Saturday 24 September 2011

Sylvia loves halva flapjack, carob cake and apricot slice

Today I want to share a little of Sylvia's story.  I often write about food that brings together her story with mine. I also want to reflect here on some books and music that I loved as a child and now share with her. Of course I couldn't write about her without some of the recipes that Sylvia has loved recently.  All sweet with the saving grace of a little nutritional value. Halva flapjacks made for a visit by friends.  Carob carrot cake made for the neighbours birthday party.  Apricot slice made just because.  Each is part of Sylvia's story.

One of Sylvia's favourite things to eat recently is "finkle buns".  To you and me that is fruit buns with icing and sprinkles on top.  Above is Sylvia, Dolly and Dolly's Mum all enjoying a piece of finkle bun while they watch Play School.  I am still am unsure about how much Sylvia should watch it.  She watched it yesterday when she was feeling poorly but earlier in the week she seemed happier to go for a walk with Zinc.  (Yes our cat loves to come for a walk with us to the end of the street!)

After all there are many more things in life than tv.  Comforting Dolly after Sylvia's toy cat pulls her hair.  Blowing bubbles for Zinc to chase outside.  Playing in the bathroom sink for hours - even more fun now that she can turn on and off the taps.  Opening and closing the blinds.  Doing up buttons on her favourite stripey dress.  She loves to chat to us.  Her favourite word is "actually" and her favourite question is "what's wrong mum?"  One of my favourite comments from Sylvia lately was "Dadda is just parking the train", when we were waiting for E to get home from work on the train.

Sylvia also loves books and music.  I can't help reflecting sometimes just how much we bring our own childhoods to her.  The picture of books above is of books that I had as a child.  I didn't have the Rupert annual but I was fascinated by Rupert.  Harry the Dirty Dog is a recent purchase that I made because I loved it so much as a child and am surprised that E has never heard of it.  The Outside Cat is my copy of the book that I had as a child and it saddens me that it is falling apart.  She also loves to read recipe books with me, which amuses me when she isn't tearing them up.  Her favourite book right now is Lavendar's Blue nursery rhyme collection.

E is going through a Tiny Tim phase so Sylvia is besotted with him too.  She loves the Yum Yum Song.  I much prefer the music I loved as a kid.  Danny Kaye and Rolf Harris.  It delights me that she loves hearing Danny Kaye sing Ups a Daisy as much as I did when young.  Only difference is that we used to have to be careful when dancing to it lest we bump and scratch the record.

E has bought her a few DVDs from 1960s and 1970s BBC.  The Herbs is a particular favourite right now.  Each character is named after a herb and has a signature song.  It is very entertaining, even if Lord Basil and Lady Rosemary can be a little bossy with Bayleaf the Gardener at times.  Apparently there is only one episode with the witch Belladonna because the BBC was worried it would frighten small children.  It is Sylvia's favourite episode.  We see it over and over.  For anyone who fears Sylvia lives in the past, you may be interested to know we have ordered a DVD set of Peppa Pig.

We went out for dinner last weekend.  A rare occurrence in our household.  When we got home and I told Sylvia it was time to brush her teeth, she told me that she would do it after dinner!  I guess she thinks dinner means sitting around our kitchen table with dinner on a plastic plate.  She did enjoy chippies for dinner.  Sylvia always enjoys chippies.  She still likes her food plain.  I was pleased to see her eating mee goreng noodles again recently.  No bits!  I was bemused when she ate a promite and dried apricot sandwich.  I can't help but think that she would eat more if only she wasn't distracted by so many things.

Last weekend, we had some friends over who used to live next door.  I finally made Dan Lepard's Halva Flapjacks that I had planned to make when our oven broke down.  I wanted to make them as soon as I saw them on Chocolate Log Blog because they were full of condensed milk.  They were slightly crumbly but I am yet to find a flapjack that isn't.  Sylvia is always asking for cake for Dolly's party.  Before our friends arrived, we got out a couple of candles to sing happy birthday to Dolly and blow out the candles.

Dolly was very pleased.  Our friends also enjoyed it.  E preferred the butter biscuits that they brought along.  I loved the slice which was indeed reminiscent of halva.  It felt like a healthier way to eat condensed milk than some of my condensed milk recipes and a great way to use up leftovers.  Healthier rather than healthy!  I found it quite sweet.  Choclette added white chocolate but I would like to add some cocoa to reduce the sweetness.  After all, I am rather fond of chocolate halva!

What I call Apricot Energy Bites comes from Chef Amber Shea's Almost Vegan Blog where she calls it Sunny Cashew-Apricot Energy Cookies.  I read the comments and found that they were a bit crumbly for a lot of people.  Including me.  I added some chia seeds but I went a bit overboard on the extra water.  Mine was quite sticky but fine if I kept it in the fridge.  A little less water next time.  I also chopped it up much smaller than Amber.  Hence it is merely a bite rather than a cookie. 

