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February 29, 2008

Carrot Halva

My mum used to make this when I was a kid and I remember it so well. I tried once a few years ago and it was a disaster. Since I needed to use up milk and carrots and felt like something warm and gooey (it's been cold again) I thought I ought to brave it again. I'm not sure how I could have gone so horribly wrong the first time cause it really is an easy recipe. If you're a bit weirded out by the use of carrots here, just remember carrot cake, carrots have more sugar than some fruits!

In India they swear by the lovely red carrots, which I would swear by too but only the orange ones are available here, but I promise, it still tastes good. This is a fairly big batch.


1 kg Carrots
1 L milk
A teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom seeds
a pinch of saffron
a teaspoon of rose water
a good dollop of ghee
A few big spoons of grated jaggary, to taste


Soak the saffron in a teaspoon of water.

Grate the carrots and fry in a half the ghee on a low heat. Let them soften for a few minutes, add a sprinkle of water if they stick but carrots release lots of water so don't add too much. Next add the milk and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer uncovered, stirring it every 5 or 10 minutes. The idea is to let the milk thicken, it could take awhile maybe 40mins to an hour, to let it all evaporate.

Next fry the cardamom and sugar in ghee in another saucepan on a low heat till the mixture starts to bubble. I use about 3 Tbspns, but traditionally they use a whole lot more. Add the bubbling sugar mix to the carrots and milk, stir in the saffron water and rosewater and let it infuse for another few minutes.

You can serve it hot or at room temperature.

February 28, 2008

Old milk and cheese

There's no use crying about it, all milk gets old some day. And today I have about a litre of milk on the way out. So how do I use it before it ticks over it's use-by?

Perhaps the quickest way to use up milk is to make cheese. Not the stinky kind like my Austrian Grandmother used to make, but white, soft, mild paneer. All you do is bring milk to the boil then take it off the heat and add a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar and watch it curdle. Add a bit more lemon juice if it doesn't curdle. Drain off the whey through a cloth (hang it for a few minutes for harder paneer) and use it straight away in any dish where you would use paneer or ricotta. I'm telling the truth, it's that easy. And it uses a lot of milk, a litre will barely make enough for three or four people.

Then there's milk sweets such as rice pudding or carrot halwa...and if all else fails and you miss the use by date sour milk can be used to make Irish Soda Bread. Delicious!

February 26, 2008


Sweet is the taste that should make up the most of your diet. But on the other hand sweet is the taste that many, many people eat too much. So what's the do you get just the right amount of sweet?

Most foods are predominantly sweet in taste, so it's easy to over indulge. The key is in the source of the sweet taste. Avoid concentrated sweets such as sugar, honey and maple syrup. These should only be taken in moderation because such strong sweet taste numbs your taste buds and weakens your digestion. The main source of sweet in your diet should be whole grains and vegetables.

Sweet, the heaviest taste, is made up of water and earth, making it most useful for Pita and Vata and least useful for Kapha. However because sweets weaken digestive fire it can build mucous and toxins, so care must be taken even for these dosha. Spices such as pepper and cumin can aid digestion. Kapha illnesses such as lethargy, congestion and obesity will all be aggravated by too much sweet taste, which is particularly easy to get from concentrated sweets.

Sweet taste is the most nutritive of tastes, making it very useful after Panch Karma or for convalescence. It builds the tissues and aids growth. But in an anti ama diet sweet is the first taste to go.

Refined sugar is poison. It's hidden in all sorts of processed foods from bread to crackers to muesli bars. Read packets carefully and avoid foods that are too high in refined sugar. Use unrefined, natural sweeteners in your own cooking, such as jaggary or maple syrup according to your dosha.

If you can't taste the natural sweetness of milk or bread than it's time to cut down on your sweet intake. If you eat less sugar your tastebuds will open up the full mouthwatering deliciousness of all six tastes. And balance, after all is the key to health.

February 23, 2008

Rice three ways

Well, I eat rice every day, along with most of the world, so here's a few ways to do something just a little more interesting with it...

