Thursday, 21 May 2015

Living with my gallbladder – some low fat recipes

One of the last things said to me by the discharging doctor last November, was, “I want you to see the dietician about a low fat diet.” Several hours later a smiling young woman appeared by my bed and handed over a leaflet. The first half was entitled, “Foods you can eat” and the second was “Forbidden foods”. The word, ‘forbidden’ had been crossed out and replaced with ‘foods to eat sparingly or avoid’.

So out of my life went cream, cheese, hummus, deep fried foods, nuts, seeds and most things containing fats. I could have half a pint of semi-skimmed milk or a pint of skimmed. Oily fish was a no-no but I could have salmon once a week.

I soon realised I was brought up on a low fat diet. My mother couldn’t tolerate fat with her duodenal ulcer, so we weren’t exposed to it. It’s probably why my gall bladder has never functioned properly and why I was ill every time I went away to a conference!

She never made a roux, she added a flour and milk paste to boiling milk to thicken a sauce, so that’s the way I’ve always done it. She taught me to remove all the fat from meat juices before making gravy so that’s what we do. The leaflet told me to make gravy from vegetable water, which I do, but to throw away meat juices. Blow that for a game of solders! (as my mother would say!)

I’ve always used good fats and know they’re important for my overall health. I don’t want my joints creaking because I’ve ceased to oil them! Now I just use less of them and notice when there are consequences to eating something which means I should pay attention.  I still spread butter on my toast or bread but in sparing amounts. There’s no way I’m using industrial low fat spreads, thank you very much!

Mushrooms cooked in milk and butter in the microwave, which used to be a staple lunch for us, is not a good idea but I can tolerate mushrooms fried in a small amount of sunflower oil with grilled bacon either for lunch or as part of a “full English” breakfast. I still fry onions and red peppers, garlic and ginger as the basis of most of my cooking (soups, stews, bolognaise sauce etc.). When you make ten pints of something at a time, a tablespoon of oil is not a huge amount and can easily be tolerated.

Spices are not a problem, so I’ve used them and low fat coconut milk or yoghurt and tomatoes to make tagines, curries or just to spice things up a bit. When you don’t have fat to provide flavour or umami, you have to search elsewhere. Now I’ve got access to fresh herbs in my garden again, I’m also throwing large amounts of marjoram, lovage and mint into most of my cooking when I want a lighter and delicious flavour.

Here are three recipes I’ve adapted to keep my gall bladder happy.

Nettle Impossible Quiche
1cup semi-skimmed milk
4 eggs
1/5cup flour
1 onion
1 red pepper
2/3 cloves garlic
1 drained small can of tuna or 2 slices of cooked ham cut into small cubes.
2 large handfuls of young nettle tops and leaves or spinach/kale/other greens
Large handful of herbs (parsley, basil or a mint/marjoram/lovage mix)
Grease a large round dish. Dice the onion, red pepper and garlic and sweat in a small amount of oil in a small frying pan. Wilt the nettles on top of the onion mix for about five minutes by putting a lid over the frying pan. Drain any liquid from the pan before adding to the batter. Dice the cooked ham or strain the tuna and break up into flakes. Whisk the eggs with the milk then add the flour and season well to make a batter consistency. Chop the herbs finely then add all the other ingredients to the egg batter so everything is well mixed. Pour into the prepared dish and cook in a moderately hot oven for around thirty minutes until well risen and set. It will flatten after you take it out of the oven. Serve with salad and crusty bread hot or cold or with vegetables for a main meal. This freezes really well and can be cut up into single portions before freezing.

Ham and Sweetcorn Soup
8oz cooked ham cut into small pieces
4 large potatoes peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
2/3 garlic cloves crushed or peeled and sliced
1 small chilli or 1 inch root ginger, peeled and diced.
1 tin sweetcorn, drained
2 tblsps Worcestershire sauce
Handful of herbs (parsley or marjoram and lovage) finely chopped
Sweat the onions, red pepper, garlic and chilli or ginger until soft. Add the potatoes, herbs and ham and cover with water and season well. Bring to the boil and simmer until potatoes are cooked. Add the strained sweetcorn and heat through.
This is a substantial soup which can be enjoyed with or without bread.

Mushroom Soup
1lb mushrooms
2 large potatoes
2 carrots
2 celery stems
1 onion
Wash and slice the mushrooms. Peel and chop the potatoes, carrots and celery. Peel and dice the onion.
Sweat the onion in a small amount of oil until soft, add all the other ingredients and cover with water. Season well. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour until everything is cooked. Blend and serve. This makes a delicious creamy soup without the need for a white sauce.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Another gift from violet

Violet was my first herbal ally. Prompted by the wealth of violet flowers in my own garden this year, I was drawn to making a violet flower essence during the April workshop at the Sanctuary. The weather was glorious, warm with almost constant sunshine, perfect conditions for making a flower essence.

