Tuesday, 25 September 2007


The rather fortunate fallout from our recent Swiss adventure is my renewed obsession with birchermuesli. Served by Dr Maximillian Bircher Benner at his Zurich sanatorium around the turn of the 20th century, it has maintained its healthy reputation (although the original required condensed milk for hygiene reasons) as it has gained popularity. It's as common as gipfeli (Swiss croissants) for breakfast in the alps.
Don't be mistaken - this is no ordinary muesli. Made well, birchermuesli has none of the stale, sawdust quality that some mueslis have. Although derived from birchermuesli, store-bought Alpen can't compete - partially because the real thing is not a dry cereal at all, but rather a rich, creamy chilled mixture of soaked oats, fresh fruit and dairy products. There are many acceptable permutations of the ingredients, but so far my homemade one involves the following: apples, oats, yoghurt and raspberries. I would hazard a guess that my favourite Swiss version included some whipped cream, maybe even the original condensed milk, but I'm trying to keep to the healthy roots.

The apple is grated, which gives the dish some sweetness from the juice and texture from the shreds of apple. Traditionally the texture would be even more important since the oats would be soaked overnight, but I don't usually have the time to plan that far in advance and I quite like the extra bite.

Much like porridge, birchermuesli isn't always the most appealing looking dish when it's served, but it can easily be jazzed up with some fresh fruit. I've seen kiwi and physillis adorning a bowlful in the most remote of mountain villages in Switzerland so I can assure you this is more than acceptable - as is eating this as an early evening meal.

(makes enough for 2)

1 firm apple
1 cup nutty muesli or 3/4 cup rolled oats and 1/4 cup toasted nuts
approx. 1 cup yoghurt
handful of raspberries
fruit to garnish

Grate the apple, preferably in a food processor. Add muesli/oats, yoghurt and all but a few raspberries and combine until the yoghurt has soaked through and the raspberries have stained the whole mixture a rich pink. Serve and garnish with the remaining raspberries and/or any other fruit.

Eat immediately or chill for up to a few hours.

More possibilities:
- Soak the muesli/oats overnight in water, milk or fruit juice.
- Use a combination or yoghurt, greek yoghurt, creme fraiche and/or whipped cream
- Stir in sliced banana, blueberries, halved grapes or virtually any other fruit according to season
- Add extra toasted nuts or dried fruits just before serving

Addendum: This is my entry for Kochtopf's apple day event in honour of apple season. According to Kochtopf, apples are the most popular fruit in Switzerland, and I can believe it with so many great recipes to use them in, including the Z├╝rcher Pfarrhaustorte that she blogged about for the event.


pia said...

oh, YUM!
defintely one to try...

Anonymous said...

mhh makes me want to eat a bircher muesli for dinner!

kochtopf said...

Obviously I love Bicherm├╝esli. Your's looks delicious. A lot of Swiss eat it for dinner. ;-)

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

I'm totally with you on the bircher muesli. I had it for the first time a couple of years ago (in Oman, of all places), but have only tried recreating it this past couple of weeks. My basic recipe's practically identical to yours! Also love roasted, coarsely ground hazelnuts on top...

Joanna said...

aforkfulofspaghetti - i second you on the nuts, they are a great addition. recently i have been more consistent with soaking my oats in milk overnight, and i don't think i'll go back!