Have you watched the television series Outlander? For some people it was too slow-moving, but I found it mesmerizing. It was so gorgeously filmed that every scene made me feel like I was looking into a painting, and so steeped in historic, breathtaking scenery that I started believing my living room was hanging with moss, and I could almost hear horses coming down the hall. I loved the two main characters, Clair and Jamie, and the combination of realistic historic facts combined with the sci fi element of time-travel. I never intended to read the books on which the series is based until I read a short essay written by a friend who is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She classified Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books as "historical/adventure/sci-fi/romance," under the general category of escape fiction, and said that she was hooked on the series. She called the books a guilty pleasure, and the fact that she, a serious reader and writer, had read and loved them, motivated me to check them out.
I was curious to see what the books on which the series was based were like, so in December, I downloaded Outlander, the first title in the series, to my kindle app. I had no idea what I was in for. When I read the first book I was surprised at how closely the series followed it, and how engrossed I became with the lives of the characters. Seriously, I never expected to read more than volume one, if that much — the books are LONG (one of them was more than 1400 pages!) — and there are eight of them (so far). They are not my usual style of reading, but once I got started I fell right down the rabbit hole, and all I can say is I'm now on book eight. Yes, book eight. I read obsessively, crave whiskey, and my dreams now take place in the 18th century. If you think I'm kidding, I assure you I'm not — at least not about the obsessive reading or the dreams. (No, I haven't started drinking.) The weirdest thing about the dreams is that they don't involve the characters from the book, but they do take place in the time period I'm reading about.
If you're not familiar with the books or show, they begin with a woman who accidentally time-travels through a set of mystical standing stones in the Scottish Highlands. She travels from 1945 to 200 years into the past. It's a time-travel, historical fiction, romance (with a lot of sex) novel with a particularly intelligent, feisty, beautiful female heroine and an equally appealing (to put it mildly) male protagonist. The action is non-stop so there's never a good place to pause reading, which is why I hardly ever do. Consequently I have a long list of things to accomplish once I get through book eight.
Probably, had I been living in 18th century rural Scotland, I wouldn't have been a vegan or vegetarian — it would have been hard since country folk depended on wild game and home-raised animals for so much of their diet. I feel really lucky that I live in a time and place where I can choose what I eat. One of the non-animal foods I kept reading about with interest, though, was the bannock, which is a Scottish biscuit type of bread, often made with oats as well as wheat. The characters in the book were eating them day and night — pulling hot bannocks from the hearth and spreading them with jam and butter so often that I finally reached a point where I had to have a bannock. Had to, even though I had no idea what a bannock was beyond some sort of bread. Since I'm here in the 21st century, I googled bannock and came up with a lot of similar recipes, but because I can't seem to eat wheat without a lot of digestive distress, I needed a gluten-free recipe. I couldn't find one I liked, so I've made my own, based on the wheaty ones. And I used my nice, 21st century oven, rather than an open fire.
Before reading Outlander, I'd never had a traditional bannock or even heard of one, so I have no way of knowing whether mine tasted authentic or not, but it was wonderful. I ate it hot from the oven and it had the texture of fresh baked bread, with biscuity overtones. It was also very easy to make. I left a piece out over night and it was dry and nasty the next day, so it's probably best to consume the bannock fresh, or wrap it well to keep it soft. I made one large bannock, but you could make smaller ones and bake them a shorter time.
The first bannock I made I cut into pieces, but the next one we just pulled apart into delicious chunks — much more authentic, I think. Pull yours apart, aye?
Bannocks (gluten-free version) - one 6-inch bannock
- 1 cup gf flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)*
- 1/2 cup oat flour (or more), divided (gluten-free if needed)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon flax meal
- 1/2 cup water
- oil for the pan
- Oil an 8-inch cast iron griddle with the oil
- Place the griddle in the oven and preheat 400˚F
- Place the flour, 1/4 cup of oat flour, baking powder, salt, flax in a bowl and whisk until combined.
- Add water and beat with a spoon until a soft dough is formed.
- Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oat flour as needed to form a pliable dough. You may need to add additional oat flour to get a soft but easily handled dough.
- Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper or a lightly floured wood board and pat to a round approximately 6-inches round and 3/4-inces thick.
- Heat an 8-inch cast iron griddle until a few drops of water sprinkled on the surface dance and evaporate. Add the oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully place the bannock on the griddle and place in the hot oven.
- Bake for 10 minutes then flip the bannock over and bake about five minutes longer or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
- Enjoy either plain or with margarine and jam.
*If you're not gluten-free, just use wheat flour instead of gf flour mix.