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.)

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Pumpkin Pie Halloween Recipe

So Halloween season is upon us! That spooky and magically festive time of year, where we get the chance to dress up, share in lots of merriment and of course enjoy delicious food! So I though I would offer a suitable festive Halloween recipe – pumpkin pie!

This dessert is brought to life with wonderful spices such as ginger and cloves, perfect warming spices at this cold time of the year. I would recommend using sugar pumpkin, rather than one of the larger varieties, which tend to have less flavour. There is a bit of preparation involved in making this recipe, but it is definitely worth the effort!

Raw Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin is very high in Vitamin A and beta-carotene, both of which are excellent for helping to support healthy eye function. Beta carotene may also play a role in cancer prevention. They are also high in fibre, potassium and Vitamin C.

Ingredients:

Base:

1 cup walnuts, soaked for 8 hours then dehydrated
1 cup pecans, soaked for 8 hours then dehydrated
8 dates
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch Himalayan or sea salt

Filling:
1 sugar pumpkin, around 4 cups worth
2 cups water used to soak pumpkin
6 tbsp maple syrup
6 tbsp coconut sugar
½ cup coconut oil, melted
4 tbsp coconut flour
1 cup cashew nuts, soaked for 2 hours.
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp cinammon
½ tsp ground cloves
3 tbsp lemon juice, divided
1 tbsp psyllium husks
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch Himalayan or sea salt

Method:
¬ To make the base, place all ingredients into food processor and grind until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Press base into 8-inch tart pan.
¬ To prepare pumpkin, peel and scoop out seeds. Chop in half and then cut into thin strips on a mandoline or using a sharp knife. Chop each strip of pumpkin so that you have roughly 2-inch squares. Salt the pumpkin and add 2 tbsp lemon juice. Cover and leave to marinate for 3-4 hours. Once marinated, rinse pumpkin thoroughly to remove all salt. Then place strips in a dehydrator at 115F for 3 hours. Take the strips out of the dehydrator and place in the 2 cups of water. Cover and let sit for around 4 hours. Remove pumpkin and reserve water.
¬ To make filling, place all filling ingredients with 1 cup of reserve pumpkin water into a food processor and process ingredients until mixture resembles a mash. Transfer the mixture to a blender (you made need to do this in 2 batches) and blend until smooth, adding remaining reserve water as necessary to achieve desired consistency.
¬ Pour filling into tart pan and use a spatula to spread and even out the filling over the base.
¬ Place pie in freezer for 2 hours to set before serving.
¬ Top with ground coconut and pecans.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Halloween!

A dairy free alternative – Nut milk!

For people that can’t drink dairy products anymore, or would rather avoid dairy products on a regular basis there is a delicious alternative – nut milk! Highly nutritious, satisfying, tasty and easy to make, it can be used it as a direct replacement for cow’s milk. It also makes an excellent base for smoothies and soups. Here is the recipe for almond milk, my personal favourite, but feel free to make with other nuts, such as walnuts, brazil nuts or hazelnuts.

Almond milk

Almonds have extremely high levels of manganese, magnesium and Vitamin-E, which can help reduce risks of heart disease. They are also high in monounsaturates, which can help lower LDL-cholesterol. Studies have also shown that almonds can help lower the glycaemic index of a meal when eaten alongside it (Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Journal of Nutrition), providing extra protection against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Ingredients
1 cup almonds, soaked for 8 hours and then dried
3 cups water
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch Himalayan salt
½ tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp sunflower lecithin (optional)
1 tbsp coconut sugar or preferred sweetener (optional)

• Blend 1st 2 ingredients in a high-speed blender until completely smooth.
• Pour mixture through a nut milk bag, fine-mesh strainer or chinois (you can see a chinois in the following photo) Reserve pulp.


