I’m not really a breakfast-y person during the week, because I don’t like eating in a hurry (and weekday mornings are always a hurry). The joyless wolfing of a lukewarm bagel on the way out of the door leaves me cold, so I’d rather do without, or settle for my patented standby of espresso and a couple of Medjool dates. However, a fresh batch of granola creates the exception to the rule. And not least because it’s impossible to eat slowly.
Yes, you can buy granola pretty easily, but making it is completely worthwhile and you won’t look back. Not only can you tweak it the way you want it, but it’s a soothing, quite nurturing experience, as you coax an oaty mess into aromatic, golden clusters. The basic components of granola are simple: oats (I use Flahavan’s jumbo oats because they keep their shape well and if I’m honest, I love the packaging too) + syrup (the sticky mixture which will bind, flavour and sweeten) + bits (the nuts, seeds, dried fruit or whatever else you want to add). I was inspired by too-ripe bananas, and idly wondered whether they would translate to a granola flavouring. And they do.
- 175g jumbo oats
- 150ml water
- around 3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 ripe bananas, pureed (easiest to pass through a sieve; a few lumps are OK)
- knob of butter
- sunflower oil
- soft brown sugar
- generous handful of walnuts
- 5-6 dates
Preheat the oven to 170 and line a wide tray with a reasonable side (so that you can stir and coax without pinging it everywhere) with greaseproof paper.
Then make a syrup with the water and sugar, and let it reduce a little, before beating in the knob of butter and maple syrup, off the heat. Stir in the banana puree. If you wanted to add spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg etc), now would be the time to do it. Pour in the oats and a good slug of sunflower oil, and stir quickly and carefully – you don’t want to crush the oats. It’s now a sticky, unappealing mess, and that’s fine. Spread it onto the baking sheet, sprinkle over a good pinch of salt flakes (try smoked salt if you like – it works really nicely!) and put in the oven.
Timings will depend on your oven entirely. Give it 20-25 minutes or so and review. You’ll probably find that the outside is toasting nicely and the inside is sticky and doughy. Carefully dislodge the lumps that are forming, making sure that you move the crisper edge bits to the middle, and the sticky middle bits out to the edge. Sprinkle over another spoon of soft brown sugar and put it back in the oven. You will probably need to do this 2-3 more times, at intervals of 15 minutes or so. Keep the mixture moving so that it toasts evenly, and add a small spoon of sugar each time.
When it’s looking golden pretty much all over, take out and cool. The lumps may not look quite like perfect clusters yet, but they will dry out and bond as it cools. Now you can toast the walnuts on a separate sheet in the still-hot oven – they won’t take long. Crumble those in to the cooled granola, and add chopped dates. A nice tip, if you can stand the thought of more sugar, is to roll the chopped dates in some Billington’s golden icing sugar. If you haven’t tried it, this stuff is amazing, with a butterscotch-y flavour, and will add a bit more mellow, maple warmth to the whole thing.
Stick it in a jar and enjoy breakfast heaven for a few days.
Once you’ve got to grips with the oats + syrup + bits rule, you can pretty much go wild. Try apple compote in place of bananas and add hazelnuts and sultanas. Rhubarb works, with some gingery syrup. I reckon when plums are in season, that could work too, with almond syrup… and maybe some toasted bits of marzipan added to the final cooled crunch.