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January 30, 2008


Insomnia is most often a Vata aggravation, however any dosha may be involved. Insomnia may be the inability to get to sleep, frequently disturbed sleep or restless sleep with many dreams.

Deep sleep is time to re-visit your essential self, experience akasha, that divine nothingness from which all creation springs. This is an opportunity to remember your true self. Sleep is needed to refresh and revitalise us to face the challenges of this world. When you lay down your head take a moment to consciously leave your worries in the care of that universal consciousness at night. If you trust God with your problems at night you'll be much better equipped to deal with them again come morning.

Generally a warm, unctious, wholesome diet will help. Wheat, milk, ghee, root vegetables (excluding potato) should be taken, and stimulating foods including coffee and chili should be avoided. Warm sesame oil can be rubbed on the feet to ground Vata, and pull the energy down from the mind.

Try and bring some more routine to your sleeping patterns. Retire before ten and rise before six. Do some calming activities to wind down before bed, like breathing exercises, meditation, cleansing routines...avoid TV, loud music, newspapers and travel.

Pita type insomnia is characterised by dramatic dreams and hot emotions. Sleep tends to be broken too easily, especially between about midnight and 2AM. Kapha tends more towards lethargy, but can cause insomnia in cases of congestion or over eating, especially around 6-10 both AM and PM.

January 29, 2008

Hot Date Milk

Fruit is best digested alone, as a general rule allow about an hour between eating fruit and other foods. But of course there are exceptions to prove the rule. One of them is dates and milk. These two foods make a good combination since they have the same effect at all stages of digestion.

You can just drink milk and eat dates, or you can mix them together. This is a very strengthening and nourishing drink, excellent for building up Vata and Pita types, especially when the blood is weak (low blood pressure, anemia etc. ) It is however very sweet and is probably a bit too rich for daily use for most people. Best taken in the morning, omit spices if digestive fire is too high.

per person

1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup milk
4 dates
Pinch of ground cardamom and pepper for digestion


Chop dates finely and put all ingredients together in a heavy based saucepan. Bring to the boil and then blend with a stick blender if you want it especially smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.

January 28, 2008

Dips for dipsticks

Dips are easily the most over-bought item in the supermarket. Even a monkey could make a decent dip and yet we spend $5 or $6 to get the stale factory version with refined fats and artificial flavourings.

Dips are something you certainly don't need a recipe for. There is no science to cooking something (vegies, beans) and mashing it with something else (nuts, dairy) and then adding a few flavours (spices, fresh herbs, lemon). Taste it and add more of something if it's not quite right. Another method is to use your favourite soup recipe without adding the water (Leek and Potato Dip for example).

I'll try and post a few of my own regular dip idea's just for inspiration. But they aren't really recipes, just starting points.

Thai Pumpkin Dip

Steam chunks of pumpkin, put it in the blender with enough coconut cream to make a good dip consistency. Add fresh coriander leaves, salt and pepper. Blend again and taste.

NB. Other flavourings include (fry these briefly in ghee before adding) fresh minced ginger, thai curry paste, minced lemongrass, minced garlic. You could also consider chili (sauce or powder) and crushed cashews as well.

Magic Miso Dip

In a bowl put equal parts of tahini and miso paste. Stir until thick. Add water and stir again to thicken it up. Keep stirring and adding water until it won't thicken up any further.

If you want to add some vegies, finely chop or grate them (onion and carrot are good). Fry in ghee, add a little water if it sticks. When the vegies are tender mix into miso and tahini paste.

January 23, 2008

Post Virechana

The week or so after purgation can be as crucial to health as the purgation itself. Virechana will expel pita from the body, including the fire for digestion.

Like making any fire, kindling digestive fire (agni) must be done correctly or the fire won't start, beginning with newspaper and kindling, building up to bigger logs. But if you feed the fire a big log too soon the fire will be extinguished. If your digestive fire is extinguished toxins (ama) will build in the body, causing more health problems.

So to kindle agni the best food is mung dahl, of course! A soup of mung dahl with cumin and rock salt can be taken throughout the treament and as a staple for the weeks afterwards. Sip this as often as you want. On the second day after treatment take water that rice has been boiled in, this can also be taken frequently for as long as you need it. It is important to take small regular meals for this time.

Basmati rice is the next food to be introduced, cooked in the dahl as kichadee. The quantity of rice is up to the patient, some need more for strength, some need less to prevent constipation. Keep the kichadee very soupy to begin with and build up to it being more solid.

