Full disclosure: these do not fall under the heading of squeaky-clean, sugar-free vegan treats. But there’s a lot that’s healthy about them, and anyway, I’m a great believer in the old adage that “A little of what you fancy does you good”. Students at my Sunday morning Mysore class (ah, remember the days when we’d all breathe, sweat and move together in the same space?) will remember how I’d occasionally have a plate of these waiting as an after-practice treat.
With plenty of carbs and fibre and more protein and fat than most grains, oats are loaded with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidant plant compounds. But apart from the nutritional benefits, these oatcakes are delicious. Packed with fruit, they really hit the spot after a long session on the mat. I’ve been using this recipe for years, adapting it from the cookbook from the much-loved Cornucopia Vegetarian café on Dublin’s Wicklow Street.
I sometimes scatter chocolate chips onto the fruit mix (70% or even 85% cacao content, depending on your taste). When I make treats like these I think it’s good to be relaxed about the ingredient mix. This is a guide that works pretty well, but you can use less sugar or coconut if you want. You could also add flaked almonds or almond flour, or maybe some raisins. I always bake or cook with the words of the great chef and food writer Nigel Slater in mind: “There is too much talk of cooking being an art or a science. We are simply making ourselves something to eat”. Absolutely. The most creative cooks are those who work on instinct and play around with ideas, trusting their eyes and their tastebuds more than the words on the page. So feel free to experiment and don’t worry that things won’t work out well. Once you stick with the idea of approx 300 g of oats and add enough butter/oils so the mix binds together, you can play around with the other ingredients in terms of quantities or content. I try to stick to organic ingredients when I can, especially for the coconut. Organic desiccated coconut from the health food store is very different from the branded stuff you’ll find in the supermarket. But I’m lucky enough to have the fabulous Nature’s Gold Health Food store on my doorstep, so this is never a problem!
Crumbly Fruity Oatcakes
(Makes about 12 good-sized squares)
300g Oats (I like to use a mix of large and fine – but any type is fine)
300g Butter, or a mix of butter and sunflower oil. If you don’t want to use butter, sunflower oil will work as a binder on its own, but the texture of the oatcake will be a little more flaky and less solid. You can also substitute coconut oil, but I would mix this with sunflower oil because it’s quite heavy on its own.
120g Granulated Brown Sugar (don’t be tempted to use white caster sugar – you want the crunchy texture of the granulated sugar)
170g Organic Dessicated Coconut
Approx 1/3 of a large bar of 70% Dark Chocolate broken into small pieces (I use a pestle and mortar to crush) (chocolate is optional)
100g Wholemeal Spelt Flour
300g mix of Raspberries & Blueberries (or any fruit mix you like – blackberries, strawberries or cherries all work well).
1 level teaspoon of Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 180 degrees or equivalent and line a baking tin with greaseproof paper. I use a rectangular tin about 12″ by 7″.
1. Melt the butter in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and mix with the oil, or just pour the oils into a measuring jug if using only oils
2. Mix oats, sugar, flour, salt and coconut in a large bowl.
3. Make a well in the centre of this mix and pour in the melted butter (or oil alternative)
4. Mix everything together til it binds, but keep it a little crumbly, don’t make it too wet.
5. Put half the mixture into the tin and spread and flatten down well with your hands.
6. Scatter raspberry and blueberry mix across this (it’s fine to use frozen
fruit straight from the freezer). If using chocolate, sprinkle the pieces over the fruit mix at this stage.
8. Cover the fruit with the second half of the oatcake mix, and spread and flatten down by hand.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown, or if you like them well done, leave in the oven longer (I like to leave them til they start to look really well done around the edges). Once they’re out of the oven, leave to cool and cut into individual squares.
Lovely on their own with a hot drink, or as a dessert with natural yoghurt or ice cream.