Ma Po Tofu

Serves 4

Cooking time: Less than 30 minutes.

Try something new! This dish mixes Chinese and Modern Australian cooking.


2 teaspoons cornflour

½ cup (125ml) chicken stock

1 tbsp Chinese rice wine

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp chilli bean sauce

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

2 tbsp peanut oil

300g pork or beef mince

600g silken firm tofu, well drained, cut into 16 cubes

3 green onions (shallots), thinly sliced on the diagonal

Steamed rice, to serve


  • 1. In a small bowl mix cornflour with a tablespoon of water to form a past. Stir in chicken stock, rice wine and sugar. In another small bowl combine soy and chilli bean sauces with garlic and ginger. Set both aside.
  • 2. Heat oil in wok on high. Stir-fry pork for 2 minutes, until browned. Add soy sauce mixture and bring to boil. Add tofu cubes and gently stir in stock mixture. Simmer for 1 minute, scatter with green onions and serve with steamed rice. Enjoy 🙂

Lentil & Mushroom Au Gratin


2 tablespoons oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 ¼ cups red lentils

2 ½ cups water

2 tablespoons shoyu

Salt and pepper

Mushroom filling:

30g margarine

250g flat mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tbsp chopped parsley

¾ cup grated cheddar cheese



Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, carrot and celery and fry gently for 10 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining ingredients, with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 30 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Melt the margarine in a frying pan, add the mushrooms and fry for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic, parsley and salt and pepper to taste and mix well.

Place half the lentil mixture in an oiled shallow ovenproof dish. Spread the mushrooms over the top, then cover with the remaining lentil mixture. Top with the cheese and bake in a preheated oven at 1900C, for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

Serves 4


An effort, but delicious!

Serves 10 or more


3 ½ cups (875ml) chicken stock

40g butter

1 small onion, chopped

1 ½ cups (300g) arborio rice

½ cup (125ml) dry white wine

1/3 cup (25g) grated parmesan, plus 1 tbsp extra

2 eggs

1 tbsp olive oil

60g button mushrooms, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

200g lean beef mince

¼ cup chopped parsley

1 cup (70g) fresh breadcrumbs

Rice bran oil, to deep fry

Tip: make bolognaise separately


1. Make risotto by heating chicken stock in saucepan, until simmering. Keep hot. Melt butter in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3 mins, stirring until softened. Add rice and stir for 1 min, until translucent. Add wine & stir until evaporated.

2. Add 1 ladle of stock, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Repeat with remaining stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly for 15-20mins, until rice is cooked. Remove from heat & stir through parmesan and 1 lightly beaten egg. Season to taste. Spread rice onto a baking tray lined with baking paper to cool completely.

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a frying pan on high. Cook mushroom & garlic, stirring for 5 mins. Add mince and cook 5 mins, until brown and moisture evaporates. Stir in parsley, remaining egg and extra parmesan.

4. Divide cooled risotto mixture into 12 portions with wet hands, take 1 portion in your palm and make a small well in the centre. Place 1 tbsp of mince mixture in centre of rice. Fold over rice to enclose mixture and shape into a ball. Repeat with remaining rice portions and mince mixture. Roll balls in breadcrumbs and set aside.

5. Heat rice bran oil in a large saucepan on high until a cube of bread sizzles on contact. Deep fry rice balls in batches for 4 mins, turning, until golden. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately.

Easy Potato & Leek Soup

Easy Potato & Leek Soup

Serves 4

4 tbsp butter

2 cloves crushed garlic

2 leeks

4 potatoes (1/2kg)

8 cups chicken stock

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

450mls milk (or soymilk)


  • 1. Clean & chop the leeks.
  • 2. Melt the butter in a pan and add the
  • 3. leeks and garlic. Fry them over a low heat until the leeks are soft, about 10mins, stir frequently.
  • 4. Peel the potatoes and chop them into cubes.
  • 5. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan, except the milk.
  • 6. Bring the soup to a boil and then let simmer for 20minutes.
  • 7. Just before serving, pour the milk into the soup and stir well. Serve.

Roast Pumpkin & Potato Soup

Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4


1 butternut pumpkin (approx. 1 kg), seeds removed and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon dried chillies
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
500g Desiree potatoes
Sea salt and black pepper
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1 tablespoon butter
1 brown onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, skin on
1.5 litres of vegetable stock
¼ cup thickened cream (see tip)


1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the pumpkin in a baking dish and drizzle with a little of the olive oil. Sprinkle with dried chillies, fennel seeds and salt and pepper. Cut the potato into wedges and also place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and scatter with thyme leaves. Bake pumpkin and potato for 35-40 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

2. Heat a large heavy based saucepan, add the remaining olive oil and butter and fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the pumpkin and potato and mash. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat and simmer for 10- 12 minutes.

