The Benefits of Ayurvedic Cooking
My culinary journey started at 9 years old when I started making bread and cakes in my mother’s kitchen. It was lucky she totally encouraged me because in those days gender roles were much stronger. Being in the kitchen was not something boys did. So I am so grateful that she nurtured that flicker of enthusiasm.
At that time I became a favourite of the headmaster at our village school. He was lighting up a cigarette and I piped up saying you shouldn’t smoke sir. From then onwards we had this friendly banter every time he lit up I would say you shouldn’t smoke sir, and he would smile sagely and carry on.
He was a typical English gentleman of the time and could be quite strict but also he was like a genial grandfather too who made sure his boys got the best of everything.
I started taking my cakes and bread to school and this hit another soft spot. He loved it and was another way to find favour with the headmaster. The other boys twigged on so they started doing the same, so we started vying with each other. Our interest then expanded to growing food so the headmaster let us set up allotments in the school grounds and we started our own market garden complete with shed and kettle.
Many years later I was helping out at the Dru Yoga Centre in Wales. It was getting near lunchtime so I went up to the kitchen. Like my stomach, it was empty - no one was making any lunch! I had a choice grab a quick snack for myself or make something for everyone. I chose the latter and that decision changed my life. The next day everyone asked me to be the resident chef. I’d created a new role for myself! It was mostly trial and error to begin with. I had no idea about vegetarian cooking (apart from baking). However, it was fun being creative and making up my own recipes from what was available.
The inspiration behind my new book is that the way you cook and eat is just as important as the food itself. How do you make sense of all the dietary advice we receive, that is often contradictory? I believe Ayurveda offers a logical way forward. This traditional natural healing system from India focuses on diet, lifestyle, yoga, and natural therapies, and like a compass it can give you the direction you need to take.
In Ayurveda, there are three constitution types or ‘doshas'. Finding your unique constitution gives you a way of developing an effective food plan to bring you an abundance of health and vitality.
Ayurveda also recognises that our needs vary with our age, changing seasons and time of day. It is the original personalised medicine using everyday foods, herbs and spices in a therapeutic way which suits us. Health starts in your kitchen and Ayurveda helps you understand which foods and combinations will work best.
The book isn't overly intellectual or complicated! It's full of practical knowledge and insights, and it's fun to have around. ‘Cooking with Love' takes you on a journey through the history of food—the origins of ingredients, their fascinating stories and legends. You will learn about nutrition and the ‘yoga' of food.
My wish is that this book will help you rediscover the magic of food.
Here are a couple of my recipes:
75 g basmati rice
50 g split mung beans
400 ml water
¼ tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
¼ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp ghee
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
½ lemon juiced
Wash the rice and mung beans thoroughly several times. In a medium pan, mix the rice, mung beans, black pepper, turmeric, ginger and water. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and let the kitcheri cook for 30 minutes.
Stir occasionally to make sure the mixture is not sticking at the bottom. Add a little more water if it dries out. It should have a porridge-like consistency when cooked.
Melt the ghee in a pan until it becomes clear. Add the cumin seeds and stir until the aroma is released (about 1 minute) then mix into the kitcheri.
Add the salt, lemon juice and coriander. Stir gently until well-mixed.
Ayurvedic Carrot Salad
Raw food, although full of vitality and living enzymes, can seem cold and unappetising. In Ayurvedic cooking there are warm salads which mix hot and cold ingredients, or have seasonings in the dressing that make them more digestible.
150 g carrots peeled & grated
100 g fennel bulb finely sliced
2 tbsp raisins
good pinch of salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
½ tsp black or brown mustard seed
pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp ground cumin
For this recipe you need a pan with a well-fitting lid. Combine the carrots, fennel, raisins, salt, pepper, parsley and lemon juice in a bowl. In the pan, gently melt the ghee/coconut oil.
Carefully add the mustard seeds, keeping your face away from the pan. Cover with the lid, heat and wait for the seeds to pop. Remove from the heat and wait
for the seeds to stop crackling. Still keeping your face away from the pan, carefully add the ginger, asafoetida and ground cumin. Let it sizzle for a few seconds.
Pour onto the salad. Mix well.