Unconventional mascarpone risotto with oven roasted vegetables and beet greens

Risotto

Two nights ago I roasted vegetables for supper. I had to deal with a load of them left from my weekly delivery. What was left over, I pureed with the intention to prepare a nice wintery soup for the following day at work. But as it happened, in the fury of preparing for the day, I fell short of time. In the evening I took the pure out and noticed I had a bunch of wilting beet greens that badly needed cooking. I remembered an amazing risotto I had once eaten in a restaurant in Queen’s Park with pumpkin and spinach and came with an idea. I’ll mix the roasted veggie pure in the risotto and add the beet greens to balance the sweetness.

I haven’t cooked risotto for a long time because of the white rice. I don’t keep white items in my cupboard anymore. Table salt, white sugar, flour and rice are what they now call anti-nutrients. I didn’t have brown Arborio rice so I had to use plain brown rice. For risotto enthusiast this might be a big transgression but I thought I’d break the rules and try and, oh boy, did it work! The sweet and earthy flavours of the rice, roasted root vegetables and mascarpone combined with the bitterness of greens made such a great combination that I could not help but to share this with you. So, here it goes:

P.s. I warn you, this is not a conventional way of cooking the risotto because the rice is different. I also won’t be able to give you an exact recipe because I worked with my gut feelings. I can only guess these were the measures:

200ml brown rice

Water

1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder

Ghee

1 large onion

1dl white wine

2 tbsp mascarpone cheese

200ml roasted vegetable pure’

(I used: potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and garlic)

Bunch of beet greens

parmesan cheese

salt

pepper

Olive oil

Cook the rice in water with bouillon powder until tender. Pure’ roasted vegetables with some warm water in a blender. Chop the beet greens and fry them gently in a small amount of ghee until soft and season with salt. Finely chop the onion and, in a separate pan, fry in ghee until golden and tender. Add the rice and wine and let cook for a few minutes. Add mascarpone and let it melt in the rice. Add vegetable pure and mix well. Mix beet greens in and season with salt and pepper. Add a little grated parmesan cheese but not to overpower the taste of other ingredients. When serving garnish with olive oil.

Perfect seasonal food – home made baked beans

beansSpringtime is the time to treat our palates with bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. Pulses, spiced right, are perfect spring food because they are astringent.

Knowingly, they are also “airy”, which is also a good property of food in this period when the season makes us feel heavy and tired. Nature balances itself through opposites and you can play with this concept a lot when you cook. Just remind yourself of the season’s qualities and then cook with opposite quality food.

Spring is a strong period of growth. The waters of the soil start flowing in late winter bringing qualities of heaviness and coldness around but providing life giving material for nature to wake up. Structure, cohesion and bulk created by the nature bring about feelings of heaviness, stiffness and tiredness. To avoid the season’s disorders taking over your body and mind resort to food that has opposite qualities: light (e.g. pulses), stimulating and heating (spices and herbs). Cut down on heavy items i.e. reduce the use of fats and you can almost avoid dairy. Generally eat less, especially in the evenings.

Sage is an optimal kitchen herb for this season. Being bitter, pungent and astringent in tastes it perfectly fits in to balance seasonal disorders. It is one of the herbs of choice for respiratory disorders, which are very typical of this season. Read more details of sage’s health benefits in Anne Macintyre’ site.

Here’s an old Italian recipe I love Fagioli all’uccelletto, which usually is made with cannellini beans. In fact, this is the original baked beans recipe. So, instead of buying ready-made ones make them yourself, which is far far better.

This time I’ve used giant beans because I prefer them out of all white beans. In Italy this dish is usually offered as a side with meat or fish but it makes a perfect supper in spring. A couple of dry crackers instead of bread is a perfect accompaniment (bread should be cut down in spring).

Another addition to the traditional recipe is the use of asafoedita spice (hing), which greatly reduces the gassy element of pulses. Take it as a default always to cook pulses with this gas smelling herb that actually reduces gas. Don’t be put off by the smell, you’ll be grateful for the effects. Use sparingly!

