Bircher Muesli

In about 1900 a Swiss doctor named Maximilian Bircher-Benner developed a healthy, easily-digested dish for the patients in his hospital.

Bircher Muesli soon became a light evening meal or breakfast dish throughout Switzerland and northern Germany. In the latter half of the 20th century muesli spread to the rest of the Western world and became a commercial product.

Bircher Muesli makes a nice change from the toasted granola-style ones you buy or make yourself. You can always add some crunch via the toppings.

Bircher Muesli1 cup porridge oats (not the quick-cook variety)
1 cup plain yoghurt
½ cup milk
2 eating apples, cored and grated, including skin
Extra milk
Sliced banana
Fresh berries
Plain yoghurt
Honey to drizzle
Dried fruit, nuts, coconut

Mix oats with yoghurt, milk and grated apples. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with extra milk and a selection of toppings. Keeps in the fridge for two days.

Note:  I like the fact that this muesli is all ready to serve in the morning, when I have less time to spare for things like grating. However, if preferred, soak oats with yoghurt and milk and add grated apple when serving. Some recipes use fruit juice instead of milk, but I prefer milk.

Ricotta Hot Cakes with Honeycomb Butter

Bill Granger owns three busy cafes in Sydney where he has made his name serving fantastic breakfasts and brunches. We went to the one in Surrey Hills on Sunday a couple of weeks back. You can’t book and by the time we arrived it was nearly 10.30 so there was quite a queue. We were told the wait would be 20-30 minutes, which unfortunately ended up being fifty.

Fortunately the meal was worth waiting for. I chose the Gravlax which was good, but not as good as the Ricotta Hot Cakes with Honeycomb Butter, ordered by one of our party, who generously gave me a taste. I’m sure you know the feeling when you realise you should have ordered what someone else is having!

Bill’s recipe was easy to find online. It says it serves 6 to 8, but it’s not something I would make if I had to serve that many people for breakfast. Let them eat toast! I halved the recipe which made a filling breakfast for two. By making the hot cakes a bit smaller, or serving two per person instead of three, we could have served a third person.

The Honeycomb Butter is delicious, but if you want to serve the hot cakes for breakfast you need to make it the day before as it needs to chill for a couple of hours. If you don’t have time for that just spoon it into a small bowl and serve it in dollops. Or forget about the Honeycomb Butter and just drizzle them with honey. At Bill’s they serve maple syrup on the side, for those who want to add more sweetness, but I don’t think you need it.

To serve the hot cakes as a dessert, make them half the size so you end up with 12 little cakes which will serve 4. They would also be delicious with stewed rhubarb or indeed any fruit – cooked or fresh – that you have available.

Ricotta Hot Cakes with Honeycomb Butter

¾ cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, separated
½ cup plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
pinch salt
butter for frying
fresh strawberries, halved or sliced banana
icing sugar for dusting
Honeycomb Butter:
125g unsalted butter at room temperature
50g Honeycomb or a Crunchie Bar
1 Tbs honey

Remove chocolate from Crunchie bar with a sharp knife and discard (or eat!). Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Shape into a log on plastic wrap, roll up, seal and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Mix ricotta, milk and egg yolks in bowl. Add sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Whip egg whites in another bowl until stiff peaks. With a metal spoon, fold thoroughly into batter in two batches. Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with butter. Make three hotcakes using about 2 heaped tablespoons of batter for each. Cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes or until golden on the underside. Turn and cook on the other side. Transfer to a warm plate while you make three more, adding a little more butter to the pan.

Serve hotcakes with halved strawberries or thickly sliced banana and a slice of honeycomb butter. If you don’t have time to make the Honeycomb butter just serve drizzled with honey instead. Dust with icing sugar.

Makes 6 large hot cakes which serves 2-3

Note: if you can’t find ricotta you could use cottage cheese, whizzed in the food processor to remove lumps. South American readers could use queso fresco.

Rio Palace Waffles

Many moons ago when we were holidaying in Brazil our kids decided that the Rio Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro made the best waffles. I asked the chef for the recipe and somehow managed to write it down. Communication was hampered by the fact that he only spoke Portuguese and while I do speak Spanish, it’s similar but not quite the same!

His recipe started off with a dozen eggs and would have made enough waffles to feed an army, so I divided it by six. It wasn’t long before the kids had weekend waffle making down to a fine art, doubling the recipe if they had friends staying … and sometimes even when they didn’t. I was always amazed at how many they could demolish.

They’re great for breakfast with honey or maple syrup.  For dessert try them with quartered strawberries sweetened with a little sugar and a dash of white balsamic vinegar, caramel sauce and whipped cream, as shown in the photo. The kids never bothered, but if you have time separate the eggs and fold in the lightly whipped whites at the end, by hand, which makes the waffles even lighter. You can use milk instead of cream and water, but the results are crunchier with cream.

Rio Palace Waffles2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
200g or 1¾ cups plain flour, sifted
½ cup cream
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar or honey
½ to ¾ cup water

Using electric beaters or a food processor mix all the ingredients for the waffles, adding enough water to make a thick batter. Preheat an electric waffle iron, butter it and cook the waffles according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serves 8 for dessert (3 pieces each) or 2 hungry kids for breakfast