source: favim.com

source: favim.com

A healthy lifestyle is more than abstinence from alcohol, it is more than eating raw, paleo, sugar-free or more vegetables. We often limit our perception of health to what we eat – or don’t eat – how many times we hit the gym, and our dress size. We vilify coffee, sugar, wheat, alcohol and yet remain frustrated, angry, resentful, unforgiving, tense, distracted, competitive, chaotic, busy.

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Aromatic chickpea potage with spinach and salt cod

Aromatic chickpea potage with spinach and salt cod

For us lucky ducks living in Melbourne we have modern Spanish tapas restaurant Movida which is some of the best Spanish food outside of Spain. Actually, from my brief rendezvous with Spain, I find the food better here (am I allowed to say that out aloud? Maybe I just need to go back *wink*).

I received Movida’s cookbook a number of years ago, and today was the first time I’ve cooked from it, having recently gone back to the restaurant for the first time since it’s opening year. While I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel, the worst thing was being kicked out for the 8pm sitting. I hate that about Melbourne dining and usually avoid these places often finding that the food and ambience don’t match the hype. Not Movida!

But I digress, this isn’t a blog to blow smoke up their tush. No. What I’m most on about is rather than wait 3 weeks for a 6pm sitting on a Friday night, why not bring Movida to the home table? The recipes are accessible with few, mostly humble ingredients. The flavour is in the technique that maximises flavour and texture…something that has been perfected over many years and a passion to never, ever eat boring.

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My new favourite meal

My new favourite meal: ‘Peking’ shredded chicken

I’ve been kinda resisting cooking with Chinese Medicine herbs, mainly because it seemed a bit too Chinese-y (said the girl studying Chinese Medicine). My main experience being congees (excellent in small doses) and broths with unidentifiable floaty things in them. But I took the plunge nonetheless and came up with two impressive dishes that passed the skeptical boyfriend test.

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White bowl with red lentil soup and parsley

Red Lentil Soup with Pancetta

While I am finishing my studies in Chinese Medicine, I work part time in a gourmet grocery/deli. Some may think this a rather humble vocation, but out of all my bitsy casual jobs, and even career-driven jobs, this one is in the top two. I love it because I’m surrounded by awesome food all day long. I get to talk to customers about their food ideas and ways to use our products, whether it be solicited or unsolicited. And that’s how I got the idea for this soup. A woman came to the register with red lentils and some pancetta I had just sliced for her, so I asked if she was using them together. Sure enough, yes she was. The recipe is pretty simple, so simple she told me in a 30 second conversation at the register. I love red lentils and the texture they create, so I resolved then and there that I’m going to make it, adding my own flare.

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Mexican Mushroom Soup with Crispy Tortilla strips

When autumn rocks around, I always feel like mushrooms. They’re in season and I like to think this is because I’m a highly tuned into the environment individual. It’s more likely that I have fond memories of gumboots and rainy days, soggy ground and buckets-in-hand picking mushrooms with mum. Back then I hated mushrooms.

Right now, Autumn is when dryness dominates and the Lung and Large Intestine are prone to weakening by dryness. Both these organs need moisture (known in TCM terms as Yin fluids) to function properly. We know from the Five Elements that nature provides foods with the right properties to tone and strengthen organs that are prone to ill-health during their season.

So it’s no surprise then, that the humble button mushroom and it’s larger counterpart, the Portobello, nourishes the fluids of the Lung, and by default, the Large Intestine.

Lung Yin deficiency can manifest as frequent colds and flu, dry cough or with small amounts of sticky phlegm, weak or hoarse voice, tiredness, exhausted from speaking, night sweats.

Even if you don’t suffer with Lung Yin deficiency, mushrooms are a good staple to protect and strengthen the Lungs and their immunity boosting function. We’re seeing quite a few snuffles in clinic so cold and flu season has definitely hit!

It’s worthy to note that button mushrooms have a gorgeous sweet nature which helps to strengthen the earth element organs Spleen and Stomach, while also eradicating dirty congealed fluids (damp) stuck in the body. This humble fungi is really a super food.

No one will hate mushrooms with this adaption from a Thomasina Miers recipe. Already pretty good, I’ve just made it better with the addition of Byron Bay Chilli Co. Jalepeno sauce, and a stroke of pure genius: oven baked tortilla strips.


~ Mexican Mushroom Soup with Crispy Tortilla Strips ~

2 onions, peeled and quartered
3 large ripe tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
large knob of butter (Vegan subst. with olive oil)
600g Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp ground star anise
2 – 3 tsp Byron Bay Chilli Co. Jalepeno sauce
a good handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 Litre good quality unsalted vegetable stock. I use Maggie Beer or make my own
150 ml creme fraiche (Vegan subst. with tofutti or omit)
4 small white corn tortillas (or 2 large)
grated pecorino to serve (Vegan subst. with almesan or omit)

Directions

  1. Turn oven on to 200C
  2. In a hot fry pan (or cast iron pot) dry roast the whole tomatoes, garlic with skin on and onion for about 15 minutes (10 minutes for onion and garlic) until skins are starting to blacken and tomatoes soften. Turn from time to time so they’re evenly cooked. Remove the skin from the garlic once done.
  3. In a separate and larger frying pan, melt the butter and when it is sizzling hot, add the mushrooms, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Fry for about 10 minutes over medium-high until they have lost most of their juices and beginning to brown. Reduce heat and add the jalepeno sauce.
  4. Once tomatoes etc are finished, add the coriander (reserving a small amount for garnish) 250 mls of stock to the pot and  whiz with a stick blender.
  5. Add the mushrooms to the tomatoes, along with the rest of the stock, star anise. Check for seasoning and adjust to taste. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes until flavours melded.
  6. Meanwhile, cut the tortillas into thin strips and place on a oven tray. Bake in oven for about 10 minutes until crisp and lightly browned.
  7. Serve soup with a good dollop of creme fraiche, coriander leaves and tortilla strips.

♥ Gluten Free…♥ Vegetarian…♥ Vegan…♥ Paleo…♥ Damp…
♥ Yin deficiency…♥ Spleen Qi deficiency

If you have heat signs from deficiency or excess, omit:
♥ Black pepper
♥ Chilli

 

 

Roasted eggplant with fried seasoned onion and garlicky lemon sauce

Roasted eggplant with fried seasoned onion and garlicky lemon sauce

When I began to write this post, I realised I have begun another eggplant featured post. I’m seeing a pattern here, that I’m just loving the aubergine right now. On checking, eggplants are in season (in Australia) – being from summer through to early Autumn.

As per my previous post, I’ve been overindulging far too much lately, and eating more animal-protein based dinner than I care to admit. This has negative ramifications on my body. Contrary to popular diet fads, I don’t thrive off protein-laden meals. I admit, I have met some people who do, and this just proves that we’re all different, and have different dietary needs. There are only very few dietary rules that apply to the masses, and these are more like guides rather than absolutes. You can find these in the About section of this blog.

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Pearl Barley and Vegetable Soup with Shiitake and Kombu stock

Pearl Barley and Vegetable Soup with Shiitake and Kombu stock

This morning I had Pearl Barley soup for breakfast. It’s not a first, in fact whenever I feel like my digestion is particularly sluggish – lately caused by many rich dinners out, with probably a few too many wines – I often will have soup for breakfast.

Soups are naturally easier to digest, and are a great way to get a bunch of healthy seasonal vegetables and herbs in one tasty shot. I’ve made this soup extra nutritious by adding immuno-protective shiitake mushrooms and kombu*. Plus they give the stock added flavour. I always keep them on hand for this reason.

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Chai spiced porridge with honey and soy milk. Recipe below

Chai spiced porridge with honey and soy milk. Recipe below

I hate that name. Porridge. It’s a word from story books, synonymous with caged up princesses, old fashioned, bland, and gruel (an even less alluring name). A whiny voiced, face screwed up you’re feeding me what, mum? 

It’s an underwhelming name for one of the sexiest things you can eat for breakfast. Dressed up, dressed down, having a porridge-based breakfast can literally sustain a fun filled, action packed, socially-crammed life.

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Cannellini bean smash, avocado, preserved lemon from Milkwood, Melbourne.

Cannellini bean smash, avocado, preserved lemon from Milkwood, Melbourne.

I’m making a stand for breakfasts in 2014. Long ignored and often forgotten as we rush off to work. I want to challenge you right here and now, to make a commitment to eat breakfast every single day of January.

That’s a whole 31 days of breakfasts.

Sounds easy? Reflect back on the past couple of months. How many times have you rushed out the door on an empty stomach, eaten toast in the car, gulped cereal at your desk? I see it far too often than I like in clinic. The people who need to nurture their health the most, presenting with crippling ailments have a history of skipping breakfast.

Eating breakfast is one of the most straight forward actions you can make towards better digestion, more energy, better coping skills, balanced emotions, clearer skin, and losing weight.

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Simply comforting

Uncomplicated yumminess, and awesome for leftovers

I was drawn to this dish because of it’s simplicity, the nutritional profile and blood building properties of lamb. See, us females have a tendency to deficiency of blood – and I’m no different. We burn up our blood stores though stress, work, high emotions, physical blood loss, and me, well study depletes me the most. Being blood deficient can cascade to many other ailments – I will tend to anxiety and insomnia if I allow my blood (physical and energetic) to wane. You might get terribly lethargic, have dry skin, hair, nails, get tired eyes and/or floaters, be highly emotional, unable to cope in general, be pale, listless, have menstrual problems or can’t fall pregnant, physical and emotional rigidity, sweat profusely at night, just to name a few.

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