It’s a fair question: could a culinary offering be seen as “mystic”? I did consider the question utilizing all dimensions then active in my mind when naming the within recipe “Mystic Mash”. So here’s why, as an adjective “mystic” connotes “feeling”, something inherently born in consciousness. As a sceptic person, I am loathe to accept “food” is devoid of consciousness. But I digress. The original inspiration of this recipe came from the reflections of a great 12th century Sufi saint Khawaja Muinuddin Chishti, who is widely and rightfully credited for establishing the Chishtiya order of Sufi thought in the Sub-Continent of India. Deeply suspicious of inequality and of any dogmatic thought, which he considered antithetical to the spiritual living, Chishti exhorted his associates to pursue a compassionate life “develop river-like generosity, sun-like affection and earth-like hospitality.” In his view, the most formidable and pithy form of devotion was “to redress the misery of those in distress – to fulfill the needs of the helpless and to feed the hungry.” Now imagine being hungry when you are living a sedentary life in isolation. The challenges are myriad.

I live in a small apartment inside a high rise in the thicket of an urban jungle. Being an ardent follower of a thought that, social isolation during pandemic like COVID19 indicates solidarity, which is a virtue. I have chosen isolation. The thought of going out, raises many concerns. Going down from my 25th floor on an elevator is likely not going to be a solitary affair. What’s going on in the lobby of my building? I marvel about the probable points of coming in proximity of others, who I must protect from whatever I’m breathing out. As such, my movement is totally limited to this small apartment. Apart from a little yoga not much physical is happening. My body needs food that would not only consider my sedentary condition but also meet my other needs, for instance use what I can easily source out, if not in its entirety but at least partially, from my kitchen cupboards and freezer, that is also things with a longer shelf life. Mystic Mash came in my consciousness, so I revised the original recipe to make Mash “isolation-friendly” as well as tasty, chewy, simple, yet offering a melange of textures and fragrances, easy to digest, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, fibre-rich, and immune-boosting.

Dry Provisions (please use all organic or at least non-GMO grains):

Half cup each of the following:

  • Whole Barley (husked not ground), if you don’t have it Pot Barley would work.
  • White and Dark Quinoa mix
  • Whole wheat (husked not ground)
  • Brown basmati rice
  • Split Chana (pea) Dal

2 table spoons of the each of the following (OR — if you do not have all the following grains, use any other whole grains you have at home, make sure to add proportionately.

  • Hemp Seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Oat seeds
  • Whole Mung dal
  • Whole Urad dal
  • Whole lentils
  • Dried small black and white beans

Spices:

1 teaspoon each or less depending upon your taste buds:

  • Nutmeg
  • Mace
  • Cloves
  • Green cardamom seeds
  • Black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Turmeric Powder
  • 2 teaspoons of Coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of Cumin in the pot another 3 teaspoons of whole cumin for tarka)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks or, preferably several pieces of Cinnamon bark
  • 4-5 brown cardamoms
  • Half tea-spoon Crushed red chillies
  • Sea Salt to taste

Fresh Provisions:

  • 1 bunch organic Kale (green, red, or black). I found mine in my freezer, lol.
  • 2 table spoons of organic Cilantro leaves (didn’t have these so didn’t use last week)
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 10 small Thai green chillies fresh
  • 2 table spoons of thinly sliced pieces of Ginger root.
  • 1 table spoon of thinly sliced Garlic
  • 2 cups of fat-reduced or 0-fat plain yogurt
  • 4 table spoons of coconut oil.

Pre-Cooking Prep:

  • With the exception of Chia seeds place all dry provisions in a large bowl, rinse few times until water runs fairly clear. Soak overnight.
  • Coarse grind all spices (excepting cumin and coriander) in a spice grinder or use mortar and pestle.
  • Wash Kale and other fresh ingredients many time together.

You need:

  • A heavy-base large stainless steel pot, or BETTER YET: An Instant Pot.
  • A Slow Cooker
  • A medium-sized frying pan.

