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About 15 years ago, my friends and I used to attend music summer courses (yes band camp!) and I can honestly say those days were some of the best of my life. It was a way to have focus, in our rehearsing and performing music together, in a social circle of people that we had things in common with. I loved it. One day, on arriving in the clarinet practice room, I spied a boy across the room on his own and being my presumptuous, outgoing and overly friendly self at that age, I introduced myself.
Stephen started hanging out with us sometimes, in fact it was easy to make friends there and at the end of the course, like with so many other new friends, we said sad goodbyes and vowed to meet again the following year.
This friend was different though. A couple of weeks later, I received a letter, from Stephen. He’d managed to get my address and his letter was so endearing and honest, blatant and clear, that I couldn’t help but reply. We wrote for the whole of that year and for many years after that.
At the following years ‘camp’ we hung out all the time, and the next. We were great friends. Our letters gave us common ground and a connection, that I see now as more deeply rooted than I ever imagined.
We stopped writing eventually, occasionally caught up on the phone and years later reconnected on facebook. We both led different lives, made mistakes, had our fair share of heartbreak.

One day, after feeling particularly sorry for myself, I took a look at what was going on with me. I my stress levels were at a high, my confidence had been knocked, my life seemed monotonous and I was quite clearly going through the motions.
For a couple of years I had been vaguely monitoring my diet. I had a particular like for eggs and drank gallons of cow milk. One day whilst eating a quiche, I suddenly started feeling very dizzy and sick, with a pounding headache. I had to go home from work it was that bad. I realised it was egg, milk/cheese or the wheat in the flour. I’d suspected it for a while, but this was a minor turning point for me. I decided to eat less eggs at least.
I started to get the dizzy spells more often, especially after eating and by now, I was having problems with my stomach and menstrual issues too. My gums and teeth were sore and I wasn’t sleeping. I had heart palpitations after eating quite regularly and I was incredibly moody, lethargic and anxious.
Until this point, I hadn’t been to a doctor in years. I had childhood epilepsy from a bump on the head until I reached about the age of 22, but aside from that, I had no doctor worthy issue. I rarely took even painkillers except in an emergency. I hold very strong naturopathic views after taking the epilepsy medication for so long, but I eventually decided I had to go.
What made the visit to the doctor more difficult was that my regular doctor had retired and so I had to see a locum. I had blood tests done, they searched for anaemia, diabetes and other bits and pieces and tested for depression. They couldn’t find anything and so it was suggested that I had mild depression and stress and that a change in my lifestyle, diet, more exercise would help.
I was relieved that I didn’t have to think about medication. I started to change a little, but not nearly enough. I sat around a lot in the evenings, working, marking for school, watching crap TV. I ate food, plus food. I would feed others in order to provide myself with cakes and snacks. My other issue was drinking. I had been drinking alot since my teens. It had gotten better, I didn’t go out to do it as much, but I certainly managed to drink red wine most nights.
Basically, I was killing myself slowly. I was allowing myself to eat and drink things that were making my body react in a myriad of terrible ways. I was completely aware of it, but I was continuing and actually, I was miserable. My heart was pleading with me to work it out, but. Wasn’t listening. It would pass. I kept tell myself. Ignore the headaches, lethargy, difficult stomach, gum issues, anxiety, bloating, irregular, basically permanent incredibly painful periods, reclusiveness, hangovers, depression, irritability, insomnia…this had to stop.

I remembered years ago seeing an article on a morning show about detoxing by eating one fruit only for a weekend. This really interested me, so I started to research. I also found articles about eating less animal products and how they could affect menstrual patterns and how a raw vegan diet could alleviate the pain, give you more energy and help rejuvenate the body. Having been brought up believing that certain nutrients could only be found in animal products, I started to look at ways of finding these in plant food. It was not as difficult as I thought.

The realisation that this change in diet could be the way to escape all my physical problems, coincided with another appointment with the doctor, as he suspected that some of the symptoms could be signs of cervical cancer. It was a big fear. Also, in contrast to this, the light in my life appeared.

