Live life like a bowl of Bircher muesli:
make it healthy, hearty and wholesome (or fruity, nutty and fulfilling).
Make it your own….
At Group Evolution Retreats we take “breakfast like a king” very seriously. A firm favourite with guests and one of the most popular recipe requests, is our Bircher muesli (or glorified “overnight oats”).
Whilst on holiday and free of the constraints of a hectic daily schedule, it is easy to enjoy a hearty, nutritious and varied breakfast. However, guests often tell me they skip breakfast, usually offering two reasons: they do not have time in the morning; or they cannot face eating so early. I sympathise with both reasons, especially in the autumn and winter months, when I struggle to get up in the dark and will do anything for an extra 15 minutes under the duvet.
This is where Bircher muesli comes into its own as it is prepared the night (or several nights) before. It has the bonus of being delicious and nutritious, easily transported, eaten on the go, and (if you have not added fresh fruit other than the apple) can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.
The original Bircher muesli is named after its creator, Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who opened a Swiss sanatorium in 1897. The sanatorium advocated a healthy lifestyle, which included a largely raw diet. Each meal would commence with a small bowl of muesli. The original Bircher muesli recipe was heavily fresh fruit based, with a small amount of porridge oats and condensed milk.
You only have to google “Bircher muesli” to realise that this has become a breakfast phenomenon. There are many many recipes for “Bircher” muesli out there, ranging from the super healthy to the frankly indulgent. In fact, the only essential is that it contains soaked oats and there is normally a grated or chopped apple (Bircher-Benner swore by the medicinal qualities of apples, believing they cured him of jaundice). The rest is up to you and you can be as healthy (or otherwise) as you choose.
The other joy about Bircher-style muesli is that it can be easily adapted for just about any diet. Gluten-free oats and other cereals can replace rolled oats. Plant-based milks or fruit juice instead of dairy. Coconut milk if you like a richer flavour and are not concerned by saturated fat content. Seeds can replace nuts. And if you need added sweetness, maple syrup will cater to vegans and sugar free alternatives to those limiting sugar intake.
The nutritional benefits….
The benefits of fruit, nuts and oats are well known, so I’ll stick to the soaking. The nutritional benefits of soaking your oats is similar to that of activating nuts – it reduces phytic acid, which inhibits our absorption of certain minerals, enabling us to utilise more iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and copper during digestion. Soaking also eases the stress on our digestive system.
Oats do not have to be soaked that long, certainly not overnight, but if you want them ready for the morning, all the hard work can be done whilst you sleep.
The key to Bircher muesli is the ratio of oats to liquid. Too little and you will end up with something not dissimilar to concrete. Too much and you will have a soupy consistency – which is also not great if you are going to take it with you to eat on the go. I would always err on the side of caution, as you can stir in extra liquid in the morning if you like. A basic rule for soaking porridge oats is a ratio of 1:2 oats (in grams) to liquid (in ml). If you add other cereals, chia seeds or desiccated coconut, you will obviously need to add more liquid to keep the consistency right.
This is my go to recipe, (makes 2 portions).
- 50g porridge rolled oats (not instant as they go too mushy)
- 50g desiccated coconut
- 35g sunflower seeds
- 1 tbsp linseeds (or chia seeds)
- 1 apple (with a tbsp. lemon juice to stop the apple going brown – optional) grated or chopped
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 250ml almond milk
- Handful of frozen berries
- Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix.
- Add the grated apple and the almond milk and mix thoroughly.
- Cover and place in the fridge overnight, either in the large pot, or in daily portions.
- In the morning, take out the Bircher muesli and stir (essential to stir before eating as the ingredients do tend to settle overnight). At this point you can add a little more liquid if you think it is too stiff for your tastes.
- Sprinkle a handful of berries (fresh or frozen), any toppings of choice and a sweetener/syrup.
I like to wait until it is at room temperature to eat it, so it is perfect if you want to take it with you in a sealed container (mason jars are ideal). In this way, you can change your toppings so you do not feel like you are having the same breakfast every day!
Once you have your ideal base, you can actually take a mason jar and mark on it where your ingredients some up to. In this way you even eliminate the need for scales and it makes preparation really easy – add the dry ingredients, then the liquid, put on the lid, shake vigorously, stir in the apple (and yoghurt if using) and pop in the fridge!
Mistakes to avoid…
- Do not guess your oats to liquid ratio
- Do not use instant oats – they go mushy
- Do not add the berries to the mixture is you want to keep it for more than 2 days. You can add the dried fruit, but stir in the fresh in the morning.
- Do not add the nuts in the soaking stage if you want them to add crunch.
- Remember to stir
Nutritional values per serving (% Daily value based on 2000 calorie diet in brackets)
Fat: 34g (44%) of which saturates 15g (75%);
Sodium 122mg (5%)
Total Carbohydrate 54g (20%) of which dietary fibre 15g and Sugar 19g (54%);
Protein 13g (26%)
Vitamin A 6%, Vitamin C 12%, Calcium 30%, Iron 25%