I think the most useful recipes are those that are simple enough to learn by heart and can be rustled up in a few minutes, with ingredients from the store cupboard. As well as tasting nice, of course – I am not talking instant pudding out of a foil bag here. So I am making you a present of this recipe for the most delicious flapjacks, a recipe which fulfils all these criteria. It is also the recipe that I am asked to write down most often, so I thought there must be a case for making it a matter of public record.
These flapjacks travel well, important at this holiday time of year, and are perfect for picnics and lunchboxes, because they don’t melt and collapse in the heat. Well, not in an English summer, anyway – I can’t speak for sunnier climes. I find them quite handy for long journeys when the little people in the back start complaining of starvation half an hour into the trip. Flapjacks give them the sugar rush they crave, but the oats make the snack sustaining. And the effort of chewing will occupy those little jaws for a bit.
This flapjack recipe is also so easy that even a grumpy teenager can make them without much effort; they are thus simple for the more eager under-thirteens, and even toddlers can stir in the oats without ruining the end result. Maybe you could even leave them to it, while you go and do something interesting on your own – get them used to those hot stoves at an early age and they’ll be cooking supper for you before you know it. Although, on balance, perhaps it’s better not to leave toddlers alone with hot stoves, but teenagers – you never know, this could be the start of something wonderful.
I will give you the quantities for a 7 or 8 inch (18-20cm) square shallow tin, just double them up for a larger rectangular swiss roll or traybake tin (anything between 11x7in (28x18cm) and 13x9in (33x23cm) – the smaller the tin, the thicker the flapjacks).
You can skip the next bit in brackets if you are in a rush to get to the recipe: it is just a bit of unitary self-justification.
(I tend to bake in imperial units – the numbers are much easier to remember, and most cooking is a matter of proportions, so mathematically speaking you are just being given ratios. Ratios in multiples of one ounce are always going to be easier to work with than multiples of 25g; an ounce is a logically-sized based unit for domestic cooking, in the same way that a gram is more sensible for a scientist. I sew in metric because a centimetre is a sensible base unit, and this makes the numbers simpler there – no messing about with fractions with different denominators. So you will see that I am not innumerate, just eccentric, but for those who prefer metric recipes I have very kindly looked up the equivalents. However, I haven't tested the metric version - I will leave that to you.)
At last - here it is! You need to melt gently 4oz (115g) of unsalted butter in a saucepan together with 4oz (115g) of light muscovado sugar and 3 tablespoons of golden syrup. Remove from the heat and add in 8oz (225g) of porridge oats – stir well until it is thoroughly mixed together. Tip out into a very well greased shallow tin (the smaller size above). Double the quantities for the larger sized tin.
Bake in a medium oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 20-30 minutes. In a two oven Aga, put the oven rack on the floor of the top oven and the cold plain shelf on the second set of runners, and cook for 20 minutes, turning once. You will get to know how well-done your family likes them – anything from pale gold (chewy) to dark brown (crispy) is acceptable, so you have a bit of leeway there.
When you remove them from the oven, leave them for a few minutes before running a palette knife round the edge, then leave for 20 minutes or so before cutting into squares or rectangles – they need to be firm enough to hold their shape when removed from the tin, but if you leave it until they have cooled hard, it will be a lot more difficult. Cool on a wire tray and eat one at a time whilst memorizing the recipe.
They store well in an airtight tin for a few days, but normally I don't find that storage time is an issue. In this house they tend to be eaten up depressingly quickly. I shall go and make some more.