I saw a photo Stephen had posted online and commented on it, then, sent him a message. We chatted all night. He had also been trying to eat more raw food and had successfully done so. It was as if the one person on the planet to help me start this journey had been put back into my life at precisely the right time.
The next day, he came to pick me up and we drove to a raw food restaurant in London. It was wonderful. Seeing him again after all these years, catching up, sharing food that we were both very interested in welcoming into our lives. From then on, it was upwards. We ate so well. Smoothies, juices, super foods. I loved the challenge of meeting my nutrition needs this way. It gave me new passion for food and life seemed to lift out of the rut I had been so blindly comfortable in…I sold my television, stopped eating meat and dairy, cut all refined sugar out completely. I went swimming, went for walks. I stopped drinking so much, if at all, and I got the all clear from a gynaecologist.
I have no idea if that first burst of energy would still have happened if I hadn’t messaged Stephen that night, but I’d like to think that he has and still does play a huge part in my motivation to take control of my health.

I do slip up. During my pregnancy with Bear, I did eat more cooked food and dairy than I really wanted to. This also came with feelings of guilt, due to the information I had now discovered regarding farming and meat production, plus I was starting to get heart palpitations again and some of the lethargy and bloating. After Bear was born, I also lost a bit of my motivation to be in the kitchen. It was easier to cook a soup, get a takeaway, or bung processed vege food in the oven, but every time I did, a million thoughts crossed my mind.

I think now, that I truly know the real food culprits and the impact they have in my body.
Refined sugar is a no no. It makes me tired in all its forms and makes my teeth sensitive and my gums sore. It’s worse when with white flour, or in beans or other tinned or processed food. These combinations also give me stomach cramps and other stomach symptoms of old.
Another no for me is cow milk. It leaves an awful bitter taste in my mouth and my stomach feels nauseous and inflamed. It also smells awful to me and I feel sick just thinking about what awful things are in it and the cruel slavery its production entails.
Noodles (apart from rice noodles) result in all of the above, any processed food. The same goes for eggs. I do eat free range organic eggs when I fancy it, but it’s not so often anymore.

On the better side, I have so many other foods that invigorate me and give me the energy that those few above zap. The sheer volume of options left to me are why I really need not worry. I am at my best on a fully raw vegan diet, with occasional cooked vegan food, long walks in nature, sunshine, love and meditation.

I remember Stephen asking me on our date to the raw restaurant all that time ago. ‘What would you do if money were no object? Not the usual answer, like a nice house, pay off my debts etc…what would you do with your life?’
I remember my answer.

‘I would travel around, learning about cultures and food, so that I could teach people how to eat as well as possible, look after them, feed them, listen to them and show them different ways of life around the world.’

Well here I am, almost 2 years into this relationship, with a wonderful man who has made sure I am living my dream.
I feel that truly, honestly, you must ask yourself his question and strive to follow your dreams. In whichever way you can possible. I cannot imagine where I would be if I hadn’t chosen this path.
Take a look at your life often. Open your eyes to the possibilities and opportunities. See past the man made distractions that blot out the very nature of our human souls and let life carry you and teach you. Trust in that, because I believe it for everyone. It is never too late.

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One of my all time favourite ingredients put on this earth is garlic.
It is used everywhere around the world for its strong, versatile flavour and its medicinal properties. It is an important part of many dishes of various countries across Asia, Africa and South America and Europe.
The flavour varies in intensity and aroma with different cooking methods and that is one of the things I love about it. I find that fascinating.

In the dish I made today, it is soft and sweet in flavour. It’s a typical side dish in many restaurants and households, based around the holy trinity – Garlic, Ginger and Spring onions. There is no need to add stock, these three and a little soy sauce add real depth, even in a quick stir fry like this.

Ingredients (serves 2-4 depending on portion size)
Sesame seed oil
2-4 large cloves of garlic thinly sliced
6 spring onions
2cm of Fresh ginger cut into matchsticks
Half a chilli sliced thinly
3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
Fresh green vegetables of your choice roughly chopped
( I used Pak choi and courgette, but tender stem broccoli and sweet red pepper would have been a delicious addition too)
3/4 pint of water/coconut water
Soft rice noodles if desired

Method
1. Heat oil in a frying pan or wok for a minute or so on a high heat. Add to it the garlic, spring onion and ginger and stir fry for a further few minutes, until garlic has browned (watch carefully, you should catch it before it burns) turn down the heat.
2. Add your vegetables and stir continuously for a minute or two, until they are very well covered by the garlic, ginger and spring onion oil.
3. Pour in the water and soy sauce, sprinkle in the chilli, then bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Turn down and cook for a further minute or two, then serve as an accompaniment to other dishes, on its own with steamed rice, or stir through some soft noodles.

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A little sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds would add a rich nutty taste to this dish 🙂

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I bought Bear a couple of pairs of little trousers whilst we’ve been here, because most of the things I packed him have been a bit hot and he is growing too.

