Abandoning the conventional idea of cooking and opting to eat food raw instead can seem like a huge leap, but the health benefits are clear.
Tanya Maher’s The Uncook Book has so many mouthwatering recipes that are easy to prepare (and even easier to eat) that it might just be the push you need to take that leap into raw living.
The wellness coach wanted her book to help people ditch the idea that raw eating is all about bland salads and boring vegetables. ‘This notion is quickly changing, as many people are getting acquainted with incredible plant-based and refined-sugar-free desserts that are often difficult to associate with being healthy,’ explains Tanya. It’s true – you only need to make a visit to your nearest health-food shop to catch a glimpse of the raw treats on offer. And Tanya’s Cafe is well-known for its delicious chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake and key lime pie, too.
One of the most popular health benefits associated with eating raw is an improvement in digestion. This can lead to a range of further health boosts and allows your body to take in all the goodness of what you’re eating. ‘When I first ditched my usual breakfast for a green smoothie and started to add more raw foods to each of my meals, my skin cleared up, my energy levels rose and, best of all, my whole immune system got as strong as
a rock,’ Tanya says. ‘These benefits aren’t uncommon in many of my clients either, and I’ve seen someone reverse
a head of grey hair to its natural pigment just by changing their diet.’
Summer rolls with sweet and sour dip
Everyone loves a good sweet and sour dip, especially when there are beautiful crunchy rolls to accompany it. There’s no marinating or dehydrating time involved in making this party favourite, but you’ve got to get organised and work systematically. Rice paper wrappers can be tricky to play with and may require some practice at first. But they are pretty cheap, so buy extra and remember
to have fun with your rolling. The stunning results are worth the effort – as you can see!
Ingredients (makes 10–12)
Selection of veggies (such as carrots, cucumbers, red peppers, asparagus, celery or bean sprouts)
Selection of herbs and edible flowers (such as parsley, basil and/or mint leaves, and pansies or other edible flowers)
12 rice paper wrappers
For the sweet and sour dip:
60ml raw apple cider vinegar
60ml agave nectar
4 halves sundried tomatoes in oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2.5cm piece root ginger
100g pineapple, chopped into tiny cubes
1 Julienne or slice your chosen veggies into thin, long strips. Set them out, along with the herbs and lettuce, within easy reach of a clean chopping board. Cover the chopping board with some sheets of kitchen paper. Half-fill a bowl (large enough to fit the rice paper wrappers) with hot water. Dunk one wrapper into the water and keep it submerged until it is pliable. Then lay it on the kitchen paper-covered chopping board. Arrange two edible flowers or basil leaves, if using, face-down in a line across the middle of the wrapper.
2 Top with veggies, selecting those with colours that contrast the layer of herbs/flowers, for the best visual effect. Carrots over basil leaves or cucumbers over purple pansies make the summer rolls pop. Top with other vegetable strips and a line of herbs, ensuring you don’t bunch them up in the middle of the wrapper.
3 Bring up the bottom edge of the wrapper tightly over the filling, then fold the sides in over it. Now roll up the wrapper, pushing the roll away from you, to completely seal the filling. Place the roll on a plate with the seam facing downwards.
4 Repeat the filling and rolling process with the remaining wrappers, veggies, herbs and flowers.
Long before I discovered dehydrators and that gluten is like glue in your gut, I loved pancakes. Crêpes were even more special – and at the time I believed the word was pronounced ‘creepies’, which was entertaining n my then-Russian accent. This raw version is just as moreish.
Ingredients (serves 2)
3 ripe bananas
2tbsp ground flaxseeds
½tsp vanilla powder
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
Your favourite fruit salad
1 Blend all the crêpe ingredients to a cream in a blender. Pour the mixture onto two sheets of baking paper in four mounds.
2 Use a spatula to smooth them out into circles that are no less than 5mm in thickness.
3 Dehydrate at 47ºC for four hours, or until the crêpes are dry to the touch. Take care not to mess up the surfaces by touching them too early. Think of it as you would when painting your nails – no touching the polish until you are sure it is dry!
4 Carefully peel off the crêpes and transfer to a mesh sheet. Dehydrate for a further one to three hours until dry, yet pliable without cracking when bent. If you find the crêpes are over-dry and start to crack, run a wet brush over the edges.
5 Fill with your favourite fruit, goji jam and yoghurt and roll into tubes or fold, then drizzle with maple syrup to serve.
Nut-free pizza with roasted veg
Who doesn’t love pizza?
It was the first thing I made in a dehydrator (I know I’m not the only one), as I was eager to make a raw pizza my husband would approve of. After years of experimenting to create the perfect base, it’s this very dish that gets him booking lunch meetings at Tanya’s Cafe.
My top tip? If you would like a crispier crust, make it thinner rather than dehydrating it for a longer period of time. I would avoid dehydrating a 1cm crust for any longer than 24 hours, as it will start to become quite solid and tough to chew.
