The summer before last, I went to visit some friends in the South-West Peloponnese, a beautiful corner of Greece unspoilt by hoards of tourists. Greek food, whilst being delicious, is rather same-y. I lost count of the variations of chargrilled aubergine dip, tzatziki and moussaka we tried. They were all slightly different, some being much more palatable than others, partly due to how much garlic each chef thought was acceptable.
The dessert of choice, not being presented with many other options, was baklava, a Greek and Turkish concoction made by drenching filo pastry and nuts in an insanely sweet syrup. I became mildly addicted to it, and many balmy evenings were spent hunting down the best. It took me the entirety of the week-long holiday to pronounce ‘baklava’ correctly. The emphasis is on the final syllable ‘va’, rather than the more natural Anglicised stress on the middle ‘k’, so it is said ‘baklava’.
Pronunciation aside, here’s my take on baklava. Some of the best baklava we tried I think used honey in the syrup, rather than acres of sugar, so I’ve tried that here. I chose a mixture of pistachios, almonds and walnuts, but any nuts can be used. It is ridiculously sweet, so you only need small pieces.
My friend Clare and I were talking today about becoming grown ups. When do you become a grown up? When you ‘wear a suit and kitten heels to the office’ as Clare put it? When you have a folder marked ‘tax’? Lots of people insist that they have never grown up – I met many a thirty-something in Thailand having a ‘gap life’.
When I was at university, my housemates and I had a student food blog. It was all about how to eat nice things on a budget. One of the most memorable recipes for me was Rocky Road, made as a result of an essay-related sugar craving. In this recipe, I opted for the definitely childish combination of marshmallows, biscuits, glace cherries and the like.
However, now I have left university and am supposed to be a full-blown adult. Therefore, I chose, maturely, to include more healthy ingredients this time. Such as pistachios, walnuts and slow-release energy oat biscuits. And I renamed the recipe ‘Chocolate Biscuit Bars’, to sound more adult. This was also a more expensive alternative, one of many economic realities to hit during adulthood, I imagine. But the result was just as yummy, and we didn’t feel so guilty when scoffing it down.
When I get home from work, I’m usually so ravenous that the first thing I think of cramming into my mouth is a biscuit (or three). I find that the hiatus between lunch and dinner always seems more insufferably long than the one between breakfast and lunch. The other day I decided that enough is enough. So these flapjacks are a healthier snack to ‘keep the wolf from the door’, as you say if you were born in the ‘50s.
It had always mystified me slightly how flapjacks seem to be considered a healthy option – as they contain as much butter and probably also as much sugar as the average biscuit. Maybe it has something to do with the oats, with their slow-release energy wholesomeness. I decided to add fruit to my flapjacks, to make them even more virtuous, and use agave syrup rather in place of the traditional, tooth-achingly sweet golden syrup.
There is always a slight panic that sets in as we approach the end of summer- the need to gorge on all the fresh fruit you can, whilst simultaneously finding some way of preserving it. Stewing fruit with a bit of water and sugar – also called a ‘compote’ –is a good method. There is a bittersweet sadness to consigning bags of compote to the freezer, only to be bought out again when summer is a distant memory. This recipe uses apricot compote, made from fresh apricots, water and sugar, as a layer in the middle of the flapjacks.