One of the joys of leading an expatriate life (and yes, there are many challenges too!) is meeting and befriending people from other nationalities. It is a luxury few of us have had as residents in our home countries.
In Nairobi, Kenya, I met Nicola. Well, to be honest, WE chose to be the neighbour. The estate agent – broker who was showing us around “warned” us that the house next door would soon be occupied by a family who wanted that particular house of the four available – it was in the far corner, had a larger garden – they had a LARGE dog. Well, that sealed the deal for us! People who choose a house for the sake of their pet have to be nice.
To have as your neighbours, in a foreign land, people who have similar likes and dislikes is a bonus. To live in Kenya and have as your neighbour a Scottish family that loves Indian food is stretching the bounds of probability. When that neighbour is also a fantastic cook, you know you have done something especially good in your early life!
She whipped up desserts out of thin air and we gorged on them. After all these years I still do not understand how she was happy to exchange these sinful bowls of goodness with our daily fare, our humble daal – chaawal – subzi (Lentils, rice, vegetable curry)! The grass is greener and all that, perhaps! One fine day, over a glass of chilled white wine, while discussing our household routine, as housewives are apt to do, (those afternoons of white wine on her patio make for some very happy memories – this must have been the origin of the term “happy hour”!) she discovered that my spouse was a cereal breakfast eater. (Okay, I had to play with that phrase! It is irresistible!) The next thing I knew I had a box in my hand – Nicola’s homemade granola! Said spouse loved it! Nicola kept me stocked! For the next couple of years, I never went to the cereal section of the local grocers. We moved, they moved. Life went on and we lived on nostalgia each morning at breakfast. All this was about 6 years ago.
Since then she has patiently sent and resent her recipe to me numerous times. Finally, I assembled the ingredients and the courage to try my hand at this. I don’t know about breakfast, but I am going to be snacking on this all day long!
Before sharing this crunchy and nutty recipe, readers here should make the effort to follow Nicola on Instagram @nicola.bertram. The photographs alone are worth it but the recipes are amazing. She has been working on a number of vegan dishes that are simple to create and as delicious as they are healthy. Each of those is also a feast for the eyes.
What is granola? It is, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, a baked version of muesli. And that really is all the introduction this recipe needs! I reproduce below Nicola’s Granola – yes, with her permission! And tweaked to match the contents of my larder! I simply halved the proportions for this first attempt. And I used a kitchen scale to weigh the ingredients to the last gram!
Pecans & Almonds – 1 1/2 mugs / 280 g (I used a mix of almonds and hazelnuts)
Oats – 2 mugs / 240 g
Pumpkin seed, Sunflower seed and Flax Seed – 2 1/2 mugs / 450 g (I used a pre-mixed pack!)
Coconut Oil – 3 tbs
Maple syrup – 3 tbs (You can use honey if you don’t want a completely vegan mix. Honey can cause some clumps to form when baked.)
Cinnamon (ground) – 3 tbs
Raisins – 1 mug / 200 g (Options are apricot, goji berry, dates.)
Preheat the oven to 200 C (fan 180 C) / gas mark 5-6
Partially crush the nuts in a food processor. Pulsing is a better option than a continuous grind!
In a large bowl mix the nuts, seeds and oats. Stir together.
Melt coconut oil with maple syrup and cinnamon on the stove. Once dissolved into a sweet liquid, add to dry ingredients and mix well. (I skipped this step since my coconut oil was already liquid! I just poured / sprinkled them individually into the dry mix.)
The resultant mixture was slightly sticky to touch – as it was meant to be!
Place the mixture on a baking tray. Bake for 30-40 mins until crunchy. Stir in between to enable every bit of the granola gets toasted and the top doesn’t burn. (After the first 15 minutes I turned on the grill!)
Once perfectly cooked, remove from oven and stir in the raisins. (I made a mistake in reading the instructions and tossed the raisins into the mixture along with the oil-syrup-cinnamon – so they got cooked!)
Store in an airtight container. Though I doubt this will last long enough to go soft! It is delicious!