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I’m in the final trimester of my second pregnancy and I have a vivacious toddler to fuel, so what better way is there to treat us both (and ply her with healthy seeds and dried fruit) than with some chunky, chewy flapjacks.

Thank you to Smitten Kitchen for sharing her fabulous recipe, which itself is a version of one from the King Arthur Flour website.  Here is my own take on this recipe (whereby I have adjusted measurements, cooking times and temperature, and substituted ground oats for ground hazelnuts, granulated sugar for caster sugar, corn syrup for golden syrup, and opted to use a crunchy nut butter for added texture).

Makes about 10 generous squares
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

140g rolled oats
70g caster sugar (I prefer golden)
40g ground hazelnuts (you can use ground almonds or walnuts too, if preferred)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
300g dried fruits and nuts* (see below for my recipe)
3 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (or any other nut butter)
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons golden syrup (or honey)
1 tablespoon water

Method

Preheat your oven to 190°C / 170°C (fan assisted) / gas mark 5.  Line a 30cm x 12cm / 12″ x 8″ baking tray with baking paper (I use a brownie tin) so that the paper spills out over the edges of the tin.  Lightly grease the paper with butter or oil.

Bring all the dry ingredients together, including the fruit and nuts, in a large mixing bowl.  (I chop up the fruit and nuts by hand so that I get nice little, randomly-sized, chunks of each.  But you could also use a food processor.)  In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter, maple syrup, golden syrup, and water.  Pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients, followed by the peanut butter, and stir together until the mixture is evenly coated.

Next, simply tip the mixture into your prepared tin and – using the back of a spoon, a palette knife or your fingers – press down to ensure that it gets into all the corners of the dish and has a vaguely flat top.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top and edges of your flapjacks are golden brown, and leave to cool on a wire rack.  (They should still be soft to the touch when you press down upon the top but they will set as they cool.)  I then leave to cool for another hour in the fridge before turning out the tin onto a surface, removing the baking parchment and, using a serrated knife, cutting into generous squares.

Store in an airtight container.  These flapjacks can also be frozen and last for a few days (if you haven’t scoffed them already) if kept in the fridge.

* Suggested mix: 10 chopped dried apricots (I like mine unsulphured), 5 soaked and chopped prunes, small handful of goji berries, handful of chopped up dried apple, two handfuls of seedless raisins, large handful of sunflower seeds, handful of dessicated coconut, sprinkling of brown linseed, and a small handful of sesame seeds.  The mix I use is toddler friendly (so no whole nut pieces) but you can add almonds, cashews or whatever you fancy/find in your cupboard. 

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So, we all know that the Great Fire of London started in Pudding Lane.  (At Thomas Farriner’s bakery, in 1666, to be precise.)  Well, the Great Fire of the Mother-in-Law’s Kitchen started with a pudding too.  It was bound to happen.  The AGA was going to get the better of me and, three weeks in to our tempestuous relationship, it positively choked out a great lump of coal in a baking tin where my scrumptious hunk of chunky, chewy flapjacks mix had been.

For goodness sake, the cooking time on the recipe is 25 minutes.  Yet 15 minutes in (during which time I was bathing my daughter), the AGA was coughing out puffs of sugary, oaty smoke, as if it were finally succumbing to its 60-a-day habit.

Well, (*fist shaking*) you won’t get the better of me!

Having cooled the charred remains of my flapjacks in the fridge and turned the tray out onto a board, I forensically sifted through the debris and sliced off the burnt top and bottom.  Yes, TOP AND BOTTOM.  At 10pm this evening I am left with a tub of skinny (BUT CHEWY!!!) flapjacks that will fuel our journey to London tomorrow to celebrate our daughter Zippy’s birthday.

