Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bircher Muesli

Muesli is a Swiss creation, and Bircher Muesli is a variant invented in the 1900s. Growing up with Swiss parents it's not surprising then that I grew up eating the stuff. Religiously. It wasn't strictly a breakfast item for us, it was a delicious snack at any time of the day, even as a dessert. We'd even often eat it with lashings of whipped cream. Probably not such a healthy addition, but bloody delicious nonetheless. These days I skip the cream, but I have fond memories.

Over the past few years I've seen Bircher Muesli pop on cafe menus, I'm not surprised though as it's a nutritious and satisfying dish. However, it's ridiculously easy (and cost effective) to make at home.

Now that summer is basically here, and seasonal summer fruits are plentiful, I've started making my usual weekly batches of it. You think I'd be sick of eating the stuff all through my childhood, but no, it's a summer staple. You can use different fruits, and different yogurts, and different additions such as nuts or dried fruits etc. So no batch ever has to taste quite the same. But every time you'll still have a wonderfully soft and creamy Bircher Muesli.

So today I'll share the way I make it, which is pretty much how my mum would traditionally make it, only difference being I like to add nuts and no cream. There are no hard and fast rules about measurements, but I've given a basic guide. And ingredients can easily be customised to your tastes. Just never skip the grated apple, that is sacrosanct!



1 and 1/2 cups rolled oats
No more than 1 and 1/2 cups milk
juice of one lemon
splash of fruit juice (amount depends on how thin you want your muesli)
yogurt of your choice, approx 3/4 cup, mum would always use 'fruit of the forest'
one apple, grated
any other fruits of your choice, chopped
optional - chopped nuts, eg almonds or hazelnuts


To prepare the muesli you need to soak some oats in milk overnight. I like to make a decent quantity, a few days worth, so I use an old 2 litre ice cream tub as my container. I use approx 1 and 1/2 cups of rolled oats and just over one cup of milk. I never measure it though but I did on this occasion to give an example. You don't need to measure because basically you just want to slowly pour milk over your required amount of oats until you see the milk just rising above the top layer of oats, then stop. This will give you the right amount of liquid no matter your quantity. The oats will soak up that milk. No need to stir or anything, just leave the container in the fridge overnight.

Tip: you can replace the milk with fruit juice if you wish.

Next day, add the juice of a lemon and pour in a wee bit of fruit juice to loosen up the oats. Stir well. Next, stir in the yogurt. Now add the fruits:


You really can just add any of your favourite fruits. Personally I would never skip the grated apple though, it just would not be the same without it, to me it's a traditional must-have.

Finally you can add any other embellishments you like, such as chopped nuts or even a dash of cinnamon.

I find my batches keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days at most, but obviously will depend on the freshness of your ingredients. Also, some added fruits like bananas or apples will not be looking their best after a day or two. If this kind of thing bothers you then you may want to only add the fresh fruit to the batch on the day/s you plan to eat it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Smoky Chilli Beef with Bacon and Beans

I go through phases where I get addicted to using certain ingredients. A few weeks ago my addiction was citrus, in fact I'm still obsessed; a few days ago I made my first ever marmalade. It was delicious (fun and easy too) but I'll share it in a future post when I have a few more experiments under my belt.

But as for this week I thought I would share a recipe featuring my new latest obsessions: smoked paprika and Sriracha chilli sauce. These ingredients seem to find their way on to my lunch and dinner plates every day at the moment. From quiches to pizza, I can't help but sneak these ingredients in.

One place they were most suited to, not surprisingly, was in my chilli beef and beans recipe. It's a simple dish, yet still wonderfully hearty, and and has an awesome smoky flavour thanks to the paprika and bacon. It also has an adaptable hit of heat from the chilli powder and chilli sauce. Fantastic comfort food. It's great served with rice, tortillas, crusty bread, or my lazy day favourite: corn chips.

Anyone else have flavours or ingredients that they seem to be addicted to at the moment?



