Mr Bircher-Benner was a wonderful Swiss scientist, doctor and nutritionist who after falling unwell claimed that raw apple and then his simple raw muesli played a significant role in enabling him to heal completely. Well, back in those days his famous muesli, which we now see various fancy versions of in cafes across the globe, was a mix of pre-soaked rolled oats, grated apple, chopped nuts (either walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts), a little lemon juice and sometimes a little condensed milk too – and that’s it. Nothing else. So when I make ‘Bircher muesli’ which has many more ingredients than Mr Bircher-Benner’s original I often give it a special name, for example, mixed grain Bircher muesli or Summer Bircher muesli. Mum would be grinning if reading this, as she has reminded me on a few occasions that “grated apple really does make it” and no, “if it’s soaked natural muesli with dried fruits, yoghurt and honey added that’s not really Bircher Muesli, but it’s lovely too!” (Mum being Swiss German, who has since we were tiny, made the most divine Bircher muesli). By the way, Mr Bircher-Benner’s story is very very interesting, if you’re interested in reading more I’ve provided a link further below.
Now when it comes to creating a delicious healthful Bircher muesli, I do agree that apple really makes it. Fresh apples of course work the best. I’ll add here that while we recognise apples as being a winter fruit, there are varieties of apples that grow in spring and so are picked and sold in summer. There’s a wonderful apple grower here in Victoria, John Howell, who grows and sells fresh apples all year round (as well as other fruit too). If you’re interested in learning more about where to find his apples, you can find details here.
Back to Bircher muelsi. So this is a childhood, teenage time, adulthood, essentially all time favourite breakfast of mine, and in fact of all of ours. When mum would make a big bowl (salad bowl size) on a Saturday morning us three kids would race to table, fill our little bowls, devour this muesli with big smiles, then fill another bowl. And sometimes a third. Fantastic nourishment for growing children.
I’m making it often now as the summer berries are incredible and Andrew and I have been very lucky to be gifted bowlfuls of fresh berries from his mum, picked from the family country garden. We are eating a tone load of berries at the moment. They are too good! Plus, are at their freshest most flavoursome right now so can be found at farmers’ markets, in supermarkets, at grocery stores, everywhere. It’s a good time to enjoy them.
It’s also a great time to freeze berries. When strawberries and blueberries are very cheap, this is we do. Stock up, then wash and fill recycleable freezer bags. I recently picked up a whole tray full of fresh strawberries at the Gleadel Street Market in Richmond, for just $5, win! Frozen are great for smoothies, smoothie bowls, to make crumble, to throw in cakes, muffins, cookies, slices, etc. But fresh is what we need for this beautiful muesli.
This recipe is a slightly adjusted version of mum’s. Mum often adds condensed milk, just like Mr Bircher did. It’s SO good. This is an ingredient that her mother would always add. Not a lot, just a little, to add that special sweet edge. For the sake of keeping this recipe simple, wholesome, particularly nourishing and a great one for giving to tiny tots for breakfast any day, I’ve left the condensed milk out. It’s an easy version and doesn’t require a lot of time. It’s satisfying yet light and one of the most nourishing and soul hugging breakfasts. I hope you love it, just as much as we do. I also do encourage you to try adding a little condensed milk sometime, even just once, particularly if you have a sweet tooth. It’s a breakfast that’s also a dessert.
Summer Bircher Muesli
This makes a nice bowl full, about 4 serves. I usually make this amount for Andrew and I, we’ll have some for breakfast and often the rest the next morning unless we finish it that night for dessert. Leftovers are just as good and almost even more scrumptious as the berry juices tend to spread a little and richen the flavour – a flavour of summer!
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup milk (or water)
- 2 heaped Tbsp. natural/ plain yoghurt or Greek style yoghurt (use whatever you like, I used Barambah Organic full cream plain yoghurt here, we are both a real fan of this yoghurt, it’s creamy and not very sour)
- 1 apple, grated (Granny smith is wonderful and what Mr Bircher recommended, but any apple is lovely)
- 1 banana, sliced
- Berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mulberries) – I use about 1 cup full
- A good handful of raw walnuts, chopped roughly
- A little lemon rind (not necessary, but this adds a beautiful touch)
- Put oats and milk in a bowl, mix, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning place soaked oats in a larger bowl, add yoghurt, walnuts, lemon rind and grated apple and mix. Then add banana and berries and mix gently.
- There you have it, fill a bowl and decorate if you like, or enjoy as is.
A non-dairy tip: If you can’t have dairy or are not a dairy fan, try soaking the oats in almond milk, oat milk or soy milk and leave the yoghurt out or use a non-dairy yoghurt alternative such as soy yoghurt (which has added calcium, a plus). Or, soak oats in a soy coconut or almond coconut milk and use coconut yoghurt, this would be lovely.
If you’d like to get fancy and boost the goodness even more, try adding..
- A topping of seeds (such as peptitas, sunflower, sesame, chia and/or hemp seeds), or stir the seeds through
- A mix of chopped raw or roasted nuts such as brazil, cashews, walnuts and almonds. Slithered almonds are beautiful and often what you see in the Bircher muesli sold at bakeries and cafes in Switzerland
- If you like breakfast to be sweeter, try a drizzle of honey or maple syrup
- If you have other lovely fruit that you need to use (eg. stone fruit), slice some up and add too
- Sprinkle with cinnamon – always good.
- For a chocolate edge, try adding a sprinkle of cacao or cocoa powder or make a chocolate sauce to go on top (now this is a nice touch for when you have guests over for breakfast. Make a bowl of this muesli and have this sauce on the table for drizzling, along with other toppings if you like such as coconut flakes and seeds. To make a lovely chocolate sauce, mix cacao or cocoa powder with a little maple syrup, cinnamon and either yoghurt to make it creamy or a little tahini and melted coconut oil for a richer nuttier flavour and more of a syrup like consistency – this is YUM)
- For something a bit different, try adding sliced ripe yet firm avocado, why not. Avocado works well with all the fruit and yoghurt, it also adds colour, nourishment and a subtle accent flavour. With a sweetener or chocolate drizzle on top, this muesli with added avocado is a real a treat. A meal for anytime of the day really.
To read up on Mr Bircher- Brenner, you’ll find a great summary here.