If you like your cereal in the morning, you've probably figured out which brand you like the most and stuck to it for an eternity... people tend to be quite conservative with their breakfast choices and rarely try something new until they're forced to. For long stretches of my life, my breakfast of choice was to eat nothing, really, a shower and cup of coffee (and, sadly, a cigarette, but that's a vice I gave up a really a long time ago now) would be all I needed to get started in the morning, in fact, I couldn't even contemplate putting anything in my mouth before lunch time.
It was only when I lived in Mexico that I discovered the joys of a proper breakfast ritual (unsurprising, given that there was somebody to cook my breakfast for me and I didn't even have to lift a finger): freshly squeezed juices, eggs cooked any way I liked, fruit, pancakes, you name it, I ate it. Every day. Until I felt my waistline expanding like size zero had gone out of fashion and decided to do something about it... without much effect, unfortunately, since the breakfast granola I attacked instead was laden with sugar and fat and salt and other nasties... how was I to know?
These days, I make my own granola. It's the best habit I've ever gotten into, apart from baking my own sourdough bread. I love recipes that allow you to have a play and this is the prototype for fiddling with different flavours. If you're bored out of your wits just thinking about your breakfast, now's the time to do something about it. And it couldn't be easier. More often than not, I use porridge oats as a base, but there's a lot of variety out there even in oats - every grain imaginable comes as flakes at the moment, so use spelt, barley, rye, or, like I do here, a four-grain mix. Then I add seeds and nuts: sesame, linseed, coconut, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pistachios, pecans - whatever I have at hand. And if that isn't enough out of the superfoods department, I sprinkle over a good measure of berries (goji, acai, blueberries, cranberries etc) or dried fruit. Moisten up with some apple juice, a tiny bit of honey and some oil (this serves a purpose, too, as it'll help absorb vitamins), you can season this with any spices you like, but cinnamon and cardamom are my favourites. Spread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes - nothing could be easier.
Or yummier, in fact. As I don't do milk when I can avoid it, I usually have a tablespoon or two sprinkled over a fresh fruit salad in the morning - which is why I usually omit the dried fruits - , but I can't help but have a handful whenever I feel peckish. It's good for me, though, and what's better than having something that is good for you AND you enjoy at the same time?
This is my contribution to this month's "Waiter, there's something in my..." hosted alternately by Jeanne of Cook Sister!, Andrew of SpittoonExtra and myself. The theme I have chosen for April is "breakfast favourites" and you have until the end of the month to send me your own creation!
Very nutty home-made granola*
70 ml grapeseed oil
100 ml good quality apple juice
1-3 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
80 g sesame seeds
40 g linseeds
40 g pine kernels
60 g shelled, unsalted pistachios
30 g pumpkin seeds
50 g hazelnuts (roughly chopped)
100 g brazil nuts (roughly chopped)
150 g cashews (roughly chopped)
150 g four-grain porridge oats
50 g dessicated coconut
Pre-heat oven to 200 C.
Warm the apple juice and oil and dissolve the honey in it. Careful not to overheat.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, stir thoroughly. Spread on a non-stick baking sheet.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes to make sure the mix is browning evenly.
Leave to cool completely before filling into a large glass jar / airtight container.
Keeps for at least 1 month, but won't last that long. I promise.
* This is very loosely based on a recipe published in "Eat Yourself Smart" by Charlie Ayers.