Ingredients (serves 4-8)
1 large carrot, sliced
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 red onion, sliced
300g cherry tomatoes, quartered
200g button mushrooms, quartered
Your favourite seasonal vegetables, sliced or chopped (optional)
A bottle of ketchup
A pack of creamy cultured cheese
Olives and basil leaves, to serve
For the rub:
160ml extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp dried mixed Italian herbs
2tsp garlic powder
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp chilli powder or ½tsp cayenne pepper
½tsp Himalayan salt
For the pizza bases (makes 2):
300g courgettes, peeled
1 white onion, chopped
60ml extra virgin olive oil
60ml lemon juice
2tbsp nutritional yeast
1tsp Himalayan salt
240ml gluten-free porridge oat flakes
130g coconut flour
100g ground flaxseeds
1 To make the pizza bases, combine all the ingredients, except the porridge oats, coconut flour and flaxseed, in a food processor until smooth. Add these remaining ingredients and process again to combine. Divide the mixture into two equal portions, place each portion on a sheet of baking paper and use a soft spatula to manipulate each mound into a classic round pizza-base shape. I aim for a thickness of approximately 1cm, but you can make your pizza bases even thinner to speed up the dehydration process. Tidy up the edges, making them as smooth or as rugged as your heart desires. Dehydrate at 48ºC for eight hours. Flip over the bases onto mesh trays, peel off the paper sheets and return to the dehydrator for another 12 hours.
2 Combine the rub ingredients in a bowl, add the prepared vegetables and stir well with a wooden spoon until the veggies are evenly coated.
3 Distribute the coated vegetables across baking sheets and dehydrate at 48ºC for two to four hours. Set the timer, and check the veggies from time to time – you don’t want to be chewing on dried-up snacks. Instead, you want veggies with body and bite.
4 Assemble the pizza just before serving, so the ketchup doesn’t moisten the bases too much and make them soggy. Smear ketchup over the bases. Slice each base into
four, six or eight pieces. Load the slices with the veggies, scoop on blobs of the creamy cheese, top with olives and sprinkle with basil leaves.
Kelp kale salad
I’ve seen both adults and kids go crazy for this salad and think I know why: toasted sesame seeds are a naughty exception to the raw rule here. My theory goes like this – their moreish flavour makes you consume so much more of this highly nutritious salad than you would without them!
Ingredients (serves 2)
340g kelp noodles
1 pack of kale salad
Chopped ripe avocado, sesame seeds and olives, to garnish
For the dressing:
3tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
3tbsp lime juice
3tbsp extra virgin
2tbsp nutritional yeast
2 garlic cloves
7 pitted dates, soaked for 4-6 hours
1tbsp raw honey
120ml pure water
1 Blend the dressing ingredients in a blender until creamy.
2 Place the kelp noodles in a bowl. Pour over the dressing and massage it into the noodles. Leave to stand, marinating, for 10-30 minutes.
3 Toss with the kale, sprinkle with the additional garnish ingredients and serve.
A couple visiting Tanya’s Cafe had popped in for a teatime treat and went for this strawberry cheesecake. Within seconds, the lady ordered another slice so her husband could have his own, and was quizzing me about the cream and sugar we used in it, and for how long we baked it. She went on to tell me that she is a master at making cheesecakes, and never had she tasted one this delicious – and it involves no cheese, no refined sugar and most certainly no baking. What a compliment! And my top tip? If you don’t own a high-speed blender, you can still achieve a creamy cheesecake layer by adding 120ml water to your blender.
For the base layer:
150g pitted dates, soaked for 4-6 hours
115g Brazil nuts
45g desiccated coconut
Pinch Himalayan salt
For the cream layer:
260g cashew nuts,
210g coconut oil, melted
120ml lime juice (about 2 or 3 limes)
140g xylitol sweetener
2tbsp vanilla extract
For the strawberry layer:
600g fresh strawberries, hulled
5 Medjool dates, pitted
110g agave nectar
1tsp vanilla extract
1 Make the base layer first. Pulse the ingredients in a food processor with an S-blade. Transfer the mixture into a 23cm springform cake tin and press down firmly to form a crust across the base.
2 Blend all the cream layer ingredients in a high-powered blender to a smooth consistency. Pour the cream over the crust and refrigerate for at least three hours to set.
3 To make the strawberry layer, place a third (200g) of the strawberries, along with the dates, agave and vanilla, into a blender and blitz until you get a smooth texture.
4 Slice the remaining strawberries into quarters, fold them in with the strawberry sauce and pour this chunky mixture over the set cake. Remove the side of the cake tin and transfer the cheesecake to a serving plate. The cake will freeze well for up to two months, except the strawberry layer – simply prepare that fresh when you are ready to serve.