Simply Raw

What is Raw foodism? How can you live on a totally Raw diet? Is it expensive? Does it taste good?

I am sure I don’t stand alone in asking these questions about Raw living….so let’s get down to basics.

Raw Foodsim it is a diet of unheated food, or food cooked to a temperature less than 46 °C, preserving enzymes and nutrients in the foods whilst avoiding some of the toxins that we put into our bodies when they are cooked above those temperatures. Most people living on a raw diet will be vegan, however some may incorporate fish, meats and dairy.

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An Evening at Yuuga Kemistri

I have always been interested in raw diets and alternative lifestyles- reading about, sampling them and hearing about them from friends however salads and juices are pretty much as far as I have taken it. I did try Pescetarianism’ for a number of years but decided that I really love all foods too much to give up one thing completely.

I am usually throwing myself into things without much idea of what to expect and in this case, my mum emailed me a voucher from a deals website for a Raw Food Masterclass, knowing that it would be right up my street.

There is a whole wealth of recipes that transform raw foods into complex, tasty dishes suitable for any 3 course meal or dinner party and this class was about to give us a little insight….

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My friend Susie has a wonderful site called “Blusher and Blogging” and with as much interest in health & beauty as I have in food & lifestyle, I knew she’d be the perfect partner in crime.

We found ourselves at Tooting Broadway last Tuesday night with no time to spare and so hot footed it to class, full of enthusiasm. We arrive in a small gated business park, looking for the unit “with the big, white cake in the window” as per the tutor’s emailed instructions.

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Upon entering the class, which seemed a tad full for my liking, we were promptly told to wash our hands and pop our bags down. I do get a slight wave of anxiety when I see crowds of people, especially trying to see one particular thing and by the time the class started there must have been 30 people in the fairly small kitchen space. Susie and I managed to burrow our way into the only little corner with some view and settled in with our notepads. Within 5 minutes our teacher Asa had us all captivated with her calming presence. Her name means ‘healer’ in Hebrew which suits her perfectly as she extols the virtues of the health giving and healing Raw foods.

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Originally from Iceland, Asa decided at an early age she didn’t like meat. She waited until she left home (and no longer under the watchful eye of her carnivorous parents) to start living as a vegan, followed a few years later by an almost totally Raw diet. Asa never denied the fact that she is “OBSESSED” and that she did not expect any of us to walk out of the class and be converted to her rather strict regime, being careful at all times not impose her habits upon us. She did however want to share knowledge on nutrition and give a few helpful hints to go home with and did so successfully.

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Making or Cooking?

If the definition of cooking is “to prepare for eating by a heating process”, then I guess we can refer to Raw Food preparation as “making”…Asa did mention that for some dishes people may want some heat through them and warming the plate or bowl (below 41 c degrees) is doable and will still manage to preserve the enzymes in the food.

Our starter was a Creamed Avocado and Spinach Soup

Much like a gazpacho, it was cold and flavoursome. She literally blended spinach, avocado, celery and garlic with water, added herbs and then finished it with some diced red pepper and sunflower seeds as a garnish. Asa seasoned with Himalayan salt, a little cumin and cayenne pepper. The colour from the raw vegetables when it was blitzed together was just incredible, you could see the life in the dish in bright, vibrant green. Incomparable to some of the lifeless ready made soups we see on the supermarket shelves…

Main course was Courgette ‘Spaghetti’ with Marinara Sauce

Using the Spiralizer (see below!) Asa showed us how to get long strands of courgette, that did not look dissimilar to spaghetti. Raw courgette is really tasty and although I have used ribbons of courgette in salad before, had never tried this method.

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The Marinara sauce was blended red peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes, dried tomatoes, garlic, herbs (rosemary, basil, parsley) a seasoning of sea salt and pepper and finally, a dash of olive oil. It tasted so fresh and complimented the courgette perfectly. I even went back for a second helping!

