In Praise of Granola

Breakfast is, without a doubt, the most divisive meal of the day – everybody has an opinion on its importance, when it should be eaten, where it should be eaten and what should be eaten.  Unlike dinner, or to a lesser extent, lunch, our habits of eating this early morning meal differ wildly from one another.  For example, you have the breakfast purists:  those who believe in a hearty, early morning breakfast eaten at the dining room table (usually porridge), extravagant types who shun the kitchen in favour of buying their breakfast or those who take a more relaxed, any-time-anywhere approach.  The latter are often seen in London – in the queue outside my local Starbucks, the construction workers who seem to loiter outside the McDonalds in Victoria Station every morning, smug flexitimers in beautiful Soho cafes and, most disturbingly, those who eat on public transport.  In the last few months I have seen a woman eat a whole pepperoni take out pizza on an 8am journey on the number 12 bus (I would love to know where you can get hot pizza in East Dulwich at that time of day) and a woman on the Jubilee Line eating left-over take out curry from a foil tray using…. wait for it…. the naan bread as a scoop.  Some people, like myself, prefer to eat as soon as they wake, putting them somewhat into the purist category, however there are some who find the idea of eating in the morning nauseating and prefer to break their fast later in the morning, much like my colleague Trish who tortures me with the smell of a sausage sandwich at around 9.30am every morning when my mid-morning peckishness is starting to take hold.

My breakfast habits are very clearly divided into two camps: those during the week and those at the weekend.  The weekend is when breakfast really comes into its own – having a morning at leisure means that I can mix up batch of pancake batter or spend half an hour caramelising onions until they make the perfect sweet accompaniment for a sausage sandwich – but during the week it is impossible, even for an early riser, to dedicate this amount of a morning to food preparation.  So whilst the weekend breakfasts are all about eating beautiful and imaginative food (and usually foregoing lunch as a result), weekday breakfasts are more about convenience and something that will stave off the hunger pangs until lunch.  Of course, toast and porridge are the likely contenders but, during the hot weather this summer, I was thrown a wildcard in the form of granola.

Of course, I had eaten granola before, but in the form of tooth-achingly sweet shop-bought granola dumped on top of some equally sweet yoghurt.  The only place I ever saw proper granola was in cafes and restaurants, usually at the weekend, when the temptation of eggs benedict was too high for me to try it.  Whilst sweltering in the local supermarket and feeling thoroughly uninspired by the cereal selection, I decided that it was definitely time to attempt making my own.  The beautiful thing about making granola is that, provided you get the proportion of wet and dry ingredients about right, you can pretty much ad lib all of the ingredients and customise it to suit you.  The wet ingredients are usually made up of a combination of oil and syrup or honey, and the dry ingredients of oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit.  This can lead to a bit of a rampage in the baking aisle of the supermarket, frantically grabbing every nut and seed in sight, but the best way to approach it is to bulk by the main ingredients.  Oats are key and, thankfully, cheap and for me, another essential is desiccated coconut as it gives that little crunchy graininess.

Some tips for making granola:

  • Always gently heat the oil and syrup/honey together before combining it with the dry ingredients – it loosens it up and makes it easier to mix.
  • Stir the mixture half way through cooking to ensure it bakes evenly.
  • If you are going to add dried fruit, always stir it into the cooked granola – never bake it.

Below are two of my favourite recipes.  The first is a chocolate granola, adapted from the wonderful Orangette blog – this is a great granola to make for children or adults with a sweet tooth, the second is a maple, walnut and cranberry granola adapted from a recipe by Lorraine Pascal.  Both will brighten up your morning.

Chocolate Granola

Chocolate Granola

Chocolate Granola

  • 300g rolled oats
  • 50g sliced almonds, roughly chopped
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • 80g desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 150g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 150ºc / 300ºf / gas 2.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with baking parchment.

Combine the oats, almonds, seeds, coconut and sugar in a large bowl.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and honey over a low heat until combined and the honey is loose.  Stir in the dry ingredients, ensuring that they are all coated in the honey mixture.

Spread on to the prepared baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring half way through to ensure it bakes evenly.

Once cool, stir in the chocolate and store in airtight containers.

Maple, Walnut and Cranberry Granola

Maple, Walnut and Cranberry Granola

Maple, Walnut and Cranberry Granola

  • 75ml maple syrup
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 25ml sunflower oil
  • 250g rolled oats
  • 85g mixed seeds
  • 75g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 50g flaked almonds, roughly chopped
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 75g dried cranberries.

Preheat the oven to 150ºc / 300ºf / gas 2.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with baking parchment.

Combine the oats, seeds, walnuts, almonds and coconut in a large bowl.

In a large saucepan, heat the syrup, sugar and oil over a low heat until combined and the sugar has dissolved.  Stir in the dry ingredients, ensuring that they are all coated in the syrup mixture.

Spread on to the prepared baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring half way through to ensure it bakes evenly.

Once cool, stir in the cranberries and store in airtight containers.

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6 thoughts on “In Praise of Granola

  1. Not convinced about chocolate in granola but on your recommendation I’ll give it a go sometime. I’m a cranberry-in-my-granola purist these days after making your cranberry and maple one a few months back. You’re so right about the shop bought stuff – this is a million times better!

  2. The chocolate granola is a bit sweet, but it works well with the coconut and almonds. I really love it because I have a sweet tooth, but I gave it to a friend that came to stay and he said it was like eating “middle class coco pops”!

    • “middle class coco pops” I love that! I nearly bought some Doves Organic Farm chocolate star breakfast cereal for the kids the other day and then realised I was effectively buying posh coco pops too!

  3. I made a hybrid of the two over the weekend… I think I went a bit OTT on the chocolate though… The first 3 or 4 mouthfuls are delish. The rest are a bit sickly. Great idea though, can’t wait to try some other alternatives!

  4. I’ve done that before! Once I was having a bad day so doubled the quantity of chocolate and then instantly regretted it! I’m trying out a pineapple, papaya and coconut granola next week x

  5. Pingback: Granola | Sneaky veg

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