Friday, 27 July 2012

Why Offer Food to God?

A typical Indian-style offering of sabji (cooked vegetables), dal, pilau rice, chapattis, pakoras and tomato chutney. There will often also be a sweet such as khir (aromatic rice pudding) ladu or burfi- but Krishna will accept any offering as long as it is n the Mode of Goodness... even homemade pizza! It's the love that's important.

Sri Sri Radha Ramana Bihari (Radha and Krishna) and Gauranga from our local Hare Krishna temple.

patram puspam phalam toyam

yo me bhaktya prayacchati

tad aham bhakty-upahrtam

asnami prayatatmanah

-Bhagavad Gita 9.26

"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or 

water, I will accept it."

In the Bhakti Yoga tradition of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, one very beautiful way in which we can connect with God (Radha and Krishna) is by offering Him some foods (naivedyam) which are in the mode of goodness; these are pure vegetarian foods which are free from eggs, fish, meat, onions, garlic and mushrooms; God does not accept these foods. Those who practise other forms of yoga will also know about the Three Modes of Material Nature to which everything in the material world (as opposed to the spiritual world) belongs; Tamas (ignorance), Rajas (Passion) and Sattva (Goodness). If we want to develop spiritually, our diet should only include those foods belonging to the Sattva Guna; these are dairy foods from cows (ideally nonviolent produce from cows who are respected and not slaughtered later), fruits, vegetables, grains and beans and nuts. Eggs, meat and fish are not included. Neither are stimulants such as tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, betel/ supari or recreational drugs. Onions, garlic and mushrooms are also not offerable and should not be eaten; onions and garlic are rajasic and disturb peace of mind, making it harder to meditate. Mushrooms grow in unclean conditions and in the darkness. See here and here for my other posts on this. I've seen lots of information about the yogic diet recently on the internet, and it seems that as yoga becomes ever more popular in the West, so aspects other than just the physical excercises are being adopted- it's a holistic lifestyle thing. Actually, it's not that hard to adapt your diet, and it doesn't mean only eating Indian food, either. With a bit of ingenuity you can adapt all kinds of recipes- that was the whole raison d'etre of this blog, in fact! (I realise it occupies a very small niche indeed in the blogosphere, but these recipes can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone.)
So back to offering naivedyam-  I guesss you are wondering that if God is all-powerful, then why does He need to eat food from us? -Well He doesn't need to! (At least, He doesn't as long as our perception of Him is as the all-powerfu Supreme Being; when we come to realise His original form we will naturally want to look after him in the mood of eg: a close friend or a parent-  read "The Nectar of Devotion" by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to learn more about this.) He accepts our offerings (See Gita quote above) because He wants to taste our love for Him more than the food itself. Bhakti yoga is all about connecting (that's what the word yoga means) with God on a soul level- in other words, we are not our bodies, but we are embodied souls, or jivas. As we are embodied in this material world, we find it hard to remember our real identity, as jivas who are at once part and parcel of God, yet separate from Him. We exist to lovingly serve God, and He in turn loves us and will nurture and sustain us. This is just a very, very simplified outline of why we make offerings  of naivedyam. It's a loving exchange with God. I recommend "Kitchen of Love", a fantastic cookbook about food and spirituality, for further reading on this subject. (It's available form Amazon, or also through me.) If you want to know a bit more about Bhakti Yoga philosophy, look here on my page "What is Bhakti Yoga?"

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

New Potato and Broad Bean Salad with creamy dressing- vegan

Garnish with sprigs of mint and radish roses- look here for how to make these

Makes an attractive dish for an al fresco lunch

Summer seems to be here at long last, and our allotment is finally looking fruitful. This recipe came about as a way to use our broad beans and potatoes, but, smells and flavours being so evocative, as I was preparing it I was transported back to my beloved Auntie Pat's bungalow on the edge of the New Forest.... Pat also loved to grow her own veggies, and her garden was always amazingly well-kept, right to the end of her life. I remember particularly one Summer's day when I was about 21, taking the bus to visit her and she set before me a plate full of her homegrown new potatoes and broad beans, unadorned except for salt, butter and fresh mint (also from the garden). I never saw Auntie Pat serve potatoes without mint, in fact... as she regaled me with my favourite stories of her youth in India (like the time she ran away from home at the age of 5, taking her dad's pistol with her then going through a forest area where there was a maneating tiger...!), we tucked in to this quintessentially English fare, and I remember thinking that I'd never eaten anything so delicious before. I think Auntie would have approved of this salad version of her much- loved homegrown ingredients... Serves 4-5 as a side.

250-300g fresh broad beans (shelled weight)
1 kg new potatoes
a few sprigs of fresh mint and 3 or 4 radishes to garnish
For the dressing: (makes a bit more than you wil actually need, but it'a so nice you will want to put it with other salads too :) )
3 tabs light tahini
2 tabs extra- virgin olive oil
2 tabs yeast flakes (aka nutritional yeast)
1 tsp yellow mustard powder (such as Coleman's)
3-4 tabs lemon juice*
1tsp seasalt
1/4 -1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
100ml water

*Sorry- I forgot to note down exactly how much, so add it slowly and stop when it's tangy enough yet still creamy)

  • Blanch the beans for 2 minutes in boiling water, then rinse with cold immediately. They will retain their crunchy texture somewhat, but not taste raw.
  • Wash and prepare the potatoes. Don't peel them; the thin skill will most likely peel off as you wash them anyway. Very small potatoes can be left whole. Try to get them a uniform size, as you don't want some to be cook soft while others are hard in the centre. (I know because I've done this!)
  • Steam the potatoes in a minimal amount of water, so that it all gets absorbed and they slip off a knife when cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together with a balloon whisk.
  • When the potatoes are cooked, rinse them in cold water.
  • Mix the potatoes and beans together in a bowl with about 1/2 -2/3 of the dressing (keep the rest in the fridge for later).
  • Garnish with mint sprigs and radish roses, and there you go...

Monday, 23 July 2012

Hemp and Fruit Bars- vegan, raw

Hemp and fruit bars- every bit as good as those really expensive bars you get in health food shops!  The glossiness is the hemp oil from the seeds.
Those of you who follow this blog will know that we recently bought a large amount of organic shelled hemp seeds; they are great in sweet and savoury dishes, and a super-healthy addition to a recipe, being full of omega oils and suchlike. For more hemp recipes, look here, here, here and here. Personally, I quite like the slight earthiness of hemp, but if you don't, adding something like natural orange extract to this recipe would add a bit of extra zing. You will need a decent food processor to make these, and they are really quick and easy to prepare. This recipe makes 6 large bars (probably a bit big) or 12 balls.

250g shelled hemp seeds
150g lexia raisins
8x semidried dates, pitted
1 tab light carob powder

  • Whizz up the raisins and dates into a paste in your food processor.
  • Add the hemp and mix again until it forms a mass.
  • Remove and shape into balls/ use a loaf tin to mould .
  • Refrigerate for at least half an hour
  • Remove and serve. 
  • Store in the fridge.