3. Blend until smooth with a hand held blender or food processor. Return to the pan and reheat if necessary. Stir through the cream and season to taste. Serve with cracked black pepper.

Elaine’s tip: This soup is chunky, delicious and low-fat unblended and without cream (just skip step number 3!).

Barley & Vegetable Soup


Barley and Vegetable Soup

This nutritious, warming and slightly bitter soup is particularly helpful for promoting fluid and fat metabolism.

Elaine’s tip: If you’re short on time omit the barley, the soup can then simmer for 20 minutes only.

¼ cup barley

2 tablespoons oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery sticks, thinly sliced

3 carrots, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 turnip, chopped

1 cup green beans, cut into 2.5cm lengths

bouquet garni

6 cups water or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon shoyu/ soya sauce

salt and pepper

4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley


Soak the barley in cold water to cover for 1 hour. Drain well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and fry until softened. Add the celery, carrots, garlic and turnip. Cover and cook gently for 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.

Add the soaked barley, green beans, bouquet garni, water/stock, shoyu, and salt & pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, until tender.

Add the tomatoes and parsley and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and serve.

Roast Vegetable & Chickpea Soup

Roast vegetable & chickpea soup

Serves 6

2 (500g) eggplant, cut into 2 cm pieces

2 small (500g) organge sweet potato, peeled, cut into 2cm pieces

4 (500g) zucchini, cut into 2 cm pieces

2 red onions, cut into wedges

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, crushed

400g can diced Italian tomatoes

4 cups salt-reduced vegetable stock

2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained, rinsed

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

  • 1. Preheat oven to 230oC. Line 2 large roasting pans with non-stick baking paper. Place eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini and onions in a large bowl. Add oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss vegetables well to coat. Spread vegetables evenly over trays and roast, swapping trays after 30 minutes, for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden and tender. Sprinkle garlic on top for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  • 2. Place roast vegetables, tomatoes, stock and 2 cups water in a large saucepan. Simmer, partially covered, over medium heat for 20 minutes. Using a potato masher, roughly mash vegetables. Stir in chickpeas. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until warmed through.
  • 3. Remove soup from heat. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
  • Tip: Soup can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Cost per serve $2.37

Treatment Options for Crohn’s & UC

Treatment Options for Crohn’s & UC

Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a unique, natural, effective and gentle approach to the treatment of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). It can be used as an alternative, or complimentary to standard Western medical intervention. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is very useful in the treatment of chronic problems, whilst Western Medicine is particularly useful in the treatment of acute conditions. There is much that needs to be done to improve outcomes for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Many people find that a complimentary medicine approach can do just that.

Ulcerative Colitis Patients Find Better Relief With Acupuncture Than With Drugs

“While some doctors prescribe medications to reduce the swelling associated with ulcerative colitis, there is no known cure for the condition, which has led scientists to study other possible remedies, including acupuncture. In fact, the results of a recent study suggest that acupuncture is superior to drugs in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, with more acupuncture patients reporting complete relief of symptoms and a higher overall effectiveness rate compared to patients taking anti-inflammatory agents”.1

Research extract: One packet of the Chinese herbs were taken orally two times per day. In addition, a retention enema was used consisting of Chinese herbs. Results were assessed after three successive courses. Based on certain criteria, the cure rate was 61.45% and the total effectiveness rate was 90.36%.2

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views and treats inflammatory bowel disease somewhat differently to current orthodox Western Medical practice. TCM holds that each patient is to be viewed as an individual, with a strong connection between mind and body, and to his/her environment. This approach can be a great strength and help to patients suffering with Crohn’s and UC since we all know that chronic conditions do affect our state of mind, our families, and our ability to function in life. TCM sees no other way to address and resolve a health problem.

To introduce you to how TCM perceives, prevents and treats Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, it is first necessary to explain some of the fundamentals of TCM theory. An effective way to do this is to look at nature. Our planet spins around its geographical axis, having a geometric field with a North and South pole. The same magnetic force field is present in every living cell, each with its positive and negative pole. The human body as a whole similarly has its own force field. In China it is called qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is made up of energy that is in constant motion.3

Qi flows through pathways in the body called meridians, which connect to our internal organs. In order to have a healthy body and mind, qi needs to be in abundance and circulating freely. Balance is also required. The Chinese use the terms yin and yang to measure balance in health and life. Yin and yang refer to relative polarities in nature. Yin pertains to night, rest, passivity and femininity. While Yang pertains to assertiveness, activity, day and the masculine.

