When I start working with clients who have never cooked much (or at all) for themselves, they often respond with disbelief when I tell them that they will soon enjoy Ayurvedic cooking at home for three meals a day. This presents a change from the eating habits of many people in our modern times, with meals made up of fast food, leftovers and processed foods.
In more than two decades of working as an Ayurvedic practitioner, I’ve watched many doubtful clients embrace Ayurvedic cooking at home as they begin to experience the joy and health benefits. Teaching my clients how simple it is to cook at home has proven to be one of the most rewarding parts of my practice.
If more Ayurvedic practitioners incorporate cooking instruction into their offerings, more clients will find the true health that Ayurveda can bring us.
If something is new and unfamiliar, as Ayurvedic cooking often is, I consciously set my clients up for success by encouraging them to start small, incorporating two or three changes at a time until they feel ready for the next step.
Keep in mind that some of these changes may have nothing to do with cooking at all. They could choose to eliminate iced beverages or turn off the television while eating. If they also choose to cook one or two meals a week at first, those recipes should be simple and delicious. It is not necessary to change everything all at once; making gradual shifts supports sustainable, long-term change.
Even if someone is familiar with cooking, they may be used to ideals of perfection that make the process complicated and time-consuming. Attempting to recreate what someone else has done can be confining and scary. This, too, leads people to reach for pre-packaged foods and restaurant meals.
No matter where a person is coming from, I like to start them with a couple of basic recipes and ask them to incorporate them into their diets on a weekly basis until they are ready to go further. Below are two of my favorite recipes.
The beauty of this recipe is that everything cooks in one pot. This reduces cleaning and makes it easy to make the meal in the morning and take it for lunch at the office. Ideally, this recipe should be paired with a combination of extractive and augmenting vegetables.
2 Tbsp. ghee
¾ tsp. mineral salt
1½ tsp. cumin seeds
1/8 cup nori, cut into small pieces
1¾ cups brown basmati rice
¾ cup split mung beans
5 cups water
Heat the ghee on medium and add mineral salt and cumin seeds, cooking for about a minute or until the aroma comes up. Add nori, rice, split mung and water and stir to coat. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover with a lid for 35-40 minutes (or cook in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes at pressure or in a rice cooker for about 30 minutes).
Making flatbread is very easy, and a great way to get your clients to switch from eating yeast-leavened bread, which can upset the natural balance of flora in the intestinal tract and aggravate vata dosha. This is a great recipe to demonstrate to clients who are not used to rolling out dough – just ask them to let go of the idea of creating a perfect circle and focus more on infusing their love into the chapati. I find the irregular shaped chapati are usually the tastiest!
Makes 12-15 chapati
3 cups flour
3/4 tsp. mineral salt
3 Tbsp. ghee (plus more for cooking)
½ to 1 cup water (the amount depends on the season and climate)
Stir flour, mineral salt and ghee together. Add water, ¼ cup at a time, and combine well until the dough is consistently mixed and slightly sticky (use your hands for the best results).
Break off golf-ball-sized pieces and roll them into balls with the palms of your hands. Set the balls aside in order, so that you can roll out the oldest one first. It is helpful for the dough balls to sit a couple of minutes, but not too long or they will dry out.
Set a pan over medium-low heat. Let it warm up while you begin rolling the chapati. Sprinkle a bit of flour on a cutting board, rolling mat or clean countertop. Place the first ball in the middle of the flour and flatten it with your palm to make an even surface. Sprinkle a bit of flour on top. With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a thin pancake, spinning it in a clockwise motion as you go. If it gets sticky while you’re rolling, just sprinkle a little more flour on top.
Add 1 tsp. ghee to the pan. Let it warm, then place the chapati in the pan to cook.
You can cook each one while you are rolling the next (it helps to place your rolling surface right next to the cooktop) or cook two or three at a time if your pan is big enough. Cook the chapati 1-3 minutes on each side. The time will depend on your pan and amount of heat. Be mindful not to leave them too long or they will dry out. Add a little more ghee to the pan before adding the next chapati.
If you want to learn more about how to guide your clients in daily Ayurvedic cooking at home, take a look at my Ayurvedic chef certification program, held this June on Kaua’i. You’ll learn many tools to prepare you to show others the gift of true health through home cooking.
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