All three recipes require a heavy based saucepan with a tight fitting lid (a cast iron one is perfect), a gentle heat, basmati rice and ghee. Don't try and make smaller batches of the Chilau or the crunchy to soft ratio will be skew-if. These recipes are large, think eight people depending on what else you are serving it with.

Koushary (Egyptian)

Warm 3 tablespoons of ghee on a medium heat. Add 50 grams of broken up bean thread noodles and fry gently for a few minutes, stirring all the while. Add 2 cups of rice and a generous pinch of salt and stir til coated in ghee. Add three and a half cups of water and cook, covered for 15-29 minutes. Lift the lid and stir it every so often and add more water if needed. When it's cooked add a generous dollop of butter and rest for another few minutes.

Jeera Chowel (Indian)

Fry 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds in 2 tablespoons of ghee til they are fragrant. Add two cups of rice and stir till coated. Add three cups of water and bring to boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, stirring every now and then, till 'tunnels' appear. That is when you can see the paths made by the air bubbles as they push up through the rice. Now turn off the heat and put on the lid. Don't peek, it will be ready in another five minutes.

Chilau (Persian)

Now, there's a few stages to this one. Wash and rinse the rice three or four hours then cover it with lukewarm water and soak it for at least an hour, and maybe even over night. Rinse and drain again. Then bring a big pot of salty water to the boil. Add the rice when it is boiling and stir it well for 7 minutes. The rice will still be a bit firm. Drain and rinse again.

Heat 4 Tablespoons of ghee and add the rice. Stir till coated and cover with a dry tea towel, tuck the edges in well. Put on the lid and cook on a very low heat for another 20-30 minutes. You should get a lovely crispy golden brown crust on the bottom.

February 20, 2008

Only the Divine can Heal

One of the key differences between Ayurveda and modern medicine is a component of spirituality. And a very wonderful series of events happened to me recently to reinforce the importance of this Divine aspect.

A few days ago my skin was getting really bad. After purgation about a month ago I have been very dry and so I get a rash. I have always been prone to rashes and have become pretty good at adjusting my diet and lifestyle to fix it. But this time it just kept getting worse, no matter what I did.

When times are difficult I often ask my Guru, Sri Shivarudra Balayogi, Baba ji, for help. "What am I supposed to learn from all this? Why aren't I healing when I am doing everything possible"?

I have a calender of quotes of my Guru and that day when I opened to a new page, I was stunned by His abundant grace and goodness:
"No individual should claim, "I can heal," real Yogis and saints do not claim, only pray to the Divine. It is only the Divine that can heal."
Well, it was pretty obvious I should stop trying to heal and start praying.

The very next day I woke up and it was lovely warm weather, which is unusual for Melbourne. I knew straight away Baba ji was answering my prayers. Good weather means I can swim at the beach and salt on my skin is the most healing thing I know. I thanked the Divine for the weather and headed for the beach. And again the next day, and the next and the next...four days of heat in a row, and I had time to make the trip to beach on every one of those days! And truly unlike Melbourne, the weather was still perfect after the 45mins it takes us to get to the beach from our house! Melbourne is known for four seasons in one day.

But that is not all. Another thing I know can heal my skin, which I could not do, is have a warm bath with oil and epsom salts, but we don't have a bathtub in my flat. Then just two days after I started praying we were walking past the building site down the road. When we saw the skip bin and both started falling on the floor laughing...THERE WAS A BRAND NEW BATHTUB IN IT!!!!!

They were renovating the building and didn't need it anymore. So D hoisted it on his shoulders and up three flights of stairs and I had a glorious bath yesterday morning, cause today it is freezing cold again.

Which brings me to yet another miracle. Yesterday the weather turned cold again, as it inevitably would. So I can't get my salt fix from the ocean anymore. And then at Yoga last night I saw something called a bar of "salt soap" mined in the Himalaya's. I've been to this yoga class many many times and never seen it before.

