Trail-mix Oatcakes

(Trail-Mix Oatcakes)

So last week I decided to give up sugar for a week. Initially my plan was to go sugar-free for two months, but The Boyfriend rolled his eyes and suggested I first try it for a week before launching into any unrealistic, grandiose statements. He was right of course. He knows me too well!

In case you’re wondering how it went, well it’s not easy coming to any healthful conclusions after only being sugar-free for a mere week (the primary instigator for this little experiment was a few articles I read recently about why we should eat less sugar). I have however learned a few things, mostly about myself. Firstly, that I love fruit. Despite expecting cravings for cake and chocolate during my sugar-free week, it was actually fruit that I missed the most. After one week (or six days, if we need to get all technical and judge-y) I panicked at the thought of missing out on the trailing end of what has been a great stone fruit season. The first piece of fruit I bought and ate, albeit a slightly underripe white nectarine, tasted absolutely heavenly.

Secondly, food tastes especially good when it has that balance between all the elements we associate with flavour; a little bit salty, a little bit sweet, or bitter, or sour. Which explains why nuoc cham and teriyaki are some of my favourite sauces. It also explains why I’m unexcited at the thought of continuing this experiment for another week, let alone two months.

Our household already tries to eat as few additives as possible and it’s pretty much standard practice for me to reduce the sugar content in the recipes I use. As Ellen Degeneres once said, “Life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”

Trail-Mix Oatcakes :
Not too long ago, I happened to make these not-very-sweet oatcakes topped with some trail mix. They were the perfect segue into my sugar-free week.

125g plain flour
125g stone-ground oatmeal
pinch of sea salt
pinch of baking soda
40g sugar
60g butter

to sprinkle on top : your choice of a mix of dried fruit, toasted nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

Place all the dry ingredients (except for the trail-mix) in a bowl. Rub in the butter, then add enough water to form a soft dough. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to roughly 5mm thick. Sprinkle the trail-mix over the dough and lightly press to ensure they adhere. Use a pastry cutter (size of cutter is up to you; I used a 5cm diameter one here) to cut round circles of dough. Scraps of dough can be rolled again and cut. Arrange the cut circles on a lined baking tray and bake in a preheated 190’C oven for 10-15 minutes. The oatcakes will be lightly golden and tender.

Tip : You can decrease or omit the sugar in this recipe for a more savoury oatcake to enjoy with cheese or as a platform on which to build a quick snack – maybe sliced avocado with sprouts and herbed yoghurt cheese!

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What to make for a friend who has good news and bad news

(White chocolate and macadamia nut ‘blondies’)

She breezed through my front door. I have good news! She said. And bad news.

The good news was that she had finally gotten her dream job. In spite of the bad news hovering like an elephant in the room, it was the good news that we wanted to celebrate and discuss. Afterall, how many people can really say they are working in their dream job?

I look around the carriage of my train some mornings and wonder why people look so sad or hurt and angry. It is as though someone has shouted in their ear and dragged them out of bed, scrubbed their face with soap, handed them a briefcase and pushed them out the door. I know I have days when I dread getting out of bed because the whole cycle begins, the moment your feet touch the floor. But it’s all we can do sometimes to try to stay afloat in a world drifting faster than we can manage. Stuffed into heavy suits and shiny shoes, we breathe in with forgotten lungs and tread water.

Because she and I were celebrating on one of those days when none of the above exists, I had to make a cake. Even though I don’t often bake with white chocolate, I know she loves it, and after making this, I could not stop myself from eating the trimmings. Leonor calls it a blondie, but I actually think it’s more of a cross between a cake and a blondie. It is light, but impossibly moist and truly celebrates the flavour of white chocolate like no other cake I’ve tasted.

Despite this, it looks deceptively like a functional cake, which the world is already filled to the rafters with. Functional cakes are the lubricant for social discourse between the hours of 10 and 11am or 3 and 4pm.

This is not a functional cake. It doesn’t facilitate discussion. It is a cake baked with words, and I hope she can hear it when she eats it. It says, I value your friendship. I’m sorry you’re having relationship issues at a time in your life when you are feeling ready to settle down and have children. I admire you. I am proud of your achievements. I hope to always be there for you.

(For Mel)

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