The bites were reminiscent of my recent Apricot Delight.  A bit more complex.  Sylvia loved them.  Like the apricot delight, I think they would be great in a cake pop, but are they too soft?  I think her lions also love them.  These lions are Dolly's presents.  Did I tell you another of Sylvia's favourite quetsions is "what colour is that?"

I couldn't resist this photo of an egg with a face.  Sylvia still loves her boiled eggs but get distracted.  Faces on the eggs help.  I draw the face and she likes to draw pink hair.  You can see it among cooking equipment because I made the carob carrot cake earlier in the morning.  It was made for my neighbour Paula for her son's birthday party.

The recipe was devised by Catherine of CatesCates for a small boy with a lot of allergies.  Catherine has kindly given me permission to reproduce this recipe here.  I hear that her version of the cake is spectacular so I hope she will blog about it at some stage.  Catherine always has a great section on 'variations' at the end of each recipe so I have added a section here, partly as a nod to her style, and partly because it was a great way to add in Paula's other suggestions and my thoughts.

This is how the cake looked when I left it with Paula.  One of the party activities was to ice it and decorate it with small penguins.  I love the idea of incorporating decorating the cake into the party.  There was heaps of mixture with enough left for another small cake and lots of little cakes for Dolly's party.  With pink icing and sprinkles.  Sylvia loved the carob flavour and I loved that it was packed with carrots.

I am sending the Halva Flapjacks to Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes for her Bookmarked Recipes event, that was originally founded by Ruth. I am sending the Apricot Energy Bites to Ricki of Diet Dessert and Dogs who has decided to keep on with her Wellness Weekends event that was initially for her Northern Hemisphere Summer.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Collingwood Cupcakes
This time two years ago: Green Home, Green Houses
This time three years ago: Pudla – for when your team lets you down!

Halva Flapjacks
From Dan Lepard

100g unsalted butter
75g brown sugar (I used about 1 dessertspoon)
200g sweetened condensed milk
75g tahini
50g honey
100g chopped dried dates or figs
100g chopped walnuts
25g sesame seeds
175g-225g rolled oats

Heat the butter, brown sugar and condensed milk in a saucepan or microwave (I did the latter) until hot and the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat or the microwave.  Stir in the tahini and honey, and then the dried fruit, nuts and sesame seeds. Now stir in enough rolled oats until the mixture holds its shape – add more oats if you want a firmer flapjack (I would add more rather then less as it was quite a soft flapjack).

Grease and line a 22cm square cake tin.  Spoon the flapjack mixture into the tin and press down with the back of a spoon. Heat the oven to 180C (350 F) and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the flapjack is golden brown (I would even leave it a little longer than 20 minutes next time). Remove from the oven and cool in tin.  Cut into squares.  Keep in an airtight container (ours lasted about a week).

Carob Carrot Cake
From Catherine

Dry ingredients:
2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cups carob powder
500g carrots, grated 

Wet ingredients:
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups canola oil
3/4 cups raw sugar
3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups carob chips, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 C and grease and line cake tin(s) (I used a 20cm round cake tin, a 15cm square cake tin and about 12 mini muffin cups.  I think you could do 2 x 20cm round cake tin and I think Catherine does a 25cm round cake tin).

Place all dry ingredients into a large bowl.  (Grating the carrot was the most time consuming part of this.)  Combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix together and gently stir in the carob chips.

Pour batter into prepared cake tin(s) and bake for about 1 hour (or less if you are making smaller cakes or mini muffins).  It is ready when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.  Rest in the tin for 10 -15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Variations: You can substitute potato for the carrot.  Paula has also used some swede instead of the carrot.  In her latest incarnation she used double the carob, half carrot, half swede and substituted carob molasses for brown sugar.  I think it would be lovely with lots of spices.  Paula mixed yoghurt, butter and icing sugar for her cake.  I used this cream cheese frosting.

Apricot energy bites
Adapted from Amber Shea

1 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds and 4 tbsp water (probably needs less water)
shake of ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt

Soak chia seeds in 2 tbsp water for about 5 minutes.  Blitz all ingredients in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground and the whole lot comes together into a ball.  It should be quite sticky so that you can press it into the a tin. Add another tablespoon or 2 of water if you need it but I found mine a bit too sticky when I added that much.

Press the mixture into a lined 22cm square cake tin and refridgerate overnight or until firm.  (Or freeze for at least one hour if you have room in there - I didn't.) When firm, cut into 64 squares. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

On the Stereo:
Danny Kaye for Children


  1. All of these sound delicious to me! I laughed at Sylvia's use of "actually," which sounds like such a grown-up word! (and Dad parking the train!). Glad to hear her culinary horizons are expanding, even if she still likes them simple. These three treats would be a great way to entice her, for sure. I loved Danny Kaye as a kid, but had no idea he had music albums for children!