So I bought two bars and rubbed it straight on my skin as soon as I got home, and it stings and tingles just as much as bathing in the ocean! So now even on cold days I can get my daily dosage of salt.

So, I'm here to express my awe for the Divine and appreciation for life's many miracles and blessings. I should have taken before and after photo's of my skin, because you won't believe it. In just five days all the redness is gone, all the itching is gone and only a couple of dry patches remain.

Thank the Divine for Ayurveda, and thank Ayurveda for bringing me to the Divine!


As a Vata Pita person I have had many problems with constipation. If you don't go to the toilet everyday you do too. In fact half of all children in hospital suffering from acute abdominal pain are found to be constipated. It's time we started talking about it.

You should go to the toilet at least once, and up to three times a day. Constipation can lead to many many greater ills including depression, appendicitis and bowel cancer. Because constipation leads to a build up of ama, it an cause or aggravate every illness under the sun.

Routine is crucial to alleviating constipation, especially in the morning. Rise early and drink warm water. Squat on the toilet, even if you do not need to go this may encourage peristalsis. Some gentle yoga postures, squats and twists especially, breathing exercises and more warm water are good for more than just constipation. Take a warm wet breakfast and avoid coffee.

Do not get too anxious about your condition, this will only worsen the problem. Take constipation seriously but do not worry about it.

Vata type constipation, the most common, is caused by too much dryness. Pita type constipation is caused by too much heat, literally burning up the bodily fluids and in turn causing dryness. No matter what your dosha triphla can help.

So the crucial thing is rehydrating the body. This is not as simple as drinking more water, it requires richer and more nutritious hydration, namely oil. This rehydration is crucial to Pita type constipation too, with extra care to avoid too much spicy, salty, sour or fried food.

Some ways to rehydrate (Vata and Pita)
  • Drink warm water, never cold water. Especially drink 2-3 glasses of warm water in the morning before taking breakfast
  • Eat cucumber (at room temperature or above) in the morning
  • Steel cut oats, well cooked in plenty of water, milk and ghee are an excellent breakfast
  • Soak a closed handful of sultanas in water in the morning and eat them last thing before you go to bed, at least an hour or two after taking any other food
  • Take plenty of warm milk, ghee, olive oil, whole wheat, spinach, pumpkin, zucchini
  • Take digestive spices such as cardamom, fennel and cumin.
  • Avoid dry foods such as potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, apples (especially juice), corn, chickpeas, beans (other than mung and maybe a little tofu). Avoid cold or raw foods. Avoid coffee, honey and green tea and drink your tea weak and milky, like chai.
  • Rub sesame oil on you whole body. Leave it to soak in for 30-45 mins and then have a lukewarm shower. The skin is a digestive organ too and sesame oil has the unique ability of penetrating all seven tissues. The chest is linked to the colon so oil appied here will especially lubricate the colon. Use coconut oil instead if you have any skin problems such as acne or eczema.
Kapha constipation, which is not so common, requires quite different care. This is caused by accumulation of mucous. Feelings of coldness, heaviness and dampness indicate Kapha, and heat is used to alleviate Kapha type constipation. Trikatu (black pepper, ginger powder and long pepper) and almost all spices will help, especially asoefatida. Avoid sugar, cheese and yoghurt. Get out and do some exercise.

Finally, in any case, stress, worry, fear and grief cause constipation. As does too much television, travel and other over-stimulating activities. Fasting disrupts the digestive fire and metabolism so listen to your body, eat when your hungry, appreciate your food and never eat on the run. Allow yourself time to go to the toilet in the morning, and never ignore the urge! Air-conditioning, too much sex, anal sex, excessive exercise or a sedentary lifestyle all exacerbate the problem.

I would like to acknowledge and appreciate Dr David Frawley for much of the information in this post.

February 18, 2008

Alternate Nostril Breathing-Nadi Sodhana

One of the most valuable pranayama Ayurveda offers is Nadi Sodahana. It is the most balancing and peaceful pranayama I know. This is because it harmonises both sides of the body. Naturally we only breathe through on nostril at a time. About every one and a half hours the nostril you breathing through changes.

