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Sanjida O'Connell

Dr Sanjida O'Connell is a writer and a TV presenter. Sanjida writes about science and green issues. Her latest novel, The Naked Name of Love, was published by John Murray in March. Her latest TV series was on BBC 2: Nature's Top 40, and was a guide to our top British wildlife spectacles. Find more details about Sanjida's work at her website, sanjida.co.uk

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Live to Chop: How to make raw food taste good

Posted by Sanjida O'Connell
  • Monday, 24 November 2008 at 09:29 am
Saf restaurant has branded itself as ‘botanical cuisine’, which is an up-market way of saying it sells raw vegan food. Last week I went on a raw food course for the Independent run by executive chef, Chad Sarno. Handsome, boyish, enthusiastic and a tad obsessive, has been a raw foodist for 13 years, only eating raw food, without anything as hot as a cup of tea, for six. The restaurant itself is an eco-haven complete with fine wines and decadent cocktails: I’m looking forward to trying The Guilty Husband, a concoction of flowers and champagne. Raw foodists believe that heating food past 48 degrees destroys the enzymes and makes food less nutritious. Detractors say that cooking kills toxins in some vegetables, like aubergines, and makes simple carbohydrates more easy to digest.

But as someone who eats a lot of salad and is thoroughly bored of lettuce, it was a revelation.

Chad ate kale salad every day for years - and having made it myself, I can see why. You chop the kale finely, dress it with garlic, chilli, lemon juice and olive oil and then squeeze an avocado into the leaves with your hands. Instantly the kale becomes softer and the salad is strangely moreish (though not moreish enough to want to eat it every day for years).

Chad says, “I wanted to figure out how to reach more people and convince them about raw food but I realised that salads definitely wasn’t the way. What we are drawn to is the emotional addiction of food - fat, sugar and salt.”

Chad created a raw food menu loaded with fat, sugar and salt - but the healthy varieties. The fat comes from avocadoes, coconut butter, olive oil; the sugar from maple or agave syrup; the salt from tamari, a wheat-free soy sauce. The food is delicious, rich and filling - even decadent (the chocolate ganache tart is divine) and feels healthy although no doubt packed with (good) fat. It does seem incredibly labour intensive as everything has to be soaked, blended, chopped, dehydrated. Many dishes require you starting them a couple of days before you get to eat them. Still, I felt so enthusiastic, I rushed home and bought a load of nuts. Now I just have to work out what I want to make with them - and I might get to eat it next week.

Photos by Frantzesco Kangaris