I always think of Ayurvedic food as my ideal when it comes to what I decide to cook most days. I have some go-to dishes for when I am lacking imagination or the energy to think of what to cook. Life can become busy at times, and this often causes people to turn to ready meals or easy snacks. However, these are not necessarily the most wholesome choices.
I believe there is no substitute for nutrient rich, filling, balanced foods. Besides, it takes little effort to plan meals in advance in order to avoid taking the less healthy option.
I very rarely use recipes to create my meals, because I enjoy experimenting and combining ingredients and flavours. However, occasionally I will find a recipe that I love, and will cook it once before adding my own twist. I can sense where a dish lacks a certain taste that will enhance the dish. Besides, Ayurvedic food calls for all tastes to be present to satisfy our digestion. So if there is too little sour, for example, or a lack of the sweet taste, I tend to know, and add it. I was given this recipe by my friend who found it in a magazine. Having cooked it many many times since she passed it on to me, I have added a few of my own choice of ingredients. Equally, I occasionally substitute one for another.
I also love meals that work at different times of the day. This dish works as a lovely warming vegetarian stew for supper, served with a little red rice or flat breads. However, it is also a wonderful grounding autumn/winter lunchtime bowl of soup.
Chickpea stew with coconut, turmeric and greens
To serve 4-6 people:
60ml rapeseed oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
A 6cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1.5tsp ground turmeric
1.5tsp ground cumin (my twist)
1tsp red chilli flakes (or more if desired)
A large tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
A large tin full fat coconut milk
475ml vegetable stock
1 bunch swiss chard, kale or spinach, (stems removed) shredded
Half a lime (my twist)
A tbsp organic ghee (my twist)
*A few finely sliced strands of fresh turmeric root (my twist)
A bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped (my twist)
Heat the oil in a casserole pan and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on medium until softened but not brown. Add the turmeric and cumin, and mix well before adding the chickpeas. Season with salt and cook until the chickpeas start to fry in the oil and spices, and become slightly crispy. This should take 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, crush some of the chickpeas to release a little starch, which will thicken the stew. Now add the stock, coconut milk, and chilli flakes, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes until everything has thickened and come together. Now add greens of choice, and my favourite twist ingredient… a good squeeze of lime. Taste and adjust salt and chillies. Cook for another 5-10 minutes.
If desired, top with the fresh turmeric strands, ghee and the coriander leaves just before serving in deep bowls, with flat bread or rice, or of course both if you feel like it.
*Turmeric root is a typical Ayurvedic food that is now available in many grocers shops. Try it, it’s wonderful, and a fabulous way to keep winter sore throats and colds at bay.
To serve as a soup at lunchtime, you can liquidise the stew so that most of it is smooth, with a few chickpeas remaining whole.