• Add remaining ingredients to milk and blend again.
• Store in a airtight container or mason jar and keep in the fridge.
• Nut milk will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge. The salt and lemon juice both acts as preservatives, giving the nut milk a longer shelf life.
• The sunflower lecithin acts as an emulsifier, otherwise the fat from the nuts will separate from the water over time. Don’t worry if you don’t have lecithin, just give the almond milk a good shake before serving.
• Use the almond pulp in whatever recipes you need it for. It can also be dehydrated and then ground into flour.


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Setting up a raw food kitchen (part 2)

In this post, I will focus on 3 pieces of equipment that I find invaluable in my raw-food kitchen and really open up the options available to you when it comes to producing a large and exciting variety of raw food dishes: the dehydrator, mandoline and spiraliser.

Dehydrator

Dehydrators are amazing pieces of kit. They are fantastic for raw meals in general and also for raw cakes and pies. They remove moisture from the food and heat it without taking it above the temperature that would kill any of the enzymes. Dehydrators are excellent for producing dishes, which take on that slow cooked profile, such as marinated Portobello mushroom steaks. Savoury foods that can be made in a dehydrator also include pizza bases, crackers, raw bread, vegetable wraps, semi-dried vegetables, kale and vegetable crisps to name a few. They are are also useful for desserts and goodies such as cookies, dried fruits and dried fruit strips and making crusts that bit more pastry-like. They can also dehydrate seed, nut and coconut pulp, which can then be blended to make flour.

 

I would recommend the Excalibur dehydrator, which is one of the best on the market. It has either five or nine trays and the heat is evenly distributed, meaning you can dehydrate large amounts of food at the same time. There are many out there though, so do some research and find out which one meets your needs.

Other dehydrators:

  • L’Equip dehydrator – cheaper than the Excalibur but smaller in storage room
  • Nesco range – cheaper option, but still highly reviewed

One point I would make about dehydrators, is that although technically the food is still raw, some would argue that the food loses some of its life force and freshness when moisture is removed. If I have dehydrated elements such as dry crackers, I would always serve them with fresh vegetables, salads, dips and sauces so that there is a healthy balance and diversity of ingredients on offer.

Mandoline

A mandoline is a very clever piece of equipment. It allows you to cut vegetables to your desired thickness from thick chunks to paper-thin. This allows you to then effortlessly marinate all your vegetables to create those perfect flavours and textures for your dish. Most mandolines also have an attachment for creating crinkle cuts and also julienne cuts, which can save a huge amount of time. Please ensure that you always use the hand guard when using the mandolin to slice, as those blades are very sharp!

Mandolines are fairly inexpensive pieces of equipment and you can purchase a decent one for between £30-50. Some of the models I recommend include:

  • Good Grips– has an excellent safety guard and has lots of useful settings
  • John Lewis range – for a slightly less expensive option

Spiraliser

A spiraliser is a really fun piece of kit and can be used to sex up your salads and create pasta strips out of many vegetables. It is especially useful for making spiral courgette strips, which can then easily be served with a sauce to create delicious courgette pasta.

 

Spiralisers cost in the region of £30 upwards. I would recommend the Lurch Spirali or if you want to spend a little more money, a Japanese turning slicer.

Look out for another post coming soon, which will feature other equipment I use to make raw food and a low-down on juicers! 

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Creating a raw food kitchen (part one)

It is important when transitioning into a raw food lifestyle to ensure that you have the correct resources and equipment in place to ensure that you can make the food that you desire quickly, easily and with minimum hassle. In this post, I talk about 2 pieces of equipment very popular with raw foodies, the blender and the food processor and their benefits and uses. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to contribute and share your thoughts!

Blender:

A good quality blender is a really essential piece of equipment when it comes to raw food making and raw desserts. It is perfect for making smoothies, sauces, soups and dips and if it is powerful enough can be great for making raw desserts too. I would recommend, if you are willing to make the investment, purchasing a Vitamix blender – one of the great pieces of modern day technology! It is so powerful and will pulverize pretty much anything, from cacao beans to frozen fruit chunks in a matter of seconds! It is fantastic, as it will break down the foods so that they are much easier to assimilate and digest.