Purple violets grow sparsely underneath the crabapple tree in front of the summerhouse where we planted them during the seventies. I’ve found scentless dog violets near the ancient willow tree and last year I noticed some new sweet violets growing in the middle of the if seeking a better home than their original shaded site.

When I went to search for flowers, all the purple ones were over. This was a disappointment but I thought to myself that if I were supposed to make a flower essence then the Sanctuary would provide the means. Sure enough, when I searched amongst the bank of daffodils, there was a group of white violets.

Until that moment, I had never seen a wild white violet in my life, yet here they were waiting for me to collect them to create an essence.

White violet was one of Dr Bach’s original flowers. It is thought to offer energetic healing to those who are uncomfortable in closed spaces and constrained environments; fearful of losing their own identity in a group; unable to embody their sensitivity in a comfortable way. The essence helps build trust in the protection of the Higher Self and benevolent spiritual forces; to help those who are highly sensitive or acutely aware of their surroundings maintain a strong sense of self regardless of the dynamics of their environment.

On such a beautiful spring day it seemed the ideal gift for me as my development has felt dry and dusty while my parents needed my support. White violet seemed the perfect flower to use on an adventure of inner spiritual journey.

The flowers were placed on the top of a jam jar of spring water and left to infuse for three hours. An amount was then mixed with an equal amount of brandy to form the mother essence.

When I held the infused liquid up to the sun, it had a turquoise tinge. On tasting it, there appeared to be no discernible taste or scent but after a few moments a definite flavour of scented violets appeared on the sides of my tongue, bringing back memories of sucking my grandmother’s violet pastilles as we lay together on the sitting room sofa for an afternoon nap when I was a very young child. I was never very fond of the violet sweets; I much preferred “iodines”!

Later that night, alone in bed, I concentrated on the white violet plant, apologising for using so many of the flowers to make the essence. I heard a very cross response.

“Do you think we would have shown ourselves if we hadn’t wanted to be used? If that hadn’t been our intention, we would have hidden amongst the grasses and you would never have seen us.” I felt suitably chastened.

 I decided to meditate using a dropperful of flower essence every day for a week to see how the interaction with the white violet essence would develop. I haven’t meditated outside the monthly world healing sessions for several years. It seemed a good opportunity and the perfect helper to reconnect.

Day 1
Unlike previous occasions, no energy flowed through my hands but I did feel the usual tingle around the back of my head which I associate with a protective spirit presence. Although I couldn’t taste the scented violet because of the brandy mask, the receptors on the sides of my tongue were again activated.
In my mind’s eye, I saw pink which turned to red which became tinged with yellow which became the deep yellow/orange of the violet’s centre. The final colour was white. I associate pink with love.
The “messages” given me were

  • The greatest protection is love
  • Stop trying so hard
  • White is the most important colour

Day 2
I took the flower essence at 7pm prior to the world healing session at 7.40pm when I was joined by four of my fellow healers. I saw white. I felt two pyramidal cones of energy (normally I feel spirals) through my hands which were initially upright. The right hand stayed upright while the left hand cone went horizontal pointing to my right through the wall for most of the session.

Messages received were

  • Don’t try, let it flow through you
  • Look to the core.

In the subsequent discussion we talked about the colours of energies. One of our members had been to a recent conference and learned some recently channelled information about the colours of energies. Orange was the colour of nuclear energy, i.e. the energy in the nucleus of cells which is the colour of the centre of the white violet.

We also talked about passed lives, parallel universes and how choices we make cause universal splits at the point of choice.

I’ve never been successful in gaining information about any of my past lives so my friend suggested doing a visualisation with the intention, “Show me those past lives useful to me now.”

Day 3
I saw green which became a white dandelion clock which became pink.


  • This is for you alone
  • Who am I?
  • Learning about self

The pink colour turned lilac then purple then back to pink. I saw different flower shapes – primrose, dahlias and chrysanthemums  Those shapes inspired me to choose a flower spirit card – Nomodiaris, a plant I’d never seen before. This gave me the phrase “I experience freedom by becoming aware and having compassion.”

Day 4
Message: How can you access magic if you’re not grounded?

Day 5
Message: You need to focus if you’re going to achieve anyting.

As my mind was constantly flitting everywhere during this meditation, I missed the following day until life calmed down a little.

Day 7

  • Yes, this exercise is like raking the debris from the top of the soil. You can see the soil underneath waiting to be used but you need to clear the detritus off first before you start working it
  • Everyone has stories
  • Everyone has tears
  • Everyone has memories
  • The important thing is to remember
  •  At the centre, the core is the pink of love. It may look fragile and ethereal but it is always there.
  • Your guides are always with you.

Finding time to meditate has always been difficult for me but this week held none of the usual frustrations. Each meditation lasted no more than fifteen minutes yet it always felt long enough.

The messages and images were all very personal rather than something to share with mankind. It is the first step along a continuing pathway after a long period of standing still not knowing where to go next.

I am very grateful for white violet’s gift of direction.