Eating Seasonally (Part 2)

So I decided for this blog to pick out another delicious food that is very suited to being enjoyed at this time of year – butternut squash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butternut squash is a winter squash, and is actually a fruit, as it contains seeds. It has a lovely nutty flavour and is packed full of antioxidants and phtyonutrients. It is low in fat and high in fibre, making it great for the digestion and also for the heart. It is also high in potassium, which helps support healthy bone growth.

It’s vibrant yellow colour is indiciative of the high levels of carotenoids, which support heart function and it also contains beta-carotene, which has been shown to help prevent breast-cancer and prevent macular degeneration. It’s levels of vitamin A also help to support healthy skin and mucus membranes and it is also very high in Vitamin C, helping to boost the immune system in those cold winter months.

Creamy butternut squash and sage mash

This mash is an easy recipe to make and is full of flavour. It can be enjoyed as it is, or can ben served in place of regular cooked mash as an accompaniment to any meal.

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled
½ cup cashews, soaked for 2 hours and drained
4 tsp fresh sage or 2 tsp dried sage
2 tsbp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tsbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tsp Pink Himalalayan salt
Pinch black pepper

• Using a vegetable chopper or food processor, dice butternut squash into very small pieces. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp lemon juice and cover in water. Soak for at least 2 hours.
• Rinse and drain butternut squash and place in blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until very smooth. Garnish with black pepper.
• The mash can ben served cold or warm. To warm, if you have a Vitamix, you can continue to blend on high, until mash reaches desired temperature. Alternatively, place mash in a pan and warm on a very low heat.

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

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Eating Seasonally (Part 1)

In today’s world, with the advent of supermarkets and imported food, we have become accustomed to eating pretty much any food at any time. Eating seasonally however, can bring major boosts to your health and can also support the health of this wonderful planet we are living. When we eat fruits and vegetables that have not been grown in season, in a large number of cases they have been flown long distances, up to 1000s of miles to get here.

They have often not been allowed to grow to maturity and are picked in an immature state, which means they will more than likely lose a lot of nutrients before they arrive on our shelves. As well as the reduction in nutrient content, the cost in shipping and increase in atmospheric pollution to deliver this produce to us cannot be ignored as a major detriment to the sustainability of the planet.

By eating seasonally, you are living much more in tune with the planet’s natural cycles. The food you consume will often contain nutrients that correspond to your bodies’ needs. You are also purchasing fruit and vegetables that have had time to ripen and reach their optimum level of quality, when they will contain the highest possible levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Alongside eating seasonally, it is also really important to choose high quality organic produce. By choosing organic, you are avoiding the harmful pesticides and chemical that are sprayed on the fruits and vegetables and research has shown that there are higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants in organic compared to non organic produce.

Farmers’ markets are an ideal place to shop for high quality organic fruits and vegetables. You get to speak to the local farmers and find out exactly how they have grown their food and at the same time you are supporting the businesses that are working with food in the right way, rather than giving your money to nameless multinational organisations that care more about profits than creating a harmonious and sustainable planet.

A seasonal vegetable – Parsnips

Parsnips are a perfect vegetable to be eaten at this time of year. Most people know the conventional ways of eating parsnips, but when prepared in the right way, they can also be eaten raw, preserving more of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes. They are an excellent source of dietary fibre, and contain antioxidants, which have been shown to have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. They are also rich in Vitamins K and E and high in folic acid, a B vitamin, which can help prevent birth defects in pregnant women and support healthy brain function.

Fruity-spiced parsnip rice

One of the best ways to eat parsnips raw is to create parsnip rice. There are many ways of making different flavours of parsnip rice, so feel free to play around with the ingredients, but I enjoy this recipe as it contains warming spices, which are perfect for this cold time of year. The parsnip rice can used in place of normal rice, added to a salad or enjoyed on its own as a snack!

