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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Food in UK, Part-4: English Granola

A few weeks after moving into our new flat, Becky wanted to make some of our homemade granola using our favorite recipe from the B&B. This was our "Coconut Cardamom Granola" (sorry that recipe never appeared in the Blue Goose Inn cookbook, for whatever reason.) Anyway, it's always been my personal favorite and we were both craving some.  So we set out to the stores with our shopping list of ingredients. It was nothing too unusual, but did include three ingredients that proved nearly impossible to find: ground black cardamom, dried coconut flakes and slivered almonds. This recipe also used pistachios and  Canadian organic maple syrup as sweetener and flavoring. While we could find pistachios and maple syrup here, they were both quite expensive and the maple syrup just didn't have the same flavor as the one we used back home.  

We struggled making a couple of batches of this granola using substitutes we could find including desiccated coconut, which was too fine in texture and grinding our own whole cardamom pods. Whole Cardamom pods are available at most larger groceries, but the only place we ever found the actual ground cardamon after lots of Googling was at a specialized Indian spice shop that had been closed due to the lockdowns.  After all the hard work, it just wasn't the same, so we had the idea, why not adapt the recipe to local ingredients we can actually find easily here and this can be our new "English Granola"?  

The first thing we wanted to change was the spices. We needed something that was more English and more readily available. We kept seeing something in the spice sections and baking isles of the grocery called "Mixed Spice". This turns out to be something very English yet very similar to what we might call "Pumpkin Pie Spice" in the USA. There are many variations on the recipe, but it usually is a special blend of such ingredients as cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, mace, cloves and coriander - more or less depending upon the brand or recipe. It can be found everywhere and it seemed like a perfect candidate to spice up our English Granola

Mixed Spice blend

Next up was the sweetener. We decided we wanted to substitute Golden Syrup for the maple syrup, to make it more English. Golden Syrup is also something that is very English and very easy to find and much more economical than maple syrup. This specially refined cane sugar syrup was developed by chemists from the Lyle factory in London in 1883. It is quite unlike anything we have in the US and has a distinctive butterscotch-like flavor, reminiscent of Werther's Original butter candy. A perfect choice for our English Granola. 

Lyle's Golden Syrup

While the slivered almonds also proved nearly impossible to find locally and whole and sliced almonds were easy to find, we kept some almonds in the recipe  and we decided to substitute cashews for the pistachios, since they are more readily available here and we could even buy them in the bulk food section at the store for quite a bit less per pound than they might be in the USA.  

Of course all these substitutions set off the fine balance of the granola recipe. The first batch was under-done and too sticky. After Becky made a number of fine adjustments to the balance of ingredients and cooking process, I think she has perfected a great new recipe - at least it's now my personal favorite. 

The actual recipe remains unpublished for now.  As I am not the actual chef, nor do I play one on TV or at a B&B, it is possible that some of my details in this story may be in error.