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December 23, 2007

Carrot Tops

It's a lovely Sunday morning. I'm going to the markets today with my brother- and sister-in-law. I dragged the table into the sun and have been drinking chai and reading the newspaper. What better to top off my morning than a bit of baking.

This is not your conventional carrot cake, a bit darker and moister, and not too sweet, more like a loaf then a cake. Very grounding and wholesome making it a great breakfast. This recipe will serve two for brekky or four for a snack, can be doubled easily, but like all quick-breads they don't keep very well. The secret is finely grating the carrots. I do this by grating them and then whizzing them in the food processor for a few seconds.

Ingredients

2 cups grated and whizzed carrot
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 Tsp ghee
2 Tsp treacle
Spices to taste and dosha

Method

Like I said get the carrots as small as possible. Mix with dry ingredients, then add ghee and treacle. You may need to add a dash of water to combine it all, but the mixture should be as dry as possible, or the end result will be too stodgy. Put in muffin tins and bake at 170' for half an hour.

Kapha can use a bit less ghee and treacle and more water. Serve with honey (don't cook with honey though) Add cinnamon, dry ginger, black pepper and nutmeg generously.
Pita can enjoy cardamom and vanilla essence.
Vata will do best with cardamom, vanilla essence and nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.

Icing make things a bit more exciting, mix one part ghee, one part sugar (or honey for kapha) and 3 parts cream cheese in the blender with some vanilla essence.

December 20, 2007

Those anything muffins again

I've been baking a lot of those anything muffins lately. Most days I alternate between cooking chapati when I have time, or muffins when I don't. So I thought I'd post my latest favourite variations to the recipe...

Anything Muffins

2 cups atta flour
2 tsp baking powder
2-4 Tbsp ghee
1- 1.5 cups of water
salt

Mix dry ingredients, add ghee and water, and stir only very briefly. Pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 200'C for 15 mins. Serves two healthy appetites with a main meal.

Multigrain Muffins
Add a handful of sunflower seeds, a tsp of caroway and a few tsp of cumin seeds to the dry mixture.

Breakfast Muffins
Add a handful each of coconut and oats, and a few shelled (but not ground) cardamom pods to the dry mixture and a tsp of treacle along with the ghee.

December 19, 2007

Egg replacer

I try to make recipes that don't call for eggs in the first place. I'm not usually one for 'replacing' animal derived ingredients, if you want to eat a sausage, eat a sausage. But their are some things (carrot cake, biscotti) that just need eggs, and that I love, cause they don't taste, look or feel anything like eggs.

Eggs have multiple functions in baking. They add moisture, leaven, help hold the rise, and bind, so how you replace them depends on what purpose they have in the particular recipe you are making...

Packet Egg replacer is quite natural stuff, usually potato starch and tapioca. It works well in small amounts to give a bit of spring to your cakes, but it also dries them out alot, so works best in crispy biscuits. Also bear in mind Tapioca is a bad food combination with grains, but in such miniscule amounts, I'm sure your digestion will be forgiving. Egg replacer balances Pita and Kapha and raises Vata.

Linseed is very strong tasting, so best used in whole grainy things. Some people just throw in a teaspoon ground, but word on the street is that the best method is to soak a teaspoon of linseed in two teaspoons of water. Separate the slime from the seeds and you have an "egg". But this can be fiddly and frustrating! Linseed is great for Vata but too hot for Pita.

Banana, Yoghurt, Tofu are simple ways to replace eggs but can result in bad food combinations. I'd warn anyone away from banana in combination with anything. Yoghurt is no good with milk. Tofu, being a bean, is no good with milk, cheese or yoghurt, but works well due to it's lack of taste. These add moisture and so are good in dense moist cakes, but don't really do the rise and hold needed in fluffy sponges etc.

December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday Blogs!

Not my blog, but all blogs. Today is the ten year anniversary of the word "blog." A year later in 1998 there were only about 25 blogs, but today there are 120 000 new blogs created every day, and 17 posts per second...now that's worth blogging about!

December 17, 2007

'tis the season...

...to be decadent. I'll be posting a few less Ayurveda-approved recipes over the christmas/new year period, but that's what the silly seasons all about hey? Do enjoy yourself, but just go for moderation.

This is a biscotti recipe I created for my wedding. It can be a bit tricky to get them to look right, but they will most definitely taste good.

Treacle and Fennel Biscotti

1/2 cup almonds
3 cups atta flour
3 t baking powder
pinch salt
2/3 cup treacle
1/2 cup ghee
2 t vanilla essence
3 T fennel seeds
2 egg replacers*

Soak almonds overnight in plenty of water and then peel them. (this makes them much easier to digest and more tridoshic). Dry toast the fennel seeds in a heavy based pan on a low heat until aromatic. Preheat oven to 160'C.

Roughly chop almonds. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, almonds, fennel seeds and salt. In a small bowl, place the treacle, ghee, vanilla, and almond extract, and whisk well to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.

Line two trays with baking paper and set one aside for later use. On the remaining cookie sheet, shape the dough into two logs that are 2 1/2 inches wide. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and feel firm and dry.

Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, transfer the logs to a cutting board, and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices, using a bread knife, no pressure, just back and forth like dad taught me. Divide the slices between the two trays, standing them upright, and spacing them an inch apart. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until dry and crisp.

The difficulty with this recipe is the cooking heat and times, because ovens vary so much. They are easy to burn because they are dark brown to begin with so you can't tell. Also they tend to stay soft until cooled, when they get crispy.


*Note: see my post on egg replacer if you aren't sure.

December 12, 2007

Great Albert

Einstein said "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

Ayurveda recognises three gunas, or qualities: sattvic, tamasic and rajasic. Sattva is a gentle spiritual, peaceful quality, tamas is lazy and rajas is violent or aggressive. When an animal is killed it is full of rajas. When we eat the meat we take the rajas of the animal. Eating meat gives us a rush, a surge of adrenalin, passion... all of which is quite addictive. This rush can also be mistaken for strength, or even as the antidote anemia.

Though he wasn't actually vegetarian himself for long, Einstein long supported the idea, saying "It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind." So maybe, on a simplistic level, our appetite for war and violence would naturally subside if we stop taking such rajasic food and lifestyle. Internal, daily violence adds up on a world scale.

But this theory doesn't explain Hitler....

December 11, 2007

Dukkah

What do you get when you mix tridoshic ingredients together? How to get more spices in your diet?

Dukkah is a middle eastern blend of ground nuts and spices, every family would have their own variation, here is mine, suitably passed down from my (non-middle eastern) family.

Dukkah is very versatile, serve it as a starter with bread and olive oil. Add a bit of crunch to salads. Toss pasta in dukkah and olive oil. Sprinkle over rice and steamed vegies for a simple meal. Coat vegies before roasting. Let your imagination go wild, earing in mind, dukkah is only as tridoshic as the foods you serve it with.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
A few teaspoons each of cumin powder, coriander powder and tumeric
Salt to taste

Method:

Dry-toast the seeds on a medium heat until they brown slightly and begin to pop. This release the prana (energy). Let them cool to room temperature. Grind in a blender or, more romantically, in a mortar and pestle. Mix all ingredients to taste and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

It's tridoshic as is, but you can vary ingredients to your suit your dosha:
  • Vata add sesame seeds and pepper (grind the sesame seeds seperately as they are much more difficult)
  • Pitta add ground, toasted, blanched almonds
  • Kapha add chili and black pepper, and avoid serving with wheat and oil. How about baked potatoes instead, or steamed green beans...

December 08, 2007

The best bread 5-troubleshooting

I don't always agree with Maharishi Ayurveda, schools of thought have deviated somewhat in recent years, but here is something I wholeheartedly agree with.

While taking the time to make flatbreads for yourself or your family seems like a luxury in our fast paced way of life, the very act of making them can actually help correct this time pressure imbalance. The act of kneading dough is centuries old and actually involves using the stomach, chest, and arm muscles. So when you make your own bread, you not only add a healthy staple food to your diet, you also give some of your muscles a healthy workout!

It takes much time and patience to make chapati, so don't give up first time. The most common difficulty is that the bread is too tough, maybe because:
  • the dough was too dry, not enough water. Add water just a little at a time and mix it in before adding more. If you add too much water you can add more flour but this sometimes makes it more difficult to knead, so it's best to just add enough water at first
  • the dough was not kneaded for long enough, knead it well. If the wheat does not "break" let the dough rest for ten minutes and knead it again. Sometimes the addition of salt makes a tougher dough so leave the salt out to be sure
  • the chapati was cooked too long on the pan. It should just be sealed, and then cooked fully on the open flame.
Don't worry if they are not perfectly round, they may not puff up, but they should still taste alright. More practise will give you round chapati. More important is to get the chapati even. There shouldn't be thick spots and thin spots.

December 05, 2007

Balancing desire

For as long as we have existed, sex has been an integral part of being human. For many people sex is their most motivating force. Others can live very happily without it. If neither you, nor your partner want to have sex it is perfectly OK to abstain. But as long as one or both of you have sexual desires it is most important to have a healthy sex life.

