Cereal is, and always has been, my junk food of choice. When I was growing up the cupboard was stocked with Frosties, Coco Pops and Sugar Puffs. On rare occasions there would be Lucky Charms and my brother and I would spoon out the little furry pieces of marshmallow whilst the milk turned lurid green. I would eat anything if it was a sugar-coated grain drowned in milk. I adored the malted caramel flavour of Golden Grahams and the lip-frosting tendencies of their cinnamon-dusted counterparts. I also liked the subtler varieties; Rice Krispies, Cornflakes and Cheerios for their mild sweetness. I even remember a Grape Nuts phase. When I stayed with my Grandmother I was offered more conservative fayre and I can recall the crystalline twinkling of granulated sugar as it thickly coated my Weetabix, Branflakes or, my favourite, Quaker Oat Crisp.
I realise that it is most likely the texture that lures me, the mouthfeel and the cold, drinking quality of milk. I cannot stand cereal if it isn’t swimming in the milk. I distinctly remember the squash of a milk-soaked oat crisp pillow against the top of my mouth and the frenzied, high frequency gnash of Rice Krispies before they dissolved into mush. I loved the odd, hard saltiness of Weetos and the way that Cookie Crisp tasted nothing like actual cookies. If I’ve had a hard day here in “adult life” I’ve been known to purchase a pint of milk and a box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and slurp my way methodically through the entire thing. Most breakfast cereals are enough of a sugar rush for me to consider them junk food and they, in turn, soothe me in the manner of junk food. For the most part I stay well away from refined cereals, they are sweeties and of no nutritional interest to me. I cannot eat them with the abandon of a child anymore, I know too much about sugar.
To satiate my thirst for the sounds and textures of cereal I turn to muesli, but not the horrible soggy oat and too-much-dried-fruit varieties. I suppose the muesli I like, and have recreated in my own kitchen, more closely resembles breakfast cereal but is devoid of any unrecognisable ingredients or scary processing methods. It’s easy to find puffed grains and cacao nibs in health food stores and the ‘making’ part is nothing but a soothing toss by hand. I have to have sweetness and this comes in the form of chopped, very dark chocolate. The only other strong flavour is toasted hazelnuts. Sunk with cold milk this is crunchy with nuts and cacao nibs, sweet and melting with chocolate and playful with puffed rice. For days when I just don’t have a good enough excuse for Mr Kellogg, this works an absolute treat.
Hazelnut and Dark Chocolate Muesli
There’s no need to take this too seriously, I can’t help feel that cereal is very personal and everyone must make their own choices with flavours and quantities. I have included my approximate quantities but, really, work with what you’ve got. If using the right dark chocolate this recipe can easily be Vegan.
190g Five Grain mix (found in Germany but can just used fine-milled oats)
50g Puffed Rice
60g Popped Amaranth (could use Quinoa)
100g Flaked almonds (lightly toasted)
100g Flaked or chopped hazelnut (lightly toasted)
Approx 2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
Approx 4 Tbsp Cacao Nibs
Approx 50g very dark chocolate (chopped)
1 Tsp Cinnamon
- Lightly toast the nuts in a pan and allow to cool
- Chop the chocolate
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl using your hands
- Place into an airtight container
Toasted desiccated coconut, dried chopped orange peel, any chopped dried fruit, nut varieties.