So the boys have decided that they want to start having packed lunches for school. Whilst Smol was getting his dinners free of charge, they had school lunches; but now he moves into P4 we are going to have to find an extra £1.60 a day; so I went along with their notions and agreed that we would try packed lunches. It might be as the weather gets colder we will go back to hot dinners, but my two seem to savour the cold food choices anyway.
I found myself in Tesco clutching two very impressive looking bento box contraptions with lots of little compartments and tubs for yogurt or hummus or whatnot; I have since spent sleepless nights wondering how I am going to fill these things with cheap and interesting lunches that, I hope, will also generate less waste packaging than crisp packets and chewie-bar wrappers.
As a Beaver leader, I am also keen to add to my repertoire of ‘easy for small children to weigh out and mix together and let the adults do the hot bits’ recipes that we can use for our Cooking badge, using ingredients (oats and dried fruit) with proven health benefits that we can discuss as part of our commitment to healthier food choices. I have reduced the sugar and syrup in these considerably in comparison to most recipes – and certainly in the shop bought ones – but as with all treats they should be eaten in moderation. My boys will take a 5cm or so square in each day that they can either have as a playground snack at 10.30am or save for their lunch dessert alongside some fruit.
175g butter or sunflower spread type stuff.
150g sugar (I used demerera but any is fine)
150g golden syrup (you can get it in Asda in a squeezy bottle, which is probably easier than the old fashioned tins that always manage to drip syrup over you, the floor and every conceivable surface for the next three weeks)
350g porridge oats – just the cheapiest cheap ones are fine.
1 handful (sorry to not be more specific, I just did it by eye) of dried fruit – I used dates (finely chopped), and chopped mango and apricot pieces; but feel free to use anything – sultanas, coconut, seeds, nuts*, dried berries etc.
You can also add a teaspoon of spice such as ginger or cinnamon; or a dash of lemon juice. Be creative!
*our school is a nut-free environment so we don’t use nuts in ours.
Pre-heat the oven to 150c / Gas mark 2
Now you have your first decision. Are you going to live on the wild side and just line the bottom of your 8 inch square baking tin with baking parchment, or are you going to throw frugality out of the window and use enough parchment that it comes all the way up at the sides (see photo below for what I mean)?
My preference is to have the parchment overlap each side of the tin, as it’s easier to lift out of the tin if you don’t have a push-up removable base; but if you prefer to just line the bottom of the tin, you go on your bad self – just remember to grease the sides of your tin, or this badboy ain’t budging for no man.
In a large saucepan on the hob, melt your butter/spread over a low heat, and once melted add your sugar and syrup and stir with a wooden spoon. Once the sugar as dissolved, add your choice of fruits, nuts, spices etc and stir well.
Then add your porridge oats and continue to mix well until all the oats are well coated and moist (urgh, I hate that word).
Tip the moist (shudder!) mixture into your tin; and press down firmly with the back of a spoon, ensuring it’s pushed into all the corners and the top is nice and flat and as smooth as you can get it – this stops it just falling apart when you cut it.
Cook in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes; then remove and leave to cool for 15 minutes before lifting out (this is when my parchment technique comes in handy!) and cutting into cubes / lengths of your choosing and banishing nosy children from the kitchen. Store them (the flapjacks, not the children) in an airtight box where they should last a week, but won’t, because they are delicious.
Don’t forget to test your creation with a nice cup of tea (we can celebrate Afternoon Tea Week ) and remind everyone on social media what a talented, homely little creature you are.