Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Whole Buckwheat Pancakes

These pancakes are made from the whole grain, not flour, making them much more nutritious and filling than your standard pancake fare. They're gluten free and can easily be made vegan if you choose. You can add anything you want to the mix (bluberries, bananas, cacao powder), my favourite addition being a tablespoon of green-tea powder. The original recipe came from my beautiful friend Clara, herbal master and creator of Elm botanicals.

2 cups of raw buckwheat grain (soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight)
2 eggs (substitute with a banana for a vegan version)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Splash of your choice of milk (rice, soy, dairy)
*Optional extras: 1 tbs green-tea powder or wheat grass powder
Coconut oil (butter) for frying
Toppings of your choice

Soak your buckwheat overnight (or for at least 2 hours). Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Buckwheat becomes very mucilaginous when soaked so this step is important.

Place all of your ingredients in the food processor and blend until all of the ingredients are combined. It will be a bit thicker then a normal pancake mix. Add more milk if you want a thin pancake. I make mine pikelet style.

Heat up your frying pan and place a teaspoon of coconut oil onto the pan. Coconut oil is best for cooking because it isn't damaged like others when exposed to high-temperature frying. Once hot, spoon the mixture onto the frying pan and away you go! Flip when bubbles begin to appear on top. Serve with your favourite toppings.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mung bean noodle miso

Miso is a fermented soy bean paste that is thought to have originated in China around 2,500 years ago. The darker and longer fermented miso (like hatcho, which I used in this recipe) is better used in colder climates and during winter. Use a lighter, less fermented miso (such as shiro) in warmer climates and weather. Miso is a living food, containing lactobacillus and a trace amount of B12, helping to aid in digestion and the assimilation of nutrients.

This is a super simple recipe that will take a maximum of 15mins to prepare, yet provide you with ample nourishment that is easily digested. Forgive the less than accurate measurements, but you can add as little or as much as you like of any of the ingredients. This should be enough for two people.

3 cups water
1 Handful mungbean noodles
1 handful arame (or any other seaweed)
125g firm tofu
1 handful chopped silverbeet
1tbs miso paste (I used hatcho) - add more miso if you desire a heartier, richer broth

Place water in pot and bring to the boil. First place in noodles and arame and let simmer for 10 mins, adding in the tofu for the last 5mins. Add in the miso paste and stir. Simmer for 5 minutes or until all of the paste has dissolved. You don't want to boil the miso, as you will lose a lot of its life-giving probiotic properties. Turn off the heat and stir through the silverbeet. Serve immediately with a spoon and chopsticks!

For those familiar with Chinese Medicine
This is dish is perfect for those with a pattern of Yin deficiency with empty heat. Mung beans are sweet and cool, they clear heat, counteract toxins and cool and calm the liver. They can be used to treat high blood pressure, swelling, mumps and conjunctivitis. Seaweed clears heat, counteracts dryness and tonifies yin. It can be used to ease blood pressure again, constipation, as well as hardness and abdominal swelling. Be sure to use seaweeds carefully for those with signs of damp or spleen deficiency.

*References, Pitchford - Healing with Whole Foods, Wong - Food for the Seasons

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Traditional Chinese Herbs and Our Obligation

"Our task must be to free ourselves from our prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." - Albert Einstein

I have recently found myself struggling to reconcile my two loves: the first being traditional Chinese medicine (TCM); the second being the beauty of nature and need to conserve and save endangered species on an earth that is being rapidly being plundered. As an avid animal rights supporter, a quick search into the use of endangered animals sold as TCM medicinal herbs on the black market is enough to bring me to tears.

It perplexes me that a system that has developed from the observation of nature and the Taoist philosophy of acknowledging the interconnectedness of all beings, is responsible for such irresponsible practices. This then needlessly harms the reputation of TCM practitioners who practice ethically. Unfortunately the illegal trade of wildlife ingredients continues to support these unsustainable practices.

Rhino horns, shark fins, seahorses, and tigers are just a few that longstanding cultural beliefs and the economic drive behind organised crime, have been responsible for tragically pushing these species onto the endangered list. And unfortunately the rarer something is, the more valuable it becomes. Research estimates this illicit trade in wildlife to be worth US$20 billion globally each year*. Increased demand in Asia, a lack of law enforcement, weak penalties for poachers, opportunism amongst traders and a lack of education amongst consumers and practitioners are all contributing to the problem.

These products are now widely being described as ‘status products’; the majority of which are being used and consumed by younger, wealthy professionals – shark fin soup being among the most popular. It is a myth that they are being used by the older generations, as they were not widely used in traditional formulas or medicines. Conditions that they are purported to treat can be treated with alternatives that are cheaper and more effective.

