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Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

August 2, 2010

Simon and Garfunkel were certainly on to something when they wrote that song, and this month we’ll be exploring exactly what they were on to, which is (of course) the healing qualities of herbs. Well, amongst other things.

Herbs are known for their therapeutic qualities, delightful fragrances and lovely tastes. They were used in cooking and for medicinal purposes long before modern science came along which always makes me think that those old witches we read about must have known a thing or two about the real magic of these plants.

Mint, which is one of the herbs we’ll be exploring, is associated with the Greek myth of the nymph known as Minthe who was dearly loved by the god Hades and became his concubine. Queen Persephone, however, intervened and turned Minthe into a fragrant herb.

Mint is known for its soothing digestive qualities which is great for anyone with indigestion, a stomach ache or irritable bowel syndrome. A few drops of mint essential oil in hot water can also be used to relieve colds and sinus-related illnesses by breathing it in. Its culinary uses are as diverse as its varieties and it can be used in soups, with potatoes, in fruit salads, cold drinks and hot teas, to name a few. Our recipe this month is Apple and Cinnamon Mint Tea which can be served hot or chilled. So you can enjoy it as a hot drink during this last winter month and then serve it cold to celebrate spring next month. And the great thing about mint is that it is really easy to grow in your own garden and it is also cheaply available all year round in almost any store.

The other herb we will be looking at is rosemary. This herb, like mint, is used for the relief of stomach ache and is a natural diuretic. It is also known to both prevent and reduce cancer and in days long gone, it was a symbol of fidelity between lovers. Brides wore rosemary garlands on their heads and around their wrists as a pledge of their commitment. And those witches who knew a thing or two used burning dried rosemary to chase away dark spirits and clear the air. Many people still make use of this old ritual.

Our recipes this month will show you how to infuse oil with rosemary and we will be using it specifically to flavour olives. This recipe is easy to make, relatively cheap and it makes a great gift! The second recipe is a veggie bake that satisfies in all the right ways. Happy cooking and brewing!

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Apple and Cinnamon Mint Tea

This gives a nice twist to the usual old thing. And it really does make winter just a little more enjoyable.

Ingredients

2 cups of water

A handful of mint

2 cinnamon sticks

8 cardamom pods

8 cloves

2 tbsp brown sugar (or to taste)

40ml lemon juice

½ a Granny Smith apple, cut into slices

Method

Place all the ingredients into a pot and bring to boil over low heat. When the tea starts boiling, remove it from the stove and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. This allows the flavours to combine properly (but if you really can’t wait, you can serve it). After 30 minutes, bring the tea to boil again. Now strain the tea through a colander. Place fresh mint, the used cinnamon stick and a fresh slice of apple in your cups. Pour the mint tea into the cups, discarding the rest of the ingredients. Please remember that as yogis we try to be mindful about our own lives, the lives of others and what is good for the planet, so please use what you discard in your compost heap!

Serves two.

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Rosemary and Garlic Olives

You will need a glass bottle for this recipe. I wash and keep all glass jars and then re-use them. That way my olives never look the same twice! And I never know how much I’ll end up with or if I can fill two bottles and give one away as a gift. And so I am reminded that true magic is usually found in very ordinary things.

Ingredients

500ml olive oil or sunflower oil (Don’t be fooled, sunflower oil works just as well!)

As many garlic cloves as you like! I like a lot. Always peel enough to at least fill the bottom of your jar.

10 sprigs of fresh rosemary (As mint, rosemary is also available all year round.)

2 packets Calamata olives

Method

Wash and dry your rosemary sprigs. Use the sprigs only once they are dry and then place them into a glass jar or bottle. Now place the oil and garlic in a saucepan and warm it over low heat. Do not bring the oil to boil. Oil loses its nutritional value when high temperatures are used. Dish the garlic cloves into the bottle first and then add the olives so that your bottle is filled about ¾. Now add the oil and allow it to cool down. Once it has cooled, you can seal the bottle and place it in the fridge. You can infuse olive oil in the same way by simply not adding the olives. This can then be used in salads, pastas, or even to flavour popcorn.

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Rosemary Veggies

This recipe is made in foil so ensure that you have some handy before you start. The great thing about this recipe is that it needs almost no washing up afterwards – helpful for busy bodies!

Ingredients

6 rosemary sprigs

2 big fresh tomatoes or 4 smaller fresh tomatoes, sliced

1 cup broccoli

1 cup cauliflower

1 cup mini-carrots

½ an onion, sliced into rings

½ cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced

4 heaped tbsp hummus

Sundried tomatoes (I use the marinated ones)

1 lemon slice for garnishing, halved

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. Cut two big pieces of foil. Place the foil either over plates or on the counter. Now place the fresh tomato slices, onion, garlic and rosemary on the foil. Add your salt and pepper and add a little bit of the olive oil to each plateful. Now add the broccoli, cauliflower and mini-carrots on top and add the rest of the olive oil. I usually add a little more pepper at this stage as well. Place two heaped tablespoon measures of hummus on top of each serving. Close the foil into packets and place the servings in their separate foil packets in the oven. It takes approximately 35-45 minutes to be ready. You can open a packet and check about 35 minutes in and then decide if you’d like to leave it in for another while or whether it’s ready to be served. Once ready, take the foil packets and place them in plates. Now open them, add about 3 slices of sundried tomato and ½ a lemon slice to add the final bit of flavour and garnish your dish. Serve while hot.

Serves two.

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ChantelleChantelle Roelofse works as a cognitive linguist at Unisa, but also loves playing piano and composing music. She teaches yoga at the Yoga Revolution studio, focusing on power yoga and surya namaskara classes. She is interested in the philosophy of yoga and how we can incorporate it in modern living. Chantelle supports ethical living and veganism. Roeloc@unisa.ac.za

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