Over the last couple of years, a range of healthy little snack bars has been inching its way into our everyday lives. Nakd bars (or Larabars as they’re known in the US) bridge that gap in the sweet treat on-the-go market between an apple and a chocolate bar. They’re small but mighty, packed with energy in the form of good fats and natural sugar, and despite their hippy credentials are now available to buy in supermarkets and service stations all over the country. Continue reading
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If my husband happened to be said man, you could pretty much guarantee his affection for life with a humble packet of fig rolls.
When he was little, Carnivorous Husband’s mum would always buy two packets of fig rolls at the supermarket: one to keep in the cupboard and one for my hungry husband-to-be to consume in one sitting. A couple of hundred miles away, at a similar age and unaware at this point that he even existed, I took a similar approach to a freshly baked loaf of bread. Some treats, it seems, are made to be savoured, others to be eaten in enormous quantities. Continue reading
When was the last time you saw something on your plate and said it looked ‘too good to eat’?
Usually intended as the highest form of praise, this kind of comment makes me ever so slightly uneasy. As a bit of a baking perfectionist, I like my food to look beautiful, but it should also be inviting – I want people to see a dish and immediately lick their lips, grab their spoon and dive right in. That’s not to say I don’t have a lot of time for food that looks like an incredible work of art, but it really has to deliver on taste too. Continue reading
In 1990, the world was a very different place. Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison, Margaret Thatcher was still in power, and the Hubble Space telescope was launched into orbit. This was the dawn of the information age, with the world wide web just a year away and science set to change beyond recognition (though it’s fair to say both technology and taste still had a fair way to go). Despite some major world-changing events taking place at the time, media of more immediate concern to my six-year-old self were such pressing issues as which magazine to buy (Horse & Pony, of course), what was on at the cinema (Home Alone), what to listen to on the radio (Madonna’s Vogue) and what to fight with my older brother over to watch on TV.
Amongst the various cartoons, BBC dramas and other viewing termed suitable by our parents, Delia Smith was a firm family favourite. This was an era post Fanny Cradock, yet nearly a decade before the likes of Jamie and Nigella first appeared on our screens, launching a whole new wave of kitchen enthusiasts and the start of our current obsession with cookery programmes. While Nigella flirts and slurps and Jamie rips and rummages his way through a kitchen strewn with fabulous foods from around the world, Delia portioned everything into perfect little pre-prepared white bowls, carefully instructing us step-by-step and introducing the early 90s viewer to such exotic ingredients as anchovies (pronounced with a Loyd Grossman-esque long ‘o’ which always made us giggle). Continue reading
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.