Home Made Special: Historical Porridge

In a shameless ploy to get Baby Chino’s History and Live some attention, I agreed to have him make me breakfast in bed. Aren’t I nice?

This morning we were travelling back in space and time to Ancient Greece, through the tried and true portal of porridge. According to the authors of The Classical Cookbook ancient greek women who knew about herbs could use this porridge, or kykeon, for dangerous purposes – like sending men to sleep, or worse!

It is likely a breach of copyright for me to post the actual recipe, so the things that went into this dish are: semolina (soaked, drained), ricotta cheese, honey and some egg. The combination of those ingredients in quantities approximating 1 : 3: 1/2 : 1/2 grams, and heated to almost boiling point, looked like this:

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I had an immediate insight into how the Athenians built the Parthenon, how Pythagoras birthed his theorem and how Sappho had the strength to articulate her passionate poetry: they were all essentially fuelled by cake. I could not contain my delight at having an excuse to eat such a thick, creamy batter for breakfast. There was a pleasing grittiness to this pale, slightly cheesy mass. A hint of honey transported me to the Elysian fields; as if I were lightly traipsing through them, sunlight reflecting dazzlingly off the golden fleece I’d be wearing, as well as off my perfect Grecian curls. That was all in the first mouthful. Subsequent mouthfuls became more and more laborious; indeed, Heracles would have been proud of me for eventually finishing such a task. It was exhausting, luckily I was already in bed so I could comfortably lapse into a food coma. Baby Chino thus truly succeeded in channelling those Ancient Greeks, or at least the women who knew about sleep herbs.

I would not recommend this as an every day food, at least not for anyone who wouldn’t use the subsequent energy to throw a discus or run a marathon.

Solid Porridge, Greece!

– MM

Home Made Special: OMG Granola – Oh My Ginger!

This latest homemade special is fulfilling a reader’s request to review the muesli that her very brave mother has made in a life-change involving the decision to dedicate her days to creating food through her Yarra Valley-based company OMG Cereals. I have the utmost respect for people making hard decisions to follow their dreams – especially if those dreams are oat related.

I was sent a packet of normal granola, gluten free granola and in a very touching gesture, a high-energy biscuit. If you are reading this, OMG-mumma, I cycled with vigour after eating that cookie!

OMG Granola:

Granola is such an easy breakfast as it does not require soaking overnight to unlock the awesome texture of oats, rather it promises a crunch-fest with simply the addition of milk and yoghurt. Here is the granola pre-yoghurt and for some reason pre-milk. I suppose I wanted to capture the essence of dry breakfast, and I feel like I succeeded:

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The first thing that struck me about this granola was the aroma – upon opening the packet I was met with a spiciness that suggested that I was in for an exotic experience. There was an impressive density of almonds and dried fruit that, in the presence of the spices, created an almost savoury flavour. I’ll admit I was in intellectual and gustatory shock given that granola tends to have very sweet connotations. What an original take on muesli! After the first bite, there was a lingering taste that I couldn’t quite place and that was reminding me of travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania as a rowdy teenager. This was a feeling the required further analysis as I tend not to have seafaring flashbacks during breakfast. With the next mouthful I realised that this granola contains ginger – which I did use as a remedy for nausea back in the day. This is quite a polarising ingredient and I might recommend to the creator of this muesli to ease back on the ginger as it is not to everyone’s taste in such quantities. Nevertheless, it did add to this being a truly unique, refreshingly savoury take on granola.

Final Word: OMG Cereals have tried hard to create a spicy granola that departs from the traditional honey-soaked variants that permeate the market. Due to the ginger content I would certainly recommend this to people at sea, and women suffering from morning sickness. Also give it a try if you are feeling like a savoury breakfast adventure.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Home Made Special: Lord Marmalade’s (thankfully) Marmalade-Free Muesli

One of the best things about being a muesli-blogger is that family and friends alike suddenly come out of the woodwork as being  muesli-makers. It warms my heart to receive portions of their creations, and so I have acquired a small collection of different muesli packaged in ways that causes me to fondly reflect on some of the donor’s idiosyncrasies: tiny jars (meticulous hoarder), old yoghurt containers (pragmatist) and tupperware (trusting, perhaps too much so as they might not ever see this container again). I feel quite privileged!

