Ayurveda is the oldest health system that humanity conceived and millions still follow today in India and beyond. Treating the body according to its innate alignment of doshas, the element or a combination of either of the three elements – vata, pitta, kapha, leads to sustainable health. Any imbalances can be solved by tuning in or out of the character of the troubled dosha, plus by supporting the digestive fire, the agni. Food is the essence of good health therefore Ayurvedic vegetarian cooking class is handy.
Divya Alter is the author of Ayurvedic cookbook published by Rizzoli who co- founded the Ayurvedic non-profit cooking, catering and education organisation Bhagavat Life to promote healthy lifestyle to urban professionals. Originally from Bulgaria, the warm flare from her personality defies her strong Eastern-European accent as she guides the class attendees through the principles of Ayurveda at the start of each Ayurvedic vegetarian cooking class. She served us a Rehydrating drink quenching the ceaseless thirst of pitta. Spring water was mixed with fresh lime juice, salt, raw sugar, mint leaves and crushed cumin seeds. She called it an ‘ayurvedic gatorade‘ perfect after exercising. Sweetness is important in Ayurvedic balancing.
Matching the menu to the individual is key in Ayurveda and the Ayurvedic vegetarian cooking class will explore exactly this. A shared meal served on one table at the end of each class emphasises the important social aspect of dining.
The high appetite of pitta makes any cooking class very interesting. Anyone in need of taming this fiery element for balance in life will benefit from the hands-on, information packed guidance for the moments when pittas feel fiery. Organic vegetarian ingredients and typical Indian spices were used in the cooking with Divya in New York.
Cool your pitta through food
I learned which ingredients are generally heating and destabilising or are associated with increasing your pitta, bringing you out of balance from your other natural state. Alcohol, spicy and pungent foods, raw onion, garlic, acidity-causing ingredients, lemon, chocolate, honey, agave, hard cheese, salt, nuts, vinegar, pickles and even the superfood goji berries – many of my daily cravings were unfortunately included. Hard alcohol (occasional glass of wine or a bootle of beer are supposedly fine, uff), coffee and other caffeinated stimulates are not recommended for any dosha. Heating of honey renders it toxic for the body by clogging the mucous membranes. Like in TCM iced water and very cold foods are shocking the system and should be avoided as well.
Cooling dishes that are naturally sweet are preferred. Lentils, beans, oats, most grains and vegetables, lime, ghee, maple syrup, cucumbers, sweet fruits, cilantro; bitter greens – like kale, dandelion greens, and collard greens; spices like cumin, neem leaves, saffron, and turmeric, herbs like basil, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley, are also pacifying the fiery nature of the inflamed pitta.
Food combinations are also important and the right proportions of ingredients matter profoundly. Method of preparation should also be considered as we learned in this Ayurvedic vegetarian cooking class. For pitta, steaming or blanching are best, while avoiding deep frying and other oily preparations is a taboo.
For most of us there is one dominant element characterising our nature. That can still change over a lifetime leading to disruption of the body’s harmony. You can take a basic on-line test of your dosha on the Chopra Center website. When the doshas are not in balance, mind and body symptoms characteristic for each of the three doshas and the dynamics between your mind-body-environment (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) will disrupt your life.
In the alignment with the pitta’s needs we prepared these six dishes: Steamed kale salad with pine nuts, black lentil soup, steamed vegetables with cashew gravy, vegan and raw ‘tuna’ salad, colorful grains salad with dill and the most indulgent finale – Dark Chocolate mousse made from freshly squeezed almond milk.
We were spilt to groups of two, each of us preparing a different dish. Accidentally, I participated in making of my two favourite dishes from the menu – the ‘Not Tuna Salad’ and ‘Colorful Grains’. The grains were made with Quinoa, Forbidden Rice & Basmati Rice mixed with ghee or olive oil and fresh dill.
Here is our favourite recipe from the Ayurvedic vegetarian cooking class:
Not Tuna Salad: 2 servings
Place all the bellow in a food processor to a paste, so simple.
1/2 cup soaked raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup soaked raw almonds
2 tbs water
1.5 tbs fresh lime juice
1/4 tea spoon salt
1/4 tea spoon asafetida (also know as “hing”, a yellow powder with intense onion-like taste that is not as pungent as onion)
Take out from the food processor and mix with 1 1/2 tbs extra fine minced celery and 1 tbs minced fresh parsley.
The casually paced Ayurvedic vegetarian cooking class is not for beginners, but for people who already know how to cook and want to improve their culinary skills, learn some tricks and create a wholesome rejuvenating meal for one’s personal dosha. Divya and her team catered to the United Nations, to eco-conscious companies like Eileen Fisher and numerous private clients.
The kitchen is on the fifth floor of the Bhakti Centre where meditation, yoga, and other holistic practices like a sound bath and mindful writing that benefit the mind and health take place.
Other Ayurvedic vegetarian cooking classes: Energising Recipes For When You Feel Earthy, Healthy Cooking for Busy New Yorkers, Spring Detox Cooking, and many more. Your can register on their website or by phone.
25 1st Avenue, 5th Floor, NY 10003
+1 646 571 0710