Essentially, a TCM practitioner assesses the state of Qi, Yin & Yang in a presenting patient. This is mainly done by asking questions, looking at the tongue, feeling the radial pulse and the abdomen. For cases of Crohn’s and UC, the internal organ systems are paid particular attention. For chronic non-malignant inflammatory bowel disease, I usually see a presentation that TCM identifies as a ‘Spleen deficiency’. Common symptoms of this are frequent and severe diarrhea, watery stool with undigested food, dull abdominal pain, poor appetite, poor digestion and gastric discomfort after food intake, fatigue and lethargy due to chronic malabsorption and malnutrition. Common signs are a pale face, pale tongue with a white coat.

Both Western and Chinese medicines recognize the importance of diet and its role in prevention and treatment of IBD. Western medicine acknowledges that dietary intake of certain factors (such as excessive chemicals or lack of fibre) may be linked to increased incidence of bowel inflammation, while Chinese medicine recognizes that dietary intake with excessive cold or raw food may injure the spleen and stomach.4

TCM also recognises and addresses the effect that emotions, lifestyle and eating habits have on the bowel. In addition to avoiding the wrong food, I also advise my patients to have adequate calorie and fluid intake as malnutrition and dehydration are common problems associated with IBD.

Not all presentations of Crohn’s and UC are treated in the same way. TCM treatment could incorporate herbal medicine, acupuncture, laser acupuncture, acupressure, or electro-acupuncture to activate the homoeostatic mechanisms of the body. Literally hundreds of different herbs can be used for the treatment and prevention of Crohn’s and UC. To optimise safety, effectiveness and compatibility with other herbs, supplements and or pharmaceuticals, I strongly advise you to have Chinese herbs prescribed by a Chinese Medicine practitioner.

I help my patients to develop a lifestyle that supports and maintains the benefits of the treatment. I approach this using a fusion of Eastern and Western theory, ancient and modern techniques. Some of the general key points are:

  • Minimise the intake of dairy products
  • Eat at regular times
  • Avoiding over-eating
  • Avoid worrying
  • Practice abdominal massage

A more detailed general dietary guide is available here (insert link to dietary page). A holistic and individualised approach is best taken, so see a TCM practitioner for specific advice.

There is much that needs to be done to improve outcomes for people with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. An integrated approach of Western and Chinese Medicine may be a great help to you.

To find a qualified TCM practitioner in your area, call the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association on 1300 725 334.

Alternatively, contact my practice in Melbourne on (03) 9486 5966 or via


Dr. Elaine Hickman

B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac (Beijing).

Registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine



1 Ma X. Acupuncture treatment for 76 cases of ulcerative colitis. Journal

of Traditional Chinese Medicine December 2005;25(4):264-265.

2 An article published by Zhang Bei-qin, et al.,

in Xin Zhong Yi (New Chinese Medicine) issue no. 4, 2003. Titled “A Study of the Therapeutic Efficacy of 38 Cases of Chronic, Nonmalignant

Ulcerative Colitis Treated by Jian Pi, Wen Shen Qing Chang Tang,” this

article appeared on pages 27-28 of that journal.

3 Listen to Your Body. B. Guo & A. Powell, 2001, p.3-4

4 John K. Chen, PhD, PharmD, OMD, LAc

Crohn’s Disease: Western and Oriental Perspectives, Part II

Herbal Medicine for Crohn’s or UC

Herbal Medicine for people living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis

Most cultures, including the West, have a continuous history of the use of substances from nature to treat illness. Until recently, most Western medicines were based on plants and other natural substances. Herbal Medicine is becoming increasingly popular and accepted as, if used properly, it is safe, natural and very effective. Herbal Medicine can be used to assist people living with Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis by boosting the immune system, improving general wellbeing, and decreasing inflammation in the bowel. Many drugs commonly prescribed for these conditions have potential adverse side effects. It is therefore important to identify well tolerated medicines that can help induce and maintain remission.

Note: Herbal Medicine can be used safely in conjunction with pharmaceutical drugs. All you need is accurate information and advice. The best source of this information is your treating gastroenterologist, GP, or herbalist. Self-administration without professional advice can be ineffective or dangerous. Even though most specialists and GP’s have no training in herbal medicine, they will receive information about any reactions and contraindications between medicines. A qualified herbalist, either Chinese Medicine Practitioner or Naturopath, will be able to prescribe herbs which could help you.

