Patata L-Forn – Maltese Roast Traybake

Since my Nanna died in October, 2017, I have found myself increasingly turning to Maltese cuisine when it comes to dinner time. I guess that is the transcendental power of food: it can spiritually connect you to a time, place or person no matter how far they may be. Interestingly, this is not a dish that I really remember my Nanna making for me – she probably did, but when I think of eating at Nanna’s house, I think of Hobz biz-Zejt for lunch, soups like brodu, minestra or my Nannu’s favourite ‘Widow’s Soup’, baked rice or pasta, Maltese ravjul (the ‘big sister’ to Italian ravioli), and the ‘good’ pastizzi! By ‘good’ pastizzi, I mean the pastizzi from ‘the old Maltese man who makes them’; these pastizzi were, and still are, like something you can only get on the Black Market – made the traditional way by a mysterious old Maltese person that you probably need to meet in a dark alley with a briefcase to get your stash…

But back to this recipe. This recipe is one that I really associate with my mother. It was, and very much still is, Mum’s go-to. For her, it is as much about the aniseed flavour that punctuates the roasted meat and vegetables as it is about convenience. I have made this for friends when they have come over for a dinner, primarily because it is a cinch to make and robust with flavour; it can be prepared in advance and thrown in the oven an hour before you’re ready to eat. It is as technically demanding as peeling and slicing some potatoes, but what you end up with is a whole meal in a pan which cooks itself while you are busy doing other things.

Patata l-forn literally translates to ‘potatoes in the oven’ but think of it more as a roast traybake. Maltese juries will be divided over how to make the perfect patata l-forn: Chicken, lamb or pork? Peas or no peas? Fennel seeds or caraway? This is likely to be a controversial blog post as my Mum and aunts and cousins are all following. Patata l-forn is to the Maltese what a roast chicken is to the English or Australians – there is no real one way to do it, but if you ask me there are a few things which cannot be compromised.

The first is potatoes. You want a good roasting potato; an all-rounder like Desiree will do nicely. What you cannot compromise on is potato placement: they must be arranged on top of the meat, covering the protein and vegetables below and very slightly overlapping. The contents below steam the underside of the potatoes as they roast making them soft to eat while going and crispy on top; the steam produced under the potatoes also makes the meat incredibly tender. Nanna and my Uncle Jim’s mum would sprinkle some Keen’s curry powder on top of the potatoes for an extra kick, and my mum likes it with a little paprika. Uncle Jim’s mum would often beat a few eggs with parmesan cheese and pour it all over the potatoes in the last five minutes of cooking. I am yet to try this myself, but I am intrigued.

The second is peas. And by peas I mean trusty, reliable frozen peas that you will nearly always have in the freezer. You’ll think that roasting peas in the oven would make them go mushy; they do go dull in colour and soft, but they do hold they shape well. Mum and Aunty Margaret will often add carrots and even cherry tomatoes. You could even add some sliced capsicum, zucchini or fennel, I suppose, but I tend to like the simplicity of the peas and potatoes alone.

Third for me is caraway seeds. Mum and I are #TeamCaraway while my Nanna and Aunty Margaret are #TeamFennel. Use either until you find your tribe. What you do want, though, is a whole spice seed that permeates the roast with that pungent aniseedy aroma.

The last is liquid, and this is the bit that will be controversial and potentially where I run the risk of making a Maltese cross (pun intended). Perhaps it is my Italian sensibilities at work here but I need something to mop up with a piece of crusty bread at the end of my meal; the addition of a little tomato paste dissolved in stock make this almost a self-saucing traybake. The peas and onions tenderise while the juices of the protein and aromatic spices thicken and flavour a light gravy that can be spooned over the meat and potatoes or absorbed by bread later. Mum, Aunty Margaret and my Nanna omit this entirely, pouring just a little water into the pan for moisture and steaming. I don’t know where I got the idea from that this was just how you made patata l-forn, but it is certainly how I make it and how we like to eat it.

You can essentially use whichever protein you like. My preference is chicken pieces: bone in and skin on, rubbed with a little oil and seasoned before covering with the potato duvet. Aunty Margaret and Uncle Jim love this with pork chops, and it is commonly made this way.