Ingredients:
4 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped roughly
3 tbsp cashew nuts
4 tbsp mixed dried fruit, including raisins, cranberries and apricots
1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp ground coconut sugar or raw honey
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice
Himalayan salt and and ground black pepper to season

•    Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until ‘rice-like’ consistency is reached.
•    Parsnip rice will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to hear about my upcoming Raw Food Workshops and the latest Raw Foods Company news.

World Raw Food Series – Japanese themed!

On Friday 9th November, in partnership with Irene Arango, founder of Bliss Bites and Detox, we taught the next instalment in the World Raw Food Series. These workshops look at different cuisines from around the world and include a demonstration on how to make the recipes and a sit down dinner afterwards.

This workshop focused on Japanese cuisine. Japanese food is very popular and uses beautiful aromatic flavours, delicate ingredients and has many health benefits. We only have to look at Japan having the longest life expectancy and minimal levels of obesity to conclude that they must being doing something right with their food. In terms of raw cuisine, we wanted to stay faithful to Japanese principles but also put our own spin on the recipes to ensure that they are raw and have the highest levels of nutrition possible.

There are certain aspects of Japanese cuisine, which a number of people avoid, including meat, soy products and cooked food such as rice. We aimed to demonstrate how alternatives to these foods can be made and incorporated into dishes, so that the authentic Japanese dining experience can still be enjoyed. The workshop started with refreshments and the guests got to try the first recipe, wasabi coated almonds. The first recipe demonstrated was raw nut tofu, an excellent alternative to soy-based tofu. This ingenious recipe uses Irish moss, a thickener commonly used in raw food recipes and agar agar flakes, a natural vegan gelatine to create a food which has a remarkable tofu like texture and a subtle but flavoursome taste. This recipe definitely sparked the guests’ interest from the start!

After this demonstration, raw sushi was the next recipe to be shown to guests. This recipe uses parsnip to create the rice filling and traditional nori sheets. The beauty of sushi is that there is a huge variety of different fillings that can be used, which can allow the person making the sushi the freedom to customise the dish to their own tastes. We involved the audience a lot in this part of the workshop, allowing people to come up, prepare and roll their own sushi, with excellent results! As well as using parsnip ‘rice’, we also demonstrated how to make a beautiful pink rice, which uses beetroot juice or powder to colour the rice.

A number of salads were also demonstrated on the evening. The first to be made was a seaweed salad. Sea vegetables, such as wakame and hijiki have long been recognised as hugely beneficial for health, due to the high levels of antioxidants and trace minerals they possess, their highly alkalising effect on the body and the fact that they can also help in the breakdown of carbohydrates and improvement of thyroid functioning. The seaweeds were mixed with other vegetables and coated in a thick and creamy ginger miso dressing, which complements this kind of salad really well. The other salad made on the night was a broccoli, carrot and almond salad, dressed with a light and very flavourful dressing, which used a number of Japanese flavours such as sesame oil and rice vinegar, for that authentic taste of the Far East.

To round off the savoury part of the dinner, a miso soup was made. This incorporated the nut tofu made earlier on and also contained barley miso, seaweeds and spring onion.

The final dish to be demonstrated was a macha green tea ice-cream. This delicious and highly satisfying non dairy ice-cream includes cashew nuts, macha green tea powder and coconut oil blended and then placed in an ice-cream maker with blissful results!

After these demonstrations had been completed, the dishes were enjoyed as part of a sit down dinner. Refreshments included Japanese plum wine and kombucha, a cultured drink, which can help to promote a healthy digestion. It was a great night, highly interactive and fun for all who took part. Irene and myself are very much looking forward to the next instalment of the world raw food series, which will be taking place early next year. Please sign up for my newsletter to receive details of our upcoming workshops and stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

Advanced Raw Chocolate Masterclass with Amy Levin

On Saturday 3rd November, Irene Arango, founder of Bliss Bites and myself, Rich Havardi were fortunate enough to host a raw chocolate masterclass taken by the highly talented raw chocolatier and all round raw food expert Amy Levin.