This morning’s home-made special comes from Lord Marmalade who, despite being my inspiration for ordering “The Works” at Shepparton Pizza Hut the other week, has become a real health food and exercise guru these days. I was very excited to try his muesli which contains things like:

Oats, bran, almond, pepitas, sultanas and pistachios

I soaked it overnight in milk and here is what I was greeted with in the morning:

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This was a very raw, earthy muesli which was elevated to gourmet status by a smoky savouriness imparted by the pistachios. The addition of salt is surprisingly pleasing in breakfast dishes, and while I won’t be adding salt to my weetbix any time soon (or will I? Maybe that is what will make weetbix take off as a cafe food!), salt in porridge and muesli (in the form of pistachio) is genius. Despite being soaked overnight, Lord Marmalade’s muesli was resilient to mushiness and instead was densely crunchy, adding a jaw workout to the health benefits of his dish. The only thing I might include in this breakfast next time would be a sprinkle of cinnamon (though would this blend with pistachio?) which would complement the almonds and any added banana.

Final word: If I was giving out stars, this would get 5 gold ones. As I am a star-witholder (anyone who has played Super Mario 64 knows you don’t just hand them out once you find them), I’ll say for those at home: pistachios in your muesli are worth the investment.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Home Made Special: Carman’s Muesli

I have to open this post with an apology to Carman’s:

I’m sorry this post is a year late. Basically, after my phone met its demise (with my unwitting help) my reviews were lost and I drowned my sorrows in the many varieties of muesli that you generously sent me. This has weighed heavily on my conscience and so recently, when it was on sale at Coles, I bought your muesli to re-review. Hopefully this can smooth over the awkwardness that I imagine exists between us.

Whew. Now I know why people go to confession – conscience clear! Let’s now turn to the muesli:

Carman’s Fruit and Nut:

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Look at it all, nestling snugly within the cool embrace of my second-favourite bowl. This muesli was generously endowed with nuts (ahem, almonds and hazelnuts) which provided big crunches subtly accompanied by smaller crunches of sesame seeds. This textural fiesta was also attended by sultanas and dried fruit pieces which erupted in a satisfying squish of cinnamon and slight sweetness with each bite – flavours that I think were enhanced by the overnight soaking process. I would recommend adding banana to this muesli as the cinnamon tinged oats complement banana perfectly. A great muesli!

Carman’s Gluten Free: 

Unlike those of  an increasingly visible subset of the population, the immune cells in my small intestine have no problem with the proteins that make up gluten and so I exist mostly in a bubble of my wheat-enriched existence. Sometimes, however, I am enticed to try the offerings of the gluten free world (the little muffins they give you at the blood bank are great!), such as Carman’s gluten free muesli. The best part of this muesli were the chewy bursts of sweetness provided by the sultanas imbued with the vanilla-cinnamon flavour that I feel is a Carman’s hallmark. The rest was a little stodgy to be honest; I’m not sure that the barely or corn puffs hold up well being soaked overnight. It must be difficult making a gluten free cereal and I think there is still a little bit of work to be done here.

Carman’s Fruit Free:

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Why would anyone want to exclude fruit from muesli?! This is a strange concept, however my inquisitive mind would not let me pass this by (also it was initially free). To stay true to the theme I excluded grated apple and the berries or banana that would normally perch atop my yoghurt. The abundance of hazelnuts and sesame seeds gave this muesli an impressive crunchiness, and the cinnamon overtones added an autumnal feel to the breakfast. While I enjoyed the richness of the flavoured oats, in the end I could not get over the lack of fruit – it’s like driving without music, enjoyable but no one is singing and taking it to next-level happiness. What I would like to do instead is use this muesli to make muffins, or stuff some in an apple and bake it. Actually, being fruit-free might make this a very versatile muesli!

Carman’s Bircher:

The bircher offering was surprisingly light on the Carman’s vanilla-cinnamonness, which actually made for a refreshing breakfast. The almonds, sultanas and apricots in particular added the majority of the non-oat component of taste. I enjoyed the raw oatiness of this muesli, however, as it is nice to revel in clean simplicity once in a while. I realised that I was enjoying the fruit that I added more, which could have something to do with me daringly adding both banana and frozen blueberries. Sometimes I surprise myself with how edgy my breakfasts can get. Carman’s bircher is a basic, utility muesli to be eaten on a regular day (or perhaps after a bout of tummy-trouble, as a means to wean off dry toast).