But as somewhat an ode to my mother, I have given you the recipe for patata l-forn with lamb chops, her protein of choice for this favourite dish.

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PATATA L-FORN
Potatoes in the Oven (Maltese Roast Traybake)
Serves 4 – 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 forequarter lamb chops (or 8 lamb cutlets, or 6 pork chops, or 8 – 10 chicken pieces or 4 – 6 chicken Maryland – chicken must be bone in, skin on)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 or 4 potatoes, preferably Desiree or similar, peeled and sliced into 1cm thick discs
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled but pressed with the back of a knife
  • 500g frozen peas, do not thaw
  • 3 teaspoons caraway seeds (or fennel seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup of chicken stock
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes and fresh cracked black pepper


METHOD

Preheat oven to 200 C (fan forced).

Tip the peas, still frozen, into a shallow roasting tray; one that will hold the peas and sauce without spilling – about an inch deep. (I have specified 500g of peas but this is approximate; you want to generously cover the full base of the pan

Add onion slices, pressed garlic, and a third of the caraway seeds. Give light drizzle of oil (about a tablespoon) and a pinch of salt, then mix well to evenly distribute the onion and seeds.

 

Season the lamb with more salt and pepper and arrange, evenly spaced, on top of the peas. Sprinkle one more teaspoon of caraway seeds evenly across the meat before lightly drizzling each lamb chop with a little more oil.

Lay the potato slices over the whole tray, slightly overlapping them, and totally covering the meat and peas. Season the potatoes with a generous pinch of salt and some cracked pepper, and the remaining caraway seeds.

Slowly and gently, pour the tomato paste and stock mixture into the base of the pan from one corner, try to avoid wetting the potatoes.

Give the potatoes a light drizzle with oil before roasting in the oven for about 45 mins – 1 hour, or until the meat is cooked and the potatoes are lightly bronzed and crispy on top but tender when pierced with a fork.

Serve immediately with chunky slices of crusty bread to soak up the gravy.

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Breakfast Hash

I am determined to represent Australia in the One Pan Cooking Olympics and when I do, this ‘Breakfast of Champions’ may well be my secret to winning gold – it’s certainly a winner in this household. It’s a winning combination of golden potatoes, flecks of bacon and gooey fried eggs with the subtle perfume of fresh herbs, best enjoyed with a fine blend of tea while watching the rain fall outside from your bedroom window. This is the ultimate one pan lazy weekend breakfast in bed food, so I beg you all to make this and Instagram your foodporn photos with hashtags like #neverleavingthisbedexcepttomakemorehash – and of course tagging @aldo_cucina!

I don’t have too much more to say about this except for the fact that you probably already have the ingredients in your fridge, pantry and garden, and that you can cut down the cooking time by half if you use a pan that you can cover with a lid. If you don’t have a lid for your pan, try covering it with some aluminium foil. I recently bought a new Tefal 30cm hard anodised non stick sautee pan on sale at Harris Scarfe for half-off which is perfect for this recipe.

Also, fresh herbs are necessary, so if you don’t at least have rosemary growing in your garden, get some. It is unkillable and will add a subtle woodiness to recipes like this. I have made this with dried herbs before and I find the flavour too intense and almost soapy.

Don’t fear middle rashes of bacon as the fat will render and give even more salty caramelisation to the potatoes; having said this, short cut bacon works just fine, and the ultimate indulgence is to substitute the bacon with chunks of chorizo which will pepper the hash with its fiery juices. Go on, I dare you!

Right, that’s it. Best get cracking!

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Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium potatoes good for frying (like Royal Blue or Red Delight), peeled and cut into roughly 1.5cm cubes
  • 150g bacon, chopped roughly into 1 – 1.5cm pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped, plus a little extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus a little extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1/4 cup pecorino, finely grated
  • pinch of kosher sea salt flakes
  • fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

METHOD

  1. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan, preferably one with a lid, over medium heat.
  2. Tumble in the potatoes and add a pinch of salt. Mix to cover evenly in the oil. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent burning, or until the potatoes are evenly golden and tender. (You can cook the potatoes for longer – they will take about 30 minutes, so cover with foil if you your pan does not have a lid)
  3. Remove the lid an add the bacon pieces and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the bacon is evenly coloured and cooked to your liking.
  4. Add the fresh herbs and toss through the potatoes and bacon.
  5. Use your mixing spoon to create four wells in the potato mixture, evenly spaced. Crack an egg into each well and cover the eggs and potatoes with a good sprinkling of grated pecorino. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the whites are firm and the yolks still soft.
  6. Remove from the heat and season with cracked black pepper and some extra fresh rosemary, thyme and pecorino.
  7. Lift the eggs and potato and bacon hash out of the pan with an egg slide. Serve immediately.

