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Variations - granola

"There is no real recipe for it, as it is made to the taste of the person preparing it." Family Spice

Yes I know - this is not granola. It's Ajil a Persian kind of trail mix about which British Iranian author and chef Yasmin Khan tells us:

"Iranians nibble on ajil - a colourful mix of dried fruit, nuts and seeds throughout the day."

It seems that ajil also has a prominent role to play at the Persian New Year - the spring equinox, when bonfires are lit to drive away the dark - a common feature of pagan festivals around the world at that time of year. To me a mix of nuts and seeds and dried fruit doesn't immediately spring to mind as a suitable accompaniment for such an occasion, bonfires yes:

"a celebration where the light (the good) wins over the darkness (the bad). And to celebrate, you need fire! ... The bonfires are made for you to jump over them. You shout out: “Sorkhi to az man or zardie man az to!” (“Give me your beautiful red color and take back my sickly yellow pallor.”). All that is bad and evil from the previous year is taken by the fire, so you can start the new year cleansed and ready." Family Spice

and apparently that 'trail mix' is passed around.

Whatever the reason I am focussing on this mix because in her book Saffron Tales, Yasmin Khan takes that ajil and turns it into Persian ajil granola, the recipe for which can be found on the Jono and Jules website - website I come across now and then and which is on my list of websites to look at more closely one day. (The two versions are shown below.)

It's a beautiful book with many wonderful recipes within, but this is not one that I would have focussed on at all, were it not for the fact that it is the first recipe in the book. You see I don't do granola or muesli, or any of those things - except, as I have said before, at hotel breakfast buffets where I will sprinkle it - or toasted muesli on top of tinned fruit - a weakness I reserve for such occasions.

Here is her granola and the same recipe made by Jono and Jules, who like to eat theirs with poached quinces and yoghurt, and who, like me, are not professional photographers.

And by the way, are granola and toasted muesli the same thing? Apparently not quite - the main difference being less sugar and no sticky things like honey, or maple syrup in the toasted muesli. Clusters, are really the same as granola except they are not stirred during the baking process and therefore clump together - it's all that sticky stuff that does that. And that sticky stuff - one of those Middle-Eastern syrups, maple syrup, golden syrup, honey ... are there to bind it together as well as make them taste sweet. Apparently you can also add in the odd egg white if you've got one handy:

"Bon Appétit opts for beaten egg white. Strange as this sounds, the latter makes its granola addictively crunchy, so I'm going with that." Felicity Cloake

Felicity will take you through all the possibilities whether it be technique or ingredient in her How to make the perfect granola and really I think it's probably the technique that matters rather more than the ingredients. Nobody seems to be claiming they have the 'authentic' recipe here.

The main tips seem to be to use jumbo rolled oats if you want them to clump together, and not to cook them for too long:

"half an hour at a far more moderate 150C will do the trick; keep stirring if you want a looser texture, but let it clump to its heart's content if you prefer it chunkier." Felicity Cloake

Ajil may have been around for centuries, but granola hasn't. It's a nineteenth century American invention - well the foundation for what we now have anyway. In 1863 Dr. James Caleb Jackson who ran a health spa, invented the mix and the baking thereof, calling it granula, which he registered as a trademark. However, the canny Mr. Kellogg made his own version a few years later, at first calling it by the same name, but then having to change it - to granola. After a while it faded out of view, until the 1960s when the hippies of San Francisco rediscovered it and made it famous. It was something that went along with all that stuff about getting back to nature and living a healthy life:

"in the popular imagination, granola is to the world of mainstream breakfast cereals what folk music is to throwaway pop ... it's unprocessed and authentic". Seb Emina

It's not that healthy though is it? There seems to be quite a lot of sweet stuff packed in there. Some of it is 'natural' - dried fruit, honey, maple syrup and so on, but there's real sugar in there as well - at least in the packaged versions:

"Granola didn't sell very well when it was good for you. Now it has caramel, chocolate, marshmallow, saturated fat and sweeteners with a small amount of oats and grains. Sales picked up." George Carlin

Which is why if you are going to make granola it does make sense to make your own - and maybe stick to the less sweet dried fruits, like sour cherries, apricots, figs, barberries and fewer sultanas. There are heaps of recipes out there which will give you a start, so make one of them and then start playing around with it. It's pretty easy. And add real fruit to it when you eat it.

"Granola – muesli with pretensions, or breakfast of the gods?" Felicity Cloake

As a first recipe to make you buy the book? Well it looks great, it looks easy, and if you are into breakfast it might tempt you. I bought the book anyway, so it obviously had no influence on me other than appreciating that it was a pleasingly aesthetic book to buy.

Why did I buy it? I think I had read some reviews and I was a fan of Persian food.

And just food for thought:

"If there is a new fascism, it won't come from skinheads and punks; it will come from people who eat granola and think they know how the world should be."

Brian Eno

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09 avr.
Noté 4 étoiles sur 5.

Well if Brian Eno says it, then it must be so. More than this. Nothing! I too like to nibble on granola!

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