Some conservation activists views are on the opposite end of the spectrum, saying TCM herbs should be boycotted altogether; making it a scapegoat for international conservation issues. This approach however fails to realise that by working with TCM practitioners and not against them, we then have an effective tool for eliminating the demand.

To the practitioner –
Despite the trade of endangered species and plants in Australia being illegal, a product cannot be assumed it has been legally acquired, even if it is purchased within Australia, and documentation from the seller must be acquired in order to be sure of this.

‘Under international and Australian wildlife protection laws, it is illegal to import, export or trade in items that are on the CITES list of endangered species unless the appropriate permits have been issued. CITES refers to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.’ *

The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) has created an Endangered Species Certification Scheme in order to address the illegal trade of endangered wildlife. The scheme is open to TCM practitioners, traders and other organisations and individuals involved in the research, recommendation, prescription, supply, import and export of traditional Chinese medicines. Those signing the declaration are then able to advertise that they only trade in legally obtained plants and products.

To read more about the scheme visit the AACMA website here -

To the consumer –
To those of you who are prescribed Chinese Herbs from a practitioner – ask if they are a part of the above scheme, and demand sustainably produced herbs and organic products where possible. It is the consumer that sustains the trade.

As a budding TCM student I hope to advocate the use of sustainable practices and educate consumers and practitioners on the importance of these issues. My wish is that for Chinese Medicine to be recognised as the centuries old, valuable body of medical practice that it is.



*Wyler, L. S. & Sheikh, P. A. Congressional Research Service (2009).

* Nature Journal -

Friday, January 13, 2012

Summer pea dip

This is literally the most simple and tasty dip you will ever make. The brilliant green is a feast for the eyes; the taste tangy and sweet. You can add whichever herbs you like to tailor it to your taste buds or leave it as is. A perfect addition to a summer afternoon picnic in the park.

For those familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine principles:
Peas have a neutral thermal nature and a sweet flavour, making them effective for tonifying the spleen and stomach and harmonising digestion. They also counteract the effect of an overactive liver that commonly attacks the earth element, hindering absorption and digestion. They help to reduce rebellious qi, which may manifest with symptoms such as indigestion, hiccups, vomiting, belching and heart burn. They are also a mild diuretic and laxative, making them effective for food stagnation and constipation.*

1 1/2 cups of blanched fresh peas (or alternatively frozen if you can't get your hands on any!)
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon of miso paste
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp freshly crushed coriander seeds
+ or - any fresh herbs you like

Blend all ingredients together to the texture that suits you. Enjoy!

*Pitchford, 1993, see resources

Monday, December 26, 2011

Apple Caraway Sauerkraut

Traditional sauerkraut is pickled by a process called lacto-fermentation. Almost any sauerkraut you buy these days will be either faux pickled (using vinegar) or heat treated to extend shelf life, killing the healthy bacteria which gives Sauerkraut its distinct properties. The fermentation process not only lends a sour, tangy flavour, it also gives sauerkraut remarkable nutritional properties, improving digestion, encouraging the growth of healthy bowel flora, as well as offering a powerhouse of vitamin C and enzymes.

For those familiar with Chinese Medicine -
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the sour nature of fermentation lends an astringent property that helps to conserve fluids. Conditions such as diarrhoea, excessive sweating and haemorrhage (or Yin, Jing Ye or Blood deficiency in TCM) will all benefit from its sour, astringent nature. As salt is the flavour that governs the Kidneys, a healthy amount will support nourishment of the Kidney and water element. Sauerkraut also supports strong digestive function, helping the Spleen with the essential process of transformation and transportation.

1 green cabbage
2 granny smith apples
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Celtic, macrobiotic or himalayan sea salt (about 1/2 to 1 tbs)


Firstly find a nice big glass jar. My sauerkraut jar is a recycled 1kg honey jar, and I find it fits approximately one small cabbage once packed. Sterilise your jar following instructions I have in my previous post on pickled ginger here.

Choose a lovely fresh organic green cabbage. The fresher the better, as a cabbage with a high water content is essential for making a good brine for the fermentation process.

Chop your cabbage finely or coarsely, and place into a large bowl as you chop. Sprinkle the cabbage with salt as you go. I usually chop a layer of cabbage, a layer of sliced apple and then sprinkle with approx two big pinches of salt. Repeat until you have used the whole cabbage. Sprinkle the caraway seeds into the bowl and mix them through evenly.

