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01/06/2006 - Cooking for winter by Nick Blewett.

All life follows the natural rhythms of nature. This is observable in all facets of life such as life into death into rebirth, the rise and fall of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon so on and so forth. The seasons also follow this rhythmic cycle and according to Chinese philosophy we as humans should follow these transitions also. However, 21st century living and our modern life has a way of separating us from nature and the flow of the seasons, but with a little work and forethought we can change our lifestyles and adapt bring us a healthier more natural way of being.

One such way is the most natural of all…our diet. We can bring ourselves into harmony by observing the change of the seasons and adjusting our eating habits accordingly. Once upon a time this was easier as without freezers and mass produced preserved foods we had little option but to eat what Mother Nature intended. 

Currently in the southern hemisphere we are moving into winter. Therefore during this time it becomes important to nurture our health with those foods and cooking styles which will protect our bodies from the elements and fortify our qi, blood, fluids and essence.
Philosophically speaking, winter is the time for storage. At this time the body’s qi will naturally move deeper into the body to nourish the deeper aspects of the body and to protect itself from cold penetration. Therefore, with the qi moving inward and consolidating we must eat foods and drinks which nourish this energetic tendency and incorporate lifestyle principles which mimic these movements. The dietetic principles to be incorporated at this time are 1/. Nourish the nutritive (ying) ki and reinforce the essence, and 2/. Build defensive yang (wei) ki to protect the body against cold and pathogens. Below is some simple recipes to help you achieve this and hand on to those clients who would benefit from some dietetic therapy. 

Miso soup with fresh ginger and spring onion
Feel a cold coming on? Don’t run to the chemist or the expensive herbs just yet. If you feel the initial stage of a cold with symptoms such as sneezing and chills then Miso soup with a touch of ginger and spring onion will help. This therapy is used to treat the initial stage of a Tai Yang level cold, and is to say as soon as you feel the on set of an exogenous pathogenetic attack on our exterior, it can be warded off by assisting the Wei ki to warm and disperse. If progressive symptomology occurs, such as- body aches, watering itchy eyes, headaches, fever then specific herbs and acupuncture treatment are indicated.

Miso soup paste: Sweet & salty flavour, Neutral nature and enters the Sp, St & Kid Meridians.
Chopped spring onion or Shallot: pungent taste, warm nature and enters Lu and St.
Fresh Ginger: pungent flavour, slightly warm nature and enters Lu, Sp and St meridians.

What to do
Simmer the ginger in 2.5 cups of water for 5-10 minutes until the water has taken on the colour of the ginger. Then add the spring onion and continue simmering for a further minute or two then turn the heat off. As soon as the water has stopped simmering- add the miso paste (miso has live enzymes- boiling the paste kills the enzymes) and whisk until the paste dissolved completely.   

What it does
Firstly, the physical warmth of the decoction and the fact that miso soup has live digestive enzymes makes it easily digestible. This means that the ki of the stomach and spleen need only to do a minimum of work to gain the most out of the ingredients. Energetically, the pungent flavours of the ginger and the spring onion assist the dispersing function of the lung and aid in releasing the exterior. This is achieved by the warm nature and the propensity of these foods to enter both the lung and stomach meridians, which in turn will assist in the production wei ki by the stomach and its circulation around the body by the lung. In turn this will regulate the ying (nutritive) ki and the wei (defensive) ki by warming the chilled exterior allowing the pores to open and release the heat building in the taiyang meridian before it becomes voluminous and generates a fever, injures the ying ki further and has opportunity to move into deeper levels of the body.

Red Wine
Red wine is an excellent way to warm the meridian system during the colder months. A single glass at night before or during the night time meal can help to release cold from the surface and warm the interior by activating blood circulation and warming the middle jiao. Red wine has a pungent and slightly sweet flavour (depending on type) a warm nature and a propensity for the heart, liver, lung and stomach meridians. The propensity of wine to enter the heart and liver displays its ability to warm and activate the blood and the propensity to move into the lung and stomach meridians will warm the exterior by means of generating and circulating the wei ki.

It is advisable to limit one’s intake of wine for this purpose as to much, as fun as it can be, will generate to much heat. To much heat moving to the exterior will cause the pores to open which can inadvertently cause a dispersion of ki and fluids from the body which may, if the environmental situation is right, actually cause cold air to lodge in the exterior surfaces of the body and therefore cause a cold.  

Mulled wine is another alternative to red wine. Mulled wine is wine which is served warm and prepared with citrus fruits juices and herbs such as cinnamon and nutmeg and sometimes brandy or cognac can be added. I drank some of this time last year in Hobart after a freezing bush walk. Needless to say its ability to warm the exterior was excellent!!! Mulled wine recipes can be easily found on the internet by goggle searching. However, you are more than welcome to try out this one and as you do your research you will be ready to play and make your own.

Mulled Wine

What to use…
3 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon: as above.
1 cup Orange Juice: Sweet and sour flavour with cool nature. Enters stomach and bladder meridians.
½ tsp Nutmeg: Warming.
½ tsp Cinnamon: Warming. Releases and warms exterior.
½ tsp powdered cloves: Warming.
2 tsp Whole Cloves: Warming.
1 tsp Honey: Sweet flavour. Neutral nature. Enters stomach and lung meridians. Builds yin.
2 tsp Brown sugar: Sweet with warm nature. Enters spleen, stomach and liver meridians. Activates blood.

What to do…
Combine ingredients into a large saucepan over a low heat. Warm the ingredients slowly and carefully stirring frequently. Serve warm and enjoy.

Lamb Stew
During winter the ki moves down and deeper into the interior of the body. Moderately sized hearty meals therefore assist to tonify the nutritive ki at the deeper level whilst the warming nature of many of the ingredients means that the heat can easily radiate outward to the exterior warming the yang ki of the entire body.