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Pumpkin, Strawberry and Gorgonzola ‘Traybake’ Salad

Okay, so I love a traybake. I love the simplicity, the lack of washing up, and the lack of plating up. But to be fair, this is more of a traybake-salad hybrid. In the spirit of the one-pan dinner (my preferred way to cook) you can literally take this one straight from the oven to the table with just a little artless assembly (my preferred way to assemble) along the way.

Half of the inspiration for this has been brewing in my mind for a few weeks now. My sister-in-law, Lilli, was going to be in town and asked if I’d like to meet for lunch after I finished up at work. We decided to meet at Old Friend bistro and bar on Pirie Street where I had caught up with, aptly, an old friend for lunch a few weeks before. By happy circumstance, my husband’s office was a street away and he was free for lunch, and our nephew, Christopher, and his girlfriend, Alice, were also around and free for lunch! Our lunch for two became an impromptu family catchup for six. The fabulous yet concise menu at Old Friend provides something to please everyone, yet it was Alice’s vegan roast pumpkin salad that was the table showstopper and the source of lots of plate envy: think thick wedges of roasted pumpkin with salad leaves, grilled stone fruit and accessorised with ruby red pomegranate jewels. It looked so beautiful on the plate that it has stuck in my mind as something I might one day try to replicate.

The other half of the inspiration for this recipe was a salad I made for a Christmas brunch a few years ago which consisted of baby spinach leaves, pecans, gorgonzola and strawberries. Blue cheese isn’t to everyone’s liking, and even if it isn’t your fromage du jour, I urge you to be open-minded: the sharp saltiness of the cheese is the perfect counterbalance to the sweetness of fruit, and this salad is a perfect example of how to make these flavours work in perfect harmony.

So, I have taken the essence of the strawberry, spinach and gorgonzola salad and coupled it with roasted pumpkin to create something that is sure to prove that you can, very much, make friends with salad!

 

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PUMPKIN, STRAWBERRY AND GORGONZOLA TRAYBAKE SALAD
Serves 4 as a main or 8 as an entree

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 large Jap pumpkin; seeds reserved
  • 100g pecans
  • 1 punnet strawberries; leaves removed, quartered
  • 2 large handfuls (about 120g) beetroot leaves (or rocket or baby spinach)
  • 100g pecan kernels
  • 180g Gorgonzola Dolce cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • A good pinch of salt

METHOD

Preheat oven to 220C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Slice the pumpkin into 8 equal sized wedges and reserve the seeds. Separate the seeds and remove the stringy fibres. Arrange the pumpkin pieces on the tray so they are evenly spaced.

Sprinkle the pecans and pumpkin seeds evenly over the tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and a sprinkle of salt.

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Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and the skin is a little coloured, being careful to roast but not burn the pecans. Do not to overcook or else the pumpkin will not hold its shape.

Meanwhile, in a small jar with a secure lid, add the honey, the remaining oil, and the balsamic vinegar. Shake vigorously to make a dressing making sure the honey is totally combined. Set aside.

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Remove the tray from the oven and distribute the leaves evenly over the pumpkin still in the tray. Then, evenly sprinkle over the quartered strawberries.

With your hands, break up the gorgonzola into small blobs and dot the salad with the cheese, then sprinkle over the sunflower seeds.

Give the jar of dressing a final shake and then drizzle a few tablespoons over the whole salad.

Place the whole tray on the table with a few salad servers and the jar of leftover dressing on the side, and let everyone help themselves.

