When I was growing up, my breakfast of choice was a bowl of Coco Pops drowned in full fat milk. I would race to the back door in the morning to get my hands on our daily-delivered milk before my brother could beat me to it and win the golden prize of the thick layer of creamy milk at the top of the bottle. In the winter, the robins and blue tits instinctively knew a delicious liquid breakfast awaited them with pecked holes in the foil revealing their cheeky skimming. Once the milk was poured over the Coco Pops I would impatiently sit for a few minutes with spoon in hand waiting for the chocolate coating to turn the milk brown. Then before the Pops got too soggy I would scoop them out leaving as much of the chocolate sugary milk as possible; then drink it greedily. Then in my 20s, came the bacon butties addiction, but that’s another story…
Oh how my tastes have changed and now I like nothing more than to start the day with something healthy. I could quite happily live on home-made granola, fruit compote and yogurt every day of the week – particularly when the berry season is in fully swing, but variety is the spice of life and bircher muesli is another firm favourite in my healthy breakfast repertoire. Using jumbo oats in bircher make a wonderful chunky texture and satisfyingly filling breakfast and just like my beloved home-made granola and fruit combo I find it hard to let go of a good thing. But trying different food is where the joy lies in eating and so I decided to stray off-piste – just a little – but it’s got to be filling, healthy and tasty.
My full-blown love affair with quinoa been exposed recently and I can’t get enough of this tasty little grain. Technically it’s a seed but it’s used in the same way as a grain seed and was called ‘the mother grain’ by the ancient Incas who cultivated it over 5,000 years ago. I regularly use quinoa in salads as I like its delicate texture and slightly nutty taste, but having recently tried a light textured quinoa Sourdough and delicious quinoa and spelt scone it got me thinking about using this nutritious ‘grain’ in different ways.
To be honest I didn’t think its fluffy texture would work in a bircher, as its not as full bodied and absorbent as oats, but the cereal was incredibly light and kept me full for ages. Maybe because I had a huge bowl full, being delicious as it was, but it does have a low glycaemic index so will release energy slowly to prevent mid-morning hunger pangs. When I read that quinoa was used to sustain Incan armies, who marched for days eating “war balls” of quinoa and fat, you know that this tiny grain is a real powerhouse of energy and is going to get you through the morning at the very least.
So not to stray too far from a feel-good breakfast with sustenance and taking advantage of the bounty of fruit available right now: home grown berries bursting with flavour and exotic sweet fragrant mangoes from Pakistan, this breakfast is an absolute winner. You can make this completely dairy and gluten free if you opt for a lactose free yogurt, too. The key to enjoying quinoa is to not overcook it as there’s nothing worse that quinoa that has turned into horrid sludge as you definitely need a bit of bite. When simmering, the surface should just be gently bubbling over and then leave to steam with the heat off afterwards.
2 tbsp coconut or natural yogurt
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
Half small mango, sliced
Handful of coconut chips, toasted
Handful of flaked almonds, toasted
- Rinse the quinoa thoroughly for a minute and add to a medium saucepan. Add the water and bring to the boil, then gently simmer for 10 minutes until just beginning to sprout. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot and stand for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water then fluff up with a fork and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
- Stir the raspberries, yogurt and desiccated coconut into the quinoa, pressing some of the raspberries on the side of the bowl so they start to break down. Add enough almond milk to loosen the mixture and top with the sliced mango, coconut chips and flaked almonds. If you want it a little sweeter then drizzle a little runny honey over the top.