I find my best recipe inspiration from overseas holidays– it's a tough price to pay, but I'm happy to oblige for the sake of a new delicious dish for both you and me. I spent the most of May visiting New York and Los Angeles; both places where the plant-based/vegan/organic/healing/sugar-free/healthy food scene is truly alive. Looking for a dairy-free, low fructose, raw, avocado ice cream? You can find it in a convenience store. Seriously.
I probably sound like I'm criticizing this way of eating/lifestyle, but in all honesty, I am completely immersed in it. As lame as all these labels sound, they're marketed for a reason; eating this way makes me feel good and clearly does the same for many others– simple as that.
Sure I have days when I overindulge in raw chocolate, eat refined sugar (shock horror!) and eat half a pizza, and that's because there's nothing wrong with doing so. As confusing and expensive as hemp seeds, cacao powder and goji berries are, give them a try! Add some coconut milk and a banana and make a smoothie with them all– they might just make you feel good too!
This recipe on the other hand, is not confusing nor expensive, yet all the best organic/vegan/gluten free (you get the drill) cafes and restaurants I visited were serving it. It's a simple dish to make and is simple to digest– something we should definitely all consider more regularly. Think about this for a minute... In any meal of the day, the body doesn't digest and absorb the nutrients from your peanut butter on toast, or spaghetti bolognese at once. It actually has to break down and split up the components of your meal into protein, carbohydrate and fat and digest them all separately– it's hard work that requires the timely communication of various hormones, enzymes, secretions and stomach-muscle movements. It's no wonder you feel tired and sluggish after a burger and a milkshake– there are a lot of different components in that meal to break down, digest and absorb. Think of the tired, sluggish feeling that follows a meal like this, as a message from your insides for you to slow down physically and externally, so the digestive system can maximise the energy you have and get to work!
A juice cleanse is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about giving the digestive system a break, but there's really no need to be so radical. The liver is the body's in-built detoxifying organ, and certain foods help to boost its detoxifying potential, like broccoli, cabbage and kale. Including these in your diet regularly, will keep the liver working well– so long as you're not loading up on sugar, alcohol and caffeine at the same time.
Eating kitchari is my solution to resting the digestive system. Kitchari is the chicken soup of Indian cuisine; a wholesome and nourishing dish that you crave when you're sick, or turn to for an easy meal. It's made from a blend of soaked basmati rice and mung dal that resemble a chunky porridge when cooked. The word kitchari literally translates to "a mess of" and this dish is exactly a delicious mess of lentils, rice and spices.
The simplicity of kitchari is what makes it so easy on the digestive system. Pre-soaked lentils and rice increase the digestibility of the nutrients in these foods, making them readily absorbable– rest assured, by pre-soaking, you're maximising the goodness available.
Lentils are especially good for the digestive system because they're loaded with prebiotics and fibre. No doubt you've heard of probiotics– foods containing live bacteria that help to build and encourage the proliferation of bacteria in our gut for optimal health, but prebiotics are the food/fuel preferred by the bacteria living within us (think lentils, beans, garlic, onion and oats). Prebiotics help our good gut bacteria grow and thrive, add bulk to the stool and keep things moving.
For an easy, nourishing meal that's full of nutrition, look no further than kitchari. Break out your best saucepan and get cooking! A good quality heavy-bottomed saucepan for this dish is an absolute must, and is something you'll use and appreciate time and time again in your kitchen.
I've included a recipe for a cashew-coconut-lime cream to serve a-top the Kitchari which adds creaminess, depth and zing– you'll love it.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon quill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon freshly grated turmeric
1/2 cup red lentils, soaked overnight
1/2 cup mung dal, soaked overnight
1/2 cup red rice– or brown or basmati, soaked overnight
3.5 cups water
juice of half a lime
handful chopped coriander (including stems)
1/4 cup cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tablespoon coconut flakes
heavy pinch salt
1/4 cup water
1. Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan to a medium heat, then add the coriander and cumin seeds to the pan, and listen for when you hear the coriander seeds pop.
2. When the coriander seeds have popped, add in the other spices and salt, along with the ginger and turmeric and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3. Add the lentils, mung dal and rice to the pan, stir, then pour in all the water. Bring saucepan to boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes. At this stage, all the water should be absorbed, and the lentils and rice will have softened to a chunky porridge-like consistency.
4. Blend or process ingredients for Lime Cashew Cream until combined.
5. Squeeze the lime juice into the saucepan and stir-through the coriander. Serve with cashew-lime cream, or yoghurt.