Tag Archives: raw food

Fasting for hypocrites

15 Jun

I figured that if I’m going to go without food for over a week, then I want it to be in paradise. However it would have to be a budget kind of paradise. Hence I found myself at Spa Samui, a detox spa on Koh Samui, the sadly slightly overdeveloped island in the bay of Thailand. Not exactly paradise, but with lovely beaches, hot sunny days and a raw food restaurant they claim as the world’s best, I can’t complain.

Many religions, from Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism include fasting periods in their religious calendars and all for different reasons. Muslims believe that fasting from food also prevents false speech and lustful thoughts and promotes brotherhood as everyone, rich or poor, experiences the same feelings of hunger and need. Jewish people fast as a form of atonement for wrongdoing, for commemorative mourning or commemorative show of gratitude and importantly, also to highlight ‘our’ dependence on God to provide for ‘us’.

I fast to give my poor body a break from the sheer quantity of food it has to process throughout the year never mind the quality I put in. Even though my diet is pretty healthy, I do, as you know, ‘slip up’ all the time and all that bread, meat, wine and cheese are still fighting their way through my liver and digestive system a year later. Fasting also forces me to stop doing anything other than reading, sun tanning, sleeping, turning up for massages and drinking copious amounts of water. It gives every organ in my body the chance to detoxify and heal. It also sets a healthy stage for a raw food diet.

So what was my last meal before fasting?

raw pizza to give pizza hut a run for its money

raw pizza to give pizza hut a run for its money

After scrutinising the menu for a desperate length of time, I was forced to make a decision just to avoid the wrath of my Buddhist waiter.  I chose the raw pizza; a delicious pesto spread covered with chopped courgette, diced red peppers and the most delicious, creamy, mayo-like cashew nut sauce on a dehydrated nut pizza base.  Phew it was the right choice. For dessert, I ordered fresh frozen mango creamed into an icecreamy sorbet-like texture and topped with a super sweet honey and cinnamon sauce.  Yum.

What food did I think about during the fast?

Weirdly, I fantasised constantly about a rare chunk of steak and chips dripping in bearnaise sauce.  I haven’t eaten steak and chips like that for over ten years so it was disturbing to my raw core and didn’t make sense. 

And what was my first meal after the fast? 

raw pesto pasta - my post fast first meal of choice

raw pesto pasta - my post fast first meal of choice

At lunchtime on day ten, I broke the fast and sprinted (weakly) to the restaurant. After ten days pawing, licking and ogling the menu, I had memorised it and knew exactly what I wanted without even looking.

I chose the raw courgette pesto pasta.  Fine spirulised strips of courgette, topped with a rich pesto sauce and served on a bed of lovely lettuce.  It doesn’t sound filling but it was. It was so filling, my poor shrunken stomach ached for hours.  I did also practically inhale it. 

The main thing is I am now free to eat whatever I want.  And right now I can’t stop thinking about avocado.

Advertisements

Revolution in Thailand: the green smoothy kind

9 Jun
Jennifer Thompson green smoothy guru

Jennifer Thompson green smoothy guru

On the night before I began my fast here on Koh Samui, Thailand, I was lucky enough to bump into ‘my’ iridologist, and raw foodist, crystal healer and friend Jennifer Thompson. And as luck would have it she invited me to a free green smoothy talk she was giving that evening. Of course I accepted her very kind invitation and me and my fuchsia sunburn trundled along to her lovely beach hut to have my raw life revolutionised.

The first thing you notice about Jennifer is that she glows.  A problem if you come from Chernobyl but in this case it’s a very good thing.  She is gorgeous, vibrant and energetic and lives a raw food life in a way that I don’t think would ever fit with my hectic London schedule and weak willpower.

Six of us sit around a low table groaning with a giant pile of green leaves, exotic fruit and bananas and of course, a blender.  Nothing fancy, it’s just a slightly battered well loved, plastic blender I’ve seen in Sainsbury’s for a tenner.