The salt will pull the water out of the cabbage through osmosis, allowing it to ferment. It will also keep the cabbage nice and crunchy.

Now pack the cabbage and apple into your sterilised glass jar. Get in as much as you can with a spoon, then use a smaller glass jar that fits into the mouth of the larger one to pack it in. The packing helps to bring more water out of the cabbage; the aim is to have enough brine to cover the cabbage in order to keep it from being exposed to the air and becoming mouldy.

Once you have packed in as much as you can fit, fill your smaller packing jar with water and leave inside the mouth. Then place a heavier weight on top of the smaller jar, such as a can. Continue to press down on the weight periodically to bring more water out of the cabbage and to ensure that your cabbage is always covered in the brine. If the brine evaporates and the cabbage isn't covered dissolve about a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and pour this into the jar.

Now leave it to ferment, checking it every couple of days, rinsing the smaller jar to keep it clean. I find green cabbage ferments quite quickly, even in cooler weather, it usually takes about a week. Taste it every couple of days until you get the taste you desire. You can leave it for longer if you want a more sour taste.

Once fermented keep sealed in the fridge. Eat on its own, with avocado on toast, as a side with your meals...the possibilities are endless! A little after a heavy meal will also aid digestion, the sour nature cleansing the palate and the pungency moving food stagnation.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nature meditation

Wilson's Creek, Mullumbimby

I've been lucky enough to be able to spend Christmas break house-sitting in the hinterland hills of Mullumbimby in Northern New South Wales. We've had the luxury of a big deck, hammock, vege garden and a massive sun room for yoga and meditation. Observing nature is always something that has fascinated and excited me, a practice that is extremely rejuvenating; putting the heart and mind at ease.

Salad from the garden

It's times like these that make me realise how much of a year of being busy in the city takes its toll on the body. We've found ourselves reading and napping the day away. How precious it is to allow ourselves to truly rest the mind and body.

Can't be a holiday without vegan green tea pies!

*Thanks to our new friends who so graciously let us look after their home

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Po - The Corporeal Soul

Chinese character for 'metal'

The Po is the spirit of the metal element – most often referred to as the Corporeal Soul – representing our primal urges or animal instinct. The function of the Po is to receive what is of essential worth, and to let go of ideals and experiences that no longer serve us.

Metal imparts minerals to the earth, plants, and all beings. It is strong yet malleable; capable of being remoulded. If it is too rigid, however, it can be shattered. This imagery of metal can be applied to the individual – is their perception of reality fixed and unchanging? Are they open to new experiences, able to let go of the past and move forward according to their life experiences?

The organs of the metal element – the lungs and large intestine – form a connection between the internal and external world. With the lungs we breathe in life's experiences, retaining what nourishes us, and with the large intestine we understand the letting go, discharging what no longer serves us, letting go of past experiences and ideals that are no longer of use to us on our journey. The Po is the spirit in Taoist philosophy that upon death leaves the body and returns to the earth, becoming the fertiliser that encourages new growth.

Greif is the emotion associated with the metal element, the Po and the lungs. Those with a metal constitution which is out of balance may have an inability to let go of what is no longer of value, or may be unable to hold onto what is valuable. This imbalance may manifest itself as a strong presence of grief, or a sense of longing (understood as a grief focused towards the future) leading the individual to continually react inappropriately to loss or gain in their life.

This continual reaction to grief may see the individual become obsessed with a chosen path to the point where discipline, rigidity and emotional coldness towards others are seen as necessary to help them achieve. They may also be susceptible to isolation, a lack of self-worth and loneliness – leading them to seek to fill this void with material possessions or external successes, and not recognising the short-lived nature of such pursuits. Those with a propensity to this imbalance must learn to form a spiritual connection with themselves, and accept that the value placed on the material will inevitably fade and reliance upon these external experiences (whether this be possessions, careers, relationships) as the only source of happiness will only ever be transitory; learning that true contentment will come from within, and not from attachment to the material world.

When in balance the individual will have a healthy sense of self-worth and possess the ability to appreciate what is of value in their life. They are open to change and have an inner sense of knowing of when to let go of ideals that no longer serve them.

The symbol of the flower, often used in Buddhism to represent the transitory nature of all things, is helpful to contemplate when trying to understand the metal element. Representing a need to find balance between appreciating the inherent beauty in all things, yet understanding that this beauty will fade, the flower embodies mourning and letting go when necessary.

Japanese wild flower in Kamikochi, courtesy of my mum

* Jarrett, L, 2009, Nourishing Destiny
* Rossi, E, 2007, Shen: Psychoemotional aspects of Chinese Medicine