In the kitchen on our July weekend retreat, we will look at how to nourish our natural craving for the sweet taste. Particularly how we can satisfy our desire for sweetness with nutrient dense whole foods.

We won’t make you feel bad about or judge you for your cravings for sweet foods. Or focus solely on why sugar is bad for us. Instead, we will be celebrating the wide variety of nourishing foods that we CAN eat and enjoy.
In the Taoist Five Elements tradition, the sweet taste is viewed completely differently from modern culture. From this perspective, the sweet taste relates to the Earth element and the organ system of the stomach and spleen. This correlates to the time of the year known as late summer, the period just as the high yang energy of summer turns towards the more yin time of autumn.
The Earth element, therefore, makes up the 5th season. Representing the ‘centre’, or that which is constant. Harmonising the effects of the four seasons.
Naturally sweet, earthy foods and those that nourish the stomach and spleen benefit the earth element, in moderation.
An excess of sweet foods, refined or concentrated sugars can be damaging for the earth organs. Raw foods can also be damaging, this depends on the body type of the individual and the strength of the agni or digestive fire.
The earth element organs love warm food, that has been cooked simply and gently.
The colour associated with the earth element is yellow. Foods of this colour, alongside those that are orange, golden or that have a brown earthy hue are also appropriate.
Many fresh and dried fruits are obviously sweet, but these contain more concentrated sugars and are best taken in moderation. The lists below and our cooking classes will focus more on vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains – or foods that may not instantly be considered as sweet.

Examples of foods that nourish the earth element are:

Veggies: carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, squash, pumpkin, beetroot, yam, parsnips, turnips, mushrooms







Nuts/seeds: almonds, chestnuts, walnuts, coconut, sesame and sunflower seeds


Grains: Rice, barley, rye, spelt, kamut etc. These tonify the stomach and spleen. Choose quality whole grains and prepare them properly to aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients (by cleaning well and soaking them before cooking). This category also includes oats, buckwheat, amaranth, millet and quinoa (seeds/grasses that are used like grains).




Recipe – Millet Bake with Tahini Miso Sauce

Below is a recipe for Millet Bake (being enjoyed here at the table).

This is a hearty wholesome dish that can be eaten alone or is delicious accompanied by a simple salad and sauerkraut. For those that like a sauce, a tahini miso dressing is a perfect addition.

The bake is packed with ingredients that nourish the earth element and are easy to digest. These are balanced with ingredients that balance the dish and represent the other 4 elements.

This is actually a very simple dish to make. It pays to have all the components prepared before you start. Have a stock ready, your vegetables cut and sauteed, greens chopped and millet toasted. Then it is just a matter of assembling and baking.



Millet – The amount will depend on the size of your oven dish. Pour enough millet into your baking dish and generously cover the bottom to gauge your amount.

Leeks or Onion – finely chopped

Ginger – finely chopped

Carrots – grated

Courgette – grated

Squash and/or Sweet Potato – grated

Spinach/Chard or Kale – finely chopped

Veg Stock – homemade from veg trimmings, kombu seaweed and dried shiitake mushrooms

Wakame or Arame seaweed – roughly chopped

Pumpkin & Sunflower seeds


Fresh Coriander & Parsley – finely chopped

Coconut oil or ghee



Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. You will need an oven dish, size depending on how much bake you want to make.

Soak the seeds in some tamari and put to the side for later.

Once you have measured how much millet you will need, dry toast it in a frying pan for approx 5 minutes on a low flame, until it gives a slightly nutty smell.

Add the millet to the bottom of your oven dish.

Sauté the leeks/onions and ginger in a little coconut oil or ghee, until soft and transparent.Add splashes of stock if you need to stop the pan drying out and the ingredients going brown. Cook slowly as you want to allow the natural sweetness of the leek or onion to come through.

Add the grated veggies, combine well and sauté until it softens.

Layer the sauteed veg over the millet in the oven dish.

Add a thin layer of seaweed and some of the chopped herbs (save a handful for sprinkling over the top before serving).

Add a layer of greens.

Pour the stock over into the dish until the liquid just rises above the greens. Pat down a little.

Cover the contents with baking paper and then wrap very well with foil. Make sure the contents are completely sealed and put into the oven for approx 45 mins.

At this point check to see if the millet has absorbed the stock. Taste a little from a corner to see if cooked. You may need to add a little more stock if it has dried out and not yet cooked. Bake until the millet is almost cooked.

When the millet is nearly ready, take off the foil and baking paper and sprinkle the top with the seeds that have been coated in tamari. Bake for another 10 mins, seeds should just turn brown.

Leave to rest for approx 5-10 mins, portion and serve.


Tahini & Miso Sauce

The millet bake goes really well with this sauce/gravy.

Simply add some tahini, veg stock, garlic, mushrooms (you can use the ones that were in the veg stock if you like) and miso (white or dark miso works well). Blend until smooth, taste and add tamari if you need to season more.


Top Tip – Save your pumpkin or squash seeds and make milk!

Yes, you can make a milk from the fresh seeds. Just add them to a high-speed blender with approx double the quantity of water to seeds and blend until smooth. Strain and you have a delicious golden coloured milk, packed full of nutrients. Store in a glass jar until you are ready to use – in smoothies, porridge, or as you like.




Come and cook with us

Want to learn more about cooking with the five elements and how to incorporate these principles into daily life? Our next course is July 8th/9th in Portslade, East Sussex. Find out more and book here:

Want more recipes?

The millet bake recipe is taken from Hayley’s ebook The Holistic Kitchen – available at