A change of season heralds a change of breakfast in my kitchen. I’m no longer getting up in the dark, scurrying around before 7am in the half light, trying to keep warm with a large bowl of porridge. Instead the sun is my natural alarm clock and it bathes the kitchen in a gentle, welcoming light that greets me when I pad out of the bedroom in my dressing gown. This sunnier outlook calls for a lighter, more energetic breakfast.
Bircher muesli, or overnight oats, is the original muesli, invented by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for his patients in the 1900s. His recipe requires the oats to be soaked in milk for a period of time to soften them, making them easier to digest, as oats had not yet been made “quick” by manufacturing processes. Soaking is no longer required for muesli, but creating a breakfast inspired by Dr Bircher-Benner is a tasty, nourishing and wholesome start to the day.
A bowl of soft, cold oats. Granted, it doesn’t sound overly appetising. In fact, it sounds like prison food. But when injected with flavour and texture, and topped with fresh fruit and yoghurt, it really is good.
There are a myriad of variations possible with bircher muesli, from the soaking liquid (milk, cream, condensed milk, juice), to the oats (add nothing or add any mix of nuts, dried fruit or grated apple) and the topping (fresh, stewed or dried fruit, nuts, jam). I’ve experimented with many combinations over the years and this is my current favourite, inspired by my recent trip to Byron Bay where bircher muesli was on the menu at every cafe for breakfast.
I use coconut water to soak the oats, because I like the subtle sweetness it provides (juice can lend too much sweetness). I stir yoghurt in to the soaked oats to add the creaminess the milk would otherwise provide. In keeping with the coconut theme I add shredded coconut to provide texture along with chia seeds which soak up the liquid like a sponge and aid digestion. Flaked almonds (or any almonds you have on hand) bring their nuttiness as well as a slight crunch.
The traditional topping is grated apple and nuts, but any seasonal fruit is perfectly at home atop a bowl of bircher. Adding sliced mint and a gentle squeeze of lemon to a summer fruit topping lifts the whole dish into something much more interesting. For those going into the cooler months, stewed apple or pears with hazelnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup would be delightful.
Apparently bircher muesli is also eaten as a light evening meal in Switzerland and Germany, which makes me feel better about the several bowls of muesli I’ve had for dinner during this pregnancy so far. That’s how tasty it is.
Coconut and Almond Bircher Muesli
Serves 4, 10 minutes to prep and serve, overnight to soak
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 2 cups coconut water
- 1/2 cup flaked almonds
- 1/4 cup black chia seeds
- 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- Greek yoghurt
- Squeeze of lemon
- Tart, green apple, grated
- Walnuts, chopped
- Mint, chopped
- Strawberries, sliced
- Banana, sliced
- Sunflower seeds and/or pepitas
- Honey, maple syrup or agave (optional, the coconut water and fruit already add sweetness)
In a large bowl combine oats, coconut water, chia seeds, flaked almonds and shredded coconut. Stir to combine. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
To serve, scoop the soaked oat mixture into bowls and top with enough greek yoghurt to form a porridge-like consistency when mixed in. You can add some milk (cow/soy/almond/oat all fine) to help achieve this.
Top with grated apple, walnuts, strawberries and banana then sprinkle with seeds, chopped mint and drizzle with honey if desired.