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‘Stolen’ Lamb and Potato Packets

The idea for this recipe really started in the 15th Century, when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire. A band of highwaymen turned self-appointed resistance fighters, descendants of the Greeks who took refuge in the country regions to resist and oppose the looming Ottoman rule, became known as the Klephts.  These men were often bandits trying to avoid taxes, debts, vendettas against them, or on the run from Ottoman officials. They survived by ransacking travellers and settlements while they hid in the mountains and dense countryside. Famously, they would steal lambs and goats and cook the meat with potatoes, or whatever they could find, in fire pits dug into the ground. The pits would be filled with hot coals, the meat and vegetables wrapped in a parcel, and the pit would be covered over with dirt so that no smoke or fire could be seen, concealing  their whereabouts from those who might be out to get them. The Greeks call meat and potatoes cooked this way ‘kleftiko’. The word kleftis in Greek means ‘thief’ and without sounding like the Dad in ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ it isn’t hard to see the root of the traditional Greek word in words like kleptomaniac, a person who has the compulsion to steal.

In the spirit of the Klephts, I have remorselessly stolen the idea for my own meat and potato packets. I had the idea for making some sort of ‘food pack’ for dinner when we had a group of people over for a bonfire night. Ideally, I wanted something that we could cook in coals to christen our new fire pit; I wanted something fitting for sitting around a campfire – I wanted some sort of gourmet campfire cuisine. It also happened to be the case that majority of people at this bonfire night were Greek, so it seemed apt and brave to make something Greek inspired for dinner. I wasn’t game enough to try cooking them on the coals, so I relied on my oven which did the job perfectly.

There are so many things to love about this dish. You can prepare this well ahead of time and keep the foil parcels in the fridge to infuse the flavours taking them out an hour before you’re ready to cook to come to room temperature. You can use whatever meat and vegetables you like. The first time I made these for the bonfire night I used chuck steak, potatoes, green beans, capsicum and zucchini and they were a hit. I don’t know that I would use zucchini and capsicum again, though, as these vegetables tend to give off a lot of extra water, but cooking is all about experimentation after all. If using chicken, go for cuts like thigh which will not dry out. Also, this is rustic cooking at its best: once you prepare the parcels and pop them in the oven, it is really set and forget, whether you are making this for one, two or ten people, and presentation is really not a factor. Every person has their own parcel to open, there’s no fancy plating up, and if you eat them straight from the packet as the Klephts might have, there is minimal washing up. Above all, the foil parcels ensure that the meat cooks tenderly and the trapped steam ensures the contents are infused totally with garlicky, salty, citrusy and herby flavours that make up the spice mix.

An easy herbed yoghurt sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice, some grilled pita wedges and a quick Greek salad helps to make this a complete meal. Or try my Warm Greek Bean Salad to complement this on a cold night whether on the couch in front of the heater or around your own camp fire.

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‘STOLEN’ LAMB AND POTATO PACKETS
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 350g lean lamb, diced
  • 2 – 3 good roasting potatoes (I used Royal Blues), peeled and cut into 1.5cm slices
  • 2 teaspoons dried orgeano, plus more for sprinkling later
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons soft butter (not melted)
  • About a teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • A small handful of mint, roughly shredded (optional)

For the herbed yoghurt dressing you will need

  • 4 Tablespoons Greek natural yoghurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • zest and juice from the remaining half lemon
  • A good pinch or two of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200C (fan forced).

Place meat, potatoes, garlic, nutmeg, lemon juice and zest, salt pepper, oregano and rosemary and half the butter into a large bowl.

 

Mix together with your hands, making sure you smother the meat and potatoes totally with the herbs and the butter. You may need to squeeze the butter with your hands to help soften it and ensure even coverage of the spices and butter all over the meat and potatoes.

Cut 2 pieces of aluminium foil per packet, about 40cm lengths, and lay them criss-crossed one on top of the other.

Place half the potatoes in the centre of the top piece of foil then arrange the meat on top of the potatoes. Give another quick sprinkle with seasoning if you think it needs it. Place half the remaining butter on top of the meat.

Bring up the ends of the top piece of foil to begin creating your packet, totally covering the meat and potatoes. Now do the same with the bottom piece of foil. You have created your first packet!

Now create your second packet using another two piece of foil, placing potatoes on the foil first, then meat, a little extra seasoning if you wish, and the remaining butter.

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Place both parcels on a baking tray and cook in the oven for one hour.

