Mugged by cookbook – fudge v lassi

I’ve just been mugged by a book.  You ever had that happen to you?  You’re minding your own business, looking for something or other and then a book just shoves itself at you in a bossy manner.  In this case it was The Art of Ayurvedic Cooking and it was in the wrong place – tucked away amongst the I Ching tomes, rather than in the kitchen with the recipe books.  No wonder it was upset.  All those trigrams and the wrong culture too.

Anyhow.  It was timely. The book had a point. My diet has gone to crap lately.  I’ve been living on muesli, grapefruit, beetroot, fudge and fruit pastilles.  Hardly a balanced regime.

And, you know, you are what you eat.  It’s an old adage but a true one and nowhere is it given more importance than in ayurveda, India’s ancient system of medicine.  In ayurveda food has been used as medicine for the last 5,000 years or so.  An ancient text puts it clearly:  ‘Nutrition is the vital element of all living forms.  Each person’s longevity, ingenuity, happiness, fulfilment, strength and intellect are dependent upon it.’

Eating the right food for your own particular mind-body type is seen as vital if you want to maintain good health and vitality.  If you do fall out of balance, diet is again the first port of call – with specific foods designed to coax your body back into wellbeing.

I’ve studied ayurveda for donkey’s years – even wrote a book about it – Live Well – the ayurvedic way to health and inner bliss.  It is now available on Kindle and has some interesting stuff in it – I tried to simplify the whole complexity of ayurveda down into bite-size chunks.

Anyhow, talking of bite-size chunks, this cookbook…  It was given to me at The Parkschlösschen – one of my all-time favourite spas.  It’s a medical spa hotel in Germany, set on the banks of the Moselle, and their head chef Eckhard Fischer is a food magician.  Seriously, if you can go (it is quite pricey, but it’s worth it) then do.  I had a little *sigh* moment as I opened the book as one of my old day plans was tucked in there.  Advanced yoga; breath meditation; breakfast; pizzichilli (heavenly oil treatment); yoga…and that was just the morning…

Sadly, I can’t go right now but I’m going to start taking a bit more care over what I eat.  Soothe that vata dosha which is a bit flaky.

Ayurvedic cuisine is quite different from other types of eating.  Pudding is always eaten first – firstly because fruits need more digestion and secondly because giving the body something sweet and unctuous gives a feeling of satiety so you aren’t tempted to overeat.

Lunch is the largest meal of the day and often consists of several dishes – a dessert, soup, a salad, a main meal and finally lassi.  Evening meals are far smaller (and never eaten late as digestion becomes sluggish in the evening).  Usually a soup and salad would be sufficient.

At Parkschlösschen you would first see an ayurvedic physician to determine your prakruti.  Meals would then be adjusted for your individual constitution (certain foods are believed to aggravate certain types of people).  However the recipes in the cookbook are designed to work for all doshas (some will suggest slight alterations depending on your dosha).  A few follow, with grateful thanks to Eckhard Fischer.  They are a bit fiddly (those darn superchefs) but worth it…

Cream of Passion fruit (serve before the main meal)

880g yoghurt (3.5% fat)
4-6 passion fruits
5 tbs icing sugar
Four ripe blackberries (to garnish)

Place the yoghurt in a clean muslin and allow it to drip overnight into a bowl) at room temperature.  Discard the liquid.
Halve the passion fruits and scrape out the flesh.  Strain the flesh through a sieve.

Mix together with the yoghurt and sugar until a smooth cream.  Chill for an hour in the fridge then pipe into glasses and garnish with a blackberry.

Essence of red beetroot

(aha! beetroot!)
4 medium sized beetroots
2 shallots
1 large apple
1 star anise
½ cinnamon stick
1 tsp cloves
3 juniper berries
4 allspice berries
1tsp black peppercorns
1 tbs yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp green cardamom pods (whole)
½ tsp caraway seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 bay leaf
100ml red wine vinegar
2tbs raw cane sugar or honey
Good pinch rock salt, ground
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 litres water
1 tbs tapioca starch
Coriander leaves (to garnish)

Peel the beetroots and grate coarsely.  Peel the shallots and chop coarsely.  Cut the apples into quarters.

Put all the ingredients, except for the balsamic vinegar and tapioca, into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Allow the soup to simmer gently for at least three hours (uncovered) or until it is reduced by one third.  Strain and add balsamic vinegar to taste.  Mix the tapioca starch with a little water and add to thicken slightly.

Stuffed Hokkaido Squash with lamb’s lettuce salad

4 Hokkaido squashes (about ten cm diameter) (or other squash)
Sea salt, black pepper
2 oranges
8 slices bread
240g Gruyere cheese
4 sprigs fresh basil
2 red chilli peppers
100ml orange juice

For the salad

100g lamb’s lettuce (corn salad)
Sunflower seeds
1 red pepper (bell pepper)
2 tsp walnut oil
Rock salt and black pepper
1 shallot
1 tsp mustard
1 tbs aged balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar

Wash the squashes and cut a lid off each.  Remove the seeds, salt the squashes lightly on the inside and then place them upside down. Grate the orange peel and put to one side.  Squeeze the juice and retain. Dice the bread into small pieces and brown well in a flying pan (without any fat). Dice the cheese.  Cut the chilli into fine strips and chop the basil. Combine all these and fill the squashes evenly with the mixture.

Put the lids back on the squashes, wrap them in foil and bake for an hour in the oven at 220C (435 F).

Meanwhile wash the salad and drain.  Peel the pepper, finely dice and sauté the pepper and sunflower seeds in a little walnut oil, adding a little salt. Dice the shallot finely, mix with the remaining walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar and mustard.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the contents of the frying pan and mix thoroughly.
Remove the foil from the squashes and bake without their lids for a further ten minutes at around 250C (475F).
Arrange each squash on a large plate.  Arrange salad leaves to the side and drizzle the dressing over the top.

Lassi

Lassi is a classic ayurvedic drink, generally drunk at the end of the meal.  It is also used as a refreshing drink between meals.
Basic lassi is made by blending 1/3 litre plain yoghurt with 2/3 litre water for about 2-3 minutes.
You can then add your choice of extra ingredients.

Fruit works well but should always be fully ripened, washed and briefly brought to the boil in a little water to obtain the best flavour.  Mango, strawberries, bananas, apricots, pears, peaches, cherries all work well (ideally choose fruit in season).

You can also make lassi with herbs.  Basil, mint and chervil all work well.  Use a large bunch of fresh herbs and add a pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Increase the mixing time to five minutes to ensure the herbs are mixed well.

Then again, you can make lassi with spices.  Try adding ½ teaspoon of ground green cardamom and one tablespoon of honey.  Or ¼ teaspoon of ginger powder, one pinch of cinnamon and one tablespoon of honey.

Recipes © Neuer Umschauverlag/LutzJäkel

From The Art of Ayurvedic cooking – The Parkschlösschen Cuisine by Eckard Fischer (Neuer Umschau Buchverlag).  I can’t find it on Amazon but, if you wanted to buy it, you could try contacting the spa to see if they still have any copies.