During my career as an elite athlete, I often spent time in St Moritz, Switzerland, for altitude training. Surrounded by fresh air and gorgeous mountain scenery at 1600m above sea level, it was a wonderful place to prepare for major championships.
One of the highlights of being in Switzerland was enjoying one of its food specialities, Bircher muesli – a nourishing, filling and delicious breakfast dish. An interesting mix of sweet and sharp, Bircher muesli is, like my healthy cakes recipe, a dish that you can add all sorts of ingredients to and increase the variety in what you are eating.
The word ‘Bircher’ comes from Dr Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor and nutritionist. This word has become synonymous with pre-soaking oats to soften them without any cooking. It also distinguishes Bircher muesli from regular muesli which is typically dry and eaten with milk or similar poured over it just before eating. The inclusion of lemon juice in Bircher muesli apparently begins the breaking down process, making digestion easier.
I often make a large amount of Bircher muesli at home which I keep in the fridge and eat over 2-3 days, adding fresh fruit as a topping each day. I mainly eat it for breakfast, but being simple, quick and portable, you can eat it at any time of day, or even take it with you to training to have as a post-workout recovery snack.
The recipe I use is based on one from the delightful Café Tea Rooms in Yorkshire, Bettys, which serve food inspired by their Swiss founder.
Swiss Bircher muesli
75g jumbo rolled oats
25g sultanas or other dried fruit
25g chopped almonds (the original recipe uses hazelnuts)
100ml milk (use alternatives such as soy or coconut milk if you wish)
100ml fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
• Mix all the ingredients except the apple in a large bowl, mixing well. Cover and leave to stand in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
• When ready to serve, grate the apple (with skin on) and mix in. Add chopped fresh fruit as a topping. I like to add yoghurt and a few seeds too.
Be creative with your toppings, and add whatever you like to eat to increase variety. I have used strawberries and blueberries; tahini, oranges and pumpkin seeds; and yoghurt, banana, pine nuts and cinnamon. Enjoy!
Mara Yamauchi for World Athletics