Raw food is all the rage offering a healthy and tasty alternative to diets. Writer Nicky Sullivan samples the trend at a series of workshops. Photography by Lucas Veuve.

The distinctions couldn’t be clearer between the ephemeral Sally Douglas and earthy Timothy Bruyns, but the shared passions for food unite them at a booked-out workshop on the seemingly tricky subject of raw food at The Tiger’s Eye.

Riffing over almond milk and caramel slices made from almonds, cocoa powder, dates and coconut, the pair led their audience on a cheerful, full-sensory tour unlocking the mysteries of a cuisine that may appear to be complicated and perhaps even a little ascetic to some, revealing a world of sensational flavours that are in fact not so difficult to achieve.

Even for happy meat eaters such as Bruyns who, hailing from South Africa, says he comes from a world in which even chicken is regarded as a vegetable, there is much to savour.

“I’m amazed at how much thought, work and time people have invested in making raw food that tastes good and adds real nutritional value that doesn’t make people feel like they are suffering through to feel good,” he says. “There are a lot of cool ideas out there that everyone will find delicious.”

What is Raw Food?

The concept comes from the theory that food cooked above 48C changes at a molecular level so the nutrients needed for optimal digestion and health are destroyed.

By keeping the treatment of fresh fruits and vegetables below this temperature, raw food aims to preserve natural vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients and enzymes that support the body in the natural processes of cleansing, re-energising and re-building. Thus, a nutritionally dense raw vegan diet includes plenty of raw vegetables and fruit, nuts, grains, sprouts, seeds, seaweed, herbs, mushrooms and juices.

Douglas came across it in Bali last year and decided to give it a try for a month. “I never felt better,” she says. “Since then I have noticed the drastic differences from when I eat raw or cooked meals, whether that be for a day or days on end.”

She liked it so much that she returned to Bali later that year to qualify as a raw food chef with Seeds of Life Raw Food Café in Ubud. On returning to Cambodia, she launched Fed for Wellness, a consultancy to help restaurants and hotels integrate plant-based, wellness-focused dishes into their menus.

Now her diet is about 80 percent raw food, which she says lets her feel energised throughout the whole day, minus the mid-afternoon slump. “The biggest positive I take from this lifestyle is I know everything I’m eating is wholesome, healthy fuel for my body,” she says. “I have learnt so much, and it keeps coming. I have a completely different take on food, the value of food, the origin of food and the impact of food on our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state and health.”

Get Stuck In

Douglas and Bruyns – who thrive off finding new ways of looking at food that thrill tastebuds while also satisfying on an emotional and intellectual level – had been exchanging ideas for a while when the idea for the workshops came up.

And the debut session presented a feast of food, from, creamy zucchini hummus, sun-dried tomato pesto, tangy cashew cheese and a salty caramel superfood smoothie made with maca powder, to a nutritionally dense Peruvian root and seriously moreish raw onion bread.

One of the main keys lies in the dehydrator, which uses low temperatures and a fan to remove moisture, while keeping enzymes intact, and creates a “cooked-like” feel without the chemical transformation that cooking produces.

Once the demos were over, it was time to sit down to a festival of flavours prepared by Bruyns and his Tiger’s Eye team. This came in the form of raw lasagne, beetroot carpaccio with fennel and cashew cheese, mixed seed bread, mushroom salad with barley miso dressing and picked cucumber, corn with peppers, red cabbage and a chilli lime dressing, topped off with passion fruit orange and banana cheese cake, carrot cake, faux chocolate caramel slices, and smoothies made with spinach, turmeric, honey, lime and ginger.

Even if there hadn’t been so much to eat, the group would still have been stuffed because raw food does not leave you feeling hungry. However, it was impossible to put those tastes down. We were gluttons, though no one felt even the slightest jot of guilt about it.

The next raw food event takes place this month. For details, find Fed For Wellness on Facebook.