In Part IV of this series on Ayurvedic Food we tackle the problem of ‘flavour’. Can healthy food be tasty? Nitin Sawant tells us like it is..
For past three weeks, we have been pushing the envelope further and further, and refining our menu options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’ve looked at the best possible foods to consume, and also looked at the best possible means to cook them up, so that they deliver those awesome health benefits. And, face it – all that info did manage to tantalise you, isn’t it? You were oh-so-enticed by Ayurveda’s magic formula, wherein you zap your meals with some exotic primeval ingredients and then voila – you get into the best shape of your life! Alas, it did not work out that way 😉 Most likely, you got good results in the first week and then things went south, isn’t it?
Well, a lot of people who listen to my talks on Ayurveda and Nutrition, subsequently write back or call to complain about this. So, who’s to blame? Actually, no one. And certainly not Ayurveda.
Then, your meals had to be enriching; today they have to be alluring and appealing
The Boredom Curse
You see, when the sages and seers of Ayurveda wrote about these ingredients and nutrition, food was all about sustenance and survival – not about taste and experience. Then, your meals had to be enriching; today they have to be alluring and appealing. Your tight schedule can bend a bit, to make some space for a tempting dish in an haute restaurant setting, but a merely-healthy meal will be usually done in a hit-and-run fashion. Or it’ll be a working lunch, at best. What ends up happening in most cases is that, one grins and bear this austere-looking health food for a week or so – purely for the benefits that are gonna accrue. But then it gets all too plain and simple and one gives it all up in a fit of boredom! True?
Personally, when we launched AyurVeg, one of the first things we had to work on was on sexing up of all our healthy recipes. You see, all along people believed that flavour was simply a result of taste and smell. It’s only now that we’re beginning to understand that flavour depends on parts of the brain that involve taste, odour, touch and vision. The sum total of these signals – plus our emotions and past experiences, shape up our perception of all these flavours. This is why you see so much emphasis on the presentation of a dish, in cookery shows and topnotch restaurants. In comparison, all the recipes that we’d discussed so far are just plain Jane. Besides, whenever you hear health-food, it usually reminds you of some gruel that your nani crammed into your mouth as a kid, while pontificating about how it’s better than your favourite candy.
So lemme bring out the same lauki (bottle gourd) and padval (snake gourd) dishes again, and try to glam them up. A plain lauki for lunch might not have your colleagues jumping on your Tiffin box, but a ‘Bharwa lauki in Pasanda Sauce’ might. And it’s simple really.
BHARWA LAUKI IN PASANDA SAUCE
- Take some tender whole lauki and cut it up in 1-inch or 2-inch long sticks. Peel out the skin and also scoop out all that’s inside, so what remains essentially is a green long pipe.
- Steam them all up in boiling water; add a few pinches of Saindhav Salt and Long Pepper and when the gourds are cooked, coat them up with some lemon juice and black pepper powder.
- For the filling: You can do it in many ways here. Easiest is to make a patties of crushed yams or green bananas, fried up on Sesame Oil with a generous amount of ginger, garlic, long pepper, cloves and cinnamon. At AyurVeg, we make one with mashed horse-grams (kulith), onions and a spoonful of Amaranth flour (Rajgeera atta).
- Stuff the gourd tubes with this patty filling and keep them aside.
- For the pasanda sauce: take some Sesame Oil in a wide pan. Add rai-jeera, curry leaves and five petals of garlic for tadka. When the mixture is sputtering, add a cup of onion paste, cashew nut paste and two cups of buttermilk. Don’t forget to throw in a pinch of turmeric, Saindhav Salt and lots of coriander. When the gravy is steaming hot, place your stuffed gourds in the pan, in vertical position, and allow them to soak in the goodness of the sauce.
- For serving : top up the gourds with some crushed cashew-almond pieces and juicy red bits of fresh pomegranates.
We can assure you that, the dish tastes AND looks good on the eyes too. Don’t forget to do a similar number on your padval too; just remember to keep flipping ‘em sauces! Now how if we make the uber-famous Gatte ki Subzi this way? Just replace the unhealthy besan in the recipe with moong dal flour that’s roasted in ghee and you’re all set. And speaking of moong, one dish of ours that’s highly appreciated in health-food pop-ups lately, is the Sone Chandi ke Moong, where we serve balls of sweetened Moong barfi, rolled in edible silver foils and immersed in a spicy whole moong curry, made with A2 desi cow ghee. You can have my word for it – the dish has a look and fragrance straight out of a Lucknowi Nawab’s daawat.
As you can see, it takes a little imagination on your part to keep you going the healthy way. It’s unfortunate that healthy food has now become an acquired taste. But once you surround yourself with such interesting dishes for a few weeks, you’ll never fall back again into the evil clutches of besan-maida. So keep giving an Ayurveda spin on all your favourite dishes and we’ll meet again same time next week, to chat about a few emotional blocks regarding health food.
Read Nitin Sawant’s previous posts here.