Final word: Carman’s provides a wide range of muesli that aims to suit everyone from fruit-haters to wheat-avoiders. Do not follow my example and wait until you find yourself in a perfect storm of guilt and thriftiness to try the fruit and nut muesli (in particular) as it is a store-muesli marvel.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Home Made Special: RAD Muesli

To finally finish my intrepid dissertation on the oats of Canberra I turn now to home made muesli. Straight after the lacklustre offering of Mocan & Green Grout, my lovely companions and I headed to something called the Old Bus Depot market for some good old fashion money spending. Apart from buying this very thoughtful present for Baby Chino:

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I also set out to taste what was on offer food-wise. I was not disappointed as this market had such an abundance of free samples, I almost didn’t know where to start. Naturally, I went straight for the…sausage. Then, after trying at least 6 different types of sausage and realising that there was no way I was going to get any of them home to Melbourne without generating the accompanying Botulinium toxin, I came across a muesli stall so cheery (and orange) that my spirits were instantly lifted. The vendor here was an honest-faced guy who was so keen about muesli that when I mentioned my modest reviewing endeavours he immediately offered me a jar of his RAD Muesli. I was heartened by his generosity, and it cemented for me how enamoured I feel about Canberra – free muesli will do that to a girl.

So here is a picture of the (now mostly eaten) jar of muesli he gave me:

And here is a few pictures of what I made out of it:

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This muesli looks a bit different than my other home made efforts, because I have discovered that I like eating frozen blueberries and will unapologetically do so at any chance. This was a great, wholesome muesli. What immediately struck me was the nuttiness of it, with macadamias (what a treat!), whole walnuts (no shells, a plus) and a satisfying density of seeds. The puffs of barley in amongst the oats gave a richer, grainy taste. There was a hint of sweetness added by the coconut and dried fruit, but this was in no way overbearing and would allow for the breakfaster to tailor the sugar content to their liking. I like it low (but that depends on how much sugar is in frozen blueberries), and so this felt like a very raw, healthy way to start the day!

Final Word: RAD muesli is pretty special, and not just because I got it for free (thanks, Protia-man!). If you live in Canberra and are feeling like a Sunday market trip, visit the orange stall at the Old Bus Depot (you can’t miss it) and treat yourself to a jar of this muesli. If you live elsewhere and earn enough money to not care about shipping costs – give it a try.

Good Muesli, Canberra!

-MM

Home Made Special: Schmoosli

For this review I was delighted to receive two sample packets of muesli from the kind ladies at Schmoosli – I do enjoy a good neologism, I wonder what it means. Schmooth (sic) muesli? School Muesli? Or perhaps something altogether different, an allusion to a German heritage? Regardless, my mouth pleasantly itches as I sit here alone trying to say it out loud in different ways, happily, and no doubt to anyone listening – creepily – procrastinating instead of all the study I should be doing.

Muesli 1: Rupert Gets Ripped
This was the first time that I embarked on the muesli-making process for myself, following the recipe that I as yet had only observed. You can imagine the adrenaline wreaking havoc on the normal steadiness of my hands as I poured the muesli from its packet into a bowl, tremulously grated apple (first casualty of doing things myself: a fingernail I grated into) and then saturated with milk to soak overnight. And a restless night it was, I tossed and turned with the anticipation of what morning would bring – had I, like Frankenstein, created a monster? Would my monster be tasty? So many questions – here is the visual part of the answer:

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Ok, so my attempt at the compote looks somewhat reminiscent of placenta – but lets not taint this muesli with the brush of afterbirth before tasting it. To start off, the Rupert Gets Ripped has a natural, very oaty taste which is enhanced by the barley that is also a key ingredient. I enjoyed that the oats were such a focus of this muesli as this is not often the case with premixed varieties, however I felt that there were not enough nuts or seeds to give this muesli a boost. The ease of preparation was somewhat tainted by my just wanting a bit more crunch to this breakfast.
Overall, Rupert is a solid muesli but, like many strong, silent types – a little bland for my tastes.

Muesli 2: Heidi Gets High
The next day I turned my attention to Heidi Gets High – how whimsical and a bit risqué. I had an easier time of the muesli making process second time round in that I emerged with all of my fingernails intact. Here is the product of my process:

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Thats looking a bit better! I was encouraged to see seeds and sultanas nestled cosily amongst the oats and I was not disappointed. Every bite seemed to contain a new texture, from crunchy almond to al dente dried apple and apricot always on a dense background of cool, mushy oats. The flavour of the day here was cinnamon which is a perfect breakfast spice. And doughnut spice – but lets not get sidetracked. I was also excited to see what appeared to be chunks of bran. Oh bran! It’s not a sexy cereal, but me and my gastrointestinal tract love it. Heidi won me over with with her spicy charm and sensible penchant for bran. This was a flavoursome and healthy-tasting muesli.

