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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Granola?



I start with an admission. I have never before tasted granola. If you stopped me in the street for one of those television pop quizzes and offered me $1,000 to describe granola, I'd get as far as 'some type of breakfast cereal?'. To me, granola is something mentioned in Ramona Quimby books from my childhood. Hey, I'm Australian! I bet you don't have Vita Brits in your country! (...yes, and it's beside the point that I HATE Vita Brits. Nasty cardboardy things that go soggy too quickly)
And I guess that's my problem with breakfast cereals. I never grew up eating them because I just didn't like the texture when they went soggy, and they went soggy far too quickly. I didn't like the overwhelming sweetness of the kiddie cereals like Froot Loops, but I also didn't like the bland ones like Cornflakes or Vita Brits. So, while my brother was chowing down on Nutragrain every morning before school (with warm milk in winter, which did nothing but make it go soggy even quicker!) I always had a piece of Vegemite toast.
So, why now am I making my own breakfast cereal? And what's more, why am I making something I've never tasted before?! Well, this is a perfect example of being seduced by a pretty photo.
When I first received Nigella's book "Feast" I was flicking through looking at a few recipes here, a few pictures there and suddenly I stopped. In front of me was a gorgeous photo of a pan of some type of muesli creation, golden brown and full of whole almonds. What is this glorious creation?, I thought.
'Granola??? What the %*!# is granola again? Ohhhh - it's that thing they eat in America. Comes in boxes? Ramona Quimby ate granola cookies? Hmmmmm.....'
After looking through the ingredients, I knew it was something I wanted to make, but I forgot about it for a few months until I found myself in a health-food store this week looking at jars of brown rice syrup. Something was nibbling away in my mind....rice syrup, rice syrup, where have I read that as an ingredient? So, I bought it and today made my own American-style granola breakfast cereal courtesy of a British chef, in my Australian kitchen.
It's very easy to make, but it took me a little time to break up the clumps that had formed during the baking process. I didn't want big chunks of cereal, so spent some time evening the texture a bit.
I was worried as I made it. The oats smelled a bit too 'oaty' and despite the spices and apple sauce, the raw mixture tasted like bland muesli. I could foresee I wasn't going to enjoy this much, and thought about how many friends might enjoy a foodie present. I baked it up and tasted it again. Still meh. It tasted like a health-food shop. Ahh well, it was fun and I know other people would like it.
But, after I plated a portion for the photo above with a spoonful of natural yoghurt and a drizzle of brown rice syrup (yes, that's rice syrup, not honey in the photo - and yummy stuff it is too), I took a spoonful and suddenly it all came together! It all made sense to me! The crunchy, cautiously sweet, oaty, nutty cereal, with the thick tangy yoghurt and gooey sweet syrup created something wonderful!
So, I think I'm a convert to this granola creation. I'd better be; I have about 5 litres of the stuff to get through!! And it doesn't go soggy!
Read on for the recipe:



Andy's Fairfield Granola
From Nigella Lawson's 'Feast '


450g rolled oats
120g sunflower seeds (kernals)
120g white sesame seeds
175g apple sauce
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
120g brown rice syrup (found in health shops. Otherwise use golden syrup)
4 tablespoons runny honey
100g light brown sugar
250g whole natural almonds
1 teaspoon Maldon salt
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
300g raisins

Mix everything except the raisins together very well in a large mixing bowl with some large spatulas or salad spoons.
Spread the mixture out on two baking tins (the sort that come with ovens, and are about the width of a rack) and bake in a 170C oven, turning over about halfway through baking and re-distributing the granola evenly furing the baking process. The object is to get it evenly golden without toasting too much in any one place. This should take anything from about 40 minutes to an hour.
Once it's baked, allow to cool and mix together with the raisins. Store airtight.
Eat with milk for breakfast, with a spoon of natural yoghurt or by the handful.


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