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.

Off to Camden Town…”Hell Yes!”

Last Thursday morning, I went down to the Camden Town Brewery for a tour and sampling of all their beers! Pretty great way to start the day….

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A drizzly 5 minute walk from Kentish Town tube station found us winding down the back streets of Camden, closely watching our iphone maps to see which way to turn. It seems strange to imagine a brewery existing in this part of town…aren’t they big, industrial factories, usually along the side of the motorways with great big bellowing chimneys? The only notable recollection I have of a Brewery until this day, was on the journey into Edinburgh Old Town as a child exclaiming “it’s marmite mummy!” every single time the yeasty aromas from Caledonian Brewery wafted into the car. Oh and of course Fuller’s Brewery, whose exterior I am all too familiar with as I tiresomely wait in traffic along side it each time I am heading west out of London…

Turning into the Mews in NW5 however took us by surprise- 7 small units underneath the railway station sees the cosy home of Jasper Cuppaidge’s craft beer brewery.

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There is always a risk with a ‘tour’ that it will be boring, overly informative (resulting in loss of concentration) and potentially body achingly long but to our total delight, breezing down the stairs of the reception area was Christine our guide; a perfectly groomed, energetic and knowledgable asset to the Camden Brewery’s family.

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The 4 brand new tanks outside the brewery are a sign of just how popular this brand is becoming and the ever growing demand for the product. Starting with a home brewing kit, Jasper decided to sell his own beers to customers in his pub The Horseshoe, in Hampstead back in 2010. In just 3 years the company has come to supplying hundred’s of pubs and restaurants across the UK (with a couple of accounts in Europe too).

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The brewery is certainly high-tech and I couldn’t even begin to get my head around the computer programs and terminology written up on big white boards, but the system in place is slick to say the least.

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Christine talked us through the brewing process from start to finish, walking us around the building unit by unit and allowing us to see it all happen ‘live’. We talked about, felt and tasted the different malts used at the brewery, our guide ensuring we were engaged around every corner, albeit it with puckered lips; ever tasted a grain of roasted malt?

The guys working there were just getting on with the job in a cool, laid back fashion as we cautiously stepped over pipes and hoses in our protective eye wear (and of course these were in the form of geek chic glasses- true to the quirky style of the place).

Before moving through to the ‘Fermentation’ stage we are led to a chest fridge that looks no different to a one you might find in some dude’s garage, adorned with skateboard stickers and scribblings. At this point we are given an insight into the world of Hops, the key to the bitterness, flavour and aroma of all beers. Until today I never thought there could be a passion for Hops but how wrong I was! Christine is Passionate about Hops. Opening the chest I imagined some sort of angelic chorus would be released along with a bright heavenly light…and I am sure to a beer connoisseur that would be the case. To the untrained eye however, it was a puff of cold freezer mist and the distinctive hum of a generator, unveiling stacks of plastic bags filled with several varieties ready and waiting for their time to come.

I remember there was a time at my Junior school, when I had to do a pencil drawing of the Hops flower in art class using an example in the middle of the table. I must have drawn at least 5 different angles some lightly coloured in green, some just grey and cone like…but that was the first and only time I had ever inspected or seen this plant ‘in person’.  Today, Christine let us feel these sacred hops with their pungent (and sort of illegal smelling) aromas, whilst we talked about where they were from, the difference between USA and UK hops and lingered on the topic of  the ‘Simcoe’, a unique American hybrid Hops used in their Camden Pale Ale.

I would do the plant and the Brewery an injustice to go into detail myself as there is SO MUCH you can learn, so this tour is the perfect place to further your Humulus lupulus’ education.

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After the Fermentation stage, it was through the final unit- where the bottling and packaging happens. This is where they get the barrels ready to send out to the pubs and restaurants too and so the walls were absolutely lined with their kegs, coloured stickers for each brew determining what goes where.

Whilst we were in they were getting the labels on the USA Hell’s Lager Beer, which is back by popular demand and apparently “better than ever”, so keep your eyes peeled for the red, white and blue!

With the tour finished, our increasing thirst for the stuff was at an all time high so like the pied piper, Christine led us back to the water hole….

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Let the tasting commence!