    Thanks for submitting to Wellness Weekend this week (and the slice fits the criteria perfectly). :D

  2. These dishes look delicious and quite nutritious! I think the carob carrot cake is my favorite!

  3. Oh yes, spices would improve the carrot cake no end, as would sultanas, in my view! Of course, all these are under interdict for those allergies...

    I'm certainly going to try to locate photos of the original version. My blog is a bit quiet this week - I've started cycling in to work, and it just eats all my energy at the end of the day - but it would be fun to show a different presentation.

  4. I love hearing about Sylvia and her interaction with the world! My friend has a little boy and his favourite phrase when I last saw him was 'isn't it?' on the end of everything! He's a sweetie, just like Sylvia. I still have a few of my childhood books, and my mum recently bought me a new copy of a childhood favourite 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea' by Judith Kerr, which I loved seeing again!

    I've just made a variation on Dan's halva flapjack - substituting peanut butter for the tahini. It's really delicious!

  5. My dad found something on the internet that enabled him to turn all our old LPs into CDs so my kids are also growing up with Patsy Bisco, Danny Kaye and oddly enough the Goons - I think my fathers recollection of what we listened to as kids is hazy in places...but sweet nonetheless.

  6. So many wonderful treats to eat in there!
    I never get tired of reading Where the Wild things Are... probably because here, "there is always mischief of one kind or another..."

  7. I love hearing about Sylvia :)

    Also, I think you could substitute my name for hers in the title of this post. That cake, especially, has made me want to cancel my afternoon plans so I can make it! Thank you for the recipe - I love carrot cake and carrot so am really quite excited.

  8. What a lovely beautiful post! Thankyou for sharing :) x

  9. I'm so honoured to have met both Sylvia *and* Dolly! And you've reminded me that I once promised you I'd do a post about my favourite children's books. Oops! It's hard when they all live at my parents place!

    I love the sound of halvah flapjacks, though to be honest right now I'm craving actual halvah :P

  10. I just loved my little golden books when I was little, my Mum couldn't do the weekly shop with me and escape without a new book for the collection, some blasts from my past are in this post too. Its so lovely that you can share a part of your childhood with Sylvia.

  11. Thanks for sharing some of Sylvia's story - I enjoyed it very much. The carob carrot cake looks delicious! And the other recipes sound nice too.

  12. I had quite forgotten about Danny Kaye and his children's recordings. I used to love Tubby the Tuba, but it is waaay too late to introduce that to my lot now. I guess I'll have to wait for grandkids.

  13. Thanks Ricki - we had the danny kaye album when I was a kid but never had any other albums (though loved the court jester) - and I often have to stop myself laughing when sylvia says actually because it sounds so cute

    Thanks sharan - the cake was rather good - it looked splendid with all the little penguins

    Thanks catherine - it is great cycling weather - am sure it makes you appreciate a good meal at the end of the day - will look forward to you posting about the cake - it is one that made me feel friendlier towards carob - it seemed like a bit of spice would enhance it enough that I could eat it but yes it isn't great for allergies

    Thanks C - your peanut butter flapjacks sound delish - shame sylvia can't eat peanut butter - and funny you mention the tiger who came to tea - I have considered buying it for sylvia a few times because I loved it - but we have bought her a few mog books also by judith kerr that she loves

    Thanks Liz - that sounds like a great device - I'd love my patsy biscoe album converted to cd though am not sure what condition it is in

    Thanks Brydie - I love Where the Wild Things Are - so much fun to read and it always gladdens me that his dinner is still hot at the end

    thanks Kari - you must be a carob fan - I am not but even so think this is a great cake so if you are a fan it must be very exciting - hope you get to have your afternoon fun and make the cake too

    Thanks Lisa

    Thanks Hannah - making the flapjacks made me want some real halva too - it is so addictive - and hope you do write about the kids books - maybe a project for next time you house sit for your parents?

    Thanks Chele - I loved golden books too - so many now are different from those I loved but am glad Tootle is still among the ones on the racks

    Thanks Cakelaw - glad you enjoyed it and hope you might enjoy some of the recipes too

    Thanks Amanda - I love so many of the danny kaye songs but I agree that you might not want to introduce them to older kids -imagine the looks the would give you!

  14. It's so nice to hear that Sylvia likes many of the things that you did as a child - that's real sharing. I recognise some of those books! Love the face on the egg. All of the treats here look and sound good. I used to make a mean carob cake when I was a teenager, but have no idea now what recipe I used. Glad you liked the halva flapjacks. They are definitely a very sweet treat, not something I'm normally too keen on. But sometimes, it's just what is needed.

  15. Thanks for the down memory lane post, I love all those books and patsy biscoe what a blast from the past!! Love hearing about sylvias adventures, and dolly and dollIs mum sound very loved! Love the train story, adorable... I love your posts, so many new recipes to try too!!

  16. The Herbs sounds like such a cute show!! I can't wait to have kids and share with them all my favourite books from when I was a kid. :)


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