Some of you might recall me banging on about my breakfast conundrum a while back, when I first started working from home. I’ve never been a breakfast person and am rarely moved by anything I might have in the pantry. When I worked at the Museum there were plenty of decent cafés nearby, so I could always pick up a brioche or croque monsieur when hunger finally drove me to distraction. Well, I’ve tried a few things since leaving the big house, but none of them really took. Cereals bore me sooner or later, toast is really just toast, and porridge is too much trouble for the most part. I do like a bit of porridge though, especially with cream, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar and butter. Which brings me to another relevant detail of late.
As I’m a parent now, I’ve realised I really ought to keep an eye on my health, rather than throwing caution to the wind and similar laissez-faire sentiments. So I booked one of those men’s heath check-ups with my G.P. This involved various measurements being taken, flasks and test-tubes being filled ete etc. For the most part, I passed swimmingly. Heart rate: good; blood pressure: good; no ‘occult blood’ (which is always reassuring); and an acceptable amount of ‘bad cholesterol’ in my blood. My ‘good cholesterol’ levels are apparently through the roof, which I put down to a massive consumption of olive oil. So all good news really… except that is for my Doctor’s parting comment: “you could afford to lose 10 kilos… you’re a bit heavy”
Based on what I told him of my usual eating habits, he suggested that I needed to think about when I was eating, more than what I was eating. Irritating as it is, I fear he may be on to something. So. Breakfast is back on the agenda, and hopefully my late night tendency towards carb-craving will subside.
I’ve always liked toasted muesli, or at least the idea of it. Trouble is, most of the commercial versions are either too sweet, not sweet enough, lacking in what I like (quality dried fruit and nuts), or loaded with things I despise (raw peanuts and those horrible nuggets of yoghurt-wax or whatever the hell that stuff actually is). Call me slow off the mark but it only very recently occurred to me to simply make my own muesli. And I do mean simply.
I looked through dozens of recipes on-line. Some were monastically chaste and others little more than confectionary. They had little to offer my fickle tastes, but eventually I gleaned from them a common method. The only essential ingredients in toasted muesli, as far as I could ascertain are oats, honey and vegetable oil (well I suppose you could use animal fat of you really wanted to…). Every things else is dependent on personal tastes, and what you’re looking for in a muesli i.e. tasty, slow-release energy food, or high-health oral flagellation. Needless to say I am firmly of the former persuasion.
So I went shopping. The bulk bins at my supermarket are well decked out for the health conscious kind (it is perhaps telling that I have only recently discovered this fact). I was able to choose between a vast array of fruit and nuts with which to festoon my muesli, but eventually settled on the deluxe berry and deluxe nut mix’s (un roasted, unsalted, no peanuts), and dried papaya with lime. By this time I had a squawking baby Olive to placate, so I filled my bags and carried on shopping with my newly acquired frazzled parent haste…
Later that night
Using the basic method below, I made what really has turned out to be, my ultimate breakfast food. It’s loaded with carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals and copious quantities of my own backyard honey. It’s contrastingly crunchy, sweet, tender and toasty. Better still, such is the variety of ingredients, that every mouthful tastes different to the last. A modest bowl of this stuff fills me up till well past midday, and my late night pangs appear to be subsiding.
The only real drawback came when I looked closely at my supermarket receipt. I had paid over $30 for those ‘deluxe’ fruit and nuts. Might just use the scales next time.
Virgil’s Ultimate Toasted Muesli
4 cups rolled oats
2 cups dried fruit (I use currants, raisins, cranberries, sultanas, goji berries and papaya)
2 cups raw nuts (I use brazils, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews and almonds)
1 cup desiccated coconut
¾ cup honey
¼ cup vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
½ tsp salt
Optional: Whatever takes your fancy
Pre-heat oven to 180C.
In a small saucepan, heat the honey and oil. Do not allow to boil. Mix together the oats, nuts, coconut and salt. Add the oil & honey. Mix together thoroughly and leave well alone for about 15 minutes.
Spread the mixture in a thin layer in your biggest oven tray. You may need to do this in batches. Bake until just turning golden (about 10 minutes), stir and repeat. The muesli will be damp and sticky until it cools. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly. If still slightly damp return to the oven for a few minutes.
When completely cooled and crunchy add fruit and blend thoroughly. Store in a moth-proof, airtight container.
Note: If you’re hung up on the benefits of raw nuts, add at the end along with the fruit. Don’t blame me it tastes all beige though.