The Wisdom of Ayurveda: Festive Recipes for the Winter Season
by Shama Sara Palmer
Ayurveda gives us wonderful teachings about maintaining equilibrium in body and mind through the changing seasons. This time-tested science prizes eating a local, seasonal plant-based diet. Ayurveda understands that Mother Nature gives us exactly what we need in our local natural environments to combat the effects of the seasons.
In early winter, she gives us nourishing and strengthening foods in the plentiful varieties of earthy root vegetables we find in our stores such as parsnip, carrots, potatoes, celeriac, and beetroots. We have stores of seeds and nuts to enjoy as good quality fats which help to keep us warm and give us the energy to fight the effects of winter season. And the dried fruits we store and make traditional desserts with in this season also give perfect nourishment and extra energy for the season.
Eating seasonal foods that grow in our own climatic zone is a great way to boost our immunity according to ayurveda, not only for the winter months but in the Spring and Summer seasons ahead also. When I look at the winter foods that ayurveda prescribes, it delights me. Not only do I love to make warming rejuvenating soups and stews, I am amazed that our ancestors knew exactly what we should be eating for our health and well-being. The traditional festive foods we have inherited from them reflect this. Roasted root veggies, puddings with nuts and dried fruits flavoured with warming spices which help to keep the body warm and support immunity. It’s not by chance that cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg are the fragrances of Christmas.
All this means that we can enjoy many traditional festive season goodies without compromising our health, by applying a little of the wisdom of ayurveda and drawing from Mother Nature’s seasonal bounty.
Here are some festive seasonal recipes to give you some nourishing, colourful meals you can enjoy with family and friends in the coming weeks, or make them the first and second courses of your special meal.
Bon appetit, and Happy Holidays!
Sweet Potato Spicy Soup with Wet Masala and Shredded Fresh Coconut
This soup makes a lovely start to any festive meal or can be a light, warming and nourishing meal in itself.
700g Peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
1 extra sweet potato peeled and cut into batons
1 litre filtered water + 1 tablespoon of filtered water
1/2 tsp rock salt
2.5cm piece of root ginger
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon cumin seeds.
2.5cm piece of fresh turmeric root
1 medium sized fresh red chilli
Olive oil or ghee to dress the soup
1 tablespoon fresh grated coconut
Your favourite unleavened bread & dip
1. To begin, make the wet masala. A masala is a blend of spices usually made with ground dried spices, but which can be delicious also made with fresh moist ingredients. Peel and finely grate the fresh root ginger, turmeric, garlic and chilli with a ceramic hand grater for a paste-like consistency. In a cast iron skillet, lightly toast the coriander seeds taking care not to burn them and then grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle.
2. Mix all of the spice ingredients together and add the juice of half a lemon, plus a tablespoon of filtered water, and set the masala aside.
3. Bring a litre of water (and salt) to boil in a large pan. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat to a medium flame and add two teaspoons of the masala to the water (you can add more masala and seasoning later to taste).
4. Add the sweet potatoes and cook in the spiced water until soft. Once soft, blend to a smooth consistency and place back on the stove to warm a few minutes longer. Add extra water if necessary to attain your desired consistency. At this point you can taste and add extra masala or salt and pepper if needed. Your soup is now ready to serve!
5. Pour the piping hot soup into individual bowls and dress with a pinch of the fresh grated coconut and little organic ghee or organic olive oil (1/2 tsp/serving). Serve with a few pieces of unleavened bread warmed or toasted, your favourite dip and a serving of the raw sweet potato batons. (A delicious healthy bread I like to use, without added yeast or fats is Heart of Nature Original Pure Grain Bread. I find mine in Waitrose).
Puy Lentil, Parsnip and Portobello Mushroom Roast
This is an easy-to-make vegan alternative to the nut roast, full of winter warming goodness. You’ll need a loaf tin and parchment paper to line it, plus foil to cover the roast during baking.
1 cup organic puy lentils
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
3 large Portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
1 medium sized parsnip, finely diced
1 cup organic oats
2 tablespoons ground golden linseed
2 tablespoons Braggs amino acids
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tspn of dried thyme
¼ tspn cayenne pepper
1 tspn dried chilli flakes
¼ tspn cayenne pepper
1 pinch plus ¼ tspn rock salt
Winter Masala ingredients for cooking the lentils:
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp dried ground ginger
Pinch of green cardamom powder
1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 4.
2. To begin with, we’ll make a winter masala to cook the lentils in. In an iron skillet lightly toast the coriander seeds and grind them in mortar and pestle. Then, lightly toast the cumin seeds and grind. Mix the freshly ground seeds with the ground ginger powder, and green cardamom powder.
3. Bring 3 cups of water to the boil in a large saucepan of water with the pinch of rock salt. Once the water is boiling, add one tsp of the winter masala blend and the bay leaf. Then add 1 cup of lentils. Turn down the heat so that the water simmers covered until all liquid is absorbed. The lentils must be tender. Place the lentils aside to cool.
4. Gently heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic. Add the ¼ tspn of rock salt as the onions and garlic cook. Then add and gently cook the chopped mushrooms covered until soft then add the finely diced parsnip. Cook for around another 5 minutes on a low heat or until the parsnips are soft then remove the pan from the heat.
5. Add 2/3 of the lentils, oats, linseed, tomato paste, tamari, herbs and spices and mix well. You can also add the remaining winter masala. Use a blender or food processor to combine the mixture, just enough for the mix to stick together but with the vegetables still partly intact. Mix in the reserved lentils.
6. Line the loaf tin with parchment paper and press the mixture firmly into the tin.
7. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Then please remove the foil cover and cook for a further 8 minutes. You can also keep the uncooked loaf overnight in the fridge, covered with the foil and cook the next day. Serve hot with a vegan gravy of your choice or with the colourful and simple Beetroot and Coconut Chutney (recipe below).
Beetroot and Coconut Chutney
1 large beetroot, cut into small pieces
1. In a cast iron skillet add 1 tbsp of the olive oil and warm, then add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to pop add the cumin seeds and gently heat for a minute or two longer, being careful not to burn the seeds. Take the seeds off the stove and remove from the skillet, placing the mixture in a medium sized bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the same iron skillet and warm, then add the chopped beetroot and cook until the beetroot is soft.2. Add the prepared fresh garlic, chilli and lemon juice to the cumin and mustard seed mix. Add the chilli flakes, squeeze the juice of the grated ginger into the spice mixture and add salt to taste. Take out a little of the spice mix and reserve it for garnishing the chutney. Then please mix in the cooked beetroot and grated fresh coconut (reserve a little coconut for garnishing).
3. Once the mixture is cool, blend in your mixer. To serve, dress with the reserved grated coconut, spice mix and fresh coriander. Enjoy this with your Puy Lentil, Parsnip and Portobello Mushroom Roast.
About the author
Based in Warwickshire, UK, Shama Sara Palmer has travelled around the world, living in various ashrams to immerse in and live fully the teachings of ayurveda and yoga. She has been teaching traditional hatha yoga for nearly 15 years, and has been studying and implementing the teachings of ayurveda into her yoga teaching and daily life for 10 years. More recently, she qualified as an ayurveda practitioner and now offers 1-1 consultations. She teach Ayurveda-Hatha Yoga retreats and Ayurveda Living courses.
Visit www.loveyogahealing.com for more details and to contact Shama.