Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer Conference of the Kushi Institute of Europe

A very long time has passed since the last post, I know, I was very busy (in a creative way of course!).
I'd like to write a little bit about a subject which keeps to fascinate me - macrobiotics. My first contact with it was ages ago. My husband, after heavy antibiotic treatment against boreliosis, suffered from acute sinusitis. The doctors proposed another antibiotic therapy, which he - already soaked with medicines - rejected. Finally he recovered using only the macrobiotic remedies and diet. He received the valuable advice and recipies from people running the macrobiotic center in Wroclaw (Poland), very active at that time.
I started to learn macrobiotics seriously when Max showed symptoms of a food allergy (skin irritations, mucus in poo). He was refusing to try the solid foods and I was very frustrated with that. No jars and other ready to use baby food, I couldn't understand it.
We visited a very wise doctor when he was eight and a half months old. She concentrated on me (I was breastfeeding) and advised dairy free (except eggs and butter) and low gluten diet (no wheat), without processed food and artificial ingredients (E-numbers), with some supplements and probiotics. It was like a revolution for me but it worked! I felt a lot of energy and creativity. Max's allergy symptoms were gradually disappearing.
I took part in the macrobiotic cooking classes and finally I came up with ideas how to prepare nutrious (and delicious!) meals. Max has got used to them. Frankly speaking it was a long process but really worth doing...
Macrobiotic dishes are simple, made from scratch, using only the best ingredients. It is known as a wholefood diet, with a brown rice, miso soup. Grains consist 50% of the meal, 20-30% vegetables, 5-10% beans, beans products and sea vegetables, 5-10% soups and for occasional use: fish and seafood, nuts, seeds, fruits and other natural snacks. I learnt how to use miso, soy sauce, tofu and tempeh, seaweed (kombu, wakame, hiziki, arame...), umeboshi plums, kuzu... Max who is now three years old knows all of those.
Of course I had to adapt it and create gluten free version. It wasn't too difficult, I just eliminated wheat, rye, barley and oats (and I'm very careful with soy products). I found so many new ingredients intriguing by names, taste, smell. Variety was the key. And we aren't straight (in macrobiotics), call us flexible and open minded.

As an example the Max's breakfast: millet with broccoli and gomasio

- 1 cup millet
- 4 cups water
- 2 spoons amaranth
- 1 broccoli
- gomasio
- flaxseed oil
- lemon juice
- a pinch of salt
- 1 spoon ghee
I always soak millet overnight in some acid solution (usually sauerkraut juice), it helps to remove phytic acid. Then it needs to be washed and boiled together with amaranth and a pinch of salt (it takes only 30 min). I like to cook it in bigger quantity so I have it for two, three days (stored in a fridge), it's handy.
Broccoli is steamed and sprinkled with lemon juice, flaxseed oil and gomasio.
Before serving I put a spoon of ghee into millet , it makes it more nutritious and tasty (we love the flavour!). Simple and always a very satisfying meal.

Since when I've started learning macrobiotics I dreamt about going to the Kushi Institute of Europe, to meet the pioneers in this subject, to feel the spirit of this movement... It was possible this year (thanks Dad!) and together with my two Polish friends we attended the Summer Conference in a pine forest in Holland.

A lot of inspiration, new possibilities. It was a very nice holiday for me, I needed it so much (you know, being without a child for the second time since he was born). No animal food during this time and meals so delicious (yummy desserts!). An example of lunch (photo below): Lebanese rice with vermicelli and pinoli, falafel with tahini sauce, mixed fresh salads with olives,dessert - melon mousse.

There was a controversial lecture given by the director of the Institute, Adelbert Nelissen, "Cause and Cure of Gluten Allergy" but more about it next time...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Places we like in Dublin

Definitely Food Co-op at No 12 Newmarket. Keywords: people, food, shopping, small, local, organic...Friendliness in the air. We like to go there on Saturdays for shopping and lunch. Usually there is a lot of other parents bringing their kids. Max loves to play chase with them :-) People seem to know each other very well. In the "Freedom Cafe" the veterans and apprentices of the sustainable lifestyle sip their fair-trade coffee and chat lazily. It's so relaxing and optimistic. That's why I'm a little bit addicted to this place :-)

What gluten free products can be found in there? Apart from vegetables and fruits, there is always a vendor of gluten free baking - nice Austrian man selling also grain's mills. However, for Max's lunch we prefer to bring our own flask of home-made warm soup, the fear of contamination is strong...
Anyway, for today's recipe I have something essential in my mind, like friends and good food, all in one place. One word - gomasio. Do you know it? No, not yet?