While the parcels are cooking, add a clove of minced garlic, a good pinch of salt, a tablespoon of chopped mint, the zest and juice from the remaining half lemon to four tablespoons of natural yoghurt and mix thoroughly to combine to make your herbed yoghurt topping.

 

Use a tea towel or tongs to tip the parcels upside down for a few seconds before opening to give the meat and potatoes a quick coat with the melted butter, careful not to lose any of the juices from the packet.

Open the packets and top with the herbed yoghurt dressing, a lemon cheek, a sprinkling of dried oregano and some fresh chopped mint before serving.

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Let’s Talk Traybakes: Chicken and Chorizo

Let’s face it, you’re a busy working mum – regardless of gender. You have a partner and a house full of offspring, you’re the parent of fur-babies, or you are the urban professional singleton with a lot going on. Your week is hectic trying to fit in work, gym, housework, wine time with your mates, family obligations and generally functioning as a human being. And as much as you love having people around your table to share a meal you have prepared, sometimes it’s the last thing you need on your one night free when really all you want to do is sit on the couch, binge watch old episodes of ‘Will & Grace’ in your loosest fitting clothes and drink Prosecco straight from the bottle. Well, I can tell you, this crowd pleasing feed-an-army recipe is almost as effortless as pouring yourself another glass of wine. I think we all have room in our lives for a recipe like that.

Whether people are coming around for a midweek dinner or a weekend lunch, I almost always turn to this recipe. And it makes sense: tray-bakes are not so much cooking as they are throwing ingredients into a pan, tossing them in oil and spices, and whacking them in the oven for a good hour. As for plating up, dress some salad leaves in whatever you have patience for and put both the salad and tray-bake on the table with multiple tongs and serving spoons, and let everyone serve themselves. Done. We love eating this way when friends come over as it is the very essence of what sharing food and sharing good company is all about, not slaving away in a kitchen for hours trying to out-Heston yourself. Entertaining should be casual, relaxed and…entertaining, for the host too.

I have been converted to the simplicity of tray-bakes for dinner parties since my sister-in-law first made this particular recipe for us one night, so don’t be surprised when you see more tray-bake recipes on my blog in the future. In fact, a risotto stuffed tomato and a Maltese style chicken or lamb tray bake are two of the other dishes that are very regularly created in my oven and are already earmarked for future posts – the tomato traybake can be served vegetarian (so long as your vegetarian friends don’t mind a little pecorino cheese) or can be porked up with Italian sausages. The convenience of tray-bakes is not just the simplicity of a meal-in-a-tray or that you end up with only a couple of trays and a salad bowl to wash up, it is also the fact that you can prepare this hours ahead of time, wrap in cling wrap or foil and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to bake; doing so often means the protein has more time to infuse the flavour and fragrance of the spices and seasoning making for a delicious roast later on. Just bring the trays out of the fridge half an hour before you are ready to bake to bring to room temperature and away you go.

This tray-bake, however, is Nigella Lawson‘s, straight from her book Nigella Kitchen. Nigella is not called the Domestic Goddess for nothing, she has many recipes for different tray-bakes for easy and satisfying entertaining that are worth trying out, but this has become a household favourite. The original recipe can be found on her website but the recipe below is written the way I make it. One adjustment I have made is the addition of smoked Spanish Paprika which just gives the chicken some extra warmth. Nigella also specifies to use chicken thighs with the bone and skin still on, and while I agree that it is totally necessary to use chicken pieces with the bone and skin on to keep the chicken moist and to absorb the flavours of the chorizo and herbs, I prefer to buy a couple of packets of mixed portions so your guests can choose between a medley of wings, breasts, legs and thighs (sounds racier than I intend); my sister-in-law often uses just drumsticks.

While the original recipe caters for 6, I find the best rule of thumb is adjust the recipe based on the number of people around your table – I have made this for 8 – 10 people as many times as I can remember making it for 4 – 6. The following is a good guide:

  • 2 decent sized chicken portions per person + a few extra pieces in case some are particularly hungry or if you want leftovers (more on that later)
  • 3 – 4 baby chat potatoes or one large potato per person
  • 1 chorizo (approx 15cm) between two people + one ‘for the pan’
  • Make sure you have enough space on your tray that you don’t end up ‘stewing’ your bake in juices. If you are making this for 10 – 12 people, you might want 3 trays going in your oven if your oven can handle it

The photographs on this post show the recipe made for 4 people – with a little left over.

