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» star anise organic wholefoods

traditional wholefoods for a modern world

Filtering by Tag: probiotics

Additional spots now available in my 2 upcoming fermentation workshops


I managed to get 10 extra vegetable presses from my supplier so I can now take on 5 extra people at this Sunday's 8th Feb workshop and 5 at the Sunday 22nd February workshop. For details on the workshops and how to book please click here. Apologies to all those people who I previously told that the classes were fully booked- now is your chance to book in!  


What is resistant starch and why you should consume it


IMG_2474Resistant starch is all the rage right now in the ancestral health community. I have been receiving numerous enquiries over the past few months about resistant starch and how to consume it. Firstly I want to point out that I don't follow trends. I try to understand the science behind something before I alter any of my lifestyle choices. So let's start with the science and a potted summary of gut health because this is where it all begins....

  • Our health depends on the health of our gut (by "gut" I'm referring to the Gastro-Intestinal tract that runs from the mouth to the anus).
  • The health of our gut in turn depends on the balance, number, location and strains of bacteria that live there (this bacterial film is often referred to as our microbiota, microbiome, or gut flora).
  • The bacteria that live in our gut span the spectrum of good or friendly bacteria (called probiotics or 'old friends') on the one hand and bad bacteria (pathogens) at the other end of the spectrum with a heap in between.
  • The good guys should outnumber the bad guys by 85% to 15%. The location of that bacteria is really important: they should mostly be in the colon, the large intestine.
  • When the balance or location or the different strains of bacteria is out of whack, our health is compromised, either in some minor way (eg reduced immunity leading to colds and infections. NB 75% to 80% of the immune cells in the body are in the gut, so changes to your gut microbiome are absolutely going to affect your immunity and your ability to fight off infections) or acutely (eg SIBO, leaky gut, brain and/or skin disorders, autoimmunity).
  • There are a number of factors that affect our intestinal bacteria, diet being one of them (others include antibiotics, the sterility of our environment, C-section versus vaginal birth, the contraceptive pill, acid-stopping drugs, smoking, the use of colonics, environmental toxins, pesticides, heavy metals).
  • Anthropological evidence shows that many strains of good bacteria that appeared in our hunter-gatherer ancestors have permanently disappeared from the modern gut today. We pass on our microbiome down to our children through birth from generation to generation so the state of our health and our lifestyle choices today will affect the health of future generations. As Chris Kresser recently put it "if we change or eliminate certain species of gut flora that have been living in our guts for millions of years or hundreds of thousands of generations and we wipe them out, we’ve permanently changed essentially what it means to be human because we have 10 times more bacterial cells than we do human cells, so it’s a big deal."
  • I wont go into all the details on what the good bacteria do for our health but without them we can't survive and we need them for strong immunity, healthy digestion, good brain function, healthy skin, calm nervous system, and a well-functioning metabolism.

A diet rich in lacto-fermented foods provides natural probiotics (good bacteria) that populate our gut. But once the good bacteria are there these essential little critters need to be kept alive and kicking. Enter prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food for the probiotics already in our gut to keep them alive and healthy. So we need a diet rich in both probiotics (to populate our gut with new strains of good bacteria) and prebiotics (as their fuel source). Fortunately a nutrient-dense traditional wholefoods diet can provide, for most people, a good source of both without resorting to over the counter supplements. I always try to obtain my nutrients from wholefood sources wherever possible. Prebiotics are generally classified into three different types: non-starch polysaccharides, soluble fiber, and resistant starch (RS).  Each of these types of prebiotics feeds different species of gut bacteria, but of these, RS is most recently donning the spotlight for its ability to lower blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity (which contributes to fat loss), act as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and maintain the integrity of our gut by decreasing intestinal permeability. RS is a type of starch that is not digested in the stomach or small intestine, reaching the colon (the large intestine) intact.  Thereby “resisting” digestion.  This explains why RS does not result in spikes in either blood glucose or insulin, and why we do not obtain significant calories from RS.  Once RS reaches the large intestine, bacteria attach to and digest, or ferment, the starch.  This is when we receive the benefits of RS.

Examples of RS include:  

(a)  starch found in grains, seeds, and legumes; (b) starch found in raw potatoes, green (unripe) bananas, and raw plantains.  Cooking these foods causes changes in the starch making it digestible to us, and thus removing the RS; (c) retrograde RS since this type of RS forms after RS found in foods listed in (a) or (b) above are cooked and then cooled for 24 hours.  Examples include cooked and cooled parboiled rice, cooked and cooled potatoes, and cooked and cooled properly prepared (soaked or sprouted) legumes.