The right nostril is solar-pita, and the left nostril is lunar-kapha. Whichever nostril you breathe through will increase that dosha. The right nostril is related to activity, eating, daytime, defeacating...where the left nostril is related to sleep, night time, urinating...Vata swings between the extremes. The idea is to find somewhere in the middle.

It is is said that enlightened beings, those who are self realised, breathe evenly through both nostrils at all times. The rest of us mere mortals can experience brief glimpses of such peace during meditation, yoga or pranayama.

To practice Nadi Sodhana (and you should!) first sit in a comfortable position with your back and neck straight but relaxed. Place your right hand so your thumb is resting on your right nostril and your ring finger is resting on your left nostril. I like to place my two middle fingers on my third eye to focus my attention better, but you can just relax your other fingers.

Begin by closing the right nostril by pressing down with your thumb and breathe into your belly through your left nostril. Now close your left nostril too with your ring finger and hold the breath. Gently release the right nostril and exhale. Inhale again through the right nostril, hold (by squeezing with your thumb and ring finger) and release the left nostril to exhale. This is one cycle, repeat as many times as is comfortable always finishing on an exhalation through the left nostril.

Everyone counts differently, but I am a great believer in not forcing your breathing. As a guide, I usually inhale for five counts, retain the breathe for eight counts and exhale for five. My guru taught me to inhale and exhale to the same count, but other teachers have said to exhale for longer. As long as what you do is regular, conscious and comfortable it does not really matter (in my opinion) how much you count to exactly.

It takes a but of practice and few giggles along the way to become familiar with this routine. But even if it is hard, use it as an exercise to focus the mind, a form of meditation. Imagine it is like a horseshoe in through the left, across the third eye and out through the right, and back again.

This pranayama is an excellent way to begin meditation.

February 17, 2008

The Silent Killer

"Two cans of baked beans sit on the supermarket shelf. Only one carries the National Heart Foundation tick. Which is healthier? The answer may surprise you. The ticked product, by SPC, has five times the saturated fat and more than 15 times the sodium of the product with no tick, by Heinz." (The Age, 17 Feb, 2008)

One of the downfalls of the new health revolution is that being healthy has become as industry. Something to be packaged and marketed, put simply, health is now a massive money spinner. The reason the healthier baked beans do not carry the tick of approval is that they did not pay for it. And it's worth paying for, cause:

"85% believed that foods with the tick were a healthier option compared with similar foods... Such statistics illustrate why the tick has become a potent marketing tool for companies battling for the attention of increasingly health-conscious shoppers."

The Heart Foundation will not release their minimum standards. They will only say that the tick indicates that a product is good compared to other brands of a similiar product. So essentially they are saying McDonalds is healthier than Hungry Jacks, because McDonalds pay them $330 000 in licensing every year.

Neither will the Heart Foundation release how much they receive in licensing.

Panch Karma-five actions

Panch karma is five actions to cleanse and rejuvenate the body. Depending on your imbalance it might include massage, oil application, enema, sweating or induced vomiting. Panch karma works by pushing the toxins from storage (ie phlegm in the lungs or biribulin in the blood) to where it can be expelled, like the digestive system, and then expelling them, as well as strengthening the body so as not to provoke Vata.

My last Panch Karma, for high Vata Pitta includes oil massage, short sweats, shirodhara (oil on the forehead) and a series of oil enemas. I had treatment six days a week for two and a half months. As you can imagine this makes it a very holistic and gentle process.

I was on the long road to recovery from Hepatitis A and Giardia, but you don't have to be sick to have panch karma. It will stop the toxins from accumulating and spreading into deeper tissue like bones where it can cause disease.

February 15, 2008


Vata is air and ether. Vata relates to the bones and teeth.

