The best skier’s breakfast in the world? Look no further than Swiss Birchermüesli.
You might find this is the most useful blog of the season. Not just because it is about a candidate for Greatest Skier’s Breakfast of All Time, but because you could find yourself eating this healthy dish year-round.
First, a word of warning: on no account confuse Swiss Birchermüesli with the stuff sold ready mixed in supermarkets back home – although the latter has its fans. When I told my dentist that my brother had broken a tooth on a rock-hard raisin lurking in his cereal bowl, my dentist just smiled and said, “Ah yes, where would we all be without müesli?”
Swiss Birchermüesli, on the other hand, is rarely crunchy, and always made from scratch using plenty of fresh fruit. It was made famous around 1900 by one Dr Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner, who ran a sanatorium near Zürich. He was inspired by a dish offered to him by a dairymaid during a hike in the mountains, and thought the fresh, unprocessed ingredients would be good for his patients. He, however, used condensed milk, to prevent the risk of TB infection from unpasteurised milk.
Nowadays you will usually find a big bowl in the breakfast buffet at most Swiss hotels, although traditionally it is more popular here as a light supper. Mercifully, it comes free of the tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, knit-your-own-yoghurt worthiness that müesli carries back home.
The Swiss are justifiably proud of it: müesli is the only Swiss-German word to have entered the vocabulary of languages all over the world. It consists of the dialect word mües – a puree, mush or pap – plus the diminutive suffix “li”, beloved of the Swiss, which the Germans find so comical. The Swiss have the last laugh, though, because their neighbours to the north invariably mispronounce the dish. If you hear a waitress in a Swiss restaurant yell across to the kitchen, in Swiss-German, “a small mouse for table four”, you’ll know she’s poking fun at some Germans.
There are countless variations on the recipe. After munching my way through a host of them – including the one I grew up on, made by my mum, who is Swiss – I use the following as a guide. The sweetness of the fruit means you don’t need to add sugar; the oats are said help lower cholesterol levels, as porridge fans will know.
If, like me, you find the sight of a bowl of glutinous porridge in the morning enough to turn your stomach, try this instead:
Basic Birchermüesli recipe (two large portions)
125 ml orange juice
Juice of half a lemon
Two apples, grated (skin included)
Two bananas, chopped
Extra fresh fruit, the juicier the better – e.g. mango and/or kiwi, chopped
Milk to taste
Soak the oats and raisins in the juice for half an hour. Just before serving, grate the apple, and add with the other fresh fruit and milk.
Ski bums living in cheapo digs may not have the luxury of scales, grater or orange squeezer, so just try the following:
Ski bum’s Birchermüesli (one portion – the others can make their own)
Bung two handfuls each of oats and raisins into a bowl. Chop an orange in half, and mash out the pulp with a back of a spoon; pick out the pips if you’re worried about your teeth. Half an hour later, add a chopped banana. If it’s not a powder day, peel and chop a kiwi, and finely chop an apple – if you can be bothered – and add.
Munch while climbing into your ski kit.
- Further information: the Warren Smith Ski Academy (www.warrensmith-skiacademy.com), the Switzerland Travel Centre (00800 100 200 30, www.MySwitzerland.com) and the local tourist office (www.verbier.ch).
- Train tickets from the UK to major Swiss cities are available through Rail Europe (0844 848 4070; www.raileurope.co.uk); onward travel within Switzerland through the Swiss Federal Railways (www.sbb.ch)
- Equipment rental through Ski Service (00 41 27 771 67 70; www.skiservice.com).