Fresh Guava Salsa

Fresh Guava Salsa

Guava is definitely what is called "an acquired taste", but I think that's not true. You either like it or you don't. And I happened to love it!
That's why I've planted two trees in my orchard. And when both of them decide to bear fruit, it's overwhelming even for me. I try to make everything that I possibly can from guavas, and still have more left that I don't get around to eat. I eat one or two straight from the tree for a pre-breakfast, a couple more for snacks throughout the day, I put them in smoothies (so delicious with strawberry, banana, mango, coconut milk, etc.); I put them in fresh salsa to go with our breakfast (along with fresh green chili, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice). This is something that does not seem to need a recipe but here it goes - and feel free to substitute guava for any fresh fruit you love! i.e. mango, pineapple, peach, and whatever else you have in season. Succulent fruits are the best, but guavas, being creamy and all, work just fine with a little help from the tomato and that also makes for a fresh salsa that keeps in the fridge for a few days without becoming too soggy. 

1 large guava 

1 large size tomato, with the stem "naval" removed

1 small sweet onion (white)

juice from half a lime

a pinch of salt

a handful of chopped fresh cilantro (spearmint will also go well here)

one small green chilli (i.e.: jalapeño, or a hotter chilli if you like your food hotter), seeded and sliced 

- Wash and dry all the vegetable and fruits

- Seed the guava by removing its core with a table spoon or a grapefruit spoon (you really don't want to accidentally bite into one of those seeds while trying to chew on all your other food, it would hurt). Mince the guava flesh thinly, or grate it on a coarse grater 

- Remove the stem and "naval" from the tomato and mince it

- Remove the seeds from the green chili pepper, and slice it thinly

- Mince the sweet onion

- Mix all that you've chopped so far, sprinkle with salt and add a squeeze of a half a lime

- Chop the cilantro very thinly

- Add the cilantro and mix well just before serving 

- This fresh fruit salsa is fantastic with quesadillas, tacos and as a "dip" for nachos. It's also good as a small side salad or condiment with other dishes, such as white fish, rice and beans, etc.   

Harvest Tamales

Harvest Tamales

Tamales are an ancient Mesoamerican steamed dumplings, made from masa harina wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, and usually stuffed with either meat, beans or vegetables. It is not only an easy to carry provision, but also has significant ritual meaning. It was served as offering to the gods, and copal incense shaped as tamales were placed in the mouth of the dead before burying, and is to this day served as an offering to the ancestors on Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico.  

Tamales can be stuffed with anything really, but here I bring you a fall favourite: tamales with sweet potato and chestnut filling. They have a savoury and sweet taste and are a treat all around. They can be steamed in both corn husks and banana leaves (although each wrapper requires a different kind of prep and a slightly different wrapping technique). 

For the masa, I'm giving you my recipe for one that is based on store-bought dried up masa harina. It's a very similar dough to that used for making corn tortillas, only a bit softer and with the addition of baking powder and more oil or fat (your choice which kind). 

The filling can be made with either orange or purple yams, with an equally delightful flavour. 

2 cups masa harina (specialty corn flour that was processed with lime)
1-1/2 to 2 cups warm water
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2-4 Tbs grapeseed oil, sunflower oil or another nutritious and neutral tasting oil; or butter if you wish
- Measure the masa harina, salt and baking powder together, and mix with a fork
- Gradually add 1-1/2 cups of water, not all at once, and the oil, and knead with hands. Add up to another 1/2 cup if needed. The dough should be soft but not sticky (if too sticky add more masa harina)
- Divide the dough into 20 even sized balls and set aside, covered with a towel to prevent drying. If you're using corn husks, you may need to make more smaller balls. 

2 medium sized yams (or 4 small sized), either purple or orange 
1/2 cup pre-boiled and shelled chestnuts (I used the entire content of a vacuum package) 
1 medium purple or sweet onion, chopped
1/4 tsp chipotle chilli pepper, powdered, or chipotle pepper paste
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
a pinch of cinnamon
Salt to taste
Oil for sautéing 
- Wash and steam the yams until soft. I like to keep the peel on (that's where all the vitamins are, and it adds a nice texture and flavour)
- Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and are golden-brown and significantly shrank in size but not burnt
- Chop the chestnuts
- Cut the steamed yams into cubes and mix with the spices, onions, and chestnuts

Now it's time to start forming the tamales!
If your'e using corn husks, blanch them in boiling water to soften them. Flatten the masa ball into a small flat disk on the palm of you rhand, place a teaspoon or so of filling, close with your fist and place inside the corn husk, folding the bottom to close it. 

If you're using banana leaves, run the leaf briefly over an open flame to shrivel it, wipe clean with a wet cloth, then remove the leave's spine and cut each side into appropriate size pieces. Best way to go about that is try one for size, make sure it is wide enough to encase a tamale, and then use that as a guide for cutting all the other parts. 
For forming the tamales, place the leaf on a tortilla press, place a masa ball on top, layer it overtop with a plastic sheet (to prevent sticking to the top of the press), then place a spoonful of filling, and wrap the tamale from all sides, using the banana leaf to shape it and fold and then close it in. 