250g bacon, chopped (I prefer to use smoked manuka bacon)
2 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed (or use a couple of teaspoons of ground cumin)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
1 teaspoon chilli powder (this gives mild heat, add more if you prefer)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper
400g minced/ground beef
330ml beer
400g tin of kidney beans
400g tinned tomatoes (with juice), chopped
140g tomato paste (optional, but creates a much richer tomato flavour)
A few generous squirts of Sriracha sauce, or other chilli sauce of your choice


In a large pan, fry bacon until cooked. Then add the onions, and fry until soft. Add cumin, garlic, chilli powder, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper to the pan. Stir, then add the beef. Fry until the beef has cooked. Now stir in the beer, beans, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer on a low heat for 1 - 2 hours, depending on how reduced you want it. Longer cook = thicker and richer flavour. Finally, squirt in some chilli sauce and give it a mix. Give the mixture a taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Citrus Balsamic Marinated Strawberries

I can't believe that summer is almost here in New Zealand. It was just a couple weeks ago that I had our fire cranking and was living in thermal underwear. Now I'm wearing sleeveless tops and slathering myself in sunscreen and complaining about the heat.

One bonus about the warm weather arriving is that it makes me start craving fruit. I guess because it's refreshing? Whatever the reason, it's a welcome thing because it's bound to be better for my health; I usually ignore fruit, the neglected part of my diet.

One of my favourite summer fruits to munch on are strawberries. They are so handy and taste amazing just as they are. I actually tried growing my own this year, but some pesky animal ate them before I got a chance. I had even planned to build a little fortress for them, guess I was too late.

So I'll be munching store-bought ones this summer.

Anyways, even though strawberries are perfect just as they are, sometimes it's nice to jazz things up a bit. Marinating strawberries in balsamic vinegar is an easy way to do so. When marinated with the balsamic and sugar a delicious syrup gets created, and the flavour of the strawberries is enhanced by the sweet and tart combination. It's next level shit. Some might see it as a gimmick or a kitsch fad, but Italians have been doing it for years. Whether you're a fan or not, I think it's something everyone should at least try.

Here's how I like to make mine, but feel free to tweak it, I've added ideas for other options.
Btw they're yum served on their own or with other desserts such as vanilla ice cream, pavlova, Panna Cotta, etc.



1 punnet strawberries (250g)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons mandarin sugar (other options: plain sugar, vanilla sugar, brown sugar, etc)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
option: 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (try it before you knock it), it adds extra bite


Slice the strawberries in half, throw them in a bowl with the other ingredients but only add half of the lemon zest and omit the pepper option until serving.

Mix well then cover the bowl and set it aside for about an hour. Sir occasionally.

Stir gently before serving then garnish with the rest of the lemon zest and black pepper if desired.

Monday, November 04, 2013

QUICK: Cinnamon Chilli Chocolate Fudge

Recently we went to a dinner party and my husband informed me an hour before we were due to leave that the invite had stated that we should bring sweets. This was news to me. Now this might be fine if you happen to have sweets in your pantry or will have access to a shop. We had neither.

The only sweet I could think of making was a fudge, but wasn't sure I would want to waste a lot of time with heating the mix to the correct stage. So after a quick internet search I found a recipe for a cheats fudge. Which meant I'd be able to have a batch of fudge setting in the fridge within 5 minutes. The only times I've ever made fudge it seemed like a laborious task to create it, having to slave over a stove for ages. Could it really be made simple? Apparently so.

The base recipe is for a cinnamon chocolate fudge, but after tasting the batter I thought it could do with a bit more of a flavour hit so I added way more cinnamon and also some chilli. A bit of a risky flavour combination but hey, I like it. The good thing is that since you're not cooking a boiling hot mixture you'll be able to taste-test your batter and therefore adjust the spices to your tastes, or even omit them if you want and go for a plain chocolate fudge. Just make sure you work reasonably quickly as you don't want it to cool too much before pouring it into a tray to set. Also, while the fudge can be made in a flash, don't forget that it will take at least an hour to set, so factor that into your time-frame if you're pushed for time like I was.

The original recipe is here.

This is my version:



3 cups icing sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 cup butter (113g)
1/4 cup milk
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Grease a 20cm x 20cm (8x8inch) square tin. Can also use a 23cm (9inch) round tin.

Sift the icing sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and chilli into a bowl.

Heat the butter and milk in a saucepan until the butter has completely melted. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Remove from heat and stir in the sugar mixture until well combined.

Pour into prepared tin and refrigerate for an hour or until firm.

Cut into squares, then eat!