Monday, 28 March 2011

Breakfast of champions – Bircher Muesli

This is the perfect weekend jump-start when the clock-change is imminent and there is a sweeter smell of summer in the air (I haven’t asked a science person about this but I am sure there is…Does anyone else sniff the air and get excited - or is that just me?) We shared it with our friend Caz, who is a champion in every way. Oh, and then we moved a shed, built a wall and overhauled the garden. Testimony to its powers.

Porridge in its many manifestations has by now done its job, an inner pilot-light through dark mornings that by now sits a bit heavy on the imagination. Crunchy nut cornflakes, clusters, whatevers are dreamy but for addicts like the BSG and me a daily dose could be a fast-track to overkill and the exit of the crunchy nut asylum – a place I do not plan to leave; they are there only for special occasions and late night snacks. No, what we need now is restraint, plus something virtuous to break the fast before summer brings along its fruit salads.

The best thing about this recipe is that you will feel so incredibly pleased with yourself all round. It is delicious, healthy and you can put pretty much any combination of fruit, nuts, seeds and yoghurt in, so it doesn’t get boring. You can keep the soaked porridge oats in the fridge for a few days and mix things in each morning as the mood takes you. Thank you, Switzerland.

I am not sure it even merits a recipe – really, an idiot could do it, but here’s one from Gordon Ramsay that I’ve tweaked, as for some reason it seems harder to write one the easier the method is. Or perhaps that is just me.

Serves 4

200g rolled oats (about 2 cups)
350ml apple juice or water (about 11/2 cups)
1 crunchy apple, Braeburns work well
125g natural or low-fat yoghurt
Seasonal fresh fruit (such as berries, bananas, peaches and apricots)
Runny honey, to drizzle (or maple syrup)
A sprinkling of nuts or seeds, to serve

Place the oats in a bowl and cover with enough apple juice or water to
moisten them. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill for an hour, or preferably overnight, in the fridge.
Peel the apple if you prefer, then coarsely grate (discarding the pips) and stir into the oats. Stir in enough yoghurt to reach a desired consistency. You could also add more milk, yoghurt or apple juice to loosen the mixture if it is too thick.Serve the muesli in individual bowls topped with seasonal fruit of your choice then drizzle with a little honey. Sprinkle with your favourite nuts or seeds – whatever you have to hand.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


I have had a cold for what feels like months. No matter what I take, it sticks around, lulling me into a false sense of security by momentarily letting me breathe through my nose whilst talking, or sniff unshackled for a nanosecond. But no, it’s always a brief glimmer of hope over across never-ending sea of Olbas oil. If it carries on any longer I will be buying shares in Sudafed. Worst of all, people look on in horror when I try talking as I sound like Ed Miliband. Where everything else has failed, I am hoping to purge myself of this unwanted horror by writing the brute out.

Perhaps I could be forgiven for thinking that some serious spice might shift it. We tried lunch at Wahaca last week: crunchy and briefly fragrant but no cigar, and I’d had high hopes for the curry we had at the Battersea Rickshaw for my brother Dave’s 30th (he’s a spice addict) – apparently it was delicious…though I did have a kamikaze mouthful of one green chilli somewhere during proceedings which I could taste…

There was a longer break in the status quo when we hit Dotori in Finsbury Park last week. The BSG’s sister, Pom, has long been singing the praises of her favourite local, opposite the Twelve Pins on Stroud Green Road. If you’ve never trodden the Finsbury Park turf, do not fear getting lost – this place couldn’t be any closer to the station.

The restaurant serves both Japanese and Korean food, with a slight lean towards Korean. This being my first Korean meal ever, I was not sure what to expect, but I can say with certainty that they do hot and crisp very well. It’s not a big place and was already heaving when we arrived – Pom had been right to book. The menu was broad and gave good descriptions of everything on offer. We had some pork gyoza dumplings to start, plus some very spicy kimchi (fermented cabbage), delicious and reportedly rather smelly (what’s the nasal equivalent of falling on deaf ears, I wonder?) with a chilli hit to pierce the lurgy. Then, some tooth-sticking crispy chilli squid which no doubt held the fat content of a small town but was caramelised deliciousness. The rice sticks in a chilli-based sauce (looked like anaemic Cheesestrings but thankfully the similarity ended there) were hoovered up in no time, and somewhere along the way the BSG snapped his chopsticks in half in his unbridled enthusiasm.

Everything was shared and enthusiastically scoffed and the staff were ready to make any decisions on our behalf when required, thus avoiding any faux pas when coupling our main courses of bibimbap and their sauces. These are clay pots of sizzling (nuclear-hot, finger-tip-searing) rice, egg, vegetables and a choice of meat toppings, stirred ‘in the right way’ by our helpful waiter. Ever the wild card, the BSG chose the raw beef topping – there was no offal listed on the menu. Lip-reading the groans of pleasure elicited by my fellow diners I could tell that these were good – if not quite spiced highly enough to clear my olfactory system.

In the name of research, I am looking forward to revisiting this reasonably-priced, no-frills establishment once more, when I’ve taken hold of the appropriate senses. Much to the BSG’s chagrin, I will be taking my camera next time, if the food stays on the plate for long enough…