Occasional stories, food and travel inspiration

Occasional stories, food and travel inspiration

Yoga, butterflies and cumin lamb salad

Lamb Salad with Spicy DressingSpicy dressing

Over the years I’ve learned that regular exercise is not an indulgence but a necessity for both my physical and mental health. So every week I practise hot yoga, a type of yoga based on Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga, in a room heated to 38 degrees Celsius. No matter what my diary is like I try to fit in three classes a week: some weeks I manage three, other times I only make it to one or two and on a couple of occasions I’ve managed four.

If you’re the type of person who is always juggling multiple projects or who finds it difficult to switch off yoga can be tremendously helpful. Sure, I love what it does for my upper arms, core and bottom but what I like most about yoga is the way it centres and grounds me.

Yoga teaches me to present in the moment — not reflecting on the past or planning for the future as is often the case — but completely present. It encourages kindness, compassion and self-acceptance. It’s taught me that stillness should not be mistaken for inactivity, that strength is often hidden and that flexibility is healthier than rigidity. We’re designed to move, not to stand still.

The poses and the intensity of each class ranges from teacher to teacher: some favour an energetic practice with lots of quick movements while others focus more on slow, strengthening poses. Some days I leave completely drenched with sweat and other times I am only mildly perspiring. Either way, after each class, I feel tired but invigorated.

Towards the end of each practice we students lie in Savanasa (Corpse Pose) on our mats. As we lie on our backs with our arms a little out from our sides with palms facing upwards, our feet slightly apart and our eyes shut, the teacher will often recite a poem or saying.

This was the reading in my class yesterday:

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.
One day a small opening appeared.
He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours
as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole.
Then it stopped, as if it couldn’t go further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly.
He took a pair of scissors and
snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon.
The butterfly emerged easily but it had a swollen body and shrivelled wings.

The man continued to watch it,
expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge
and expand enough to support the body,
Neither happened!

In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around.
It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand:
The restricting cocoon and the struggle
required by the butterfly to get through the opening
was a way of forcing the fluid from the body
into the wings so that it would be ready
for flight once that was achieved.

Sometimes struggles are exactly
what we need in our lives.
Going through life with no obstacles would cripple us.
We will not be as strong as we could have been
and we would never fly.

I don’t know who wrote this piece but it’s a wonderful reminder that struggles can be the making of us. So as you face this week’s challenges, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re one step closer to flying.

Lamb Salad with Spicy Dressing
Capsicums or Sweet peppers
Lamb Salad with Spicy Dressing

Cumin Lamb Salad with Spicy Dressing

When I’m practising yoga four times a week I eat extremely healthy food, drink lots of water and even manage to get to bed before midnight. The thought of eating junk food doesn’t even enter my brain because I’m feeling so good. This dish is exactly the type of food I crave when I’m looking after myself – high in protein, full of flavour and with plenty of vegetables.

If I was serving this only to adults, I’d add a teaspoon each of crushed Sichuan peppercorns (pulverise them in a mortar and pestle) and dried chilli flakes to the marinade in a homage to my beloved Xinjiang Lamb Skewers. But because my kids love lamb cutlets and would be cross if they missed out, I’ve kept the chilli heat to the dressing which chilli lovers can add themselves. Enjoy!



  1. Wash and pat dry lamb.
  2. Place lamb in a medium bowl and add cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly and leave on kitchen bench to marinade for 30 minutes.
  3. While the lamb is marinating, prepare salad ingredients.
  4. Heat up a grill pan until smoking and then add lamb.
  5. Cook for around 3-5 minutes each side (turn once only to get nice grill marks) on a medium heat. I like my lamb medium so opt for a shorter cooking time.
  6. To make dressing, mix vinegar, chilli oil, garlic and chilli (optional) in a small bowl.
  7. Once lamb is cooked done, rest on a wooden chopping board and let cool slightly
  8. Arrange rocket, baby, tomatoes and cucumber on a large platter and then place lamb on top. Garnish with coriander and serve with dressing.


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