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The Healing and Transformative Qualities of Natural Cooking

by Montse Bradford(more info)

listed in organic food, originally published in issue 86 - March 2003

Cooking is a part of our everyday life, so much so, that it is easy to drift into a routine of proceeding mechanically with food preparation without paying too much attention to the deeper meaning of this vital ritual. So, how about taking some time to reflect upon the various ways in which cooking affects our whole being?


Ancient wisdom teaches us that the quality of the food we eat is intrinsically linked with our level of health and the quality of our lives. In the past 200 years, since the advent of modern agriculture and food processing, our diet has progressively moved further and further away from the natural foods, which sustained traditional people all over the Earth for centuries.

It is vital to return to basics, to honour and use more natural ingredients, especially the ones that come from mother Earth, such as: vegetables, grains, beans and vegetarian proteins, seeds, nuts, fruits… We all know by now, that providing our body with the best possible quality is the optimal recipe for health and well-being. Using organic foods as well as good quality water, should be the first step towards:

* Strengthening blood quality. Keeping the right pH in our blood, so that the body doesn't need to keep using minerals, vital for our bones, teeth, and nervous system, to maintain the blood alkaline level required;
* Strengthening our immune system;
* Regulating blood sugar level. Maintaining a steady level of energy during the day;
* Providing our bodies with the ability to cleanse naturally.

Cooking Styles

Cooking operates on many levels, the most obvious of which consists in the preparation of foods to nourish our body, creating fuel to generate vitality and energy.

But each cooking style will create a very different effect in us, according to the amount of flame, time, seasonings and amount of water used. This may be something that we never experienced or thought about previously. Eating a raw salad will create a more cooling effect, very appropriate for hot weather, whereas a long hot casserole will produce a deep and internal heat, very useful in a damp and cold weather.

There are many different cooking styles, for example: marinating, pickling, pressing, sprouting, blanching, boiling, steaming, quick stir-fry, grilling, pan frying, frying, stewing, baking, roasting, barbecuing, Pressure cooking, casseroles, etc., just to mention a few.

Not only will these cooking styles affect our body temperature, but they will also generate different qualities of Energetic Effects in us. For example: stir-frying (high flame, lots of movement) will generate a more active effect in us than if we eat something steamed or cooked over a small and slow flame, a method very useful when we want to relax after a very active day.

Cooking Styles With: Will Result In:
+ Time + Warmth/ For cold weather
+ Pressure + Inwards effect
+ Fire/Flame + Drying and active effect
+ Salty seasonings + Tightening
- Time + Colder temperature
- Pressure + Dispersing/Opening/Light energy
- Flame (slow) + Relaxing effect
+ Water + For hot weather


The Alchemy of Cooking

Depending on the nature of the ingredients and cooking methods chosen, different reactions and effects will be produced in the body – effects that are not only related to calories, vitamins, minerals and fibres, but also to Energy and Vibration.

When we speak of Energy, we are speaking of the force we call Life. The Chinese refer to it as Ch'I Energy and liken it to the streams, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans of Earth. This Life Force flows in and around us like a current, although we cannot actually see it, we can see the manifestation of it and feel its effects.

Food also contains Life Force or Ch'I, and so the choice of the food we eat will determine the quality of the energy present in our body, mind, emotions and spirit. We are very readily happy to accept the healing power and effects of natural herbs, like camomile, thyme, sage, fennel, etc, but perhaps have never questioned the effect of other plants, like vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, nuts… All foods have Life Force and will create different reactions, according to their 'personality' and nature and how they are prepared.

We already know some of this at an unconscious level. In the summer, we prefer to eat more fresh salads and fruits than in the cold winter months. Maybe, this is because we know that these foods will cool us down and will produce a more refreshing reaction? At the same time, we prefer a hot soup or stew when it is cold, wet and damp, maybe because applying fire to our cooking, will create a more deeper warming effect than raw food? These are things we know instinctively although we may never have thought them out in this way.

Daily Cooking

Time inevitably has to be set aside each day for preparation of fresh, wholesome foods, yet with some forward thinking and planning, the amount of time spent in the kitchen need not be excessive.

Eating frozen, tinned and ready-prepared foods, is certainly one way of saving time, but the consequences of failing to give due care and attention to the preparation of wholesome meals will soon affect our overall level of vitality and well-being.

