If there’s one wellbeing system that can teach us about eating well, it’s Ayurveda. Translated as the ‘science of life’, Ayurveda is full of advice on lifestyle, diet, exercise, self-care and much more, and has existed for thousands of years. When it comes to food, Ayurveda has a deep and rich plethora of information intended to guide each person to eating a diet that suits their needs, their unique body and mind, and is most suitable to the climate and season. One of Ayurveda’s basic principles is ‘like increases like’, and ‘opposite brings balance’, so when it comes to cooking up Winter recipes, it’s all about bringing warmth and brightness to colder, darker months.
Ayurveda looks at the world through pairs of qualities; hot and cold, heavy and light, oily and dry, cloudy and clear, mobile and static, rough and smooth, sharp and dull, soft and hard, dense and liquid, and gross and subtle. When we accumulate too much of one quality, we experience an imbalance, and the remedy for this would be to bring in more of the opposite quality. Throughout Winter, many of us accumulate the qualities of cold, heavy, dry, and rough, due to the cold air, shorter hours of daylight, and various shifts in lifestyle (plus the extra festive feasting). In order to bring ourselves back into balance and maintain wellbeing throughout Winter, it’s important to bring in more qualities of warm and light foods, as well as healthy fats and oils to nourish the body from the inside-out, and specific spices to keep the ‘agni’ or ‘digestive fire’ burning well. Read on for three Ayurveda-inspired festive recipes to try this Winter:
Steamed Winter Slaw
A nutrient-dense salad is great way to consume plenty of vitamins, minerals and fibre in a season that generally sees us turning to sweet treats and mince pies, but instead of eating your veg raw, try steaming it to make it easier to digest. Ayurveda is insistent that raw foods should only very rarely be consumed. This is because the cellulose that makes up plants’ cell walls can be very difficult to digest, so we sometimes end up absorbing only a small percentage of nutrients, as opposed to steaming or lightly cooking, which can essentially help ‘unlock’ vitamins in plant foods. Gently cooking vegetables also helps prevent bloating, and aids in maintaining a strong digestive fire. I’m a huge fan of Waldorf salads, and this warmer seasonal version is a healthy great side dish or lunch option for the festive season.
Try to source local and organic ingredients whenever possible, as these will contain all the nutrients our bodies need in Winter (such as vitamins C, A, and K). Hemp seeds are a great way to boost your intake of antioxidants and fatty acids – both vital for brain health, but hemp is also a wonderfully sustainable plant, which is why Yogamatters chose to launch their super sustainable hemp collection, complete with organic buckwheat-filled bolsters, soothing eye pillows, and the beautiful hemp and organic cotton blanket.
- ½ white cabbage head, roughly chopped, or use a mandolin to finely slice
- 2 carrots, sliced into ribbons
- 1 apple, diced
- 1 parsnip, grated on the largest setting
- 1 handful chopped walnuts (toast the walnuts to bring out their oils and flavour)
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pinch of cumin
- 1 pinch of nutmeg
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Add all the veg and the apple to a pot and steam for 8 – 10 minutes
- Strain out any water left from steaming, then toss the veg with the walnuts, oil, vinegar, spices and salt and pepper.
- Serve as a side dish or enjoy as a light lunch with warm quinoa
Ayurvedic Cranberry Chutney
Ayurveda considers cranberries to be elixirs of youth – preventing wrinkling and drying of the skin and imparting a soft and glowing complexion. Cranberry also helps improve digestion, and has been linked to improved immune function too. The cheerful red colour of cranberry is also a wonderful way to bring in the quality of warmth amid a cold season, which is why Yogamatters have relaunched their bestselling yoga zafu meditation cushion in Cranberry, with a 100% organic cotton cover and compostable packaging. Bring some merriness into your kitchen and body with this digestion-boosting cranberry chutney.
- 450g fresh cranberries
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ inch fresh ginger, grated (no need to peel if organic)
- 1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 3 tbsp currants
- 6 peppercorns
- In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, currants, spices, grated ginger, juice and orange zest.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then add in the maple syrup and turn the heat down low
- Simmer for roughly 20-25 minutes, or until the mixture reaches a jammy consistency
- Leave to cool, removing the cloves just before serving
- Serve with your favourite festive dish, and store any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days
Winter Spice Blend
This is a warming, comforting blend that keeps digestion strong and helps prevent bloating and gas. Add to your Winter meals or stir a tea spoon into hot milk for a nourishing pre-bedtime drink. I like to mix up a different blend of spices to add to meals each season, and this is my go-to for keeping my digestive system happy throughout the Winter.
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground clove
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle and mortar
Combine and store in a glass jar with an airtight lid.
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