Beer taps line the white brick tiles in the perfectly minimalist bar set up here. They serve popcorn in an original looking tabletop popcorn machine (a lovely touch) and have couple of independent wines and spirits ready to serve but the main attraction is of course, the beer.
We were all accustomed to the Gentleman’s Wit beer (they add roasted lemons into the brewing process, it is very special!), so we started to work through the other guys on offer and discuss the story behind each one.
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1. Hells Lager; so ready to drink this when the sun decides to come out. This is everything I want a lager to be. Refreshing, crisp and interesting pale lager made with a Pilsner malt (4.6% ABV).

2. Pale Ale (USA);  I went into a restaurant that had this beer not long ago and made the insane decision not to order it because I wasn’t sure if Pale Ale was for me…WRONG. This is delicious. Fruity. More, more, more…American and Hop-heavy using that beloved Simcoe Hop varietal. Can’t wait to get back to the brewery to enjoy this with friends. (4.0% ABV).

3. Jopa (UK Pale Ale); did anyone see the Food Fight Club program on Channel 4 with Jamie Oliver? Well this beer is Jamie’s creation so to speak and literally stands for ‘Jamie Oliver Pale Ale’.  The brewery had to come up with this name to keep it all secret before it aired back in December. The beer is totally British and true to that style of pale ale, had a much more bitter quality than the previous…(a little more on the ABV too at 5.1%).

“Think of it like walking through a forest – spicy and earthy and fragrant and herbal – while listening to a punk rock cover of the National Anthem. That’s the vibe” – Camden Town Brewery

4. Ryeld; a limited release, Rye Mild beer. Definitively nutty on the nose and to the taste, creamy texture and with a low ABV (3.7%) perhaps the perfect lunch break treat!

5. Camden Ink; I would definitely call this a sexy stout. It is dark and mysterious to look at and surprisingly light to drink. Launched in December and is only available on draught for obvious quality purposes (4.4% ABV).

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6. Dopplebock; another limited beer on tap with an ABV soaring above the rest (6.7%!). Glad we tried this last, because tasting on an empty stomach already had us rosy cheeked and smiley. This is Camden’s version of the German Dopplebock classic, which is typically strong and sweet (and apparently first brewed by Friars around the 17th Century & consumed as a ‘liquid bread’). A number of flavours arise and proved popular among the group. I’m sure we’ll be back for more when we don’t have to go straight to work after!!

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Coming soon to Camden Town Brewery…

‘The Growler’

Yes, the name caused me to giggle into my Pale Ale however a growler is ‘a thing’ in the beer world and not just something crude from the Urban Dictionary!

If a refillable, takeaway beer bottle sounds good to you, then lucks in. Camden Town are just about to launch their own Growler beer bottles, which will enable us to pop in for a big helping of their finest and take home to enjoy with friends or all to ourselves (consumed in a sensible fashion of course).

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The growler dates back to the 19th Century and was a mode of transporting beers from one place to another. Apparently the sound of CO2 when the cap was unscrewed similar to a growl, hence the name… 

Further Information…

Booking a tour at the brewery is easy, just click here and choose the date, but get in there quickly because they get booked up a few weeks in advance.

Open 12pm to 11pm Thursday through Saturday, you can pop in for a lunchtime pint or gather after work to enjoy a beer and some street food. The food calendar for March is below so see what takes your fancy and check the website for future updates.

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Follow @CamdenBrewery on twitter

http://www.camdentownbrewery.com

What Detox…?

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Nearly every year I jump on the band wagon and try out a new January detox. Not this year…oh no! For this year, I work far too close to the Electric Donuts in Notting Hill.

These delightfully soft, melt in the mouth, luxurious flavoured treats are being snatched up by locals and travellers of far & wide, on the notorious Portobello Road. The donuts can be found in the foyer of the renowned Electric Cinema and are open Wednesday through Sunday. They have a different special each day; with the Lemon & Poppyseed, Birthday Cake and Cinnamon Stack (pictured above) being just a sample of their worthy treats.

Honestly, if you are allowed to break the rules just once during the dry month of Jan, do it by devouring one of these!

(P.S. Follow the Donuts @ElectricDonuts for live updates)