JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hearty oatcakes with smoked trout pate

Finger food. I'm well out of my comfort zone here ... cooking for my family and plonking it down on the table, yes; producing something wholesome-but-pretty-much-undecorated for 100 at a party, yes (although I have to sit down for a week afterwards!) .. but making it all look lovely - tricky. In this house, finger food means a plate of smoked salmon on brown bread squares (use fromage frais flavoured with lemon zest or horseradish instead of butter - MUCH nicer, much healthier). But the idea of The Heart of the Matter was that we all pool our ideas for healthy heart food so that we would all have a bank of new ideas to call on. This morning I'm climbing the learning curve as fast as I can!

Finger food is an important one to crack, because most of it is pretty unhealthy - salted peanuts, crisps cooked in who-knows-what?, little bits of nonsense on pastry, sausages on sticks. Years ago I went to an elegant party where delicious finger food was handed round - crudites, little bites of fish, oysters - and it was all so elegantly served that it was only on the way home that I realised my hostess was almost certainly on a diet. So, yes, I know that presentation is all-important here, and I'm going to do my best (!).

I've racked my brains for something I could do which I haven't already written about, and which I would actually want to do again. And for something which I could make look nice. I'm afraid I've gone with Ilva's idea for heart-shaped biscuits, because, as I've already said, presentation isn't my forte, so all ideas are gratefully received - thanks Ilva!

My biscuits are oatcakes. I've chosen them because one of the biggest surprises of our new diet was discovering that bought oatcakes are full of saturated fat, as they are nearly always made with lard. It seems such a pity, since oats are a terrific food in any healthy diet. It reinforces the point that reading the labels is hugely important when you're trying to eat a healthy diet. So I was pleased to find that they're very quick & easy to make, and making them with oil doesn't affect the taste. I suppose that they were originally made with lard because that was what was to hand; now, it's just cheap fat for the food industry.

Today's topping is a basic one: smoked trout pate. There are two more to follow before the deadline for Heart of the Matter expires on Wednesday. I'm aiming for something a little more sophisticated then, but it's also important to have something quick and easy up your sleeve for parties, the moment when my kitchen is most likely to go into meltdown!

Oatcakes - enough for 20 hearts
175g medium oatmeal (NOT rolled oats)
a pinch of bicarb
two pinches of salt
1 tbsp oil
4 tbsp water

Stir the salt and bicarb into the oats, then add the oil and water. Mix to a moist dough, and turn out onto a work surface strewn with oatmeal. Knead to a smooth ball. In practice, this means adding more oatmeal until the dough is quite dry. Roll it out as thinly as you can, and then cut out your shapes (the traditional shape is a circle cut into eight sections called farls). Place on a greased baking sheet sprinkled with oatmeal. Bake in a low oven (120-150C) for about an hour. Cool on the sheet.

Fish pate

This is easy and delicious. I am not going to give you exact quantities, because you do it by eye, and you make however much you need. I like this kind of cooking. Take roughly equal quantities of 0% fat Greek yoghurt (or 0% fromage frais) and smoked trout (or any other cold smoked fish ... mackerel, cooked kipper, salmon, etc etc), and mash with a fork in a small bowl. Add lemon zest and pepper to taste (you won't need salt). Top your oatcakes with the mixture, and decorate with more lemon zest and some finely chopped chives. Squeeze lemon juice over them before serving. (I expect you already know that you shouldn't assemble these too far in advance, because the crisp oatcakes will go soggy.)

Great at parties, and delicious at breakfast, too!

More toppings tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

These look delicious. I pack a similar pate, usually with rice cakes, in work-day lunchboxes for my boyfriend and I. Next time we'll have heart-shaped oatcakes!

A lovely, crunchy substitute for pastry in finger food is granary bread, crusts removed, squashed flat with a rolling pin and baked in a muffin tin until it forms crunchy little cups that can be filled as you please.

I don't have a blog to link back to, but I love reading yours and have picked up some wonderful ideas from your past entries. Thank you.

Ilva said...

Joanna, they are beautiful and I can hardly claim the copyright for heart shaped crackers can I? They sound very good too, both the oatcakes and the pate!

Joanna said...

Hi Eleanor ... thanks for the kind words ... and that's a really good tip for making a shell for finger food ... I'm just about to go out shopping, and I think I will get a tin with tiny little shapes to fill ... brilliant.

Thanks Ilva - no, not the copyright, but it still feels as if I've stolen your idea for this month!