When I was growing up, my Mum had a fairly puritanical approach to pudding – possibly one of the reasons I now have such a sweet tooth. She was always the one on the doorstep at Halloween, popping packets of Sunmaid raisins into the goodie bags of expectant trick or treaters . . . if they were lucky enough to get anything at all.
One enduring food memory from my childhood was a fruity surprise my Mum used to make – essentially a large cooking apple, hollowed out, stuffed with raisins and baked. For a child whose idea of the perfect pudding was chocolate, ice cream, chocolate ice cream or any variation thereof, this healthy treat wasn’t exactly top of my list. And quite strange considering my Mum has a bizarre aversion to apples, cooked or raw, and can’t bear to eat them herself (when my Dad first took her home to meet his apple farming mother for the first time, many years ago, my Grandma knew it must be some kind of ironic fate, and that this would be the woman he would end up marrying).
Having said all this, my Mum is a fabulous cook, and when she did turn her hand to a proper sweet treat, the results were, and still are, delicious. One recipe she used to rustle up as an after school snack was tahini flapjacks. Packed with oaty goodness, and rendered fudgy and sweet (without copious amounts of butter) by the combination of sesame paste and honey, they were a healthy treat that kept the hungry little loaf and her brother more than happy.
I’ve posted quite a lot of chocolatey stuff on thelittleloaf, and this week I wanted to try something different. So, with a packet of barely eaten Rude Health oats sitting in the cupboard (who am I kidding, I’ll never bother with porridge for breakfast when there’s a homemade loaf to munch), I decided to have a go at those after-school teatime treats just like Mum used to make.
Without her recipe to hand, I turned to Google, and immediately found Dan Lepard’s halva flapjack recipe from The Guardian website. With a couple of little tweaks, including a slight reduction in sugar (is that my Mum I hear applauding me?), what follows can only be described as the ultimate flapjack recipe. Carniverous boyfriend, who is doing a crazy protein only diet at the moment, with just one carb packed treat meal each week, declared them ‘delicious’ and devoured two in about as many minutes. Praise indeed.
[Adapted from Dan Lepard’s halva flapjack recipe]
100g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
200g sweetened condensed milk
100g chopped dried dates (you could substitute with dried figs, raisins, or even cranberries for a zingier result)
100g chopped walnuts (I think pecans or hazlenuts could also work well)
25g sesame seeds
200g rolled oats (I used a Rude Health oat mix including pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C if it’s fan-assisted like mine)/350F/gas mark 4.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in brown sugar and condensed milk until everything is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the tahini and honey, then the dried fruit, nuts and sesame seeds. Now stir in enough rolled oats until the mixture just holds its shape – the more oats you add to the mix, the firmer the finished flapjack will be.
Line a 20cm or 25cm square cake tin (or similar) with buttered foil and pack the flapjack mixture into the base. and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the flapjack is just beginning to turn golden on top. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool before slicing.