I’ve still got that autumnal vibe. Walks around my local park, romping through the crunchy leaves leaving a trail of my wanderings behind me. Walking to the green grocers and picking up squashes, beetroots, multicoloured carrots all ready to roast up for a heart warming dinner or snack.
These rich and toasty flavours are spreading into almost everything I am craving and making recently. A morning doesn’t go by without a generous sprinkling of cinnamon in my porridge or on my toast (no change from the rest of the year there then). I’m feeling a need for warming cooked food instead of my regular salad for lunch. Baked sweet potatoes topped generously with dahl or veggie chilli, big bowls of soup and a huge hunk of sourdough bread and butter. Bread, potatoes, rice, CARBS, more bread, I think it’s a sign of the foreboding winter. My body stock piling the energy to keep my fingers and toes warm for the next few months, or more likely that a new bakery has opened up where I live, and a week doesn’t go by without a loaf or two of sourdough for us to devour (add in a couple of pastries too).
I’m not complaining. Bread and butter has always been one of my favourite things to eat, and ultimate comfort food. Back in the days of me only eating bread and butter, ham, chips and sweet corn, and by bread I’m talking white thick sliced Hovis and the ‘butter’ was some plastic margarine crap, I think freshly baked sourdough and organic salted butter isn’t going to do any harm.
Another winter comfort always has to be crumble. Any fruit is welcome here. As long as it’s tart and juicy in contrast to the crispy, but gooey underneath and slightly sweet crumble topping. And then drown that in custard. DONE. But only one spoon please, I’m not sharing with anyone!
On a lunch out for my mums birthday the other weekend, we went to a favourite of ours in Manchester. We’ve been before and dreamed of munching on their spicy Korean fried chicken once more. However I’d also heard about their apple crumble. Proper stuff, no deconstructed or single serving nonsense here. I’m talking bring the whole dish to the table, serve out a hearty portion and drown it with creamy custard. No creme anglaise we’re English! So obviously after enough to drink, the crumble was obligatory for some alcohol absorption (so we told ourselves).
Since that weekend, crumble has been on my mind.
But I wanted a snack that wasn’t overly sweet and would keep in the fridge, ready to be packed into a Tupperware for those hungry travels. Flicking though the cookbook from My New Roots, I spied some walnut and fig crumble bars. That fits the brief quite nicely.
They’re ever so simple to whip up, a mixture of oats, walnuts, chia and apple sauce for the crust, and blended dried figs for the filling. No added sugars, maple syrup, honey or anything. All real ingredients from Mother Nature herself. And yes they are even acceptable for breakfast.
Now figs are not the most popular of the fruit world, but a real treat for all the foodies amongst us. Come September, Instagram fills up with pictures of juicy figs topping everything from porridge to toast and gracing savoury dishes, cheese boards and desserts. (NOTE a pud I had recently, white chocolate pannacotta with figs honey and walnut, unctuously creamy and sinfully good). For the rest of the year we have to turn to our dried friends for that figgy fix, and if you’ve ever tried dipping one in peanut butter or tahini, you will be hooked.
They are wonderful little creatures, providing you with calcium, which in this day and age is a very important mineral due to many people cutting dairy out of their diets. Alongside iron, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, E and K, you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Also as some of you will well know if you have eaten a few too many figs or prunes, they are high in fibre, and you probably will not want to eat a high amount again due to the consequences. The government recently have upped our required fibre intake here in the UK to 30g, which doesn’t sound much but I’m sure many of us aren’t reaching that goal daily. Fibre is so important boasting many health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and keeping weight under control due to it keeping you fuller for longer. But it’s also vital for your digestive health, acting as the food for your gut bacteria which we all need to learn to love and look after, and bulking up stools to prevent the C WORD, yep constipation.
But it’s so important, I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting straight to the point!
3 dried figs give you 2.4 g of fibre, so chop them up and mix into porridge with some ground flaxseeds and peanut butter, and you’re well on your way to that 30g a day.
Or have one of these bars with your afternoon cup of tea, or as a dessert with some yogurt and berries. Lightly sweet, spicy, crunchy and wholesome. It’s not a bowl of apple crumble and custard but that’s not for everyday, save that for special occasions. These are to enjoy for those times in between, satisfying your sweet tooth but with the knowledge that they are doing you and your gut some good. And we all need to give our guts a bit more loving!!!
Fig and walnut crumble bars
Recipe adapted from the My New Roots cookbook
A dairy free recipe, no added sugar and can be gluten free if you use gluten free oats. A note on the applesauce, I buy applesauce from the baby food section because it contains no added nasties. Make sure there’s just apples on the ingredients list and no sugar. I used both this and this brand.
Base and crumble topping
- 1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
- 280g walnuts
- 200g rolled oats
- 60g applesauce
- 2 tbsp nut milk (can use maple syrup as stated in the original recipe but didn’t want them that sweet)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 300g dried figs
- 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 125g applesauce
- Grated zest 1 small or 1/2 large lemon or orange
- Pinch salt
- For the crust: whisk the chia seeds with 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl. Leave for around 15 minutes until it has formed a gel.
- Set your oven to 180C/160C fan. Put 140g of the walnuts on a baking tray and put in the oven, leave until lightly golden and they smell toasty. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- In a food processor, blend 100g of the oats until you have a flour, add in the toasted walnuts and pulse until they are all chopped up and you have a sandy mealy texture.
- Add the chia gel, applesauce, nut milk (or maple syrup if you prefer), coconut oil and vanilla extract. Blend again until a moist dough is formed.
- In a bowl, mix the remaining 100g of oats with a pinch of salt and the baking powder. Tip the sticky dough mixture in the bowl and mix well either using a big spoon, or your hands, which is much easier.
- Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper, then put about a third of the dough mixture in. Press with the back of a spoon, or damp hands, fairly firmly to make an even base layer.
- To make the filling: In the food processor, there’s no need to wash it, snip the stalks off the figs and blend together with the cinnamon, ginger, applesauce, orange/lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Blend till either chunky or smooth depending on your preference, then spread the filling in an even layer over the base.
- Drop the remaining oat mixture in clumps so it resembles a crumble topping. Chop the remaining 140g of walnuts so they are still chunky and sprinkle over the topping. Press lightly so they stick.
- Place the tin in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is lightly golden. Leave to cool before cutting into 16 pieces. Keep in a Tupperware or tin in the fridge for around 5 days, or pop in the freezer for those times when the sweet tooth needs to be satiated.
I know in this changing of the seasons, our bodies are adjusting. You may be feeling more tired than usual, I definitely am! So whenever there’s a chance take the rest and treat yourself. We all deserve a bit of me time and self love.