You should only have one sexual partner with whom you are physically, emotionally and spiritually involved, and sex should meet both partners needs. If one partner has a higher sex drive then the other it is can cause tension, resentment and frustration in all areas of the relationship. There are many reasons for imbalance of desire. For now, it is important to understand that the reason for desire is that men are solar and women are lunar, but sexual organs are reversed.

Many couples will try and excite their less interested partner with oral sex. Oral sex is so exciting because sun and sun or moon and moon combine and become more extreme. This will often increase existing imbalances, the one who desires will desire more and the one who has no desire will have even less.

Instead try lying together every day, you can do this fully clothed if you prefer so that it is less threatening to the partner who doesn't want to have sex, and less stimulating for the partner who does, but it doesn't really matter. What is important is that the aspects are correctly aligned, heads touching, feet touching, genitals touching. The sun and moon will interact to balance one another, calming or stimulating as needed.

You can have penetrating sex without movement once both partners consent and build from there. Once healthy and natural desire has returned it is important to begin regular sex again, to ensure the energy does not become blocked.

Whatever you do don't stress out. Sex should be fun and playful, but imbalanced desire is more common than people like admit.

December 04, 2007

What's in my cupboard

I used to babysit a lot as a child and my favourite part of the job was after the kids went to bed and I could snoop around the kitchen. You can learn so much about someone by what food they keep.

These days I live in a very tiny flat, which I love because it keeps life simple, and only have a bar fridge and a cupboard about the same size for food storage. Lucky I like to eat the same things all the time. So I thought I'd give you the pleasure of an online snoop around my kitchen...

In big glass jars:
In little glass jars:
  • almonds
  • dates
  • sultanas
  • dessicated coconut
  • sunflower seeds
  • jaggary
In my spice tin for powdered spices:
  • coriander
  • turmeric
  • himalayan rock salt
  • cumin powder
  • cinamon powder
  • red chili powder
  • ginger powder
In my spice tin for whole spices:
On the shelf above the stove:
  • cardamom
  • black pepper
  • olive oil
  • ghee
  • asafoetida
In the fridge:
What does that say about me?

November 30, 2007

Sunflower butter

Tahini (sesame seed butter) is an excellent food for Vata, and common in vegetarian food the world over, but tahini is too hot for Pita and to too heavy for Kapha. Consider replacing tahini with sunflower butter for all the dosha to enjoy.

You can buy sunflower butter in some health food stores, but it's often got some of the usual commercial additions and a lot of value adding. So have a go at making it yourself.

First toast sunflower seeds in a dry medium hot fry pan. When they begin to pop and smell delicious, restrain from eating them. Put them into the food processor whilst they are still hot (or mortar and pestle for a bit of exercise). Grind them very well to a fine powder. Now add a dash of sunflower oil or melted ghee and blend. Add a dash more and blend again until the mixture begins to come together. You may need to scrape the powder off the sides of the mixer to try and combine it all. When it does come together get a spoon or your hands involved and mix it thoroughly.

Add a pinch of salt if you like, I do, and store in a sealed jar in the fridge for a few days. Spread on hot chapati for a very good morning, or use where ever you would use peanut butter or tahini.

Sunflower seeds are cooling, light and just a little oily. Good for all constitutions, and provides the often missed B12 to a vegetarian diet.

Sesame Sweets

I love recipes that use ingredients that I always have in my cupboard. Simple things I can throw together at any time without needing to go to the supermarket. I hate going to the supermarket. So these simple, fudge like balls are one of my standby's, but they are super rich, so as always moderation is the key. I'll give you the original recipe, but the variations below are better suited to particular dosha.

Ingredients

1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup honey

Method

Mix it all together with your hands to form a dough. If it is too dry or too wet adjust accordingly. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and form it into a ball, you may prefer to wet or oil your hands to make this a bit easier. Roll in sesame seeds and put in the fridge for an hour or so to set.

Variations are endless...
Vata is very good friends with sesame, but use a different sweetener like molasses. This is a very strengthening combo, especially good for irregular periods or if you are underweight...in moderation though because it is heavy to digest.
Hot Pita won't get on so well with hot sesame and honey. But try using sunflower butter (you can make your own in the food processor), a cool sweetener like barley malt, and consider coconut instead of sesame seeds.
Kapha does well with the honey, but the sesame is a bit too heavy, so try sunflower butter again. Rice bubbles or crushed cornflakes instead of sesame seeds will make a much lighter sweet.

November 28, 2007

Five Fingers

I've said it before and I'll say it again, your hands are the best eating utensil in town.

Each of your five fingers contains one of the five elements-earth, water, fire, air and ether. By using your five fingers to eat your food imbibes all elements making it a more satisfying and rounded meal.

So forget what your mum said when you were growing up, get your hands stuck into it.

But she was right to tell you not to play with your food. You should eat when you are eating, not read, talk, play games, watch tv, walk...just eat. Eat and enjoy.

November 26, 2007

Pythagoreans

Until the early 1800's vegetarians were commonly known as Pythagoreans, yes, after the ancient Greek mathematician. In those days it could mean with or without eggs and dairy.

Pythagoras was born on the Island of Samos in 569 BC. The details of his life are shady and somewhat mythical. At the tender age of 18 he left Samos and traveled extensively through Europe, Egypt and India, finally settling in Italy and founding a school.

Those who wanted to enter his school had to remain silent in the community for five years before being allowed to contribute their own ideas. The group of men and women were vegetarian, ascetic and believed in reincarnation.

Whilst most famous for his contribution to what is now known as Pythagorean theorem. His group contributed to music, astronomy and philosophy. There are no writings by Pythagoras, so little is actually known of his accomplishments.

But next time someone offers you a sausage you can say "no thanks, I'm a Pythagorean."

November 23, 2007

Simple Potato Subji

We just ate puri-subji for breakfast-not highly recommended for health, but excellent for the
taste buds!

Puri are like chapati, but made with a drier dough, rolled a bit thicker and smaller and deep fried. Subji just means vegetable, but often refers to a cooked vegetable dish with lots of spices. D just rocked my world with the best potato subji, and I don't even like potatoes!

It looks like a long list of ingredients, and it is, but they are all spices, so you can substitute what you have on hand or leave something out. Just remember the powdered spices thicken the sauce, so try to make sure you have enough powdered spices if nothing else.

Ingredients

2 large potatoes
ghee

1 tspn cumin seeds
1/2 tspn ajwain seeds
3 cloves
4 cardamom pods
pinch of asoefatida

1 tspn salt
1 tspn cumin powder
1 tspn coriander powder
1/2 tspn cinnamon powder
1 tspn tumeric

Method

Boil the potatoes in their skins till tender (we use the pressure cooker). Break them apart with your hands into big chunks.

Fry first five spices in ghee till fragant. add the potatoes and about one cup of water. Add powdered spices and simmer gently for a few minutes. Don't let it dry out, the potatoes should be in quite a thick, wet sauce. Add more water if needed.

Best served with chapati, so you can mash the potatoes into the sauce with the bread. But also very good with rice.

Fennel

The fennel plant has a lot to offer. The root is used as a vegetable, the seeds as a spice and the leaves as a herb. Even the pollen can be eaten, but good like finding that in the supermarket! Fennel is native to the Mediterranean, but commonly used in Chinese, Iranian and Italian cuisine.

Fennel seeds have a gentle aniseed/licorice taste, and they are excellent for all dosha. Here I go again, but it's true, they are very good for digestion. Fennel is calming and can be made into a tea for bloating and gas. Fennel has a gentle laxative effect. It is cooling and sweet, and one of my favourite flavours.

You can dry roast fennel seeds with sunflower seeds for a delicious snack, or chew them on their own as a mouth freshener. My all time favourite fennel dish (I'm serving it at my wedding) is fry a few teaspoons of fennel seeds in ghee, then add a grated carrot. Cook covered on a low heat, stirring often. You may need to add a tablespoon of water now and then to stop it sticking.

Fennel seeds should be avoided in the early stages of pregnancy, or if there are any concerns about the pregnancy. However they are excellent post-partum for lactation.

November 19, 2007

Rose and Mint Cordial

We're in the middle of a heat wave in Melbourne (who doesn't seem to be these days?) so to fight the fire I'm constantly looking for ways to cool my body, from the inside out.

Milk is very cooling, but I think I may have already overdone it today. Coconut, cucumber and watermelon are great too. But what I actually want is a drink, so I have combined mint and rose, both very pita friendly into a punch.

Cool Cordial for a hot day

1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup maple syrup
1-2 tspns rose water

Method

Wash and chop mint leaves well. Mix all ingredients and infuse in the fridge for four hours. When ready to serve mix with water to taste, about 1 part cordial to 6 parts water works for me.

Very Vata and Pita friendly, but use honey for Kapha.

NB Don't serve it too cold . Cold things make your digestive fire work harder and you will actually heat up and disturb pita in the long term.

November 16, 2007

What exactly is a dosha?

Dosha literally means blemish or fault. It is the bit of you that's not so strong. The bit that causes the most problems. Everyone is born with one of these bits, and that is called your prakruti.

Your prakruti is set by your parents prakruti, their state of health, the season, what your mother eats, the alignement of the stars...This is with you for life, so it's worth getting to know this bit of you pretty well.

