Archive for the 'Ayurveda' Category

Gujarati dal

March 15, 2010

I realise that I have already probably far exceeded the normal quota of bean recipes in the short time that this blog’s been running, but I haven’t actually written up a straightforward dal. And this seems to me like an oversight. Dal is so good – just a big plateful on its own is a fantastic cheap dinner, with chappatis or rice, sometimes hard-boiled eggs, sometimes just yoghurt – but it’s also one of the best side dishes ever. Knowing that I have a tupperware of dal tucked away in the fridge makes me look forward to mealtimes more. I actually made this recipe twice this week, and apparently it serves 6-8 people, so that’s a potential 16 helpings of dal in total. And I only live with one other person (and a cat, but he prefers fish-shaped biscuits).

I would normally fall back on Madhur Jaffrey for a recipe like this, and initially this dal seemed a little fussy with its giant list of ingredients (although it’s still essentially just boiling lentils and adding spices so it’s not exactly back-breaking work.)  Strangely, the first time I made it I used mung dal and thought it was okay, but the second time I was out of mung dal so I used toor dal and thought it was brilliant. I’m not sure if there was some magic scientific ratio of surface lentil size to spice absorption going on, or if it was just coincidence, but I thought I should pass it on.

Gujarati dal  Serves 6-8, or 3-4 if you eat it in the quantities I do

I halved the quantities of water asked for as I like my dal like I like my porridge: wallpaper paste thick. Add more if you prefer a soupy dal.

350g mung dal or toor dal
675ml water
1 tbsp sunflower oil or ghee
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp hing (asafoetida)
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp brown rice syrup
1 1/2 tsp lime or lemon juice
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

The book asks you to soak your mung for 2 hours, but I didn’t bother.

Heat the oil or ghee in a large saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the dal, water and all of the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and cook until the dal is soft and the liquid has reduced to the consistency you like – from around half an hour to an hour.

*Note: fine for all doshas.

Adapted from Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai’s ‘The Ayurvedic Cookbook’.

Sesame sweets

March 11, 2010

Yesterday afternoon I felt the need for something sweet, as I often do in the hours between lunch and late afternoon. I sort of wind down in that period and sometimes only the thought of something else nice to eat rouses me. Leafing through this week’s book, these sesame sweeties caught my attention – of course, I’m a sucker for anything with tahini and the deal was sealed with honey and coconut. They fall within the realm of a healthy snack, if you count using no refined sugar and two kinds of seeds, but they’re still fairly treat-like. Imagine what would happen if a Sesame Snap got in a fight with some fudge, and you might be close: sticky-sweet and dense and a little bit gritty and chewy, but not in a bad way.

Sesame sweets  Makes 7-10 delicious balls (their words!)

30g sesame seeds
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp tahini
30g toasted wheat germ, or substitute more sunflower seeds
pinch of salt
30g shredded coconut, plus more for rolling
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grind the sunflower seeds into a rough powder in a blender. Combine with all the other ingredients into a bowl and mix into a stiff dough – this will be messy and sticky, but you should have a consistency you can form into balls. (Add more of the wet or dry ingredients as needed.) You may find it helps to wet your hands. Shape into walnut sized balls and roll in shredded coconut. I’ve been keeping mine in the fridge.

*Note: these are suitable for vata only.

From Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai’s ‘The Ayurvedic Cookbook’.

Ginger mung sprouts

March 10, 2010

I’m still very much in love with my ghee. It smells amazing – so much so that one of the first things I said to Tom when he walked through the door the other day was, “smell my ghee!” He thinks it smells like cake, and it does have a particularly entrancing caramelized sugar smell. I can’t wait to bake something with it.

But from butter to beansprouts we go (could this be the name of my first cookbook? From butter to beansprouts? On second thoughts, maybe it’s more of a sub-title). I’ve written before about sprouting your own mung beans, but I often find myself with more than I need and it pains me to see them wither having tended them so carefully over the course of days. The problem is, the slightly grassy fresh taste becomes a bit overwhelmingly roughage-like in large quantities.