The long term effects of relying on devitalized, saturated and processed foods will be noticeable at all levels of our being, as the purpose of eating reaches far beyond nurturing the physical body.

Interestingly enough, people that say they don't have time to cook, eat processed foods and ready-prepared meals, and are usually the ones that spend the whole day snacking. Maybe this is due to a lack of deep satisfaction and deep nourishment? Is it much better to have wholesome meals, and then forget totally about physical foods for many hours?? Our digestive system also needs proper breaks. Do you want to live in order to eat or to eat in order to live? The choice is always ours!

It seems that the whole of humanity has a deep lack of sweetness in life?! Maybe this important lack starts in the kitchen? Our mothers and grandmothers cooked every day, adding the most important ingredients of love and presence to their stews, casseroles and soups. Love is generated by attention and time. In our lives, if we give time to 'something or somebody', we will harvest Love too.

Vibrant, fresh and simply cooked foods are required to create clarity and a sense of direction in our lives. Cooking with this awareness doesn't have to take forever, especially if the ingredients remain simple.

Needs and Wants

So many people are stuck in this circle all their lives, because they don't understand their body messages. They think it is important to eat healthy foods, but their 'wants' are very different to their 'needs'. They keep tormenting themselves and unnecessary inner-battles and self-judgements creating in their lives, with not only loss of outer vitality and energy, but also their self-confidence and will.

The answer, is very simple. We need to understand the energy and effect that our body wants at a particular moment, and to observe if we are lacking that specific effect in our daily cooking.

This is the body's way to speak to us, we just need the translation.

Example 1: Maybe our body wants lots of chocolate and sugary cakes. Maybe we are not providing our body with the right:

* Sweetness;
* The 'creaminess';
* The right amount or quality of protein;
* Or we are hardly eating any slow, staple carbohydrates;
* Maybe we are lacking in fresh vegetables or fruits;
* Or our intake of salt and salty snacks is excessive;
* Or maybe, it is not a physical need at all, but an emotional need that cannot be satisfied with physical foods?

Example 2: Maybe our body wants excessive amounts of fried foods, crisps and chips. Maybe this because we are lacking in:

* The right amount of good quality oils during proper meal times?

* Or lacking in good quality and quantity of proteins?
* Maybe, wanting to be 'healthy', we drastically cut down on animal proteins? Remember quick and drastic changes don't last! They create more imbalances, as happen when we lack in knowledge and respect for our physical body.
* Or richness, in general, and not just connected to oils. Richness comes from long-cooking stews, bean casseroles, hearty hot-pots;
Maybe, we had been on a cleansing diet, overdid it, and now need rich greasy food?
* Or maybe, everything we eat is wet and damp, and we need the dry and crunchy texture of fried foods?
* Or maybe, we are eating crunchy cold salads and fruit, to be healthy, but our body is craving warmth and warming foods?
* Or perhaps, it is an emotional need, rather than a physical one?

Our body's needs are for: In the form of: Naturally supplied by:
Energy and vitality, Nourishment of our Nervous system Carbohydrates Complex sugars in form of whole cereal grains, will give a constant supply of energy and vitality.
Body building and repair Proteins Good quality organic animal foods (especially fish), as well as vegetarian proteins (beans, seeds, nuts, tofu…)
Regulating blood pH, nourishing the nervous system, muscles, bones… Minerals Unrefined sea salt, organic root vegetables, sea vegetables.
Promotion of metabolic processes, fibre Vitamins Land vegetables (roots rounds, dark leafy greens), fruits.
For proper functioning, body temperature Fat/Oils Cold pressed unrefined oils, nuts and seeds.
To restore intestinal flora, better absorption of nutrients Fermented Foods Traditionally fermented foods (pickles, soy sauce…)

The causes are endless, but with a deep energetic knowledge of the effects of foods and preparations, we can create a completely different perspective of this vital ritual that is nourishing to ourselves. We can also be totally free of guilt, as we become more open and accepting of our inner messages and needs, providing them with care, compassion and understanding.

Healthy natural food and cooking, doesn't mean boring, with lack of colour, shapes, textures and excitement. Nature provides us with an incredible abundance of colours and natural flavours: from the bright green broccoli, to the wholesome pumpkin, carrot or sweetcorn, to the pungent taste of radishes and red cabbage, to crunchy bitter salads, endives, watercress, or juicy cucumbers, etc.

The variety is endless and as we try to cook more simply, we will slowly grow to enjoy the flavours of natural ingredients.