But we all know life can throw some curve balls, and the effect of this is called your vikruti. This is when you get colds in winter in infections in trpoical countries. Your Vakruti may be at play if have a heart attack for disrespecting your emotions or why you gain weight if you eat the wrong foods. Your vikruti will change throughout your life, this is your current weakness or state of ill health.

Your prakruti and vikruti are made up of one of countless combinations of Pita, Kapha and Vata. You must have all three in order to live, but to be at your peak health your vikruti must match your prakruti.

In their simplest forms these three dosha are elements. Pita is fire and water, Kapha is earth and water and Vata is air and ether. But to really understand Ayurveda we must think in terms of processes. The way these elements interact with eachother. For example, we all know if you add earth to fire, it will extinguish the flame. On the other hand if you add air the flames will be fanned, causing more fire. Fire will dry out water and cause air, and earth will ground ether.

It's best to see an Ayurvedic doctor to determine your prakruti and vikruti, and try to feel how food and seasons and your work and other people interact with your own elements. Everything is made up of elements and will affect the processes going on in your body.

November 14, 2007

Turmeric

As soon as I started my research for this post I realised that I've been misspelling Tumeric. It has an extra r in it. Turmeric. Has anyone else noticed how difficult spices are to spell? Cinnamon is another one...

Known as haldi in Hindi, Turmeric is fast becoming one of western sciences super foods too. It is contains curcumin (not to be confused with cumin) which is being investigated for a host of medical applications, especially Alzheimer's. Turmeric is antiseptic, antibacterial, anti parasitic and anti inflammatory.

Of course Ayurveda has known all of this for thousands of years. That's why Indian food is distinctly yellow. Turmeric provides the often missed bitter and astringent tastes to our food, for this reason use it sparingly. About a quarter of a teaspoon per person is plenty, or it will adversely affect the taste of your meal. In those quantities however you can add turmeric to anything, because the taste is almost imperceptible.

And add it to every meal you should. Turmeric is tridoshic, aids digestions, prevents infections and strengthens the eyes. It especially works on the liver, in turn cleansing the blood and the skin. Turmeric can be applied topically to the skin for rashes and sunburn-but be careful it stains!

A few more diseases turmeric is beneficial for: diabetes, cancer, parasites, conjunctivitis, anemia, asthma, high cholesterol, ulcers, gum disease, tonsillitis...if you are still not convinced check out these anecdotes.

November 12, 2007

Overweight or obesity

In Ayurveda Kapha is considered the most beautiful body type, with some strength and a bit of meat on their bones. In Western culture it is the lithe, wiry frame of Vata is considered most attractive. As a 52kg Vata, I'm telling you, this is not desirable for your health. A word of caution. Please approach weight loss with a Satvic (pure) mind, you truly know what your healthy weight is.

Obesity is predominantly Kapha. But if your weight gain/loss is irregular (Vata) or your appetite is very high (Pita) do not follow this advice. This diet will dry out the water in your body, by applying fire and air. Fire and air will raise Vata and Pita.

Having established you are Kapha imbalanced, the first thing is to reduce the minds attachment to food, no mean feat for loving Kapha. It is important not to diet too strongly or the mind will rebel. Be gentle, replace foods rather than giving them up entirely, and take things one step at a time. One advantage Kapha has here is endurance, use it.

Reduce your intake of sweet food, this includes most fruit, rice, wheat, meats and oils. Take less dairy products, salt, and sour foods like vinegar, pickles and olives.

Eat dry grains like crackers (corn thins or ryvita's are excellent) or dry oats, and dry vegies including broccoli, potatoes and cabbage. Steamed vegetables and mung beans, especially sprouted are an excellent everyday food. Sprouting them creates beneficial enzymes for your digestion.

Take hot and bitter spices like chili, pepper, tumeric and dry ginger powder to stimulate digestion. Drink hot ginger tea before meals. Food should not be taken before 10am or after 6pm.

The Veda's have one surefire way for losing weight. The patient must only eat whilst squatting!

November 11, 2007

Amenorrhea-absence of menstruation

Although many women consider their period a real drag, in Ayurveda it is thought that this is one of the reasons women live longer than men. When we bleed it's like a mini detox, so if there are lots of toxins it can feel pretty bad.

But what happens if we don't bleed? Well before you consider yourself lucky, consider why your body isn't doing what it should. Unless you are Pregnant or past menopause then something in your body is not right.

Amenorrhea is generally caused by Vata. The sub dosha responsible for menstruation moves from the belly button down, called Apana Vata. This same aspect of Vata is responsible for childbirth, excretion and reproduction.

Apana Vata will be blocked by of the same things that disturb Vata generally, like cold, anxiety, exercise, dehydration, travel or stress. Anal sex can disturb Apana Vata. If you have stopped getting your period try taking a warm, wet diet, eat regular meals and take nourishing foods like ghee, tahini, dates and molasses. Spend time at home with people who love and nurture you and drink plenty of warm water. Take a warm bath with sesame oil.

Ginger and ajwain will bring on menstruation, as will castor oil rubbed onto the lower back. Be careful not to over heat the body or this will cause dryness. As always, balance is the key, trust your instincts. Keep yourself warm and safe and avoid exposure to wind, stress, travel and exercise.

November 09, 2007

Good Days, Bad Days

Today is one of the bad days. Good days, bad days. This mantra has gotten us through the last eighteen months. One day you feel better, but if you cling to it, if you try to hold on to it, then the next time a bad day comes around it feels much much worse.

The key is detachment, detachment from the good days as well as the bad days. Something I am still working on. I remind myself that all feelings are temporary, and this helps me through. We watched a film about a young preacher dying of Luekemia. He said everyone wants to walk with God in the mountains, but it is quite another thing to walk with God in the valley.

So this is the challenge, to have faith, to be peaceful, to remember the goodness in the world on the good days and on the bad days.

November 08, 2007

Milk

Milk is another food held in high esteem in Ayurveda, but it has fallen out of fashion in this modern world. This is not really surprising considering the way in which we drink milk, when and with what...

First and foremost drink milk hot, not cold. Milky tea for example is great, but a milkshake is very heavy and cold on your digestion, and could waylay even the sturdiest Pita. Add a little cardamom powder to aid digestion and for good taste if you like.

Milk has few real companions, and makes a bad food combination with many of the things we generally eat it with. Milk shouldn't be taken with eggs, meat, beans, yeast or fruit. There goes your classic English breakfast! So try to avoid milk with meals and revive elevenses instead.

And of course milk ain't milk anymore. Milk is one of only three foodstuffs revered as having equal quantities of all three doshas (the other two are black pepper and fish). But that is only raw milk on the day of milking. After that it becomes predominantly Kapha. If you live on a dairy farm you are in luck. The rest of us will have to be vigilant consumers and scan the supermarket shelves for something better then milk powder reconstituted in water with the addition of the latest fad vitamin.

Pasturisation is basically boiling milk, to kill germs and make it last longer, which Ayurveda recommends anyway. Homogenisation on the other hand is a thoroughly modern process born out of our obsession with fat. Basically it breaks up the fat particles so they are suspended in the milk, instead of floating to the top.

The problem with this is it augments the Vata in milk. Put simply, it's like deepfrying, and we all know how bad that is. And there is a theory that the fat particles are so small they can leak straight into your blood stream undigested, causing allergic reactions and ama.

I know of two brands in Australia that have un-homogenated milk, Paul's (parmalat) and Margaret River. Also it is often available at Farmer's Markets.

If you have trouble digesting milk, take a break from it to rest your body, and then consider gently reintroducing milk to your diet in the appropriate ways. Of course this does not apply if you are actually lactose intolerant.

More on milk here.

Mung beans

So what's the big deal about mung beans? We all know the association between beans and gas (beans, beans the glorious fruit the more you eat the more you toot...) That's because most beans are high in air element, making them a big mistake for Vata, but great for drying out Kapha.

But mung beans on the other hand are much easier to digest. They are not too dry, not too cold and not too light. They are just right. This makes them suitable for all doshas, and in fact one of the most revered foods by the vaidya's. They are prescribed for illnesses from fever to cancer to hepatitis, and are an excellent daily food.

But mung beans can be a bit harder to find then their larger relatives. Mung beans can be bought as whole beans, with a green skin on. These take much longer to cook, and have an even higher fibre content. This actually makes more work for your digestive system, so only buy whole beans for sprouting or to replace big beans like chickpeas in recipes.

Split mung beans (also known as mung dahl) are halved. They cook to buttery soft in fifteen or twenty minutes and are the preferred option in Ayurveda. Sometimes split mung still have their skin on, and you can see the green bits, again go for hulled if you have the option. Hulled split mung dahl are yellow, not to be mistaken for split peas which are slightly larger and rounder, but will take closer to 45 mins to cook, and have the unpleasant airy side effects of most beans.

In western terms mung beans are high in Vitamin B and C, potassium, magnesium, iron, phospherous, copper, fibre and protein. Anyway you look at, the mung bean is a terrific addition to your diet.

November 07, 2007

One dahl- endless variations...

