Perfect seasonal food – home made baked beans

beansSpringtime is the time to treat our palates with bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. Pulses, spiced right, are perfect spring food because they are astringent.

Knowingly, they are also “airy”, which is also a good property of food in this period when the season makes us feel heavy and tired. Nature balances itself through opposites and you can play with this concept a lot when you cook. Just remind yourself of the season’s qualities and then cook with opposite quality food.

Spring is a strong period of growth. The waters of the soil start flowing in late winter bringing qualities of heaviness and coldness around but providing life giving material for nature to wake up. Structure, cohesion and bulk created by the nature bring about feelings of heaviness, stiffness and tiredness. To avoid the season’s disorders taking over your body and mind resort to food that has opposite qualities: light (e.g. pulses), stimulating and heating (spices and herbs). Cut down on heavy items i.e. reduce the use of fats and you can almost avoid dairy. Generally eat less, especially in the evenings.

Sage is an optimal kitchen herb for this season. Being bitter, pungent and astringent in tastes it perfectly fits in to balance seasonal disorders. It is one of the herbs of choice for respiratory disorders, which are very typical of this season. Read more details of sage’s health benefits in Anne Macintyre’ site.

Here’s an old Italian recipe I love Fagioli all’uccelletto, which usually is made with cannellini beans. In fact, this is the original baked beans recipe. So, instead of buying ready-made ones make them yourself, which is far far better.

This time I’ve used giant beans because I prefer them out of all white beans. In Italy this dish is usually offered as a side with meat or fish but it makes a perfect supper in spring. A couple of dry crackers instead of bread is a perfect accompaniment (bread should be cut down in spring).

Another addition to the traditional recipe is the use of asafoedita spice (hing), which greatly reduces the gassy element of pulses. Take it as a default always to cook pulses with this gas smelling herb that actually reduces gas. Don’t be put off by the smell, you’ll be grateful for the effects. Use sparingly!

Also, I’ve stopped using vegetable oils for cooking. I use ghee instead as it does not turn rancid when you heat it and it feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut. I add olive oil in the end to get the proper Italian flavor out.

Spicy beans with cherry tomatoes and sage / Fagioli all’uccelletto

1 can of giant/cannellini beans (or dried if you have time)

15 cherry tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

3/4 tbsp ghee

Fresh sage

Pinch of chilli

Pinch of cracked black pepper

Pinch of asafoetida

Himalayan rock salt to taste

Cook the canned beans for 5 – 10 min in water with 5 leaves of fresh sage. If you are using dried beans then cooking takes longer and you need to have soaked the beans overnight first. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Add ghee into a pan with crushed garlic and fresh sage. Fry on a low fire to savour the fat. Add tomatoes cut side down and put the lid on the pan. Make sure the heat is low. You want to cook the tomatoes, keep the juice and avoid burning. Add the beans once they have cooked and soft, evaporate excess liquids, add salt, pepper and asafoetida. When you serve, pour a thread of olive oil on top.

Enjoy!

Just chew

chewAwareness in action is what makes life tasteful. If we only cultivated this ability a bit more we would live our lives much happier and healthier. Awareness means to stay in the present, enjoy the moment in all its flavours. When awareness is lost we either worry about future or delve in the past. Or, we’re multitasking, like watching TV whilst eating.

What’s wrong with multitasking? It messes up with your concentration. Things are best done with, yes, full awareness, especially eating. What’s wrong about TV dinners is that the television takes priority. It takes priority from what should be one of the most important things in our lives. Instead, we have started considering eating as something secondary, something we can do whilst carrying out work by the computer, on the go, whilst driving.

The idea that food is a commodity of second order has had tremendous consequences on our health. Obesity, late onset diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers are directly related to faulty eating habits. If we only sat down and ate with awareness we would experience a drastic drop in the occurrences of these conditions.

So why is it bad to concentrate on something else whilst eating? It is because our brains, when engaged in eating prevent us from sending food down without proper chewing. The process of chewing becomes much longer and this has amazing benefits in terms of digestion.

When our minds are on the TV screen the food is able to pass down to the stomach only after two bites. Incompletely chewed food is very hard to digest and causes bloating, gas, acidity and other digestive issues. But, if we chew properly the stomach and the enzymes in it are able to process the well-chewed bulk easily. Why? Because of the mechanical break down and mixing of saliva. Saliva has enzymes that are necessary to digest carbohydrates. Most digestive problems with bread and wheat products are due to not chewing properly and not mixing enough saliva in them. Gluten is a hard to digest protein and if it has been let to bypass the first phase of digestion i.e. chewing it becomes even harder, if not impossible to digest.

To prove I’m right about chewing and eating with awareness, try eating with your eyes closed. This way the brain is directed to survey the full eating process. You’ll notice that it is virtually impossible to send food down without it being well chewed. You will also notice that you eat less. Proper chewing makes you feel satisfied faster. Also, when the brain monitors how much volume and nutrients go down it will turn your appetite off when you’ve had enough. Even if you had the tastiest food on your plate you just don’t have the taste sensation anymore to enjoy it. Try this trick and see what the right consistency of the food should be and what is the ideal portion size for you.

Every process that starts well is easy. When the foundations are laid well you need less effort for the rest. So it is with digestion as well. If you chew properly you should be able to avoid overeating, make sure you absorb all the nutrients and eliminate the waste in a satisfying manner. Once this is happening you notice not only that you are physically healthier but also, you enjoy higher levels of concentration and awareness.

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