Winter has arrived and boy, can we feel it! The weather changes, tagged with the busy period that is December, can be a sure-fire way of burning yourself out.
I have always been fascinated how the Indian diet, the Indian Grandmas and cooks of the house were so in sync with the changing seasons. They have a holistic attitude towards food in Indian culture and the Ayurvedic approach takes weather, body type and the effect they have on the body into consideration.
When the seasons change, the household cooks would naturally increase or decrease certain elements used in the daily dishes. This is all because various herbs and spices are known to have either warming or cooling effects on the body, as well as being rich in specific minerals that help to give you a boost.
Through understanding some of these and making a few small adjustments to your food – even introducing more Indian food to your diet, you could start to see the benefits.
Here’s a list of some easy-to-find spices and ingredients to fill your cupboard with, help stave off viruses and keep you (and your immune system) fighting fit.
Turmeric is the super spice of the Indian world and is now being recognised in the Western world too yet it’s something that I have grown up with. Recently, I’ve seen it in coffee, crisps, fizzy drinks - you name it! Turmeric is the new big health product.
In Indian culture and in Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used for centuries. In cooking, turmeric was used because of its antibacterial properties, especially as a marinade for fish and seafood. It was also thought to protect the inside of your tummy too. Indeed, warm turmeric milk was given to children and the elderly and mixed with honey because of its healing properties – something that’s easy to try at home. To find out more about this beautiful root, have a look here too.
Ginger is warming, making it the perfect ingredient to increase in your diet in the cold weather. My mum always makes athrak (ginger) soup when she is feeling under the weather. It warms you from the inside out and gives your immune system a bit of a boost, so it’s just what you need if you are suffering with a cold. I have adapted my mum’s recipe for my Easy Indian Slow Cooker Cookbook so you can prepare the soup when it’s convenient and enjoy hours later. No more winter nights sniffling over the stove!
Ginger is also known for its anti-nausea properties and is good at settling the tummy if you are feeling a bit queasy, so this could be ideal if you’re pregnant too!
As a little tip from me, if you get carried away over the holiday season and have one too many glasses of wine, athrak soup is ideal for hangovers. It settles the tummy and the citrus freshness brings your mouth and body back to life!
Cumin is used in Asian cuisine, as well as Mexican and Mediterranean cooking. The seeds are warming and give a peppery earthiness to dishes. It is a great supplement to add to your diet since it is high in iron and magnesium.
Cumin is also a good source of calcium and may help to strengthen our bones too. With its high Vitamin C levels, cumin keeps your immune system healthy – you can even boil it up and drink the warm cumin water too for a homemade cold remedy. You can add cumin to lots of dishes to jazz them up, such as in my recipe for Jeera Aloo which makes a great side dish.
Garlic is full of vitamins and minerals and is also known for its antibacterial properties which come from the enzyme alliinase. This converts alliin to allicin and it’s this that is responsible for the aroma found in fresh garlic and the antibacterial property of raw garlic. Raw garlic is the most beneficial as the enzyme can be inactivated with heat.
Maximise the health benefits as follows:
1.Crush or slice all your garlic before you eat it. This increases the allicin content.
2. Before you cook with your crushed garlic, let it stand for 10 minutes.
3. Use a lot of garlic — more than one clove per meal, if you can. It has been found that increasing the amount you use compensates for its loss in medicinal properties.
Cinnamon is a beautifully seasonal spice, perfect for this festive time of the year. Its warming properties make it an ideal spice to use when you need to warm up. It makes a wonderful addition to puddings, mulled wine and spiced cider. However, it’s not just great for getting you into the Christmas spirit, it has also been used as a cold curer for years.
While cinnamon is well known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, honey has been shown to fight infections so combining the two make a super healing remedy. Honey and cinnamon together make a great glaze for ham or your Christmas goose, and you can even use them to make a warming tonic or tea if you are suffering from a cold. It can easily be added into your staple diet as well. Cinnamon features in my Healthy Chicken Korma, and many other savoury mains.
Asafoetida is known as hing in India and is a pungent spice produced from the sap of a fennel-esque plant native to Afghanistan. It has a similar flavour profile to onions and garlic with numerous health benefits. It helps improve digestion and is known to soothe coughs too, making it a lovely spice to incorporate into your diet. A classic Rogan Josh gains its flavour from asafoetida but it can also be used to make the tarka for Dhal and rice dishes like this Tamarind Rice.
It is so easy to get hold of these once exotic spices and add them to your diet, not just for the health benefits but also because they elevate the taste of your food like you wouldn’t believe. Many of them are available online from my shop but also from most supermarkets. If you don’t want to go and spend lots of money on different spices then my curry kits may be the perfect option for you. They have the measured amount of spices for that particular dish, making it easier for you to cook great meals from scratch and to introduce some of these much-needed spices into your diet this winter. Try the biryani kit - it’s the perfect way to use up your left-over turkey too.
Enjoy!Back to Blog