It’s often at this time of day – around 4pm – that my stomach alarm clock tinkles gently. It’s not the alarming buzz of the one which always inconveniently rings whenever there’s a moment of silence whilst in company; my physio is very polite and hasn’t mentioned it yet. But at 4pm I am alerted in an almost timid fashion – ‘erm, excuse me, would it be ok if I have a snack now please?’ Now, you may not think that stovetop maple pecan granola can sync with a 4pm snack, but I can guarantee that, in fact, it certainly can.
I know that snacking on cereal in the middle of the day may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but oh my I really love it – I still remember this particular Special K cereal, I think it was called Creamy Berry Crunch (I just googled it and wow I actually remembered the name to the letter) that, when I was at school, was my favourite twice-a-day snack.
Pottering into the kitchen wide-eyed and innocent, like a puppy patting a knee for scraps off the table, hoping for something tasty and noticing a tub of crisp homemade granola sitting on the side is exactly the kind of snack-finding redemption story I like. Far too often, I’m stuck staring at a fridge containing half an onion, a tub of egg whites, and air, so an easy-to-access sweet treat which isn’t a cookie and therefore I don’t feel guilty, is totally welcome.
Sometimes I’ll just take a handful, pinching a few nuts and seeds between my fingers then carefully transfer them to my mouth like an arcade claw machine, then sedated, return to my desk. When I’m feeling more indulgent, the bowl comes out as well as some yoghurt and we all go back to work together and spend a pleasurable 10 minutes of desk eating.
Homemade granola is a different species to the packets of sugary clusters available in supermarkets. Your own version is personalised to your tastes, and is full of real ingredients – real nuts and seeds and none of those random pieces of dried apple peel. There are no crunchy rock-like clusters, instead, the oats are crisp and caramelised, infused with spices and maple syrup. The supermarket version (and my beloved Special K Creamy Berry Crunch) are desserts for breakfast. Homemade maple pecan granola is positively virtuous in comparison.
Easy Stovetop Granola
Cooking granola usually requires an oven and low, slow baking for the perfect crispness, however, I am currently sans oven – I swear this kitchen will be the death of me – so imaginative alternate cooking methods have been called in as substitutes (cooking tonight’s chicken thighs will be a fun adventure I’m sure). So, cooking on the stovetop was a pleasant surprise – it was effortlessly quick and it meant I could make a smaller batch, one that could fit in my plastic tub. However, that also meant, with all the day time snacking, it’s depleted far too quickly.
Granola consists of a dry mix meeting a wet mix. A muddle of oats, nuts and seeds are stirred into a sweetened and spiced liquid then cooked until crisp. All of the ingredients are up to the chef, and in this case, I have a weakness for maple and pecan. So, the liquid includes the contents of an upended maple syrup bottle, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom for that perfect autumnal scent (even though it is now December, but the leaves on the trees here in Toulouse are still gold and red and clinging on for dear life so I will dream of autumn days as I eat).
Fat is essential in granola as it helps to caramelise the dry mix and keeps it all crisp for days after making. The best fats for are the healthy ones, naturally, and who would want to pour frying oil into a pan of expensive pecans anyway? I love olive oil as it adds an earthy depth of flavour, and then I go adding spices, and salt and pepper too, and this cereal is something much more mature than Creamy Berry Crunch. Although my school-girl habit of afternoon snacking is here to stay.
Stovetop maple pecan granola
- 85 g oats I used flaked porridge oats
- 45 g pumpkin seeds
- 100 g nuts I used mainly pecans as well as a nut mix of almonds and hazelnuts
- 50 ml olive oil
- 50 ml maple syrup
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 2 cardamom pods seeds scraped out and bashed
- A sprinkle of ground black pepper
- A pinch of salt
- 100 g dried fruit I used a dried fruit mix which included currants, sultanas and banana slices
- Set a wide non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Once hot, toast the oats stirring and tossing to coat in the oil. Toast until crisp, golden and smelling nutty. Empty them out of the pan into a large mixing bowl.
- Now gently toast the pumpkin seeds until they start popping.
- Meanwhile, mix together the olive oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground pepper, salt and ground cardamom seeds in a saucepan. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. The flavours will amalgamate and the spices will become fragrant. Bubble away for a minute then remove from the heat.
- Pour the toasted pumpkin seeds in with the oats, then toast the nuts on low heat for 5 minutes.
- Pour into the bowl, along with the spiced maple syrup liquid. Stir everything together until completely coated. Tip it all back into the frying pan and warm through over medium heat to dry the granola. It will sizzle so keep stirring and moving everything around to stop the sugars in the maple syrup from burning.
- Cook for around 5 minutes until it's looking crispy and dry, then pour back into the bowl and leave to cool slightly.
- Stir in the dried fruit and store in an airtight plastic tub.