I think the New Year is the perfect time to tell you about a yummy granola, hand-made here in St Albans. Some cereals and granolas are packed with sugar, but the Dizzy Bee Kitchen range made by Nicky Halloran contains delicious ingredients that will give you a healthy boost of nutrients, rather than a huge sugar rush. Perfect for January when we have all over-indulged and need to feel a little healthier, but don’t want to feel deprived either!
Nicky makes all Dizzy Bee granola herself at the moment, in small batches. Nicky explained to me that the idea was to make something that she would be happy to feed to everyone in her family that was “natural, nutritious and delicious”. I tried the Nourishingly Nutty granola with cold milk and it was light, crunchy and not too sweet. It is also delicious just as a spoonful or two sprinkled over yoghurt, with a few fresh berries.
At the moment Nicky makes three granolas: Nourishingly Nutty, Fabulously Fruity and Super Seeds. Each contains a mixture of baked oats, jumbo oats and oat bran sweetened with a little honey from Hertfordshire sources. The cold-pressed rapeseed oil that is used is Chiltern Gold, from Mead Farm near Berkhamstead. Mixtures of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flax, and chia seeds are added, some finely ground, so you get a rich source of protein and seedy goodness in each mouthful. The seeds mean that the granola is filling too, so you should have the energy you need to get you through a busy morning. Generous amounts of nuts and fruits are added to make each recipe and Nicky spent months getting the balance of each recipe right.
Nicky is working on a gluten-free recipe, and also one for children, tentatively called Hidden Treasures, so look out for those too this year.
Dizzy Bee granola is sold at The Courtyard Cafe in St Albans and you can see the funky brown paper bags near the counter (£4.50 a 450g bag). You can also buy it as part of a yoghurt breakfast there. Nicky and I met in the The Courtyard Cafe and Nicky told me how she started out in cafes herself, opening Mulberry’s on London Road 20 years ago. The idea was for it to be a “Cranks” for St Albans but it was probably a little ahead of its time, and Nicky moved on a few years later to work as a chef, in adult education, and to raise three children. Nicky’s Mum Jackie used to run a cafe called “Aunty’s” on Holywell Hill, where Singhli is now which I am sure some St Albans families will remember.
Nicky has always been interested in good food and healthy eating and has taught courses in “life-long learning” about healthy eating. One of the things she realised was that not everyone was aware of how much sugar was in many of the bestselling commercial cereals. People thought they were eating a nutritious breakfast, but were not always making great choices. Nicky makes granolas at home for her family and had started to give it away in jars as presents for friends. The idea grew from there, and Dizzy Bee Kitchen has been selling at The Courtyard Cafe since May 2013. Nicky also sells at local fairs and is on the waiting list for a stall at the Farmers’ Market. The granolas are sold in attractive brown bags that are made from renewable resources, and designed by Creative Sofa, also based locally.
One interesting point that Nicky told me was that research shows that people are eating far bigger portions of breakfast cereal than manufacturers suggest; people tend to fill their cereal bowl, which can mean they eat twice as much as they need to. A portion of granola, for example, should be about 40g, plus milk. For Fabulously Fruity, for example, 40g would give you 178 calories, which combined with milk or yoghurt is ideal for a breakfast. Worth checking next time you are eating cereal!
The next project for Nicky are granola bars and she has tried over 50 recipes to find the one she loves the best! The final recipe is almost ready and will use superfood quinoa flour. I have no doubt, that with the care and passion Nicky clearly has for food, the bars will be just as delicious as her granolas.
£4.50 for a 450g bag sold at The Courtyard Cafe, Hatfield Road, St Albans