You can of course add any vegies you like to your daily dahl at the appropriate stage of cooking. Fry onions in the ghee, or throw some potatoes in at the beginning, or some spinach in towards the end...

The daily dahl recipe mild and suitable for all constitutions. For a bit more spice:
Vata will do well with 1/2 teaspoon each of ajwain and fresh ginger stirred into the ghee
Pita is best off sticking to the above spices and maybe garnish with fresh coriander or grated coconut
Kapha after adding the water add 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder, and a pinch each of chili powder and asoefatida

My personal favourite combo is:
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, 4 cloves, pinch of mustard seeds and a pinch of asoefatida in the ghee
  • half an onion fried gently before adding the dahl
  • One chopped carrot and a handful of chopped green beens added to the water early on
  • Add 1 teaspoon of coriander, 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric and some chopped fresh coriander leaves before serving

Give us this day our Daily Dahl

So everyones got their own way of making dahl, and here's mine, just as a starting point. You really can use any combination of spices, but keeping the spices tridoshic makes for a well balanced daily dahl. As usual practice makes perfect, and dahl is so quick, uses any ingredients from your cupboard and above all is super healthy.

Daily Dahl-for two

Ingredients

4-6 muthi split mung dahl
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 cloves
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
ghee
salt

Method

In a large pot warm some ghee and add the cumin and cloves. As soon as one pops or the aroma is released (like I keep saying be careful not to burn it!) stir in the mung dahl. Then cover with water, about 4 or 5 times the amount of water to dahl. Add salt to taste-I use a scant teaspoon but that's probably a bit generous for kapha and pita. But salt is the secret to bringing out the flavour of other spices. Bring it to the boil, lower the heat and simmer covered. Check it every ten minutes of so and add more water if needed-more is less with water, dry dahl is no good at all.

The dahl should be cooked after about fifteen minutes, but will be even better if you give it another ten minutes. This will turn it from dahl suspended in broth, to one big thick homogeneous mass. Now you can add coriander and tumeric and serve...

serve with:
  • rice
  • chapati (or wholemeal mountain bread/sorj if you can't be bothered cooking)
  • roast vegies (not very traditional, but it really works!)

November 06, 2007

Cumin

Cumin is native to Egypt and is a member of the parsley family. It grows in hot places and has become a very popular spice in many countries including South America, Morocco and of course India.

In Sanskrit it is known as jeera, which means decay. This refers to it's digestive qualities, helping your body to break down food. Ayurvedically good digestion is the key to health, so of course cumin is highly valued as a medicine.

It is suitable for all dosha's and it's mild flavour goes well with dishes from pasta to dahl to nacho's. It's hard to use too much cumin, I'd go for about a teaspoon for two people.

So, how to use it. The whole seeds add a lovely texture and can be fried lightly in ghee before adding rice/vegies/dahl etc. They are ready when the aroma is released or the moment the first seed pops. Now the prana is released and you can add the next ingredients. If you burn the seeds, which is very easy to do, throw them out and start again.

The powder is better to use if you want to thicken a sauce or make a paste. Use for a stew or tajine or curry, something thick and saucy. The powder also lends well to being suateed in ghee, but burns even more easily than the whole seeds.

For Jeera Chowel fry whole cumin seeds in ghee before stirring in rice and adding water. Cook as usual. Cumin is cleansing and stimulates the appetite and is a good daily spice.

November 04, 2007

Fear and Kindness-oil massage

Snehana is a crucial stage of Panch Karma. The word implies kindness and love, and the process is the application of oils to the body both internally and externally. And it truly makes you feel as nurtured as a baby in the womb!

Bahya Snehana is external oleation. What I don't understand is the use of the word Bahya here, as it means fear. Any ideas?

In Bahya Snehana two Ayurvedic practitioners massage your body in synchronised strokes. The strokes match the five movements of Vata. Sesame is the primary oil used in Bahya Snehana, as it is the only oil to penetrate all seven tissues. But for Kapha and Pitta this may be contraindicated as it may be too hot or too heavy.

The oil is infused with herbs and along with the massage technique works to loosen the grip of the ama (toxins), preparing them for elimination. It might be difficult to imagine the skin as a digestive organ, but through oil massage the body actually ingests a significant amount of oil. Any oil remaining on the skin should be washed off within an hour of the massage, taking the toxins with it.

Oil massage, along with Shirodhara, usually form the very early stages of a Panch Karma. They work to relax the body and the mind, in preparation for the more stressful procedures ahead.

November 03, 2007

Hepatitis

If you have Hepatitis A please email me immediately. If I had known then what I know now I truly believe I would not still be sick today, 18 months later. If you have any other form of Hepatitis, the treatment is the same so contact me anyway.

Your Doctor will probably tell you your body will expel the Hepatitis A virus within two to four weeks. What they won't tell you is that the virus will take half your liver with it. Unmanaged, Hepatitis A can cause a battery of other illnesses including, but not limited to malabsorbtion, sprue, anemia, chronic fatigue, depression, allergies and low immune. I even know of a case of terminal cancer attributed to untreated Hepatitis A.

Ayurvedic treatment will manage the symptoms and prevent chronic illness. This means you must follow the treatment for at least 3 months, even if all symptoms disappear, or they will come back with a vengeance! The treatment is simple diet and lifestyle advice which you can easily follow yourself at home.

I know I'm coming down heavy, but I really want you to take me seriously. Hepatitis has been widely researched by the Vaidya's, and is very simple to cure. But Western medecine can offer little advice beyond rest and a good diet-whatever that means! OK, rant over!

November 02, 2007

Anemia

Anemia is iron deficiency, in Sanskrit it is called panduroga: disease that turns the body pale. Many many people are anemic and it's causes can be an imbalance of any dosha. Check your other symptoms to see which dosha is imbalanced.

Of course you can eat more iron, but iron is very difficult to digest, and anemia is often caused by weak digestion to begin with, so eating more iron must be balanced with improving the processes of the digestion.
  • Dates should be eaten just a few at a time an hour apart from taking any other food
  • Sultanas, taken as above, but soaked for Vata
  • Cook kichadee with spinach and use cumin seeds, mustard seeds, tumeric and coriander powder to aid digestion
To improve absorbtion try the following spices according to your dosha imbalance:
  • liver cleansing spices such as aloe, saffron and tumeric for Pitta
  • phlegm expelling and circulatory hot spices such as chili, cinnamon and dry ginger for Kapha
  • Rich foods such as ghee and sesame taken with tumeric, saffron and coriander for Vata

Also you can try wearing stones such as ruby or garnet (but not for Pitta) and pearl or moonstone (not for Kapha)

For the faint hearted

That day I was so weak I could barely grip my hands, I had to cling to the hand rail to climb the stairs, and D had to carry everything for me. It was a bit frightening, and I asked my doctor if perhaps the treatment is too strong. She said this treatment is not too strong for anyone and just advised rest.

Other factors leading to fainting may include:
  • travel-it takes me an hour and a half to get to the treatment everyday, and movement disturbs vata
  • weather-it's been really windy here, movement of air doubly disturbs vata
  • anemia, malabsorbtion and low blood pressure-my poor liver and small intestines just aren't turning the food I eat into the things my body needs. In another week or two the purgation should sort this out
Anyway, the next day I woke up fresh and early without even a hint of dizziness or tingling extremities or numbness...I mentioned this to the Doc and she said "I know."

October 30, 2007

The power of poo

I fainted this morning, which was was a bit frightening. I've never fainted before, and more difficult than the physical (sharira) response was the minds (mana) response. Being light headed and dizzy and tingly is one thing, but losing consciousness and memory and control of the body is infinitely more disturbing.

D was great-he actually caught me before I hit the floor! And then asked me a few questions like my name and the day of the week. In answering them my mind settled cause I realised I was alright-no need to panic. Then he made me breathe deeply and slowly to relieve the shock.

He was a professional sports person so is well equipped to deal with such situations, having experienced them on the field very many times. I, however am happy to have not had such experience, and was much more freaked out by the whole thing.

I rang my Ayurvedic doctor and the first thing she asked about was my bowel movements! Ayurveda goes straight for the cause, almost ignoring the symptoms entirely. She explained the enema may have brought out some deep toxins which would have been waiting in my body for elimination. Sure enough I had fainted on my way to the toilet, and though I still feel very weak now, after finally making it to the toilet my skin colour has returned and I am able to get out of bed to cook lunch.

October 29, 2007

Let's talk about sex baby..

Woman is the moon and man is the sun. But our sexual organs are reversed. So sexual attraction is the desire to be complete by matching the sun to the sun and the moon to the moon. It is also the desire to balance our own energy with it's opposite.

The result can be (but most often isn't) an opening of all five vital channels, allowing prana to flow through the whole body. But for this goal, the journey is much longer, much slower and much more gentle. It requires patience and time and is much less exciting than the way sex is usually perceived in modern life.

When Ayurveda (and many other spiritual paradigms) advocate celibacy, what they certainly do not mean is an obstruction or denial of this natural energy flow. One man said, upon finding a pornographic magazine in a Sadhu's hut "It is better to have a woman under the arm then in the head"

If you have sexual desires you must respond to these natural urges in a responsible and healthy way. What needs to be worked on is the mind, the goal is to no longer desire sex, the goal is not to no longer have sex.

