Right now raw food is incredibly fashionable, with celebrities proclaiming its benefits and cafes dedicated to it opening around town (I love the treats at the Little Bird Unbakery in Kingsland and Ponsonby).
The raw food movement first rose to popularity back in the 70s. Devotees report higher energy levels, feeling more vital and less likely to fall ill - all positives indeed. So I thought we should give this trend a go at home.
First I took a trip to the health store to stock up on new ingredients - some of which don't come cheap - but it's always exciting to try new things. We started with a basic and made our own cashew butter. Simply whip up the nuts until they form a paste. Hooked, we had to experiment further.
I actually thought, in our healthy household, that we ate a fair amount of raw food - mainly in the form of salads, vegetables and fruit. However, once I began exploring raw-food recipes, I was surprised how much more there was on offer. The recipes below should give you a few ideas on how to introduce these dishes into your diet.
While mostly using raw ingredients, we have not become too rigid (this is an introduction, after all) and we have used cooked quinoa and lentils, for instance, in the salads.
The Caesar salad, with its lack of the classic egg and croutons, took me a while to accept. But with a wonderful dressing of ground pine nuts and macadamia nuts with dates, it is truly divine. Avocados have a wonderful texture and with a squeeze of lemon, top off the salad beautifully.
The large field mushrooms in the quinoa salad transform it into a substantial dish. They work to add texture while absorbing the zingy flavour of the dressing. I've also added kale, which is a popular choice for raw food recipes. It is delicious fried in a little oil to make healthy chips. Not here, however - simply plunge in and out of boiling water to ensure all the goodness and crunchy texture is retained for your salad.
Kale is found at local supermarkets, but why not plant your own? It's easy to grow and it is a powerhouse of nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K. The tamari and tahini dressing brings the salad together. It is also wonderful with a crudite platter so your guests can dip raw vegetables into it pre-dinner. Tamari, traditionally a brewed wheat-free soy sauce, is also available at supermarkets.
Today's carrot and pumpkin spice "cheese- cake" dessert - so rich and scrumptious - should definitely be on your next dinner party menu. For me it is right up there with my favourite dessert, lemon tart.
If you feel the urge for a little something cheeky on the side, instead of the usual cream or yoghurt, add a blob of cashew butter. Your guests will be amazed by the healthy transformation of the traditional cheesecake.