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And for dessert…Apple tart with Almonds & Dates

For the base of this tart, it is simply Medjool dates, ground almonds and a pinch of Himalayan salt. Asa had made up enough little balls of this mixture prior to the class to hand out to each of us. They can easily be prepared well in advance and put in the fridge until you are ready. Once we all had our ‘pastry’ cases nicely put together, we made a big batch of the filling- Apples, vanilla extract, grated ginger, cinnamon and lemon juice whizzed in the blender.

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Using the Spiralizer again, we thinly sliced apples and mixed with a little lemon juice, agave syrup and vanilla essence for the topping.

Susie and I carefully wrapped these little beauties in cling film and took them home to enjoy with a cuppa. They were absolutely delicious however I wouldn’t advise carrying them across London again unless in an appropriate container- the raw, fresh apples contain a fair bit of water and we incurred a small leakage on the Central Line!

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Life After Class

With all diet and lifestyle changes, it is important to find your “own suitable path for nutrition” based on budget & beliefs. It is undeniable that there is an abundance of health benefits following a Raw Food diet, as Asa does. It is said to slow the ageing process, help control your weight and lead to an increase in energy levels to name but 3 of them, but one thing this class really opened my eyes to was the intensity of flavour that comes from “making” with living fruits and vegetables. Flavour that is sometimes lost when boiled, baked, heated, fried and so on.

I, however, will not be cutting off the electricity supply to my cooker or oven any time soon and will continue with my fairly balanced diet of all things weird and wonderful, but what I took away from this particular class was heightened interest in this way of life and a few amazingly healthy dishes to add a spring to my step and a glow to my cheeks!

Shopping Tips…

Think seasonally -I have talked about this before in previous blogs but eating seasonal fruit and vegetables is more cost effective, higher in nutrients and tastes better! End of.

Look out for offers- Holland & Barrett often have some great deals in store and on their website. It’s not just specific health food shops but also some delivery websites like Ocado where they have health & wellbeing sections with plenty of discounts.

Go organic– or as much as possible and within reason given that we are all at time of budgeting a little here & there. I have been very happy with Abel & Cole in the past, an Organic delivery service. You chose the specifications of the box (small, medium or large/gourmet, veg. or salad) and they provide you with the seasonal, organic produce to you door!

Some Raw Essentials…

Himalyan salt has endless benefits. Found at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, it contains 84 essential minerals that are found within our own bodies and beneficial for day to day health. It is pure, raw, unrefined salt. Contains no chemicals or additives and helps to restore & rebalance.

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Agave Syrup (or Agave Nectar) is a natural sweetener that comes from the Blue Agave plant, most commonly grown in Mexico. It is the vegan alterantive to honey, has a low glycemic index and so keeps your sugar levels balanced. Delcious, without the highs and lows of a sugar rush.

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The Spiralizer is a piece of kitchen equiptment used to cut fruit and vegetables from thin slices to long spirals. You can create dishes like Courgette ‘spaghetti’ or strips of carrot or cucumber to add to salads. It is simple and easy to work and adds a little fun to the whole process. The Spiralizer below is by Lurch and can be found here.

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Fruit & Vegetable wash removes Pesticides, Herbicides, Fertilizers, Dirt, Waxes, Micro-Organisms, Bacteria, Mould & Mildew. Because it is impossible for foods to be 100% free of chemicals (yes, even Organic produce!) a vegetable wash like this will easily and successfully remove all contaminants improving the flavour and extending the freshness. It is also easy to make your own, see here.

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Further Reading…

The Complete Book of Raw Food by Julie Rodwell is jam packed with recipes for raw meals, juices and smoothies plus heaps of information on the benefit of this diet. For help with a more structured program then I can definitely recommend the Raw Food Cleanse book by Penni Shelton, which helps you to follow a 3, 7, 14 or 28 day plan along with recipes and weight loss advice.

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Yuuga Kemistri is run by Asa and based in Tooting, a 5 minute walk from Tooting Broadway tube station.

Information on Asa’s classes can be found on the website.

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