Also, I’ve stopped using vegetable oils for cooking. I use ghee instead as it does not turn rancid when you heat it and it feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut. I add olive oil in the end to get the proper Italian flavor out.

Spicy beans with cherry tomatoes and sage / Fagioli all’uccelletto

1 can of giant/cannellini beans (or dried if you have time)

15 cherry tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

3/4 tbsp ghee

Fresh sage

Pinch of chilli

Pinch of cracked black pepper

Pinch of asafoetida

Himalayan rock salt to taste

Cook the canned beans for 5 – 10 min in water with 5 leaves of fresh sage. If you are using dried beans then cooking takes longer and you need to have soaked the beans overnight first. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Add ghee into a pan with crushed garlic and fresh sage. Fry on a low fire to savour the fat. Add tomatoes cut side down and put the lid on the pan. Make sure the heat is low. You want to cook the tomatoes, keep the juice and avoid burning. Add the beans once they have cooked and soft, evaporate excess liquids, add salt, pepper and asafoetida. When you serve, pour a thread of olive oil on top.

Enjoy!

Just chew

chewAwareness in action is what makes life tasteful. If we only cultivated this ability a bit more we would live our lives much happier and healthier. Awareness means to stay in the present, enjoy the moment in all its flavours. When awareness is lost we either worry about future or delve in the past. Or, we’re multitasking, like watching TV whilst eating.

What’s wrong with multitasking? It messes up with your concentration. Things are best done with, yes, full awareness, especially eating. What’s wrong about TV dinners is that the television takes priority. It takes priority from what should be one of the most important things in our lives. Instead, we have started considering eating as something secondary, something we can do whilst carrying out work by the computer, on the go, whilst driving.

The idea that food is a commodity of second order has had tremendous consequences on our health. Obesity, late onset diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers are directly related to faulty eating habits. If we only sat down and ate with awareness we would experience a drastic drop in the occurrences of these conditions.

So why is it bad to concentrate on something else whilst eating? It is because our brains, when engaged in eating prevent us from sending food down without proper chewing. The process of chewing becomes much longer and this has amazing benefits in terms of digestion.

When our minds are on the TV screen the food is able to pass down to the stomach only after two bites. Incompletely chewed food is very hard to digest and causes bloating, gas, acidity and other digestive issues. But, if we chew properly the stomach and the enzymes in it are able to process the well-chewed bulk easily. Why? Because of the mechanical break down and mixing of saliva. Saliva has enzymes that are necessary to digest carbohydrates. Most digestive problems with bread and wheat products are due to not chewing properly and not mixing enough saliva in them. Gluten is a hard to digest protein and if it has been let to bypass the first phase of digestion i.e. chewing it becomes even harder, if not impossible to digest.

To prove I’m right about chewing and eating with awareness, try eating with your eyes closed. This way the brain is directed to survey the full eating process. You’ll notice that it is virtually impossible to send food down without it being well chewed. You will also notice that you eat less. Proper chewing makes you feel satisfied faster. Also, when the brain monitors how much volume and nutrients go down it will turn your appetite off when you’ve had enough. Even if you had the tastiest food on your plate you just don’t have the taste sensation anymore to enjoy it. Try this trick and see what the right consistency of the food should be and what is the ideal portion size for you.

Every process that starts well is easy. When the foundations are laid well you need less effort for the rest. So it is with digestion as well. If you chew properly you should be able to avoid overeating, make sure you absorb all the nutrients and eliminate the waste in a satisfying manner. Once this is happening you notice not only that you are physically healthier but also, you enjoy higher levels of concentration and awareness.

To book for a health consultation for individual diet and lifestyle program click here.

Benefits of eating seasonally

paleoeffect_seasonal_guideThe wonder of nature is that once we start following its rotation and synchronize our activities to the different energetic periods of various cycles, our lives start flowing with effortless ease. Once we collaborate with nature it will grant us great boons.

