Published in Yoga Awakening Magazine as “Winter Warmers” June 2008
As we grow in our yoga practice, we cultivate our awareness in ever widening pools beginning with self and expanding outward towards others including global and even universal consciousness. The realization of our connection to all things leads many yogis to seek out ethical and better choices in all aspects of life, often beginning with basic needs for healthy and safe food, water and air. Global warming has heightened our collective concern for what can be done by each of us to reestablish the harmony between humans and the earth and most of us are already proactively involved in saving energy by recycling, watching our consumption of non sustainable energy and eating organic, seasonal and local products.
We can find organic brands at many markets, including some national chains and, if we want to escalate our commitment we can also seek out local handmade and organic food products in our area to help small farmers sustain their businesses and to reduce our own carbon foot prints. Farmer’s markets, sprouting up in just about every community, are filled with stalls manned by local artisans and food producers offering a gamut of wholesome and humanly raised foods like free range eggs, organically produced vegetables, fruits, poultry, grains, legumes and various preserves, baked goods and products prepared with organic ingredients. Some organic farms are even offering weekly deliveries of their products.
Considering the fact that organic food has been proven to be markedly more nutritious and certainly tastier than industrially produced food, it is understandable that the demand has outgrown the current supply in South Africa. The good news is that this trend “will grow 30% annually over the next four years” (www.urbansprout.co.za) meeting the challenge of the green movement with real solutions in the form of sustainable, wholesome and naturally fresher produce and products.
However, the choice to purchase organic apples in season is one thing, but the commitment to make a meaningful shift towards a greener diet often means exploring beyond the boundaries of what is familiar on one’s plate.
A good start might be taking a peek at the websites included in this article to find our why we need to pay attention to labels and gain a deeper understanding of ways we can reduce our carbon footprint. Then visit www.sprout.co.za to help you find suppliers and farmers markets in your area where you will get a good idea of what each season has to offer.
The local winter harvest includes plenty of root vegetables like beets, parsnips, potatoes as well as heavier squash varieties such as pumpkin. Expect to see hardy greens-kale, cabbage, spinach-and some lesserknown varieties such as bok choy and radicchio. Cruciferous vegetables and citrus fruits plus a good variety of local pears and, of course, apples, abound.
The following recipes provide some ideas for warming, nutritious and delicious meals for busy yogis. All the recipes involve slow cooking on the stove, multi tasking energy so you keep warm while you cook.
Applesauce is luscious way to enjoy the tart/sweet freshness of apples and makes an easy on the digestion before practice snack. Enjoy it on it’s own-warm or cold or on toast or muesli. The recipe is as simple as it gets.
Find a selection of different types of apples and wash well.
1 kilogram of fresh apples will yield about a liter of applesauce.
Roughly chop the apples into thirds or quarters, making the pieces even in size. Throw them all into pot and add a very small amount of water just to cover the bottom of the pan. A nonstick pan is best because the less water you use, the more buttery and rich the applesauce will be.
For flavor, add one or more of the following:
A cinnamon stick or two
A cardamom pod
A few cloves.
It’s a good idea to wrap the spices in a small piece of muslin tied with string.
Cover and simmer slowly, stirring every so often so the apples don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. As the apples cook, they will give off their own juices so adding more water is not necessary. When all of the apples are completely soft (about 20-30 minutes) leave them to cool in the pot.
When cool, remove the whole spices and run the apples through a food mill. You can use a sieve and spoon to push the apples through but it will take far more time and energy.
Store in well-sealed containers in the fridge for up to two weeks.
SPELT RISOTTO WITH CHICKPEAS, ORANGE AND SAGE
Mostly seen in South Africa in the form of pasta or flour, whole grain spelt is available from various organic growers and health food stores. If you’ve never tried spelt, you are in for a treat and this hearty vegetarian risotto dish provides a complete protein with thanks to the addition of chickpeas. Spelt tastes like hazelnuts and sweet barley and the grain is tender on the outside but satisfyingly chewy in the center. Although spelt is related to the wheat family, it is easier to digest and richer in protein and vitamins. The spark of orange zest alongside the earthy herb and grain flavors is unbeatable.