(Mostly) Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

Home Made Special: Coles Rolled Oats

I admit that I am going back in time for this Coles oats review, back nigh on one month ago at the conception of the idea that I would sporadically dedicate a portion of the 45 minutes between waking up and leaving for uni to sampling supermarket muesli.

To my horror, this particular morning I was required to leave the safety of the Parkville precinct and venture out to the Austin Hospital for lectures – for those who do not know, this hospital is in Heidleberg, which might as well be the moon – arriving by 8am. Luckily, I am in the favour of Ms Cherry Capone who is a regular around those parts and was happy to not only be my driver (Cherry Capone, chaperone!) but also to make me her brand of muesli. And by her brand I mean Coles brand.

I arrived damply at the residence of Ms Capone at the kind hour of 6:30am where I was welcomed warmly with tea and promptly shown how to make muesli. I dazzled as she created a compote on the stovetop (and sighed inwardly and outwardly with relief when she said I could do this in the microwave) and marvelled at her stores of oats, seeds and nuts. Truly this was a home muesli paradise. The result of this domestic magic was is as follows:

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Already I knew I was in for  treat with the nutritive apple peel peeking out so boldly there next to a berry. As this was the first well-prepared homemade muesli I had ever eaten (yes, any previous home encounters simply involved drenching it in milk like common Cornflakes), I was taken aback by the sheer oatiness of it all. It is lucky for me that, unlike for wine or olives, my palate delights at the earthiness of oats and so I very much enjoyed them not being masked by the sweetness of honey. It is testament to Ms Capone to say this muesli was bursting with seeds and almonds, which really highlights the value in buying unadulterated oats – you can control the concentrations of all the other fun ingredients. Additionally, the homemade berry compote added a dash of colour and sweetness that I will endeavour to imitate in my future muesli.

For being cheap and unapologetically oaty, the Coles oats were a success. Perhaps this was in part due to the luxury of having this muesli made by – and then eaten with – a friend,  but I would definitely buy these for myself. There is also the added bonus of being able to use Coles oats in biscuits and slices – such versatility can only be a plus!

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

Home Made Special: Launched!

Disclaimer: I should begin this cereal adventure by stating that, in what is perhaps my greatest achievement to date, the oats used in this production were not paid for. I will endeavour to review them objectively, however even the cold mistress of reason will find it difficult to temper the glow that comes from eating free food!

My aim here is to compare some of the muesli that can be  made in the comfort of the home. This is not something that I was able to do on a whim, it required careful planning and preparation as before starting this journey I had little idea of how to make muesli, with my regular breakfast involving little more than scrunching two to three weetbix into a bowl and cutting banana over them.

To appease my science brain and leave as little room for confusion on my part, I will be making each breakfast using the same method, passed down to me one cold Autumn morning by the lovely Cherry Capone (more on that in the Coles oat review):

Miss Muesli’s (Borrowed and Adapted) Method for Making Muesli:

Ingredients:

–       Rolled oats or muesli

–       Granny Smith Apple

–       Unsweetened natural yoghurt

–       Frozen berries

–       A spoonful of sugar

–       Sunflower seeds, almonds (optional, to be used if muesli does not already contain them)

Method:

1. Before Bed: Lovingly transfer a serve (your discretion) of oats or  premixed muesli into your favourite breakfast bowl. Immerse in milk until just saturated. I like skim milk as I find the wateriness refreshing.
Note: if your muesli will be based on rolled oats alone, mix with seeds and nuts before dousing with milk.
Apply your Granny Smith to a sharp grater and go to town on it. You can peel the apple beforehand however you will be missing out on the tart chewy texture, and also some vitamins. I do not recommend depriving yourself of these. Mix the slivers through your soaking muesli.
Cover with Glad Wrap (or Aldi equivalent) and put in the fridge to incubate overnight.

2. Upon waking: Take a shower. Muesli is best appreciated when both ingredients and consumer are fresh.

3. Take some frozen berries (again, your discretion but overdo at your own peril – these are a garnish and not the main event!) and mix with a sensible amount of sugar in a microwave proof vessel. Cover to avoid splatter and the cook with the awesome power of micro-waves on high for approximately 45 seconds. Mix the resultant hot, soft mush and voila! Berry compote.
Note: If you have time and are so inclined, or if you do not have a microwave (the horror), this can be done over lowish heat on the stove.

4. Reverently remove the matured muesli from the fridge and peel off the plastic (you will not be able to proceed with breakfast unless you do this). Dollop yoghurt on top and garnish with your steaming compote.

5. Take your favourite spoon (see below) and use it to enjoy your homemade muesli.

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Await now with bated breath the coming set of home grown reviews!

(Anticipating) Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM