Review written & photographed by Helena McMurdo
UK based Anjum Anand is the host of Indian Food Made Easy (carried in the US on The Cooking Channel), and has had UK bestsellers with Indian Food Made Easy and Anjum’s New Indian. She is known for her light, healthy, modern take on Indian Cuisine.
I know what you are thinking – why am I reviewing a ‘healthy/diet’ book. It’s just soooo not me. Or is it? After a few months of reviewing some very delectable cookbooks, I’ll be honest and say I was beginning to exhibit some…er…side effects. So the idea of a healthy book sounded like a good idea. Well at least it couldn’t do me any harm.
Anjum’s Eat Right For Your Body Type: The Super-Healthy Detox Diet Inspired by Ayurveda (published by Da Capo Lifelong Books, $24.95 USD) is an interesting look at the world of Ayurveda and the foods that suit each of the Ayurvedic Doshas. Even if you have no knowledge or interest in Ayurveda, you’ll appreciate this book for its healthy (not to mention delicious!) recipes.
Ayurveda is a form of alternative medicine originating in India. The Sanskrit word translates to “knowledge for long life” and is based on the belief that everything in the world is based on the interaction of different and dynamic forces and energies.
The three energies that make up Ayurveda are called Doshas and while according to Ayurvedic belief we all possess all three Doshas, usually one or two will dominate. This in turn affects who we are, and how we react to things including food. Although it’s significantly more complicated than I’m describing, for the purposes of this book, the premise is that certain foods suit certain people and constitutions better than others.
The book contains a significant introduction and explanation of Ayurveda, including an outline of the various Doshas and a quiz that will assist in identifying your own Dosha. Then there are 75 recipes, most of which suit or are easily adaptable for all Doshas. In addition, there are menu plans for each Dosha and a chapter providing detox diets.
My initial impressions were that the recipes in the book provided lots of delicious and tempting (yes tempting) choices, but I quickly became frustrated as I was experiencing a form of Dosha confusion. I eventually enlisted the help of a friend to work through the quiz with me and settled on a Vata/Pitta assessment. (Now you know all my secrets).
In reality, I needn’t have worried about whether or not I correctly identified my Dosha, as the recipes are all healthful and representative of a balanced diet. While many of the recipes draw on flavours and spices that we would traditionally associate with India, there are other ingredients and cultures represented that give this book a broader appeal. Lean proteins such as chicken and fish are included as well as a host of vegetarian dishes. This is one of those books that will tempt you on every page with new ideas for familiar flavours and ingredients.
I found everything that I made to be delicious and very simple to make. Most dishes ask for only a few ingredients and any well-stocked pantry will provide you most of the items you need. The majority of recipes are designed to serve one or two people, a feature that I can tell you I rarely find in a cookbook. As someone who cooks most of the time for just myself and my lovely fellow, I appreciated the smaller portion sizes.
I really enjoyed this book, and in fact I was pleasantly surprised at the great extent to which I did like it. Health benefits aside, more than anything I was impressed by the range, variety, and deliciousness of the recipes. While I’ve always been interested in the idea of Ayurveda and enjoyed learning more about the lifestyle, I doubt I have the discipline to follow it very strictly. My only advice would be don’t let confusion over your particular Dosha stop you from trying the wonderful recipes in this book. There’s so much to enjoy! This is a health book that’s all about taste. And that’s my kind of book.
Quinoa & Sweet Spice Oatmeal
Rating: 5 out of 5 (so tasty I forgot it was good for me)
THE TEST: My breakfast of late has been consisting of a coffee made from my Italian stovetop coffee pot and a piece of homemade brown bread with butter. Probably too much butter. I’m not usually that hungry in the morning, but many of the breakfast recipes in this book were appealing to me. I tried the Cardamom laced Semolina, and while tasty, I didn’t like the texture.
The flavours of cinnamon and star anise featured in the Quinoa & Sweet Spice Oatmeal were appealing to me, and I like quinoa although I still wasn’t sure how it would be for breakfast. With a few minor adjustments, the book recommends this dish as essentially suitable for all Doshas. Since I was still unclear about my true Dosha I figured this would be a good recipe to try.
The quinoa is boiled in milk of your choice (I used regular cow’s milk but rice, almond or soy are also recommended), and then flavoured with cinnamon, star anise and orange zest and dried fruit. I used golden raisins that I had on hand, and served it with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of honey.
Reading the recipe the night before and seeing that the quinoa needed to be cooked for 30 minutes, I did my mise en place the night before so that I could save some time in the morning and throw it all together quickly. Besides, I wasn’t sure that I could be trusted without my coffee to get this right in the morning. (I took another suggestion out of this book and started the day out with some hot water with lemon and ginger in lieu of my usual hit of caffeine).
THE RESULTS: Seriously. Yum.
I loved everything about this from the flavours to the texture. The crunchy pumpkin seeds and the plumped up sweet raisins were perfect together. Gorgeously delicious. I ate the whole generous serving and licked my lips nicely afterward. This is a delicious discovery I’ll definitely be making it again.
Red Onion, Radicchio & Goat Cheese Pizza
Rating: 5 out of 5 (I want to eat this every day)
THE TEST: I enlisted the help of my friend Anna, a yoga teacher with an interest in Ayurveda, to both help me eat this dish and assist me in nailing down my Dosha. I’m really not partial to radicchio, at least in its raw form, but this recipe looked like the perfect light lunch that would suit us both.
The onion is caramelized in a frying pan, garlic is added for a quick minute and radicchio is added to the mix until just wilted. Ground fennel and balsamic vinegar go in near the end and then the whole mixture is placed on a wheat (or corn) tortilla that has been held over an open flame with tongs to toast. I was momentarily distracted and managed to burn one of the tortillas while I chatted away with Anna (was this the Vata in me coming out?) but saved it before too much damage was done. I sprinkled the goat cheese and watercress over the whole thing and was done.
This recipe was easy and can be put together with a moment’s notice provided you have the ingredients on hand.
THE RESULTS: The book notes that this recipe is very satisfying and boy are they are not kidding! This was a really yummy lunch and the portion was perfect for two. The usual bitterness that I associate with radicchio was mellowed through cooking and went nicely with the classic combination of goat cheese and caramelized onion. I couldn’t really taste the fennel powder which disappointed me for a brief instant, mostly because I had been curious about what it would add to the dish. But then I took another bite and promptly forgot all about fennel powder. This pizza comes together in an instant and is a real winner. I think it would be great with Arugula too. I’ve made it several times since my initial recipe test, each time to rave reviews.
Fragrant Coconut Fish Curry
Rating: 5 out of 5 (yum!)
TEST: I’m always looking for new ways to put fish into my diet, and this dish appealed to me straight away. I did find the ingredient list intriguing and rather specific (five peppercorns, eight fenugreek seeds). I chuckled a bit, but in fact I can honestly say that the suggested quantities in the recipes were always specific and reliably bang on. Everything seemed to work perfectly.
After toasting some whole spices including the aforementioned plus cinnamon, cloves and mustard seeds, curry leaves and onions are added and cooked until soft.
Garlic and ginger are thrown in the mix and then turmeric is added and toasted in the pan before seasoning with salt.
This initial mixture is then cooked down with a bit of water before adding coconut milk and finally some lemon juice and the fish cut into cubes. I used beautiful BC halibut.
Total prep time about 20 minutes.
RESULTS: Creamy, soothing and delicious. This is a lovely dish. The curry is very mild yet delicately scented and fragrant. I wouldn’t change a thing. YUMMMY!