Sunday, 8 September 2013

Awake or a Dream?

Cereali Esotici
Exotic Cereal
(Oatmeal, almonds, coconut, candied ginger, fresh dates, fresh figs, barberries, pistachio, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, mint & yogurt).

Yes, you may well feel like pinching yourself and asking yourself if it is really happening, if you were to be served this delicious mix for breakfast! Sure, it seems a little extravagant... well, ok then, it IS a little bit- but it IS still very easy to make!

Although it tastes exotic and does have a lot of spices in it, the main ingredients are very ordinary... except for the fresh dates of course! And even they are not that unusual- just not always readily available, but they were there, ripe and fresh at the market hall yesterday and before I knew it- I had bought them!

It was the first time that I had ever eaten dates fresh though, and I was pleasantly surprised and indeed very surprised at how wonderful they tasted! A lot of people do not like the slightly crunchy consistency apparently and they boil them first before using them, but as I was reassured that they are safe to eat as long as they have reached maturity, I decided to try them. These did look a little unripe, but they were super-sweet and intense in flavor- delicious! The best thing about them was- I knew that I would need next-to-no further sweetening for my breakfast with a few of these in the mix- and that is a good thing!

I began by putting 2 cups of oatmeal, 1 cup of coconut and 1 cup of slivered almonds into a dry frying pan. I added a quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom, a quarter teaspoon of ground coriander, a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. And I turned on the heat of course for them to begin browning.

I then quickly sliced open 3 dates, removed the stones and strings and cut them into slices. These went into the pan next- and whilst everything was warming through, I sliced and diced a large fresh fig into small pieces and added that into the mix.

Whilst everything was toasting slowly in the background, in-between giving the pan a toss every now and then, I found time to take a slice of candied ginger and cut it into very fine strips- I would scatter these on top at the end. 

Now that the coconut was slowly beginning to turn golden (it is the ingredient that browns the fastest, I added a handful of barberries and mixed them in, let them warm through for a minute and then took the pan off the stove.

There was enough residual heat in the pan to finish off toasting and browning the ingredients- indeed, it needed constant stirring to stop the coconut getting to brown- but of course you do WANT that toasted flavor!

At that point I added a little fresh coconut, so that there was a nice mix of brown and white flakes... and have I mentioned yet how incredibly awesome it smelled? Oh my! Be prepared- because it will knock you for six!

I poured it out onto a large dish to cool off and added the ginger and also some ground pistachio, as well as a few small, tender leaves of mint... and I know you are on the verge of freaking-out because of the number of ingredients- so let me recommend the essentials I think you will need to have a similar, but much easier experience :-)

For a basic version, you will need the oatmeal, coconut and almonds, you will need cinnamon and you will need some kind of sweet fruit of choice. It could be banana, apple, berries- whatever takes your fancy. it is the toasting that makes the difference and the way the spice infuses flavor into everything. So yes, if you can add cardamom and coriander- it WILL be better. 

Once it was cool, I enjoyed it with some plain yogurt and just the lightest drizzle of honey- it was sweet enough for me with the dates and figs. Of course you can add more honey or even sugar should you have a sweeter tooth- but the combination of the nuttiness of the oatmeal, almonds and coconut go so well with the fruit and spice- and the mint and yogurt just bring it alive with freshness! I promise you will love it- now go ahead and try it!

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