Preparation:

Pour yourself a chilled glass of prosecco or bubbly of your choice. Cue in your most uplifting dance playlist, put on your dancing shoes. You are going for a dance party in your own kitchen. Drain the soaked provisions and place these along with Chia seeds into the pot (I’ll tell you what to do if you have an instant pot). Transfer soaked provisions to the pot and add 10 cups of water. Bring the pot to boil ideally on a medium heat. All the while ensuring nothing gets stuck on the bottom of your pan. That mean while matching your footsteps to what your music is demanding, you’d take the commands of your pot to stir it how! Listen to your music, but make sure you feel your grains (remember I wrote above food probably has consciousness). Keep stirring. Remember you need to stir it to the point you begin to question: what in the heavens you are up to. Well, remember “self-induced isolation” is a fairly ripe context for such feelings to swim up to your consciousness. When you notice ingredients have become fairly soft add all ground-up spices, kale, spinach, chopped onions, 1 table spoon of freshly and thinly sliced ginger, chopped tomatoes and yogurt. Cook for few minutes when you notice vegetables wilted and covered in the mixture, use hand-held blender to blend the mixture into a very, very coarse consistency. Once blended reduce heat to low and continue stirring ensuring nothing is sticking to the bottom of your pot. Cook at low heat for another hour or two.

If you are temperamentally an anti-stirring-the-pot-type or have an Instant Pot as well a Slow Cooker, are enjoying your prosecco, and have dove pretty deep in your playlist, here’s my recommendation. Transfer soaked items to Instant Pot. Add 6-7 cups of water, a spoonful of Avocado oil, and turmeric. Set the pressure cooker to “high”, and cook for 25 minutes. Transfer the cooked stuff to a slow cooker. Now transfer kale, onion, 1 teaspoon ginger, tomatoes, and I also found some broccoli in my fridge so added that, again set up pressure cooker for 20 minutes. Transferring the cooked stuff to the slow cooker to unite with the rest of the stuff. Add all spices, lots of yogourt, juice from a a lemon, a table spoonful of Avocado Oil and let it simmer for at least 6-7 hours. Giving you sufficient time to dream up other recipes and dance your head off, best exercise and no one could say you are crazy going from one end of apartment to other, they’d say, if they see you, you are just dancing.

Final Step:

When you are close to approving the consistency of the food or when you are about 5 hours into the slow cooking, in a frying pan add coconut or avocado oil, two table spoon of diced garlic, two table spoons of coarse sliced ginger root, 1 the-spoon of thinly sliced fresh turmeric (if you have in your fridge), three teaspoons cumin seeds, two teaspoon coriander seeds. Fry these until garlic has turned golden brown, add all 10 fresh Thai Green chillies and immediately transfer the mix to the stuff in slow cooker . Stir until you notice everything is united in solidarity. (My guilty please: at that time, I add a fair chunk of organic butter, and watch it melt, making tiny, shiny rivulets). I let the slow cooker work at least two more hours. Let your olfactory sense make the final call when the dish is done.

Garnish (optional):

Common garnish items are: crispy fried onion, fresh lime, and fresh cilantro leaves and chopped ginger as well. I’ll probably not worry about these at this time…

Pour yourself another glass of prosecco and bask in the sunshine of thought that you have enough “super-food” to eat all week, that cost you next to nothing and that you’ll feel no need to stir anything up during the week, mystic, eh! And that no other sentient beings were hurt in your pursuit of tasty food.

Serving Ideas:

Serve yourself or whoever with a Naan bread or Naan chips, available in organic grocery stores and Costco (oh, well long before the hordes of hoarders descended upon Costco). You may serve as a “dip” with optional garnish. It pairs very well with sweeter white wines such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer.

Zahid Makhdoom is a curmudgeony Canadian of Sindhi origins who lives in Vancouver, BC with his pet rock. He can be reached at zmakhdoom@gmail.com


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