When I was a little girl, one day during our summer holidays in Youghal, I caught sight of a Ladybird book called Learnabout…Cooking. I remember wanting to ask my mother to buy it for me but she had already left the shop. Fortunately, her youngest sister, at that stage still unmarried and able to come on our extended three-generation two-week holidays by the sea, whisked it off to the cash desk and I walked proudly home with my first cookery book under my arm.
Now my copy, one book amongst hundreds, is tattered and food-stained. Chocolate Mousse was a particular favourite for years, I remember, as was the Lemon Surprise Pudding. I never really got to grips with the Scotch Eggs, though, and Cheese Baked Potatoes – because of my fixation against spuds – were totally out but I definitely remember assembling that classic of the Seventies, Cheese and Pineapple Hedgehog, with tinned pineapple and rubbery, orange cheddar. One recipe that I have returned to over and over again – and which, at this stage, doesn’t even resemble the original – is Flapjacks.
I’ve tried many other recipes for Flapjacks in the past – these Chocolate Flapjacks are undoubtedly fantastic – but this is the one I’m currently happiest with and make most often. It can be made as simple or as complex as you like. Some days I just make simple Honey Flapjacks, as in the picture, leaving out all the nuts, seeds and dried fruit, and substituting honey for the golden syrup. Other times it depends on what’s on my baking trolley. I’ve tried a mixture of jumbo and regular oatmeal sometimes and varied the type of of sugar (light and dark brown sugars, raw sugar, demerera) I use. The first four ingredients are necessary: the rest can be played around with. Almonds and cranberries, cashews and dried pineapple are all combinations I’ve tried in the past but I keep coming back to the hazelnut and apricot variation. Have fun with it – as long as you keep the proportions the same, the recipe is endlessly forgiving.
Hazelnut and Apricot Flapjacks
Butter – 260g/9oz
Muscovado sugar – 240g/8oz
Golden syrup – 3 tablespoons
Flaked/porridge oats – 450g/1lb
Dried apricots – 100g/4oz, chopped
Hazelnuts – 125g/5oz, toasted (while the oven is preheating) and chopped
Wheatgerm – 2 heaped tablespoons
Sesame seeds – 2 heaped tablespoons
Sunflower seeds – 2 heaped tablespoons
Pumpkin seeds – 2 heaped tablespoons
Flaked coconut – 2 heaped tablespoons
Preheat the oven to 160°C (140°C fanbake). Melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, stirring regularly. Put the flaked oats into a large bowl with the dried apricots, toasted hazelnuts, wheatgerm, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and stir until combined.
When the butter-sugar-syrup is melted, pour over the oat mixture and mix well. Press into a 23 x 30cm/9 x 12in Swiss roll tin and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool on a wire rack, marking into portions while still warm and removing from the tin when cold.
Makes: 24 pieces