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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Red berry granola

Hello folks, happy autumn. How was your summer?

I know that ‘how was your summer’ can be a pretty loaded question. Summer is that magical time where you are supposed to have adventures, and yet somehow expectations and reality never seem to match up. Well, for me at least. Maybe things are turning around though, because this year I actually had a really brilliant summer, and seeing as I didn’t even go on holiday, I think that is quite an achievement.

In mid-August, I went away with a group of 18 friends to a yurt camp in an organic farm in Cirencester, and I think it was one of the best weekends away I have ever had.

What I loved was how we all came together to create incredible food for the whole weekend. With an epic roast chicken Friday night dinner feast, and Becky’s incredible shakshouka with eggs from the farm, and baba ganoush with aubergines roasted in the campfire. One of the best experiences for me was a moment on Saturday night, where we had all forgotten to make dinner before it got dark. Standing in the field kitchen as curry genius Gavin’s sous-chef, stirring two giant pots with a headlamp and two boys hanging out of a tree above my head dangling lanterns over the stove, was definitely surreal, but absolutely brilliant – I felt like the kitchen queen.

One of my contributions to the weekend was granola that I made for breakfast time. I had never made granola before, although I have it for breakfast for most days. I was amazed at how much better homemade granola is – it was a revelation. Served with almond milk (uht and perfect for camping), it went down really well.

When we went to the yurts, I made the granola using gluten-free large rolled oats, and it was perfect – the oats stayed separate, perfectly crunchy and it didn’t go stale despite making it a week before. I’m sure it would have lasted another week, had we not finished it so quickly. When I came back, I made another batch using regular rolled oats (Quaker brand), and it didn’t work at all – the oats lost their shape and clumped together – it didn’t stay as crunchy and went stale very fast. I’m not sure if it was the gluten-free-ness of the first lot of oats that made them so perfect, or just the fact that they were better quality.

Makes a big box-full

450g large rolled oats (gluten-free if you can get them)

1 cup blanched almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¾ cup apple and raspberry juice
(I used Coppela brand)
¾ cup maple syrup
90 ml coconut oil

1 level tsp ground cinnamon

1 level tsp fine sea salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried apricots (diced)

Preheat oven to 160C. (150 with fan)
Combine the oats, nuts and seeds in a big bowl (save the fruit for later).

Put the apple and raspberry juice, maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon, sea salt and black pepper in a small saucepan. Gently heat until coconut oil is liquefied, and the salt is dissolved. Don’t let it boil.

Pour the warmed liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and quickly stir it all together. Spread the mixture evenly in a flat layer over two baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, take the granola out of the oven and stir everything around. Put back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, take out and stir again.

Depending on the heat of your oven, you will need to bake the granola for another 10-15 minutes after that, but you should be able to judge how quickly it is toasting after the second round of 15 minutes. So in all, the granola will take 40-45 minutes until it is golden and toasted, and all the moisture is gone.

Let the granola cool completely in the trays before you box it. It will become crunchier as it sits. Stir in the dried fruit when completely cool. Store in an airtight container for a few weeks. Serve with milk or yogurt, or use to crumble over desserts.

Of course I have my eyes closed...

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