Milk – to boil or not to boil

A pitcher of fresh milk on the terraceWith so much questioning around the subject of milk, whether it’s good for you, if the alternatives are more digestible, are most people lactose intolerant etc etc. There is no doubt there is confusion. Here is the Ayurvedic perspective. Cows milk is considered to be the best and a complete food, providing unique nutrition with ‘saatvic’ qualities when it is digested properly, nourishing the body tissues, balancing the doshas and promoting emotional balance and ojas (a refined substance providing strength, immunity and contentment). With such nourishing properties why would we want to exclude milk from our diet?

Western research has found milk harmful largely due to their mode of intake. When milk is taken cold, unspiced, homogenized, combined with unsuitable foods and in excess, health concerns will prevail. The secret to milk as a healthy food lies in the way it is prepared and consumed.

First is it advisable to choose organic milk which does not contain hormones that are fed to cows to increase milk production. Traditionally, ayurveda recommends milk to be taken raw (not homogenized or pasteurised). In order to digest milk properly it should be brought to the boil for at least 5 minutes. The process of boiling changes the molecular structure of the milk, breaking down the milk proteins into digestible amino acids ensuring that it easier and lighter to digest, taken with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, turmeric can help reduce the accumulation of phlegm for kapha types and its cooling properties.

So we may argue that pasteurisation cleanses milk of bacteria, therefore it has already been ‘treated with heat’. However, it’s worth noting that the process does make the milk more digestible. The process of pasteurising is a treatment of milk to the temperature of 71.7 °C (161 °F) for 15–20 seconds which assists in the partial breakdown of milk proteins, making them very difficult to digest for the human system.

Furthermore, homogenization only serves to make it easier to pack, store and retail, benefiting only the organizations that want to make profit by retailing milk, and clearly overlooking the health issues. It is no wonder that there are so many complaints of milk intolerance and the switch to alternatives.

However it is safe to say that the cow’s milk whose virtues were praised by the ancient ayurvedic seers, is not the same milk that we are getting to consume today, so it will not have the same properties. We can do our level best to make informed choices to consume organic milk and undertake the process of boiling so we can still digest and get the best of what is available without having to substitute. Ayurveda also recommends goats milk, since it is less mucus forming and easier to digest than cow’s milk.

Milk should not be taken with incompatible foods such as fish, meat, fruits, foods that are sour, bitter, salty and astringent which can cause the build up of harmful toxins. Milk can however be taken with sweet tasting foods such as rice, dates and almonds. Boiled milk at night with spices can be a fantastic aid to sleep. Why not try the Geeta Vara Ayurveda ‘goodnight milk blend’.

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Easy & Light Spiced Chickpea Recipe

Basil leafs over assortment of spices1 cup chana dal (dried chick-peas)
1 teaspoon salt
5 cup water; plus
2 tbsp ghee (clairifed butter)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 medium chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root; scraped, finely chopped
1/2 tsp each of turmeric, ground cumin ground coriander, garam masala
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves

Thoroughly wash the chick-peas under cold and soak overnight for 12 hours uncovered with 5cm water at top. Drain the chick-peas, place them in a heavy saucepan, with salt and 4 cups of the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover the pan, and simmer over a low heat for 1 hour.

In a separate saucepan, heat the ghee over high heat and add the cumin seeds and stir for 30 seconds, then add the onions and ginger. Lower the heat to medium and constantly stir for approx 7/8 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden brown. Do not let onions burn.
Stir in the all the ground spices with 2 tablespoon of water, and fry for 1 minute. Then add the chick-peas their cooking liquid and add 1 cup of water (as necessary). Bring to a boil over high heat and stir constantly, cover the pan and simmer for about 25 minutes on a low heat, or until the chick-peas are tender but still whole. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice.

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Ayurvedic Winter Warming Rice Kheer

One of the most common desserts is a very simple preparation of milk and rice, better known as Indian rice pudding. It is a wonderful nurturing dessert for the winter months at the same time being wholesome and vata pacifying.

Ingredients:Ayurvedic Rejuvenating Kheer
Pinch saffron (soaked in a little hot milk)
4 cups whole milk
¼ cup basmati rice (washed & drained)
1/4 tsp crushed cardamom seeds
2 tbsp blanched & sliced almonds
1 tbsp skinned & chopped pistachio nuts
1 tbsp raisins (optional)
2-3 tbsp raw cane sugar or honey (to taste)

Method:
Heat the rice milk and cardamom in a medium pan and bring to the boil, then simmer gently and keep stirring to prevent lumps. Wait until the rice is soft and start to break

Add the almonds, pistachio, saffron and raisins and simmer for a further 4-5 minutes

Add the sugar until dissolved according to taste. If you are adding honey add at time of serving (do not heat honey).

Remove from heat and serve while warm.

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Recipe: Seeded Indian flat bread (Bhakri)

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup chapatti flour or plain flour
½ tsp grinded natural rock salt
1 tbsp ghee or natural sunflower oil
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp sesame seeds
Warm water

Method
mix all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
add the ghee or oil and rub with fingers until dough resembles a lose crumble
add warm water a little at a time and knead into a firm dough
Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes
break into 6 equal dough balls
roll into a ball and flatten slightly. Dust with flour and roll out round to about 3mm think
Roast on a flat pan already heated and on a medium heat and toast on both sides until golden and cooked turning about 3-4 times.