Below are a few simple, delicious and quick recipes, aimed especially at the colder months, to help us to create our 'Inner Fire' and to generate our 'Deep Warmth'.

Fish Soup (Serves 2-3)

Ingredients: 2 onions finely diced, 2 leeks cut into thin slices, 4 tomatoes, 1/3 squash or pumpkin, cut in chunks, 1/2 cup green peas, variety of fresh fish washed and cut into chunks.

Seasoning: sea salt, 2 tblsp. olive oil, fresh ginger (grated and squeezed for the juice), dry herbs.

Garnish: fresh parsley.

1.) Sauté the diced onions with a small amount of oil and a pinch of sea salt for 10 minutes. Add the peeled and coarsely chopped tomatoes, sauté for a further 5 minutes.
2.) Add 2 cups of water and bring to the boil. Add leeks, squash, bouquet garni, pinch of salt, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
3.) Add the fish and green peas and gently simmer for 5-7 minutes. Adjust the soup liquid adding more water if necessary.
4.) Add some ginger juice to taste. Simmer for 1 more minute and serve immediately garnished fresh parsley.

Rice Vegetable Paella (Serves 2-3)

Ingredients: 1 cup long grain rice, 2 medium onions diced, 2 carrots finely sliced, 1/2 cup green peas, 2 red peppers (grilled or baked, peeled, washed and cut thinly), 1 pack smoked tofu (cut in cubes and fried till crunchy).

Seasoning: turmeric, olive oil, sea salt.

Garnish: chopped fresh parsley.

1.) Wash the rice, place it in a cooking pot with a pinch of sea salt, turmeric to taste and 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil, reduce the flame and slow simmer for 35-40 minutes. Let it cool.
2.) Boil the green peas with a small amount of boiling water and a pinch of sea salt for 7 minutes. Wash with cold water and drain.
Heat some oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and a pinch of sea salt. Sautee for 5-7 minutes.
3.) Add the carrots and fried tofu. Cover and sauté for 10 minutes.
4.) Add the cooked rice and the cut pepper, mix well but gently. Garnish with the green peas and parsley and serve hot.

Vegetables 'Papillot Style' (Serves 2-3)

Ingredients: 2 onions quartered, 2 sweet potatoes, 2 turnips cut in chunks, 1 courgette cut in medium sized half rounds, 1 cup mushrooms cut in half, 1 corn-on-the cob cut in rounds, fresh rosemary.

Seasoning: 1 tblsp. toasted sesame oil or 3 tblsp. olive oil, 2 tblsp. soya sauce, 3 Tblsp. Concentrated apple juice, 2 minced garlic cloves.

1.) Mix all the cut and raw vegetables with the seasonings and fresh herbs.
2.) Divide the mixture in two, and place each one in a parcel with ovenproof paper or aluminium foil. Bake in a previously heated oven till soft (around 45 minutes – 1 hour). Serve hot.

Crunchy Salad with Mustard and Capers Dressing (Serves 2).

Ingredients: Lettuce and watercress (cut in pieces), 4 cherry tomatoes cut in half, 1/4 cucumber (finely sliced), spring onions, 1 red apple (finely sliced, add a few drops of lemon juice to preserve from browning)

Dressing: 1 tblsp. mustard, 2-3 tblsp. capers, 2 tbsp. concentrated apple juice, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. vinegar.

1.) Mix the salad ingredients in a large serving bowl.
2.) Blend all the dressing ingredients together; add a few drops of water, to obtain the desired consistency.
3.) Serve as a side dish.

Kiwi Tart (Serves 4)

Ingredients: 1/2 pack of biscuits, 8 apples (peeled, cored and cut in pieces, add some lemon juice to prevent from browning), 5 kiwi fruit (peeled and finely sliced), 2 tblsp. of lemon rind, 1 vanilla pod (cut lengthwise), rice malt sweetener, 4 tblsp. agar agar flakes (natural jelly agent), 2-3 tblsp. peanut butter, sea salt.

Garnish: dessicated coconut flakes.

1.) Place the biscuits on the bottom of a flat ceramic dish.
2.) Cook the apples with a pinch of sea salt, the vanilla pod, agar agar flakes and a small amount of water for 20 minutes.
3.) Add malt sweetener to taste and the lemon rind and mix well with peanut butter. Remove vanilla pod and place fruit and liquid on top of the biscuits.
4.) Decorate immediately with the kiwi slices and leave it to set for 1-2 hours. Decorate with desiccated coconut flakes.