In both cases, the tamales should arranged in a steam, with the open side up, a. d steamed for about an hour. To make sure there is always enough water at the bottom of the pot, and prevent scorching, place a couple of coins in the bottom of the pot. If you don't hear it rattling, it means the water run out and you need to add more. 

Serve hot or room temperature, these are delicious on their own but even better with a spicy salsa to balance the sweetness. Or with a homemade molé amarillo. 

Pumpkin Pie, The Vegan Edition

Pumpkin Pie, The Vegan Edition

Pumpkin pie is one of my favourite desserts in the world - it brings such fond memories and is so delicious I could eat it for breakfast!
The inspiration for this vegan version for the beloved dessert is the famous, delicious and healthy vegan pumpkin pudding served at Shizenya restaurant in Vancouver, based on kabocha pumpkin and coconut cream, and topped with maple syrup. 

Unlike most pumpkin pies, this is not flavoured with any pumpkin spice, but is relying purely on the pumpkin's natural flavour. So make sure to use one that actually is flavourful to begin with (kabocha is aguably one of the best, but butternut squash could be used as well). And instead of boiling it down, either roast it or steam it for maximum flavour and minimum about of liquids.

For the crust, I chose to go with roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), which give an extra nutty flavour, but without any nuts or gluten. So it's truly a safe heaven for many common food allergies, and does not compromise flavour or texture. 


  • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 Tbs pumpkin seed oil
  • 1-2Tbs coconut or palm sugar

Pumpkin Custard Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups coconut cream or milk
  •  1 1/2 cups (about 400 g) Kabocha pumpkin puree (or another flavourful pumpkin of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  •  1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil (Optional)
  •  1 3/4 teaspoon agar agar powder

Pumpkin Pie Decoration (Optional):

  •  A few whole, toasted pumpkin seeds
  •  Pumpkin peel, julienned 
  •  Maple syrup
  • Pumpkin oil from toasted seeds (should be a dark green colour, with an amazing nutty flavour)
  • Salt


  • Wash pumpkin, remove seeds and cut into cubes
  • Steam until a fork can easily go through
  • Mix the agar agar powder with 2-3 tablespoons of hot water in a small bowl. 
  • Toast the pumpkin seeds lightly over a pan, remove from heat and allow to cool
  • Prepare the crust, by mixing all the ingredients in a food processor (except set aside a few pumpkin seeds for decoration, if desired)
  • Press them onto a pie pan and place in the fridge
  •  Place the cooked pumpkin in a pot and mash it with a potato masher, and add the bloomed agar-agar.
  • Mix the pumpkin and agar-agar until very smooth and cook on the stove on low heat for about 2-3 minutes until complete dissolved. Allow to chill slightly and place in a lender or food processor on high-speed to finish it off into a very smooth consistency
  •  Pour the filling onto the pie crust and allow to chill for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the julienned pumpkin skin, by frying them in a pan with a little bit of pumpkin oil until crisp. You may add some salt if you wish 
  • To serve, drizzle some maple syrup, dot with pumpkin seed oil and decorate with a few whole pumpkin seeds and julienned pumpkin peel 

Kolnisch Jüchten (Johann Maria Farina)

Kölnisch Juchten literally means “Russian Leather Cologne”, implying that leather could be manipulated or distilled to an eau de cologne format. What we get instead is suprisingly resembling Shalimar with that contrast of amber and begramot, yet also a hint of animalics lurking underneath, and a surprisingly daring dose of patchouli. 

These “Russian Waters” open with the acrid smell that hits anyone who enteres an art-supplies store with a whiff of nostalgia, complete with pencil shavings, wood and paper of all types, wood frames, canvas, paints and inks. But this dryness is very short-lived, and there’s such a hefty amount of bergamot contrasted with patchouli and vanilla, that it got me thinking the origin of this creation has more to do with the amber-colognes that pre-dated the advent of the Opulent Ambers, with which they all share an ambreine accord. There is only a hint of the smokiness of birch tar, much less than we find in Shalimar, which never played up its leatheriness, although it is very much there.  

Top notes: Bergamot, Virginia Cedar

Heart notes: Violet Flower (Ionones) 

Base notes: Patchouli, Birch Tar, Vanillin

Traditional Incense Crafting Course 2022

Traditional Incense Crafting Course 2022

I'm asked time and again if I am planning to teach an online incense course. For now this is not in the stars for me. But I'm happy to refer you to my colleague and friend Evan Sylliaasen of the Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine.

There is still very limited time to join the Traditional Incense Crafting Course this Autumn. So if that's something you've been thinking of learning, this is a good time to make this happy. Another related course he is now offering is titled Botanical Resins & Gums

Evan has a thorough yet simple style of teaching, and I admire his philosophy, with his background in herbal medicine and both practical experience and spiritually attuned approach to both teaching and working with aromatics. He is very knowledgeable, has integrity, passion and an approach that takes into account the well being of the plants, people and the planet.

Anyone who is passionate about plants, herbalism, aromatherapy and incense would benefit from studying under him, even if only virtually. This is a unique opportunity to learn an ancient art form, as well as the know-how for bringing it to your community and work with your own local plants and resins to create the plant medicine int your life and to those around you. 


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