Mango trees at Dongo

As an ethnobotanist focusing on edible plants, I was powerless to resist when Tree Aid issued their tree food challenge to design a healthy, nutritious* winter dish using one or more of several tree foods. I chose:

  • Mango, a delicious and rich source of dietary fibre, vitamins A, B6, C, and minerals, with powerful anti-oxidants.
  • Honey, a great natural sweetener, and an important source of energy.
  • Cashews nuts, a vital source of protein in areas where meat is scarce. Also rich in vitamin C, cashew nuts are not nuts at all but seeds, growing out of red or yellow cashew apples that are also edible and used to make a sweet juice.
  • Baobab, dubbed the next great β€˜superfood’ and an amazing source of vitamins, minerals and iron – all vital for a healthy, balanced diet.

Local boy holding baobab fruits

As it happened, I already had some baobab powder that I bought during a visit to the Eden Project. I’d been wondering what to do with it. We keep honey in the house, but I bought dried mango and honey-roasted cashew nuts specially for my chosen recipe – tree food flapjacks!

[*As far as I’m concerned, they’re a lot more healthy and nutritious than a lot of the snack foods we stuff our faces with.]

Superfruit flapjack mixture

Ingredients for superfruit flapjacks: (makes 10-12 flapjacks)
240g butter
200g brown sugar
200g honey
400g porridge oats
15g baobab powder (this superfruit is available from health food shops, but can be left out)
60g dried mango, chopped
60g honey-roasted cashews, chopped

I use salted butter because a) that’s what we have and b) I like sweet & salty. I was right there before salted caramel became a thing! If you prefer to use unsalted butter then go right ahead – I won’t judge you πŸ™‚

Dried mango is hard to chop, so I ended up using the kitchen scissors to slice it into small pieces. Cashew nuts are easy to chop, but they’re brittle, and so the ends tend to ping off into the distance. My advice is to hold each nut between your thumb and first finger (against the chopping board) and chop between your fingers (carefully!) so the pieces stay contained. Plain cashews will be fine, if that’s what you have.

Making flapjacks is a relatively simple process. Using a pan big enough to hold all of the ingredients, gently melt the butter and stir in the sugar and the honey. I learned to make flapjacks at school, from a recipe that suggested the sugar would melt into the butter. It doesn’t. What you end up with is a warm sugar sludge with a floating coating of melted butter πŸ™‚

Once you have that, take the pan off the heat and stir in everything else – the oats, the cashews, the baobab powder and the mango. Keep stirring until everything is coated in the sticky mixture, and the sticky mixture has all been soaked up.

Superfruit flapjacks ready for the oven

Press your mixture into a well-greased tin – I used a silicone muffin tray to produce individual portions. Deeper is better, as a shallow layer tends to bake into a tooth-busting brick. Deeper flapjacks go crunchy on the top but stay deliciously chewy in the middle.

Baked superfruit flapjacks

Pop this into a medium oven (180Β°C for my fan oven) for 20-25 minutes, until the top is baked a darker golden colour, and has gone crispy. There may be bubbling, that’s all good.

If you have baked one big tin, use a knife to gently mark off individual portions while the flapjack is still warm, as it’s very hard to do later. Leave it to cool completely – it’s very tempting to try it now, but attempting to remove it from the tin before it’s completely cool will encourage it to crumble everywhere (I know, I tried).

Superfruit, superfood, supertasty flapjack!

The finished flapjacks are ooey, gooey, crunchy and chewy. The baobab powder gives them some zing! I have no idea how long they would last in a biscuit tin, because mine disappeared almost as soon as Ryan got home πŸ˜‰ I have to make another batch now, Ryan has developed a superfruit flapjack dependency. They are rather tasty; good job it’s Christmas!

TREE AID Grow Hope campaign

This Christmas, you can help families in Africa grow their own tree foods by supporting the Grow Hope appeal. TREE AID are asking people to support the appeal by fundraising or making a donation. To find out more and make a donation visit the TREE AID website.

Image credits: I took the flapjack photos, the rest are from TREE AID πŸ™‚