Marinated Fresh Fruit Salad With Home-Made Custard and Glazed Walnuts (Serve 4)

Ingredients: Seasonal fruit (cut in pieces and add some lemon juice to preserve from browning), 2-3 tblsp. sultanas, pinch sea salt, rice malt.

Custard: 2 cups rice milk, few drops vanilla essence or natural vanilla pod, malt to taste, 1 tblsp. lemon rind, 2-4 tblsp. arrowroot.

Glazed walnuts: Walnuts, rice malt.

1.) Cut the fruit into desired size pieces. Add a pinch of sea salt, malt to taste and sultanas. Let it marinate for minimum 1 hour.
2.) Custard: heat the rice milk, add the vanilla, lemon rind and malt to taste, gently simmer for 10 minutes. Dilute the arrowroot with some cold water and add to the milk, stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until thicker consistency. Serve hot or cold.
3.) Glazed walnuts: roast walnuts for a very short time in an oven. Heat some malt in a cooking pot (without water), add the walnuts, mix well. Place mixture on an oiled ceramic or glass flat dish. Let it cool.
4.) Serve fruit salad with the custard and walnuts.

Marzipan Stuffed Pears (Serves 2)

Ingredients: 2 medium pears (peeled, cut in halves and cored), a pinch of sea salt, 1 cup of water, malt.

Marzipan: 1 cup ground almond powder, apricot jam, 1-2 drops natural almond essence.

Garnish: orange slices, fresh mint.

1.) Place the pear halves with the water and salt in a cooking pot and simmer until soft.
2.) Mix the ingredients for the marzipan to obtain a paste. Stuff the pear halves and place two halves face down on each individual serving plate.
3.) Pour a few drops of apple juice or malt on top of each pear, garnish and serve.

Case Study

Marylyn M

Marylyn, a 49-year-old secretary, had started to develop a range of debilitating menopausal symptoms. She discovered she had a fibroid the size of a grapefruit and was advised to have a hysterectomy. She decided to decline the offer of surgery, and first try a natural diet and life-style under my supervision.

Symptoms: Severe back pain, due to a condition of stress and imbalance of the kidneys, plus long-standing itching and running ears, which needed regular syringing, also directly related to her weak kidney condition.

She also suffered from extreme fatigue, depression, a small patch of eczema on the face, lack of concentration and poor memory.

She was very tense, with a history of heavy smoking, alcohol abuse and an excess consumption of dairy products. She was no longer smoking and had enormously reduced her alcohol intake, but she still lived on and loved cheese, gold top milk, yoghurts, egg sandwiches and marmite. She would constantly nibble hard salty cheese prior to menstruation. Her menstrual cycle had begun to shorten, but was not giving cause for concern.

A diet was formulated to help regenerate her kidney energy, and at the same time cleanse her body of the deep accumulating effects of excess of eggs and dairy products.

The natural diet style recommended an abundance of a variety of lightly cooked vegetables, sea vegetables and some whole grains. The protein was provided by mainly vegetarian protein (from a variety of beans and vegetable proteins such as tofu, tempeh and seitan), as well as some seeds and a small amount of white fish.

Some specific dishes, drinks and compresses were also recommended to help with the cleansing process.

Energetically (and physically), fibroids are merely a collection of fats, combined with, of course, emotional and mental unprocessed issues. Marylyn's fibroid had taken many years to accumulate and was a result (at a physical/ dietary level) of past extreme eating and a lack of fibre and vegetables. In her new diet, oil was reduced as well were a lot of raw fruits and cooling juices, which can have a cooling effect, freezing existing fats. Cooked fruits were recommended instead for a while.

Marylyn's pain subsided and her ear condition improved dramatically. Her progress was monitored on a monthly basis. Our energetic needs keep changing and as they do so, we can't follow the same directions as a few months previously.

When Marylyn visited her GP for an examination six months later, she was delighted to be told that the fibroid had halved in size.

Over the course of the next few months, Marylyn's energy levels continued to rise, her cycle lengthened and other symptoms were considerably. She had a further medical check after another six months and was told that the fibroid was now so small that it was difficult to locate. An operation was deemed unnecessary.

As her symptoms gradually improved and totally disappeared, her diet was extended and relaxed to be part of a life-style that could be maintained as a natural way of life.


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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;;

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