First off we define what a green smoothy is.  Jennifer tells us; ‘it is not a naughty treat, it’s a healthy meal in itself.  Green as in green leaves are the only thing in nature that the sun turns into edible energy and blending them helps break them down and open up the nutrients to our bodies. ’ She also told us that ‘green leaves are not a carbohydrate like vegetables or fruit and they provide lots of essential minerals and proteins normally associated with meats.   They are a category of their own.’ 

Jennifer continued and rapidly fired off the benefits of green smoothies. Here are the top seven I managed to remember:

1. it’s an EASY way to get your nutrients (iron, calcium, magnesium, Vits K, C, E, B) for the day;
‘A smoothy is a perfect way to eat greens because we need such a big volume of them that we couldn’t get in a salad. You just add the green leaves to a fruit base such as apples, pears, bananas, berries, whatever and blend.’

2. it’s a QUICK way to get all your nutrients for the day;
‘We’re all too busy to chew.’

3.  You’ll have LOTS OF ENERGY;
‘When you start drinking green smoothies you’ll notice you’ll have a lot more energy because it is energy coming directly from the sun.’

4. It’s CHEAP;
‘Instead of coming all the to Thailand you can a three day or two week  (or whatever) green smoothy diet and fast every month.’

5. GREAT FOR BABIES;
‘Green smoothies are a great transitional food for babies because they’re delicious and easy to swallow.’

6. it’s a HEALING food; and
‘Your body can’t heal itself without the tools.  The tools are the nutrients.’

7. STOP CRAVINGS.
‘Underneath every addiction, is your body craving for nutrients.’

The one major yet superficial benefit of green smoothies that Jennifer didn’t really go into, is that you’ll lose weight.  Once you stop succumbing to the cravings, your body has the nutrients it needs to heal itself and because it will feel the love from you, you’ll shift the pounds! She also mentioned that because of the high level of fibre in the smoothy they can last up to three days so you can make them at night and eat them the next day. Oh – and they’re packed with anti-oxidants.  I’m 99% sold at this point and already visualise my new life as a green smoothy disciple.  And so we begin to blend…

For more information about the nutritional value of green leaves I found this easy to understand article on About.com.

Heston Blumenthal is ‘onto’ raw food

6 Jun
Blurry and distant pic of guru Heston Blumenthal at Hay Festival from the back seat

Blurry and distant pic of gurus Heston Blumenthal and Jay Rayner at Hay Festival from the back seat

I managed to speak to Fat Duck’s super-chef Heston Blumenthal and Observer food critic Jay Rayner in Hay and asked them both the same question; ‘What do you think about raw food?’

Jay’s response was so ‘interesting’ it deserves its own story, which I’ll write when I finish reading his book; ‘The man who ate the world; in search of the perfect dinner’. Heston, however replied; ‘It’s a big area and we’re onto it. It’s not just about blending though is it?’

Firstly – wow. It’s extremely exciting to me that one of the world’s best chefs acknowledges the existence of the raw food movement without choking and is actually doing something about it (not that I have proof…). Heston is already famous as a molecular gastronomist but now he is also apparently looking at the chemical and nutritional impact of the food on the human body over the long term. Very cool indeed.

Secondly, he’s also right on both counts:
1. I squirmed when he said the thing about the blender because I rely heavily on mine. And if someone asked me what the most important piece of equipment is for raw foodists, I would have to say their blender comes in the top three (alongside a good chopping board and knife). But he’s right – there’s got to be more to raw food than blending (and soaking, and sprouting, etc…).
2. The area of food that makes up the raw food movement is such a big, big, big area already and it’s growing. But do I think he means by ‘big area’? Here’s a list of diets/lifestyles that incorporate and/or affect our choices of raw food and how we eat it.

Raw fruit and vegetables
Wild raw fruit and vegetables
Veganism
Vegetarianism
Biodynamic
Local
Organic
Alkaline vs acidic
Body type 
Blood Type
Juices only
Grapes only 
Food combining
Living foods
Macrobiotic

It’s by no means a complete list but just noting it down makes me realise that there is so much information about healthy diets out there and to embark on a mission to maximise both flavour and nutritional value is a big and beautiful task.  And isn’t it inspiring to think that such a talented man is ‘onto it’? I’ll just have to find a way to ask Heston exactly what that means.

