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2011. június 29., szerda

Ayurvedic cooking – Summer Pitta feast in the kitchen

Finally, I gave in to the constant request from my friends to organize an ayurvedic cooking. The Hungarian proverb “many good people can fit into a small place” was more than an accurate account of this Saturday afternoon when seven people got busy in my not too spacious kitchen.

The point of ayurvedic cooking is to prepare an individualized menu, to find the combination of tastes and ingredients that are most suited to your constitution. However, this is a difficult task when you cook for more than one person whose doshas can vary significantly. Although this is the reality of life, since already in a smaller family as many as they are, that different they might be. So I thought it was a great challenge to create a meal that is enjoyable to all, yet which can be possibly adjusted to each individual. When it is hard to pick a dominant dosha then best is to rely on the dosha of the season since that is affecting everyone. Taking this into account, I based our “spicing guidelines” on the dosha of summer. In this season outside it is mostly hot and dry, therefore our menu was planned in the overall to be Pitta balancing.

What does it all mean? Pitta is the combination of the elements of water and fire, and its hotness should be cooled not only through the temperature of the food (hot or cold), or its level of cooking (raw, cooked, boiled, grilled, fried etc.), but also by the application of Pitta calming spices. These are the sweet, bitter and astringent flavors, therefore our aromas were revolving around these principles.

To start with, I placed a tray of red currant on the table as an aperitif which due to its astringent properties is a wonderful Pitta-pacifyer.

During summertime the outer heat implies that our digestive fire, the jatharagni will burn higher, consequently we can better digest even cold or raw food items such as salads. Not to mention that these nice green friends are such a valuable source of vitamins and most of them are the representatives of the bitter taste which is so balancing for Pitta (and Kapha). I decided therefore to bring out an array of various greens in the menu so that my friends can get to know a lot of novelties. To accompany them, I thought we could prepare three different dressings suited to the three doshas and three types of veg „dosha burgers”.

So let’s see what was on our ingredients list:
For salads I bought besides the simplest lettuce and iceberg a fancy salad mix from the organic market full of delicacies, green chard, red chard, purple basil, celery,  and a wonderful young and crispy looking fennel bulb from the garden of a Hungarian bio farmer.
To garnish, I bought some chesse. During summer it is important to choose lighter types of cheese like cottage cheese, or mozzarella types since heavier varieties tend to aggravate Pitta. I chose a mozzarella like Hungarian bio goat cheese, spreadable French goat cheese (buchette de chevre) and some young goat gouda. 
To bring in more flavors, I took a bunch of fresh mint leaves, celery, parsley, dill, aniseed and fennel seeds. 
For the burgers we used three types of vegetables: grated carrots and summer squash, finely chopped zucchini and for base millet, amaranth and bulgur.

 Voila the final menu:

Starter: Fake-grilled eggplant slices with basil
Cut the eggplant into fine slices, then put them on some melting butter and sprinkle with some dried basil, a little turmeric and ground cumin. From time to time press it with a fork so that you end up with some burned stripes on the surface as if you grilled it. This food is heating in nature, so it is better to prepare it with butter rather than with olive oil. It really helps to start the agni, the digestive fires of the Vata and Kapha types. I trusted though my Pitta friend with the realization and she needed a good deal of encouragement to beat her fear and put more butter into the pan. Despite her initial dry tries, once the big Kapha guys of our group welcomed her more juicy eggplant chips, she also got bolder.

For the salads, we prepared three types of dressing:

1.       Vata dressing: olive oil, apple cider, grounded fennel seed and a little honey. 
2.       Pitta dressing: yoghurt (Cserpes sajtműhely organic fresh natural yoghurt), fresh mint leaves, dill and chopped parsley.
3.       Tridoshic dressing appropriate for all three types: mint chutney with coconut flakes and mustard seeds. These were the original three ingredients, balancing each other nicely, but it was a pleasure to watch our male members getting creative and adding some celery and zucchini. It all came out really well after all the ingredients were mixed in the vegetable juicer.

      The burgers

Based on our Vata, Pitta or Kapha recipe we boiled the grains and then mixed it with some flour, eggs and the three vegetables (although in varying proportions) plus the various spices. We fried them in sunflower seed oil, a nice tridoshic pick. 

Vata burger:
Bulgur or amaranth, grated carrot, grated summer squash, more carrot though then squash, finely chopped zucchini, garam masala, ground cumin, turmeric, black pepper, salt, vegamix (Hungarian vegetarian spice mixture).

Pitta burger:
Bulgur, grated carrot, but less carrot then zucchini and squash, celery finely chopped, parsley, mint, dill, freshly fennel bulb slices and anisseed, fennel seed, turmeric and a little salt.

Kapha burger:
Millet, purple onion, a little garlic thinly sliced, more zucchini and carrot than squash, black pepper, garam masala, cumin, red paprika, and salt.
Kapha delights

Vata grounding

Pitta cooling

It was funny to watch that all the guys voted for the Kapha burger and one of the big Kapha boys started to fry them with at least that much of enthusiasm as if he was preparing a steak. On the other hand, the little amaranth has gained some attention because my friends thought it funnily tasted like caviar.
Once we arrived to serving, all my friends turned into a culinary prodigy and as a result even the red currant finished on the plate as a decoration for the burger. It is nice to see that my friends got the idea and used the starting „note” as the „finishing accord”. In the same time Mint got an important role in almost all preparations from lemonade to salad dresssing. Of course, because mint brings a perfect balance for all three doshas in the summer heat.

Flavors have an important part. In theory we should include all the six tastes at all meals (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent). But the essence lies in the proportions, and in the golden ingredient, the good company sweetening our life.

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