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The Alchemy of Cooking

by Montse Bradford(more info)

listed in food, originally published in issue 102 - August 2004

Each season offers distinctive changes in energy (not necessarily linked to the calendar dates).

From spring we change into summer and slowly into the next season. At present, due to the climatic effects of global warming, these changes can occur unexpectedly. At the same time we can still have a general idea of the seasons and we can apply energetic principles, to help maintain our personal balance. Weeks go by and gradually we need to adapt our way of cooking according to the seasonal weather. It is sunnier, hotter and there are more hours of sunlight. Nature is alive and vibrant, in complete movement and activity.

We can feel this vibration and energy within us. We feel more active, open, alive and ready for spending more time outdoors and engaging in social and physical activities. We need to nourish ourselves well to create this effect and also to help us feel at ease with the weather.

Our cooking can be: lighter, using lots of colours, crunchy textures, refreshing tastes and simple, quick and appetizing dishes. At the same time we need grounding and food with revitalizing effects to help us maintain an optimal level of energy for this busy season.

If we base our daily food mainly on animal proteins and heavy saturated fats (very heavy, deep warming, slow and dense effect) we will feel not at ease with the season. We can try to reduce these ingredients, cooked in heavy, slow and rich ways.

Nature offers us an immense variety of vegetables and fruits, with an incredible choice of cooking possibilities every day! We can increase ingredients from the vegetable kingdom: whole grains in salads, vegetarian proteins, vegetables cooked in light and active ways (stir-frys, boiling, blanching, pan frying, as well as raw salads…). We can increase the use of cold pressed oils in salads, (rather than in cooking) and the use of seeds and nuts. Fresh garnishes and herbs can also help to create variety and a dynamic effect in our dishes.

Fruits have a cooling, cleansing effect and it is the best season for eating them. However, in hot weather our body also sweats more naturally, losing more minerals which need to be replenished. One natural way to do this is to use sea vegetables in your daily cooking.

It is also important to bring some awareness into the process of cooking and eating and the effects that they can produce into our body. Each food that we eat, as well as the way that we choose to prepare it, will produce a reaction in our body.

We easily accept the healing power of herbs and the different effects that they can offer. Or that some people have food allergies, or intolerances to certain foods, from the effects that they produce in them. So maybe now it is time to bring awareness of how each food is affecting us and that we have the power to choose it or not! Eating is one of the main functions in life, since without it life would not exist. So let us look at many different ways of why, how and when we eat:

Mechanically, without thinking or asking ourselves what our needs are. For example, the way we eat while in our mother's womb, without consciousness or desire. Or when we arrive home in the evening and automatically go to the refrigerator or cupboard for something to eat. Or even when we choose to eat automatically, just because it is a certain time of the day, even if we aren't hungry;

Sensorial or Emotionally, following only our senses based on our personal preferences for certain tastes, smells, colours and textures.

Or when we just choose to eat certain dishes, because they are familiar to us, from our childhood or family roots;

Intellectually, based only on nutritional recommendations. Just being aware of the nutrients that our body needs: calories, proteins, minerals, vitamins, etc… This aspect of eating is very important, but not the only one; there is more depth in the process of eating;

Ideologically, when we try to follow 'blindly' the patterns or rules of certain diets, without questioning if they are going to be the right one for us. Just because a friend is doing it, or we bought the book… Our body needs more respect and consideration than that;

Energetically, learning the effects and reactions of what we eat and applying this knowledge with freedom and choice, according to our unique personal needs and moods, which can change according to what we do, feel and think. Feeling the energy of our body at the moment, knowing the effects of the ingredients and their preparations and being self-aware of what we need at that particular time. It is not a mental process, it is intuitive, flexible, based on the NOW and full of life! At the same time fully embracing all the other ways of eating previously mentioned.

Summer Recipes

Crunchy Mediterranean Salad with Herbed Croutons (Serves 2-3)

Salad Dish

Ingredients
• Mixed crunchy salad leaves (washed and drained), 1/2 cucumber (finely sliced), 1 red pepper (baked or grilled, peeled, washed and cut into fine strips), 1 avocado (cut in pieces), 1 carrot (grated, with a few drops of lemon juice to prevent from browning), 2tblsp olives.

Croutons:
• 1 pack smoked tofu (cut in medium sizes cubes), dried herbs, garlic powder.

Vinaigrette:
• 3tblsp lightly roasted walnuts, 1tsp mustard, 1tblsp. Soya sauce, 1 tblsp. Olive oil, 1tblsp vinegar.

Salad
• Mix and place the salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Pan fry the smoked tofu cubes with some olive oil until crunchy. Season to taste with some dried herbs and garlic powder. Mix through the salad.

Vinaigrette
• Grind the walnuts into a paste and combine with the remaining ingredients to taste, adding a small amount of water to give the desired consistency.
• Combine the dressing with the salad, toss and serve.

Stuffed Watermelon with Sweet Marinated Fruit Salad

Stuffed Watermelon

Ingredients
• Whole watermelon, apples, raspberries, peaches and oranges.

Marinade
• A pinch of sea salt, malt and/or apple juice concentrate, orange juice.
• Cut the watermelon in half lengthwise. Scoop out the watermelon flesh, using about 1/4 for the fruit salad and keeping the remainder for other uses.
• Peel the apples and the oranges and cut all the fruit into bite-size pieces. Mix all the fruit together in a bowl and add a pinch of sea salt, orange juice and malt to taste. Leave it to marinate for a minimum of one hour.
• Fill the watermelon halves with the fruit salad and serve.

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About Montse Bradford

Montse Bradford, originally from Barcelona, Spain, has lived in England since 1978. She is a professionally qualified healer member of the two leading healing organizations in the UK and a certified transpersonal psychology counsellor. Montse has been studying natural approaches to healthy eating and cooking since 1978 and has directed several cooking schools as well as a residential centre in Sussex. She now directs and teaches at her own cooking schools in Barcelona and Bath. Montse is the author of several books, Cooking with Sea Vegetables, which has been translated into five languages, and four titles in her popular Healthy Wholefood Cooking Series: Healthy Eating /Simple Cooking; Cooking with Vegetarian Protein; Vegetarian Classics; and Cooking with Sea Vegetables. Two more books, in Spanish are now being published, The Alchemy of Cooking and In Our Lives and Cooking with Vegetarian Proteins. She can be contacted at The Natural Cookery School & Life Energetics, Tel: 01963 240 641; montsebradford@aol.com; www.montsebradford.com

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