August days hum with sweet, orchard scents and the industry of honey bees. These days are the laziest of days, the ‘holiday’ days, the days of picnics, parties and procrastinating. The English garden is, by this point, a heady and humid place teeming with tiny life and abundance. If you’re lucky enough to have a fruit tree you will be observing it eagerly, awaiting natures permission to harvest a glut. In the event that we are fortunate enough to receive a little seasonal heat, we will all promptly collapse into sticky apathy; staring listlessly out of our office windows, dreaming of paddling pools and pub gardens.
I tend to avoid the fug of the kitchen at this time of year, my appetite decreases and my thirst for lemonade becomes insatiable. When I do make ventures in baking then I tend to stick to early mornings and late evenings and I bake with summer in mind. I bake quiches and tarts for picnics, I make fresh berry jams and fill sturdy jars with chunks of honey-toasted granola. There is a sunny joy to tumbling oats and nuts with a rich, glug of golden honey and gently baking them until they glow. No ingredient puts me more in mind of late summer, than honey.
Not only is honey a treasure, painstakingly made and lovingly harvested, it is also highly adaptable. Sweet bakes are all the better for its unmistakable floral notes, herbal and fruit teas sing with a delicate teaspoonful or two and oats, in all of their guises, always appreciate a generous drizzle. I also favour honey in savoury dishes, paired with fresh goat’s cheese, toasted walnuts and bitter radicchio or used as a sugar to render soy-glazed salmon both treacly and salty.
To taste the very nectar produced by summer’s ‘buzz’ is one of life’s small pleasures. When I’m on the hunt for a jar of honey my favourite way to find it is to follow a hand-written “Honey for sale” sign up a driveway or down a tangled, cottage path. I like to pay for my honey via honesty boxes, at farm shop tills or, better still, directly into the hands of the bee keeper. We all know that buying local honey is no longer just a pleasure, it is an important part of maintaining our beautiful countryside and, ultimately, our planet.
Honey Nut Granola
75g light brown sugar
225g sunflower oil (or your preferred cooking oil)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract or one whole, scraped, vanilla pod
1/2 tsp. salt
500g Jumbo rolled oats (gluten free when necessary)
90g whole almonds/walnuts/pumpkin seeds
90g desiccated coconut
- Preheat oven to 170°C (or 150°C Fan). Line a baking sheet with baking parchment (28x43cm or 11x17inch)
- Warm the honey, sugar, salt, vanilla and oil gently in a pan until combined and very liquid. Do not boil.
- Add the oats, nuts, coconut and cinnamon to a large bowl and combine.
- Combine the wet and the dry ingredients, mixing very thoroughly until everything is coated.
- Drop the mixture onto the baking sheet and flatten everything so it is densely packed in one ‘sheet’.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until evenly golden on top. Rotate the baking sheet exactly half way though. Do not stir or agitate the granola.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely as a whole ‘sheet’. It will look, at this moment, like a large piece of flapjack.
- Once it is completely cool, break into large, rough chunks and store in a big glass jar or Tupperware. Keep it sealed to ensure the granola is crunchy.
Enjoy with cold milk as a cereal or put some in a zip lock bag as a snack.
For a summer breakfast or dessert make a granola parfait. Once your granola is completely cool, layer it up in a glass or bowl with plain Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit and a drizzle or two honey.