Breakfast with the yoghurt knitters
Posted May 6, 2011on:
Meusli has always had a rather beardy left wing vibe about it, the sort of worthy breakfast sandal-wearing vegan types might eat while reading Guardian supplement articles about women’s fair trade goat-weaving cooperatives in the Congo. Pity really, because if you believe what Wikipedia has to say about it, regular meusli consumption will probably make you immortal. Unfortunately Wikipedia is blatantly talking complete tosh on this occasion – “the presence of manganese in Muesli along with low saturated fats keeps your heart safe” indeed, what on earth is that supposed to mean? My heart will somehow turn aside large serrated knives just because I’ve had my meusli this morning? Excuse me if I don’t put that one to the test.
Meusli has moved gradually in from the health food fringe over the past 40 years or so with commercial brands like Alpen and Country Store and the rise of some kind of toasted crunchy cousin called granola. Which is all well and good but for the fact that they all seem to have more sugar in them than a packet of chocolate Frosties. I’m not about to get all paranoid about sugar consumption, but the fact is that I’m just not a big fan of the stuff, and I definitely don’t want it by the tablespoonful at breakfast.
So having sampled various over-sweetened cereal-and-seed combos, I am reduced to making my own meusli. Now how embarrassingly middle class hippie Guardianista is that? No, I’m not sitting here wearing eco-friendly Nepalese cotton trousers and a beard you could hide an endangered species in, honestly. We’ve even got one of those chavtastic huge flatscreen telly contraptions at the moment, though admittedly it’s not actually ours and for my money it could go back in its box and live in the attic until its owner reclaims it next winter. But it seems churlish to deny convalescing man the pleasures of Playstation, so I suppose it’s destined to dominate the living room all summer.
The big advantage of custom meusli making is that you can have exactly what you want in the stuff. Home meusli evangelists are inclined to bang on about how much cheaper it is, but I suspect they’re eating really very dull and politically correct breakfasts indeed and rejecting all the nice bits as being too bourgeois.
The starting point for DIY meusli is either the cereal mix which health food shops sell as ‘meusli base’ or (my preferred option) uber-cheap supermarket own-brand meusli. This stuff has none of the luxury nice bits, but it does have a few extra odds and ends over the basic cereal mix and (where I get it from anyway) it’s actually cheaper. Start by emptying it into a big bowl.
You are now ready to embark on the customisation process. Add whatever you like in whichever proportions you please. Herewith a few suggestions:
Nuts: personally I really don’t like nuts in my meusli, though I’ll make an exception for flaked almonds. But nuts are definitely traditional, and remain popular. You mught want to look for pre-chopped ones though.
Pumpkin seeds: tasty addition, and one which livens up the appearance of your meusli, the rest of which tends to look a bit bland and generally oat-coloured. Mainly because it’s full of oats.
Sunflower seeds: also rather oat coloured, but another tasty addition. Get shelled ones, or you’ll be picking bits of shell out of your teeth all day and people will think you’ve been at the gerbil mix.
Linseeds: ‘good for you’ apparently (whatever that means) though they don’t taste of anything much. I’m told they have a laxative effect, so I wouldn’t go overboard with them if I were you. Not if you have to go anywhere after breakfast anyway.
Sesame seeds: lots of taste in these, especially the toasted ones, so you don’t want to add too many of them either or your whole brekkie will taste of burger bun.
Raisins: I know a lot of people aren’t big fans of raisins in meusli, but I think they’re essential. Any old raisins will do, but those fancy packets of mixed ones are nicest.
Tropical fruits: not that keen, I have to say, as I find it a bit chewy, but I can see the appeal. Mixed fruit bags usually give you pineapple, papaya, banana and coconut, along with a few more raisins for good measure.
Cranberries: very sour, but an interesting extra if used frugally.
Red fruits mix: haven’t tried this yet as I only spotted it in Casino this morning, but I will certainly be experimenting with it in the next batch. Looks promising.
Prunes: to be avoided. I tried this once and having chopped up a whole pack of the things I had to pick them all out again because the net effect just looked way too much like the contents of the cats’ litter tray. Too sticky and a bit of a faff.
Goji berries: a ‘superfood’ allegedly, though I’m not likely to find out what’s super about them because they cost about 50€ for half a dozen. I assume this is because they are transported all the way from the Himalaya by yak pannier.
So there you have it. The original Swiss meusli was served with water or fruit juice, but as this sounds frankly minging I generally eat it with plain yoghurt or fromage blanc and possibly a bit of honey. I did experiment with fruit yoghurts and various flavours of drinking yoghurt, but for some reason both of them were quite horrible, so I went back to the fromage blanc thing.