Cravings

Cravings can be good and bad, rising when the brain and the body are in need of nourishment of some sort. Bad cravings rise when we have fallen out of alignment with our routines. Incorrect eating habits can leave the body undernourished even if we have eaten a lot. A hefty lunch, eaten in haste can create a strong craving soon after eating because the digestive process has not started properly, is slow or stopped all together.

Cravings for sugar in the afternoon are a response to brain’s emergency need for fuel. The energy from sugar is released in the mouth but only lasts for a short period of time. Then craving after craving follows, leading to confused digestive rhythms.

The brain is nourished by food, by feelings and by emotions. Once there is undernourishment or malnourishment a craving rises and can be uncontrollable. The brain can translate foods as emotional comfort and vice versa by taking positive, loving thoughts and emotions for nourishment. Once we nourish our brains routinely with the correct kind of food and impressions we make sure our emotional life is kept in balance as well. With a well-nourished brain we are able to stay alert, concentrate and focus more easily as well as using our memories and imagination in a positive and creative way. But a tired brain deprived of nourishment responds first by expressing a craving.

A good craving arises when we follow seasonal dietary guidelines and maintain a daily routine that keeps our digestion, absorption and elimination under control. Once we have a good daily rhythm we start craving things only when we are hungry and our stomach is ready to start processing another load. Amazingly we also crave foods that are exactly in season. It will become hard or unsatisfying to eat kale in October and November because it would highly aggravate vata. Instead, the craving for kale is natural in spring, which is in season to pacify kapha. Then we can enjoy it to our heart’s content.

The taste sensation can be completely different from one season to another. Following what nature wants us to do and listening to our bodies needs doesn’t have to be hard at all. In winter we naturally gravitate towards warm and heavy soups and in summer we crave light salads. We find great satisfaction in filling the desires of the palate with exactly what we find in nature.

Acidity

The amount of acidic food eaten has dramatically increased in Western diets. The first and foremost reason for this is because of the quantities of white sugar and flour we consume. Secondly, we eat meat that has been reared by feeding the wrong kind of food. The meat of a cow that has been grown in a pasture eating grass is much less acidic than its industrially grown and fed counterpart.

Also, fruits and vegetables are different as regards acidity and alkalinity. Our diets should contain one third acidic foods and two-thirds alkaline foods. Eating a seasonal diet satisfies this need. Spring and summer diets are alkaline and an autumn and winter diet is acidic. Once we rotate seasonal food items on our plates we naturally keep this balance under control.

Ideal weight

Each individual has his or her ideal weight. Different body types naturally vary in their perfect balance of weight and height. Kapha people naturally tend to be more robust with thicker skin than vata people. Vatas are usually leaner and have thinner skin. Pitta people fall in the middle of these two and tend towards a medium sized body frame.

Following seasonal dietary guidelines is highly beneficial because our bodies naturally maintain a weight that benefits a long life, with good stamina to fight disease. Even though we might put weight on during winter, changing our diets to highly detoxifying and weight-decreasing spring diets will help us to get rid of the excess effortlessly. The spring diet will trigger the body to burn fat for energy. With this maneouver the body will be able to digest all the carbohydrates it is offered over summer.

Detoxing

Our bodies fall under the influence of toxins through two routes: internal and external. The external sources of toxins come mainly from food (industrial), household and beauty chemicals, radiation, plus industrial and vehicle pollution. The internal sources of toxins are faulty digestion and metabolism. Even if we lived in the cleanest part of the world and used no chemicals for cleaning ourselves and our environment, we would still fall prey to toxins – those created by a faulty digestive process.

Our digestive power varies according to the time of day and of season. It also varies depending on our eating habits. Sometimes we eat at the wrong time, or eat a lot in the evening and go to bed without having fully digested our food. There are many times in life when it’s not possible to follow nature’s guidance, for example when sickness or travel put our systems under pressure and slow down or speed up digestion to an abnormal level. As a consequence, food either stays in the gut too long or too little a time.

