There was a time when I didn’t eat breakfast… or so I said. What I did, of course, was not eat breakfast at home. Instead I would grab the early train, nip into a coffee bar by Farringdon Station, order a coffee, open my laptop and then find myself back at the counter ordering something like a croissant. Or maybe two.
But I’ve changed. It was self-employment that did it, even before I came to my senses (insight © my mother) and left London. I used to go for a swim early every morning instead of standing at the station trying not to make eye contact with anyone. When I came back I was so hungry I would eat the kitchen – and I mean the units, not merely the contents of the fridge. The only way of preventing tooth marks on the fixtures and fittings was to make sure there was something ready for me when I got back. I experimented with all sorts of cereals, porridge with and without salt / jam / sultanas, types of toast, condiments – but I never really solved the problem. So many of the packet cereals – whether they were gritty and brown or mainstream and quite sweet – seemed rather dusty. Cardboard, with dried fruit.
Then I moved here, and a friend passed on a recipe for a homemade morning – and a late evening after meeting friends in the pub – solution: a granola. I’ve made several versions since then, riffs on the theme, and have finally settled on an adaptation which I particularly enjoy. I’ve also added weights and rewritten some of the instructions, which originally included such highlights as ‘watch the pan while galaxies form and reform…’.
I make a huge quantity, and last week I ran out. Time to load up again at the wholefood co-op and find the biggest bowl in existence. And by talking to someone in the co-op I’ve found the answer to a question which baffled me but probably nobody else: the difference between muesli and granola. Muesli is uncooked and uses no fat; granola is toasted in the oven, and uses a little. Commercial granolas tend to use quite a bit; mine doesn’t.
Makes a giant vat. I store it in a plastic box which takes 4kg of flour.
500g porridge oats
500g jumbo oats (used in two stages)
150g dessicated coconut
150g sunflower seeds
150g pumpkin seeds
75g set honey
1 tsp malt extract
100ml sunflower oil
100g flaked almonds
100g dried cranberries
100g dates, chopped
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees fan, 180 conventional (but watch for a heated element at the top – may need to adjust settings to avoid this getting too hot and burning the granola) or GM 4. Take a ginormous bowl and put in the porridge oats, 400g of the jumbo oats (set the rest aside), the coconut, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Put the honey – best measured by putting the full jar on the scales and spooning out honey until it weighs 75g less than it did – in a non-stick pan together with the malt extract. Then add the sunflower oil. Put the pan over a medium heat and melt everything together. As it reaches boiling point it will foam and rise up the pan (or alternatively start to look like galaxies forming); take the pan off the heat immediately and pour the contents into the bowl. Mix everything together thoroughly, breaking up any clumps that form.
When everything is combined, empty the mixture into some baking dishes. I generally use glass – Pyrex – ones; earthenware takes a little longer and metal roasting tins – tempting when you look at the sheer quantity – are unsuitable. Believe me #1. Don’t fill the dishes completely; you want to be able to turn the granola over and around to ensure it all toasts, and that’s difficult if you’re worried about spilling half of it on the oven floor. Believe me #2.
Bake the granola in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown. Then take the dishes out of the oven and stir them well, bringing untoasted grains to the top. Replace them in the oven and repeat the process until all the granola is golden brown and toasty, but not remotely burnt. Warning: it speeds up towards the end and will need checking more regularly. Believe me #3.
Empty the contents of the baking dishes back into the bowl and allow the mixture to cool down completely, possibly overnight.
Considerably later or the next day, put a large dry frying pan on a medium heat and roast the flaked almonds, shaking the pan and stirring as they warm up. When they are evenly light brown in colour and beginning to smell warm and toasty, empty them into the granola bowl. Scatter in the sultanas and cranberries, then chop the dates and add them too, along with the remaining 100g of jumbo oats. Stir everything together again and put the mixture into its storage container. Hide container.
It’s delicious with yoghurt…
Adaptations I’ve tried include adding 100g each of hazelnuts and chopped brazil nuts before cooking; adding chopped dried apricots and figs after cooking; adding flaked coconut at that stage too, as well as the dessicated coconut earlier; adding sesame seeds with the other seeds (not particularly good – too small). Just one word of warning – it’s easy to make it too cloyingly sweet, and treacle and/or golden syrup: no. Or at least that’s a no as far as I’m concerned. Thank heavens I only made a smaller quantity that time!