After many years of good intentions, I finally made my way to Slovensky Raj (Slovak Paradise). It is only fitting to feature a few traditional Slovak dishes, even though it was challenging to find health-conscious, vegetarian versions.
However, I was excited to find this vegetarian version of halušky, a traditional dish of "gnocchi" with bryndza (a special sheep cheese) and bacon. Poor souls outside of Slovakia will have to succumb to feta instead of bryndza. Brave locals can serve with zincica or a chilled Slovak beer.
Vegetarian Bryndzové Halušky
1/2 kg potatoes
300 g medium-ground flour
1 egg (free-range)
400 g sheep cheese (or feta cheese)
250 ml sour cream or yogurt
smoked tofu (optional)
Peel raw potatoes and grate finely. Add flour, egg, an pinch of salt. Gradually add water to the dough to attain the right consistency to make dumplings. Prepare the dumpings by hand with a cutting knife or through a sieve and add to boiling, salted water. After dumlings begin to float, transfer to a bowl and mix in oil to prevent sticking.
Add the bryndza to the bowl and mix in the sour cream or yogurt. If desired, cook the smoked tofu In a little oil. Mix the dumplings with the sheep cheese and sprinkle with smoked tofu. Dobrú chuť!
Hidden amidst the small Czech village of Střílky is a harmonious ashram situated in an old castle and blessed with beautiful parks and gardens. But what attracted me the most was the ashram kitchen – bubbling pots of kitcheri, the popping of freshly ground spices awaiting a vegetable sub-jee, or the sweet smell of cardamom rice pudding, all to a symphony of Indian bajans and mantras. Aromas of cumin, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and black mustard seed would envelope me and lead me wandering in to see what the chefs were up to. So it is here, in this ashram kitchen, in this little village that I can still hardly pronounce, that I experienced the most exceptional Ayurvedic vegetarian cuisine. Here are a few original recipes from the ashram kitchen as well as a few that I was inspired to cook during my stay.
Indian Cabbage Salad (Hara Salaad)
6 cups cabbage, shredded
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup peanuts (or other nuts)
2 dates, soaked
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons peanut (or sesame) oil
1 teaspoon ground mustard seed
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
pinch asafoetidia *
sea salt or shoyu soy sauce
* Asafoetida is a spice from a plant native to Persia. It has a taste and aroma reminiscent of sautéed onion and garlic, which are omitted in some systems of Indian cooking as they are thought to stimulate the central nervous system, act as a natural aphrodisiac, and disturb vows of celibacy. Asafoetida has potent medicinal uses: it aids digestion and reduces indigenous microflora in the gut, thus reducing flatulence. In Ayurveda, it is considered to be one of the best spices for balancing the vata dosha, one of the three basic constitutions or forces.
1. Mix the first 3 ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, mash the soaked date, add the remaining ingredients, and blend to a smooth dressing. Pour the dressing into the cabbage mixture and mix well.
Inspired by Raw Foods Recipes (www.rawfoodhomerecipes.com)
Kitcheri with Spinach
By Dzjoti, Head Chef
4 cups basmati rice
2 cups yellow mung dhal
16 cups water
whole cumin seed
12 cups of fresh spinach
sprinkle of sea salt
2-3 teaspoons ghee * (or substitute sesame or sunflower oil)
* Ghee is widely used in Indian cuisine. Also known as clarified butter, ghee is made by simmering unsalted butter until the milk solids have settled to the bottom and a scum has floated to the top. After removing the scum, the clarified butter is then spooned off. Ghee made from cow's milk has a sacred role in Vedic and modern Hindu libation and anointment rituals. Ghee nourishes the digestive system, improves absorption and assimilation, improves memory, lubricates, and increases flexibility (perfect for improving your downward dog). Apparently, there is also a hymn to ghee, which I would love to chant as I hover over my milk scum…
1. Wash rice and dhal thoroughly.
2. In a large pot, add all ingredients except ghee.
2. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer on low heat without mixing.
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (260g) ata (chapati flour), or a mixture of equal parts whole wheat pastry and unbleached white flours
2 teaspoons melted ghee or oil
Approximately 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1. Mix the salt into the flour. Add the ghee or oil and enough water to make a soft, non-sticky dough.
2. Turn out on a floured board and knead with all your strength for 5 to 10 minutes (you can skip the gym today). Alternatively, let a food processor do the work for 1 minute.
3. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest peacefully for 10 to 30 minutes.
4. Cut off pieces of the dough and roll into 1 1/2-inch (3.5cm) balls.
5. Roll out each ball on a floured board into 4– o 5– inch (10–13 cm) rounds. (Admittedly, they might not be "perfect rounds" on first attempt, but deranged looking
6. The best method for cooking chapati is to partially cook them over a griddle and then finish them on a heat source to puff up. Traditionally, they are thrown over hot coals, which you can certainly do if you happen to be camping or have a fire pit in your backyard. Otherwise, heat an ungreased skillet or girdle over high heat. Gently slap (notice the oxymoron) a chapati onto it and cook about 20 seconds or just until it looks dry. Flip and cook for another 20 seconds
7. Griddle or Flame Method:
Griddle method: Place chapati in an ungreased skillet or griddle over medium heat. Using a cloth, cook on each side for about a minute, rotating constantly with your hand in a cloth to avoid burning the chapati. Flip and cook the other side. Use the cloth to press on the chapati and encourage air to enter the other half of the chapati. Once inflated, press down on the bubble to allow the other half to fill with air. Once fully puffed and adorned with a few burn marks, remove the chapati and cover with a cloth to keep warm.