IMG_2478Since many of my clients and people who follow a nutrient-dense traditional wholefoods diet do not eat much if any grains, seeds and legumes, and since raw potatoes and green unripe bananas are not so tasty and since plantains are rare as hens teeth in Australia well that just leaves cooked and cooled potatoes as our most practical wholefood source of RS. To that end I have put together the following 2 simple recipes incorporating cooked and cooled potatoes that I am now incorporating into my and my kids' diet:

In the coming weeks I will also post recipes for avocado and raw salmon nori rolls and Greek rice pudding (both incorporating cooked and cooled white rice- properly soaked then rinsed before being cooked then cooled).

Kids typically love all of the above dishes so adding them into your culinary repertoire shouldn't be a hardship. They are a convenient lunch box idea (obviously make them the day before) as well as fun summer time food perfect for picnics and easy dinners when you don't feel like eating hot food. At it's most simplest level you could get into the habit of adding some chopped potatoes to your evening steamed veggies then pop all or some of them in the fridge to be consumed the following day in kids' school lunch boxes and into your salad for lunch. Just a thought.

How often do I eat cooked and cooled potatoes? At least once  if not twice a week. A little less often in the case of cooked and cooled white rice.  So I guess this has been a change for me, in a practical sense, since reading about RS. I'm not sure how important the 24 hours of cooling is prior to consuming the cooked and cooled potatoes. In my household sometimes these dishes get consumed in less than 24 hours of being cooked but if you can be a little organised and prepare ahead of time then all the more power (and prebiotics) to you!

To read a more comprehensive article on prebiotics and RS written by Chris Kresser click here  (I have essentially condensed and summarised the punch lines for you in this blog post). In his article Chris points out that if you are on a low carbohydrate diet or don’t tolerate potatoes well you can add RS to your diet via unmodified Potato Starch (NOT potato flour), plantain flour and/or green banana flour (by adding to cold or room temperature water, almond milk, or mixed into smoothies). His article comes with the usual caveat that if you suffer gastro-intestinal tract distress with even small amounts of RS, this may be an indication of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or microbial dysbiosis, and you may need to consider working with a healthcare practitioner to establish a more balanced gut microbiome through the use of herbal antimicrobials and probiotics before adding RS or other prebiotics. To that end for those of you living in Sydney I highly recommend working with a holistic practitioner on the same nutritional page such as integrative GP Dr Min Yeo or natropath/herbalist Anthia Koullouros (both at  Ovvio Paddington 5 Ways). If you live in Melbourne I have a list of like-minded practitioners that I can email you.

Potato salad with home-made mayonnaise


IMG_2474 IMG_2475IMG_2477Cooked and cooled potatoes are an excellent source of resistantIMG_2476 starch, a prebiotic that helps feed the probiotics (good bacteria) in our gut. To learn more about resistant starch, and why you should consume it, read my blog post here. Potato salad is one easy and yummy way to incorporate cooked and cooled potatoes into your diet. It readily lends itself for school or work lunches, eaten straight from the fridge as leftovers or prepared ahead of time for every day dinners, dinner parties or picnic lunches. Ingredients:

1 potato, cut into 1cm cubes (approx 150g) ½ carrot, cut lengthways then into rounds ¼ cup peas (you can buy frozen organic peas in most organic shops) 1-2 rashes of pastured bacon or rounds of diced pastured ham (optional) tallow (or natural fat of choice) for frying bacon 1-2 tablespoons home made mayonnaise (see recipe below) unrefined salt cracked pepper


 Steam potato, carrots and peas until soft. Add to a bowl. Meanwhile dice bacon and stir fry in a small saucepan in tallow (or fat of choice) until cooked. Add to the bowl. If using ham instead of bacon add it to the bowl. Mix ingredients in bowl to combine. Refrigerate for 24 hours to allow resistant starch properties of the cooked and cooled potatoes to form. When ready to consume, stir through mayonnaise and season with any additional salt and pepper.

Serves 1-2 depending if consuming as a side or a main.

Note: I tend not to peel the skin on potatoes unless they are particularly grubby / full of soil. This typically depends on the variety of the potato. Sometimes a little scrub with a brush and water is enough to remove excess dirt.



3 egg yolks 1 tsp Dijon style mustard 1.5 tbsps lemon juice 1 tbsp whey (optional) 1/8 tsp unrefined salt cracked pepper ¾ cup olive oil


Blend together all ingredients, other than the olive oil, with a hand held blender. With the blender still running, very slowly pour in the olive oil a little at a time. The result should be a thick creamy paste.

Makes 1 cup. Keep refrigerated. Without the whey, mayonnaise will keep for about 2 weeks. The addition of whey will help your mayonnaise last longer, adds enzymes and increases nutrient content. With the whey, mayonnaise keeps for several weeks in the fridge and will become firmer with time.