If you would like to make (and not burn) these delicious and, in part, nutritious flapjacks, click here to see the recipe.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad made using toasted or fried pieces of stale pitta bread, combined with a variety of vegetables.  Thank you to Sam and Sam Clark for this recipe from their beautiful ‘Moro: The Cookbook‘ – this is my ever-so-slight variation with the addition of fennel.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and cut into 1cm dice
12 ripe cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 medium cauliflower, broken into tiny florets roughly the same size as the tomato
1 spring onion, finely chopped
6 radishes cut into quarters
1 celery stick, finely chopped
Half small bulb of fennel, finely sliced and chopped
1 small bunch of fresh mint, coriander and flat-lead parsley, roughly chopped

Crispbread
2 pitta breads
1 tablespoon olive oil

Dressing

1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon of sumac
1 teaspoon of za’atar
5 tablespoons of olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

To make the crispbread, preheat your oven to 180°C / 160°C fan assisted / gas mark 4.  Carefully split both the pitta bread in half lengthways and paint both sides with the olive oil (you can just use your hands if you don’t have a pastry brush).  Now place the pitta on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.  Remove and cool.

Whilst you are baking the bread, you can prepare the dressing simply by combining all the ingredients.  Once the crispbread is cool, break up into bite-sized pieces around the same size as the vegetables.  Finally, make your salad by combining all the ingredients, including the morsels of crispbread, and drizzle over the dressing.  Toss everything together, taste for seasoning, and serve immediately.

Perfect sprinkled on your pitta and hummus, or used in any number of delectable dishes, za’atar is a heavenly Middle Eastern condiment made from fresh, dried and toasted ingredients.

Za'atarIn the Levant, it is thought that za’atar keeps the mind alert and the body strong.  Whilst historically, the medieval rabbi and physician, Maimonides, prescribed this condiment for its health-giving properties.

Makes around 8 tablespoons
Preparation and cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

4 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried marjoram
4 tsp ground sumac
5 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp sea salt

Method

Toast 4tsp of the sesame seeds and all the caraway seeds together in a dry pan on a high heat for a couple of minutes.  Then – using either a pestle and mortar or a blender – finely grind together until you have a dusty mix.  Add the remaining tsp of sesame seeds to this fine mixture, for aesthetics!  Your za’atar will keep in a jar in the fridge for a good few weeks.

This is a delicious, homely and easy-to-make dish.  A traditional Yiddishe cooking method, gedempte is basically a pot-roast, whereby the ingredients slowly steam-cook together so that every part of the dish comes together and plants a bubbe-sized smacker on your lips.  Perfect for those winter evenings with friends or family, accompanied by a full-bodied red and – if you’re feeling particularly indulgent – some steaming, buttery cous cous or crusty bread.

Serves 6-8 people
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 red onions, finely grated
3 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 chicken, cut into halves and quarters
400g lean minced beef or lamb
1 medium egg
6 carrots, finely grated
2 red peppers, sliced into half-inch slithers
8 medium-sized potatoes (Cyprus or another firm, waxy type), cut into quarters
6 medium-large soft tomatoes, quartered
5 dried (or 10 fresh) bay leaves
2 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of tomato puree
1 tablespoon of olive oil
150ml of water
1 teaspoon of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 large baking dish
Tinfoil

Preheat your oven to 190°C / 170°C fan assisted / gas mark 5

Method

Place your minced lamb or beef into a large mixing bowl.  Beat the egg and add to the meat.  Add to this a quarter of the grated onion, 1 clove of the minced garlic and the teaspoon of finely chopped parsley.  Season with salt and pepper, and work the elements together with your hands.  Then, with slightly wet hands (this helps to bind the meatballs together), roll about a dessertspoon sized amount of the mix together between the palms of your hands until you have a juicy, spherical ball of yumminess.  Place at random in your baking dish and continue until you have used up all the mix.

Then, leaving aside the paprika, water and tomato puree, take the remaining ingredients and scatter amongst the meatballs, working everything gently together with your hands.  Next, mix the tomato puree into the water and pour into the dish – this liquid, along with the grated carrots and onions, will provide you with a scrumptious and rich gravy.  (And as this is a one-pot-wonder please don’t worry about aesthetics – it’ll all go down the same way at the end of the day.)  Finally, sprinkle the whole thing with paprika.

Now cover the dish with tinfoil, making sure every corner is secure, and place in your preheated oven for 2 hours 30 minutes.  Check every 40 minutes or so, basting and turning all the ingredients to ensure that everything cooks evenly.

Once ready, serve immediately, and enjoy the embracing warmth of your imaginary Jewish grandmother.