Flame Method: Remove from the skillet or girdle and place directly on a heat source (either glowing charcoals, a gas burner on medium heat, or a rack over an electric burner. If you are using an electric burner, use some sort of apparatus, such as a coat hanger or forceps). After a few seconds, flip over and cook the other side.If you succeeded in making the chapati fairly round and flat, it sound puff up nicely. A finished chapati should look perfectly dry, with a few dark spots from the heat source. Remove the chapati and cover with a cloth to keep warm.
What's life without a little sweetness? Sweets have always been an integral part of Indian cuisine, particularly milk-based sweets. Khir is commonly prepared during Diwali, the The Hindu Festival of Lights. Vashishth Guru gave khir to King Dashrath; as a result, a child know as an incarnation of 'Ram' was born. Lord Ram or Lord Krishna are thought to be incarnations of God in the Hindu religion.
6–8 large carrots, peeled and shredded
1 teaspoon ghee or oil
1 litre milk
2 cups mixed almonds, cashews, and pistachios (soaked over night and chopped)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar
4–6 cardamon seeds, ground
1. Cook the grated carrot until soft.
2. In a saucepan, heat the ghee on medium heat. Add the cooked carrot and sauté for approximately 5 minutes.
3. Add the milk and gently cook for another 5 minutes. Be careful that the milk does not overflow or burn.
4. Mix remaining ingredients and cook on low heat for approximately another 5 minutes.
5. Serve warm or cold.
Source: Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine. Pragma.
Broccoli and Red Wheat Berries with Green Goddess Dressing
1 cup red wheat berries
3 cups broccoli, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon oil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup finely chopped green beans, zucchini, or snap peas (or other green vegetable)
1 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios, lightly toasted
Sea salt or seasoned salt
Labani is fresh cheese made from yogurt. It's worth making the effort to get sheep's milk for preparing labani, even if you may have to milk a sheep in your neighbors yard. Zatar is a mixture of dried powdered hyssop, sumac, sesame seeds, oil, salt.
2 liters sheep's milk or cow's milk
3 tbsp yogurt or leben (sour milk)
1 tablespoon salt
Prepare a cotton cloth or cheese cloth. Heat the milk in a large pot over a low heat until boiling. Remove immediately from the heat and set to cool. Place 4 tablespoons of the milk in a bowl, add the yogurt, give it a nice stir, and then add the milk. Transfer to an earthenware or glass bowl, cover well, and wrap in a cloth or blanket. Let rest for 6–8 hours in a warm place. Place the cloth in a large strainer. Mix the yoghurt with the salt and pour over the cloth. Tie and hang above the sink or a bowl. The labani will be ready in 10–12 hours.
Transfer the labani into a container, press with a plate to flatten, and cover with olive oil. Sprinkle with Zaatar if available. If you end up with something displeasing, check out online stores that can express post you some fresh labani from the Middle East (or settle for some full-fat yogurt or cream cheese at your local supermarket).
This kosher salad is a traditional recipe. Interestingly, there is no lettuce in this “salad”. Israelis have been known to mock the way Americans prepare salad: "They just take a bag of lettuce out of the fridge, put it in a bowl, squirt dressing on top, and they think they have made salad!". If you are feeling creative, add eggplant, chopped peppers, sautéed mushrooms, sprigs of cilantro, or chunks of goat cheese. I love the flavors of this simple salad with fresh herbs. This salad is often eaten for breakfast, along with pita, hummus, and hard-boiled eggs. Try it one day!
4 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (or any other herbs lurking in your refrigerator)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, juice of
salt and pepper to taste
1.Finely chop the vegetables and herbs
2.Lightly mix with the remaining ingredients and serve!
Typical Israeli Breakfast:
A tasty way to use up that leftover eggnog in the refrigerator from Christmas!
1 cup chopped cranberries 2 tablespoons sugar 2 1/4 cups flour 1 cup sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 2 eggs 1 cup eggnog 1/3 cup butter 1 teaspoon almond extract 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts
For streusel topping:
1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup flour 1/8 cup butter 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1. Preheat oven to 400 C.
2. Mix cranberries and 2 tablespoons sugar together and set aside.
3. Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix eggnog, butter, eggs, and extract together and add to flour mixture.
4. Fold in the cranberries and pecans or walnuts. Spoon into greased muffin cups.
5. For the strussel, mix dry ingredients together and then cut in the butter to make a crumble. Mix in the almonds. Sprinkle over tops of muffins.
6. Bake approximately 15-20 minutes, just until tops are slightly golden.