Finally after the length of time prescribed by your practitioner break your fast with whole wheat. One chapati or one piece of mountain bread is plenty. You may feel quite heavy afterwards. Pumpkin and zucchini are also excellent foods to break your fast with. Return slowly to your normal diet, but try to eat according to your dosha and the season for some months afterwards.

If the subject is particularly weakened by the treatment they may take some chai with cardamom and jaggary. It is common to be constipated for a few days after purgation, respect your agni and this will return to normal. Some people may have sore stomach muscles for a few days.

It is important to take this time to rest and reflect. Stay with your emotions, even if it is uncomfortable. Avoid loud talking, big groups of people and travel. Sleeping during the day, whilst usually frowned upon, is important in this recovery period.

This is an excellent time for breaking bad habits and addictions. Bear this in mind when returning to your usual lifestyle, now is the time for a new normal!

January 22, 2008

Thoren-Green beans with Coconut

I had my wedding menu planned before we were even engaged, food is simply my favourite thing. I wanted something simple and cheap enough to feed nearly 200 and to be cooked fresh that morning with friends and family. I wanted good food combinations with something for every dosha. A light meal appropriate for a hot day, but satisfying enough for meat eaters. My dad called the food situation one of the only "imponderables" of planning for the big day.

Well, due to the love and effort of my dear friends and family, it worked amazingly, people enjoyed the food and are asking for recipes. Except there were loads of leftovers, and one rogue meat lover ducked out for KFC mid way through the reception. No converts there!

I didn't actually cook the thoren, my wonderful Indian friend did, and this isn't her recipe, it's mine. My guess is hers is a lot saltier and spicier, it went down really well so I'll let you adjust the seasonings to taste.

This recipe might take you about half an hour and feed four as a side dish. It was balanced with cool oily Gajar Subji at the wedding to keep all dosha's in check.


200 grams green beans
4 Tbs dessicated coconut
2 Tbs mung dahl
1 tsp ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 curry leaf
3 cloves of garlic
About the same amount of ginger
½ tsp salt
chilli to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric


Soak coconut and mung dahl seperately in just enough water to cover them.

Warm ghee in a wok. Add mustard seeds and curry leaf, when they first begin to pop add garlic, ginger and soaked dahl. Fry for just a moment-don’t burn! Add chopped green beans and salt and just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn down heat and cover, stirring occasionally and adding a dash of water now and then to prevent sticking. When tender add soaked coconut, chili, coriander and turmeric. Leave with the lid on for a minute to let it mix and warm.

Vata finds green beans less dry and difficult to digest than other beans, but would do well with extra ghee and coconut, and throw in some cumin.
Pita would do well with less the chili and garlic and a bit more coriander
Kapha loves beans, but use less coconut and ghee and balance the oiliness with an extra curry leaf and some more mustard-be careful it's not too bitter to be enjoyable though!

January 21, 2008


There is some quiet disagreement amongst the Ayurvedic community as to the qualities of cardamom. Some consider it heating, some consider it cooling. I am now of the opinion that either way, it is so mild that it barely matters.

I do know, however, that it is an excellent little spice. Known as elaichi in India, it is tridoshic, but moderation should be observed for Pita. Originating in South India and Sri Lanka, cardamom is a member of the ginger family, and is a seed pod. It is best bought in whole pods and peeled and ground fresh for each use.

This beautifully aromatic spice is carminative, stimulant, diuretic and digestive. Cardamom is excellent in combination with milk, and aids the bodies digestion of lactose. There is also some talk of it moderating the effects of caffeine, perhaps explaining it's use in Indian tea and coffee.

Whilst commonly associated with sweets, cardamom is divine in many savoury dishes as well, particularly in a pilau or tagine. It's a pretty special little spice but you'll pay for it, saffron is the only spice more expensive.

January 20, 2008

Ayurvedic Anatomy

The body is made up of dosha, mala and dhatu. Dosha are processes, the function of the elements and their weaknesses. Mala is the waste of the body, what is eliminated from the body. Dhatu are the tissues, the physical structure of the body.

So if we breathe, for example, the lung tissue itself is dhatu, the action of drawing breathe and turning it into nutrients is governed by the dosha and the part of the air that is expelled is mala. Everything that happens in the body can be described terms of dosha, dhatu and mala.

January 19, 2008


Virechana is the Panch Karma therapy to expel pita. It also expels some kapha. It is a very reducing treatment and the patient must be very strong in both body and spirit. Pre-treatments, called Purva Karma, are given to strengthen the mind and body including massage and shirodhara. Panch Karma should only be carried out under the strict supervision of an Ayurvedic Physician.