Spanish omelette (Tortilla Espanola)


Cooked and cooled potatoes are an excellent source of resistant starch, a prebiotic that helps feed the probiotics (good bacteria) in our gut. To learn more IMG_2478about resistant starch, and why you should consume it, read my blog post here. Spanish omelette is one easy and yummy way to incorporate cooked and cooled potatoes into your diet. It is a typical Spanish dish consisting of egg omelette with potatoes. In my creation I’ve added black pudding or chorizo for extra nutrient-density and some cherry tomatoes and parsley for colour. I like to serve this dish cold to take advantage of the resistant starch properties of cooked and cooled potatoes. It readily lends itself for school or work lunches, eaten straight from the fridge as leftovers or prepared ahead of time for every day dinners, dinner parties or picnic lunches.


2 large or 4 small potatoes (approx 500 grams) 8 eggs 1-2 tablespoons cream (optional) 1 black pudding (blood sausage) or chorizo, sliced into thin rounds (approx 150g), (optional) 1 large red onion, sliced (or brown onion if red not available) 12 (approx) cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or ½ large tomato, diced) handful of parsley, chopped unrefined salt cracked pepper 1 tablespoon tallow 1 tablespoon butter (or fat of choice)


 Preheat grill on high. Thinly slice potatoes and steam until soft (approx 10-12 minutes).

Melt tallow in small frying pan on low heat. Cook the black pudding on each side until browned (or cook underside on the stove top then transfer to the oven under a heated grill element to cook the top side). Leave in steamer until ready to use.

Meanwhile melt the butter in a large frying pan on low heat. Add the onions and sauté until golden brown stirring occasionally. Take approximately half of the onions out and set aside. Add the cooked sliced potatoes, and place the onions and parsley on top.

Blend eggs (and cream) with stick blender until well mixed. Pour egg mixture into the frying pan on top of the potato mixture. Scatter the cooked black pudding/chorizo and cherry tomatoes into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the underside of the omelette on the stove top before transferring to the oven under a heated grill element to cook the top side until golden. Once the top side is golden brown take out from the grill and if the eggs still haven’t set (test by tilting the frying pan to see if the eggs are still runny) then place back on the stove top on very low heat and cook until the mixture is set.

Keeps in refrigerator for a couple days.

Serves 4 as a main or 8 as a side.

Note: I tend not to peel the skin on potatoes unless they are particularly grubby / full of soil. This typically depends on the variety of the potato. Sometimes a little scrub with a brush and filtered water is enough to remove excess dirt.


Instead of cooking this in a frying pan you could all the ingredients in a greased oven-proof baking dish and bake in the oven at 120 degrees Celsius for 1 hour or until set.

Lacto-fermentation workshop: 11 September 7:30pm


goat curd on cucumber slices with salmon roe I'm running another lacto-fermentation workshop next Wednesday 11 Sept 2013 for a small group of people. I am advertising to offer spots available to anyone else who might like to join us who has an interest in learning how to make probiotic-rich fermented foods.

We will be covering how to make:

(a) sauerkraut (b) kefir (Turkish yogurt) (c) cream cheese and whey

sauerkraut in progress

Lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir and goats curd are high in beneficial bacterial and enzymes which aid in establishing healthy gut flora –  essential for healthy digestion, strong immunity, weight range, metabolism, stable mood and brain function.  We will cover what fermentation is, the interaction of pathogens (harmful/unfriendly bacteria) and  probiotics (good/friendly bacteria),  and the numerous health benefits of probiotics that are found in home-made fermented foods that have served traditional cultures for millennia. For more information on the benefits of lacto-fermented foods and what I will cover in my workshop refer to one my earlier blogs here.

Cost is $120 per person and includes:

  • vegetable press for making sauerkraut (valued at $35 wholesale price)
  • packet of Nature’s Goodness kefir probiotic culture (valued at $10)
  • information based on the latest scientific research
  • detailed handout with step by step guides and recipes
  • practical demonstration
  • hands-on experience
  • food tasting
When: 7:30-10:30pm Wed 11 Sept 2013 Where: 77a Hewlett Street, Bronte.
Spaces limited due to limited number of vegetable presses. 
RSVP:  To secure a spot contact or 0407 871 884 and deposit $120 (referencing your name and ‘LF course’) into my bank account:
Account name: star anise organic wholefoods
BSB: 062 267 Account no: 10166103

Please feel free to forward to any friends or family members. Cancellation policy: once funds are deposited into my bank account they are non-refundable but can be transferred to another cooking class/workshop upon 48 hours notice.

Ellen poundin' the cabbage at kruat making workshop

Sara at kraut making workshop

Making kefir