Lessons from our Happy Healthy Human Ayurveda cooking class with Anu and Seema!
Last Sunday, my fabulous teachers from India, Anu Agarwal and Seema Johari came to teach a healing cooking class. We had a fabulous group of 16 who were ready to cook, learn, and eat!
I knew when I showed up at 10am it was going to be a great day. Anu, Seema, and their friend Belinda showed up with their pots and pans, ingredients, and smiles. The ladies worked hard concocting delicious dishes, but they luckily had a few minutes to catch up with a chai before everyone arrived.
When everyone showed up, we started with some mingling and Happy Healthy Human snacks, which are actually inspired by Ayurveda, which is the ancient Indian system of healing that inspired Anu and Seema’s cooking.
Pretty soon though, we were all in the kitchen, helping Anu make dishes and learning from her wisdom.
After 2 hours (and 8 dishes completed!) we sat down to a beautiful feast. It was a magical day.
For everyone that couldn’t make it – here are some key lessons from our cooking class.
You want food to nourish mind, body, and soul.
This means it’s worth the time and money to buy fresh, local ingredients. Was that plant sprayed with tons of chemicals? Was that animal treated fairly? The more fresh whole foods you eat, the better the prana, or energy, that it can share with you. Choose wisely.
Then consider yourself. Are you stressed out? Angry while you cook? Impart some love and joy into your food. It will taste better and be better for you. (And there’s scientific basis for this. The more stressed you are, the harder it is to properly digest and assimilate your nutrients. So take a deep breath and find some calm.)
Good cooking doesn’t have to be complicated.
Anu used 4 core spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, and fenugreek) to make 3 different vegetable dishes that were all unique and delicious. If you use these 3 different spice blends for different vegetables and veggie mixtures, you’ll never run out of new, yummy meals.
Cook your spices in oil to get their healing properties.
Anu taught us how releasing the active oils from spices like turmeric and cumin requires heating and cooking. Plus, it suffuses the oil with delicious flavor, making your finished product taste even better. Here’s how to use these cooked spices in your cooking:
- Gently heat up your olive oil or ghee.
- Add your whole spices until they start to dance (as Anu says)
- Add your powdered spices with some water (about 2-3 tbsp).
- Let the water boil off, and the healing properties of the spices start to release.
- When the water is gone, add your veggies, and cook until they’re the desired consistency.
In ten minutes, you have a delicious meal to call your own!
A pressure cooker is your best friend.
Don’t have time to make beans? Quinoa and rice too much of a hassle? Get a pressure cooker. It’ll cut your cooking time by 60-70%, and you’ll get perfect beans each time. I just invested in this beauty.
Prevent gas with this genius way to cook beans.
This tip is from Seema, Anu’s mom and cooking extraordinaire. Heat up olive oil with minced garlic and cumin seeds in a pot. Add your rinsed beans or lentils, water, and a few pinches of asafoetida (also known as hing). This Indian spice is known for it’s ability to improve the digestibility of beans. Cook until the beans are soft, and then salt and serve. The cumin, garlic, and asafoetida will help you digest.
The key to your cooking success is magic sauce
Anu’s recipe for magic sauce can be used on almost any vegetable or bean. Chana masala, Aloo Mattar, or any dish that could use some extra flavor. Give it a try!
- 1 Large Onion, Chopped
- 2 Large Tomatoes, Chopped
- 1 Teaspoon Chopped Ginger
- 1 Teaspoon Chopped Garlic
- ½ Cup Ghee or olive oil
- ½ Teaspoon Cumin seeds
- 1 Whole Cloves
- 2-3 Whole Black Peppercorns
- ½ Teaspoon Turmeric (Powder)
- 1 Teaspoon Coriander (Powder)
- ¼ Teaspoon Garam Masala (A mixture of many spices)
- 1 handful chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
- Salt - To Taste
- Heat up ghee/oil in a pan.
- When the oil is heated, add cumin seeds, cloves, and peppercorns
- When the spices sputter (move around in the oil), add chopped garlic.
- After 1 min, add chopped onions and gently cook them until golden.
- When the onions are golden brown, add the turmeric powder, coriander powder, and 4-5 tablespoons water. Stir thoroughly.
- When the water boils off, add chopped tomatoes and salt.
- Cook until it's a mushy sauce.
- Add chopped ginger and mix well
- Add garam masala
- Cook well on a low flame for about 5 min
- Add some chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
- You can add some water or milk to change the conistency if desired.
- Add salt to taste.
Thank you so much to Anu, Seema, and all of our participants. We can’t wait to do another cooking class again soon!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.