The holiday season is the time of year for sweets. So many sweets, that by the time the new year rolls around we might be ready for something a little less over the top, but still festive! This is the perfect time for spiced poached apples. Although they have lots of flavor, they won’t send you into a sugar coma, and, they actually come with some nutritious benefits. Plus, they can be served simply and rustically, or dressed up for special occasions. Served warm, after a meal, or even just as a snack, they’re comforting and delicious.
The Raw & The Cooked in Ayurveda
Most of us like apples, but have you ever thought about how eating them raw versus cooked affects you? In Ayurveda, cooked apples are recommended in the fall and early winter, or vata season. This is partially due to two fundamental Ayurvedic principles: like increases like, and opposites balance. These principles might seem a little complicated at first, but they’re actually very simple. In this context, they both have to do with how we experience and assimilate things. Let’s dig in a little.
Like Increases Like
Vata is wind energy. It’s characterized as cold, dry, light, subtle, rough, and mobile. As vata energy rises in the macrocosm of nature, it rises in the microcosm of our bodies. Unfortunately this totally natural process can cause uneasiness in some people, particularly those of us with a vata constitution, or if we simply have a vata imbalance at that particular time. Signs of excessive vata include dry skin and hair; stiff, cracking joints; cold hands and feet; digestive issues; sleep disturbances; anxiety; and a feeling of spaciness or being ungrounded.
Foods that possess the same qualities as the season can create further aggravation in the body. Cold, raw, dry foods like sprouts, crackers, popcorn, rice cakes, dried fruit, cold and carbonated drinks, raw salads, and stimulants like caffeine and alcohol generally should be avoided to pacify vata.
Foods with the opposite qualities of the season—moist, heavy, warm, smooth, dense, and grounding foods—are recommended during vata season. Hydrating warm soups and stews, root vegetables, nuts, seeds, warm spiced milk, and stewed fruit are some of the foods that will deeply nourish and stabilize us during this time. Cooking apples means the body doesn’t have to cook them, and ultimately makes them easier to digest and assimilate. During the cold months you might notice that warm, simple, wholesome food tastes amazing, and experience a kind of ease as your body receives what it needs.
How To Make Poached Apples
There are a few different ways to poach apples. The way I’m sharing with you is probably one of the simplest you’ll find, and it will result in a nutritious treat that can be served as is or puréed into applesauce. Making poached apples is as easy as peeling (or not), placing them in a pan, and cooking for 30 minutes.
If you’re dexterous with a knife, this is the time to go to town: peeled whole poached apples can look beautiful on a plate, and they’re also easier to digest. You’ll never notice how papery apple skin is until you eat poached apples with the peel, I promise. That said, peeling isn’t necessary. If you like the peel or simply don’t have time, by all means, leave it on, and notice how it makes you feel when you eat apples peeled versus unpeeled.
Small acts like allowing our bodies to really experience food can teach us a lot about ourselves, and since all of us are so busy, it’s also just good to slow down a little. On that note, after you cook the apples, if you take the time to put the poaching liquid in a mug and enjoy it warm, you won’t be sorry.
Serving Poached Apples
For serving, you have options. Whether you serve them whole or purée them with a stick blender, add a little ghee, coconut oil, coconut crème, or crème fraîche before serving. Adding a little fat slows the absorption of natural sugar and ultimately creates a more nutritious and satisfying treat. And don’t forget some nuts: walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts…you get the picture. Or, if you’re feeling up for it, you can add spiced poached apples to rice pudding or French toast. With so many easy options, there’s a lot to love.
Spiced Poached Apples (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Whole 30)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
Total Time: 35-40 minutes
- 4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced in half
- 1/2 of a vanilla bean, scraped
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 star anise
- 1 black peppercorn
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch of sea or pink Himalayan salt
- zest of half an orange
Place all the ingredients in a pot with a few inches of filtered water. Cover and simmer until the apples are soft, about 25- 30 minutes. Serve warm.
Additional Cooking Notes
- If desired, serve with ghee, coconut oil, crème fraiche, whipped coconut cream, or chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts are especially good).
- You can substitute pears for apples in this recipe but just make sure they’re ripe and juicy.
- For a more elegant presentation, poach and serve the apples whole.
- These poached apples are also delicious puréed.
Photos by Shiraz Leyva