Herbal Medicine is the use of mostly plant parts (leaves, twigs, bark, roots and seeds) to treat illness. There are specific herbs and supplements which can be used to decrease inflammation in the gut, protect the lining of the bowel and boost immunity:

  • 1. Turmeric
  • Turmeric may have a protective role in ulcerative colitis through regulation of oxidant/anti-oxidant balance and modulation of the release of some inflammatory agents.1
  • 2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Some studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, may reduce inflammation in people with Crohn’s Disease. More research on omega-3 fatty acids is needed, especially at differing doses, because not all studies have found a positive effect. There were no serious side effects in any of the studies.2
  • 3. Glutamine
  • Glutamine is an essential amino acid is known to play a key role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal mucosa (lining). Glutamine supplementation has been shown to reduce intestinal permeability (Hond 1999), prevent mucosal atrophy and maintain gut integrity (Van der Hurst 1993).3
  • 4. Probiotics
  • Probiotics are living microorganisms that are thought to benefit health by altering the growth of bacteria in the intestines thereby reducing inflammation. Probiotics have been found to be effective in managing inflammatory bowel disease. They help control the number of potentially harmful bacteria, reduce inflammation, and improve the protective mucus lining of the gut.4
  • 5. Oral Aloe Vera Gelhas been found in studies to have an anti-inflammatory effect in the bowel.5
  • 6. Boswelliahas been found to block chemical reactions involved in inflammation. Unlike anti-inflammatory medication, Boswellia doesn’t seem to cause gut irritation that can occur with many conventional pain relievers. Boswellia should not be taken for more than 8 to 12 weeks unless under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.5
  • 7. Folic Acid

People with chronic ulcerative colitis are at greater risk of colon cancer. A study found that dietary Folic Acid supplementation significantly suppressed ulcerative colitis-associated colon cancer.5

  • 8. Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Different Chinese Medicinal Herbs are used according to the nature and severity of the inflammatory bowel disease. These herbs include: rhizoma zedoaria, caulis fibraureae, cortex moutan radicis (moutan bark), semen presicae (peach seed), radix notoginseng, radix achyranthis bidentatae, rhizoma atractylodis, cortex cinnamomi (cinnamon bark), poria, radix ledebouriellae, radix aucklandiae, radix paeoniae rubra (red peony), rhizoma atractylodis macrocephalae (Fan 1999).6

Taking a single herb or supplement can be helpful. Taking a combination of herbs can increase the effect exponentially. In fact, the most effective way to use Herbal Medicine is to take a specific combination or mixture. This can be in liquid, powder, granule, pill or raw (cook it yourself!) form. Pill form is the most popular way to take herbs because they are easy to take and don’t taste unpleasant! Over centuries (or thousands of years in Chinese Medicine’s case), herbalists have worked out how to best combine groups of herbs to maximise effectiveness and minimise (or eradicate) side effects. Just like people, some herbs will work well together, some wont. Some herbs, when mixed together will work much better than when used separately. This use of synergy, and individualisation to your particular case, is where Herbal Medicine becomes very effective. Herbal Medicine is an exact science, so dosage and ratios are crucial. One herbal remedy or supplement will not work for all cases of Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. Having a Chinese Medicine practitioner or Naturopath tailor a prescription specifically for you will give you the best results.

Herbal Medicine can be used to boost the immune system, improve general wellbeing, and decrease inflammation in the bowel. Seeing a qualified herbalist who has the skills and experience to help you can be life changing. Since I was asked to write an article for ACCA in 2006, I’ve treated many people with Crohn’s and UC. 95% of those patients had very positive changes in their symptoms, most within 4 weeks. I’ve helped people significantly reduce their medication needs. Treatment is relatively low cost, and in some cases, after an initial consultation and prescription, herbal pills can be posted to you, with only a brief follow-up consultation needed to assess your response and review the prescription. The best practitioner will give you herbal medicine that works, that can be easy and convenient to take.

By Dr. Elaine HickmanB.H.Sc. TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac (Beijing)

Freedom Chinese Medicine

261 Waterdale Road, Ivanhoe, Victoria 3079

Ph. 03) 9486 5966



  • 1. Kumar S, Ahuja V, Vishnubhatla S, Prasad K, Kumar A. Curcumin for maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 3.
  • 2. Turner D, Zlotkin SH, Shah PS, Griffiths AM. Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) for maintenance of remission in Crohn’s disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1.
  • 3. Srinivasan R, Akobeng AK. Glutamine for induction of remission in Crohn’s disease (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4.
  • 4. Butterworth AD, Thomas AG, Akobeng AK. Probiotics for induction of remission in Crohn’s disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 3
  • 5. Ulcerative Colitis Remedies By Cathy Wong, Guide Updated February 14, 2008
  • 6. Gan T, Wang Y, Jin SJ, Tian L. Traditional Chinese medicinal herbs for induction of remission in ulcerative colitis (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 4.


Turner D, Steinhart AH, Griffiths AM. Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) for maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 3

De Ley M, de Vos R, Hommes DW, Stokkers PC. Fish oil for induction of remission in ulcerative colitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. 

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