One might think that heading into summer rather than autumn would be a better time to start learning about raw food ‘cooking’ but as I was to find out there is a lot more to a ‘raw’ meal than simple salads, and dishes can still be warm and hearty like the ‘falafels and cous cous’ we ‘cooked-up’ on my first raw food workshop.
Mind you, autumn in southern Spain can still feel like a hot summer’s day, so perhaps this is one place that is ideally suited to raw food aficionados. Given the expectant crowd that was waiting at our host’s house for the workshop to begin, this is obviously something that has captured people’s imagination. We had gathered in Marbella for a few hours’ introduction to raw food with Michelle and Jim Julian who promised a mouthwatering sample of what you can do with a bit of imagination, fresh organic ingredients and some serious kitchen kit. Over the course of the morning we were given lessons in preparing almond milk, raw chocolate truffles, pasta and pesto and a basic raw ‘cheese’ recipe. A useful part of the time was given over to some background information about nutrition, some misconceptions and some guidance as to how to live a healthy raw life. This is really important, especially for newcomers to help them get the most from the food they eat as well as making sure they get enough of the vital building blocks of life. Many people think a raw diet is extreme and while it is true it might not be for everyone, Michelle was clear that moving to a raw or mostly raw diet could be much better for most of us. “Green food is clean food,” Michelle explained. “Also we can get more nutrients from raw plant based foods.” The strict rule of not heating food to over 42ºC is explained because the vital enzymes in food break down above that temperature so by cooking food we lose many important nutrients.
So far, so good, all the theory made sense and Michelle was clear that people should start with manageable steps – juicing more, getting into seaweeds, trying vegetable juices and exploring super foods like goji berries and medicinal mushrooms. The key to making these changes permanent though is clearly getting tasty meals in front of us and that was taken care of in part 2 of the workshop. There is no reason not to be able to approach a raw diet with whatever you happen to have in your kitchen already, but a few pieces of specialist kit clearly make a difference – a Vitamix blender is the best on the market and makes a big difference when making the ‘cheese’ and other dishes that require smooth blending. A good dehydrator is important and so is a juicer, a mandolin and general food processor. This will allow greater variety to be introduced and also makes some of the dishes work much better. The rest is down to imagination and experience – who would have thought that whizzing a cauliflower through a food processor and adding some extra chopped veg would produce something that so resembles cous cous? Making food that we are familiar with is a big deal for some people, especially if you have a family to convince this new approach is a good one. The falafals were excellent and the ‘spaghetti’ made from courgette passed through the mandolin an experience, everyone was blown away by the chocolate truffles and it was interesting to see how to make some of the dips or ‘cheeses’ that could be served with dehydrated vegetable crisps. I won’t go into the details of how all these were actually made but if you have any interest in going raw or just curious about new cooking ideas, these workshops are fun and informative and a great way to try something new in the kitchen
Phil Speirs Oct 2013
Raw food beginnings class on Sunday the 17th of November from 11.00 – 1.30 in Nueva Andalucia. Cost is 30€
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