Simple Crunchy Granola
I like to keep things simple. The sheer volume of newness in my life right now demands it - other wise I would sink under and drown. When you ditch your regular life for one that is completely new, everyday tasks become complicated. I live in the country now so I can't just pop to a shop when I run out of something. Ingredients that I would have used regularly in Ireland have become impossible to source. The supermarkets have 20 different sour cream options but no fresh cream whatsoever. Certain ethnic ingredients are unheard of and I can't use Google to source them as my Lithuanian is just not good enough yet. Brands and packaging are unfamiliar and so I must spend longer deliberating over options rather than just doing a grab-and-go as I would have done back home. Grocery shopping has become a chore.
So I keep it simple. If a recipe has more than a handful of ingredients and if any if those ingredients are items I don't have to hand it's tempting to skip ahead to something else or run back to old, familiar favourites. When this happens I try to look at the core of a recipe, distinguishing the embellishments from the essentials. And I try to remain open-minded about substitutions - are sour cream and fresh cream really all that different when used in a dish?
I've always loved granola. Crunchy, not too sweet, full of fruity delights and nutty bites. Back when I had a "good job" I used to buy a fancy one in a tub. Topped with a dollop of live, organic yoghurt I felt I was giving my body the best possible start to the day. These days, such luxuries are well beyond my budget.
I don't know why granola tends to be so expensive - it's just toasted muesli. Despite being easy to make granola seems to carry an air of mystery. "You can't make me at home so you must buy me", it whispers. Recipes I read were varied and lengthy. So I decided to break it down and just start with toasted oats. It turns out that toasting the oats is pretty much all there is to it. When they're crispy and golden as you like, just chuck in a handful of your favourite dried fruits and nuts and voila - you're done. You can add seeds and other healthful additions if you like, but they are far from essential - your granola will be yummy without them.
I urge you to give this recipe a go because it's just so simple. You can use whatever fruit and nuts you happen to have in your cupboard. On one occasion I was out of nuts and so made it with just the fruit and it was still delicious, though not quite as crunchy. You can make it without either fruit or nuts - just the toasted oats - and then top with sliced fresh banana or apple directly into the bowl. The variations are endless, but don't let that overwhelm you. Just start with the oats and take it from there.
Notes on ingredients:
I like to use jumbo, organic oats but any oats will do. At the moment I'm buying a mixed bag of flakes from my Farmers' Market containing oats, barely, rye, wheat and buckwheat, which adds a bit of variety. I usually use a runny honey, but a set honey will also work as you will melt it with the butter. I love my butter and would never consider using anything else, but for a vegan version or if you prefer to use oil you can substitute 50 mls of your favourite oil for the butter. Olive, rapeseed and sunflower all work well. I'm currently using dried pineapple and cranberries as my fruits. When I get tired of these I'll move on to something else. If you're using something large like apricots, cut them into bite-sized pieces before adding them to the oats. I used whole, shelled nuts and roughly break them with a rolling-pin so I get nice chunky pieces. You can use skinned nuts or pre-chopped nuts if you prefer. I always use uniodized sea salt. It's just a preference - use whatever salt you have. Don't leave it out, though - it really does balance the sweetness from the honey and fruit.
400 g oats
50 g butter
2 Tbls honey
50 g nuts, roughly chopped
200 g dried fruit in bite-sized pieces
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (340 Fahrenheit).
- Place the butter, honey and salt in a saucepan and melt over a low heat.
- Place the oats and nuts into a large casserole dish or roasting tray to form a layer no more than 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick. This is so that the oats toast evenly.
- Pour the melted butter-honey mix over the oats and stir well to coat all of the oats with the liquid.
- Place the tray in the oven.
- After 15 minutes remove the tray and stir the oats well - those at the edges and on the bottom tend you toast quicker, so you need to keep mixing to ensure an even, golden crunch.
- From this point forward you need to mix the oats every five minutes. Oats can seemingly take an age to brown and then suddenly catch and burn in minutes, so keep a close eye on them.
- When the oats are toasted to your liking (which takes about 30 minutes altogether), remove the tray from the oven and allow the oats to cool completely.
- Mix in your dried fruit and transfer your granola to an airtight container.
The granola will keep well for about a month, although it rarely survives that long in our house!
This article first appeared on www.myfoododyssey.com.