Since moving to Canada, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to really get into the spirit, and get down and dirty with nature. All in innocence of course, I’ve been trekking around the Albertan wilderness with friends and soaking in all the beauty and wonder that this exceptional country has to offer. It’s sometimes hard to put into words how these kind of sights change your life. To any Western Canadian, they might be second nature, but to someone like me, who grew up in a brick and concrete jungle of the West Midlands, it is truly magical. Being so close with the rock, the lakes, glaciers and animals, changes you as a person every time. Even seeing fresh bear tracks when you’re miles from home, or seeing a mama bear and her cubs, while moderately terrifying when it is actually happening, is still exhilarating beyond words.
There really is nothing better than sitting in on the top of a peak that you have just scaled, with a cup of warm tea, the cool breeze in your face, and a snack, scanning and surveying the nature with the eyes of an awestruck child. And like any hiker knows (in any country, anywhere), you know you need to keep food light in weight, nutritious, satisfying and most importantly, filling.
This recipe came about after my first hike in Canada, we went on a light walk around in the woods, it was still pretty cold at the time. We took some shop-bought granola bars with us, tea (dur!) and fruit. The lunch was well earned and appreciated, but something was off, and even after our snacks and refuelling, I still felt a little… empty, I guess, both in inspiration and in belly. I learnt from then that I would never again need to buy granola bars, because not only are they ridiculously easy to make, they are infinitely more satisfying when you make them at home.
I am a lucky person, I’m not allergic to anything, I don’t have any intolerances, and I’ll pretty much eat anything you put in front of my face-hole. So it makes it incredibly easy for me to make granola bars, this particular recipe is not suitable for vegans, mostly because I like the flavour that honey and butter gives, sorry vegans, I love you all really, this is purely indulgence on my part.
They are pretty hench, and they are good to use if you’ve got a few scraps of random things laying in your baking cupboard too, if you don’t like raisins, leave them out, allergic to walnuts? Forget abahhht it! You can bake them, or just leave them in the fridge to firm, you can freeze them too, and they last in the fridge for at least two weeks. They really are pretty versatile, don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, most of the things you’ll probably have in your cupboard, other stuff you can easily find in supermarkets. It’s measured in cups just because it’s just quicker.
Makes around 30 bars.
2 cups of oats
1 cup of puffed rice cereal (natural, unsweetened is preferred if you can find it)
1/2 cup of oat bran
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water, drained and dried thoroughly
3/4 shelled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts/almonds/pecans
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup salted butter (not margarine, because what’s the point if it’s for flavour?)
1/2 cup organic, responsibly sourced, honey
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
– Grease and line a 9×9 square baking with foil, make sure to grease the top of the foil too to help you with peeling the foil off later
– Melt the peanut butter, brown sugar, salted butter and honey together in a small saucepan. You need it to be a relatively sticky mix, as this is what binds your granola bar together. Some peanut butters and honeys are stickier than others, so if it’s looking a little bit runny, add a little more honey, or a little more peanut butter. It’s pretty easy going.
– Toast the coconut in a dry pan, keep an eye on it, it browns VERY quickly, but toasting it adds a lot, so don’t skip this.
– After the coconut, toast your chosen nuts too, toast them pretty well, as this flavour adds good depth.
– Last but not least, toast the sunflower seeds, they burn easily too, so be sure to keep them moving.
– Add everything to one bowl and stir until totally combined, you should have a mildly sticky consistency. If it’s looking too dry, add some more liquid mixture together in a saucepan with the ratio of 1(pb):1(butter):1(sugar):3/4(honey). You can measure this in tablespoons if you wish and it will come out perfect pretty much every time.
– Once the consistency is achieved, scoop it into the prepared tin and press down thoroughly with the back of a wet spoon (dipping in water in between, it will help to stop sticking, and to gain a crisp crust on the top if you choose to bake it). You need to press it for at least 1 full minute, and don’t be afraid to be quite aggressive, it needs to be really smushed together. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
– Optional bonus point – you don’t have to do this bit, but if you are choosing to bake, turn the oven up to 200C and run a wet spoon over the surface of the mixture. It will be quite firm by now, so this step is just to caramelise the top. It may need around 10-15 minutes, but keep checking to make sure it’s just turning golden brown and not, you know, charcoal.
– Leave to cool fully, pop them in the fridge if you’ve baked them, they will pop easily out of your greased tin, and just cut them up into your desired size. Take them with you and enjoy on top of your own mountain.