Alooh Palak – My Take On An Indian Classic

Man, I love easy recipes that taste divine. In fact that’s the epitome of great cooking to me. Being able to whip something up in only a matter of minutes and then to sit feeling fully satisfied afterwards, what more could a girl ask for?

This meal is inspired by an ayurvedic cooking class I attended recently. I’m always looking for ways to increase my dark green leafy vegetable intake, so when I first sat down to this meal, my head started buzzing with all thoughts green. I was amazed at how tasty 1 kilogram of spinach could actually be! Plus, it’s really aesthetically pleasing, I mean it’s not every day one stares down at a neon green bowl of warm loveliness.

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What did I say? Neon Greatness!

 

I’ve always been a sucker for Indian food, I think it’s because my mum (who lived in India for several years as a young girl) had us eating curry from day one, that, and a mixture of growing up in Durban and having some of the best curry houses in town, one might say it was par for the course. The great thing about making your own curry is that you get to monitor the amount of oil you use and you get to temper the heat based on your individual heat gauge.

This recipe in particular has a lovely easy going effect, the green chili only slightly comes through at the end of each bite, the spices are mild and the dish leaves you feeling satisfied. Definitely one to add to your repertoire of meals, and fun to serve up at a dinner party amongst a variety of other dishes, adds a nice touch!

A note on spinach

Among the world’s healthiest vegetables, spinach comes out as one of my top rated vegetables for nutrient richness. Rich in vitamins and minerals, it is also concentrated in health-promoting phytonutrients such as carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) and flavonoids to provide you with powerful antioxidant protection.

When Popeye showed us the effects of spinach on his super human strength, we missed the anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and heart and bone protective qualities. I guess it would have changed the whole dynamic of the cartoon. Nevertheless, spinach is all of these things and more. I recommend including spinach in your diet at least 1-2 times per week. Try a serving size of at least 1/2 cup, or even a whole cup to take advantage of the greatness of spinach!

According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” conventionally grown spinach is among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. So grow your own, or sing it with me kids, support your local farmer!

A note on Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘wisdom of life’ and is considered one of the oldest holistic healthcare systems to date.

The Ayurvedic healing system covers diet, natural remedies, lifestyle practices, rejuvenation and detoxification processes, hands-on therapies, as well as meditation and the principles of ‘wise’ living in order to have healthy minds and bodies.

Ayurvedic philosophy revolves around the concept that everything in the universe is made up of varying proportions of the five basic elements – ether, air, fire, water, and earth. It is based on these natural elements that ayurveda classifies all matter found on earth, as well as the natural cycles such as seasons, childhood, adulthood and old age.

A person is said to have a particular dosha depending on the predominance of the 5 basic elements in the body. There are three main dosha’s or energies believed to circulate in the body and govern physiological activity. These are, Vata (Ether), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Water). Their differing proportions determine individual temperament and physical constitution. When unbalanced they cause a disposition to particular physical and mental disorders. We all have, and require the qualities of each dosha, though one or two are more predominant in each person.

Everything in the universe is seen to be composed of three qualities in varying proportions. They are known as the three gunas. These comprise of Sattvic qualities, which are light, clear and stable. Rajasic qualities, which are active, agitated, turbulent or motivated, and Tamasic qualities, which are heavy, dull, dark and inert. Ultimately, we aim for balance among the doshas and the gunas, all of which can be achieved by following the avurvedic practices.

Ayurvedic cuisine encompasses dishes made with such combinations of food that optimise these elements in the human body, and offers a ‘users manual’ on how to get the most out of life depending on your dosha.

The meal below is a balancing dish, meaning it’s great for all of the doshas. Win-win! With that in mind, tuck in and enjoy.

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Ingredients:

1 L water
1 kg spinach
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 blob coconut oil
1 t cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green chili, chopped
1 pinch asafoetida (also known as hing)
1 tomato, chopped
1 t salt
½ t turmeric
½ t coriander powder

*Asafoetida is a sulphurous, onion-smelling spice crucial to Indian cooking. Look for it in the spice section of Indian or health food stores. Use it sparingly—a little goes a long way. Garlic powder or onion powder make for good substitutes.

Directions:

Peel your potatoes, dice them, and bring them to the boil. Once they start boiling, turn them onto a medium heat until fully cooked through (20 minutes or so) because the potato pieces have a smaller surface area once chopped, they cook relatively quickly.

Chop the thick white stalks off of your spinach and place in your pot of water. Bring to the boil, and then turn to a medium heat until wilted through (15 minutes or so). Keep the lid off so that half of the water boils away (Leaving the pot uncovered helps to release more of the acids with the rising steam) You’re going to use the remaining water, with all of its water-soluble vitamin goodness in the last step of this recipe

Put a blob of coconut oil in your frying pan, and start by gently browning your cumin seeds on a low heat (they tend to burn easily, so be careful) add the garlic, onion and chili and cook on a low to medium heat until golden brown.

Add the chopped tomato, the remaining spices and the salt and cook gently for a few more minutes to give the spices a chance to release their amazing aroma.

Place the spinach and remaining water into a blender, add your spicy onion-tomato mix and blend through. Add a decent squeeze of lemon juice, a glug of olive oil, and salt to your taste.

Place your potatoes into bowls, and cover generously with your bold green spinach sauce. Garnish with chopped coriander, and a few cracks of pepper!

Enjoy, you beautiful things x

Notes:

I collect fresh ground water from my nearest spring twice a month in two 20 L dunks. Nothing beats clean living water. It makes me drink more, honestly. Whenever I run out and I’m left with the tap water or bottled water I never drink nearly as much. Intuitively, your body always knows. Make some enquiries to find out where your closest spring is, with all the fluoride and chlorine in our water supply these days, it’s definitely worth the mission.

Check out this documentary too, Tapped, which trails the path of the bottled water industry. A powerful portrait of those caught at the intersection of big business and the public’s right to water. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72MCumz5lq4

 

 

 

romeyAlooh Palak – My Take On An Indian Classic

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