Cooking for a friend tomorrow (and she is bring a pal). From what I can tell, we all have differing constitutions and there are a few dietary restrictions and allergies to account for!
This is where I love the concepts of Ayurveda. By cooking 3 or 4 dishes and covering the rasas (tastes), you can pretty much ensure that everyone eats a satisfying meal and whilst every meal should constitute sweet, sour, salt, pungent, astringent and bitter foods, each person should naturally gravitate to the dishes that will bring balance.
Of course it is cold, so naturally we crave sweet foods, which are the heaviest in nature and have a grounding effect on the body and mind. However, when out of balance, these cravings can become distorted and the addictions begin – milky drinks, chocolate, pastries and pies, chips…… As well as being heavy and sticky, these refined foods can cause excess acidity in the tissues. This accumulation is the reason that we experience runny noses, coughs, headaches – and that heavy lethargy in these first months of the year.
By cooking a wide range of foods and including the least popular tastes (bitter, astringent, pungent), you can really affect a change on your body and should start to naturally crave these more alkalising foods again. Remember that these are subtle elements and there is no need to reach straight for a raw veg salad and Neem tea – a meal should satisfy your mind and your body.
As I have written about the Doṣa of the season a few times lately (Kapha), I wanted to construct a meal that would address the issues relative to the current weather, but I am also mindful that the 2 young ladies who are dining with me tomorrow, tend (as is the
case in most of us living in London) to have a Vata imbalance. The key with Ayurvedic cooking is to balance everything and to include as much variety as possible.
Although this feels and sounds dense, the astringent and bitter qualities of the Parsley Root, along with the pungent and astringent herbs are perfectly balanced by the sweet and astringent Butter Beans, Lotus Seeds and a few Potatoes.
All of the 6 tastes are covered in this dish – and the pungency is mild enough and tempered by the sweet roots, so a Pitta person should not be left with any burning or acidity.
Garam Masala Spiced, Roasted Cauliflower
Such a simple but effective dish. Gone are the days of over cooked, sulphurous cauliflower. Over the past few years, caulis have gained poll position and I regularly find it “out of stock” in my favourite shops.
Technically, cauliflower raises Vata and can cause bloating – but cooking well can prevent this and make it easily digestible. I roast mine, quite slowly, with a little water in the bottom of the dish and coated in oil, once the water has evaporated and steamed the curds, it is left to gently roast in the oil. Roasting the green leaves adds the vital bitter taste.
I love squash and onion squash is the best of them all! I love the small enough for 1 or 2 sized balls that they come in and I love the fact that you can scrub the skin and there is no need to peel, in fact, it tastes better if you don’t peel!
Simply roast with a hint of garlic, (or whole cloves) a few flakes of salt and a good glug of Rapeseed oil. 40 minutes later, you have a mashable, sweet and heavy enough to satisfy caramel sweet vegetable.
It is the perfect vehicle for a wilted green. I usually go for Cavola Nero, because the pairing of colours is just perfect. However, there is a new kid on the block in our house – and I am eating it whilst it is here – who can resist the Rapeseed yellow flowers? This adds a vital bitter element to the meal.
This one is taking centre place and will bring life to the other dishes! Made to make your mouth water, don’t underestimate the importance of the sour taste. “Sour” increases Kapha and Pitta and needs to be used in moderation if you have a KP imbalance.
For me, it can make or break a dish. Along with salt and pepper, I NEED a squeeze of lemon or lime with my savoury. It is also worth remembering that iron from vegetable sources, requires adequate Vitamin C in the same meal to enable absorption.
Its’ actions on / within the body according to Ayurveda are: