The day was broken up by the sound of the bell. A bell rung by hand, small and golden looking with a bulbous wooden handle. The first bell of the day told us it was time for morning break time. This consisted of a quick run around the playground, and these were the days when the playground was a large field at the back of the school; and a small glass bottle of milk. There were times of the year when I loved that milk, in the depths of winter when it was capped not only with a thin layer of cream but also a tiny frosting of ice. And there were times when I had to force down that small bottle, that felt gargantuan because it had been warmed by the rare summer days and was at a terrible temperature.
My primary school will live forever in my memory as a wonderful place, it was of another time and not purely because it was a long time ago and I am officially getting on a bit but because it had an innocence about it which was quite unique. It was a place that was a little bit magical, there were strange higgledy piggledy staircases which wound around the old building and the vegetables on our plate were from the school garden. The food that I was served at such a formative age has possibly contributed to the path that I have chosen. I knew from early in my life that good food can shape the rest of the day. There is something undeniable about good food, of course it is completely subjective but there are some foods which most people would agree are truly a delight. The apple flapjack which was served at my primary school was one of those dishes.
It was the kind of food that no matter how much you ate, no matter how full you were, no matter how sick you felt, you always wanted more. Or, at least I did. The simplicity was the key, it was just stewed apples with a flapjack topping. But the thing I want to know, is which absolute bloody genius decided to combine the two? Whoever they are, I think they should get some kind of medal of honour for services to food. The smooth and sharp underbelly of stewed apples was hidden beneath a layer of chewy, rich, buttery flapjack which played a teasing game with your back teeth but made your soul sigh a little. And to top it all off, this was all drenched in a giant puddle of homemade custard. See; I told you my school was magical.
This is clearly a strong memory for me and a large part of me felt that I should not pursue its recreation. So many times in life, I have revisited the past in the hope that the fond memories I had would be usurped by something better or at least as good as the original, they never have been. Not a place, or a moment or a food has ever lived up to a memory, maybe that is the essence of a memory, it has a little gold spun through its core, a little thread of magic. But similarly, a large part of me felt the need to have apple flapjack back in my life. My sister and I were equally obsessed with it and asked for the recipe when we were maybe 8 or 9 and tried to make it at home and I remember us being disappointed… However, a few years ago, my sister tried a guessed recipe and I remember it being really tasty so we decided today that with our combined memories and sheer enthusiasm, we could make it work and work, it did.
Thank all the gods of food! It was maybe not as good as the memory but it came close enough. And as I sit here now, writing to you guys out there, drinking my lovely Chablis, listening to haunting music and feeling a little bit sick from eating too much apple flapjack, I am safe in the knowledge that food still has the capacity to shape the rest of the day.
Guessed apple flapjack
- 4 Granny smith apples, peeled and chopped to varying sizes
- Zest of 1 lemon and 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1tbs Caster sugar
- 250g Porridge oats
- 125g Butter
- 125g Brown sugar
- 2-3 tbs Golden syrup
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c
For the stewed apples, chop half the apples to roughly 1cm cubes and the other half to 2cm cubes. Combine in a saucepan with lemon and sugar and stew over a medium flame until the little bits are broken down and the chunkier bits are still firm. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the flapjack topping. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until oats are slightly broken down but still retaining good chunky texture. Now either pop in the microwave for 1 minute to loosen the mixture or put into a saucepan and warm until it becomes loose and pliable. Remove from the heat.
Find a shallow serving dish which will nicely hold the apples, you want them to lay about 2cm deep. Spread the apples across the base of the dish and then evenly spread the warmed flapjack mix across the top of the apples. Put into the preheated oven for 15 minutes and then check, you want the flapjack to be a little bit dry and crispy looking around the edges, mine took about 25 minutes. It depends on your oven… You want it a little bit chewy and a little bit crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, it will be like molten lava at first. Serve to someone you love (possibly yourself) with lashings and lashings of good, proper homemade custard.