October 28, 2007

Panch Karma

Panch means five and karma means actions. Panch Karma is an ancient, subtle and very complex series of treatments for cleansing and rejuvenating the body. It is known to have cured things that baffle modern science including arthritis, cancer and Parkinsons disease.

Panch Karma's main emphasis is on cures, not palliative care. Symptoms may not be instantly relieved in the way that an asprin cures a headache. But the root cause of the illness is ascertained and eliminated from the body, so the symptoms will not return.

Extensive pre procedures draw the ama (toxins) from deep within the tissues into the digestive system. This is also palliative and strengthening to prepare the body for the elimination. Panch Karma will then employ one or more of the five actions to eliminate the ama from the body via the nearest exit.

When Charaka wrote the oldest book on Ayurveda he wrote of the five actions as:
  1. Vomiting (eliminates Kapha)
  2. Purgation (eliminates Pitta)
  3. Nasal cleansing (eliminates Kapha)
  4. Cleansing enemas (eliminates Vata)
  5. Rejuvenating enemas (eliminates Vata)
But when Sushruta came along he expanded on Ayurvedic understanding by developing more invasive treatments for critical illness. Sushruta spent a lot of time examining the blood and made the following change to Charaka's five actions:
  1. Vomiting
  2. Purgation
  3. Nasal Cleansing
  4. Enemas
  5. Blood letting (pitta)
After the Panch Karma post procedures and rasayana rekindle the digestion, rebuild the tissues, and strengthen the body.

Humour of "outrageous proportions"

Often when people go for Panch Karma they have been very ill for a very long time, but this needn't be the case. I wanted to share a case study with you by Dr Joshi:

"A man came to me for Panch Karma with no real health problems of any consequence. rather he stated his objective was to raise his level of awareness of the atma within himself. he underwent a six week program of cleansing and rejuvenation with Panch Karma and then I started him on a course of rasayanas.

"He subsequently related to me that about a month after completing the treament., he experienced the dawning of a whole new level of awareness. He noticed his mental clarity and comprehension were much greater than they ever had been in the past. he also said that is sense of humour had grown to "outrageous proportions."

But the most impressive result, he said, was the growth of a sense of lightness, freedom and non attachment. He reported that he felt much more surrended to the experience of the divine within himself, and that much of the "struggle of life" had dropped away.

Such an experience demonstrates that when the false covering of ill health is removed from the mind, sense and body, our true nature or prakruti shines through and is intimately connected to the universal prakruti."

The lesson? If it ain't broken-fix it anyway!

October 27, 2007

"I've got one word for you Kimmy..."

Dr Devaraj says:

“The word “try to live with nature” is the fundamental belief of Ayurveda”

Whilst he can't exactly count, I do think he is on the right track. And now that we are coming around to Daylight Savings time again, I realise how far we've come from nature. I was just beginning to enjoy the Summer sun, waking up earlier, fresher, more relaxed. I can get out of bed and shower and meditate more comfortably now it’s warmer and lighter in the mornings. But now the clocks will be changed so all of this will become more difficult again.

The thing is, the sun sets for a reason. This is the time for resting the body and the mind, for relaxation and reflection. We have introduced daylight savings in an effort to work harder and play harder-to DO more. But really what we need is to BE more.

That there is no one English word to express “try to live with nature” shows a lack of this concept in our lives. So let's make the best of this last few days of nature before we turn the clocks over.

October 26, 2007

Shirodhara

So what is it exactly? It is one of the preparatory stages for Panch Karma. Before the detox the body needs to be strong, so many rejuvinative therapies are carried out before the major cleanse.

The cleanse may involve expelling vomit, mucous, blood or faeces in order to rid the body of toxins and extraneous dosha's that have accumulated.

But before all of that come the rejuvinative therapies. I have just finished Shirodhara myself so thought now is a good time to write about it. Shiro is the third eye, the point between the eyebrow centre, and is a powerful chakra and marma point. Since Vata lives in the head, this treament is for Vata disorders including mental illness, over active brain, anxiety or nervous disorders. Insomnia, Parkinson's Disease and eating disorders all benefit from Shirodhara.

Dhara means to pour, so shirodhara is to pour on the third eye. Most commonly this is done with deeply vata pacifying sesame oil, but other liquids including ghee, herbal infusions or even water may be indicated. I believe it is beneficial to blindfold the patient, in order to minimise sensory distractions. Cotton wool in the ears is a good idea too, though in many cases these practices are not followed.

The effect of Shirodhara is to induce a very deep meditation. It is especially advised for those on the spiritual path, but it may bring up some old karma for you to work through. As always with Ayruveda gently gently is the key!

Shirodhara regulates the mood, and breath, improves circulation, improves concentration and slef esteem...and becuase Vata is like the elctricity of the body, placating Vata can benefit all dosha's by supporting their movement and flow of energy as needed.

October 24, 2007

The best bread 4-how to make chapati

OK, so you've read enough about the best bread to want to know how, here's the basics. I'll write up some troubleshooting in another post.

I can't give you exact quantities or time because it depends on the air humidity, the quality of the water, how strong your kneading arm is, how hot your stove is...you are just gonna have to play around, it won't work the first time (if it does you are a genius!) but don't give up.

Ingredients

Atta flour (alright, brown flour if you must, but use hard flour, not cake flour)
Water
Ghee (optional)
salt (optional)

In a wide shallow mixing bowl put one khobo of flour per chapati. I usually make between two and four chapati per person, depending on age, dosha, appetite etc. Add a little pinch of salt if you like, but usually this is only needed if the chapati will not be eaten with salty food. Rub a little ghee through with your fingers to make crumbs. This will make a more tender, flaky chapati, and it will keep a little longer (maybe a couple of hours instead of a couple of minutes!) More ghee will make a chapati into a paratha.

Make a well in the flour and add water, a little at a time, and get your hands stuck in. You need to make quite a wet dough. Give it as much water as it will take without getting sticky. Then turn out the dough onto a clean (not floured) surface and knead it briefly.

Then put the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel and leave aside for 15 mins, or an hour if need be. This is when you will know if you put enough water in, if you haven't the dough will dry out and have cracks on the outside. If this happens throw away the outside bit.

Now knead it good and proper. You will know when it is kneaded enough because it will stop being tough and the dough will become more stretchy and elastic. To test this pull a handful off and see if the dough stretches or breaks and cracks.

Heat a heavy based fry pan to a medium heat. Put a handful of flour in the bowl next to your dough. Take a small amount of the dough, one muthi is plenty, and roll it into a ball. Dip it in flour and shake off the excess. The idea is to use just enough flour that it doesn't stick, but not enough to dry out the dough.

With a rolling pin roll it out into a circle. Keep turning the circle between rolls, when it begins to stick dip it into the flour again, and keep on rolling. Make sure it is not thicker in some parts then others. It should be quite thin, like pitta bread, and about 9 inches in diameter.

Wow, I think this is my longest post ever-but such an important one! Soldier on...

Put the rolled chapati on hot pan. (When you are good you can roll out the next chapati whilst the first one is cooking-requires good concentration!) Turn it over as soon as it is sealed or a little bubble appears, cook it just enough to hold together at this stage. When the second side is barely sealed take the pan off the heat and put the chapati directly on the open flame, turning it often, with a little luck it will blow up like a balloon. The steam inside the chapati will cook it through. Wrap them in a teatowel, and serve as soon as possible.

Congratulations, this is your first chapati! Serve it hot with a little ghee.

October 21, 2007

Appreciation

Babaji repeatedly says that we only need a fraction of our mental energy to live in this world, but most of us use far too much. I have a little glimpse of understanding of this through Shirodhara.

Now, coming to the end of a series of these oil treatments, I feel like I am living in the world with just a fraction of the effort it used to take. All the small things used to be difficult for me, like getting the shopping done, choosing what to wear on a cold day, returning my library books on time...but now somehow it all seems to flow. I feel much more peaceful and aware and like I am on the right path.

So I just want to express my great appreciation to Baba and Ayurveda and meditation!

October 20, 2007

ANZAC Biscuits

D needed to take something for morning tea and was gonna go to the supermarket on the way. I said he'd be as quick making Anzacs, so he tried it and it was probably even quicker! He asked if the recipe was on my blog, and I realised it's not, which is silly cause I proabably use this recipe every week.

Anzacs are an Aussie favourite. They were made by wives and mothers at home during the war to send to the frontline. They don't have eggs so as not to spoil on the long journey, and they are made with ingredients that were available in times of rationing.

The biscuits were cooked till they were really hard and apparantly the some soldiers would grind them up and use them as porridge.

The recipe seems to have deviated, but this version is simple one of the most common version today, but with less sugar.

ANZAC Biscuits

1 cup flour
1 cup oats
1 cup coconut
1 tspn baking powder
1 Tspn golden syrup (treacle will do-but not honey)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

Mix all ingredients briefly. Place small spoonfuls of the mixture on a greased tray and flatten a little with a fork

I often can't be bothered shaping all the biscuits and make it as a slice instead-works well, like muesli bars. Of course, ok for vata and pitta and hopeless for Kapha-sorry guys!

