I may be prone to exaggeration, but I come by it honestly; that is, I wouldn’t consider how I describe things to be exaggeration, merely accurate. So when I call this The Best Granola, it’s not to be cute, it’s just telling you exactly how good it is. In fact — honestly — it’s better than any granola I’ve ever made before, and I have put my name to a lot of granola recipes. The idea for this recipe comes directly from Rachel Ama, and her book Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats; prior to that I hadn’t considered flipping the quantities of oats to nuts and seeds, now I will never make granola any other way.
This recipe is comprised almost entirely of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, the oats are there but resolutely in the background, and the result is extraordinary — so light, so crunchy without being the slightest burden on your masseter muscles, rich and very filling, but filling you with the sense that you could take on the world (or at least pick up that sock from the middle of the floor, where it has sat procumbent for the past week) instead of immediately needing a nap.
There’s no getting around the fact that this is an expensive recipe — although it does make a gratifyingly whopping five litres — but when supermarkets will charge you anything from $7 to $17 for a teeny-tiny bag of mass-produced granola, making your own pays for itself by the second bowlful, not to mention that in these times of alarmingly spiking cost-of-living, it’s one more way to avoid buying off the shelf from our tyrannical supermarket duopoly overlords. With that in mind, I obviously wouldn’t recommend using your local supermarket to buy the ingredients for this (unless wherever you happen to live isn’t currently experiencing the same price surges we are, coupled with an excellent range of products, in which case, good for you, and what’s that like?) If you have a Bin Inn or other bulk store nearby then this is the time to use them, if you weren’t already, otherwise, I recommend going to a smaller greengrocer or Asian supermarket, as they tend to have bags of nuts and seeds (usually on a small shelf above the fruit and vegetables) for significantly more reasonable prices than the supermarket, indeed, I recommend prioritising them over regular supermarkets as much as you can anyway.
As for the ingredients themselves, I know it might seem pedantic to ask for both whole and slivered almonds, but both of them together are necessary for just the right texture, and I swear they do taste different somehow! So far I’ve kept the flavourings fairly simple: a generous hand with the cinnamon, the smoky sweetness of molasses and golden or maple syrup, and the muted sourness of dried cranberries. You can use whichever dried fruit you like, but for me the cranberries work well here, feeling like more of a treat than sultanas, but still relatively inexpensive, and their jewel-bright colour is a lovely visual contrast to the Sahara-golden toasted nuts and the subdued green of the pumpkin seeds. Such is my trust in this recipe that I know whatever you end up putting in it will still work, indeed, I’m looking forward to slowly working through all my existing granola recipes, keeping their flavours but changing the method to match this one.
I do like breakfast in theory, and I like the idea of being a breakfast person, but committing to any kind of routine is where I stumble — and not just at breakfast — this granola, however, is so delicious that my day simply hasn’t started until I’ve eaten some, and if I have it in the house I will eat it every day for breakfast without fail, and all things considered I can’t offer any greater recommendation for it than that.
The Best Granola
Make this once and you’ll be hooked on its superlight, crunchy texture and deliciousness. This recipe makes a LOT, and I find that it’s worth the financial outlay in the short term to do it this way, but I have included smaller quantities in the notes if that suits you better. This recipe is based on Rachel Ama’s from her excellent book Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats, I’m forever grateful for it and am sure you will be too upon making this.
- 500g whole, natural almonds
- 500g whole, raw cashews
- 500g slivered almonds
- 500g pumpkin seeds (preferably organic)
- 500g sunflower seeds
- 200g whole flaxseeds (that is, not ground — they are also sometimes called linseeds)
- 150g sesame seeds
- 150g coconut chips/flakes
- 250g rolled oats
- 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup, or maple syrup
- 3-4 tablespoons molasses
- 3-4 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste
- a hearty pinch of salt
- 250g dried cranberries
1: Set your oven to 190C/370F on fan bake. Set aside two large baking trays — I use the ones that come with the oven, which fit into it like shelves, making sure that they’re very clean first with no prior roasted garlic etc residue on them. Basically you want something with a broad surface area and shallow sides.