Raw Food at The Hay Festival?

28 May
the epicentre of the second hand book world

the epicentre of the second hand book world

I’ve just spent the long weekend at The Hay Festival a ten day international book fest set in Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh Brecons. With some thirty major bookshops it has been famous as the world’s largest secondhand and antiquarian book centre since 1961. While there are some perfectly reasonable pubs and cafes around town, (I ate the best beef wellington of my life at the Old Black Lion), none of them serve raw food other than the lettuce leaves in the prawn cocktail I saw on a fellow diner’s table.

While the town is about nothing but books, the festival is really a series of lectures and discussion by and with recently published authors from a range of backgrounds covering a range of subjects. This year, amongst other published celebrities, economic and political commentators and literary greats I managed to see foody legends Jay Rayner and Heston Blumenthal but just missed out on Monty Don speaking about his new book Fork to Fork.  

But what do people eat at a literary festival?

fresh strawberries from a farm around the corner

fresh strawberries from a farm around the corner

Other than the delicious, organic and locally grown punnets of raspberries, blueberries, cherries and strawberries, I noticed that my bookish fellows queued around the block for sheep’s milk icecream, venison burgers, crisps, cider, pimms, ploughman’s cheese boards, and the fudge. I have to say it did look tasty and I was impressed that it was at least all local produce, but it was absolutely and utterly – not raw. 

So it seems the tastebuds of Hay Festival bookworms do not veer towards to raw food. 

The suprising news, even to me, is that I resisted all of it except for the Burnt Sugar fudge, which after a bag full, gave me such a sugar high that I didn’t get to sleep until 2am.  Thankfully, the next day I managed to find a fresh salad stall and stocked up on an onion and carrot salad, lettuce leaves and seasoned cucumber. Combined with my bag of apples, the berries as above, and my nakd bars, I was happy.

The festival was interesting, frustrating, thought-provoking, exciting, comforting and inspiring.  My brain feels stretched beyond recognition and besides my fudge feast and a brief encounter with a dried up piece of cod, I was for once, an under-control raw foodist…

Correction: Nakd bars aren’t completely naked

26 May

My friend and raw food guru, Rob from Funky Raw, has very kindly informed me that Nakd bars are not raw.  Firstly – I feel duped but secondly – I am so sorry to lead you astray. 

However it does highlight the point that perhaps there are some people jumping on the raw bandwagon without the pure raw credientials.  It is important that raw food is not only ‘not cooked’ but that ALL the ingredients are also absolutely raw.  Being ‘raw’ means that all those lovely nutrients are intact.  If something is cooked- we’re missing out. I can’t judge too harshly as I am a total hypocrite, but at least I’m honest about that…

I double checked the wording on the Nakd website and this is what they write:
‘nākd bars are a 100% natural wholefood bar – a delicious blend of unsweetened fruit, rolled oats, nuts and spices. Unlike most bars, nākd bars contain no artificial ingredients of any kind, no-added sugar and are made raw, never cooked. In fact, if they were any more natural, you’d have to peel ‘em.’

Reading that you could conclude that they are completely raw as I did.  Mmmm.  It also doesn’t change the fact they are delicious and are relatively very, very healthy. So – I recommend giving them a try but not if you are trying to be 100% raw.

You can read Rob’s full article and blog here.

It’s better to eat Nakd

25 May
My first Nakd all raw fruit bar

My first Nakd all raw fruit bar

Raw food is taking off beyond my kitchen and the proof is in the ever increasing range of raw products in my local Planet Organic. Last week I discovered Nakd bars, a raw fruit and nut bar company made right here in the UK, in Wales.

As you will have noticed, I love to travel but struggle to stay raw when I do it, so a raw food snack bar is absolutely brilliant for me. Especially if it also tastes great. These yummy nakd bars are packed with dates, oats, apples, peanuts, apple juice, walnuts and almonds and have no added artificial ingredients whatsoever. They also come in four flavours; Apple Pie, Cocoa Loco, Banana Bread, and Berry Cheeky. And there’s no wheat, sugar, soya, chemical syrups, or salt in any of them.

