There’s something evocative about cherries. When they come into season in the UK, it’s a sure sign that summer is on its way. As they grow plumper and juicier, thankfully they also become slightly more affordable which is good news. Pick up a cheap cherry stoner at Robert Dyas or your local supermarket. It’ll come in handy for stoning olives too.
A food processor is useful but certainly not essential for this recipe. You can use a handheld mixer to blitz up the wet ingredients. The longer you soak the dates for, the easier they will be to blend.
A baking tin measuring 20 x 15 cm will host the amounts suggested in the ingredients list below. Don’t worry if you don’t have one this size, the mixture is stiff enough to merely occupy the space you tell it to, and so you can partially fill a bigger tin, for example.
Ingredients (makes around 12-15 squares)
200g fresh cherries
6 Medjool dates
160g oats (gluten free or conventional – you can also use jumbo oats)
35g flour – I use rice flour
1 tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
25g coconut oil
25g almond butter
1 tbsp maple/agave syrup
Juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp of water
Preheat the oven to 140 (fan)/160 (conventional)
- Before you begin, stone the dates and leave to soak in boiling water for about 15 minutes.
- Stone the cherries and halve each fruit.
- Prepare an oven-proof tin by lining it with greaseproof paper and greasing it lightly with coconut oil.
- Pulse the almonds briefly in a food processor, or put into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin. You are aiming for little chunks rather than crumbs. Tip into a large mixing bowl along with the sieved flour and cacao and cinnamon if using.
- Dry fry’ the porridge oats for a couple of minutes in a saucepan, stirring constantly to stop them burning. You do not need to use any oil here and the idea is to lightly toast the oats to allow them to crisp up. Tip into the flour mixture.
- Gently melt the coconut oil and almond butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the maple/agave syrup.
- Fish the dates out of their soaking water and put them into the food processor with the orange juice and 1 tablespoon of the water. Blitz for a few minutes to break up the dates as much as possible. Pour in the melted coconut oil and nut butter. Blend again.
- Scrape this runny paste out into the oats and other dry ingredients and incorporate well – use your hands! Drop in the cherries – don’t worry if you can’t mix them all in at this point.
- Dump the mixture into the tin, splitting up any clumps of cherries and poking them back into the dough so they are evenly dispersed.
- Cook for 30 minutes until firm. Leave to cool in the dish and then slice into squares.
I am sharing this recipe with Ren Behan’s Simple & in Season