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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?