More information on ayurveda, ayurvedic treatments & consultations, recipes and workshops please visit: http://www.geetavara.co.uk

Get sprouting

Sprouting mung

Sprouted mung beans

Sprouting is a great way to optimise the nutritional value of grains, beans and legumes as they contain the energy, enzymes and vitamins needed to transform seeds into strong healthy plants. By the simple method of sprouting, mung beans, adzuki beans, chick peas, fenugreek, red clover, radish, sunflower seeds, rye berries and alfalfa and many grains can be eaten as a tasty addition to a super food salad, stir fry’s, in green juices and can also be lightly sautéed with ghee and spices as a snack.

Sprouted beans are alkalizing and a live food with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, proteins and anti-oxidants. Packed with all this goodness sprouted foods help fight against toxins and boost the body’s immune system

Growing your own sprouts is easy. Simply take 2 cups of mung beans. Wash in cold water until water runs clear and soak them in a sprouter or glass bowl in room temperature water 2 -3 times as much as seeds over night (8-12 hours). Soaking neutralises the enzyme inhibitors. Rinse thoroughly and drain off the next day. Place in a cheese cloth, sieve or colander and rest in a covered bowl and leave at room temperature out of direct sunlight. The seeds need to be kept damp and aired, but not wet, otherwise it could spoil. Leave for 2 -3 days rinsing every 12 hours with low impact. They are then ready. For larger sprouts leave for 4-5 days. Most sprouts are edible as soon as you see a tail (the root) emerging from the seed.

Spice up your mung sprouts

Lightly sauté some cumin in ghee in a large heavy based pan. Add some turmeric and ginger and then the mung sprouts. Season with lime/lemon and salt and paprika.

Dress up you salad with a doshic friendly finish

Since it summertime and we all want to eat healthy & enjoy a salad as the main event, but sometimes we can be left feeling bloated and gassy, so salad choices are important as we sometimes find it difficult to digest certain raw foods. Here are a sample of salad dressing recipes to help you spruce up your salads in line with your constitution.

Vata dressing: Orange Sesame dressing: ½ orange juice & zest, ½ lemon juice & zest, 1/3 cup cold pressed sesame oil, pinch of salt & ¼ tsp of black pepper, 1tsp date sugar or jaggery. You can add 1 tsp of finely chopped rosemary or thyme or ½ tsp of ajwain seeds.

Pitta dressing: Mint & Lime dressing: 2 tbsp sunflower oil, juice & zest of 1 lime, 3-4 finely chopped mint leaves (or basil/coriander if you prefer), pinch of salt. replace oil with honey and use as a dressing for fruit salad.

Kapha dressing: Honey Mustard dressing: juice & zest of ½ lemon, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp of wholegrain mustard (or mustard or choice or ½ mustard seeds or dry powder), 2 tbsp raw honey, 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp finely chopped tarragon or thyme (optional), pinch of salt & black pepper.

Recipe: warm sweet potato salad

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes ( or butternut squash)
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt to taste
lemon juice
handful chopped cilantro
2 tsp roasted sesame seeds
Rocket salad

Dressing:

2 tbsp olive Oil
1 tsp ginger
lemon zest + juice of half lemon
2 tsp Honey

In roasting tin add 1 tbsp oil which has been brought to a high heat. Add the cumin seeds, allow to pop. Add the largely diced sweet potatoes, grind black pepper and salt and roast on a medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing.

Lay down the rocket, add the roasted sweet potato, drizzle the dressing and sprinkle the finely chopped cilantro and roasted sesame seeds.

This is a perfect dish to pacify vata and for vata types and ideal option for a hearty summertime salad.

Kitcheri – The Ultimate Ayurvedic Superfood

If I am feeling hungry and wanting something quick, this is one of my favouite staples that I regularly have for lunch or dinner or even both. So I made it for 3 very health conscious friends on Saturday evening and they seemed to really enjoy it. This basic, nutritiously wholesome Ayurvedic recipe is tridoshic and can be can be adapted  to suit all constitutions and tastes. You can vary the mung from whole green to split green to hulled yellow mung or change the rice part to barley or short grain brown rice and of course you can pick and choose which vegetables you fancy.
This dish is perfect for balancing all doshas and those who are trying to strengthen their agni (digestive fire). The simplest version  is often used as part of the pancakarma diet – without herbs and vegetables and also makes for a good accompaniment for vegetable curry dishes). Traditionally the simple version is reknowned in the Indian tradition as the food we have when we are sick.
Kitcheri (rice with green mung dahl & vegetables)

Ingredients
Ghee—
3 to 6 tsp.
Whole Spices—2 to 3 tsp.  e.g.

Cumin, other optional whole spices: Coriander, Fennel, Fenugreek.
Herbs—1/2 tsp. powdered herbs, e.g. cumin, coriander, turmeric, fresh ginger, salt to taste
Bay leaf—1 (optional)White basmati rice—1/2 cup.
Split green mung dhal—1/2 cup (now available in most large supermarkets of health food shops)
Water—2 cups, may need to add more
Vegetables of your choice—1-2 cups, dice (1cm size) e.g. carrots, peas, potato, cabbage, kale, onion. (optional)

Method

  • Heat ghee in medium-sized saucepan until melted then add whole spices & herbs. Stir. Allow the aromas release (1 minute).
  • Add mixed and rinsed rice and mung dahl and spices to the pan and stir cook for 15 minutes
  • Add the veg & water and stir. Bring to the boil, then reduce to low heat and cook covered for 30—60 mins or until vegetables are well cooked, but not mushy! Avoid stirring while cooking. The final consistency should like a thick porridge.

Add salt to taste and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes. Serve while hot