2: Roughly chop your 500g each of whole natural almonds and raw cashews, so that you have some smaller, rubbly pieces and some nuts left whole. Logic would dictate that the quickest way to do this would be to hiff them into the food processor and pulse a few times, but for some reason I feel compelled every time to chop them by hand with my mezzaluna knife, which takes significantly longer and tends to send bits of almond flying everywhere. Up to you; but either is fine and, more importantly, doable.
3: Get the largest mixing bowl you can find — otherwise you may need two separate ones — and tip your chopped almonds and cashews into it, followed by the 500g slivered almonds, 500g pumpkin seeds, 500g sunflower seeds, 200g whole flaxseeds, 150g sesame seeds, 150g coconut chips, and the 250g rolled oats. Give them a stir, carefully, and then tip in the three tablespoons of refined coconut oil, three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, two tablespoons golden syrup, three tablespoons of molasses, and three teaspoons of cinnamon. Carefully stir this together — it shouldn’t be overly sticky, but add an extra tablespoon or so of molasses if you think it needs it.
4: Carefully divide this mixture between your two roasting trays, spreading it into an even layer. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. This seems like a long time but it has never failed me, that being said stop and check once or twice — sometimes it needs stirring before the twenty minutes is up, sometimes it doesn’t. After twenty minutes, remove the trays from the oven and stir, making sure the granola from the edges of the tray comes into the centre and vice versa, and return to the oven for another five to ten minutes, or until everything is nicely browned. It pays to stay in the kitchen while this is happening, because it can only be a matter of moments between toasted and burnt nuts; but don’t be too cautious either, you want the granola to really get some colour on it.
5: Once you’re satisfied at the done-ness — and bearing in mind that it will get crisper and crunchier as it cools — remove the trays from the oven and let them cool completely. At this point, sprinkle over a good pinch of salt (it seems easier to disperse it this way than in the mixing bowl) and finally tip the 250g dried cranberries over the two trays and stir them in.
Makes about 5 litres. Store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.
- If feeling flush or freewheeling I’ll sometimes add a small packet or two of pecans, roughly crumbled in my hands first, and while they’re not essential, they really do add a little something as you can imagine.
- I say 200g of flaxseeds but I have never once actually measured these properly, I just start pouring and stop when it feels right, I trust you to do the same. And if you can find organic pumpkin seeds, get them — for some reason they just taste nicer. Don’t stop yourself making this if you can only find regular ones though.
Quantities for about 1.5 litres of granola, as you can see it’s not a mathematically downscaled ratio by any means, but it works:
- 500g natural almonds
- 250g organic pumpkin seeds
- 250g sunflower seeds
- 100g flax seeds
- 100-200g sesame seeds, cashews, pecans etc, whatever you’ve got
- 100g coconut chips/shredded coconut
- 150g rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or maple syrup)
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste
- a good pinch of salt
- 150g dried cranberries
Wo de Schönen Trompeten Blasen, from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, sung exquisitely by Jessye Norman in this 1972 recording. I’ve started listening to opera while I’m writing (there’s only so many ambient beats I can cope with before getting bored) and so far it’s working well, the inherent beauty of opera makes for a great creative backdrop, most of it is more or less unfamiliar to my ears, and generally it’s not sung in English so the words themselves aren’t distracting. Which is not to damn Norman’s singing by calling it background music; her voice demands to be listened to — and so I will, again, outside of the context of writing — and I found myself pausing my typing to gaze misty-eyed into the middle distance while this particular piece played.
There is precisely one song — Army — by Ben Folds Five that I like (admittedly I haven’t tried very hard to find more) but I REALLY love it, but even then I specifically want to listen to this stripped back live version with just Ben Folds himself — there is not much more satisfying than when the audience comes in halfway through to sing the part of the horn section in the original studio recording. That being said, this live version with the full band, providing their own vocals for the horns is very charming, and Ben Folds playing two pianos at once is very impressive, but it’s the simple live version for me, and not much else.
Tornado, by Minako Yoshida, from her MONOCHROME album, which I have listened to so many times; it’s the kind of music that makes you feel like a Sophisticated Lady Late At Night (and I realise that saying those words is very unsophisticated, but.) All the tunes are spectacular, but you might as well start with the opening track, it’s moody, neon-lit, with not a small hint of Steely Dan.
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