When I discovered the world of Ayurveda I welcomed a huge selection of spices into my kitchen. Until then, I have to say, I was solely relying on a few basic seasonings, fresh and dried mediterranean herbs and mild spices, especially as I was deeply immersed into the Macrobiotic philosophy, also known for its restraint on using aromatic spices.
Spices are powerful. In fact they are so powerful they can turn any food into medicine. And the only difference between the medicine and poison is the quantity being consumed.
Ayurveda looks into spices as digestive support, bringing out the taste and enjoyment, but also as our allies in balancing each meal keeping in mind our personal needs based on our constitution, season and the environment. The true virtue lies in the intuitive approach to cooking, choosing appropriate spices and their quantity that will bring comfort, enjoyment and long-term balance in our body and mind.
Winter season is experienced as cold, damp, slow, dark and heavy. As we are inseparable from nature, we too, tend to become less physically active, sleep more, eat heavier foods, linger around in the coziness of our homes, possibly putting some extra weight keeping us grounded and warm. To prevent slipping into imbalance, suppressing the agni (our digestive strength), accumulating excess mucus, fat, and ama (toxic residues due to improper digestion), by adding a few stimulating spices into our diet we will welcome the spring with childish enthusiasm and uplifting energy.
In general, all spices used in moderation are supportive during winter time. They are warming, supportive for our digestion and kindle the agni. However, some of them stand out as exceptional winter allies that raise digestive enzymes and clear excess Kapha in the bodily channels. These are ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, cumin, nutmeg and black pepper. Observe your needs and after-meal effects and use spices to truly make you feel better, more energised and tuned with your true nature.
I discovered oat porridge as a national breakfast when my husband and I embarked on our London adventure a few years back. At the same time the era of Instagram begun and social medias have became flooded with porridge bowls enriched with extravagant condiments and eye-catching presentations. I did too, experiment, try, then swooped oats with other grains. But as my erratic Vata nature flared up I eventually came back to the most satisfying, grounding, balancing and nurturing bowl of a golden creamy oatmeal. Served as is, with the addition of boiled greens or a dollop of home-made chutney it will fill your home with inviting fragrant aromas of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger, and wrap your body with warmth, comfort and delight.
TURMERIC OAT PORRIDGE
Makes 2 servings
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 3 cups boiling water
- 2 cm fresh ginger, finely minced or grated (or 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder)
- 1 turmeric rhizome, finely minced (or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder)
- 2-3 cardamom pods, split open (or a pinch of cardamom powder)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 star anise
- dash of black pepper
- pinch of salt
- optional, but highly recommended: cloves, cumin, nutmeg (a pinch of each, or adjust to your own taste)
- 2 teaspoons ghee (for vegan version use coconut oil)
- 2-3 tablespoons raisins
- a splash of milk (almond and oat milk are my favourite)
In a medium saucepan dry roast the oats until fragrant. Low down the heat and slowly pour in the boiling water while constantly mixing. The water might spurt a little so be careful. Return the flame to medium and once the mixture starts to boil add minced ginger and turmeric, salt and powdered spices. Mix in the raisins and cook until most of the water gets absorbed.
Spoon into serving bowls, add a splash of milk, top with a teaspoon of ghee and, if desired, serve with a dollop of fig chutney and/or toasted nuts or seeds (almonds and pumpkin seeds go heavenly with oat porridge).
- If you’re not accustomed to using such variety of spices in your cooking, don’t cross this recipe yet. Salt, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger are most probably already on your kitchen shelf, or if not, the nearest grocery shop carries them. Start with these spices, and slowly upgrade your spice selection with each visit to the shop. It’s incredible how much variety can be obtained from simple ingredients by using different spices. Enjoy your adventure knowing you’re doing good to your body!