October 19, 2007

Pitta

Pitta is fire and water. Pitta relates to the liver, blood and eyes. Pitta is:

loud noise
ambition
the colour red
penetrating
infectious
intelligence
passion
burning
competition
adventure
anger
dominant

October 18, 2007

Seven Spice Tagine



So I christened my new tagine, and it is wonderful. Something magic goes on inside that conical lid when you aren't looking.

A tagine pot may look a bit daunting to the inexperienced. I googled it and found very little help, then when I just got stuck in I realised there's no help needed. You just stick everything in, put the lid on and leave it on a low heat for an hour or so.

Seven is a special number in Morocco.

Seven Spice Tagine

2 tspns Cumin Seeds
1 stick of Cinnamon
A few cloves of Garlic
7 Cloves
2 tspns of Sumac
1/2 teaspoon of Tumeric
A handful of Parsley

7 closed handfuls whole mung beans
7 baby Carrots
7 baby Zucchini
2 Onions
1 Capsicum
7 small parsnip
Olive oil

ghee, salt and pepper to taste

Soak the mung beans for at least a few hours or overnight.

Put the tagine pot on a low heat and bring it up to temperature slowly.

Saute the cloves, cinamon, cumin, onions and garlic in ghee, in that order. When fragrant add drained mung beans and vegetables and stir through spice mix. Cover with water and add salt, sumac and pepper. Stir, cover and leave on a low medium heat for an hour. Don't open it-you'll spoil the surprise!

When you do finally open it mix through the parsley, olive oil and tumeric. Serve with rice, cous cous or flat bread. A good hearty meal, I reckon every peasant in the world must have their own version of beans, vegies and rice.

Of course this is a Vata Pitta mix. For Kapha use potatoes, chickpeas and peas instead of mung, zucchini and parsnip, and serve with millet.

October 17, 2007

measurements-get stuck in!

One of my favourite things about Indian food is eating with my hands. It gives sensory depth to the food, another dimension, a more sensual experience. One of my Indian friends fathers said to me once "God gave us perfectly good hands, humans are so ignorant to think that a fork they created is better!" So I've adopted a suggestion from a very sweet and simple book called Ayurvedic Cooking written by Ramesh Patel.

In India cups and spoons are not used to measure, it is of course done by the hands. In my blog I have been using cups and spoons, to keep things simple. Eventually I hope to use these measurements in my recipes cause this is how I work at home:

Chapti is a pinch with the thumb and first finger
Moti Chapti is a pinch with the thumb and first and second fingers
Nani Chapti is somewhere between the two

Muthi is a closed fistful
Khobo is an open handed scoop

Of course this guide is only rough, never follow a recipe exactly. Instead conjure Annapurna, the goddess of abundance, and as you touch the food or spices you will feel exactly how much to put in.

October 10, 2007

cinnamon scrolls

I've been playing with the pizza scrolls recipe an came up with a lovely variation. For a bring-a-plate for breakfast type affair I wanted something healthy and not too sweet.

As usual you make the basic scone dough and then roll it out into a rectangle. This time roll it quite thin, and fill it with a mixture of grated palm sugar and cinnamon and a little ghee to bind it. Roll it up, again slice it quite thin and bake as usual.

October 08, 2007

The best bread 3-why

So if chapati are so bloody hard to make why would you bother? To start with, they aren't actually that hard, they just take a bit of practice, but mostly because they are the best bread and here's why:
  • Chapati are fresh-if you've ever eaten a cold chapati you'll know they must be served piping hot, straight from the pan, and we all know how Ayurveda feels about old food
  • Chapati contain no yeast-which aggravates all three doshas and plays havoc with your digestion and is a bad food combination with lots common bread buddies including milk
  • Chapati contain no preservatives or nasties that you get from the supermarket shelf
  • Chapati are one of the most satisfying and enjoyable baking experiences you'll ever have. It may take you awhile to master, but once you do you'll be churning out chapati quicker than they can be eaten-like the best Indian housewife around!
And as Shubhra Krishan says "Though initially time consuming to make, chapatis are so delicious that you will want to eat them daily!"

October 07, 2007

Himalayan Rock Salt

Salt is a natural and very important part of the human diet. It is especially balancing for Vata, and second to sweet taste, should make up most of all healthy diets.

So why does it get such bad press? Because iodised salt, or table salt, like many modern "foods" is refined to the point where it is no longer nourishing, and can actually be dangerous to the body. All minerals are removed from common table salt until there are only two: sodium and chloride. The other minerals that are removed are sometimes even sold as medicines-a far more lucrative product!

But for every gram of sodium chloride that the body cannot get rid of, the body uses twenty-three times the amount of cell water to neutralize this salt. I don't need to mention the health problems that have been related to excessive consumption of table salt. It's in the media every other day.

The largest salt range in the world is in the Himalayas. The salt here is up to 700 million years old and is mined by hand. It contains around 80-90 minerals and is black or pink in colour, with a very sulphurous smell.

It is available from many Indian grocery stores, and can be used in any way you use regular salt. In the same way that treacle is much more tasty than refined sugar, Himalayan rock salt is much more tasty than what you are used to. Don't be put off by it's smell (my sister calls it egg salt!) your body will learn to love it. It is best to put salt into your food at the beginning of cooking, things cooked in the same pot are more easily assimilated by the body.

NB. You can get many other forms of rock salt, which is preferable to iodised salt, but the pink or grey Himalayan Rock Salt is the best of all.

The best bread 2-Thata flour!

Atta flour is one of the most commonly misunderstood ingredients in Indian cooking. when you taste real atta flour you will exclaim "thata flour!" and demolish the lot.

A grain of wheat is made up of three main parts. The germ is the bit in the middle, which holds the most nutrients and the endosperm makes up the bulk of the grain with starches and sugars. The husk or bran is the tough skin, like you find on the outside of brown rice. This is very high in dietary fibre.

Brown or wholewheat flour contains all three parts of the grain.

White flour contains only the endosperm which means it retains the carbohydrates loses most of the minerals and vitamins.

Atta flour on the other hand uses the germ and the endosperm. But not the bran. Bran fibre is insoluble, so atta flour is a much lighter more easily digested flour. And good digestion is the key to good health.

Unfortunately the Heart Foundation have arrived in India with a vengeance and to get the tick of approval atta flour is no longer atta flour. It's still labeled atta flour, but it contains the whole wheat grain. Also don't be fooled into thinking atta flour is half white and half brown flour mixed together.

Atta flour is light enough to use in place of white flour in all baking, and it is of course the key ingredient of chapati, the best bread. So we are back to the best bread...stay tuned...

October 06, 2007

The best bread

Baking your own bread is perhaps one of the best things Vata can do for themselves. It is grounding and nourishing and wholesome. It requires patience and attention and focus. It gives quick results and wheat is excellent nourishing food for Vata. It's one of those gifts of nature that

But I made terrible chapati last night, it was very disappointing, cause I thought I was finally getting good at it. Chapati making is a fine art, preferably learned from an Indian grandmother on the rammed earth floor over a period of years.

I did not have that privilege. I was lucky enough to learn in India, from my friend's mother, who makes easily the best stuffed paratha I have ever eaten, but I only got a couple of lessons, and since then I've been perfecting the craft alone in my studio flat in Melbourne.

My mistake last night was I didn't "break" the wheat, as I was taught. Meaning I didn't knead it for long enough. Turning flour and water into the best bread you will ever eat is one of those miracles of science that in Ayurveda could only be termed "prabhav." No one knows why, it just is.

So, back to the beginning, I'll post a series about the ups and downs in my quest for the best bread.

PS I thought chapati making was hard, but check out this article about baking Autizimo, a Mediterranean chickpea sour dough bread.

October 05, 2007

Tajine

So I lied...I said I'd keep posting from Freo but I haven't. Not as much anyway. But I've been making my wedding dress and handing out invitations and meeting prospective celebrants.

We were just given a tajine as an engagement gift, so I am busy researching a vegetarian tajine recipe. Chickpeas and tomatoes are on my Ayurvedic no list, so I'm having to do some adaptations. Oooh. it's so beautiful though. I'm always worried I gonna be givena toaster or an iron every time I receive a wedding/engagement gift, but I should have more faith in my friends.

Let me know if you have any tips on using a tajine or any good recipes.

September 30, 2007

Mung-my desert island food

Last night at about 5.30pm I got a call from my sister saying she was coming over for dinner, and bringing her boyfriend and her house mate. Then mum walked in and said that she'd invited the neighbours, so suddenly we had eight for dinner so it was action stations. I can make mung dahl with eyes closed so that was an obvious choice, but we didn't have enough rice, and chapati's for that number of people with such little notice was a bit daunting. So I made those anything muffins again, this time with a handful of sunflower seeds and a few spoonfuls of cumin seeds. Very tasty-and so easy.

Mung Dahl is very versatile, inexpensive and you can keep a sackful in your kitchen so you don't ever run out. Mung are one of the most revered foods in Ayurveda, they are tridoshic, easy to digest and deeply nourishing. Unfortunately they can be a bit hard to find in the shops, get them split (often called mung dahl) rather than whole (called mung beans) or they will take a very long time to cook.