Amy is a professionally trained chef who has worked at some of the UK’s top raw food and chocolate companies and also worked at Saf Restaurants in both London and Munich as a Senior Sous and pastry chef with the world renowned Chad Sarno. She has taken the skills and experience of her earlier career to develop her own business, which incorporates teaching raw food classes from her home and throughout the UK and North America. From her website, she also sells a variety of raw chocolates, has a blog and a recipe journal as well as many other resources. For more information please visit Amy’s website – www.ooosha.co.uk.

At the start of the class, Amy presented all students with a detailed and comprehensive booklet, a chocolate bible if you will, outlining all the information, techniques and recipes covered on the day. An invaluable guide, created by a master of her craft, this would give the students everything they needed, once the class was finished to go away and start creating their own amazing raw chocolate creations for themselves and if they so wishes as a viable business.

After a brief introduction about herself and the course, Amy gave an in depth explanation about tempering, a fundamental process that gives chocolate its characteristic sheen and snappy texture. It involves heating and cooling chocolate in the correct way so that it hardens into a uniform crystal structure. She also gave a low down of the various chocolate moulds, how to use them and also how to store chocolate for best results.

Another aspect of making exciting and unique chocolates involves creating filled, dipped, coloured, flavoured and textured chocolates. Amy outlined what foods can be used to make textures, for example nuts and dried fruits and what aromas can be used to flavour chocolates, e.g. fruit extracts and essential oils. In terms of coloured chocolates, Amy made up a number of different colours of chocolate on the day. From the basic white chocolate recipe, which she demonstrated, she then added natural colours to create red, yellow and green coloured chocolate.

A detailed explanation of different natural sweeteners was also given. One of the fundamental advantages of raw over cooked chocolate is that natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, xylitol and a number of others are used, instead of refined sugar to sweeten the chocolate. Refined sugar has been linked to health problems and natural sweeteners are far more nutritious and don’t have the same health detriments that refined sugar can cause.

During the break, the students were treated to a raw food lunch made by myself and Irene, which included nut cheese, crackers and salads.

After this brief interlude, it was on to the magic of raw chocolate making! Amy demonstrated how to make white, milk and dark chocolate. She used both the Vitamix, a super high powered blender to quickly and easily melt raw chocolate and also melted chocolate in a pan, a more time consuming process than the Vitamix, but still a common and straightforward way of making raw chocolate if the Vitamix is not owned.

Another exciting variety of raw chocolate made on the day was filled chocolate, the filling being a delicious mango and raspberry jam. Other beautiful confections made included coconut bonbons and pralines, which contained a hazelnut paste.

There was plenty of interactivity in the class as well, with students helping to temper the chocolate, dip the chocolate and bonbons and create flavoured and multi-coloured chocolates. All the chocolates made by the students were very gratefully taken home by them, although for some that may have not ended up being too many, as a number of the students were unable to resist and ate them before they left!

It was a fantastic day and a wonderful learning experience, not just for the students, but also for Irene Arango and myself who were hosting the class for Amy. Even though we have attended the class before, it was a real bonus for us both to learn from Amy again and for myself, it has given me a renewed confidence to continue creating new and even more exciting raw chocolates.

We look forward very much to collaborating with Amy again in the future, if the opportunity presents itself. She is truly a master when it comes to chocolate making and an inspiration for budding raw chocolate enthusiasts!

Don’t forget Irene and I are running the next of our World Raw Food Series Workshops tomorrow. Come join us for an educational and delicious journey into raw Japanese cuisine. Still time to book your place here.

You can keep in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook where I share lots of great tips and recipes (and lovely photos of all the raw food goodies I’ve been making at Down To Earth Café.)

Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to hear about my upcoming Raw Food Workshops and the latest Raw Foods Company news.