I decided to have a go at making a pair, which are made of a pretty simple pattern and with correct measuring, I think with basic sewing skills, a sewing machine, material and an hour, you could knock up a pair of these easily. I’m using some really funky material, which is actually a scarf given to me for my birthday by my sister, Emma, but she knows I love it…now Bear and I match! 🙂

I was lucky that my mum and her mum, my grandmother, taught Emma and I to sew at a young age. Mum used to make a lot of our clothes and toys, including fancy dress (our Dickens Festival dresses one year pictured below) rag dolls and she even made my sisters wedding dress and my bridesmaid dress. Emma is very creative too. She makes gorgeous little felt toys. What talent!

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Anyway, I’m not as disciplined as her and prefer much more free, sculptural sewing, but sometimes I like to make clothes. The problem is that usually I run out of patience. So making children’s clothes and simple designs is more my style.

I’ve ended up with a good practise pair of trousers for him. Here is my workings.

You will need two of each of these shapes. The longer length of the rectangle is the length of the trouser leg you would like. E.g. From waist to ankle. The middle piece should be about a quarter shorter than longer length of the rectangle. The top should be half the width of the bottom.

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Then line up the four pieces and sew them together as in figure 2. A to A, B to B and so on. The bottom of the two side panels is slightly longer than the middle panels to create the legs in the next stages.

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Once you have sewn these panels together, you need to hem around the waist line (3) leaving a channel wide enough for some elastic. Then along the edges 1&2 before sewing along 4, also sewing together the two overhanging sections to form the two legs.

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I hope that makes some sense! If not, here’s a cute photo of Bear showing them off. They are pretty rough, but I will try again a few times to neaten them up.

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Speedy cucumber soup.

As all my yummychef fans know, I’m a fool for soup. I just love it! I love how it warms on a cold day and I enjoy the fact that you can really make a soup from anything! Now although I’ve made my thai green curry soup here in Koh Lanta, as is a traditional dish, I decided this afternoon that I would experiment with a cold soup. It’s pretty hot here today!

It was a very quick recipe with our vita mix blender.

I only made enough for a bowlful each, but just add more ingredients depending on the volume you want to make. Adjust the amount of garlic you add too. I love garlic in all its forms, but raw, it can be quite overpowering. I would say the same with spring onions too, so play around with it until you get the depth of flavour you like.
As you also may know, due to our location, coconuts are easy to get hold of, but you could add mineral water, a couple of ice cubes and some dried coconut if you want that kind of flavour, or some coconut water from a carton, or creamed coconut. It’s up to you.

1 large cucumber peeled and chopped
2 large tomatoes chopped
3-4 spring onions
1 coconut ( the flesh and water)
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
Handful of Dill
A few cubes of ice

Blend all of these together and serve on a hot day!

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So one of the most difficult things for a lot of people to get their head around when I talk about raw food aside from the fact that I tend to make unbaked goods now, is the fact that I also prefer to steer clear of refined sugars and any chocolate with animal products in it.

This was something I had to accept myself and to be honest I still fall off the wagon as far as refined sugar is concerned, because my body is so used to the continual comfort it has given me from an early age.  It is difficult for your body to forget at first, but once you get into the swing of things and find ways to get that satisfaction from more natural sources, you can easily curb those cravings.

Say goodbye to the post sugar lows and guilt ridden snacking, by making your desserts raw!  Enjoy a decadent feast using fruits and other natural treats that will fill you up without giving you false satisfaction.

Here is my almost perfected Raw Chocolate Pie recipe, which I generally change every time I make it depending on the ingredients I have.

Ingredients

Base:

Small packet of Macadamia nuts

4-6 Medjool dates

2 tablespoons of dessicated coconut

1/3rd block of creamed coconut

Filling:

2 ripe avacados

4-6 ripe bananas

6 medjool dates

2/3rds block of creamed coconut

1-2 tablespoons of raw cocoa powder

Agave/maple Syrup to taste

1. First of all, put your whole block of creamed coconut chopped into to very small pieces to melt (i brought water to the boil, turned it off and placed the coconut in a ban marie until it was liquid)

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2.  Blend the Macadamia nuts with the desicated coconut and dates until a soft crumbly texture.  Add a 1/3rd of the melted creamed coconut and pulse once or twice.

3.  Pour this into a loose bottomed tin and press down firmly to form the base with the back of a spoon or your fingers until packed nice and tightly.

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4.  Blend the avocados, bananas and dates until a smooth mousse-like consistency.

