Chocolate hazelnut date bars.. and how my first kitchen came to be

There comes a time in a 6 year old’s life when they must have their own kitchen. As you can imagine this was especially true for me. And there came a day that I turned to Peter, who was flitting around our house looking for things to blow up and chemicals with which to do so, and I said ‘I’m going to need a kitchen’. Well Peter dropped the box of shotgun bullets, matches and caps, and took off his re-purposed metal bowl that doubled as a helmet, and the search instead began for equipment.

The thing about living on a farm- and I use the term ‘farm’ with caution, is that a ready supply of moderately dangerous tools are within arms reach. My parents are firm believers that if you’re stupid enough to injure yourself with something you probably deserve it, and so with the most minor of warnings they’d leave most tools- hammers, nails, chainsaws etc within easy reach. The exception was trees. My father had a morbid fear of us falling out of a tree and given the size of our main climbing tree it was probably justified. Never did fall out of that tree in the end, I’m much better at falling over for no particular reason from a standing position (or handstand hold, as I’ve discovered the hard way). My dad’s filing system was probably more of a danger than the machinery itself, given that it mostly involved piling things in the corner of the shed with a bottle of dettol nearby for when the saw fell on you and sliced your arm or leg open the next time you needed a tool. Generally you went for the bucket which contained a multitude of fencing accessories, nails, and a hammer hurried deep within. We called it the tetanus bucket. In general, as young children in the west of Ireland, you knew to avoid mainly 2 things, the slurry pit and overhead lines. As children we were plonked in front of a farm safety video on a yearly basis, and the cast of glenroe warned us of farm dangers, but we all knew the main one was the slurry pit, which is probably the only danger children are warned about that they don’t immediately want to go out and test for actual level of danger.


Well Peter and I donned our wellingtons, packed some light refreshments (cheese and onion tayto and a mini caramel bar each- my mother was never one for buying sweets but sidle up to her in dunnes with treat size caramel bars and you knew there’d be chocolate in the house for the week. Caramel bars and jelly babies) and took to the farm to find a kitchen worthy spot. Being 6 and not quite au fait with what a kitchen would actually need- a water supply, electricity, general shelter, we decided one of the gardens was probably a reasonable solution. Picking up the tetanus bucket on the way for supplies, we made our way to the side garden, as it’s so aptly deemed in our house (We’re nothing if not creative. Case in point: one of our longest surviving cats was named kitten. For about 6 years. Kitten was a ginger cat who graced us with his presence on a regular basis, until he finally got sick of us calling him kitten and took off to the mountains). The side garden, if you can picture it, is a medium sized lawn complete with a smallish shed that the dog used to live in, 3 apple trees, a swing hanging between two of the apple trees, and an old halfway house stables that has fallen into disrepair and is now home to an immense number of weeds and a few trees that are growing through the walls and windows. Over beside the apple trees was a little thicket- for want of a better word. A small area of closely interwoven shrubs and hedging. We stood at the swing, dropped the bucket and surveyed the thicket. Hands in our pockets. Peter had acquired a bit of grass that he now stuck in his mouth. Stamped the ground a few times to test the foundations.

‘Seems like the place..’

‘It does..’

‘Got the swing here too’

‘True. Can’t beat a good swing… There’s a ready supply of apples.’

‘Right. On with it so.’

‘I’ll get the kitchen equipment. We might as well get ready for dinner, it’ll be hungry work.’

I set off to gather my kitchen equipment. This mainly included a small white and blue plastic frying pan, a mini rolling pin (see below), and red plastic pastry cutters in the shape of a gingerbread man. On return approximately 7 minutes later, I found that Peter had given up on the hammer and instead had acquired a small plastic pink chair which he had used to bash a path into the middle of the thicket and created a small clearing. He had taken residence in the plastic chair, put his feet up on a pile of battered hedging, and was just short of smoking a pipe in an air of happy satisfaction.


‘Grand job.’

‘It’ll do the trick.’

‘I suppose I’ll put on the dinner.’

‘Do, I’m starving now.’

I busied myself shovelling some dirt into the frying pan. Having read in Enid Blyton books I was only too aware that in the world of fake food mud pies are quite the delicacy, and opened the tayto as an accompaniment. I stand by that original menu to this very day.

However there are times when mud pies and tayto simply won’t be enough. I hate to admit this but I’m afraid it’s a fact of life and needs to be accepted. I’ve taken to getting a bit fitter lately (via , and one of my new staple backup foods that I can have between work and going training are these chocolate, date and hazelnut bars. I’ve brought them with me a few times and the recipe has been requested, so without further ado.. (Excuse the photo, I’ve left a lot of my camera equipment at home so this will have to do for now!)

Chocolate, date & hazelnut bars


400g pitted dates
120g rolled oats
70g cocoa powder
50g almond butter
70g honey
150g hazelnuts
30g chopped or ground almonds
30g walnuts

  1. Soak the dates in boiling water for about 5-10 mins, then drain.
  2. Using a food processor, whiz the hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts. Life is much easier with a food processor to make these, but theoretically you can chop everything finely.
  3. Then whiz the dates and cocoa powder together in the food processor. You may need to split this into two in order to fit all of the ingredients
  4. Add this mix to a bowl along with the oats and nuts.
  5. Put the honey and almond butter in a saucepan and warm over a medium heat, stirring to bring together into a paste.
  6. Add the paste to the bowl with all of the other ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Add to a tin and allow to set in the fridge. This usually only takes a few hours. Then cut into bars or squares.
  8. Bring them to crossfit and feed the masses..




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