Muesli maketh the morning

Claire Wiltshire 16 December 2008

A hearty bowl of muesli can provide the perfect start to a day, with slow-release energy from grains taming appetites until lunch. There are about as many variations of muesli as there are ways to prepare a plate of eggs; but it all started with the Swiss doctor Max Bircher-Benner, who first developed this enduring cereal. His recipe consisted of oats, nuts and fruit, and although it reached English shores around the turn of the 20th century, Bircher muesli wasn't popularly consumed until the hippie movement brought health food to the general public.

Since the '60s, wholefood stores have provided the oats, bran and other bits and pieces for the nutrition-conscious to build their own blends. But with people wising up to the importance of grains and dry fruit as part of their diet, as well as the benefits of low GI foods for breakfast, a burgeoning boutique muesli market has stepped up to the plate.

Caroline Creswell went out on a limb to successfully bring her small muesli-making business to mainstream supermarkets with her range of Carman's Fine Foods products. Its distribution has risen from a few select health shops, to a wider market that includes airlines and twenty overseas countries. The Carman's range of muesli bars and cereals tick a range of food intolerance boxes, being free of gluten (with the Deluxe Fruit Muesli only), wheat and dairy.

For many years, well-loved writer and presenter Flip Shelton has been spreading the word on the importance of breakfast with radio appearances on Triple R, MIXFM and Triple M, as well as on her popular blog. Recently, Flip has put the preaching into practice by producing a range of handcrafted muesli. Her perspective on breakfast is based on the principle from Eastern philosophy, ‘eat like a king at breakfast'.

‘You should put the best fuel into your body to energise and sustain you through the morning,' says Flip. ‘I believe in using the best available ingredients or there's no point eating-why waste calories on inferior food?'

Her muesli range honours this approach to a sustaining feed of quality ingredients for the first meal of the day, and has been developed to reflect her own varying tastes. In addition to scrumptious dried fruit, grains and nuts, Flip's muesli includes an interesting and relatively unheard-of super-food grain called amaranth. Grown in the Andes, it is an ancient grain that has been celebrated for centuries as an excellent source of protein. With all this focus on ingredients, added extras are entirely optional.

‘I originally created the blends with so much flavour and texture you would only need to add milk (soy, rice or regular),' says Flip, ‘but it is also glorious with a dob of yoghurt and some fresh fruit. Bananas and berries go very well.'

Flip's muesli can be found in an increasing number of breakfast spots around town, including Tre Espresso in Brunswick, Lawson Grove Shop in South Yarra and the new Carre Street Deli in Elsternwick. Other breakfast cafés are also creating muesli blends, preparing them with their own distinctive recipes. The muesli at Yarra Valley's Fruition bakery is one such treat that uses a nutty tasting oat base. It's all about the method for this enthusiastic team, who delicately toast the oats as their bakery oven cools down after bread baking sessions.

To toast or not to toast is a dilemma faced by many a muesli maker. Flip suggests a healthier product is derived from minimal ‘human interference' with the grains. There are plenty of breakfasters though, who can't go past a rich toasted bowl. Some of the finer examples of the style can be found at Degreaves Espresso, Beetroot in the city, and various organic eateries around town.


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