Friday, 25 April 2014

In Search of Breakfast...

Hooray! It's Friday. I got there. And in a week when Mr Wren has been on a business trip (since Sunday and still not back - grrrr). And I got there without a single glass of wine and without the tiniest smidgen of sugar passing my lips. Unbelievable. Particularly the wine part.

It's actually fairly easy to avoid refined sugar most of the time.
I cook most of the meals we eat from scratch and you don't generally add sugar to your savoury cooking. Even baking is easy with a some substitution. I made some little spelt strawberry muffins this week with maple syrup in place of sugar and they were utterly lovely - you would never have known. They may make an appearance on the blog soon, actually.

So, generally speaking, avoiding sugar at most meal and snack times is entirely straightforward - the biggest challenge being controlling your own willpower. Except for one meal - breakfast. 

If you're having toast, or porridge or a fry-up, or anything else that requires a little light morning cooking then of course, it's no problem. But have you ever tried to find a ready made cereal that doesn't contain any sugar? It's near-impossible. Apart from the very plain mueslis, which (let's be honest here) bear more than a passing resemblance to hamster food. Dry, and dusty and jaw-achingly hard work to eat.

Now, I love granola. And I naively imagined that there would be dozens of versions sweetened with honey or maple syrup. And there are a few. But most of those also have sugar in there (why? How sweet do our breakfasts need to be people?) and those that genuinely are sugar free cost around £4-6. For cereal. I know.

The thing is that I also know how easy it is to make your own. I ate the most delicious freshly baked one every morning two Summers ago when staying at this glorious place:

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, South Africa

I loved it so much that the wonderful chef there sent me home with the recipe. Since then, I have made it many times. But not for a while. And it is a breeze, so I don't know what's stopped me really. The hardest part is the trip to the shop, to be honest. Although, it will completely take over your kitchen because I am making a vatful here. So much that it needs two roasting tins to bake in. Or three. Though you can easily halve the quantities for a smaller household. But if I'm going to go to the effort of making my own cereal (!) then I am going to make a lot. So that I don't have to do it every week. Because that would make me insane. 

So here it is. A divinely indulgent feeling, uber healthy, super tasty breakfast cereal. Perfect for a lazy weekend brunch.

Maple Cinnamon Granola

500g rolled oats
1 1/4 cups of sunflower seeds
1 1/4 cups of pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup of sesame seeds
1/4 cup of linseed
3/4 cup whole almonds
3/4 cup whole pecan nuts
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp (or more to taste) ground cinnamon
3/4 cup pure Canadian maple syrup 
90 ml (1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps) olive oil (not Extra Virgin)

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees C.
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large roasting tray. 
Add the oil and syrup and mix until all is well coated.
Spread the mixture out between two to three roasting trays (This depends on the size of your trays and  oven - you don't want the mixture in too thick a layer or it'll take forever to crisp and colour)
Bake until golden brown, stirring regularly and scraping the mixture from the bottom of the tins as you do.
Remove from the oven.
Leave to cool while stirring every 5 minutes to encourage it to form lovely crunchy clusters.

Now, at this point you've already got a delicious nutty muesli. But I like to add in lots of dried fruit at the cooling stage. Today I added in 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup chopped soft dried apricots and a 100g packet of dried blueberries. You can add more or less and vary the fruit or not add anything according to your own personal foibles. Although, word to the wise - I love cranberries in granola but when I looked at the back of the packet I saw that sugar comes above cranberries in the ingredients list. That means that there is more sugar than cranberry in a dried cranberry! That's just nuts! So I left them out because I am being super strict at the mo. But if you are of a more relaxed dietary persuasion then bung 'em in!

Serve with cold milk, fresh fruit and Greek yoghurt or just eat it by the handful whenever you're passing the kitchen cupboard (like me!). Yummy yummy healthy breakfast in my tummy!

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