Why we should all warm to the idea of a nice cold dinner
A raw food diet might not sound appetising for winter, but self-confessed 'raw obsessive' Shazzie thinks it's the key to wellbeing
When the clocks go back, and we shudder at autumn's first frost, it's tempting to reach for the comfort food; a nice warming pot of stew, perhaps, or a plate of shepherd's pie.
Most of us believe eating warm food will instantly warm up our mood, a default response engraved from childhood and the memories of your mum's home-cooked delights on dark, windswept Sunday evenings.
But raw food expert Shazzie believes that if you really want to get through winter – and beyond – with a smile, you need to ditch cooked meals altogether.
The idea's as basic as it sounds; instead of cooking food, you only consume food that's raw.
It's principles started millennia ago, before cookers were invented, but the raw food diet has been gaining momentum in the modern world, partly thanks to the endorsement of celebrity followers like Demi Moore and Natalie Portman, and advocates like mother-of-one Shazzie.
"We are an overweight starving culture because nutrient-deficient foods dominate our lives," she says. "When food is raw, the nutrients are intact and the body gets what it needs without having to over-stuff itself."
Shazzie discovered the benefits of raw food back in 2000, after suffering increased weight, unhealthy skin, depression and lack of energy.
"I started researching food and realised I was deficient in a lot of stuff. I realised I was causing my body stress by feeding it food it just couldn't process."
After doing some research, she shifted to eating only raw food, and says "all her symptoms disappeared".
She lost weight, her skin cleared up, her head felt less muddled and she "felt enthusiastic about life, for the first time ever".
Having lifted her own "cooking fog", she became determined to help others, writing a blog and numerous books about her diet and personal transformation.
She's travelled the world meeting other raw food gurus and, in 2012, began presenting her current TV show, Raw Kitchen. Despite her obvious love of the diet – which she says is the reason she now never goes to the doctors, feels 'superhuman' and looks at least a decade younger than her 44 years – Shazzie does admit it's not always easily accepted by new recruits.
"Some people make it difficult, because there are many sub-groups of raw foodism," she says.
People also associate the diet with being pricey, because basic and cheap cupboard staples like pasta and bread are banned.
"But following a raw food diet is much less expensive than sick days and prescriptions due to eating food your body can't process," she points out.
Shazzie quickly extols another virtue of eating raw; you don't have to calorie count: "Raw food is just the right fuel for our bodies."
And she says eating at least 50% raw is enough to still reap the benefits, adding: "You'll get more energy, need less sleep, become clearer in your vision – it can literally alter your life."
Tempted? See below for one of Shazzie's recipes to try out.
400ml water, not quite boiled from a kettle
70g shelled hemp seeds
1/2 red pepper
1 small tomato
1 celery stalk
1 clove of garlic
1/4 small red onion
10ml Udo's Choice oil
10ml hemp seed oil
5g Seagreens or powdered broccoli sprouts
Stone and skin the avocado. Put all the ingredients into a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.
Serve in two lovely big bowls, drizzle with extra oil, and sprinkle a few more Seagreens on top before tucking right in.
Chilli con cacoa
2 cloves of garlic
2 ripe medium tomatoes
1 cup of basil, loosely packed
10 rosemary leaves
6 sun-dried tomatoes
Squeeze of lemon
1tsp (heaped) of cayenne powder
4 Peruvian dried olives, soaked for 30 minutes
2tbsp of organic, unsweetened chocolate powder
1/2 red pepper
1/2 cup of dried mixed mushrooms
1/4 cup of olive oil
Finely chop garlic and rosemary. Dice tomatoes and peppers. Slice olives and discard stones. Add all ingredients except oil and courgettes to a food processor. If possible, crush mushrooms in your hands before adding. Process until the mix is chunky. Leave for 10 minutes for the mushrooms to expand and soak up some juice.
Stir in the olive oil. Peel and grate courgettes, patting with kitchen paper if not dry.
Divide into four, and plate, using a mould. Dent the top so the chilli can fit. Top the courgettes with equal chilli. Serve.