Derbyshire oatcakes are the versatile snack that those in the know have been greedily devouring for years
We went to meet an unsung food hero who is one of their last remaining producers.
Peter Oldfield has been making oatcakes from his premises at Calver Works for more than 40 years.
He said: “Derbyshire oatcakes originated out of the Staffordshire oatcake and developed into a different version. I wouldn’t say anything against Staffordshire oatcakes but I do think Derbyshire ones are better.
Derbyshire oatcakes have been around since the 17th Century, as oats grew well in the harsh Pennine landscape.
They are best described as a cross between a crumpet and a pancake - round, soft, and thicker than their more famous Staffordshire counterparts.
Peter, 57, started working for his father, Charles, when he left school at the age of 15, and took over the business in 1985.
He said: “In this area I’m one of the last ones making them. We do it on quite a big scale. I deliver to Chesterfield and over to Buxton, and everywhere in between.
“I’ve supplied Chatsworth farm shop with oatcakes for the past 24 years. When I first went it was just a tiny shop, but it’s changed a lot since then.”
Peter has been using the same blend of oatmeal flour, yeast, sugar and salt ever since he began. Not that he’s giving his oatcake secrets away.
He said: “The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret. There’s not many people at all who know it.”
He might not be able to spill the beans on the recipe, but he’s much more forthcoming about the subject of eating oatcakes.
Peter said: “I think the most popular way to eat them is to have them fried, but I think they’re just as nice toasted with cheese. I like to put spicy beans in them, top them with cheese and bake them, they’re lovely like that. One man did tell me he likes to put fish in his, but I wouldn’t recommened that at all.
“I’m not tired of them. I still enjoy them, but we often sell out, so I don’t have them too often. They’ve got no fat in them, so they’re fairly healthy, depending on what you put in them.”
It’s a race against time to get the oatcakes in the shops as quickly as possible, which means that Peter has a lot of early starts and long days.
He said: “I start at 4am every weekday and 6am on a Sunday. Saturday is my day off. I tend to be busier at the end of the week, as people want oatcakes for their weekend breakfast. I’ve got a lad who comes in part time to help out, but otherwise it’s just me.”
And he’s showing no signs of stopping.
He said: “I still enjoy it and it’s always kept me in employment. I still get great satisfaction from it, even though it’s quite repetitive. The business side of things keeps it interesting.
“My children have both got other jobs, so it’ll have to be passed on or sold. Hopefully someone will keep it going.
n How do you like your oatcakes? Have you got a family recipe you can share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.