I have a thing for British food personalities. Maybe I’m drawn to their accent, the way they speak with their hands and how easy they make cooking seem. Or it could just be because familiarity breeds liking; they get tonnes of airtime on TV, and their countless glossy cookbooks dominate the food section in bookstores. For whatever the reason, these guys first got me hooked on cooking and eating when I was in my teens, and today, a lot of what I do in the kitchen is still inspired by them.
Recently, I’ve become infatuated with Sophie Dahl. Yes, Roald Dahl’s grand-daughter, the Sophie in The BFG, novelist, magazine columnist, and as guys would best remember, former fashion (lingerie) model. With her successful TV food series, The Delicious Miss Dahl, the bombshell has also become a glorified food celebrity in her own right. I adore her show, and one of my favourite episodes featured her version of a classic British flapjack recipe, comprising of oats, butter, honey, golden syrup, desiccated coconut and dried sour cherries.
I love this recipe because I always have the basic ingredients on hand and it’s a simple assembly job that takes mere minutes. Best of all, the smell wafting from the oven when these flapjacks are baking, makes me want to do a happy dance. The hardest part is practising patience, as I wait for the tray of sweet, salty, buttery flapjacks to cool. My four year-old son, A, loves these chewy treats immensely and fondly calls them “oatcakes”. He requests for them often, and happily devoured an adult serving for breakfast this morning, complete with a glass of fresh milk and some strawberries.
I wouldn’t tout this traditional British treat as being particularly healthy, considering more than a stick of butter goes in. But these oaten squares are a delicious way to get whole grains in your diet, perfect for office/school lunch-boxes, as a snack on the plane, and makes for an excellent tidbit when the mid-morning/afternoon munchies strike, with a requisite cup of strong, black tea.
Classic British Flapjacks (makes 9 or 16 smaller pieces)
125g unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
60ml (4 tbsp) runny honey
30ml (2 tbsp) golden syrup
250g (2½ cups) quick-cooking (porridge) oats
¼ tsp fine sea salt
The above recipe makes the most basic flapjacks; I prefer to keep things simple, but you could take them in so many different directions. My son likes it when I substitute ½ cup of oats for desiccated coconut. You could also add ½ cup of dried fruit, like Sophie did (try cranberries/raisins/sour cherries/sultanas/chopped dates). For a little more decadence, mix in 50g of chopped dark chocolate.
Preheat oven to 180° Celcius (350° Fahrenheit). Butter the sides of a 9×9-inch square cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Melt butter in a saucepan over a small flame.
Stir in honey and golden syrup.
Take the saucepan off the heat. Add the oats and sea salt, stirring until the butter mixture evenly coats all the oats. You also add the dessicated coconut, and dried fruits at this point, if using.
Press mixture firmly and evenly into the baking tin (You can use a spatula or your fingers, but I find it easiest to place a smaller baking tray on top, and weigh down on it).
Bake for 20 minutes, if you like chewy flapjacks. Add a few more minutes, if you prefer them crisp.
Remove from oven, and let it cool for 10-15 minutes in pan. While still slightly warm, slice flapjacks into 9 or 16 squares. Leave them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Keeps well at room temperature for three days, or up to a week in the fridge.