Outlander is a big thing these days. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you are seriously missing out and have either 1) been under a rock for the past 6 months or 2) recently traveled between the stones to this time period and haven’t quite figured out the internet or television yet…but then you wouldn’t be reading this!
In reality Outlander has been a thing for years, but mostly for book nerds, like me.
I read the first book in the series about 15 years ago and it had an immediate and profound impact on me. All Things Scottish have always fascinated me, but these books really brought Scotland and my favorite historical time period in Scotland to living color. The pages are so vivid and alive there is no one who reads the books that don’t seem to develop a strong attachment to the characters and as a writer of fiction myself, I know how vital that is to the success of a book and at the same time, how hard to achieve.
Claire, Jamie and the ensemble cast that fill the pages of this series of books has literally been imbedded in my psyche. I love that Claire and I share a love of plants, herbs and growing things, that she is a modern woman who finds herself reasonably comfortable with the way of life 200 years before her birth because I think I would be pretty good at that, too. I love her spunk and humor and that she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty or put herself in danger to help her loved ones.
And then there is Jamie…James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser to be exact. I love his integrity and sense of honor – two things that I can relate to. My husband, who has read the books, and who also loves them, always remarks that Jamie is hard for any man alive today to live up to. He speaks multiple languages, is well versed in business, politics and farming, can build a house from nothing but trees, is strong but loving and has a moral code that he is willing to die for. Hmmm, maybe Roberto has a point. But these characters have become a part of our daily lexicon and common language.
My people, the long time Outlander fans have been equally dying for, and at the same time nervously anticipating a time when we would be able to watch the events of the stories unfold before us in living color, either through a movie or television. Starz made it all possible by investing in the latter and now this wonderful world has become a part of even more people’s lives, embedding itself in even more psyches.
We are currently in the midst of waiting for the second half of Season 1 to start on April 4th and Starz has been good about giving us little previews during what they have coined “Droughtlander” – in which we are all in agony waiting for new episodes to quench our thirst!
I have been spending my own “Droughtlander” reading Written in my Own Heart’s Blood, the most recent book in the series and as I write this I am almost finished. I find when I am about 250 pages to the end of a tome, like the Outlander books, I slow down and procrastinate finishing. I just don’t want to be thrust from a place where I am so comfortable and love to be. But thankfully because of the TV show, I can always spend an hour or so there anytime I need.
Just to give you an idea of how the characters have embedded themselves in my life, a few years ago when I was researching and creating a modern recipe for Crowdie, a historical Scottish cheese, I heard over and over again the legend behind the name Gruth Dubh (Gaelic for “Black Curds”). The legend of the cheese goes, a cattle herder had put his cheese in the same container that he had earlier had his toasted oatcakes in and the cheese got accidently covered in the leftover oat crumbs. The herder found that he really enjoyed the taste and so shared the idea with others. That is why this cheese is traditionally eaten with oatcakes. Well of course being such an Outlander geek, Jamie immediately came to mind as the cow herder (or stealer!)! Perhaps we should add the invention of Crowdie to his list of accomplishments!
So that leads me to this post. I have always loved the components of a Ploughman’s Lunch and enjoyed it for lunch many times on our most recent trip to Scotland this past fall. Since first reading Outlander, I have always imagined Claire and Jamie taking the ingredients of a Ploughman’s Lunch out of their saddle bags to spread on the ground for a quick meal during any number of their adventures: oatcakes, cheese and a hard hand fruit, like an apple or pear – easy travel foods that are hard to damage and easy to preserve.
Making a simple, yet delicious lunch like this can help you through the next few days of “Droughtlander”. Or perhaps you might save this to snack on during the new upcoming episode! I picture Claire and Jamie washing this down with some whisky, or the traditional beverage to accompany it, ale. But a nice hard cider goes well or even a strong cuppa hot Scottish Breakfast tea if you want to skip the alcohol.
There is no real recipe here, beyond the oat cakes which you can scroll down for. I will tell you what I used for the pictured Ploughman’s Lunch:
- Cheeses: Brie-style goat’s milk cheese from Trader Joes, Dunlop Scottish Cheddar
- Empire Apple
- Chutney: Major Grey’s – an Anglo-Indian chutney. Its characteristic ingredients are mango, raisins, vinegar, lime juice, onion and tamarind.
- Glenmorangie The Original (single malt Scottish whisky)
UP THE YUM: Traditionally Ploughman’s Lunches are served with chutney, as it is pictured here, or with any type of pickle – pickled cucumbers, onions, beets, etc. It adds a wonderful sweet and savory or sour dimension and either goes wonderfully with the cheese and fruit. I would also heartily recommend eating this while reading from the Outlander series. Obviously.
- 1 ½ cup of Scottish Oats (or sub any whole grain oats) I use Organic Scottish Oatmeal
- ½ cup of oat flour, spelt flour or whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup fresh buttermilk, kefir or yogurt (homemade is preferable)
- ¼ cup hot water
- ¼ tsp. of salt
- ¼ tsp. aluminum free baking soda or powder
- ¼ cup melted butter
- flour for dusting
- In a medium bowl combine oats, flour, buttermilk and water. Mix well. Cover bowl and let sit on counter top overnight, or at least 8 hours.
- The next day, preheat oven to 325F. Add the salt, baking soda and melted butter to the bowl. Mix everything with a fork, and break it up evenly. If it is too dry, add a bit more liquid – maybe a tablespoon or so. With your hands, form into a ball. Sprinkle a dusting of flour on your counter top or a large cutting board. Roll the dough out to ¼ inch thick. Then cut with the top of a glass into round shapes. Be sure to re-roll the scraps to make more cakes.
- Place cakes about ¼ inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until golden. Let cool. Makes 6-8 cakes. This recipe is easily doubled.