I was vaguely aware that you could cook them, but never really considered it until I saw this recipe. Ayurveda is like the antithesis of the raw food movement – almost everything should be cooked; raw food is cooling in quality and can be difficult to digest (this is also held to be true in Traditional Chinese Medicine). This particular recipe also included ginger and almonds, two of my favourite ingredients. To make things even easier, my local farmer’s market was selling big packs of sprouted seeds, so I picked one up at the weekend and I was ready to go.

We had this with dal, rice and potatoes: a slightly odd contrast, but I liked it.

Ginger mung sprouts  Serves 4 as a side salad

1 400g bag of sprouted mung beans (or any other sprouted beans). About 50g dry beans will give you 400g when sprouted.
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
1 tbsp sunflower oil (I didn’t have any so used British rapeseed oil)
1 tsp honey
handful of almonds (you could also used flaked almonds and/or toast the almonds beforehand)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. When hot, tip in the sprouts and ginger. Stir fry for 2 minutes over a medium-high heat. Pour over the soy sauce, mix well and add the almonds. Stir fry for a further minute. Take off the heat, stir through the honey, and serve.

*Note: this is fine for all doshas, though pitta should omit the honey.

From Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai’s ‘The Ayurvedic Cookbook’.

Ghee

March 8, 2010

This week, we enter the world of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is usually translated as ‘the science of life’ and it’s an ancient Indian system of wellbeing, around 5,000 years old, thought up by some ancient sages who went and sat in the mountains for a bit. I won’t delve into it too much here as it’s actually pretty complex and, you know, what’s Wikipedia for? Suffice to say, it’s connnected with yoga and food, two of my favourite things, and thus I like it.

In order to follow an Ayurvedic diet, you first have to find out what your dosha is. There are three doshas which correspond to three basic physical types – most people are a fairly equal mix of two doshas, but you might be predominantly one, or more rarely an equal mix of all three. There are many quizzes out there to help you find your dosha like this one or this one if you’re curious/like quizzes.

For the more cynical among you, I realise this may seem to veer dangerously close to new age hippy gubbins, but what do you expect from someone who last week brought a book all about eating according to the full moon? (It’s fantastic.) Anyway, if you’re still with me, I’m about to talk about butter.

Ayurveda thinks very highly of ghee: it’s thought to have healing qualitities and to build up strength in the body, including increasing digestive strength. It has a pacifying and grounding effect because its qualities (all food in ayurveda has qualities) are heavy, slow, oily, liquid, dense and soft.  It also, of course, tastes good, and unlike butter it will last almost indefinitely at room temperature (if you’ve done it right – I need to watch mine).

I was slightly nervous about making my first ghee, seeing as I’d been led to believe it was little short of a magical substance, and I don’t think I’ve ever even eaten it before. Turns out, it’s really very easy: all you do is melt some butter over a low heat so that the water evaporates and the milk solids rise to the top (clarifying the butter) and then strain it into a jar. It will be liquid and golden coloured at first, but as it cools it will set and turn a pale lemon yellow.

Ghee 

You want to use a good butter for this – good butter will make good ghee, as you might expect. It should be unsalted and preferably organic.

Melt as much butter as you plan to use in a pan over a low-medium heat. I started with one block, which gave me one small jar of ghee, but you might want to do two or three at a time if you’re planning on eating a lot of ghee.

The butter will start to bubble and fizzle – it should be quite noisy. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook until the fizzling sound dies down and the middle of the liquid looks clear. There will be a white foamy substance on the top and you may be able to see debris on the bottom. This only took about 10 minutes for me, though some sources suggest cooking it for much longer. I read that while it’s cooking it smells like croissants, and it does. You can brown it slightly for extra flavour, but make sure it doesn’t burn (according to my book, it will start bubbling madly again if it’s burning).

Cool the liquid and strain it into a jar, either through a very fine-meshed sieve or a piece of muslin or cloth. That’s it – it’s ready to use as you would other cooking fats.

*Note: ghee is recommended for all doshas, though kaphas should use it in small amounts.

From Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai, ‘The Ayurvedic Cookbook: A Personalized Guide to Good Nutrition and Health’.

PS – my favourite Masterchef contestant got knocked out, so I guess it’s all down to Tim, the ‘children’s doctor’ (er, paediatrician?) now.