Whatever the reason for the accumulation of toxins, it is good to do a detox every so often. The good news is that by following an ayurvedic daily and seasonal routine of diet, the body does this naturally. The morning is dedicated to clearing slow and cold mucous collected during the night as well as to turning on the enzymes. They burn off undigested material from the stomach and gut, which are potential causes of toxins. Also, the body is set to burn fat for energy. This is really important because the toxins lodge in the fatty tissue and when we burn fat, we burn toxins.

Identically, spring season is the part of the year when the body is willing to dispel toxins. The power of detoxing is strong if we treat our bodies accordingly. The spring diet is full of detoxifying alkaline food items like leafy greens: high in chlorophyll, they scrape and clean the gut and nourish the good bacteria to do their work. Also, springtime is the period when we should increase the use of spices and herbs in our kitchen as they easily manipulate the digestive and metabolic powers. Digestive spices such as turmeric, pepper, ginger, parsley, rosemary and chilli are all very familiar to us.

Ideally there would be no need to go on a specific detox if we just followed the daily and seasonal routines for the most part in our lives. Then the body will burn the fat that contains toxins and keep our digestive power strong so that any other toxins that enter the system are dealt with efficiently and eliminated without causing havoc.

Budget

One of the great benefits of a seasonal diet is that it is cheap. Being in season, these food items are cheaper than those grown artificially in the wrong season or brought to the supermarket from a great distance. We can perhaps grow food ourselves in our gardens or terraces, or go to gather nature’s resources straight from the source. Mushrooms, berries and wild herbs like dandelion are all there to be collected in abundance, given the right season. They can be made into preserves or dried and enjoyed at a later stage.

The benefits of the daily and seasonal routines are multiple. Once the wheel starts turning and we find synergy between nature and our individual tendencies and behavioural patterns, the effort to stay healthy and strong is minimal.

Following nature’s way is to follow our true purpose of living. Once we find it, the path opens up clearly in front of us and choices that take us in the right direction become natural. We start naturally rejecting what is harmful and gracefully lean towards the healthier options in life.

Oh So London visit

We had lovely Lucy McGuire from Oh So London website visiting us. The visit was followed  by a lovely article on us in this website which you can read here.

During her visit she made this little video clip of me talking about spiritual healing. Come in and watch it here.

Minestrone

minestroneI think the best winter warmer food is Minestrone. A simple traditional Italian soup with a selection of vegetables, beans and pasta is just the comfort you want after a cold day out, warming your cold bones. It is nourishing but still quite light, full of perfuming garden herbs that wake up the appetite and make the soup easy to digest. I shared it tonight with my friends and we just couldn’t stop humming with pleasure. There are many ways of making it. I prefer it without tomatoes, with clear broth and a nice sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top. Here’s my recipe:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

1 stalk of celery

2 carrots

3 big potatoes

1 can of beans (mixed, borlotti or cannellini)

1 cup of frozen peas

Handful of green beans

1 cup of small pasta

1 clove of garlic

1 stock cube

Pepper

Thyme

Sage

Parsley

Himalayan Rock Salt

Fry chopped onions and celery in olive oil, add all the rest of chopped vegetables, herbs and stock cube. Let boil until potatoes are soft. Add pasta, beans, crushed garlic, pepper and salt. Cook until pasta is al dente. Serve with a dash of olive oil and grated parmesan cheese.

Tip: if you know you’re cooking more than you’ll eat, you should cook the pasta separately. It will become soggy and lose being al dente if you leave it in the soup. If you freeze the soup only you can always cook some more pasta alongside with it.

 

How you eat your food can resolve your gluten intolerance

wheatIn my practice I often, in fact more and more, meet people who have very negative thoughts about gluten. Some of them have real problems with it. Although I am actually of the opinion that gluten should or at least can be in our diet I do respect the fact that many of us have problems in digesting it and that some people really have serious issues like celiac disease.

