eating for healthy body and mind

idli – a fermented and steamed Indian rice cake

5th March 2012


I just arrived back from India from our yearly retreat with our teacher.  It was a wonderful time. The teaching was a continuation from last year on ‘Ayurveda and Yogic Ideal Living’ and focused on the way we eat, what we eat and how this impacts our mind, body and emotions for our spiritual journey.

Food, because we take it directly into our bodies on such a consistent basis, is one of the most powerful ways to make a change in our physical and mental state.   A suitable approach to food will support our inner journey and will influence other people to bring much-needed love, service and peace through our own sense of joy and self-contentment.

We all have minor symptoms of ‘disease’.  Aches and pains, tension, upset stomach, skin rashes, mood swings occasional cold and flu.  Some of us have a constant stream of these, others just have them every now and then.  All these things just don’t happen to us; we have an active hand in creating them by the choices we make in our daily lives.  How we exercise, how we cope with stress, what we eat –  especially how we eat!  Snacking, for example, causes a lot of disturbances to our digestion by adding undigested food to partially digested food.  Due to this, food which enters into our bloodstream is the main source of our mind disturbances and body diseases.

So experiment and go a whole day of being conscious of eating only when you feel hungry and reflect on how you feel and how little food you actually need and notice how eating usually comes from a place of boredom and/or emotional needs!   It is a difficult one, I know!  Usually our body needs 3 – 4 hours to digest the previous food, however, we seem to be constantly putting in food, regardless of whether the previous food has been digested or not.  

I find taking the time to prepare two meals a day which is based on whole grains, seasonal vegetables and fresh produce helps in making that step towards a healthier body/mind for practice. It keeps me satisfied long after eating and I am less inclined to snack.



Makes about 40 idli, with two days preparation


1 cup brown rice (short-grain is good, but long grain will work)

1 cup white basmati rice or arborio rice

1 cup white lentils (urad dal)

½ Tbsp fenugreek seeds

filtered water

½ tsp rock salt

oil/ghee to grease the moulds

to serve

ginger coconut chutney



1.  Wash well and soak the rice in one bowl with just enough water to cover – set aside.

2.  Wash well the dal with the fenugreek seeds, and soak in another bowl with just enough water to cover – allow to soak for 6-8 hours.

grind the batter

3.  Drain both separately and reserve the water.

4.  Grind the dal with the fenugreek, adding just enough water to be able to grind. Do not make it too watery.  This is very important for idlis.  Grind until soft and foamy, then pour into a large bowl.

5. Now, grind the rice with the reserved water, using only a little to allow it to grind.  Remember do not make it too watery, just enough to be able to grind.  Continue to grind the rice until smooth.

Grinding dal separately will make it fluffy, resulting in excellent fermentation.  It will also volumes the batter when fermenting.

6.  Combine both the batters, add the salt and mix well.  Mix the batter with your clean hands.  The body heat from your hands will help kickstart the fermentation.  Make sure there is enough room in the bowl for the fermentation to take place.  It should double in size.


7.  Cover the bowl loosely and place in the warmest spot in your home – allow it to ferment overnight.  Ideal idli batter fermentation is around 90F /32C.  In colder climates, the batter may take up to 18 hours to ferment.

The batter should have doubled in size.

to cook

8.  Grease mold with ghee, then pour three-quarters full into each mould (they will rise) and steam for 12 – 15 minutes.  Try not to overcook them.  Allow to rest for 2 minutes before scooping them out of their moulds.

For the true Indian traditional experience, serve them on a banana leaf with a spicy rasam fresh coconut chutney and finish with a sweet version of a drizzle of ghee and maple syrup.

Goodness shared by Stacey

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