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My greatest pleasure when I receive compliments for my work in the kitchen is when people say that it’s better than their mothers. Usually said compliment is followed by a lengthy description about the effort and time that their mother had put into making the dish, the time of year it was made and a laborious list of ingredients that went into it. When somebody tells me that it’s not as good as their mothers, I have to be honest I find it difficult to look them in the eye, let alone listen to their tedious story about why their mothers rendition was so much better than mine even though it used boxed cake mix and margarine.
I find myself praising my mothers cooking little and often. Little because I (and I say this with the up most respect, mum) only remembe a handful of truly wonderful things and often because I speak of this handful of glorious dishes like a child mourning the loss of a pet guinea pig. This goes to be said for most things I eat- if it’s fabulous I bank eternally in my taste memory. If it’s average I’ll forget it and if it’s poor it will on occasion come to haunt my dreams or worse yet a reminder will appear in the form of a bitter taste in my mouth.
Eternally banked in my good memory are the taste of my mothers flapjacks. I expect you want to know why these flapjacks are better than yours, your mothers and Nigellas? So, here comes my lengthy rant: My mum makes the best bloody flapjacks around- and those fortunate enough to try them fresh out of the over are forced into submission. I have school friends who still rave about ‘those squidgy oat things your mum made’. They are the only thing that I can consistently rely on seeing in my mothers depressingly sparse pantry. A reminder that there are no longer three hungry children in the house and yet the flapjacks live on.
What makes mum’s flapjacks so wonderfully special to me is they break all the rules. Firstly, most flapjacks set up hard but mum throws in an extra glug of golden syrup and spoonful of flour which leaves them crunchy on the edges, chewy in the middle and with a delicious sticky bottom. These are not tooth breakers but merely tooth rotters. Secondly, (and I’m sure you can imagine my shock and horror when I discovered this myself) mum uses margarine instead of butter. Yup, marg- that stuff we avoid like processed cheese for all its bad fats and oils. This is the second time in the past month that I’ve been confronted rather hostily by a recipe containing margarine, which I’ve been forced to admit tastes nicer than my own butter counterpart. But why, I hear you ask? In the flapjacks case, my mum just shrugged her shoulders, you can use butter if you like, she said but it makes them too rich. and my mum always used margarine because it’s cheaper. In these economic times who can complain about that? Of course, feel free to use butter- I won’t judge, not now that I have seen the virtues of margarine, but like I said they won’t be my mum’s amazing flapjacks made with butter. And if you’re still fretting about the bad fats popping out to haunt you just remind yourself that you’re much better off making something from scratch with margarine than buying something processed. I’m just saying.
I have pestered my mum for the recipe ever since I started this blog but being something that my mother could competently bake blindfolded it was difficult to get proper answers from her. A recipe that’s stored in somebody’s head is the hardest to get right. How much flour? Oh, one of my dessert spoonfuls, slightly mounded. How much golden syrup? Oh, about a third of the jar. This was no weigh your ingredients to match your eggs weight Victoria sponge. Last weekend, however, I made a trip home, and in a break from the never ending wedding planning to-do list I made it a priority for us to fit in a flapjack lesson- one on one; with a set of scales.
You can thank me later. In the meantime I suggest you buy yourself some margarine- it could be the best decision you’ve made all year.
If you are really adverse to margarine then you can opt for butter but whatever you do, make sure that you have a taste of them fresh out of the oven.
Makes about 15
Diet Facts: hydrogenated fats and sugar slathered oats, sounds like a granola bar to me!
225g/8 oz margarine (or butter)
175g/6 oz sugar
140g/5oz golden syrup
425g/15oz oats (the 1 minute variety, not instant or rolled)
1 heaped tbsp/ 1 oz plain flour
small handful pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds (optional)
2 Tbsp flaxseeds (optional)
1/ Heat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Line a 20 x 30 cm ( baking tin with greaseproof paper (parchment paper)
2/ In a large pan, heat together the margarine, sugar and golden syrup over a gentle heat, stirring until the margarine has melted. Tip in the flour and the oats and stir to combine.
3/ If using any of the optional seeds, stir through at this point. Tip your pan and spread evenly. Bake in the oven for roughly 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden (they will be slightly darker at the edges). Cut them, whilst still in the pan immediately.