It's one of the principal condiments in macrobiotic cooking (which I'm still learning). It is also called a sesame salt.
All you need is sesame seeds (unhulled if possible) and sea salt, also a suribachi (a japanese mortar) or a mortar and pestle.
The proportion of salt to sesame seeds depends on age and level of physical activity. For extremely active adults 1 part salt to 8-10 parts sesame seeds and for small children 1 part salt to 16-20 parts sesame seeds is OK.
How to do it? According to my Polish teacher of macrobiotics:
- wash seeds carefully using a very fine mesh strainer (in Ireland I always buy organic sesame seeds which are clean so I don't wash them);
- soak 8 hours with a little bit of salt;
- wash and roast (when wet) using a frying pan (medium heat); dry seeds burn easily, be careful because it's easy to overroast them (in this case they are bitter and not good);
- roast the salt (it releases moisture from the salt and helps to make fluffy gomasio);
- place the roasted salt in a suribachi and grind until it becomes a powder;
- add the hot (grind easier) roasted sesame seeds to the roasted sea salt in suribachi;
- grinding should be slow in a circular motion until each seed is half crushed and coated with salt; if you grind gently , gomasio would be sweeter.

It keeps fresh for 10 days if it is in a fridge (in a glass jar). Avoid making too much at a time, better to have fresh every week.
Sometimes we eat it very quickly. We probably need calcium (sesame seeds contain more calcium than cow's milk!).
And slow, careful grinding is a good meditation, isn't it?
And the strong nutty smell during grinding!
And the simple and pure form of suribachi!
All my senses are delighted :) I'm fulfilled.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Layer cake strikes back

A few days ago we invited our neighbours for a coffee and cake. The cake recipe was almost identical to the original one, save one layer of sponge was prepared using the rice flour. It came, well - more spongy than the one made from corn flour and its colour was identical to "normal" wheat-based sponge. In the future I'll stick to the rice flour, except tortillas of course ;)


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Inspiring... must read!

Reading this book took me some time. With Max, who doesn't have even a 15 min nap during the day, it wasn't easy. Of course he wanted to read it too!
Thanks a million (as the Irish folks say) Shauna! I found your absolutely fantastic website just by chance, googling for: "gluten free kid Ireland". It was the last step before starting our blog, you just encouraged us! I'm so happy about having your book and the possibility of reading about your exciting life (not to mention the recipies).
My childhood in Poland (seventies) was completely different. My mother cooked the majority of meals from scratch. I had a warm soup every day, always the seasonal vegetables and fruits. I used to spend my summer holidays on my grandmother's farm, being in a deep contact with nature.
Then came the eighties, which meant the martial law and economic crisis in Poland. Empty shops, people queueing for everything, but I was lucky having the family in the countryside. They always had fresh milk, eggs, poultry, potatoes etc. You can't imagine how creative people were at that time, whether in cooking or thrifting.
With the nineties and the economic progress, there began the consumption in the Western style. Supermarkets slowly pushed out the small shops and even our mothers became their loyal customers (how sad).On the other hand the farmers markets are still popular and it is getting easier to buy organic products every year.

Back to the book with that wonderful energetic cover. It's about a passion for life and also an amazing real love story, I haven't read about for a long time. Shauna, you are like a delicious strawberry-rhubarb muffin in the middle of summer :-) :-) Thanks a million once more!
And below the recipe for muffins, unfortunatelly this year without strawberries (because of Max's allergy test results*).
We don't have much experience in the gluten free baking (frankly speaking almost in any baking). Up to now Max's diet consisted mostly of the cooked meals.
The first GF muffins were a challenge for me. I found this recipe (thank you Christan) which we tested succesfully several times, playing with ingredients and proportions.

Rhubarb muffins (makes 12):

Dry ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup corn flour or millet flour (you can ground millet flakes in a coffee grinder)
  • 1/4 cup potato flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Wet ingredients:
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk or any other which you could use in your diet or just cold water
  • you can add desiccated coconut which was left after making the milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • some vanilla (I use a stick)
Rhubarb chopped into cubes.

First blend wet ingredients well, then mix slowly with dry ones and add chopped rhubarb.
These muffins don't grow as much as the "normal" ones so you can fill the muffins tins about 3/4 full.
As you probably noticed there is no xanthan gum or other modifiers!

Play with this recipe and enjoy the results!

*) This winter Max was tested and that's why we know that strawberries, peaches and birch pollen are allergens for him. He should avoid them.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

What is the Taste of Dublin?

I'll try to describe Dublin using the food analogies. It's both metropolitan and provincial at the same time, like... new Irish potatoes with fresh dill, roasted salmon (from morning delivery in the harbour), mushrooms, some herby aromatic salad with vinaigrette sauce and a glass of wine? All served in a sophisticated way in a small apartment in Howth (thank you Gosia for the inspiration in April 2007, my first time in Dublin).

