I never fully understood the ramifications of food allergies in children and have had no reason to, personally, but a friend’s youngest son is allergic to tree nuts among other things, which makes feeding him quite a challenge. Over the years she’s learned which brands prepare foods on nut-free lines so are safe to use and has to buy certain foods from specific supermarkets or stores, so grocery shopping isn’t a simple 1-hour dash, but she is one of the most organised people I know and not much gets her into a flap.
Recently her littlest man started school and I was terrified for him on her behalf. Just knowing how the kids sit together and share lunches or have traces of food on their hands when touching toys or pencils, his Epipen is never far away and you pray daily that everyone involved with him abides by the few simple rules she’s had to work with the school to enforce.
Of course these days there are nut-free flours, cocoa and chocolate, so as long as you know what’s what then baking can still be a treat, but finding snack bars for the lunch box has been a bit frustrating.
This is an energy slice I’ve made for my family many times, but it only dawned on me recently that it has no nuts in it so provided she can find seeds packaged in places that are officially “nut-free”, this may be something to add to the list. Another great thing about this recipe is that you can adapt it in so many ways. The original is taken from the Edmonds Cookery Book, but I’ve changed it so many times I’m not quite sure what the original is anymore! It is one of those recipes where the outcome depends on what I have in the pantry at the time.
I’ve also added a chocolate ganache layer on the top, which is obviously optional, and provided you use nut-free chocolate (like Sweet William or similar), then you’re home-free. But I’d always advise checking with the parent/care-giver of a child with such serious allergies before making something they could potentially eat because using the incorrect brand or ingredient could be fatal.
1 cup brown sugar
100 g butter
½ cup raspberry jam (apricot tastes great too – try any jam you have on hand)
¼ cup golden syrup
3 cups rolled oats
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup sesame seeds
1 tsp mixed spice (I’ve never included this)
½ cup coconut (I prefer desiccated to shredded)
1 tsp vanilla essence or extract (no need the expensive stuff here)
1 cup sultanas, cranberries or raisins (I prefer the chewiness of cranberries)
200 g dark chocolate (semi-sweet works best)
½ cup cream
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (standard) or 160°C fan-forced. Line or grease a 20 x 30 cm sponge roll tin.
- Place the sugar, butter, jam and golden syrup into a saucepan and melt gently on the stove top.
- Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
- Pour in the melted mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are completely coated.
- Press the mixture firmly into the prepared tray and bake for about 25 minutes until the top has a gorgeous golden colour.
- Cool slightly and cut into bars (if not using the ganache)
- If you have made the ganache, allow the bar to cool completely and the ganache has set slightly before spreading it over the top. Once set, cut it into slices.
To make the ganache:
- Heat the cream in a microwave proof bowl or small sauce-pan stove top until small bubbles form around the edges which is just prior to it beginning to boil – we DON’T want it to boil.
- Remove it from the heat and pour over the chocolate in a separate heat proof bowl. The cream will begin to melt the chocolate.
- Stir gently to combine and allow to cool. It will thicken as it cools. I sometimes pop it into the fridge to hasten the process but it needs to be of a spreadable consistency so don’t let it set too hard.