No prizes for guessing.. I confess, I'm a 'Diamond head', I unabashedly listen to Neil Diamond, and have the whole set loaded onto my IPod. Music is so intrinsically woven into memories, that simply listening to a familiar tune can give one a happy high, or have the opposite effect with equal probability. (& this is the neuro-scientist in me speaking). For some reason, Neil Diamond was high on my listening preferences way back in 1995, when I enrolled at the University of Cape Town, South Africa to pursue a Masters in Biomedical Engineering.
Fast forward 18 months and I was headed to New York City, after quite possibly the best, most successful stint of my stint in academics, a completed Master's thesis, the results of which were good enough to be published in the Journal of Neurosurgery. And through all this, Neil D. kept me company! I somehow associate his songs with good things to come.
And sure enough, quite by chance, they were buzzing in my ears, (courtesy my husband who really had no clue about my special bond with the songs) as I worked on my finalist video for the 'Perfect 3' competition.
Its been 15 + years, and I'm once again headed to New York City, a quasi-newbie food blogger, who has been given this wonderful opportunity by Cooking Channel to present one of my recipes on 'The Perfect 3' show. Yes, its my first brush with the big leagues and I definitely feel the self imposed pressure of executing well. And I have my security blankie firmly clamped, playing in the repeat mode, over my ears the whole time as I made this weeks recipe. A 'desi' (Indian) spicy granola chivda, or as we South Indians call it, 'Mixture'.
A chivda is basically a mix of deep fried ingredients, predominantly poha (flattened rice), deep fried chickpea batter, fried peanuts or cashew nuts & shoestring potatoes. Mamra (puffed rice) is added in some versions. Each state in India probably has its own variation, each with its unique mix of ingredients
This version is purely a healthy baked version, & although its perfectly acceptable to 'add on' deep fried morsels such as potato or plantain chips, its addictive enough as it is.
Spiced Granola 'Mixture'
1 1/2 cups organic puffed rice (NOT rice crispies)
1 cup steel rolled oats (I used Bobs Organic)
1/2 cup broken cashew nuts
1/2 shelled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raisins OR Craisins OR Dried Cherries
1/2 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
For the tempering:
1/3 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 sprig curry leaves (12 - 15 leaves) torn
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 - 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1/8 teaspoon asafetida powder
Preheat the oven to 225 F and line 2 large cookie sheets with aluminum foil.
Combine the puffed rice, rolled oats, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts in a large mixing bowl.
In a small skillet, heat the sesame oil until near smoking and add the mustard seeds. when they begin popping, add the cumin seeds. Add the curry leaves (stand back, the inherent moisture will make them sputter violently), followed by the salt, cayenne powder, and asafetida. lower the heat. Add the molasses and stir to thoroughly combine. Remove from heat and add this viscous mix to the cereal & nut mixture. Fold to coat the ingredients thoroughly.
Spread the mix into a single layer on the cookie sheets and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, stirring the granola at 10 minute intervals.
Check at regular intervals to make sure that the mix browns evenly.
The mix is ready when the cashew nuts turn into a very light brown color. Allow to cool completely and add the raisins/craisins/dried cherries and the crystallized ginger.
Store in an airtight jar. Tastes great by itself or eaten as a bar snack with a chilled glass of Beer!