Once upon a time, my Indian grandma was left in charge of packing school lunches for my sisters and me. We were sent off to school with some potato curry and a garlic chutney so fierce my eyebrows twitched on the bus all the way to school and I couldn't bear to open the Tupperware in fear of what might be unleashed on my friends.
After that, I outlawed traditional Indian food in my packed lunches, setting my mother free to get creative with Anglo-Indian dishes that became family favorites.
This granola bar using dates, coconut and peanuts is among the recipes she created. It doesn't use sugar, instead relying on dates and honey as sweeteners. The dates add a lovely fudgy texture and the oats and peanuts give slow release energy which will keep your kids (and you) going for a few hours. Cinnamon and ginger, in a nod to India, are used in small amounts to add a hint of warmth and extra flavor.
Mum used to make it in big batches on a Sunday and fill the house with the most divine smells, which would creep under the door while I was doing my homework. For the rest of the week, I'd look forward to packed lunches knowing what I was going to get.
Date, coconut and peanut granola bar
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1 1/4 sticks butter, unsalted
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup honey, plus more to drizzle
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
Grease and line an 8-inch square baking pan and pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Add the butter, dates, honey, coconut, ginger and cinnamon to a deep saucepan and heat over a low flame until butter and honey melt, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the oats and chopped peanuts until mixed, then spread evenly into the baking pan. Pat the top down with a spoon to smooth the top and drizzle top with honey.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until brown and firm on top. Cool before cutting into squares.
These bars will keep for up to a week in an airtight tin.
Nutrition information per serving: 200 calories; 107 calories from fat; 12 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 11 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 3 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Meera Sodha is an Indian foods expert and author of "Made in India: Recipes from an Indian family kitchen." She lives in London, blogs at www.meerasodha.com and tweets at @meerasodha