I am cleaning my pantry.
Here are some embarrassing items I have found – embarrassing because I’m not going to use them before I leave:
1) A can of sweetened adzuki beans, bought with some vague Japanese dessert plan, and who left me wondering why exactly can’t I make it from real adzuki in case I wanted to. I still don’t have an answer to that, and anyway the chances of me trying my hand at doing adzuki paste filled mochi are getting thinner by the hour.
2) A small sachet of powdered ‘latte macchiato’, a promotional gift from a pharmacy. There are a lot of pharmacies in Germany and they try to buy you out by giving you little presents – these particular powders were awful, and I’m not sure of why I kept them – or maybe they were not that awful, it is just that I’m not into powdered drinks. I preferred the pharmacy where they gave you little paper blocks.
3) A bag of kamut, the oldest item to date, bought a few days after I moved to Germany in a moment of enthusiasm for all the organic supermarkets: I did not like it, I found it bland when compared to spelt or barley, and it takes ages to cook.
4) Three packets of powdered sugar. When I think I have finished something, I keep on buying it until I have a huge supply. Three packets of breadcrumbs, same logic.
5) A bar of agar agar, bought before I found where they sell the powder here, and mother to more than one culinary disaster – I’d like to know what was in the head of the supermarket’s buyer when he decided to stock solid agar agar as opposed to powder.
6) Some Vietnamese rice paper, and with ‘some’ I mean something like two hundred leaves: considering that four are plenty for a meal, and that I make little rice paper rolls – very cute! – maybe every two months, I wonder how long this stock could last me.
But there is plenty of interesting stuff as well: Italian Venere rice, pitch black, still vacuum packed; my mother’s candied tomatoes and some Calabrese sun-dried tomatoes in oil, both extremely useful for I’m-too-tired-from-packing-to-cook type of dinners. I also had five different types of sweeteners, two types of flakes, and five types of seeds. That could find a natural solution: just ask Kim Boyce what to do with it. In ‘Good to the Grain‘ there is a recipe for a seeded granola. You know those bars of seed brittle you see sometimes in market stalls (at least in Italy) or ethnic shops? She was inspired by that to make a granola. Mind you, it is not health stuff like my usual granola. It has butter and sugar(s). But when you think that most of it is nevertheless good seeds and good flakes, and that you’d probably pick this granola as a snack over any slice of cake or cookie, it is a pretty healthy treat.
I twisted the recipe considerably. I think this is the idea: it is one of those recipe where the more, the merrier: just pile it on. What brings it together are two things: the generous amount of butter and sugar caramel coating everything, where any sugar substitute will only add welcome funkiness to the mix; and a pinch of cayenne, difficult to pin but definitely there, and oh so addictive. I used a ‘Zuckerrüber syrup‘ – beetroot syrup- I have been using as a reasonable substitute for molasses in several recipe, with a lovely caramel flavour, and then some agave syrup, some honey, and a coin of palm sugar. All those sweeteners are pretty interesting in their own way, but I find that palm sugar works particularly well when making granola. I like to use palm sugar when cooking savoury dishes, of course, and that’s why I bought it, but although I have never made a cake with it, it is a great addition to crumbles and compotes, wherever you want some fudgy flavour, but not as strong as molasses.
Just one note. The measurements are given in cups because this is how I make granola – I just grab a generic tea cup and use it for all ingredients. Works pretty well for me.
What is the item in your pantry you are less likely to cook with, right now? And the most precious one?
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups rolled spelt flakes
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flaxseed
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tablespoons honey
50 gr palm sugar
1 teaspoon flaky salt
70 gr sugar
Preheat the oven to 150 C. Take two baking sheets and line them with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper.
Measure and mix flakes, seeds and cayenne. Wet the palm sugar with some water if it is very hard, let the moisture softer it a bit, then crush it in a mortar (you can also grate it, but 50 gr is a lot of sugar to grate) . Mix it with the other sweeteners, salt and butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Put over medium heat until bubbling. Mix to make sure all palm sugar has dissolved, then leave the syrup on heat until even the center is bubbling clearly. Take it off the heat and pour over the flakes and seed mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or a spatula until every single flake is well coated; this will take a few minute of thorough stirring. Arrange on the baking sheet, pressing it slightly.
Bake for 10′ then scrape the borders to the center and put back in the oven. Repeat 3-4 times until all the granola is a dark colour, to taste. Dont’ worry if it is soft - it will harden as it cools down. Let it cool without stirring to encourage clump formation. Finally, when it is completely cold, stir in an air tight jar. It will keep for at least one week, in case you don’t finish it.