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You are what you eat. This has been the basis of cooking for centuries across the world, but things changed as we modernised. We stopped cooking for our mind and body and instead fell to what’s convenient. Ayurvedic cooking goes a step beyond. It is based on the understanding of the unique combination of Vata (Ether), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Water) that constitutes the human body and balances its life forces, the Ayurvedic cuisine encompasses dishes made with such combination of food that optimises these elements in the human body.
So how does one incorporate Ayurvedic cooking in one’s lifestyle?
WOW caught up with Ayurveda practioner Shweta Upadhyaya who is the founder of Laavanya – a line of luxury Ayurveda skin care products and also a recipe designer of ayurvedic cooking, Rasalya.
What are Ayurvedic meals? What are its key components?
Ayurvedic meals are prepared based on keeping the season, agni (digestive fire), one’s dosha type, taste, age, health and disease in mind. While cooking Ayurvedic food, we pay careful attention to not mixing incompatible ingredients together like fish with milk, and follow few rules around preparing and eating a meal.
The Ayurvedic diet talks about eating for your body type or doshas… Could you explain?
Ayurveda recommends the understanding of the unique mind-body type of each individual which is called dosha to treat disease or recommend any dietary prescription. Individual dosha reflects one’s temperament, agni (Digestive fire) and even mental health.
Tips for eating to balance Vata: choose naturally sweet (rice, wheat,etc), salty and sour tastes, Eat warm, oily, or relatively heavy foods. Minimise cold, stale and raw foods. Spices for Vata: Ajjwain, Cumin, Cinnamon, Black Cardamom, Black pepper.
Tips for eating to balance Pitta: Choose naturally sweet, bitter and astringent tastes Reduce hot and spicy foods. Spices for Pitta: Fennel, Mint, Cardamom, Rose petal.
Tips for eating to balance Kapha: Choose pungent, bitter and astringent tastes. Minimise heavy foods, salt and dairy products. Spices for Kapha: Methi, Mustard, Ajjwain, Cumin. Honey is really good to reduce Kapha.
What exactly is this and how does one find their type?
I recommend consulting an Ayurvedic Doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner and find out your Dosha type.
What are the principles of good eating habits in Ayurveda?
Here are few Rules around preparing and eating food.
- One should be hungry
- One should sit straight on a slightly elevated seat
- One should eat in silence focusing on the food
- One should eat not too fast, nor too slow, and chew several times before swallowing
- Contaminated, uncovered, spoilt, burnt food.
- Left over food
- Food that you do not like or that which tastes and smells bad
- Food that has not been cooked properly
- Food that has been re-heated, was cooked long time back, or is very cold.
Can an Ayurvedic diet aid in weight loss?
Of course, it can. There is a whole chapter about Sthaulya (obesity) in Ayurvedic Texts which talks about how to treat obesity and achieve optimal weight according to one’s body type. However Ayurveda does not prescribe extreme dieting to lose weight.
TAKRA (AYURVEDIC BUTTERMILK)
Takra detoxifies liver and body and cleanses the intestines, relieves constipation and helps to replenish intestinal flora. It does not cause heaviness when consumed. Hence it is known to have the quality “laghu”. It gets digested quickly and easily.
Whisk 1 cup whole milk yogurt vigorously. Add 4 cups water, preferably water that was previously boiled and cooled to room temperature and whisk again (or use a hand mixer for extra fluffy takra). Sprinkle in a dash of Himalayan pink salt, pinch of ginger powder, black pepper roasted cumin and ajjwain and whisk the water and yogurt mixture again until it’s light and fluffy (the consistency will be like a very fluffy glass of low-fat milk)
MUNG DAL KHICHDI
Khichdi or Kitchari is a traditional Ayurvedic dish that’s known for its ability to detox and nourish the body and balance all three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. It’s made with mung beans, basmati rice, seasonal vegetables, ghee, and spices. The mung beans are known for their ability to remove toxins, specifically pesticides and insecticides from the body. Mung beans are also a source of protein and the barley provides ample carbohydrates and fiber.
- 1cup whole mung beans
- 1cup basmati rice
- 1 cup mixed seasonal vegetables chopped.
- 3 cups of water
- 1tbsp ghee or clarified butter
- 1tsp cumin seeds
- 1 pinch of asafoetida
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
- ¼ inch piece of ginger, minced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 5-6 curry leaves crushed
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro, to garnish
Wash and soak the mung beans in water overnight. Drain and rinse. Wash the rice thoroughly till water runs clear and soak it in water for about half an hour. Drain and rinse.
In a saucepan, heat ghee over medium flame. Add cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to splutter add a pinch of asafoetida, turmeric, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, minced ginger. Sauté for a minute and add vegetables and sauté for 1 minute then add the drained mung and rice. Stir continuously for about 10 minutes and then add 4 cups of water. Cover with lid and cook on medium flame. Lower the flame when the water comes to a boil and add salt. Cook till vegetables rice and mung beans are completely cooked for about 30 minutes and the khichdi is thick in consistency. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot.
OKRA WITH BUTTERMILK
Good for summer
Tasty, light to digest and nourishing.
- 1 cup diced okra
- 1 cup takra (1 part yogurt, 4 parts water mixed well in blender. You can also add some black pepper and dry ginger to it)
- Jeera and Dhaniya powder – ½ tsp
- Whole Jeera -1 pinch
- Salt and turmeric
Heat ghee in a pressure cooker. Add jeera after sometime. Add okra and saute for 5 minutes. Add jeera/dhaniya powder, salt and turmeric and cook for some more time. Then add takra and let it simmer. Then put the lid of pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles.
Garnish with cilantro leaves.
Good dessert for summer
- 4 cups milk
- 4 cups grated fresh coconut
- ½ tbsp ghee
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 5 pods cardamom (crushed)
- 1/2 cups of dry fruits like almonds, cashews, etc.
Cook milk and coconut together. Keep stirring. Reduce to ½ of cooking. About 20 min. Fry the dry fruits in 1/2 tbsp. of ghee for 2 minutes and add to the kheer. Add sugar and cardamom.
Tastes best when eaten as a warm main meal or at room temperature during summer.