7 Ayurvedic Herbs for the Kitchen[br]
In Ayurvedic cooking, taste or rasa plays a very important role. And no, it doesn’t just have to do with making a dish delicious, but also delving deep into how all the ingredients put together can benefit your body and its well-being. Each ingredient has unique properties and it finds ways to make the most out of those benefits.
1. Curry Leaves (Kadhi Patta)
The pride and glory of South Indian cuisine, curry leaves are extensively used in spicy meat-based stir-fries, sambhar, rasam, upma, dosa filling and chutneys, among others. The rest of the Subcontinent also uses it as tadka for dals. Its sharp flavour works wonders to lend character to a dish, and it teams very well with spices, especially black pepper. Just fry it in a little oil to extract the aroma and then use it to prepare your dishes.
Curry leaves are packed with fibre, essential vitamins and minerals, anti-oxidants and anti-bacterial agents, and a rich source of iron and folic acid. They are good for keeping a check on blood sugar levels and cholesterol, and also known to treat anaemia, used as a cure for diarrhea and stomach ulcers, and said to be beneficial for digestion. Dry leaves can be stored but lose most of their aromatics. Wet leaves break down quickly so avoid storing them wet. They do not have a very long shelf life. Detach them from the stems only before cooking
Recipe: Curry Leaves Chutney from Chef Thomas Robin Gomes, Chutney, The Metropolitan, Hotel Nikko
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp curry leaves
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp chopped green chillies
2 tsp tamarind pulp
1 tsp powdered sugar
2. Bay Leaves
This aromatic leaf is widely known for its medicinal properties. They contain powerful anti-oxidants and are believed to help prevent cancer and kidney stones. In the kitchen, it is mainly used to tune up the flavour in dals, curries, biryani, rajma, chole, etc. The leaves are commonly available in the dried form. They are added to the dishes and left to simmer for an hour or so to extract its flavour, which otherwise is very mild. They are often discarded once the dish is ready as they are not meant for consumption. Fresh leaves are also available and it is said that soaking them in water for a few hours and then drinking the water early morning could help keep a check on blood sugar level.[br]
Pudina, or mint, is not just a powerhouse of medical properties, but the distinctive flavour lends to creating some spectacular dishes. In most Indian households, pudina chutney is the popular condiment that accompanies almost every meal – from teaming it with omelette or parathas for breakfast, having it with rice and dal for lunch, to dipping those deep-fried snacks in them or using it to make sandwiches. The refreshing flavour of mint also makes it the obvious choice to shake up mocktails or juices during summers. It is also extensively used in marinades for tandoor-grilled meat dishes and in curries.
Mint helps in digestion, relives cough and cold, body pain, and fatigue. It is recommended for maintaining oral hygiene and is used to treat allergies.
4. Holy Basil
Unlike the Italian or the Thai variants, the Indian basil is milder in flavor but is used to prepare a few dishes where it lends a peppery zing such as in soups and stir-fries. It is not without reason that this herb is considered holy. In Ayurveda, it is known for its healing properties and used to treat a number of ailments – from fever, common cough and cold to respiratory disorder, heart disease, stress, skin infection, headaches, etc. A cup of freshly brewed tulsi tea is believed to be the perfect start to the day, boosting your immunity and providing you energy to carry out various tasks.
To prepare Tulsi tea at home, add 1 ½ cups of water and 12-14 tulsi leaves in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Strain it into a cup and finish with a squeeze of a quarter lemon. Or you can buy a lovely ready made Organic Brew from our shop!
Commonly used as a condiment or garnish and gives your food a warm, aromatic and citrus flavor. It contains essential oils, six types of acids, minerals and vitamins. It helps lower cholesterol levels, reduce skin inflammation, lower blood pressure, ward off mouth ulcers and also works as an anti-allergic. Coriander is a rich source of calcium.
Widely used herb with a bitter taste and strong aroma. Contains protein, fiber, vitamin C and K, niacin, potassium, iron and alkaloids. It’s considered very good for diabetic patients, reduces the risk of heart disease, aids digestion, helps maintain a hormonal balance for women, cures acid reflux or heartburn and also helps to prevent colon cancer. Used in dal, curries, stir-fries, chicken dishes and also as a filling in parathas. A popular dish in most Indian households is Methi Aloo, where the sweetness of the tuber and the bitter flavour of the greens pair beautifully to create a delightful treat. And for meat lovers, Methi Chicken is a favourite that go very well with butter rotis. The Gujarati thepla is another popular dish which is flatbread made with wheat flour, gram flour and methi leaves. It is usually eaten with chilli pickle. The trick to using methi leaves is balancing its flavour with the other ingredients. Both the dried and the fresh leaves are used in the preparation of the dishes.
Ashwagandha, also known as the Indian Ginseng is one of the most powerful medicinal herbs. It is more than 3000 years old and has extensively been used in Ayurveda. It is helpful in treating anxiety, lowering inflammation and blood pressure, balancing the nervous system and strengthening the immune system.
Visit Uma Ayurveda for 100% Certified Organic Ashwagandha from Gopala Ayurveda brought to you in powder or vegi-cap form. They also provide a powerful Ashwagandha Rasayana!
Header Image provided courtesy of Santosha Yoga and Ayurveda