Ayurveda is perhaps the oldest science of life which embraces a system of diet, healing, spiritual evolution, and physical well being. Ayurveda says that the human body and universe is composed of Prana – the vital life force.
The ancient Ayurvedic seers believed that food is the vital carrier for the energy or Prana in the body. This energy of food is revealed only when they are used in a proper way per nature as well as our body nature i.e. Prakriti.
Nowadays, we have become conscious of our diet. We know what to eat and what to avoid. But do we know precisely how to make the most of the benefits of food? Ayurvedic wisdom helps us to acquire the therapeutic benefits of food just by making a few changes in our way of cooking.
Freshly cooked food is high in Prana. Ayurvedic cooking enhances the therapeutic effect of diet, stimulates your digestive power, promotes digestion and absorption of food nutrients. Let’s understand the Ayurvedic cooking step by step.
Getting ready to cook
Ayurveda views food and the process of cooking as a sacred act. Kitchen is considered as the best pharmacy, and food is the best medicine. Ayurvedic cooking involves you into taking care of the nourishment of your body. Ayurvedic cooking involves cooking with awareness and using natural, fresh & pure ingredients. It is a very easy process and does not need any sophisticated equipment.
Ayurvedic foods primarily involve seasonal vegetables & fruits, whole grains, spices, oils and ghee, dairy products, and natural sweeteners. You should have a stock of following ingredients which are pre-requisite for Ayurvedic cooking:
- Black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds
- Coriander powder, cinnamon powder, turmeric, red chili powder, rock salt
- Asafoetida, cardamom, cloves
- Fresh ginger, fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
- Split green lentils
- Basmati or long-grained rice, wheat flour, & millets
- Fresh, small green chilies
- Sunflower oil, mustard oil or sesame oil (virgin oil)
- Ghee or unsalted butter
- Fresh yogurt
- Beans & Seasonal vegetables
- Honey, cane sugar, jaggery
Once you have all the ingredients handy, it’s time to get to work. Before starting cooking, you should know some basic yet so neglected rules of Ayurvedic cooking.
What are the basics of Ayurvedic cooking?
- The vital step in the majority of dishes is tempering. Tempering is cooking spices, especially mustard seeds and cumin seeds in hot ghee or oil. This imparts the meal with a distinct aroma and flavor
- Since oil breaks down rapidly on heating, it is better to use ghee for all saute purposes. If you are kapha Prakriti, then use ghee moderately
- Always heat ghee, oil and fry spices at the low or medium flame to obtain correct flavor. Do not overheat ghee or oil to the smoking point
- Avoid using the microwave for cooking purposes as macrowave rays destroys the nutritional value or Prana in the food
- If milk is to be used in preparing any recipe, then always boil the milk first and then use it. Never use milk in raw form even if it is pasteurized
- Most of us toss all contents in the pot with oil and cook. But it is hard to digest and is acidic. But the correct method is first to fry the spices in oil or ghee for a few seconds later add veggies and stir it well for few minutes. Then add a little water or stock which steams the dish.
This makes the dish more digestible and less acidic. So, always first fry and then steam
- Whole grain flours should be used within 2-3 weeks. It is better to use mixed flour of wheat, rice, barley, gram, & soybean as it is rich in fiber as well as protein. Highly processed and refined flour should be avoided as it causes constipation
- Instead of using table salt, switch to rock salt. Ayurveda highly recommends using rock salt as it is cooling in nature, has a combination of minerals and is less concentrated than usual table salt
Ayurvedic way of cooking recipes
Now you know the essentials and basics of Ayurvedic cooking it’s time to know about some essential Ayurvedic recipes.
This simple stew of rice and yellow lentil is suitable for everyone from healthy to a sick person. This easy to digest meal can be made simply without any hot spice and vegetables for ill. While occasionally you can add spices like ginger, cloves, or pepper with seasonal vegetables to enhance its taste.
Dal (lentil soup)
Split yellow lentil is counted among one of the best wholesome foods. It cooks as well as digests easily and quickly, especially with added ghee & spices. Dal is the best source of protein for a vegetarian, and hence its daily intake is a must.
It is better to steam cook vegetables on low fire with the pot covered. Overcooking destroys the taste and Prana from vegetables. Always add rock salt at the end of cooking. If you are eating simply a steamed vegetable without any spice, then serve with ghee or butter.
Do not overthrow the rice water rather have it with the rice itself or strain this water full of nutrients and take it with some cumin powder & rock salt. While cooking rice add two cloves in the pot as it gently warms the coolness of rice.
Buttermilk is to be prepared by churning fresh yogurt added with water twice of yogurt. While churning excess butter is removed and this thin liquid is mixed with rock salt, ginger, cumin, and black pepper powder, and sometimes little sugar.
It is customary to drink buttermilk in small sips during the meals. Unlike yogurt, it is light to digest, reduces fat, and stimulates digestive fire and appetite. It is useful in diarrhea, dysentery, and anorexia.
We live in times where most diseases are traceable to an incorrect diet. The cure of wrong eating does not lie in drugs but in preparing food the right way. Though cooking cannot be always enough to cure diseases, it really helps in alleviating several conditions.
Moreover, Ayurveda says that the right diet is the foundation of a happy and healthy life. So, why not make a positive change in food, which is indeed the best medicine!