Almost 7 years ago I embarked on a journey – A journey to pursue my Master’s degree, a journey that bought me to Singapore and a journey that taught me more than a thing or two about living away from home for the first time. Living on a student budget, sharing a tiny space no bigger than a shoe box (alright maybe just a teeny bit bigger) and sleeping and waking at unearthly hours while working on school assignments that didn’t make any sense what so over, is all that I was doing back then.
To elaborate we were living in rooms in the school hostel where each room had no individual kitchenette area. The entire floor had a small microwave to share that had food crumbs thrown inside and outside to help feed ants and whatever else could feed on it. The common shared fridge invariably had fruit, milk or yogurt stolen. Further the smell of long forgotten food containers rotting and circulating their smells within the refrigerator is something that cannot be erased from my mind. I really had my doubts on its hygiene level. This left us hungry students living off vending machines, Milo milk tetra packs, cardboard box sugary cereals, Subway sandwiches, fried rice and curries from local food courts.
This of course was a fry cry from cooking and storing your own food. There were times I questioned my decision on choosing this course of study. The unknowns were plenty. Unaware of what was in store for me, I promised myself a nourishing meal when this was all over. But “When will it be over?”– This is what I often pondered in my mind. Those days I fell sick. Often. I slept less. Even more often. And let me tell you terms like “raw food”, “clean eating”, “low GI” and “gluten-free” were alien to me back then. I was used to being served good wholesome food at home without bothering who made it or where it came from. I was spoiled. Spoiled rotten. And now here I was in this new place struggling with study work and having no idea where my next meal would come from.
Looking back at those times, I wonder whether I could have saved myself from that miserable plight. This is when I wish my interest in food and nutrition should have developed years ago. Today, on this very day I can think of numerous ways to feed my body with food that requires less prep time, with food that is nutritious and delicious and with food that requires no cooking or microwaving. This Bircher Muesli (by the very talented Maximilian Bircher-Benner) is just one of these kind of foods – rolled oats soaking overnight in juice or milk topped with grated apple, berries, nuts and seeds. So very smart physician Bircher!
Maximilian Bircher invented this style of food for his patients going back to the early 1900s. I learnt it after a century. Sigh! Anyway it can’t get any simpler. You just need a container to mix in everything and let it soak (or cook) overnight. It saves time during the morning rush hours. Grab and go style breakfast with all the added health and nutrition benefits to kick start your day. Besides its super creamy and feels like having dessert in the morning. Vegans use almond/coconut milk and yogurt and it will turn out just as good. Further Singapore is hot and humid all year round and this is a great “cold” start to the day. In fact I can’t think of a better breakfast to beat the heat during the warm summer months 🙂
Bircher Muesli Recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Makes about 2 servings of 200 ml each
1) 4 heaped tablespoons rolled oats *
2) Freshly squeezed juice from 2 large oranges or mandarins
3) 5 heaped tablespoons plain natural yogurt**
4) 50 ml milk
5) 20 raw almonds
6) 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
7) 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
8) Mix of fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, mulberries, gooseberries, cherries, raspberries) whichever you can get a hold of
9) 1 Grated apple (or pear)
10) Scoop of chia seeds
11) Pinch of spices like ground cardamom (or cinnamon) – Optional
The night before:
1) Squeeze juice from the 2 oranges ***
2) Soak the oats and chia seeds in the fresh orange juice. The juice should be just about enough to submerge the oats and chia. You don’t want a runny watery mixture. Also add in the spices right now if you are using them
3) Separately soak the almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds in a bowl of cold water ****
The morning after:
1) Give the soaked nuts a good rinse in a sieve under cold running water
2) In a bowl mix well the soaked oats-chia-spice mix , rinsed nuts , yogurt, milk and berries
3) Grate the apple or pear
4) If eating immediately mix and keep in the refrigerator atleast 20 minutes before consuming. Or pack in food jars to carry along for work which should give enough time for the milk/yogurt to nicely blend in.
* Many modern recipes call for a very large quantity of rolled oats (app. 50 gm to 100 gm in some cases). I do not think it is necessary since the oats soak so well in the orange juice and then mix in with the yogurt and milk. Further the add-on of nuts, berries and seeds also increases the quantity of the muesli
** Plain natural yogurt is better than Greek or thicker yogurts which tend to make the muesli chunky and too thick for my liking.
*** I have been only using fresh orange juice so really not sure how canned orange juice will taste. The original recipe from Bircher uses lemon juice, so a nice sweet citrus juice of any kind should be a good addition. Sweet Lime anyone ? Some recipes also use apple juice but I much rather prefer the citrus counterpart.
**** I have written about the benefits of soaking nuts and seeds in my previous posts on making granola. So do your gut some help.