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Our Inner Fire

by Montse Bradford(more info)

listed in food, originally published in issue 106 - December 2004

Let's sit quietly for a moment, close our eyes and imagine a flame inside us.

What kind of shape, colour, size and intensity is that flame in you? Is that flame burning happily, or is it a very small one, hardly alive. Or is it almost out of control and burning with an overwhelming intensity?

We all need to take care of our 'Inner Fire', the power in us that gives us vitality, strength and passion for living. Without that spark in us, it would be difficult to go along in our path of Life. There are many ways to keep this spark alive and well. A very simple, basic way is to supply good quality food to our physical body every day. The quality of that food will be used as a fuel to maintain our Inner Fire.

In the depth of winter, our physical body needs warming, gathering and strengthening effects. We can supply these effects by choosing which foods we eat. If we choose to eat lots of salads, tropical juices, ice creams, spices and raw foods etc. which have the effect of cooling and dispersing the internal heat, our body will not be at ease with the environment around. If we choose to nourish our body with more pulses, whole grains, seeds, nuts, cooked vegetables and in general more protein and good quality oils, our body will be able to adapt easily to the cold months ahead. This is why in general we prefer more salads in the summer and hot soups or casseroles in the winter.

The way in which we cook also has an effect on the food, e.g. the amount of fire that we use and the length of time we cook it for. There are many cooking styles, each of them creating different effects in us. If we have a grated carrot this will give us a cooling energy, very different from baking or stewing the same carrot, which will generate more internal heat, nourishing our internal fire.

A good way to prepare our bodies for the coldest months of the year is to honour this energetic principle, using cooking styles that require longer time and a slower flame to cook.

Sometimes we feel uninspired with lack of ideas to cook our veggies, opting for the easy solution e.g. just steaming. Yes, steaming is a healthy way to cook our vegetables, but not the only one! Steaming will create a very relaxing effect, very appropriate for the evening meal after a busy working day. However our Inner Flame needs dynamic movement too, strength, warmth, depth and power to keep burning.

I suggest you alternate different, warming cooking styles for your daily winter meals such as: Stewing, Long sautés, Baking, Casseroles, Hot-pots and Steaming. These cooking styles enhance the sweet taste in the root and round vegetables which nature offers us in such abundance at this time of the year, as well as creating a deep warming effect in our bodies.

We can also use daily other cooking styles which will generate a dynamic movement in us such as: Stir-frys, Quick Sautés, Boiling or Blanching. We can use these quicker styles, especially for dark leafy greens, to give us the lightness and crunchy texture that we also need, but without the cooling effect which raw foods will generate.

If our Inner Fire is dull, very small, shy or passive, with cooler colours, we definitely need more warming and strengthening foods – more time and flame in our daily cooking. We are all short of time, but organizing ourselves is the key factor e.g. Stews and Hot-pots can be made simply, with quick preparation time and put on to cook for tomorrow's dinner, at the end of the evening (e.g. when you are washing up) and left to cook gently for half an hour. Then they can be kept in the fridge, ready for when you get home tomorrow.

A very good way to strengthen our immune system and start preventing all these unwanted colds and flu which appear after our festive and entertaining period (from excesses and consumption of extreme effect foods), is to respect the seasons by providing the energetics and effects that our body needs.

Keep imagining and visiting often your 'Inner Flame', you will be surprised how different it can be, how it changes according to how we eat, think, feel. It's up to us to nourish it!

Here is a hearty and healthy, winter vegetarian dish for you to try:

Winter Vegetable Hot-Pot

1 pack seitan (natural wheat protein) or tofu or tempeh, cut into chunks;
2 onions peeled and cut into quarters;
2 carrots cut into medium rounds;
1/4 small white cabbage, cut in large pieces;
1 bulb fennel or 2 stalks celery cut into medium pieces.

1 Tblsp olive oil;
3 bay leaves;
Dried thyme or other herbs;
Mugi miso (or natural soya sauce).

• In a heavy pot warm a small amount of olive oil and sauté the onions with the bay leaves and a pinch of sea salt, uncovered for 2-3 minutes;
• Add the seitan (or other vegetarian protein), vegetables, other dried herbs and a small amount of water to cover the bottom of the pot. Simmer slowly for 30 minutes;
• Remove a small amount of cooking liquid and mix with the mugi miso to dissolve, then add it to the pot. Simmer for a further 2-3 minutes;
• Serve hot with boiled or blanched seasonal greens and pasta or rice.


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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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