Vata is:


February 14, 2008


Prana is a complex word to translate. Whilst literally it means breath, it also encompasses life force and vital energy. One of Vatas sub dosha's is Prana Vata, moving down the throat to the bellybutton. Yama means something like suspend, lengthen or restrain. So pranayama involves controlling the breath.

You can practice controlling the breath all the time by just having two simple awarenesses. First, breath through the nose, more prana can be absorbed this way. And secondly exhale for twice as long as you inhale, ensuring that all old, used prana is expelled making way for fresh vital prana.

There are many forms of pranayama with many applications, but pranayama greatly benefit the lungs (ie. asthma) and the mind (ie. stress). Continual practice of pranayama is said to increase the lifespan, and give greater awareness and detachment.

Pranayama can be very complex, subtle excercises and must be practiced with caution and awareness. All pranayama should ideally be learned from a great teacher (not a website!) but the most important rule is to listen to your body. Never stress or strain the breath, this can greatly imbalance Vata. After retaining the breath you should be able to exhale with comfort and control. Feelings of dizziness, pins and needles or blackouts mean you have over done it. Remember just cause your friend can do it, or you even did it yesterday, it doesn't mean you can do it now.

And, as my Guru always says, try to practice in green tree's. Pranayama won't do much good if you are breathing in more pollution than prana!

February 13, 2008


Triphla, again with many spellings, is another of the most common formulas in Ayurvedic medicine. So much emphasis is placed on digestion and so what comes in must come out. And triphla is one of the safest ways of ensuring that it does indeed come out.

It is cleansing as well as being a rasayana, normalising the doshic processes in the body to improve digestion and absorption, and in turn strengthening the deeper tissues. It is tridoshic and nutritive, as well as expelling ama. Most laxatives, which are pungent, aggravate pita, often the cause of constipation in the first place. Triphla will keep all doshas in check, and in combination with an anti-ama diet over a period of time can result in excellent cleansing and rejuvination. It can also be taken as a preventative measure and is non habit forming so can be used safely long term.

Triphla means three fruits, and strangely enough it is made of three fruits. Amla (one of Ayurveda's most sacred foods), haritaki, and bibhitaki. But don't expect some fruits of the forest cough syrup flavour. Triphla tastes absolutely revolting. There's no denying it. And whilst you can mask it, by taking it in tablet form, I am a purist. Taste is the tongues way of preparing the stomach for what's coming. If you can stand the taste your body will know better what to do with the medicine.

Whils most doctors recomend a dosage of between half and two teaspoons, my experience is that less is more. Triphla is regulating, more will treat constipation and less will treat diarrhea. I take a pinch mixed in warm water at night last thing before going to bed. I take it on nights when I know I have eaten badly that day, or if I have an early start the next morning which will disrupt my regular routine. Take the right amount so that you go to the toilet normally upon waking.

I'm Sorry

" we honour the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history..."

I feel that today I witnessed a historic moment in my country. I just want to express my own deep and sincere apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been mistreated, in the hope that we as a Nation can continue healing. Good on you Kevin! A heartening, subtle and inclusive apology. Full transcript here.

February 08, 2008


"Long, long ago, there was a sage in India named Chyawan who lived in a forest. His hair was matted and he was covered with tree growth after years of meditating in the same place. A young princess was blindfolded and dancing in the forest when her hands touched the hair of the sage. Her father, the king, explained to the sage that it was the custom in his country that a woman could only touch one man in her lifetime. He thus requested the sage to marry his daughter. Chyawan asked if he could have two months to prepare for the wedding for he wished to be young again so as to afford his wife conjugal bliss. Thereupon, he developed the recipe for longevity that has remained India's most popular remedy"

Like most Indian words, Chyawanprash can be spelled any number of ways. I'm going for this way simply because it's the most phonetic. Chyawanprash is a rasayana, meaning it is a tonic for strengthening and revitalising the body. It is particularly used after Panch Karma, for the elderly and for convalescence.

Unlike many herbal medicines, Chyawanprash is absolutely delicious. It comes in the form of a thick black jam. It tastes sweet and sour, and sometimes a bit spicy too. Choose a spicier brand for Kapha and less spicy one for Pita.

