Some days it feels like you took your eye off the ball, and I think today was one of those. I’ve been swamped in writing work, including a regular project that needs educational diagrams in addition to the writing. Today my head was mashed.
Oatcakes may not have the reputation as hedonist food, but to Magpie they are the greatest. Rich with butter and plastered with whatever your imagination delimits you have, they are vehicles of destruction. Self-destruction, if you will.
If you’re buying them, beware of palm oil, that bitter, earthy (like cement) flavour permeates the taste buds and wantonly wastes the opportunity for a little bit of joy.
But wait. Stay your hand; move it away from your wallet. Back off from the supermarket and leave your trolley in the car park. There are few things more pleasurable than devouring your own creations (that, after all, is the point of this site).
This recipe works and is even easier than scones or cakes or anything.
Preheat the oven to about 190 deg C.
Take just over 8oz rolled oats and whizz in the food processor until it’s as fine as you like. Bang the full 8oz into a bowl and chuck in 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, a healthy pinch of salt (Maldon of course)* and 2 tbsp melted butter. Combine with 1/4 pint of water until you have a stiffish, stickyish dough.
Heave the dough out onto the work surface which you have sprinkled liberally with the remainder of the oatmeal. Roll it out until thin, and cut into shapes or rounds (using a glass in this case).
Using a metal spatula or a fish slice, gently lift them on to an ungreased baking tray and shove in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes. They don’t want to be brown, but just that light honey, beige.
* Magpie loves Nairn’s cheesy oatcakes, so she also threw in 2 tblsp grated Grana Padano cheese at the dry ingredients stage.
The special thing about granola is that it tastes so good. Made yourself from oats, butter, honey and fruit, it really is good for you. It’s still high in calories, sugar and fat, but because they are from natural ingredients that taste amazing, they are more satisfying and there is a sensible quantity of nuts to help to sustain you longer with protein.
Stewed fruit (peaches and nectarines here) topped with low fat yoghurt (or even creme fraiche) and a handful of granola.
In handfuls, gobbled up in seconds (still warm).
In a bag, cooled, take it to work, devour it to the livid envy of everyone in the office. (Make sure you let them taste a tiny handful, so they can really appreciate what they are missing.
Ice cream topping.
Fruit crumble topping.
Pancakes with granola mixed into the batter.
Fresh fruit salad with cream and granola topping.
Image C/O: davidlebovitz.com
Using the quantities in the Amateur Gourmet’s blog with my ingredients I can present to you: Magpie’s genius granola. Damn it’s good. It’s like risotto. You make the basic staple first and then add the flavours to it in any combination that works. Recipes like that are incredibly freeing.
2 cups rolled oats
1tsp mixed spice
1 tsp salt
Toss these dry ingredients together like a salad. Note: I wouldn’t put as much salt in as that. I did and I could taste salt sometimes.
3 tblsp melted butter
4 tbsp light brown sugar
Mix these together and pour onto the dry ingredients. With hands alone, squeeze the nectar into the oats, making fists in the mixture until the syrup is even throughout. The oats should be lightly coated with a thin sheen of sweetness.
Now you have the base.
Preheat the oven to 160 C or 325 F and prepare 6 tbsps each of four different nuts, seed and dried fruit. This particular genius combination was chopped dates, whole almonds, pumpkin seeds and sultanas.
Spread the oat mixture chunkily across a baking tray. It’s best not to put too much on one tray because it doesn’t crisp up so well. Put into the oven for 10 mins.
Take out, turn over the pieces and sprinkle the 6 tbsp almonds across the surface. Back into the oven for 10 mins.
Take out, turn over the pieces and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds over. Back into the oven for 5 mins.
When the oat rubble is golden brown and becomes crunchy when cool, remove from the oven and sprinkle over the chopped dates and sultanas.
Mix it all up, cool thoroughly, and store in an airtight jar.
There are, of course, a variety of routes that granola can take to your belly.
If you think granola’s good for you, look again. Read the ingredients of your commercial granola (take Jordan’s for example) and check out the Palm oil and the quantity of sugar:
British Conservation Grade™ Wholegrain Oat Flakes (65%), Raw Cane Sugar, Raisins (13%), Vegetable Oil (Rapeseed Oil, Certified Sustainable Palm Oil), Flaked and Chopped Almonds (3.2%), Honey (1%), Sunflower Seeds, Natural Flavouring
A quick look at the nutritional information shows that there is 26g sugar in every 100g, so it comprises 26% of the granola. More than all the dried fruit and nuts and honey put together.
This is a product that has been called ‘Crunchy Oat Granola with Raisins, Almonds & Honey’, yet honey makes up only 1%. Can we even taste it at that level? The almonds are sliced and diced within an inch of existence and even the raisins are less than the all pervasive sugar.
And what’s natural flavouring? The third paragraph in this article about natural flavouring explains precisely what it could be, but there are so many it would impossible to hazard a guess.
The point is; Jordan’s granola isn’t the worst it could be. It isn’t a crime against humanity, like cheese strings or Spam or Fray Bentos pies*, but it’s sneaky. Under the guise of ‘good for you’, it presents a product that isn’t quite what it says on the tin.
It sets out to deprive the consumer of the luxury of strong and plentiful flavours by using cheap oil instead of butter (palm oil can have a grating, bitter undertone in a product); and it hardly throws a touch to the wind with the honey and nuts that it shouts about on the side of the bag. Instead it relies on sugar and oil and flavourings to replace the essential flavours of the healthy, tasty ingredients which are expensive to buy.
Just…What a disappointment.
Images C/O: Jordans
* never mind the intensively reared animals that were harmed in the making of those products.