It’s the early part of a new century. Medical science is advancing in leaps and bounds but many are wary of this progress and the influence of naturopathy is growing. Protein-packed diets are spruiked by some as the key to good health but raw-food enthusiasts are also gathering force.
We’re talking about 2016, right? Actually, no—we’re back in 1904, the year in which Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner opened a new sanatorium near Zurich that soon became wildly fashionable. Bircher-Benner was an advocate for raw food. His fervent and oft-expressed belief that raw foods contained high levels of solar energy cut little ice with his scientific colleagues but well-to-do Europeans, both in sickness and in health, lapped it up. Celebrity patients were many (the writer Thomas Mann referred to the sanatorium as a “health jail”), spending long stretches observing strictly supervised regimes involving copious fresh air, long walks and muesli as the starter to every meal.
With the benefit of hindsight it is hard not to conclude that patients’ recovery from conditions such as obesity and constipation owed more to exercise and fibre than to mysterious forms of solar energy; Bircher-Benner’s theory died with him in 1939.
His muesli, happily, lived on. It came to be regarded as a Swiss national dish, and has enjoyed something of an international resurgence in recent years. The original recipe comprised oats soaked in cold water, grated apple, ground hazelnuts or almonds, lemon juice, plus condensed milk.
The condensed milk is the only ingredient that would not win many plaudits from today’s nutritionists and it is probably no surprise that it has pretty much disappeared from modern Bircher muesli recipes, of which there are many. Yolaine Corbin’s version has a smart contemporary twist—a handful of goji berries—and can be finished with a healthy dollop of yoghurt or indulgent double cream along with the fruit of your choice.
- Place apple and hazelnuts into the bowl and mix 0.5 seconds/Turbo 2–3 times.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix 15 seconds/Reverse/speed 3. Transfer into one large serving dish or 4 to 6 individual bowls, cover and leave to soak in the fridge overnight.
- To serve, garnish with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or double cream and top with the sliced banana, fresh berries and orange segments.
AND … You can add any fruits (dried, fresh or stewed), nuts or seeds you fancy to the mix. Yolaine recommends a mix of fresh pear, blueberries, lemon and mint with chia seeds, or raspberry, passionfruit, dates, macadamia and coconut.