oatmeal

A Dark Beginning

The 8th of November will be Bram Stoker’s 170th birthday!

Count of Goblets

The Dracula Tarot

Famous for writing the gothic novel Dracula, Bram Stoker had an interesting start in life. Bram spent the first seven years of his childhood suffering from a mystery illness which left him mostly bedridden. During his long illness, Stoker spent much of of his time alone or being entertained by his mother Charlotte who loved to tell him stories, some of them quite scary. Stoker himself said that the time he spent bedridden as a child deeply influenced his future writing.

When I think of the young Bram and his illness, I think of Lucy Westenra and her battle with Dracula. I also think of Count Dracula himself, alone with his thoughts in his isolated castle far away in Transylvania. I wonder if Dracula would ever have been written if Stoker had not had such a challenging start to his life.

I sometimes imagine what the young Bram Stoker would have been fed during his ailment. I have many foods I go to for comfort and convalescence but one of favourites is porridge. I love rice porridges like congee, cornmeal porridges like mamaliga and classic oatmeal porridges.

Oats were an important crop in Ireland so Bram probably had a few porridges in his day. There are many ways I like to eat oatmeal, but when I’m thinking of Bram Stoker and vampires I like to serve my porridge with a good drizzle of black as night molasses and a dollop of cream 🙂

Steel-Cut Oats

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Ingredients
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup steel-cut oats*
molasses for drizzling
cream for dolloping

Instructions
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a saucepan.
Add the oats.
Stirring occasionally, cover and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes or until they achieve your desired level of chewiness.
Turn off the heat and allow to rest for 2 minutes.
Place oatmeal in a bowl.
Drizzle with molasses.
Add a good dollop of cream
Cover and refrigerate any leftover porridge. You can reheat it or have it cold.

*Steel-cut oats are known by a few names such as Irish oats, pinhead oats or coarse oatmeal.

April Fool’s Day Treat

I love April Fool’s Day – and not because I play pranks on people 🙂

April Fool’s Day is my unofficial Name Day. It’s a day when I celebrate who, what and where I am. It’s also my self-appointed New Year’s Day. It’s a time when I look back on the year that has passed and make plans for the year ahead. It’s also the day I started my blog – two years ago!

Why have I chosen April Fool’s Day as my very own special day? Well because of tarot. The Fool is the first card in the major arcana. It is the Fool who journeys through the arcana and learns the lessons of the cards. The Fool is so important symbolically that it is the only major arcana to be represented in modern day playing cards (as The Joker).

Fool

Renfield and Wolf
The Dracula Tarot

The Fool card traditionally features a brightly dressed young man standing on the edge of a cliff. His face is lifted up, not watching where he is going. His belongings are wrapped in a sack and tied to a stick slung over his right shoulder. In his left hand he holds a white rose. A dog plays at his feet while the sun shines brightly. Will he step off the precipice and fall, will he leap to the other side, or will he turn around? The Fool begins the journey of the Tarot with no knowledge of what will be. Every April Fool’s Day I too begin a Fool’s journey into the unknown.

In honour of April Fool’s Day pranks, the tarot Fool’s dog and my own very special dogs, I have created a tricky recipe for both Fools and Dogs. The oatmeal cookies below have been cut to look like dog treats and are served in a dog bowl. Surprise your friends by serving them these tricky treats 🙂

Doggie Treats

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Ingredients
1 + 1/4 cups ground oatmeal
2/3 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
65g unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

Method
Preheat oven to 200C / 395F.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Combine the oatmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until combined. Add the egg and milk and continuing mixing with your hands for 3-4 minutes or until the dough comes together into a ball. The dough should be firm enough to roll out. If it is too firm add a bit of milk, if it is too soft add a bit of flour.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and roll dough out to about 5mm thickness. Use a dog bone shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Repeat with any remaining dough.
Place on prepared trays and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before placing on racks to cool completely.