An Indian Adventure

by Maia Bedson

Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine

By the time you receive this magazine, Paul and I will be deeply immersed in the rich intensity that is India.

We have been travelling to India regularly over the last five years (also Paul lived the ashram life there for five years while in his 20’s) and it has become an important pilgrimage for us. This country that is so steeped in wisdom teachings, culture, meditation and an energy that touches our souls.

Mark Twain said: “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grand-mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured in India only.”

So when contemplating the creation of a recipe for this edition, I naturally turned my attention to the spices common to Indian cuisine. Spices that I regularly use at home and which are considered to be an integral reason why cancer rates are much lower in India than in Australia and the USA (along with the high consumption of vegetables and low consumption of meat.)

In Indian food, one of the staples is dhal (or dal) and Chana Dhal is made from young split chickpeas. This is widely available in markets that sell pulses or in Indian shops. When served with rice, it makes a complete, easily digested protein and has endless possibilities of variations depending on what other vegetables you would like to add.

A soup or a stew made with any kind of lentils, peas, chickpeas or dried beans is known as dal.

Now, I must make a disclaimer that in no way am I expert in traditional Indian cooking and I apologise in advance to any Indian readers who may be offended by my impudent ways. For instance, our new therapeutic director, Sanjay Raghav, has the good fortune of being married to Sangeeta, who is a marvelously accomplished Indian cook.

Here is my version that will bring some of the smells and flavours of wondrous India to your home:

Chana Dhal

Ingredients

1 cup Chana dhal (or yellow split peas if not available)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 x 350gm jar organic chopped tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tsp. cumin powder

2 tsp. coriander powder

2 tsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. fenugreek

1 tsp. powdered ginger

½ tsp. black pepper

Several handfuls of spinach or kale

Method

Soak Chana dhal overnight in water, drain and rinse

Place in saucepan and cover with clean water, bring to boil and simmer until soft (approx. 60-75 mins, or approx. 15 mins in a pressure cooker)

Heat 1/3 cup water in a pan then add finely chopped onion

Sauté until almost soft then add minced garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili, fenugreek, ginger and black pepper

Cook through for a few minutes, stirring often and allowing the flavours to develop

Add cooked Chana dhal, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and green leafy vegetables

Mix well and simmer for 15 minutes

Can be served with freshly chopped coriander or parsley, and with cooked brown rice or Indian flat bread.

Ayurvedic Tonic

And for those of you who need an immune-boosting lift after these long, cold winter months, here is the perfect tonic using four simple ingredients common to traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

Ingredients

Fresh turmeric – 1 cm piece very finely sliced

Fresh ginger – 1 cm piece very finely sliced

Cloves – 3 flower buds

Pinch ground black pepper

Method

Boil kettle with fresh water

Place ginger, turmeric, cloves and pepper in a mug

Add boiled water and allow to steep for 5 minutes before drinking

Turmeric is one of the most studied plant foods with now over 5000 articles published in the medical literature. The pigment in turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to play a role in both the prevention and treatment of many types of cancers, inflammatory conditions, ulcerative colitis and other digestive system issues, and to also speed wound healing time. There is also some exciting research on how turmeric protects cells from DNA damage.

The amount of turmeric to aim for medicinal benefits is ¼ inch (0.6 cm) of fresh turmeric per day combined with a pinch of black pepper – which increases blood levels of curcumin.

Ginger is another high antioxidant, immune-boosting food and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-causes benefits as well as pain-relieving properties including migraine and menstrual pain.

Cloves contain the most powerful antioxidants of all the readily available spices.

I look forward to sharing some of our Indian adventure with you in the next magazine as I agree with the author Reymond Page who said: “Waking up in India, is like waking up to Life itself.” – The Great Year, India Edition.