(Editor’s Note: This weekly column,”Slow Diet with Swati Bathwal” is a part of our Slow Foods initiative. To become part of it, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or @slowfoodsindia on Twitter and instagram)
Sitting outside, as I look at my kitchen garden, I think about our great grandparents and how they had a well-built immunity. Diseases of modern times like diabetes, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure were unknown to them and most ailments like cholera, flu, small pox were more likely the result of an epidemic and rather than diseases resulting from a change in our lifestyle. Is it in the freshness of fruits and vegetables or living in polluted free water and air or access to natural resources or the following principles of Ayurveda, where life originated?
I look at my grandmother’s book of recipes while I sip my Ashwagandha tea and it is a magic collection of immunity boosting recipes! I am sharing my grandmother’s wisdom with you through these recipes below.
Maybe Ashwagandha is the reason behind my great-grandmother’s age — she was a centenarian in our family — and my grandmother will soon accomplish 100 years too. The benefits of Ashwagandha have been well explained in our ayurvedic traditions. Ashwagandha, a small shrub with yellow flowers, has proven benefits in uplifting our mood by working on our nervous system. The extract of this plant’s roots and leaves help to uplift our mood and build our immunity.
Stress can reduce immunity. When our stress levels are high, our cortisol hormone levels rise, Ashwagandha powder can keep the cortisol hormone at bay. It can be taken as a powder, tablet, or as a liquid extract.
Let me share my recipe with you. I fondly call it my Smiling Drink!
- 1 Banana
- 1 teaspoon Ashwagandha powder
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon organic honey
- 20gm almonds
- 1 pinch cinnamon
Put all the ingredients in a blender. Mix until smooth.
Banana, milk, almonds and Ashwagandha – they contain tryptophan which works towards uplifting our mood. Stress is a major continuity factor in decreasing immunity. If we consume this drink once a day, we are sure to bring those smiley crowns to our face!
When I start reading about fermented foods, these foods which actually help in keeping our gut strong, I find a range of dishes across our Indian cuisine in my grandma’s book. In the west we have gut-friendly dishes such as khandvi, dhokla; in the south we have idli, dosa; in the north we drink Punjabi lassi and in the east we eat Pakhala Bhaat. Our gut health has a strong relationship with our immunity. These tiny microbes living in our gut not only help in digestion but they also help in fighting unwanted non-health friendly enemies. Traditionally this rice is prepared in earthen pots and eaten with beaten curd and lime juice. During fermentation of 7-8 hours, D- lactic acid is produced. This is beneficial for our gut flora which also improves our digestion.
Let me share a quick and easy recipe with you.
- 1 cup cooked rice – I prefer usna or parboiled rice
- 1 cup water
- Green chillies
- 1 cup curd
Mix the cooked rice with water and cover it for 7-8 hours. Store the container, covered and kept in a cool dark place to help with fermentation. After 7-8 hours mix the rice with salt, 1 cup curd, and the green chillies.
Have this dish with your favourite curry.
Moringa or Drumstick Leaf Bhurji ( you can substitute the moringa for curry leaves if moringa isn’t available)
A day without moringa (or curry) leaves is a day wasted. If you are looking for that super food which brings miraculous health benefits, which has iron, calcium, vitamin C and many more super nutrients, just plant a small moringa tree (or curry leaf tree) in your kitchen garden. These greens make our immune system strong, increase our strength, fight various diseases and also add a glow to our skin and hair.
One day I tried experimenting with this moringa scramble or bhurji from the book and it turned out to be my favourite dish of all time!
- 1 cup moringa leaves
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon crushed black pepper
- 1 teaspoon mustard oil or extra virgin coconut oil
- ½ cup grated coconut
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 red onion
- 1 teaspoon chopped green chillies
- Salt to taste
Wash the moringa leaves well. Chop the onions and keep them aside. To the moringa leaves, add turmeric and black pepper. Take oil in a saucepan and when it is hot add mustard seeds and the chopped onions. Once cooked, add the moringa leaves mix. Saute for a few minutes and add the green chillies. Add salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add grated coconut once the leaves are cooked. Serve hot with rice as a side dish.
Recipe 4: Turmeric Pickle
This wonder spice has travelled around the globe and curcumin, the compound in turmeric which gives it its yellow colour, has been long discussed for its healing properties. It prevents diseases like cancer, controls blood sugar levels, improves liver function and has helped fight infections for generations. But there is a trick: curcumin doesn’t get absorbed in our gut without black pepper. So, adding just a pinch of black pepper is enough! Swap red chillies with black pepper and obtain health benefits!
I am sharing my turmeric pickle recipe with you.
- 250 gm turmeric root, julienned
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice.
Mix all the ingredients and keep the pickle in an airtight container. Shake every day so that the juice mixes with turmeric. Make sure the lemon juice covers the turmeric completely. After a week store it in the refrigerator. Have this with your meals for a boost of immunity and a burst of flavour.
Coriander Lemon Rassam
Nothing works better than just adding a boost of vitamin C in our favorite dishes. As you add baghar or tadka to your food, make a paste of lemon, coriander, cumin seeds and black pepper or green chillies and add it to your dish. This will not only uplift the taste of the dish but will also contribute to making it an immunity boosting dish.
There was no covid-19 virus before but there was the Spanish flu and the plague and a spate of other illnesses in the 1900’s — but what may have kept us strong and helped us get through those difficult times was a strong immune system. Stress less, sleep well, exercise, sun bathe, forest bathe and follow some of the recipes from above.