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Thyme-scented oatcakes and the pursuit of the perfect cheese board

December 29, 2010
Thyme-scented oatcakes

Thyme-scented oatcakes

Do you visit supermarkets when you go on holiday? Do you thrill to the news of a street market or food stall opening up? Do you make a detour to find a shop rumoured to stock a much longed for ingredient?  You may not be surprised that I answered yes to all those questions and when I found out that a) Galleries Lafayette had opened a food hall and b) that it had been open for months without an encounter from me; something had to be done.

Dubai has a large and varied expat community which means that most foods can be found.  I know that if a recipe calls for a fairly obscure ingredient I am usually able to find it.  The limiting factor is that most of the food is imported and air-freighting fresh ingredients is expensive (so small importers tend to ship packaged goods with long-shelf life) and meat must be halal.  That is why, for instance,  there is a large range of frozen meals at Waitrose or Marks and Spencer but they are all fishy.  Fresh, local, seasonal produce of good provenance can be a challenge to source as well as foods from artisan producers so new sources of food shopping are always an attraction.

Part of the cheese display at Lafayette Gourmet Dubai

Part of the cheese display at Lafayette Gourmet, Dubai

I’d already popped into Harvey Nichols (in Mall of the Emirates) for some foodie stocking fillers for KP and expected something similar from Lafayette Gourmet i.e. a small section of premium teas, coffees, biscuits, chutneys, chocolate, oil, vinegar and the like.

As I rounded the corner (on the second floor) I was astonished to find cafes and counters of dishes and delicacies flanked by everything you need to do a really comprehensive food shop from yoghurt and biscuits, to a great selection of pasta, to meat, fish, a walk in cavern of pork products and cheese.  The  assistant picking out over-ripe tomatoes for disposal confirmed my initial impression that the copious array of fruit and vegetables, would not be bought in sufficient quantities to ensure a fast turn over of fresh goods. The meat and fish looked superb however, and I made my way with excitement to the cheese section.

With my slight obsession with cheese well documented, no surprise it was this counter I made a bee-line for and the helpful staff were enthusiastic and knowledgable, letting me taste my way through many. French and Italian cheeses dominated but I also bought a small truckle of cheddar and tasted a variety of really interesting Italian sheep’s cheese including one that reminded me of a farm produced Caerphilly (Gran cru di grotta).  Clutching my parcels of beautifully wrapped bounty I knew these would make a wonderful Christmas cheese board and that they deserved some special biscuits to go with them.

Cheese board

Some of my cheese haul

My pots of thyme are doing well in the garden and I did a fairly comprehensive raid on the leaves.  Christmas cutters came out of the cupboard once again.  These oatcakes are a doddle to make and keep for 2-3 weeks in an airtight tin.  Fresh rosemary makes a great alternative or any woody herb.  They were a great partner for the soft cheeses in particular – especially an oozing Vacherin Mont d’Or (which I bought from Carrefour).

During my blogging dearth, I also prepared a batch of one of my favourite stuffings, lemon, herb and pistachio, which you can read all about on Femina – an online womens’ magazine.  Thank you to fellow UAE food blogger Rajani from Eat,Write, Think for helping me relive happy memories of Christmas past.

I hope that, if you celebrated, you had a very Merry Christmas and a relaxing and happy time with friends, family and delicious food.

Oatcake with Vacherin Mont d'Or

Just call this cheese porn


Thyme-scented oatcakes

Adpated slightly from BBC Good Food Magazine

Makes about 20 oatcakes


200g (8oz) fine oatmeal
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1.2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
approx 8 tablespoons boiling water


Preheat the oven to 180C. Measure the oatmeal, oil, salt and 2/3rds of the fresh thyme into the bowl of a food processor.  Whizz until everything is combined well and keeping the motor running, pour in the boiling water.  After 30-45 seconds the mixture will begin to come together and look sticky and thick (switch off, scrape down and repeat if it doesn’t). Add the remaining thyme and pulse a few times to chop it roughly.

Gather the dough up into a ball, with your hands or a spatula. Place on a floured board and roll out, while still warm, to about 2mm thick. Cut out 6.5cm rounds or any festive shape and place on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly coloured.  Cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight container.

Thyme scented oatcakes – printable version

  1. December 29, 2010 3:58 pm

    Sally, I wish we would still live in Jumeirah, so I could pop over quickly and try these. They look and sound absolutely delicious. Now I have to make them myself very soon. Oh my, so much to cook all the time…..

  2. December 29, 2010 5:16 pm

    beautiful photographs Sally, and really informative post. I’m going to hop over there at some point having read this…one of my all-time fav cheeses is taleggio, wonder if they have that in stock…

    thanks for posting about this!

    • December 30, 2010 8:53 am

      It’s always high praise when I have comments from you Arva and Anja. Anja you’d be most welcome to pop in. I used Mornflake fine organic oats by the way (sold in Waitrose and Spinneys) which gave a great texture as well as the healthy angle

  3. January 1, 2011 7:12 pm

    loved the recipe and great cheese pics… why don’t you do a guest post for my blog? – for my photoblog category? have you seen the others – its on the right side of my blog… check it out and if you like the idea – we could do one on the cheese spread?

  4. January 2, 2011 9:49 am

    Oh. Yum. Hard to find words after that last shot of the runny cheese… like you, my heart skips a beat when good cheese is even mentioned. I am fascinated with the oatcakes- I have never seen cheese served with these and they look absolutely delicious! We happen to have an obscene amount of cheese left over from our Christmas celebrations…now, I may just need to try your oatcakes and…eat more cheese. Happy New Year! (and welcome back!)

    • January 4, 2011 6:14 pm

      Hi Stephanie, The mustiness of the oatcakes goes really well with cheese. I also still have a cheese mountain and am going to make pear, walnut and stilton muffins (which freeze really well too). Happy New Year

  5. January 4, 2011 12:26 am

    wow! i really love how awesome your photos are:) thanks for sharing this and happy new year to you and your family.

    • January 4, 2011 6:11 pm

      Happy New Year to you too – thanks for your lovely comments in 2010


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