Faulty digestion is usually the problem behind gluten intolerance. Digestive problems can originate from faulty eating habits or psychological issues. If our digestive system worked properly and we ate gluten in a reasonable manner we should be able to digest it. No bloating, no gas, nor digestive complains should arise.

Most of the times the digestive problems are due to how we consume our food. The way we eat is often more important than what we eat. Gluten intolerance is usually a consequence of years of bad eating habits. The food itself might have been nominally healthy but the way it has been consumed has deteriorated the gut environment and caused a reactive intestinal lining where hard to digest items are not processed to satisfaction.

The good news is that once gluten intolerance is spotted it doesn’t necessarily mean that gluten is to be totally avoided henceforth. The thing to do is to clear the GI-tract from toxic sludge and enhance digestive capacity and the bacterial balance. Sooner or later it should be possible to re-introduce gluten in the diet without any digestive complaints.

Personally I would still advice anyone to stay away from white wheat flour. It provides empty calories i.e. doesn’t have much of a nutritional content and is highly glutinous. Still, an occasional intake of this shouldn’t be a problem once the digestive fire is burning strongly and steadily.

To find our how you can enhance your digestion come for a consultation. Book here.

Revolution starts from the dinner table

revolutionRussell Brand calls for revolution. I agree, it is high time, and hopefully not too late for us to take action. But, the question is in the air: how and where do we start a revolution, especially if you don’t have time to go and march in the streets? You can do your own little bit but what effect does that have on a large scale? Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of a world wide influence like our Mr Brand, and we are easily left feeling helpless in front of a world full of inequalities and injustice.

The matter of fact is that if we do take action, even if it feels insignificant in front of the large scale problems, we take part in the process and it is exactly what a positive revolution should try to achieve: increasing the awareness of individual women, men and children to make wise choices about the health of the planet, it’s economy and their own peace of mind.

So where do we start increasing awareness? This task sounds almost mysterious. As if we’d need to go and find other realms of consciousness within our normal daily life. Not at all. It only means paying attention on what we do and the choices we make. And, you can start from the most basic activities of your day: choosing the right kind of food for your meals and eating it with full concentration.

  • Eat in a peaceful state of mind
  • Avoid media and intense conversation whilst eating
  • Chew properly
  • Don’t drink during meals
  • Eat one meal a day with eyes closed

The beauty of this practice of increasing awareness in eating is that the awareness starts expanding to other areas of life. Once you start and notice the results you won’t be able to stop it to influence all the activities. You just need to start from somewhere and I can’t find anything better than eating.

Eating with full awareness not only makes us more conscious of the quality of food we consume. That drives us to make wiser decisions when shopping. Focused eating also helps our digestive systems to process the food better thus enhancing the overall functioning of the GI-tract. Once our gut works well it has a beneficial effect on our minds. The gut health is directly related to our state of mind. Good gut health means better cognitive functions. Once we have achieved a positive and enthusiastic mind we are more inspired to make the small changes which eventually result in big changes.

It all comes to making right choices. Wise choices are made by a clear mind. A clear mind is devoid of mental mucous which develops if our digestive systems are not working properly. Clear digestive systems are at the basis of proper functioning of our bodies and minds. When we nourish them with proper food we are already taking part in the change the planet needs us to make. Therefore

  • Eat with awareness
  • Choose organic
  • Reduce meat eating to two times a week or become a vegetarian
  • Cook from scratch
  • Eat seasonal food
  • Avoid anything processed (even organic food can be highly processed)
  • Avoid wrapped food as much as possible
  • Avoid multinational brands
  • Shop locally
  • Use social media to spread the word

Spread the word through social media. Often considered a necessary bad but I think now it is time to harness this resource to its fullest capacity. Social media gives us a chance to communicate and not feel alone with our big and small attempts to create a better world. Social media can bind a large crowd together to stand against the disproportionate forces of economy that rule the world. It makes you feel that you are contributing to a common cause.

Start the revolution from your dinner table. Make choices that will encourage your local environment and businesses to thrive. Together they can form close nit communities where people can help each other to be more self sufficient and less dependent on corporations and the forces of economy directed from far and away. All you need to do is start taking care of the quality of your food and how you consume it.