I use a pressure cooker (reduces the labour and the carbon footprint) in which case you do the same thing as below but at step five, bring it to pressure once and leave it to depressurise itself.

The basic idea is this:
  1. Saute some hardy spices in ghee (like whole seeds or pastes)
  2. Add the mung dahl (2 small handfuls per person-they swell up a lot)
  3. Add water (at least three times more water then dahl- more to count for evaporation)
  4. Add salt (it is easier to be absorbed when it is well cooked in the same pot)
  5. Bring to boil then simmer covered for twenty minutes (or until completely disintegrated)
  6. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed
  7. Add delicate spices (like powders or fresh herbs)
You can add any vegies you like at about step five depending on how long they take to cook. It took me a few goes to make good dahl and I think the common mistakes we make in the west are:
  • not enough water (it should be soupy)
  • not enough ghee (ghee helps us to taste, and counteracts the dryness)
  • not enough salt (salt brings out the flavours of the other spices)
  • not enough cooking time (there should be no whole dahl left)
I eat mung every day, and by adding different vegies and spices I never get bored of it. There are as many versions of dahl as there are people in India, so google mung dahl for more idea's. And I'll post a few more of my favourite versions.

September 29, 2007

Banana Rama

These tiny finger banana's were our standard breakfast when traveling in Laos. Tasty, easy and packed with energy they were a great start to the day.

But banana's have a very slow digestion time and do not combine well with other foods.

Banana's can cause some confusion for those new to Ayurveda. Though they taste sweet, they have a post digestive sour effect, making them heating. They are therefore best for Vata. Banana's, like all fruit should be eaten on an empty stomach, and they especially are especially difficult to digest in combination with milk.

Banana's can cause both constipation or diarrhea and should be taken in moderation. One remedy for constipation which I have found especially useful is one banana mashed with a teaspoon of ghee and a teaspoon of ground cardamom. Eat this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and wait awhile before eating anything else.

September 28, 2007

The week that was...

What a week, I'm not sure where it went, but I think I missed a day or two blogging in there. My Panch Karma is taking a lot of my time. I do feel good, very hungry which is good news, and sleeping well. I'm going home to Fremantle this week. For some sunshine, for some salty air, for some family time. I'll keep blogging, I'll be making some dishes for prasad because Babaji will be visiting Perth at the same time as me. I'll post a few recipes. Gotta go get a plane!

September 26, 2007

The Anything Muffins

So I've been looking for a good basic muffin recipe (without eggs) that I can adapt to make all sorts of different savoury muffins. I didn't quite believe this recipe when I saw it, looked to basic, but when D ate them he said that he had the feeling that it was going to become one of those classic repeated recipes that I pull out time and time again.

I got it from here and adjusted it slightly. You can add anything you want, here I'll give the version I made yesterday. Without eggs they are less cakey and more bready, which I love, think Soda bread or damper in texture, so especially good as a savoury muffin. Play around with it, it's a pretty hardy recipe, though they won't keep long.

Asparagus and Cream Cheese Muffins

Ingedients

2 cups flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water
salt and pepper

1 1/4 cups chopped asparagus
a few Tablespoons of cream cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 200'C and grease some muffin tins. Like all muffins you sift and mix the dry ingredients, then mix the wet ingredients, then mix it all together as briefly as possible. Fill the muffin tin with the batter and bake for 30-40 mins. I reckon the crunchier the edges the better so even up to an hour if they don't burn!

For this variation add the Asparagus to the dry mix, and leave the cream cheese out. When you you fill the muffin tins, half fill them at first, then put a small dollop of cream cheese in the centre of each tin, and cover with the remaining batter.

Whatever you put in them be aware of it's water content, ie for Spinach muffins or zucchini muffins use a little less water.

Vata does well with baking and eating baked goods. You can add black olives, onions, spinach or pumpkin to the basic batter and spice it up with a bit of cinnamon and ginger.
For Pitta as is should be OK, though cream cheese can be a bit sour. Pumpkin, zucchini or leek are great options.
Kapha can make Mexican muffins by replacing some of the flour with cornmeal or polenta, add a cup of corn kernels and capsicum and some chili. Or what about rye and onion muffins with caraway...

PS. I think crunch craving is a Vata trait, just a theory I'm working on. So if you crave crunch, try getting some more liquid in you diet instead.

September 25, 2007

Shirodhara

I had my first Shirodhara today. And although I really want to post about these awesome asparagus and cream cheese muffins I made, I've been posting too many recipes lately, so it will have to wait. In the meantime I just want to mention that Shirodhara is incredible. I feel like I have slept for hours, and could sleep for so many more! Bring on some Kapha...zzzzzzzzzz

September 21, 2007

For Kapha, For a change

So I've been promising something for Kapha, since my Vata Pitta self tends to write about all things good for Vata Pitta-a disaster for those more sturdy and strong of the dosha tree.

Kapha should avoid wheat and rice-which sounds awfully difficult, but it's just natures way of encouraging Kapha to get in touch with their creative side. Which is great on all levels. So play around with the multitude of other grains like rye, polenta or millet, or in this case:

Polenta Nera- which is not actually polenta as we know it today, but buckwheat, see how many options you have?

This is northern Italian peasant food, and like most things with a simple list of ingredients, the end result rests entirely on your technique-or a strong arm and a weak brain (no offence Kapha!) Delia recommends getting a man to do jobs like this. Read more about the arm and brain requirements of Polenta here.

Ingredients

2 cups vegetable stock
1 and 3/4 cups more vegetable stock
1 and 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
a dash of ghee, salt and pepper

Method

Bring two cups of stock to the boil. Meanwhile whisk 1½ cups of buckwheat flour with 1¾ cup of stock. Add the mixture to the boiling stock in a slow and steady stream whisking constantly.

Reduce heat and add ghee, salt and pepper. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon for 20 mins. This is where your strong arm (or man) comes in. Stir and stir and don't give up (c'mon this is perfect Kapha food!)

Serve it soft or pour into a greased pan and spread evenly. It will cool and harden in 45 -60 minutes. Use as a pizza base or cut into squares and grill.

Traditionally served with lots of dairy- but equally good (and much more Kapha friendly) with capsicum sauce, pesto or roast mediterranean vegies-corn, potato and onions are Kapha favourites...take it to a BBQ or picnic lunch.

(Just don't stop stirring it or it will turn to glue!)

September 20, 2007

Peter Parkin

Another birthday, and another eggless cake. D is managing an media event today, and it's the birthday of one of the speakers, and he agred to speak anyway, so extra Happy Birthday!

I love dairy, so this traditional UK recipe, is perfect. It's very simple and uses ingredients I always have around the house, but it does have a long preparation and baking time, allow about 1.5 to 2 hours. traditionally it was kept for a week or so in a wooden parkin box, apparently making it moister, but it never lasts that long around my house!

Parkin is a dark, moist ginger cake, perfect for Vata, but see adaptations below.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 cup whole oats
1 cup milk
1 cup of butter
1 cup treacle or molasses
2 tspn baking powder
2 tspn ginger powder

Method:

Preheat the oven to a gentle 160'. Soak oats in milk for half an hour. Melt the butter and the treacle or molasses. Mix dry ingredients, then combine with wet. Pour into a greased baking tin and bake for 45 mins.

  • Pitta use barley malt instead of treacle or molasses, and reduce the amount of ginger
  • Kapha, well, sweets are never really for Kapha, but extra ginger, less butter and half milk and half water might help. Moderation is always preferable to deprivation!
  • Can easily be made vegan: substitute milk with soy or rice, and use vegetable oil instead of butter.

September 19, 2007

Kapha: an ocean of love

Kapha is water. Heavy, slow, cold.

Kapha is that feeling when you don't want to get off the couch. Kapha is sleeping in or being a couch potato. Kapha is love and greed and attachment and holding on. Kapha is matter, and binds everything. Kapha is faithful, loyal, sure, loving. Kapha sometimes needs a kick up the bum. Kapha climbs mountains, strong, enduring, but can be lazy and just rather do some baking and eating. Kapha is scones with jam and cream. Kapha is a lifelong friend. Kapha won't change their mind on you.

Kapha is not me!

September 18, 2007

The scone master

I can't be bothered writing more about the dosha's, will finish up the series with kapha any day now.

But I do want to talk about cool, moist, heavy, comforting, nurturing scones-very kapha indeed. No wonder a devonshire tea is one of the counseling tools of yesteryear. But scones are one of the most frequently abused members of the baking family. Everyone seems to have their own recipe, but only a few have really mastered the technique of baking light, flaky scones every time.

Now I don't claim to be one of the masters, but here are a few tricks of the trade:
  • sift the flour a few times to really aerate it
  • use very cold butter
  • knead only just enough to combine. Don't let the butter melt or the wheat release it's gluten
  • dip your scone cutter in flour to get those flaky risen edges
The art of the scone is not in the ingredients but in the method, so stick to your own recipe if you like, but here is just one version. It's quite a big batch, about a dozen large scones.

