Date and Oat Bars (vegan unless I’ve missed something!)

I first saw these on Tori Haschka’s blog, and loved the idea of having them as a quick breakfast snack. I like dates very much, and bakes made with them always appeal to the Sweet But Not Too Sweet tooth I have. Sweet potato as a baking ingredient has won me over since Gizzi Erskine made sweet potato and Turkish Delight brownies, way back when, so that was another must. Because it’s me, I fiddle. I can’t help it. This time, I have fiddled more.

I had excess dates, so I used more than the original recipe stated. Then it turned out I had too much sweet potato left over, and the tail end of a bag of oats, so…yes, you can see where this went.

(By the way, I bought my dates from this website. It’s on during Ramadan, and they get couriered to you, you have a choice of gorgeous tins, and each box of juicy goodness sold helps someone gets their sight back, or gets bread given to a family and so on. Well worth signing up so you can a heads-up when the deliveries are back on.)

165 g pitted dates

250 g mashed sweet potato (Peel and cut the sweet potato into pieces the size of playing dice. Microwave with 3 tbsp of water for 5-6 minutes until soft, then puree, or mash until smooth. Or else, make a bigger batch, use it as a base for sweet potato hummus/ sweet potato mash to have with steak or lamb and use the leftovers to make these.)

4 eggs or 12 tbs aquafaba

4 tbsp tahini (plus 2 tbs thinned down for the top or use any nut butter)

180 g porridge oats

4 tbs sultanas

2 tbs cocoa

1 tsp orange blossom water for the cake mix

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ras El Hanout

1/2 cup/ 30 g shredded coconut

generous pinch of sea salt


3 tbs tahini or nut butter thinned down with 1/2 tsp orange blossom water and 1/2 tsp sugar. (OBW can be a touch bitter)

1 tbs water to get the tahini or nut butter to a smoother, more runny consistency.

I used roasted sweet potatoes. I just cook them whole in their skins for around 45 minutes, so that a knife or skewer goes through with no resistance, then let them cool.

I do all of this in a food processor, and get a smooth texture that I like. I’m not a fan of whole oats in cookies or cakes. (It is also much easier on my hands to use the machine.)

Put the dates into the food processor bowl, and blend for a couple of minutes to chop them up.

Add in the aquafaba, tahini or nut butter, oats, potato, cocoa, orange blossom water, sultanas, coconut, cinnamon, sea salt and Ras El Hanout. Blitz until smooth.

You may need to scrape the sides down as desiccated coconut seems to fly about.

For the topping – if you want to use one – mix the extra 3 tbs of tahini or nut butter with 1/2 tsp orange blossom water and the sugar. Stir in warm water until it becomes a dropping consistency, or you won’t get it to drizzle on to the cake.

Line a 9.5” x 9.5”x 2” (24cm square) cake tin with baking paper. Date mixes can be very sticky.

Scrape all the mixture into the pan, and then smooth the top with the back of a wet spoon.

Drizzle the tahini over, and top with sesame seeds or coconut curls, whatever you like. I had crystallised rode petals, so added those as well for crunch.

Date and Oat Bars raw

Bake for 35 minutes at 170C fan and then leave to cool. They will turn more fudgy and dense overnight.

Date and Oat Bars


North Carolina Mopping Sauce

My man is fast becoming an expert in all things smoked. It’s how he does things.

Tex bbq

Lots of research, lots of reading and comparing, until he gets it just right. We’ve made different dry rubs, and eaten a lot of delicious things. Brisket, smoked and dry rubbed sausages, ribs (still working on those), fennel and lemon chicken thighs, more brisket, smoked mint lamb shoulder. I’ve made a lot of salads – tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil and pesto; celery, apple, sultana and walnut/pecan/pistachio; carrot with smoked salt and a burnt orange dressing; pistachio, basil and celery leaf pesto; watermelon, feta and mint; peach, ricotta, olive oil and pomegranate molasses - , ground a lot of spices and smoked aubergines and halloumi. Our cupboard has a ton of bottled barbecue sauces in there, and we’re fast running out of room.

Today we’ve got ribs again – determined to get them right, but they are tricky as they can dry out really fast if you’re not careful. We don’t often get the very meaty fatty rib cuts here, so you have to make the best of what you can get, right? He wanted to make a mopping sauce today, so off we went. First port of call was the Pitt Cue book, and then Red’s Barbecue Bible. The mop sauce in there sounded like what he wanted, so we spent a half hour in the kitchen with me getting the ingredients, and him stirring, then me stirring because I get skittish when people in charge of a very hot pan of bubbling lava don’t hold on to the handle. Hey, it’s been my solo kitchen for 26 years, sharing takes some serious getting used to!

Anyhoo, here is the sauce we ended up with. He wanted it thicker than the recipe made it, so we tasted and tweaked, tweaked and tasted, and here is it.

125g soft light brown muscovado sugar

250ml apple cider vinegar

55g ketchup (we used Hellman’s, which is sweetened with honey. It’s less punchy than other brands.)

1 tsp salt

Put the vinegar and sugar into a pan on a low heat.

When the sugar has dissolved, whisk in everything else, and simmer for a good half an hour to meld the flavours. At this stage, is is a mopping sauce, and very thin.

We tasted it, and it needed something else.

In went

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp yellow mustard

2.5 tsp cornflour slaked with 2 tsp water were then added and mixed in very well.

Simmer for another 10 minutes to thicken up, then leave to cool down until you can decant it into a squeezy bottle.

We think we’ve made something that’s a bit like a quick version of Branston Pickle juice. Personally I want it on a cheese sandwich very soon, and I think we’re going to have to make more.

(Once the ribs had had two hours in the smoker, we place them in foil, doused with the sauce, squirted with water and put them back in, all wrapped up, to essentially steam smoke for another 2 hours. It worked!)

marked moppish sauce