Nakd tells us there are these benefits to eating nakd:

1. Rich in phytonutrients from raw plant foods to promote  a healthy immune system and body function;
2. Natural source of essential vitamins and minerals like B-vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron to help provide energy, support a strong immune system, strengthen bones, and combat stress and ageing;
3. High fibre to help balance blood sugar levels, control  appetite and aid digestion; and
4. Plant-source protein to help maintain muscle, support metabolism, balance blood sugar, and control appetite.

My apple pie flavoured bar was totally satisfying and a handy snack on the six hour drive to the Welsh Brecons on Bank holiday and a much need brain booster to absorb Pulitzer prize winning Doris Kearns Goodwin’s discussion on The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln at The Hay Festival when we finally arrived.

You can order them direct from here.

Best ever raw mango salsa for summer

15 May
raw mango salsa is a raw summer suprema

raw mango salsa is a raw summer suprema

Here’s the recipe for the raw mango salsa I made for friends in Ghent last weekend.  We served it to the meat loving Belgians with fresh fish we barbecued in the garden. It was our first and best Summer day so far…

The ingredients:
4 ripe mangoes
1 large bunch of coriander (cilentro)
Juice of 1 lime
fistful of mint leaves
2 red peppers
2 red onions
2 red chillis – no seeds

How to make it:
Roughly dice the mango, chop the coriander and mint, finely chop the peppers and onion and juice the lime over the mix. And that’s it. Let it sit for an hour in the fridge to get nice and juicy.

Enzymes are the Secret to Everlasting Gorgeousness

5 May

You won’t find the secret to looking and feeling young, gorgeous and happy, in a cult, ashram or monastry, by taking illegal (or legal) drugs, succombing to botox, ‘investing’ in Laboutin, Chanel or a Birkin, or by meditating in a Nepalese mountain cave for 12 years – you’ll find ‘it’ in the fruit and vege section of Sainsbury’s.  The secret is enzymes. If there is one single, fundamental reason to eat tonnes of raw fruit and vegetables 100% of the time – it is these little beauties. 

Live longer, happier and even more beautiful with raw food enzymes

Live longer, happier and look even more beautiful with raw food enzymes

Basically, enzymes are sensitive proteins that exist in every ‘living thing’ on Earth and these lovely life-enhancing molecules are very easily destroyed through the heat and the cooking process.  So, it’s a  no-brainer – forget plastic surgery and anti-depressants – just get on with it and eat raw.

I found this great and informative article about enzymes on Raw Epicurean. Here’s a brief extract:

‘Enzyme rich foods such as raw vegetables and fruits offer the easiest means of digestion; and consequently, the more easy to digest the foods, the less energy your digestive system uses and the longer it maintains the life of your digestion. Since most all of chronic conditions and illnesses common in today’s world, stem from digestive issues, the less digestion used, the better.’

You can keep reading a more indepth and more scientific analysis of why they’re so important in our diets on Raw Epicurean here.

Conscious Bars are a Raw Chocolate Treat Deluxe Supreme

1 May
Conscious chocolate bars wrapped in conscious recycled paper

Incredibly amazingly superlatively delicious Conscious Chocolate bars

Okay – I know I said I would stop writing about raw chocolate but I can’t help it. I’ve just had a bar of Conscious Chocolate called Love Potion Number 9. It’s amazing. It’s so amazing it’s beyond amazing and I’ll say that it could even be beyond ‘beyond amazing’. Actually, I’m holding back, it is so good it is nothing short of a culinary epiphany. Sorry –I know I might be going a little bit over the top about this chocolate bar (as I was over the others) but really and truely this is the best. I promise. And yes Vivian, you were right!

The raw ingredients in the few tiny crumbs of chocolate left on my lap are cacao butter, cacao powder, agave nectar, carob, coconut butter, spices, Himalayan salt, maca and essential oil of Otto rose. It’s also sugar free (even good for diabetics), pesticide free, gluten free, raw, vegan, handmade and wrapped in lovely recycled paper.

