A few months ago, Spyros and I realized that our weekday breakfast routine had become as dull as, well, toast…and not of the artisan bakery variety. We wanted to try something new, something Greek. Over the holidays, a family member had mentioned that he quite enjoyed drinking goat’s milk for breakfast. We decided to try it for ourselves, in yogurt form.
Goat’s milk yogurt is easy to come by in Greece; supermarkets sell it in round, terra cotta containers next to the regular yogurt. There are several varieties—some are pure goats milk, others combine both goat’s and sheep’s milk. My favorite brand is Η Καστικούλα Μας, Our Little Goat, an all-goat’s milk yogurt. I like the product and its quirky name— it makes me think of a prized family goat whose milk gets coagulated into the odd container or two, then sold at the market.
I also like the yogurt’s runny texture, which is a bit like buttermilk. A grind of pepper and a quick whisk is all it would take to transform it into an ethereal salad dressing (future post ?) Might I add that its delicate rennet skin, when broken and stirred into the rest of the yogurt, makes the whole container taste like chevre? It’s an ideal start to the day, in my opinion.
The first morning I ate goat’s milk yogurt I planned to offset any goat-y flavor with honey and some raisins. I took a bite, then another. Buttery and sour, the goat’s milk yogurt tasted too wonderful on its own to confuse with other flavors. I ate it plain.
Although beautiful plain, I wanted to try cooking with goat’s milk yogurt and decided make a batch of Bircher Museli, one of my favorite breakfasts. During our Christmas trip to England, I tasted Bircher Muesli made with Irish yogurt and strawberry granola. I bought it from the to-go fridge at a Boots pharmacy–go figure. The Irish yogurt was tart and had the consistency of buttermilk, much like goat’s milk yogurt. I reckoned goat’s milk yogurt would make a fine substitute for Irish yogurt and a good fruit and grain-soaking base.
So a few weeks ago I concocted this recipe (loosely) following George Calombaris’s recipe for Hellenic Republic Bircher Muesli from his book, Greek Cookery: From the Hellenic Heart (an excellent resource for both traditional and creative Greek recipes). I used ingredients I had: rye flakes, raisins, green apple, and orange segments. After dinner on Monday night, I stirred everything in a large bowl and set it in the fridge to marinate.
Before sunrise the next morning, I sprinkled my portion with pistachios and swirled in some honey. I sat at the kitchen table, wrapped in my robe, and nudged big spoonfuls of fruit-studded yogurt to my mouth. I tasted tart, sweet cream cream and felt the dense soaked rye beneath my teeth. Somehow, just for a moment, I felt I had been transported to a health spa in the Alps, eating muesli after a good sauna sweat and swim.
Then the phone rang with my latest assignment and I bid my daydream farewell. That feeling of luxury and health stayed with me for the rest of the day, though; I didn’t feel hungry until well after 3pm which, on that particular day, was lucky. Sometimes a small change makes the biggest difference. Sometimes it starts at breakfast.
Goat’s Milk Bircher Muesli
There are many recipes for Bircher Muesli and they are all quite adaptable. Feel free to substitute any dried fruit or nut for the sultanas and the pistachios. Likewise, you can sub any crunchy and juicy fruit in place of the apples and oranges; chopped pear or macerated strawberries, for instance. Old-fashioned oats, too, work well instead of the rye flakes.
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons rye flakes
¼ cup golden raisins (sultanas)
1 1/2 cup goat’s milk yogurt (or Greek yogurt stirred with 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream or almond milk)
1 orange segmented, chopped
1 granny smith apple, finely cut with skin on
2 tablespoons toasted pistachios, chopped
Honey, to serve
- In a large bowl, combine the rye flakes, golden raisins, yogurt, orange, and apple. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, mix again. Serve sprinkled with toasted pistachios and drizzled with honey.