Photos by Donna
I used to eat the best granola when I was a feckless student at the University of Sussex outside Brighton. For years I tried to find something similar but never could. A few years ago I started making it myself in big batches. But I was sort of, well, feckless about it. I'd throw some oats in a roasting pan, some chopped nuts (almonds and walnuts usually), some sugar or honey and bake it and however it came out, it came out.
Then I thought I should do a recipe (I don't hate recipes!), just to have a record of one. So I looked up a half dozen recipes to see variations and how others made granola, and they all hued to the basic formula above. Then I looked at several on allrecipes.com and came across one that was either a eureka moment or an I'm-an-idiot moment (more of the latter than the former, surely). Someone, a former cook at a B&B as I recall, made a liquid mixture of sugar, a banana and water. Water? I thought. Then I thought, of course, water would be a fantastic way to distribute spices and flavors and then the oven would get rid of the water. It works great and is now the standard method in this old house. Here's the most recent version.
1 or 2 bananas
1 cup strawberries
⅓ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup honey
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
several gratings of nutmeg (optional)
2½ pounds rolled oats
½ cup wheat bran
½ cup flax seed
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup almonds, sliced, slivered, or roughly chopped
1-½ cup dried cherries or cranberries
Combine the bananas, strawberries, sugar, honey, oil, water, cinnamon and nutmeg in a blender and blend till thoroughly pureed.
Combine the remaining ingredients except for the dried fruit and mix with your hands till the ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour the fruit sauce over the oat mixture and stir till it's all evenly mixed. Bake for 45-60 minutes at 300 F., stirring every 15 minutes or so.
When the mixture has cooled, add the dried fruit and store in an airtight container. Excellent with homemade yogurt. Yield: Plenty! Can be halved.