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5.  Add Cocoa powder and blend until evenly mixed in.  Taste this mixture and add agave/maple syrup if its not sweet enough, although the dates should add the sticky sweetness desired.

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6.  Now add the remaining 2/3rds of the melted creamed coconut and blend.

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7. When blended pour into the tin and leave to set in the fridge for at least an hour (overnight results in best texture if you can wait) then decorate with fruit!

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One of my biggest bug bears in life was always what to eat for breakfast.  1, it always seemed so early – my body could hardly function to get dressed, let alone prepare something fantastic to delight my taste buds(why am I out of bed at this ungodly hour) 2, why would I want to eat cardboard type cereal sugar coated and bland simultaneously and 3) everyone kept telling me it was the most important meal of the day and the rebel in me didn’t want to apply that unexplained reasoning. 
Of course now I realise it is the most important meal of the day.  I I did, before my raw fix, quite happily eat full English fry ups, croissants, waffles etc, thinking they would fuel me, but I was wrong.  Aside from my wonderful smoothies, which satisfy my fast and give me a burst of good fruit sugar energy, I have now discovered a raw delight which I sort of based on several similar ideas I’ve seen over my raw journey.

This take on a porridge/muesli type brekkie is really a base that you can add or takeaway your favourite ingredients.  The rich syrup of the dates really made it for me.

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Raw Granola

1 cup of raw buckwheat
Tablespoon of dried mulberries
4 dates chopped
Tablespoon of shelled hemp seed

1: Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and cover with water.
2: Leave to soak for an hour,
3: if necessary add more water
4: Cover and leave to soak over night
5: in the morning, add fresh fruit and enjoy 🙂

Easy. Something you can prepare in advance and add anything too.  Try it with almonds, raisins, raw chocolate chips, strawberries, blueberries…your choice!

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One of my best friends Neeru and I have the kind of relationship where we can see each other after years or months apart and take up where we left off.  I went round to her family home for a visit last week and not only did I have a wonderful walk in her garden, a swim and a sauna and a delicious green smoothie, I was treated to a live cooking lesson from her mum 🙂

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They showed me how to make a green bean and potato curry, then a unique aubergine curry and a beautiful rich daal. 

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It was wonderful to see the two of them prepare the family meal together, whilst giving me tips and pointers along the way, introducing me to spices and letting me see their traditional techniques.

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The final result was so tasty and the fact I had been lucky enough to be part of the making process made it that much more special.

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I also got to eat my dinner with Adi, Neerus nephew, who showed me how to eat my roti properly and made an excellent companion.

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I wanted to recreate the dish at home and used the same bases and spices where possible, but used a slight variation on ingredients, which is typically how I go about deciding what will go in my curries.

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I first washed and prepared my runner beans, chopping them into pieces, then I chopped the sweet potatoes.  In the frying pan, I heated a little olive oil, then added cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic powder, and flaked chilli.  Then I put in the potato and green beans, frying them for about 5-7 minutes.

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I added about a cup full of water, stirred then added chopped courguette.

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After another ten minutes, I added another cup of water and a tablespoon of tomato puree, making sure I stirred it thoroughly.

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I covered the pan and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, before adding a plantain.  At this stage, you could add a banana, or perhaps some mango, just to add a nice sweetness to the curry.  Its then really adding a little more water if the mixture dries out and cook it for a further 15 minutes.

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Another dish I had at the Rishi’s. Was chilli okra, lady fingers (or greenies as Neeru’s mum and Adi call them)
I’d never had them before and what I’m showing you is my second attempt after another Rishi consultation.
Wash them and dry them completely. I put them in a folded teatowel whilst I cooked the potato and bean curry, occasionally patting them.

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So when they are completely dry, cut off the stalks and chop them.
Fry one onion, 2 cloves of garlic and 1-2 chilli depending on your taste.  Also add a teaspoon of ground ginger, and a teaspoon of paprika and a pinch of good salt.

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After they are softened, add the okra and stir once, then cover the pan, leaving the okra to cook on a very low heat for 10 minutes. Do not stir it until the ten minutes is up, or you risk the sticky sap being released which is pretty off putting

Now you can stir the okra until the chilli and onions are dark brown, which is about 10-15 minutes, stir it occasionally so that the other ingredients don’t burn.

Serve the two currys with a sweet lentil daal 🙂

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I learnt so much on that visit, not only about how to cook these fantastic dishes, but how important family life is and how integral being brought up amongst the different generations in a family is.  I hope I can build a family unit just as strong, upon the strong foundation I have already been blessed with.

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