On the 12th of June, holding proudly the VIP tickets (thanks to my husband's Boss) , we went to the opening evening of Taste Festival. Soon after entering the Iveagh Gardens we abandoned our initial plan of interviewing the exhibitors about the gluten free food - any delay in serving those tiny portions would have caused riots among hungry people waiting in lines.
We expected a lot of Irish artisan food, local produce (slow food, not to mention the organic stuff), but the reality was disappointing. Max was able to count them all on his (one hand) fingers.

The choice of what to spend on our florins (festival currency) was very tough - there was over 100 stalls with food and drinks (a lot of chocolate and alcohol) but only a few things worth buying. Do you know this feeling when you take part in some event by chance and you discover that you don't fit to the place, people ? It's my experience.

I liked Clodagh McKenna's demonstration which reminded me the Italian holidays (aubergine and goat's cheese rolls, baked gubeen cheese with thyme and rosemary, summer roast asparagus salad).
In the end, I was given a small punnet of local raspberries (Tesco stall) for Max. I couldn't believe they are in season (!) but their producer was there and he swore they were 100% Irish :-) Next day Max ate this dessert:

Raspberries with almond "cream":
  • a small punnet of raspberries;
  • handful of almonds;
  • cinnamon;
  • fresh ground golden linseed;
Almond "cream":
soak the almonds overnight (not so much water, just to cover them!), peel the skin and blend well everything (water from soaking and almonds), you can add some honey if you like more sweetness.

Put a little bit of fresh ground golden linseed on the bottom of a plate, then raspberries and the almond cream and cinnamon on top.

Max ate all the raspberries, we didn't even try one...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Back to Dublin - where is the summer? Myself and Max spent the last three weeks in Poland - we are Polish (yes, a lot of us in Ireland now). We come from very beautiful city of Wrocław. Everybody has probably heard about Warsaw or Cracow, but believe me, Wrocław is the most friendly. And inhabited by dwarves.

The abundance of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables at the Polish markets now: asparagus, strawberries, cherries (just beginning)... Temperatures about 30 degrees C, Sun, I miss you! A lot of meetings, talks and this deep feeling of being in between... Two homes, two countries.

Let's start from asparagus. A little luxury in life :-) Great for your kidneys and generally good for a body detox, still in season. Unfortunately they are very expensive here and seem not very popular. But, if you can, buy them now remembering that the best are the freshest ones growing locally.

I prepare soups or simply roast (this method intensifies the flavour) them in a little olive/sesame oil or ghee. They have a unique taste and may be boiled or steamed too and served with a nice sauce (e.g. tamari soy sauce, a little grated fresh ginger, roasted sesame seeds). I always add some fresh herbs like rocket, dill or parsley, some spices (freshly ground green pepper!), roasted almond flakes and what else my imagination wants at given moment.

Max's favourite dish in Wrocław was an asparagus soup with polenta:
  • 1,5 l stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 small parsnips
  • 1 onion
  • ghee (olive oil)
  • handful of almonds without a skin
  • 1 bay leaf, 1 allspice, salt
  • miso or tamari soy sauce
Sauté the finely diced onion in a little ghee (or olive) until soft (it gives sweeteness), add diced parsnip and stir for a while, then add cut asparagus (remember to remove tough ends and pare the skin when you have the white variety), almonds, stock, bay leaf and allspice. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then you can blend it (Max prefers not blended).
Season with salt and pepper, add a lot of finely chopped fresh dill before serving. Optionally add miso (I prefer shiro miso) or tamari.
We love it with chickpeas (boil them separetly earlier) and polenta. Our favorite way or cooking polenta:
  • 1 cup of polenta
  • 3 cups water
  • sauted (in olive oil or ghee) finely diced leeks (or onions)
  • a piece of pumpkin cutting to squares
  • salt and thyme (or rosemary)
Mix polenta with hot water (slowly), then add leeks and pumpkin, season with salt and thyme. Pour into a flat cake tin and put into a pre-heated oven (180 degrees C) for 30 mins.

Smacznego! Enjoy!


P.S. My dear friend, Ania S., do you remember this meal?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Who gives a damn?

Last week I've sent an e-mail to the organizers of "Taste of Dublin" festival, asking whether any of the exhibitors would offer gluten free food/dishes. I haven't received any answer yet.
I just wonder, are they too busy? They don't know? They don't give a damn? Nobody else has asked (and they consider Irish gluten-free food market not profitable enough)?


P.S. I'm going there anyway and I'll let you know.