Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sugar Free Granola

I like to be healthy at breakfast time. Starting the day well is very important to me, and then we have the odd treat, like bacon & eggs or pancakes and pastries on weekends.

There are a couple of things that I love to eat during summer, and then during the winter I like to mix it up a bit with porridge.

The first is a sort of mixed up bircher muesli, which I'm pretty flexible with the ingredients, but always using the base of rolled oats. I'm never quite organised to leave this to soak overnight, but I find that 15 minutes or so whilst I'm having my first cup of tea for the day is more than enough for the flavours to start to mix.

Ingredients for my cold oats are roughly 2/3 cup of oats with a handful of frozen raspberries and a handful of frozen blueberries, soaked in either yogurt (greek yogurt or vanilla Jalna are constants in my fridge) or full cream milk. Then add in a sprinkle of slivered almonds, finely sliced dried apricots and sometimes a few dried sour cherries. And a few chia seeds if I have them. I will also use a fresh mango, nectarine or peach if there's one sitting in the fruit bowl.

It's pure goodness, a satisfying and ice cold breakfast if you include the frozen fruit. Oats are great for cholesterol, but also for satiety, and I find that I don't normally need any morning tea if I've had oats in the morning. The frozen berries also turn the milk a deep berry colour, something akin to what cocoa pops do, only the healthy & natural version!

My other favourite breakfast is homemade granola. I'm a bit addicted, and not just to the taste, but also the whole process of making granola. It smells wonderful, and the roasting of the nuts make them super special, and intensify the crunch.  This version is a healthier granola, and sugar free, unless you choose to add dried fruits at the end.  (Here's a link to the other granola I love to make too). I honestly don't think that flavourwise the dried fruits are essential, the granola is sweet on its own, but they add another softer texture to the muesli.

I served it this morning with a few sultanas and sour cherries (again!) and a dollop of greek yogurt. Gorgeous weekday breakfast, something I look forward to it when I wake up.

This recipe is from the Rose Bakery Cookbook, my favourite cook book for the moment. And that is a big call with my cookbook collection growing each month!


300g rolled oats
100g whole natural almonds
120g sunflower seeds
120g pumpkin seeds
1 Tbs wheatgerm  
125ml (1/2 cup) apple juice
4 Tbs sunflower oil, or another neutral oil

Dried fruit such as apricots, sultanas, raisins, sour cherries - to taste, optional


Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees.

Mix all the dry ingredients and coat in the sunflower oil and apple juice.
Spread evenly over a large baking tray.
Place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the granola every 15 minutes or so to ensure the muesli is toasted evenly.
Allow to cool before mixing in dried fruit.
Serve as an accompaniment to other cereals, or by itself, or with yogurt.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What I've been cooking lately

I've been absent a lot from my blog lately. I could apologise, but really this is probably the way things are going to be for a while. Blogging twice a week would be ideal for me, I never wanted to be a once-a-day sort of a blogger, but even that is way beyond my capacity right now. The little girl keeps me more than busy most of the time, and we're also renovating our house.

That hasn't meant that I've forgotten about food altogether, I still love spending time in my kitchen, and find that even on my tiredest days I am revived by preparing and eating something that I truly enjoy. Mostly that means old favourites that I don't feel like writing about. Pesto, curries, baked eggs....

I've started experimenting with jams too. These strange fruits are a native Australian fruit that we found in my Father-in-law's garden. Like many of those not-so-nice fruits the literature says they are 'good for jam'. Most things are good when immersed in their weight in sugar, but anyway, I thought I would give it a go.

They are strange things, very solid, with a pale flesh that could be compared to an unripe nectarine or peach. Each fruit also contains 4 to 5 very solid black stones that need to be removed. The preparation part for the jam was a lot more arduous than using traditional stone fruit I must say, even with my sharp Global knives I struggled to cut into the black apples.

The rest of the jam making process was fairly normal, although once finished I found that the fruit was still very solid, rather than soft like other stone fruit would be. It was quite edible but a bit of a fail overall. There is a reason why we don't see black apple jam on the shelves of Coles!

Another little experiment was making praline, inspired by The Rose Bakery cookbook. The bakery is a beautiful little cafe near the Gare du Nord in Paris which I visited on my last trip to France in 2007. They have no website for me to link to, but here's a lovely review by Chocolate & Zucchini.  They bring English style food to Paris, that is less delicate and refined, but healthier and really tasty.

The book is gorgeous and I hope to be cooking a few other things from it over this rainy Sydney weekend.  Granola, Pistachio cake and some of the savoury tarts are all on the to do list.

Chopping almonds

Making the sugar syrup

Caramel setting over the almonds

Praline shards in my Magimix


The praline is so beautiful. The nuts make it less sweet than a pure caramel dust would be. I sprinkled it over Connisseur vanilla ice cream. And the best part is that I now have 2 jars full in the cupboard which can be used to sprinkle over cakes, muffins, ice cream and yogurt.

Have you tried Twinings new Australian Afternoon Tea? We bought some at the weekend. It's a strong but beautiful blend, something that would be more suited to the morning for me personally (I'm more of an Earl Grey or herbal girl in the afternoons).

We had a few friends over for dinner last night and I turned to Nigella. I've made this Greek lamb, lemon & chilli dish a few times, it's easy to pre-prepare the oven trays and put them into the oven for an hour or so when needed. The chilli and lemon make the dish special.

I served it with fresh bread and a green salad.  Simple, uncomplicated dinner.

For lunch today I used some of the lamb cutlets left over from last night and quickly fried it with some halloumi.

These were added to a winter salad of Israeli couscous, roasted pumpkin and a few green salad leaves with a bit of lemon juice on top. A strong combination of flavours, but just what I was after on this cold and wet Sydney day.

My new Emile Henry pie case awaits for this weekend, I just need to find the perfect beginner's recipe tonight to work out what to make.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

Have a great weekend everyone x