the Brits. But Staffie oaties are as explained, a distant relative of our South Indian Dosa.

Comments

narendra shenoy said…
I've eaten crepes and an Ethiopian dosa called "injara". This is a new one. Must try it. The way you describe it, sounds quite interesting.

Loved the name, Staffie Oatie. So Brit!
Happy Kitten said…
LOL! The Dosai has its cousins too..

I made dosas this morning....

a nice read.. made me hungry too!
Indrani said…
I actually tried out the staffie oaties and they turned out yum... just as you said with grated cheese and sauce. They were limp and flipping them over was little difficult.
Thanks, added another healthy snack to my menu. :)
harimohan said…
staffie oatie shaped on our dosas ! wow
we need marketing like mcdonalds to get our cuisine to go places
Nanditha Prabhu said…
that was pretty interesting..:)
Btw , do you there is a dosa mela going on in the blog sphere?
Maddy said…
narendra - well it was interesting allright, but never a substitute for the dosa!! yes indrani - they are pretty limp so you would definitely need a good non stick pan i guess! i know hari - they really trie with the auto dosa maker and stuff like that, but does not seem to have caught on so far...nanditha - dosa mela? no clue, but hv you guys read an earlier blog of mine on the dosa? HK has, not the others
http://maddy06.blogspot.com/2007/04/delectable-dosa.html

also another one that narendra might enjoy from my bombay days - http://maddy06.blogspot.com/2006/07/eating-at-ananda-bhavan.html
flaashgordon said…
Love your trivia packed posts. Never tire of them..Really informative insights..

Im in Japan, and they have this dosa kinda stuff they call "Crepes" which is quite popular here and sold from Pushcarts. A Japanese client once had Dosa from an Indian restaurant and had this bright idea of starting "Crepe pushcart" style dosa vendors in Tokyo ..I said it was a brilliant idea and we already had "Thattukadas' in Kerala doin roarin business. She didnt put it in production i guess ;-)

Btw the KFC colonel was not a real one to my knowledge..it was just a nickname Mr.Sanders had ;-)
Maddy said…
thanks flaashbhai- saw that you have an interesting site as well!!
did u read my other blog on japan? it will interest you..
http://maddy06.blogspot.com/2008/01/nair-curry-bose-and-mohanlal.html

Yes u are right - the answer to the KFC colonel's title being honarary is explained in yahoo.
http://ask.yahoo.com/20061121.html