This recipe, veggie sabzi (pumpkin curry), is a guest post by Riccardo Orlando, someone we noticed as soon as he started posting his homemade South Indian food (a favourite of ours from our days in Mysore) on his Instagram account. As he went on we discovered he also blended in some of his native Italian food, adapted to suit his Ayurvedic cooking style.
We got in touch to ask if he would contribute some recipes for our blog and found out a bit more about him. We are happy to have begun this friendship and to share the first of two recipes he has created for us. And we hope one day to try his cooking in person, in the meantime we will be trying this soon.
You can discover more of his plant based recipes and cooking tips at @TheAshramCook
Riccardo accidentally discovered Ashtanga yoga in the attempt to heal his knees and lungs while working in a corporate career, and he got hooked. He eventually took a turn and trained as a Kundalini teacher at Amrit Nam Sarovar in the French alps
The curiosity to investigate the body-mind connection drove him to Mysore where he studied Yoga Therapy with Acharya Venkatesh. Cooking has been a life-changing practice, growing slowly over the past 10 years. Influenced by backpacking across SE Asia and South America, study Ayurveda with Dr. Frawley, medicinal plants, and the Whole Food Plant Based Movement at the Center for Nutrition Studies. In addition, his current yoga practice and teaching concentrate on Pranayama and Meditations in the Yoga, Vipassana, and Advaita traditions.
Riccardo’s Food Philosophy
Food is information, as much as other external stimuli that we intentionally [or involuntary] expose our eyes, years and bodies. Above all, the quality and clarity of that information is a direct function of the body and mind we create in every moment. The mind and body feed on the food we consume, influencing our general health, mood, energy levels – including our asana and meditation practice.
Yogis like Svatmarama, and Vasistha have included Āhāra (food diet) as one of the components of Mahāvrata (great vows) in line with the Yama and Nyama.
As per his Italian education, when it comes to cooking, Riccardo tends to have general guidelines rather than strict rules:
- Whole plant-based food rich in water are the plate bedrock
- Processed food (including oils, or sugar made by extraction) should be reduced or avoided
- Spices are our best friends and an inexpensive full time Doctor
- Set & setting change the end result, similarly to asana: be gentle with the heat, never overcook plants, chose Inox, cast-iron or better clay pots.
The recipe that follows is directional, and share ideas on how to cook and Indian sabzi (basically a curry) out of some whole ingredients. Perfect go-to lunch when coupled with brown rice and lentils, made it with pumpkin since is the perfect winter ingredient. The colour is sun for the eyes, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals, is nutrient dense and low in calories – being over 90% water it’s great for digestion and hydration. You can replace with sweet potatoes (I confess that is my favourite version!). Similarly even normal potatoes – keep the skin on if you buy organic, they come from your garden, or trust the source. No oil involved, the fats to make it creamier, and to improve nutrients absorption will come from grated coconut and cashews.
Pumpkin and Chickpeas Sabzi (no oil)
Makes 1 large or 2 side portions
- 200gr of pumpkin (or 1-2 Sweet potatoes) cubed
- 1/4 cup (c.100ml) filtered water
- 100gr cooked chickpeas
For the cream:
- 2 firm tomatoes
- 1/2 red onion or 1 small spring onion (avoid if you are doing intense meditation practice)
- 1in. peeled ginger
- 30-40 gr freshly grated [or desiccated] coconut
- 2 tbs cashews [peanuts are a more affordable alternative and perfect in Indian cooking]
- 1 small fresh chilly [or chilli powder]
- 1 tsp cumin powder [or 2 tbs scant of seeds]
- 1/2 tsp fennel powder [or 1 tbs of seeds]
- 1 tsp of rock salt
- 1 tsp of turmeric
- Filtered water for consistency
Extras (if available)
- 1/2 tsp of Mustard seeds
- 2 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- Parsley or coriander for topping
- Lemon or lime
Again, this is a base technique that can be applied to several other root vegetables:
Steam-boil the pumpkin in a pot with a touch of water, the mustard seeds and 1/2 tsp of cumin: cook until the fork can get in the chunks, but they are still firm – pumpkins have the tendency to become mushy quickly! Now, add the chickpeas.
Chuck all the remaining ingredients in a blender, add some pieces of the pumpkin and some water to get to a smoothie-like consistency.
Tip and ideas
- Replace chickpeas for peas (fresh or frozen)
- Add leafy green at the end, so they will steam cook and preserve the nutrients
- Add extra diced tomato and some grated coconut as garnish
- Store the sauce and use it with different veggies the following day