Scones

Ingredients

3 cups flour
3 tspns baking powder
1/3 cup butter
1-1 1/2 cups water
a pinch of salt

Method

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt a few times. Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your hands, till it's like breadcrumbs, don't let the butter melt in your hands too much. make a well and mix the water in a bit at a time till you have quite a stiff dough. Knead for a brief moment to combine and then roll out on a floured surface. Cut scones out with a cookie cutter and place on a greased tray. Bake for 10-15 mins at 200'C.

Scones are great for Vata and Pitta, have for morning tea, or as a main meal with soup or a stew. Wheat is too heavy and moist for Kapha. Try using less butter, and replacing part of the flour with cornmeal or rye flour.

Sorry Kapha, I'm Vata-Pitta, so most of my recipes won't suit you! Oh dear, double blow, I'll create something wonderful for you asap.

September 17, 2007

Pitta: churning and yearning

Pitta is fire. Sensory, discrimination, ambition, sharp, infectious.

Pitta is that person who corners you at a party and locks you into deep conversation with their penetrating eyes. Pitta is a fever or rash, but similarly this infectiousness makes Pitta very attractive and persuasive. Pitta is running or bikram yoga or anger. Pitta thrives in competition. Pita has passionate love affairs, and firey arguments. Pitta is the middle, the middle of life, the middle of the night, the middle of the day, medium height, medium build. Pitta's wisdom can literally burn the hair off the head, they can be very critical, making Pitta the judge.

Let me know if this helps.

September 16, 2007

Pizza Scrolls

I want to eat less sugar, but I just love baking so much, so I am on a quest for good savoury, egg free baked items. Think savoury zucchini loaf or herb and onion muffins. But first up Pizza Scrolls.

Pizza is an Ayurvedic disaster. Tomatoes, hard cheese, yeast, white flour...but it is just so tasty! It is possible to make really tasty pizza without compromising your health. I'll post my regular pizza recipe, plus variations like pizza pie. But for now it's:

Pizza Scrolls

Ingredients

1/2 red capsicum
1 onion
cumin seeds
ghee
cheese (cream cheese, ricotta or paneer)

Scone dough

Method

Finely chopped onion and capsicum. Fry the cumin in ghee till it is aromatic. Add the vegies and fry covered on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Add a tablespoon of water or ghee if it starts to stick. When they are very well cooked, maybe 20 mins to half an hour put the mixture in the blender and blend till smooth. This is your pizza sauce.

When the sauce is ready make the scone dough. Use your hands to flatten it gently into a big rectangle, use a rolling pin to get it a little thinner and spread the sauce and cheese on top and roll it up. Cut into discs and lie them flat on a baking tray (either close together to make a pull-a-part loaf or separately to make individual buns, you can also do this in a muffin tin). Bake for 10-15 minutes at 200'C.

Vata: Consumer of experience

Vata is air. Dry. Movement. Cool. Light. Life.

My friend used this great term at a dinner party last night. She said that in our society we don't only consume material, we consume experiences. We always want to buy the newest, most unique experience, whether it be a nightclub that's just opened or an unusual food fresh off the boat from France. We want to sell and trade and share these experiences with our friends, and then as soon as the club gets too big the experience is "so last season" or has been "sold out." And we move on to consuming the next experience.

It reminded me a lot of what Morningstar says: that this society we live in is Vata imbalancing. It's so fast and dynamic and different. There is little familiarity or comfort or grounding.

And perhaps this explains current social Vata imbalance: mental illness, drug abuse, addiction, eating disorders. So that's a bit about Vata.

September 15, 2007

Dosha diagnosis

My sister requested some more info on doshas, but I have been resisting. For a long time I thought I was Vata Kapha, my blue eyes and blonde hair somewhat misleading me. It turns out I am Vata Pitta, which makes no sense at all if you look at me. But it can be seen in my illness tendency, tonsillitis, pnuemonia, colesores, hepatitis...

My point is the "quizzes" you can find all over the internet lack the subtley and complexity of the fine science of Ayurveda, and if you really want to know what your dosha is go and see an Ayurvedic doctor.

I went to see one last year who I wasn't very impressed with. She asked me all the usual quiz questions and came up with Vata Kapha. Partly because in answering the questions I am interpreting them, and cause I already thought I knew what dosha I was, it influenced my answers.

My current doctor diagnosed me ONLY by reading my pulse. I really believe that, as with all medicine, accurate diagnosis is the key. I wouldn't go and diagnose myself with heart disease or cancer, because I am not an expert, similarly don't try and diagnose yourself as having a Pitta imbalance based on some quiz on the internet.

Sure, dabble around in Ayurveda and find out if it interests you, but if you are really serious about it, then go and ask an expert. Having said all that, over the next few days I'll post a bit more about the doshas in a broad sense.

September 14, 2007

Starting a drought

To lower kapha, you need to dry it up. If you are displaying kapha symptoms including congestion or obesity then there are a few simple ways to start a drought:
  • eat hot spicy food including chili, ginger and pepper (fire evaporates water)
  • dry fry rice and dahl before adding water, this will stop them absorbing so much
  • eat dry vegetables like potatoes, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and corn
  • eat dry grains like polenta, millet, rye and barley
  • dry brush your skin to cleanse and stimulate metabolism and blood flow
  • eat dry crackers and toasted and popped rather than boiled grains
Kapha is the strongest of the doshas and can handle a lot of cleansing, so you can fast or at least eat less till symptoms subside.

September 13, 2007

Not spinach and cheese pie

I was cooking for guests last night and had planned a spinach and cheese pie, but there was no spinach to be found. So at the last minute, with cottage cheese in hand, I had to make up something else. It turned out so good I want to share it with you. D usually makes our cottage cheese fresh, but this time we used store bought.

Savoury Rice Baked with Cottage Cheese

Ingredients

1 cup of basmati rice
2-3 cups of grated or finely chopped vegies
500g Cottage Cheese (soft paneer)
ghee
cummin seeds
salt pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200'C. Cook the rice as you usually do. meanwhile saute the cummin seeds in ghee till they release their aroma. Add vegies and cook till just tender and then stir in the cooked rice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and put into a greased baking dish. Spread the cheese on top and bake for 20 mins or so till it's a little bit crusty on top. Leave to cool for five or ten minutes before serving. Serves four for a light meal.

Vata vegies include onions, carrots, pumpkin and zucchini
Pitta can choose from pumpkin, zucchini, peas and green beans
Kapha is best with peas, corn, green beans, onions and carrot and add a bit extra pepper

September 12, 2007

Every Body

Ayurveda recognises that each and every body is different, and so no two people should have the same diet. Though there are some things which are tridoshic, good for all doshas. Anyone can eat these things regularly and happily, so enjoy:
  • basmati rice
  • oats (soaked for vata, dry for kapha)
  • mung dahl
  • leek
  • asparagus
  • fennel
  • dates
  • sultanas (soaked for vata)
  • sunflower seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • cummin
  • tumeric
  • coriander
  • ghee
  • paneer (freshly made, not store bought)

September 11, 2007

Vote 1 for Julia!

I've been shortlisted to win 1000 euros! I need you all to vote for my entry "green wedding" entry #170.

It's a German competition where you post a picture and a few words about your personal efforts for sustainability. Check out the other entries too, they are great, but don't vote for them!

http://www.mission-sustainability.org/en/voting

September 10, 2007

Spice up ya life

If you seriously want to spice up your life, then unfortunately, a spice tin is for you. I say unfortunately because they are very difficult to buy outside of India. But if your local Indian grocery/puja instrument/kitchen good/pirate DVD store has a spice tin in stock, snap it up, cause you'll never look back.


Spice tins are great cause all the spices your heart desires are under one lid. No fiddling with screw top jars or searching the back of your cupboards. No little plastic bags wrapped up with elastic bands.

If you are lucky enough to have a spice tin in your hot little hands here's the guide:

A few spices are tridoshic and can be your staple spices.
  • cummin (I prefer whole seeds, they add nice texture)
  • tumeric
  • coriander (I prefer ground, the seeds get stuck in my teeth)
  • Himalayan rock salt (this will be a funny colour like pink or black)
  • fennel seeds
If you are a very disciplined Pitta you might just leave the last couple of spaces in your spice tin empty. Most other spices are heating. If you are keen you could try caraway, neem, or taragon, all cooling, but not so commonly used.

Vata has a few more options, the little known ajwan is the secret ingredient to alot of Indian food including samosas. Great for Vata and totally delicious, but difficult to find. Fenugreek, mustard seeds and cloves are all good daily spices.

As for Kapha, go out and buy a double layered spice tin cause here is where you can be decadent to your hearts desire. Chili and ginger powder are ideal, but nearly every spice you can think of will do you an awful lot of good. Enjoy liberally and frequently!

What not to put in your spice tin:
  • Some spices, like black pepper, begin to lose their flavour once they are ground. It's best store them in airtight containers or in a pepper grinder ready to grind fresh.
  • Other spices, like cardamom, have such a strong smell, they may affect the flavour of other spices stored in the same tin.
  • Expensive spices, like saffron, will get knocked around a bit in a spice tin, and become contaminated with other spices.