Glossary:
Bubbe – grandmother
Gedempte – slowly cooked/stewed
Yiddishe – relating to the traditional culture of Ashkenazic Jews of Central and Eastern Europe

I grew up in a completely secular, non-practising but crazily Yiddishe Jewish family.  A sort of group love child of Richard Dawkins and Maureen Lipman.  The traditional Friday night Shabbat meal involved a great deal of food, a minimal number of blessings, some more food, Nana simultaneously watching ‘Corrie’ on the box whilst eating lokshen pudding, and Papa reminiscing about his grazed-kneed childhood in Hackney.  Topped of with a piece of baked cheesecake and a lemon tea.

My mother would always make amazing, hamishe feasts for Shabbat: eggy challah, chopped liver, golden chicken soup with fluffy globules of kneidlach, gedempte chicken and meatballs…  So suffused was our Essex dinner table with historic dishes bubbling over from the old Jewish world that we would go to bed and dream of golems moulded from matzo meal.

In an attempt to gedempte, and recreate one of those delicious Arcadian, homely meals for my family this evening, I called Mum this morning to ask for her ‘Gedempte Chicken and Meatballs and Gravy Potatoes’ recipe.  The conversation went a little like this:

Mum – “Do you have a shissel?”
Me (boasting) – “Do I have a shissel.  I have an AGA and THE best shissel.”
Mum – “Well, there you go.”

And here is the recipe.

Glossary:
Challah – traditional, slightly sweet plaited bread baked for the sabbath
Gedempte – slowly cooked/stewed
Golem – an animated anthropomorphic being in Jewish folklore
Haimishe – homely
Kneidlach – dumplings made with matzo meal and egg
Lokshen – noodles
Matzo Meal – powder ground matzah (traditional Jewish unleavened bread. Basically a cracker.)
Shabbat – the Jewish sabbath
Shissel – a cooking pot

There’s absolutely nothing better than tearing apart a steaming pitta, before dousing it in hummus and harissa, and devouring slowly.  I’ve been using this fabulous recipe by super-baker Dan Lepard for years and it’s the closest I’ve come to the amazing pittot made by our middle-eastern bread-making friends here in Bristol, Abu Noor.

Pitta3Makes about 8 pittas
Preparation and cooking time: approx 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

300g strong white flour
200g plain flour
1 level teaspoon easy-blend yeast
1 level tablespoon caster sugar
1 level teaspoon fine salt
2 tablespoon sunflower oil
325ml warm water
1 tablespoon of za’atar (if you have it.  Otherwise, here’s how to make it)

Method

Scald a large mixing bowl with boiling water.  Place both flours, yeast, sugar and salt into the bowl, followed by the oil and water, and mix together to make a soft, sticky dough.  Cover the bowl with a dry dish cloth and leave the dough for 10 minutes.  Rub a tablespoon of oil onto the work surface to cover an area about the size of a dinner plate and tip the dough out onto the oiled surface before kneading lightly for only 8-10 seconds, until smooth.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover again and repeat this light-kneading process twice more at 10-minute intervals.  Then leave the dough, covered, for 30 minutes.

Pitta1Heat your oven to at least 250°C (230°C for fan-assisted) or gas mark 9 and place a clean baking tray on a rack in the oven for 20 minutes to get very hot.  Meanwhile, lightly flour a clean work surface and divide the dough into pieces weighing around 100g, before rolling each piece into a ball.  Cover these balls and leave to rest for 15 minutes.  Next, roll out each ball into an oval roughly 5mm thick and again leave to rest for 2 minutes.

Pitta2At this point, you can sprinkle your pitta with za’atar, a heavenly Middle-Eastern condiment made from fresh, dried and toasted ingredients.  And here’s my easy-peasy recipe for za’atar should you wish to make some.

Quickly take the tray out of the oven, shut the door, lay one or two pittas on it and return to the oven.  Bake for 3-5 minutes or until risen and barely coloured.  Immediately remove with tongs (watch out, these babies are hot hot hot) and leave to cool under a cloth, to keep soft and moist.  Repeat with the remaining pitta.

Naturally, there’s nothing greater than eating freshly-baked bread but these pitta freeze excellently, and can be reheated and enjoyed at another time.

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