Popped Quinoa Granola


  What an insane couple of months it has been. Work things aside, we just purchased our first house ... a massive milestone for us(!!!) - fellow self-employed peeps will understand, the phrase 'minor miracle' comes to mind. And while I've never been one for 'planning' as such, I did always hope that one day we would have a place to call our own. Us being us, of course, went for the more challenging option and decided upon a rather forlorn Victorian terrace that basically hasn't been updated in decades. The fireplaces are from the forties (I like vintage but these are just naff) and everything but everything is panelled so it feels quite claustrophobic at present. Oh, and did I mention the delightful avocado bathroom? Okay, I'm not going to lie, I did consider keeping the bathroom suite purely for kitsch value but have opted for a slightly more contemporary vibe much to my Mother's delight. Luckily these types of bathrooms are very desirable it would seem, so we're hoping to sell it for a pretty penny online, which should cover most of the cost of the update. Hurrah! Likewise, we're offering up the fireplaces to a local specialist who will come and take it away intact - no sledgehammers required.

Because we're renovating on a micro-budget, we'll have to do everything in stages - and a few (read many)compromises will be made in the process. That means no Fired Earth tiles for me (sob), and instead keeping things super simple. White walls, painted floorboards, clean lines ... we're just trying to create a tranquil space that still reflects who we are. Neither of us have any experience in this area so if you have any tips or advice please do leave them in the comments below - possible pitfalls, what room we should tackle first etc. etc. Thankfully, we have a three week head-start (we're not due to vacate our current rental until late March) which will give us enough time to take down the wall between the living room and dining area. The light is already pretty good but I'm hoping this will really open everything up, and create a more open-plan space better suited to our needs. Don't panic though, we're not just barging in with all our 21st Century ideas and eradicating any hint of the buildings past. Our aim is to restore a little Victorian charm to the place while we're at it. Most of our budget is going on the heating system (currently night storage heaters, ick) and installing cast iron radiators. Fixtures and fitting will also give a subtle nod to its heritage. Big ideas. Not a lot of money. Lets see how this pans out.

I've babbled long enough (I'm excited, what can I say!) so here's the recipe you actually came here for ... Popped Quinoa Granola. A bit of a revelation I recently (accidentally) discovered by way of another (savoury) recipe I was working on. Suffice to say, I had popped quinoa literally coming out of my ears, and so I decided to experiment and use it in a simple granola. The result? So. Freakin. Good.

A couple of things to note - don't use jumbo oats, instead go for those piddly little porridge oats that are super cheap and can be found in just about every supermarket. This will let the quinoa shine and help form those desirable clusters we so desperately seek in our granola bowl. Also, don't move or shake it too much - gently turn once, half-way through baking, and let it cool completely before transferring it to a clean jar. It's robust and delicate all at the same time ... and seriously addictive to boot. I've been adoring my oatmeal and polenta with it, sprinkling it over yoghurt and also eating it by the handful. Like I said. So. Freakin. Good. Enjoy!

  what you'll need

100g oats

50g quinoa, rinsed and dried

30g pumpkin seeds

30g sunflowers seeds

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

pinch pink Himalayan salt

1 tbsp. olive oil

60ml maple syrup

50g coconut flakes

6 dried figs, chopped

what you'll do

Pre-heat the oven to 150c.

Heat a dry cast-iron (pref.) skillet or pan. Once it begins to smoke tumble in the quinoa and shake immediately to prevent burning. The quinoa should make a light popping sound fairly quickly. Turn the heat down to a medium flame or setting, cover and let the quinoa continue to pop for a few seconds, ensuring to stir or shake frequently. At this stage I like to add a splash of water (1-2 tbsp. approx) cover and let them steam for a further 30secs or so, again, shake the pan frequently to prevent sticking or burning - I find they tend to puff up a little more this way, however, you can totally omit this stage if you wish. Once toasted, transfer to a lined baking tray and set aside to cool.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the oats, seeds and cooled quinoa. Add the cinnamon and salt, and stir to combine. Lightly whisk the oil and syrup together and pour over the oat mixture. Stir to coat and transfer to the same lined baking sheet you used to cool the quinoa. Bake for 20mins.

Remove from oven and add the coconut flakes and chopped figs. Gently combine before returning to the oven for a further 15-20mins.

Set aside to cool completely before transferring it to a clean jar. Will keep for at least a week. Serve with fruit and yoghurt for a quick breakfast or snack.