Based in Kent, Conscious Chocolate was founded in 2006 by vegan chef, Iyengar yoga teacher and chocolatier Emma Jackman for small scale distribution of their 40g chocolate bars only. Only a couple of years later Emma’s stunningly clever and delicious choccie bars are now, unsurprisingly, stocked in more than 50 outlets across the UK, including my local Planet Organic and Wholefoods. And best of all there are several delicious varieties:

Sunny Easter Feast
Yummy Mummy
Berry Christmas
Fruit Fantasy
Chocha Mocha Magic
Nicely Nutty
Best Ever Plain Chocolate
Best Ever Fiery Hazelnut
Best Ever Spiced Up
Fruity Goji and Coconut Delight
Love Potion No. 9
Love Your Heart Superfood
Best Ever Hint of Mint
Best Ever Citrus Zest
Best Ever Chilli Hot
Best Ever Essential Orange.

a truely life enhancing chunk of raw cacao

a truely life enhancing chunk of raw cacao

I don’t think I need to preach the benefits of raw cacao to you once again but in case you forgot or missed my post about it – it’s basically an aphrodisiac, serotonin booster, appetite suppressant, a cannibanoid without any side effects, and it’s rich in anti-oxidants, magnesium, zinc, calcium, phosphorus and sulphur (the beauty mineral).

I’m officially addicted and have the long list above to get through.

You can buy it right here.

Where is the Raw Food in Stockholm?

28 Apr
The hypocrite even loves curried herring

The hypocrite even loves curried herring

I love Sweden, Swedish people, Swedish design, language and, at risk of sounding like a Swedophile, I even love Swedish food, which is, let’s face it, not for everybody. Elk meatballs, reindeer pizza, curried herring, pickled herring, chilli herring, cardamom buns, schnapps – it’s an acquired taste. To me, the flavours of Swedish food always seem just like their culture; creative, uncomplicated, nourishing and distinct. Their chefs are also known for being edgy, so I was surprised not to find a single dedicated raw food bar in Stockholm. However, an hour before departure, I did find Renee Voltaire.

I hadn’t been to Stockholm for ages so this weekend when my Aussie mate Sarah and I went to see my good friend Lotta Lindblad’s art exhibition, I was in heaven, especially as my visit coincided with the first official hot (15C) and sunny day of the year. It seemed as though the entire population was out walking in Djurgarden, one of the central islands of the 20,000 the archipelago of Stockholm is based on and home to the worlds’ only National Park based in a city. It was a beautiful, natural, warm way to hunt down raw food, even it meant navigating hot dog stands and a traffic jam of prams.

img00365-20090425-15341Having researched potential raw food havens in Stockholm prior to flying, I knew there were endless vegan and vegetarian outlets (I popped into Hermitage and Ekologiskt Bageri in Gamla Stan) but I was disappointed that there weren’t any raw food bars. I did note that almost every cafe (see Waynes coffee) served vegetarian options and even if serving a salmon option, the salad was generous and very green. Raw fruit smoothies were also on offer but overall I have to admit it felt like a let-down. However all was not lost on my international raw food mission. I came across my first real, grown up, slick and superb savoury raw food brand.

Renee Voltaire is a grown up slick and fantastic Swedish raw food brand
Renee Voltaire is a grown up slick and fantastic Swedish raw food brand

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Sweden is home to some of the world’s best loved brands; Ikea, Ericsson, Volvo, Absolut, Orefors, Saab, Abba…Even Pippi Longstocking is a global phenomenon. They know how to do it and do it very well. I bought the dehydrated flax seed biscuits at 699SKR or roughly £6 from a ‘normal’ supermarket chain in Gamla Stan (Old Town), Renee had an entire end of aisle to herself and I was amazed at that alone. As far as I can tell, here in London Sainsbury’s and Tescos, there are no specific raw food products besides the obvious nuts, dried fruits and fruit and veggies. The thing that makes Renee Voltaire’s products so particularly delectable is her packaging and brand. It totally rocks and turns a boring dried fruit product into a raw food experience that I am proud to be a part of.

Sverige klippa