So, it’s January and everyone’s banging on about diets, detox and healthy eating. Diets aren’t really my style but am trying to eat more fruit and vegetables and cut down on bread etc. I wanted to eat more oats, bran and other grains as they are widely regarded as having many nutritional benefits, slow-releasing energy etc. I love bread/toast but find I’m hungry again in an hour or so. I tried porridge instead of toast for breakfast for a while but found it got quite boring pretty quickly, if having every day. I find most cereals that you can buy are either too sweet or too bland, and most mueslis tend to resemble bird food, in my opinion. So, to mix it up a bit I decided to make a batch of granola as a crunchy, tasty alternative. I like to start with a basic recipe and then add some optional extras, the added dried fruit and nuts give an extra sweetness, flavour, texture and energy to keep you going for longer. It can also be kept in a little pot in your bag for emergency snacking. No, this is not exactly low in calories and yes, I have sweetened and enriched with butter (I am a chef after all!) but you could reduce or omit if desired. The key thing here is to put in what you like, and injecting fruit, fibre, nuts and seeds into the diet, which otherwise might not have been included. I tend to make things up as I go along to satisfy my cravings or requirements, or use a recipe as a guide or starting point then adapt to my preferences, rather than pluck recipes out of a book and follow to the letter.
Try it yourself and let me know what you think.
250g bran flakes
Optional extras – Choose any combination, or all, of the following;
50-100g nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews etc.
50g coconut flakes
25g pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds
50-100g dried fruit: apricots, banana, pineapple, papaya, raisins, sultanas, cranberries, blueberries, cherries etc.
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. You may need to chop up some of the fruit/nuts, apricots for example. I like to keep skin on the hazelnuts, almonds etc. and keep quite chunky, or whole.
125g light brown sugar
175g honey, maple syrup or golden syrup (or combination of 2 or all 3)
Warm in a saucepan on a gentle heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
Leave to cool slightly then stir into the dry ingredients.
Pour into a large roasting tray, lined with baking paper. Leave some air gaps, do not press down into tin. The heat dries the mixture out so that it is crunchy, it also roasts the nuts and oats in the process for more flavour. You may need to bake in 2 batches, and stir in the middle of the cooking time to allow air to circulate. Bake for 10-15 mins at 180c. By this time it should be golden and crisp. Leave to cool and give a good stir to break up. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, it should keep fresh and crunchy for a couple of weeks. You can refresh in the oven if it loses it’s crunch.
I like to add a spoonful of greek yoghurt and fresh fruit like grapes or blueberries on top, and have a glass of orange juice on the side.