1.5 cups (9 ounces) of spelt presoaked for an hour in hot filtered or bottled water.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
16 fresh sage leaves torn into small pieces
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
½ teasp. crushed fennel seeds
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 425 gram can of chickpeas
8-10 cups homemade or organic vegetable or chicken broth
zest of one orange
2 large cloves of garlic-minced
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup freshly grated parmesan or Reggiano cheese
1 small bunch of parsley leaves-chopped
Cover the spelt in hot water and soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Warm the oil in a heavy pot on medium high heat. Add the onion, sage, rosemary, fennel seeds, and salt.
Cover, turn heat to low and cook until onions are soft and transparent (about 15 minutes).
Raise heat to medium high to brown onions, stirring to prevent burning. Just before the onions are done, add half of the chickpeas.
In a separate pan, bring the broth to a low simmer.
Drain the spelt and add to the onions, along with half the orange zest and all of the garlic; stir for a minute. Add the broth a cup at a time until it is absorbed, while the ingredients simmer, uncovered. When the spelt is almost tender, add the remaining chickpeas and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in wine and remaining orange zest. When the wine is absorbed, test for doneness. The spelt should be tender and a little chewy with no raw taste. Add more stock if spelt is not soft enough.
When completely done, remove the rosemary sprig.
Turn off the heat, add in cheese, stir well and let it rest, uncovered for five minutes. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with parsley and serve.
CURRIED ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP
This soup celebrates the lesser used parsnip along with other winter goodies-carrots, apples and oranges-in a flavorful mix of sweet and savory. It is an attractive starter or can be served with bread and salad for a casual supper.
Serves 4-6 as a starter
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 thumb size knob of fresh ginger-grated
1 teas. olive oil (use a non stick pan or add more oil, if needed)
½ teas. cinnamon
½ teas. turmeric
1 teas. ground cumin
pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 cup of unsweetened apple juice
4 cups vegetable stock (preferably organic or homemade) or water
2 cups of scrubbed and sliced organic carrots (peel non organic)
2 cups of scrubbed and sliced parsnips
1 cup orange juice-freshly squeezed is best
Juice of ½ large lemon
salt and pepper
Coriander or chives
Optional: Crème fraiche, sour cream or Bulgarian yoghurt
Sauté onions, garlic and ginger in the oil until onion is translucent. Add spices and continue to sauté for a few minutes. Add apple juice and deglaze the pan. Add the carrots and parsnips and sauté for a minute before adding the stock. Then mix well, cover and simmer until vegetables are soft.
Either blend or use a hand mixer to puree the vegetables while adding the oranges juice.
Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Can be served hot or cold. For more flavor, add a spoonful of yogurt, crème fraiche or sour cream and sprinkle with cilantro and/or chives.
WINTER GREEN SOUP
You have every right to feel virtuous making this soup because you are not only being thrifty by using beet greens but this soup is quite low in fat and calories. It just happens to be delicious, especially when sprinkled with a little cheese.
2 large onions chopped
1 TBS olive oil
5 cups filtered water
2 large bunches of beet greens 1 large bunch of spinach
1 cup sliced green onions
½ bunch of fresh coriander
2 cups home made or organic vegetable broth
fresh ground pepper
juice from 1 lemon
Optional: crumbled feta, Parmesan or other light cheese
Croutons made from whole wheat or rye bread
Cook onions as slowly as possible in oil, stirring frequently add a little salt. The onions should caramelize and turn a lovely golden brown in 30-40 minutes. This is the secret to the great taste so don’t hurry this step.
Meanwhile, if the potatoes are organic, just scrub; otherwise, peel, then dice and add to a soup pot. Add water and 1 teaspoon of salt, simmer. Wash all the greens including coriander well, remove tough stems from beet greens and spinach and chop together roughly. Add to pot. It will look like an enormous pile of greens but, don’t worry, it cooks down. Add the onions to the pot, once they are caramelized. Cook until the potatoes are soft-approximately 30 minutes.
Add the vegetable broth and either use a hand blender, or put the soup into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Over blending will cause the soup to turn gummy so watch this step carefully.
Put the soup back in the pot and heat up a to simmer, seasoning with salt, pepper, cayenne (if desired) and lemon juice. Add more broth if soup is too thick. Garnish with cheese and/or croutons if desired and serve.