Last year I spent a week in the middle of nowhere, in freezing cold, exercising over 6 hours a day in mud/gales/snow/hail, under the supervision of ex-military trainers who pushed me physically beyond my limits until every last droplet of sweat had been purged. My fellow “bootcampers” included a fresh out of prison and rehab drug dealer/addict, a morbidly obese woman who refused to communicate with anyone, a creepy London shop owner, a z-list celebrity from a certain Chelsea based reality TV show, whose ego was undeservedly overblown, and some poor guy whose father had told him he was going on a spa retreat in Spain but despatched him instead into gruelling and bleak middle England.
Our diet was heavily regimented, too: no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, and nothing processed. Despite its virtuousness, it was delicious - fresh, wholesome and innovative - all cooked by an ex-OXO Tower chef. Admittedly, food is the first thing I think of when I wake up anyway, but this feeling became intensified at the camp, especially with a 6 o’clock alarm call, and two hours of torture before breakfast. No, it wasn’t a prison camp: I did this out of choice.
It was one of the only occasions when getting chummy with the chef didn’t reap any edible perks. I did , however, manage to glean the recipe for the breakfast highlight of the week: Bircher muesli. It traditionally has a fluid consistency and is made the night before to allow the oats to become plump with apple juice and yoghurt. This one breaks all the rules but is more delicious, healthier and a hundred times more convenient – most people (excluding me) spare little thought for breakfast, let alone prepare for it the night before.
This recipe is dairy-free and sugar-free simply because I think it’s delicious that way, but feel free to use dairy equivalents, and add some maple syrup if you’re that way inclined – it works equally well. It can also be made gluten-free – just use the appropriate muesli brand.
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 cups sugar-free muesli
1 Braeburn apple, grated and sprinkled with 1 tsp lemon juice (this will prevent it oxidising and going brown)
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup coconut yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt)
3 tbsp coconut milk (or dairy)
2 tbsp apple juice
(1 tbsp maple syrup – optional)
¼ cup coconut yoghurt
A handful of strawberries
2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan over a medium heat for a few minutes until pale brown
- Stir together all topping ingredients. It should be of a thick consistency but feel free to add another splash of coconut milk if you prefer. Leave for 10 minutes to allow the muesli to absorb the flavours.
- Top with yoghurt, and scatter with berries and flaked almonds. Drizzle with maple syrup if you like.