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We don’t often cover motorway services on this blog, but the original Offmotorway website was created because of the dire state of the food (particularly vegetarian food) served at the UK’s motorway service stations. The site existed to recommend getting off the motorways and finding alternatives, which is still largely to be desired of course. However I do occasionally cover interesting developments when something pops up! And in this spirit, I finally made it to the new(ish) services at Beaconsfield, Junction 2 of the M40.
The services caused a stir when they opened earlier this year as this is the site of the first pub allowed at a motorway services, operated by JD Wetherspoon. But that aside, this is a slightly different service station, which makes for a pleasant stop. It feels more like a shopping centre than a services, with a large, airy interior. There’s a huge selection of food outlets, so no shortage of veggie options, although they are all chains. Patisserie Valerie are there, a favourite still, despite it’s expansion over recent years to near ubiquity in every town in the country!
What sets this place apart though, is the outside space, with a lake, small walking trail, picnic area and children’s play area. All free to use of course, even if you bring your own sandwiches and flask of tea.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of having a pub at a motorway services, at least here there is evidence of careful thought having gone into the design. And you can take a proper, relaxing break here if you want to rather than just be ripped off buying terrible food!
I discovered these sweet treats in a gorgeous book called Lost in London, which is all about finding green and wild spaces within the capital. The book is full of wonderful hidden spaces, and it includes articles on food foragers and producers who are all finding ways to live the good life in the most urban settings.
I used gluten free flour, which works perfectly. I also followed the suggested amount of sugar and they were seriously sweet, so you may want to reduce the quantity a little!
Date Slices – by Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery
250g chopped dates
150 ml water
Zest of 1/2 a lemon (or splash of lemon juice)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
150g light brown sugar
3 tbsp. honey
250g gluten free flour
250g rolled oats (gluten free)
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line an 8 inch square tin (or similar).
Place all the date paste ingredients in a pan and simmer until the dates break down and start to form a puree. Stir well, or blitz in a food processor.
Melt the butter, sugar and honey in a pan over a gentle heat and stir gently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
In a bowl, mix together the flour and oats, then stir through the melted butter mixture until well combined.
Spread half the oat mixture in the base of the lined tin. Dollop the date mixture around the tin and smooth to an even layer. Spoon the rest of the oat mix on top and press down to a firm layer.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the oats have started to brown. Cool slightly before cutting into approximately 16 squares, then leave to cool before lifting from the tin.