Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Ayurveda and Kerala, India

I've recently got back from an Ayurvedic and yoga retreat in Kerala, South India. For anyone who doesn't know what Ayurveda is there is more information here, but basically it is an ancient form of wellbeing and health which focuses on prevention rather than cure and if medicine is necessary using natural herbal options. The doctors train for longer than Western doctors and there seems to be growing research based evidence supporting this and similar approaches (unsurprisingly as much research is funded by drug companies there is tends to be more focus on chemical medicine). A large element of this is the way you eat with a focus on certain food suiting different types of people. The food is mainly vegetarian.

Whilst I was away I had a cooking course into how to make an Ayurvedic meal. The course was taken by the chefs from the hotels kitchen.

Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos but I didn't take my proper camera with me as I was packing light and it was pretty dark in the room we were in.

Dhal Maharajah

We started by making a Dhal Maharajah, which was a yellow lentil dish.

Pre-cook 100g of yellow lentils according to the instructions on the packet.

Then you need to add 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds to a little oil, add three cloves of crushed garlic, an equal quantity of grated gingered one large onion very finely diced. Sauté until golden brown and soft. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp chilli powder and one tomato chopped finely. Cook the spices in for a few minutes.

Add the pre-cooked lentils along with a little of their cooking water. Put the lid on the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are thick.

Stir though some chopped coriander and serve.

Vegetable Thoram

Next we made a Vegetable Thoram. A Thoram means a dry dish which often has coconut in it.

Start by heating a little coconut oil in a pan and add to it 1tsp mustard seeds, 5-10 curry leaves. Cook until the mustard seeds start to pop and add 1/2 tsp grated ginger, 1 crushed garlic clove, a very finely chopped onion, 1/2tsp salt, 1/2tsp chilli powder and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Cook until the onion is soft.

Very chop finely chopping your vegetables, we used carrots, green beans, cauliflower and cabbage and add to the pan with a little water. Cook, stirring occasionally to ensure they don't burn until the vegetables are cooked through and soft. Stir in 2 tbsps of grated dried coconut (unsweetened desiccated coconut) and serve.

Lemon Rice

Finally we made a lemon rice. Pre-cook 100g of basmati rice.

Start by adding 1/2 tbsp if cashew nuts and 1/2 tbsp of raisins to a little oil. Add 5-10 curry leaves and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and cook the spices in.

Stir in the pre-cooked basmati rice, along with the juice of a lime and 1/2 tsp salt and serve.

Here are some of the pictures of the buffet that the chefs prepared each day

One day I also went on a trip out to a local food market. I think my taxi driver thought I was mad, but as I've probably mentioned before I think going to a food market really gives you a feel of a places food and culture. It was only small but there were still many fascinating things. As I didn't have anywhere to cook I couldn't buy much but I did buy some mango for me and the driver. 

Simple Pleasures. - Three Cornered Leek and Wild Fennel

There is something very pleasing about picking food from the wild (or foraging as it now seems to have become trendy to call it) and making it into something delicious. Recently I was visiting my parents and on a walk came across not one, but two wild treats. the first was some beautiful three cornered leek and the second some wild fennel. I've spoken before about this before after picking blackberries and wild apples. Sometimes the simple pleasures really are the best...

Wild fennel tends to have less of a bulb than cultivated fennel but the stalks and the lovely fronds were delicious paired with lemon, Parmesan and chicken in this simple recipe.

Three cornered leek really is a beautiful vegetable, from the triangular stem it gets its name from to the pretty little white flowers. It has a very delicate flavour, similar to wild garlic but milder, so be careful not to over cook it and destroy the flavour. Here is the recipe.

Now to find some wild garlic before the season is over...