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.
Archives For Digestion
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.
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.
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.
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.
So the Chinese have this saying – which I wrote in my last post – “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a merchant, and dinner like a pauper.”
Why? Well it’s all in the aim to lose some excess pudge. And if you want to look at it all science-like, there’s a host of biological substances that are regulated by not overeating too late.
Practicing what I preach (which I assure you, I can fall off the wagon sometimes), I wanted something light – and tasty – for dinner. Can’t beat the crunch of fresh fennel and perfectly blanched beans in combination with the soft potatoes and textural smoked fish.
Being a breakfast worshiper, the importance of eating time has been an influencing reason to my love of the first meal. It’s no new concept, the Chinese knew that eating too late – related to the horary cycle, circadian rhythms, and being too close to bed time – will slow down digestion. Actually, we have a saying:
Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a merchant, and dinner like a pauper.
What happens when digestion is slowed down? We put on weight. It’s kinda repetitive for me to say this, but I’ll say it again for impact: when the digestion is slowed down, we can’t process our food. When we can’t process our food in the manner of extracting nutrients and expelling waste, all that we eat gets pushed out into our system as a toxic, dirty, repugnant waste to get stored between our fat cells…making us fatter.
No denying it is an awkward topic, yet we all know a good poo is satisfying. Don’t squirm. If you were honest, a clean, complete poo is exciting, right? In my family, we get so thrilled by this biological process, we’re inclined to tell each other about our toilet successes. This goes way back, thanks to my health-loving father, perfectly setting me up for a career in Chinese Medicine. To us Chinese Medicine folk, details of your excrement gives clear and concise information about what is happening inside, so in that sense, it’s good to take notes.
One obvious bowel quality is constipation. People who suffer from infrequent motions really know about it. Not only is life in their body a constant uncomfortable, it is hard to loose weight, you’re bloated, have digestive issues, facial pimples and brain fog.
After being prompted by a reader for help, I’ve curated these tips to get you some productive toilet time.
I really do like this soup. Like I said before, you could end wars with it. How can you go wrong with an aromatic base of onion, celery, carrot, fennel and garlic bathed in a savoury broth? Oh that’s right, if you add potatoes and parmesan rind you’ve just gone form naught to 100 on the flavour scale in about 20 minutes.
I do have a penchant for soups in general because a) they’re ridiculously easy to make that I feel like a faker when they turn out stupendously tasty b) they’re really good for digestive health c) talk about budget friendly my friend, and d) any person watching their weight should be living off soups. Look at the traditional Asian diet for example.
I really don’t want to get into one of my Chinese Medicine digestive rants, but one is coming on….
I can’t urge you enough to eat more soup. It’s like you’ve done the work for your digestion. The environment of the stomach is moist and warm. When you apply the judo method – or “gentle way” – to your diet, weight loss / weight management is effortless. You go with the flow of the natural energy that your digestion craves. Not this stupid Western “make your body work harder” bullshit. I’ll stop myself there, but do realise I can go on.
Onto the recipe then…
Fennel, Parmesan & Chickpea Soup
A good slurping of olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 medium potato, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced (include the washed leaves)
1 bulb fennel, diced
4 c. water, maybe a slurp more
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed well (or cook your own)
1 x bay leaf
Rind from a chunk of parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil and begin to sweat the onions with a pinch of salt ensuring they don’t brown
- After about 2 minutes, add potato, carrot and celery and fennel with about a minute in between each one and saute with another pinch of salt for 2 minutes, giving the odd stir
- Add the garlic, give a swirl and saute for 20 seconds or so
- Add the water and parmesan rind. Make sure the water is covering vegetables with a good 3 – 4 cm more
- Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for approx 20 mins until vegetables are soft
- Taste for seasoning*. Add more if necessary
- Add the chickpeas, gently simmer with lid on through and serve with lashings of fresh parmesan and fresh parsley
*why do I add salt in so many stages? Isn’t that a lot of salt? Answer: Nup. For starters, if you want anything to taste a-ok, you need salt (which is not your enemy, lets just clear that up right now alright?). So say you add approx 1.5 tsp salt to this here soup. Approximately divide that up into 3 or 4 and use those portions to salt as you go. Not only will you adequately season your dish, you’ll also be enhancing the natural flavours of the ingredients, which come alive with a little salting. You will also avoid that one dimensional salt-sitting-on-the-top-palate thingy that goes on with amateur cooking. So, there you have it. Salt in stages, just taste as you go until you get a feel for how much salt you can use at each stage. It will vary depending on the kind of salt you use. I prefer Celtic Seasalt which is rich in a bunch on minerals has a very intense deep flavour which means you require far less salt that average table salt…because even though it’s not your enemy, too much of anything is.
(Adapted from: Enjoy – New Veg by Nadine Abensur)
You’ll be forgiven for groaning in boredom at another pumpkin soup recipe. Besides being cold weathers best friend alongside braised lamb shanks and mulled wine, this little staple is cracking for the digestion (naturally if its appearing here). Orange, naturally sweet, and fibrous (if you want to look at it all Western-like) pumpkin gets things, ahem, moving.
This recipe has a little jena se qua added – chestnuts, which are just coming into season and matches swimmingly with pumpkin. These little nuggets signify wood fires and alps, my Italian heritage and visible breath on cold mornings. They are one of the best things about cooler weather and my ancestors roasted them over wood fires, peeling back their woody casing exposing creamy, steaming nutty flesh. And are lovely little tonics for the Kidneys in preparation of Winter’s arrival.
Here’s how to make Pumpkin and Chestnut soup:
1/2 Jap pumpkin skin removed and roughly chopped
1 c. dried chestnuts (if you’ve got fresh even better!), simmered until tender (approx 45 mins)
3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp curry powder (optional)
3-4 c. Vegetable stock or water (or enough to just cover vegetables in pot)
White pepper (if not using curry powder)
1. In a soup pot at a good glug of olive oil and sauté pumpkin for 2 minutes
2. Add garlic and curry powder, pinch of salt and sauté for another 2 minutes
3. Add stock or water, bring to the boil and reduce, simmering until pumpkin soft. Taste for seasoning, adding more if necessary
4. Add chestnuts, cook for another 5 minutes
5. Using a stick blender, whizz until smooth
6. For extra smooth texture, run through a chinois
Serve with goats cheese and shoyu roasted pumpkin seeds. Here I’ve used Holy Goat’s Velouté that has a divine rim of ash and gorgeous rind.