Next ghee is taken daily on an empty stomach to saturate all seven tissues and a series of massage and steam treatments are given. On the day before final purgation the patient must eat a pita enhancing diet including spicy and fried food. This process is designed to draw out deep seated ama from all tisues into the digestive system ready for elimination, and takes about a week. Without this preparation, purgation only removes 48 hours worth of toxins from the body.

Early the next morning on an empty stomach the patient is given purgatives chosen especially for their constitution and in accordance with the seasons. This usually includes oil, pills and a decoction.

The body responds as it needs to respond so it is impossible to explain what to expect. Commonly however the purgatives cause an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. The patient will begin to feel very hot, though it is crucial not to take cool drinks or a shower. Nausea is a common complication, and sometimes leads to vomiting. Keep a spray bottle handy with two drops each of lemon and jasmine essential oil in one cup of water to spray on the patients face only. Drinking luke-warm water with lemon, jaggary and rock salt may relieve nausea. Sandalwood and lavender bring some comfort.

It is also very common to feel very emotional. Fear, anxiety and grief may be brought up by the treatment. Watch these emotions with detachment, allow them to flow over you and be released. These emotions may continue for a number of days as your body releases excess dosha's. Put you complete faith in Ayurveda as nature takes it's course. This is, in my experience, the most difficult aspect of healing, but the most vital and rewarding too.

January 18, 2008

Make your own Wedding Cake

As soon as I announced my engagement I had multiple friends offer to bake my wedding cake (I've got such wonderful friends). My sister got in first, so with the support of my amazing mother they created an amazing three tiered Cardamom and Saffron Butter Cake decorated with marzipan, fresh flowers and ribbon.

Don't let anyone tell you you can't make your own wedding cake, you can, and you will enjoy the process. So long as you realise lots of practice runs mean your family will be eating wedding cake for weeks leading up to the big day...not such a bad thing really. Just remember to practice the cake in the actual tin you intend to cook it in. Some recipes don't double (or quadruple) well.

The recipe below makes one standard round cake tin, approximately ten normal size serves. However remember after a big meal most people only want a small serve and some don't want any at all. My sister made the bottom cake tier 8 times this recipe, the middle 4 times and the top 2 times. It was enough for 160 people with leftovers. Cut your cake into squares if you want to make it go further.


1 teaspoon saffron
3 teaspoons of milk
2 tsp freshly crushed cardamom
1 3/4 cup atta flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup of raw sugar
4 Tbs sour cream
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/4 cup milk


Soak the saffron in 3 teaspoons of milk for two hours before you start. In the meantime you can shell you cardamom pods and grind in a mortar and pestle (one of my favourite sadhana's).

Preheat the oven to 160'C. Sift the flour twice. Put the raw sugar in a blender and blend to make a fine powder. (You can use this instead castor sugar in any recipe.) Grease and dust your cake tin.

Melt the ghee (if it isn't already liquid) and mix with sugar and let it cool. Add sour cream, milk cardamom and saffron infusion and mix well. Mix in flour until just combined and pour into prepared tin. Bake for thirty minutes.

To ice: when cool ice with marzipan (higher percentage of almonds the better, and check for eggs if you don't like them). You can roll out the marzipan between two layers of baking paper dusted with icing sugar, then lay over the un-tiered cakes. Then make a very thick paste with icing sugar and water and pipe patterns onto the cake. Assemble the tiers and finally wrap a ribbon around the base of each cake tier, secure with a pin, and decorate with fresh flowers.

I'm back..

OK, so sorry about the long break. It's been silly season over this way what with my wedding last week. It was even better than we'd all hoped and I think the last fortnight has been one of the best of my whole life.

What made it so good? Sadhana, crudely translated as "religious activities" is more eloquently described by Maya Tiwari as "wholesome activities practiced in harmony with nature." What I mean is that the wedding and the weeks surrounding it were filled with healthy communal activities.

Everyone of nearly 200 guests made some small (or large) contribution and felt a sense of involvement in the day. I felt an overwhelming sense of having the most amazing family and friends one could ever hope for. We put up marquees, prepared food, borrowed buckets, blenders, trolleys, arranged flowers, raked sand, cleaned toilets... I felt more than ever the generosity and support of our community, as well the unique and new combination of my community with D's community.

What a joyful occasion to be a part of and I thank every guest, and especially my family, for making it all happen and getting in the spirit of joyful service together.

So, I'm back, and still all about the wedding. I have a new camera (wedding gift) so I can now begin posting some more original photo's. And first of all I'll post some of the recipes from the wedding day. I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.