A delicious, cream filled cake it a wonderful thing, but I am afraid it can only be described as a treat and whilst I’d love to take a slice of homemade sponge to work for lunch every day I’m not about to start and I wouldn’t recommend you do either.
A flapjack or energy bar, that is a different matter. Yes indeed it is made with butter and sugar, so it is by no means completely healthy but it is full of slow release energy oats, mineral rich nuts, seeds and dried fruit. It feels altogether more wholesome, more nutritious and less guilt-ridden.
I regularly make some form of oaty energy bar for me, but mainly for my other-half who has a physical, outdoors job and eats an enormous amount of food.
I’ve tried A LOT of recipes for various flapjacks, all of which fell a little short, either tasting more like dried cardboard than a tasty snack or being a bit too decadent to really pass off as a daily healthy bar.
This recipe by Nigel Slater, which I ripped out of the Observer Food Monthly magazine last year is by far the very best (not at all what our receptionist at work would describe as ‘a snack for sandal-wearing, yoghurt eating hippies’ – her words not mine!)
It is bursting with fruit, oats, seeds and nuts, but I think it is the addition of ground almonds in the mix that turn this into a delicious moist energy bar, rather than a dry and over-sweet flapjack.
I have found it an infinitely adaptable recipe. I have on many occasions swapped the dried figs for dried apricots, in which case I decrease the amount of sugar by 20g because they are sweeter. I mostly use cranberries instead of sour cherries, because I usually have a bag knocking about and sometimes when I have found I do not have maple syrup I have used honey instead – not quite as a good but not a bad substitute.
These are so simple to make and they will last all week in a air-tight container, they are well worth a try.
Fig and Pumpkin Seed Bars
60g walnut halves
70g soft-dried figs
40g sour cherries
30g pumpkin seeds
200g porridge or rolled oats
35g ground almonds
100ml maple syrup
90g caster sugar
24cm square baking tin, either grease or lined with parchment
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees-gas 3. Roughly chop walnuts, figs, pumpkin seeds and cherries. The rougher the chopping the more crumbly the bars will be.
2. Mix with the oats and almonds.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the sugar. Add the maple syrup and when it gets to a rolling boil take it off the heat. Tip the dry ingredients into the pan (or tip the liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients if you prefer) and stir together.
4. Tip into your tin and press down firmly with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.
5. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 12 bars.
Enjoy as a mid-morning snack, an afternoon pick-me-up, a healthy treat for children, or if there are crumbly bits left in the tub at the end of the week, sprinkle over yoghurt for breakfast.