 

Garden herbs for this season

Chopped flat leaf parsleyNature is very clever in keeping us healthy. Our digestive power varies according to the digestibility of the foods of the season. In autumn and winter our digestive power usually gets a bit stronger in response to the seasonal produce. The harvest is quite hard to digest and also a bit mucous forming. This is fine as the body and mind enjoy rich and nutritious meals in order to cope with winter.

Because of the digestive fire getting stronger it is advisable to keep it burning on a steady flame by nourishing it with mild spices. Strong ones like chilli can get the flame too high. Problems of overheat like acidity are then common especially because this season’s food is naturally acidic. Grains, pulses and nuts are all acidic to some degree. This season is also when meat can be eaten (by the ones who choose to eat it) and it is also acidic in quality.

To spice my autumn food up I personally prefer garden herbs. Parsley, coriander, sage, rosemary and thyme are my favourites. I picked up a tip from Jamie Oliver and freeze the fresh ones I buy and use as much as I need at one go and always have fresh ones at hand, even in winter. I use plenty of them in chicken stock, in roast veggies, pasta sauces and, of course, my favourite coriander, parsley and mint chutney. Here’ the recipe. It is excellent with dals and curries. Also yummy on toast bread.

2 bunches      coriander

1 bunch          parsley

½ bunch        mint

2                      garlic

1”                    ginger

½-1                 Lemon juice

2 cups            Sunflower oil

Rock salt

Chop fresh herbs and mix them with the grated garlic and ginger. Add lemon juice, sunflower oil and finally salt to taste.

 

Asafetida – the spice of the season

asafetidaThe latin name for Asafetida, or hing in Sanskrit, is Ferula fetida. “Fetida” implies smell. Indeed, the powdered spice is very pungent and almost rotten in smell and can be felt from a distance. It is like someone had passed gas. Ironically, this herb actually relieves gas. It is our spice of choice for the seasons of autumn and winter because during these times we tend to create more gas in our bodies.

Ayurvedically, gas is related to the bodily humour of vata. Vata dosha is made of ether and air. These elements give vata its behavioural patterns. Vata creates space and fills it with air. This might be going on just now in your own digestive tract causing discomfort of some degree, especially if you are a vata type, in other words, if your body type is “airy”, light and delicate. I am referring to now because, at this moment, we have moved into vata season. That means that vata energy is dominant in the nature. Nature makes us feel light and airy. Even the sturdiest and most grounded people might be feeling the effects. Problems like light sleep, irregular digestion and joint pains are very common.

When vata energy goes out of balance it starts easily creating upward movement in the body. Air can get trapped in the gut and create bloating. Anxiety is another good example. The sensation is like something was pushing from below, forcing the breath to move to the upper parts of the lungs and become faster and shallower.

Asafetida is a fabulous spice to counteract the upward moving vata. It has an amazing capacity to restore the correct movement, improve the intestinal transit and help elimination. This herb is a wonderful aid for vata kind of constipation (due to dryness) and by suppressing vata it can relieve all kind of symptoms of vata like pain and other nerve related problems.

As mentioned above, the herb is very strong. It is to be used with care. You can use it in your food: a pinch is enough. In fact, it is highly recommended to be used with beans and lentils. Pulses are astringent in quality and can easily cause gas. Asafetida helps to digest them better and this way they become safe to take, even in autumn and winter.

In India, and also outside, hing is often used by those who avoid onion and garlic in their foods as they are too rajasic, or too stimulating for the mind. Hing gives the food that pungency it might miss without those vegetables. Those who want to go on a sattvic diet might want to introduce this spice in their everyday kitchen. I, personally, use hing together with onion and garlic because I can’t really think a life without them.

I have just prepared a new batch of hinguashtaka powder, a mixture of eight herbs with asafetida. If you have problems with digestion and elimination you can order some from me. It tastes disgusting but it works wonders.