Every morning for breakfast I have a bowl of what we call in our house "punishment museli". I'm assuming I don't have to explain what this is, but perhaps for my overseas readers, "punishment museli" is a collection of dusty rolled oats, nuts, seeds and clumps of raisins. No added sugar. Semi-skimmed milk. Washed down with tea - also no added sugar.
I used to eat Shreddies for breakfast, or toast with marmalade, or Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. I even at school once, when I was in too much of a serious hurry even for cereal, had an eclair. But then my dentist said: "Okay you're getting to the age when your teeth are going to start falling out. Stop eating so much sugar." And instead of ignoring him and going straight out to buy a Mars bar to eat on the way home, like a latter-day Adrian Mole, I took it all in.
"Shit," I thought. "I don't want my teeth to fall out." And so I stopped having sugar in my tea (worse than giving up smoking) and started on the punishment museli. Bastard dentist. This is not my current handsome bastard dentist, but a previous bastard dentist. Less handsome but still able to freak me right out, like a bastard.
But the punishment museli thing has kind of grown on me. And I've started noticing that if you are looking for something to snack on, it's almost impossible to buy anything that isn't rammed with sugar. I'm on the move quite a lot at the moment - not for any interesting reason - and often find myself adrift in London town and starving, but unable to locate anything to eat that isn't a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, a McDonald's cheeseburger or a Curly Whirly.
So I thought I'd give some oat bar snack things, that I saw in Nigella Express, a whirl. I'm in two minds about these things. They're not especially indulgent but they do, actually, do a pretty excellent job of providing a portable, minimum-sugar, punishment snack.
If you're not really into punishment foods, there is also a way of making these more edible and less like something you'd find in an emergency supply tin in a bothy half-way up Ben Nevis.
Punishment biscuits (called something like Rise-And-Shine Bars in Nigella Express)
250g rolled oats
75g dessicated coconut
8 dried apricots, chopped
1 large handful raisins
1 large handful hazelnuts, chopped
1 small tin condensed milk
1 Turn on the oven to 130C
2 Warm the can of condensed milk in a pan
3 Combine all the other ingedients in a bowl and then add to the milk and stir
4 Turn out into a greased, loose-bottomed square tin (or round, it's only aesthetics. For my US readers, this is a springform tin)
5 Bake for 1 hour
6 Eat, grimly.
If you want to change these from punishment to merely a light rap across the knuckles, add to the milk 2 tablespoons of golden syrup and a knob of butter and melt together before adding the oat mixture.