Originally it was recorded by Charaka as having 48 ingredients, but now it is the most common Ayurvedic formula around and different manufacturing companies use anywhere between 13 and 80 ingredients. The primary ingredient is always amla, one of the highest sources of Vitamin C known.

Follow the directions on the packet, or your doctors advice, though generally somewhere between 1 and 2 tspns are taken with warm milk. Since it is very high in sugar I would suggest taking it in the morning or during the day, but not at night.

February 07, 2008

More good bread

There are countless variations on the theme of chapati, but for now lets just take it one step at a time. Once you are comfortable with making chapati, try plain paratha.

Make the dough
as usual, but when it comes to rolling it out take a slightly larger handful than you would for a chapati. Roll it into a thick small circle, about a third of it's eventual size. Rub some ghee onto it and fold it in half, rub a bit more ghee and fold in half again. Now you have a small triangle.

Dip it in flour and roll it out, keep dipping and rolling till it reaches the usual chapati size. It may be round or stay triangular, that's between you and your rolling pin. Now when cooking it cook it on a medium heat in a pan. Rub it with ghee on both sides whilst cooking. If the pan starts to smoke turn down the heat.

Traditionally served for breakfast. My favourite paratha breakfast combos are with chai and chyawanprash, or less traditionally, with dukkah and slices of cucumber. Plain paratha are actually quite simple, probably a bit more fool proof then chapati just because the ghee makes them so crispy and tasty.

February 03, 2008

Carob is not chocolate...

...but it's just as good!

Comparing carob to chocolate is like comparing an apple to a mango. In it's own right carob is a wholesome, delicious, satisfying treat, but it's not chocolate, and it's not trying to be. It doesn't have all the stimulants of chocolate so of course it's not as exciting.

But carob is very life sustaining, full of minerals, carbohydrates and proteins. It's very well suited to Vata. However, when carob is turned into that chocolate like substance (as in carob buds) it has been mixed with hydrogenated vegetable oils. Be aware that this form of carob may have unwanted additions, read the packets carefully. A better option is to go for carob powder and do some baking.

Like I did, Carob Muffins to celebrate my one hundredth post!


3 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened carob powder
3 tsp baking powder
4-5 Tsp grated jaggary or palm sugar (to taste)
4 Tsp ghee
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 to 2 cups of water
Dessicated coconut or nuts if desired


Mix the dry ingredients, then make a well and add vanilla and ghee. Add 1 1/2 cup of water and mix briefly. Add another 1/2 cup water if needed to make a thick batter. Put in muffin tins and bake at 180' for 12-15 minutes, don't over cook, they should still be very moist.

NB. Carob is naturally much sweeter than chocolate, so you can replace it for cocoa in any recipe, but remember to reduce the sugar.

February 01, 2008


"...there's one thing I can predict to eaters of meat: the world of the future will be vegetarian."

Hitler is another celebrity perhaps more vegetarian in reputation than in practice. There are definitely conflicting stories when it comes to his eating habits.

Most people agree his doctor took him off meat for chronic indigestion and flatulence. Some say he stayed off meat for the remaining 14 years till his death, influenced by Richard Wagner and out of his fear of contracting cancer, as his mother did. Goebbels wrote in his diary that Hitler often expounded the benefits of a vegetarian diet and planned to "tackle this problem" nationally after the war.

On the other hand his personal chef says she often cooked him meat. Some report his favourite foods as smoked sausages and stuffed quail. He occasionally "relishes a slice of ham" according to New York Times. Some even go as far as to say the Nazi's banned vegetarian groups around Germany.

Hitler himself may have considered himself vegetarian. There is little doubt that he talked about it a lot, and perhaps even reduced his meat intake, but this is, of course, not the same as being vegetarian.

In the end, does it really undermine the entire foundation of vegetarianism if our centuries most famous mass murderer extolled it's virtues?

Doesn't rate a mention in my reasons.