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Wild In The Country

July 19, 2011

One of the views from Pen Y Fan

So just a quick blog post before I run off to north Wales to climb Snowdon…

I don’t wish to boast, but every so often I become very aware of how lucky I am to live in Wales. This year, without even taking a huge amount of time off work, I’ve basically had a very long summer holiday in the country where I live. Lately I’ve been coming over all Duke of Edinburgh, donning multi-pocketed shorts and walking boots and evangelising to people about “the great outdoors”.  I spent a glorious sunny Sunday clambering up Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, it was a perfectly clear and virtually windless day – the near silence and the view from the summit is something that will stay with me a long time.

I also spent a weekend camping (yes, camping! How Famous Five am I?!) in the Gower. Again, blessed with good weather, I spent most of the weekend on the beach never wanting to go home again.

And this week, Snowdonia – Whoo!

I’ve discovered I love these little weekend (and occasionally mid-week) adventures. I have a pretty dull desk job and I need a lot of holidays to keep me sane. True, I have neither the time, nor the money (nor the organisational skills) to pop to the Seychelles of a weekend to help me get over a crappy work week – but within an hour I can be in the Brecon Beacons, or the Gower. In 40 minutes I can be at the nearest decent beach looking out to sea. In 15 minutes I can get to Caerphilly and have a wander around the castle for under a fiver. Wales is awesome.

This kind of holiday has an inherently punkish quality, in that you can pretty much just take off and do it, with relatively little planning and no assistance from The Man. No Ryannair and Easyjet, no Ramada Jarvis, no Novotel – not even a Holiday Inn. If you want to stay over somewhere in rural Britain, your main options are still little B & B’s with your breakfast cooked by the owner, family owned campsites, self-catering cottages – it’s a place where the little guy is still king.

This brings us to food. Obviously these places are full of fabulous country pubs, many of which do brilliant food, but if you want to go cheap, and add to the “weekend adventurer” quality of it all, it has to be a picnic.

I love picnics. I have a bit of a thing for eating outside generally, even more so in the countryside, where I’m less likely to be hassled by pigeons and seagulls.

There are two kinds of picnic. There’s the posh picnic, which is the kind you take to a nice park on a summer’s day where the picnic is the main point of the activity. You put it in a nice wicker basket, with some plastic plates and cutlery, and maybe some napkins. Ideally it includes some fizzy wine and a red and white chequered rug to sit on in your 1950’s vintage dress. These picnics are the main reason I’m jealous of people who have birthdays in the summer, so at this juncture we’ll say no more about them.

The second kind is what I like to think of as the “Adventurer’s Picnic”. This is the picnic you take with you when you’re climbing up a mountain, or exploring bits of woodland. It’s full of hardy, durable food that resists being bounced around in a rucksack, and can be eaten on the move if needs be – so no cutlery. By nature, it’s full of high energy carb and protein packed food to help power whatever it is you’re doing.

This kind of food also needs to be fairly quick to prepare, so, (in your jolly hockey sticks up at the crack of dawn mode) you can get going bright and early. Unless you have cool packs, it also needs to not have to be chilled to taste good.

My Ideal Adventurer’s Picnic

Sandwiches. If you’re organised enough to make bread the night before, you can have homemade rolls. My current favourite filling is to spread the roll thickly with houmous, then fill it with crunchy lettuce and grated carrot. Another good one is spreading the roll with your favourite pesto, then adding sundried tomatoes and fresh spinach leaves (add some mozzarella, or some slices of hard boiled egg too if you want).

Fruit I have learned from bitter experience that you really need to think this through. Nectarines, plums, and peaches are a crap idea – they just dribble down your chin and make a mess. Apples and bananas are good. So are grapes. You can also chop the stalks off some strawberries beforehand and put them in a little pot (the plastic ones that houmous comes in work well)

Crisps I can’t possibly have a picnic without crisps. That would be silly.

Baby wipes especially if you were a dumbass, and packed nectarines.

Lashings of Ginger Beer No real reason.  I just wanted to write the phrase “lashings of ginger beer”.

Flapjacks Perfect for this kind of picnic. Sweet, high energy, easy to eat, and easy to make. Flapjacks are pretty adaptable once you get the idea of the basic recipe (basically oats held together by fat and syrup), but the banana and sultana flapjacks I do go down so well every time I make them that that’s the recipe I’m giving here….

Banana and Sultana Flapjacks

Ingredients (You don’t need to be too precise regarding quantities for this, if you can’t be arsed to get the scales out, just guess and you’ll be fine):

50g butter or margarine

50g sugar

1  tablespoon golden syrup

250g porridge oats


2   Small – medium bananas (as with banana bread, over-ripe ones work best) – mashed.

A handful of flaked almonds (optional)


–          Put the butter and the sugar in a large pan, and stir over a low heat until the butter melts

–          Add the golden syrup and stir in

–          Add the oats a couple of handfuls at a time, and stir in so they end up coated in the sticky liquid. Add more syrup if it looks a bit dry.

–          Turn off the heat, and add the mashed bananas. Stir so they are well mixed in.

–          Stir in the sultanas and almonds.

–          Now spoon the mixture into a small, but fairly deep baking tray. You want the mixture to be tightly packed in and about 2 – 3 cm deep. Really pat it down with the back   of the spoon so it’s all compressed.

–          Bake in the oven at about gas Mark 6 / 200ºC for 20 minutes – until it starts to go golden and the edges look crispy.

–          Take them out, and score the mix whilst it’s still in the tray with a knife, to create the pieces, but don’t lift them out til they’re completely cool they stick together better this way)


7 Comments leave one →
  1. The Bystander permalink
    August 27, 2011 15:58

    I was going to ask how long the flapjacks keep for, but having just polished off the first tray I don’t think I need to know. Delicious – thanks

    • August 29, 2011 20:15

      Excellent! Glad you liked them (and thanks for the link). They tend nt to keep long if there are hungry mouths around as you know – but on occasions when I’ve kept a batch back, they keep for a good week in an air tight container.

  2. August 30, 2011 11:45

    I ended up on this page via the Bystander’s blog. Haven’t tried the recipe yet, but I think I might just dash some off before I go walking later this week. My late lamented mum used to make flapjacks, but not with bananas and sultanas!

    Oh, btw, I agree entirely – mini-holidays roack, punk or not.

  3. August 30, 2011 11:46

    roack – sounds like a raven! rock of course. Grrr.


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