Leftovers the next day are good chopped up, mixed together with some fresh parsley and a diced fresh tomato, quickly panfried to heat through in an ovenproof pan – pour over four or so beaten eggs (or enough to cover the chopped chicken and veg in the frypan) and pop in a moderate oven until the eggs firm up and turn golden on top: leftover Spanish chicken and chorizo tortilla. Boom.

This is one of those dishes we love to eat regularly. Word of advice – be generous with the chorizo because that’s what everyone ends up picking at!

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SPANISH CHICKEN, CHORIZO AND POTATO TRAY BAKE
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 chicken portions, skin on, bone in (you could use a whole chicken, jointed) (see note above re adding extra pieces if you think you need)
  • 4 chorizo, cut into 2 – 3cm pieces
  • 18 baby chat potatoes, halved, or 5 large potatoes, quartered – unpeeled
  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, bruised
  • 2 red onions, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • zest from one orange
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 200C (fan forced)
  2. Put a tablespoon of oil in two shallow roasting tins or trays. You need a tray with a bit of a lip as the chicken and chorizo can give off a bit of juice.
  3. Divide the chicken pieces between the two trays then rub the skin side of the chicken in the oil to coat evenly.
  4. Divide the potatoes, chorizo, onions and garlic between the two trays and toss together with the chicken a few times. Evenly distribute the chicken, chorizo, potatoes and garlic across the trays ensuring the chicken is well-spaced and skin-side up.
  5. Grate the orange zest over the trays, then sprinkle with paprika and oregano. If you are preparing this in advance, cover with foil or cling wrap and place in the oven. Remove the trays from the fridge half an hour before baking to bring to room temperature.
  6. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes then baste the potatoes, chorizo and chicken with the juices in the pan. Swap the top tray with the bottom tray in the oven and bake and extra 30 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear when poked with a skewer and the potatoes and chicken appear golden.
  7. Sprinkle over with chopped parsley and serve straight on the table, in the pans, with enough tongs for people to help themselves, and salad leaves dressed with extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Pear and Berry Bircher

If I want to feel particularly virtuous, I make sure that I am totally prepared for the day ahead the night before: the gym bag is packed for that commitment to the gym after work, the house is spotlessly cleaned, lunches are packed, and I have committed to a day of healthy eating by preparing a healthy and satisfying breakfast before I have even gone to bed! My Pear and Berry Bircher ticks all the boxes – healthy, nutritious, delicious and made in under 10 minutes.

Unlike many other bircher muesli recipes, this one does not contain fruit juice which is a good thing if you are conscious of hidden empty calories and sugars.

Be sure that you use rolled oats – not quick oats – you want the coarser texture of the fuller oats so that they almost become a little plumper as they soak in the liquid overnight. Quick oats will absorb the moisture quicker and turn your muesli into a gloopy sludge.

Be adventurous with your fruit toppings. My mother in law gives us a bucket of apricots from her tree every summer, so I poached a whole batch in some water, a cinnamon stick, star anise and a little sugar and kept them in the fridge to have on our bircher every other morning. Frozen berries are a busy person’s godsend, though, and letting them defrost on your muesli overnight allows them to bleed a little extra juice which adds a fresh flavour to your breakfast. If you’re not such a fan of the tart acidity of the juice, defrost your berries on a plate lined with paper towel in the fridge and just add the berries to your muesli in the morning.

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PEAR AND BERRY BIRCHER
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Cup Rolled Oats
  • 1 pear, grated
  • 1 Cup Low Fat Natural Yoghurt (I like the creaminess of the Tamar Valley Natural Yoghurt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey
  • Handful of mixed frozen berries
  • Chopped nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds

METHOD

Combine oats, pear, yoghurt, water, cinnamon and honey in a bowl.

Divide mixture between two bowls.

Top with frozen berries, nuts and seeds.

Cover with cling wrap and place in fridge overnight.

If you like your bircher creamier, stir through an extra tablespoon of yoghurt before eating.

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