Lamb (steaks): sweet flavour, warm nature and enters the Sp, Kid, and warms the middle jiao and builds qi and blood.
Lamb (Kidneys): Warms and builds kidney qi and essence.
Red wine (to taste): Pungent and warm. Warm interior/exterior by activating blood and warming the exterior.
Walnuts: Tonify the kidneys and being a nut works strongly with essence.
Carrot: Carrots must be well cooked. Tonify the spleen and aid digestion and reinforce the liver.
Potato: Tonifys the stomach and spleen
Sweet potato: Tonifys the spleen stomach and large intestine.
Leak: Pungent and warming.
Garlic: Pungent and warm with propensity for the Stomach and spleen and lung meridians. Warms middle jiao, reinforces stomach and aids digestion. 
Salt & Pepper: Salt will activate the kidney and pepper will add heat to the recipe.

What to do…
Lightly fry the lamb steaks and garlic in a large pot with a little oil until seared. Then add all ingredients and add water until almost covered. Use salt and pepper to taste. More salt will guide the flavours of the stew to the kidneys and pepper will add heat into the stew. Rice and also be added and used to form a stable base for the mix.   

What is does…
Lamb stew, cooked with lamb’s steaks, shanks, kidney’s or even liver, or combinations of these meats is all useful for deep tonification of the kidney nutritive ki whilst also building the yang ki of the whole body. While any lamb meat will suffice, lamb’s kidneys are great at deeply tonifying the kidneys and their essence. However, this can be a little distasteful for some so shanks and steaks for all purposes work fine. The red wine activates blood and warms the exterior; however most of the alcohol will be cooked off slightly reducing the actions of the wine. Walnuts being nuts assist with essence and walnuts are specifically related to the kidney. The vegetable are usually chosen to suit the individual’s tastes with exception of the garlic which is a great warming herb with a big list of medicinal actions perfect for use in the winter months. In saying this, potato’s and sweet potatoes are excellent at tonifying the spleen and stomach with some texts stating that potatoes reinforce the kidneys. Leak is another great choice because it is warming and is rich in folic acid, iron and potassium just to name a few. However, feel free to play with this recipe and add whatever vegetables or lamb meats you feel like.    

Oat Porridge
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Between 7am and 11am is the horary time for the stomach and spleen respectively which means that this is the best time of the day to fuel the body’s qi, blood and fluid production. Porridge is a great meal to achieve this since oats are readily digestible and have a stable GI rating due to oats being rich in proteins as well as carbohydrates.

Energetically, oats are warming and have a sweet and slightly bitter flavour. Oats build qi and blood and generally sooth the entire body system.

1 cup whole Oats,
3-4 cups of Water,
A pinch of Salt.
What you do…
Place oats in a large pot with salt and water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer overnight. However, this can be done much easier but using less water and simmer shorter. ie: use a 1:2 ratio; oats:water and simmer for 40minutes.

Things you can add in…
Fresh ginger: 1 or 2 slices or grated to help warm the spleen and stomach in cold weather.
Cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves: Added to taste. Helps warm the exterior.
Pears/ apples: Add at beginning to stew the fruit. This moderates the cold raw fruit and adds flavour.
Dates: build qi and blood. Natural sweetener when caramelises in the mix.  
Sultanas/raisins: Just for flavour and texture.
Pepper (pinch): Pepper is my own addition and it seems to make plain porridge taste better. 

What it does…
Being a stable, reasonably heavy meal, porridge will take a little longer to digest before leaving you feeling hungry. This is beneficial in winter because the heat energy generated by food will continue radiating outward from the intestines keeping you warm longer. Oats for breakfast are a great way to begin the day and a large serving can be easily saved and re-heated for the next day. Fruits can be added and stew as the porridge is cooked- pears are my favourite and in general tonify the lung. Chinese wolfberries can be bought at most Asian grocery stores are also good and tonify the kidney qi. However, if you like savoury meals, chicken and vegetables can also added instead to give you a great warm qi and blood building start to any cold day.    

Food for thought…
So apart from keeping warm with clothes, extra dooners, slippers, salves etc… put a little thought into what you put into your stomach as this will largely affect your over all metabolism and its ability to control your body temperature.
1/. Especially in winter use foods that nourish deeply and are warming. Foods such as chillies are to hot and may inadvertently disperse ki and fluids. Foods or drink that are cold- energetically or physically- will cause to ki and blood to be pulled away from the deeper levels of the body into the stomach for digestion and therefore be counter productive during winter when the focus is upon deeper tonification.  
2/.Eat smaller meals as this will allow less qi and blood to be moved away from the deeper levels of the body.
3/. Rest and give yourself a little more time to digest. Hint- if you’re tired after a meal you ate too much!!!
4/. If you do get a cold don’t eat a lot of meat thinking this will warm the body and expel the pathogen- doing so will cause stagnation in the intestines and will further cause the spleen to become deficient and the pathogen to move deeper into the body causing further heat and fevers which will be more difficult cure. Instead try eating light but hearty vegetable/rice gruels and keep the meals small. This will sufficiently warm the middle without over burdening the digestive system.
5/. As long as one is able to remain warm after exercise without allowing the cold and or wind to catch their sweat and cause a cold invasion- then a little exercise is a good idea after meals. Exercise at this point will assist in producing wei ki as it will cause the lung qi to move as your respiration rate goes up and in turn will help to circulate the yang ki from the food in the stomach over the surface of the body- thus warming the exterior. But don’t get cold after this or it will all be in vain… *Walking is best as it also massages the stomach meridian and is in general always beneficial after eating.

The Centre
Nicholas Blewett
2184 Gold Coast Hwy,
Miami, Qld, 4220