Beremeal: bannocks and oatcakes

I’ve been vaguely aware of Beremeal from both the ‘Scots Kitchen’ and from passing by the shelf in the farmshop at work where the packets of Orkney beremeal sit.

I’m interested in beremeal because it’s a crop that can be grown much more easily than wheat in Northern Scotland. Beremeal is an ancient type of barley (and a good alternative would be barley flour).

What’s good (and bad) about wheat is that it contains a lot of gluten. This means it’s easy to make into light fluffy bread. Beremeal contains a lot less gluten which makes it harder to develop a light texture with it. On the plus side it has a lovely nutty taste and is kinder to stomachs that are sensitive to gluten.

The traditional recipe associated with Beremeal is beremeal bannocks. These are pretty much scones baked/dry fried on a griddle/heavy bottomed pan. They’re also quite a different taste from wheat scones though and I thought they were a wee bit more dense – but perhaps that was because it was my first time making them. They were nice with cheese but not something personally I would choose to make regularly. I’ll not put the recipe here – there’s plenty of other recipes on the internet for them by people better at making them than me!

Bannock dough

Bannocks/beremeal scones cooking on a griddle

While I was looking up other people’s experiences of beremeal and bannocks however I came across the fact that Stockans are now making beremeal oatcakes. So I thought I’d improvise and try out beremeal instead of wheat flour in my usual oatcake. I found out beremeal works just as well as wheat flour in oatcakes, and maybe even better!

I’ve also been trying to make a vegan oatcake. Usually I use butter or a combination of butter and lard. Admittedly this does make a really lovely tasting oatcake! My great aunty who the recipe is originally from used to use margarine but the hydrogenated type is both bad for you and not really available now, and the widely available type almost always contains palm oil. Palm oil is notorious for the damage it does to the environment but on the other hand it’s cheap and has a high amount of saturated fat. This makes it a crisp, solid fat which is good for making things like pastry or oatcakes, or making your margarine spreadable rather than liquid. Even though I’ve read the environmental negatives of palm oil are probably all in all less than dairy, the thought of it is still not appealing. I’ve been trying to make an oatcake with rapeseed oil instead. Rapeseed is (as anyone with hay fever knows) grown aplenty in Scotland. The first time I tried this it ended up really oily, but with less fat added it seems to work pretty well – although producing a slightly lighter, less crisp oatcake.

Rapeseed beremeal oatcakes

3 cups oatmeal

1 cup beremeal/barley flour

75g rapeseed oil (or 65g butter and 65g lard, or 130g butter) [edited – sorry I had my numbers all wrong here before]

1tsp salt

1tsp baking powder

About 1/2 cup cold water


  • Combine the oatmeal, beremeal, salt and baking powder.
  • If using butter/lard rub these in. If not, add the oil instead and mix in with most of the water – adding more if needed.
  • The oil version needs less water than the dry fat version. You need enough water just to stick it together. Too much water will make tough oatcakes rather than crisp crumbly ones. You do however need enough water that they won’t fall apart.
  • There are two methods of shaping the oatcakes (the mixture should be more crumbly and a bit more difficult to work with than pastry/biscuit dough).
  • Method no. 1: roll out the mixture and cut out like biscuits with a circular cutter.
  • Method no. 2: this involves less re-working of the dough and I think is quicker and makes better oatcakes. Take about a quarter of the dough at a time and flatten with your hands/roll out into a circle (a kind of large saucer size). You’ll have to keep pressing/neatening the edges, in between rolls, as they will want to crumble. Then chop into triangles like a pie and place on a baking tray.
  • Cook at about 180c for 15-20 mins (something like that anyway! They should be slightly brown round the edges).

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