THE ISLAND COOK

CRANBERRY & ALMOND OATY SLABS

This is another simple tray bake like the Not-So-Naughty Brownies using the same baking tin (if yours differs slightly in dimensions or is rectangular but about the equivalent overall size, that's fine). The resulting squares are lighter, more cakey than a flapjack but the oats nevertheless lend them bulk as befits the cold season and an absorbing chewy quality. Our faithful fake fat lends a hand here too, this time a dried apricot purée made with squeezed orange juice. The unsulphured nasty-looking brown ones are preferable but don't worry if you only have or can only find the prettier, orangey-coloured sort. Although dried cranberries have a lovely tangy sweetness, this is a chance to use up any leftovers of dried fruit and nuts hungover from the festivities – see 'storecupboard substitutes' below.

Makes 16

50g dried cranberries
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
50g whole blanched almonds
75g juicy dried apricots (preferably unsulphured)
squeezed juice from 1 orange
70g demerara sugar
80g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp low-sodium salt
1 tsp mixed spice
80g porridge (rolled) oats (not quick-cook)

STORECUBOARD SUBSTITUTES
• use any dried fruit you may have instead of the cranberries, such as raisins or sultanas or mixed dried fruit
• use almond extract instead of vanilla
• use any other nuts you may have, such as walnuts, Brazils or hazelnuts or ready-chopped mixed nuts
• use juicy prunes or dried dates instead of apricots
• use the squeezed juice of 1 or 2 clementines, satsumas or tangerines instead of the orange, especially if they are going cheap
• use any brown sugar you have or prefer

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FLOP FACTORS
• Dig about with a spoon in the blender to make sure that you haven't left some lumps of dried apricot under the blades (with the power off!).
• Don't leave the finished mixture hanging about before baking, otherwise your slabs might turn to concrete.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4 and line a 23cm square baking tin with baking paper. Mix the cranberries, vanilla and egg together in a bowl and leave while you do the rest of the prep (to plump the fruit).

Spread out the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Leave to cool, then chop. (Again, optional but well worth the bother). Meanwhile, cut the apricots into small pieces with kitchen scissors into a jug/small blender, add the orange juice (just enough to make the blades work – add a bit of water if necessary) and whizz to a smooth purée. Scoop out into the cranberry mixture, add the sugar and mix. Sift together all the dry ingredients except the oats into another bowl, add the oats and nuts and mix well. Fold into the cranberry mixture with a large metal spoon. Flop the mixture into the tin and bake for about 25 minutes until browned and crisp on top. Sit the tin on a wire rack for about 5 mins, then lift out the bake using the paper, invert onto the rack and peel the paper away. Leave to cool completely, then cut into 16 squares. These will keep in an airtight container for a few days but will become more chewy.