Ayurveda teaches us that Agni - the digestive fire is naturally weaker in the mornings after a long night's fast. Warm, cooked and moist - porridge is the ideal breakfast that gently rekindles Agni and is easy to digest. Choosing from a wide variety of whole grains like rice, brown rice, wheat or spelt berries, whole/steel-cut oats, pearl barley, teff, millet or quinoa will give you enough variety for all seasons :)
Generally speaking, white rice is the easiest to digest and is the best choice when Agni is feeling weak. Millet and quinoa are light and drying and are best left out when constipation is present.
Pear barley is cooling and hence, a great choice for summers or when Pitta is high. But if you've tried it before, you will know how chewy it is! :D The first couple of times I tried it (a few years apart) I thoroughly enjoyed it! BUT I felt soooo uncomfortably heavy for several hours after that, that I was scared to use it again! A while ago, a dear friend from my Ayurveda course suggested soaking it overnight and then slow-cooking it in the morning. And oh my god, was I pleased ;) Soaking and cooking the grains longer makes them much-less chewy, soft but not mushy and gives a delicious creaminess to the porridge. I hope you enjoy this recipe.. Make sure to chew! :)
Creamy pearl barley porridge:
Cook-time: Depending on the desired consistency - 20-30min in a pressure cooker or insta-pot or 60min on the stove-top
1/4 pearl barley soaked overnight
1/8 cup white rice (you can also use only pearl barley, in that case add 1/8 cup extra to the above measurements)
3/4 tbsp ghee
1 large medjool date chopped
Pinch of salt
Pinch of turmeric
1/4 tsp fennel powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/8-1/4 tsp carob powder (wonderful caffeine-free alternative to cacao)
1/4 cup rice milk (home-made is best) - optional
1.25 - 1.5 cups water (depending on desired consistency)
Sprinkle of rose petals - optional
Wash and soak pearl barley in plenty of water overnight.
If using the stove-top start preparing first thing after you wake to allow enough cooking-time for the grains. Alternatively, use a pressure cooker or insta-pot.
Warm the ghee on medium and add pearl barley. Add salt and all the spices. Sautee for a few min till you smell the aroma of the spices, be sure not to burn.
Add water, rice-milk (if using) and chopped date and simmer on low for 60-90min - if using rice, add to the pot 30min before you are ready to eat. (I like simmering the porridge for 90min as I like the grains to be nice and soft. I do my morning practice/routine while the porridge is cooking so I do not mind the long cook-time). Alternatively, bring to pressure in a pressure cooker and cook on medium for 20-25min.
If needed, add some more rice-milk or water to achieve desired consistency and let sit for around 5 minutes to allow the elements and tastes to harmonise.
Add some more ghee if desired, sprinkle with rose petals and enjoy :)
Nuts - Barley is wonderully dense and filling so you should not need anything more in your porridge. But if required, you could add about 10-12 nuts to the porridge (choose one kind, peal almonds before using as the skin cannot be digested). Add to the pot along with the grains and cook. Nuts are heating and extremely difficult to digest and best consumed cooked. Leave out if Pitta is high or Agni is fealing weak.
Carob - Carob is a delicious alternative to cacao - it is naturally sweet, has a chocolatey-flavour but is caffeine free. (Yes, chocolate has caffeine!!). It is also great for digestion, whereas cacao is bitter and heating aggravating both Pitta and Vata doshas. If you don't have carob, use cinnamon instead.
Fruits - digest much faster than any other food and should therefore be consumed separate from all other foods. I know, I know - a lot of ayurvedic cooks/practitioners say cooking fruit with grains is ok, but the fact is - it still digests faster than any other food. So in order to avoid any digestive discomfort or hormonal issues, skin imbalances, weight-gain, etc. you'll be better off leaving them out.
Yoghurt - Ayurveda says yoghurt is heating and difficult to digest. So definitely leave it out in the mornings when Agni is naturally weaker. And you guessed right, yoghurt should NOT be combined with milk or fruits!