With the Vitamix, you can achieve most of the functions of a food processor as well as a blender, being able to achieve both chunky and ultra smooth textures. It also comes with a 7-year warranty. Just so you know, I don’t sell them! I also find the Vitamix great for desserts. It is fantastic for making smooth and creamy fillings and toppings is a particularly good one to do it here, because as good as a high quality food processor is, it can often leave a grainy consistency.

It is fine if you are not willing to invest in a Vitamix and there are many other blenders that are perfectly good for create raw food.

Other good blenders if you don’t want to spend as much include:

• The Kitchenaid blender range
• Cuisinart blenders

Food processor:

Food processors are obviously very useful kitchen appliances when it comes to chopping just about any food. I find a food processor extremely useful in raw food and dessert making as well. You don’t always want your food cut too small, and the food processor is perfect for making batters, cracker and raw bread mixtures, chunky dips and sauces such as salsa and pesto and also for making cake crusts and energy bars. When you add the crust ingredients, usually nuts, dates, sweeteners, coconut oil etc. you will achieve that crumbly biscuit consistency which is perfect for the crust.

 

My recommendation on a food processor would be a Magimix, again a bit of an investment, but extremely high quality, very robust and guaranteed for 5 years. You could spend less and there are an abundance of food processors out there, but if you are using one often, it may not last that long if the quality is not great. If you feel that you will be using the machine a lot, it is probably worth going for a higher quality machine.

When shopping for a food processor, consider power, portability and functionality. They vary in size from a miniature two-cup chopper to a 20-cup professional model for bulk cooking and preparation. Buy a food processor which matches your particular needs. Most home cooks could use a medium-size food processor (approximately 8-10 cup capacity) for family recipes.

Other good food processors include:

• The Kenwood Range
• Kitchen Aid Processors

When choosing either a blender or a food processor, it is important to do your research and read reviews so as to gauge what is suitable for your needs. It may be the case that you feel it unnecessary to buy both a blender and a food processor, deciding that one of the two is enough for you needs.

In an upcoming post, I will continue to discuss what equipment is necessary to start a raw food kitchen including a dehydrator, juicer and other essentials. Don’t forget you can sign up to my newsletter where i’ll be sharing more raw food education, tips and recipes. Sign up here. Become a fan on Facebook and receive a FREE raw food recipe ebook. Click here.

Fennel, blood orange and Jerusalem artichoke salad

 

Salads don’t have to be boring. Simple techniques such as marinating and thinly slicing your vegetables can really add new dimensions to taste and texture that will tickle the palate and satisfy the senses.

This salad is fresh and vibrant, bursting with flavour and perfect anytime of the year. Fennel eaten raw is often something that divides opinion due to its aniseed bite, which I would point out that I am not keep on either. But miraculously, when marinated, it loses this and you are left with a delicate, beautifully crisp and fragrant vegetable. The blood orange adds a wonderful colour to the dish and the perfect sweetness to balance the other flavours. Jerusalem artichoke is also a personal favourite and lends a strong earthy flavour to the dish, perfectly complementing the other elements.

Ingredients:
1 bulb fennel, sliced thinly on a mandolin
2 Jerusalem artichokes, washed and scrubbed, sliced thinly on mandoline
2 blood oranges, supremed, juice reserved
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp extra Virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Large bunch rocket
2 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tbsp cashew nuts
½ tsp Pink Himalayan salt
Pinch black pepper
Pine nuts for garnish

Instructions:
Marinade artichokes in ¼ tsp salt, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp olive oil, black pepper and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar.
Marinade rocket with pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil.
Grind cashew nuts in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder and mix with nutritional yeast and pinch of salt.

Assembly:
To assemble, make a bed of rocket, then layer the fennel on top.
Make a cut in Jerusalem artichokes almost to the top and then fold 3 out over the fennel.
Add supremed blood oranges to the salad. Garnish with fresh parsley, pine nuts and sprinkling of cashew/nutritional yeast mixture. If you don’t eat nutritional yeast, you can leave this out and just sprinkle with the ground cashews.

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