When was the last time you went out for a delicious raw Icelandic meal?
What, never? Really? NEVER? You haven’t lived.
OK, yes, me neither – but I was certainly very intrigued when I spotted a new recipe book, Raw: Recipes for a modern vegetarian lifestyle by Solla Eiríksdóttir. When a lot of people think of raw food, they think of depressing salads and granola bars (but I do love a good granola bar – and if you’re looking for a list of good, healthy ones, you can see this here). As a lover of all things Icelandic, food and recipe books, I knew I just had to have a copy of this, and I wanted to share a little bit about it with you. It’s about time I did something for the veggies among us given the decidedly meaty nature of my last post…
So, what’s Raw all about? Unsurprisingly, it’s full of recipes using raw ingredients (though not entirely – there are still plenty of options for those of us who like to cook with heat too). All the recipes are vegetarian friendly, and many of them cater for vegans as well. With a massive 3 in 10 Brits cutting down on their meat consumption, this book has hit the shelves at just the right time. And of course, our obsession with the Scandi lifestyle is going absolutely nowhere… so what better time to talk vegetarian Icelandic-influenced cooking?
Author Solla grew up in Reykjavík, and her parents started growing organic vegetables in a garden just outside the city in her childhood. Her interest in cooking healthy vegetarian food blossomed over the years, and she is now particularly interested in food preparation processes such as soaking, sprouting, fermentation and blending, believing these methods are easier on the digestive system.
The book is divided in two ways: times of day and seasons. For breakfast, we find recipes like the seriously Instagram-friendly juice shots, a satisfyingly savoury tofu scramble with kale and avocado (scrambled tofu is uncannily like scrambled eggs when cooked properly, don’t you know) and a luxe chocolate chia pudding with granola and fruit, which can be prepared the night before and eaten at leisure the next day. For lunch, we find Icelandic kimchi, along with ‘one-bowl wonders’ like a baked beet bowl, the whimsically named ‘everything from the garden soup’ and a raw root salad, and for dinner the farrotto with orange root vegetables and kelp noodles with tofu caught my eye.
The sections I really love, though, are the seasons, where we catch a glimpse of Solla’s aspirationally wholesome life in Iceland. The Spring chapter looks at growing food on a small scale, while Summer shows us how to dye cloth a vibrant yellow using only turmeric, a recipe for skyr (Icelandic yogurt) and berries and how to make nutritious ice pops (though let’s not get carried away – a typical high temperature in Reykjavík in July is a sweltering 13 degrees). The Fall chapter covers making jam from handpicked wild berries (see my attempt at making hygge-inspired jam last summer here) and fermenting vegetables to last through the colder months. In Winter, Solla explains how green-fingered Icelanders take their gardening indoors and ideas for homemade Christmas gifts – I’d be delighted to receive a stack of Solla’s chocolate cookies for those festive hygge vibes.
In the name of ‘research’ (read: greed), I decided to try out a recipe. I’m terribly impatient, so I went for a very simple recipe for which I knew I already had all the ingredients, which is why I spent an hour rustling up some avocado truffles. These are SO EASY – the only ingredients are dark chocolate, avocados, coconut oil and cacao powder (though the cacao can be replaced with nuts, dessicated coconut, orange zest or anything similar).
To be honest, these taste a lot like any regular chocolate truffles you’d buy in a shop. And that’s a god thing. I mean, I love avocado, but I’m not sure how much of it I want to taste in a sweet treat. I honestly don’t think anyone not in the know would be able to tell that these are vegan, and certainly not made with avo. Even for a dark choc fan like me they’re a little bit bitter with the cacao powder alone, so I’d definitely go for some coconut next time.
So, why should you rush out and buy a copy of Raw (or, more likely, snap it up in a single click on Amazon)? Well, firstly because it’s a book that’s going to see you through the entire year. Secondly, this is your ideal companion if you’re cooking for a group with diverse dietary requirements (there are vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and nut-free recipes in here, so something for most diets and tastes). Thirdly, the photography is STUNNING – sweeping Icelandic vistas nestled between perfect clean, crisp bowls and mason jars (how 2016) of nourishing food – ideal for your hygge fix. And finally, this is a brilliantly unique take on Icelandic cuisine, and shows just how versatile the ingredients found in Iceland can be. It’s more than just meat and hákarl (thank the lord) – and this is one Icelandic cook showing how much her family’s healthy recipes have to offer.
I received a complimentary copy of Raw from Phaidon; however all views and truffles are my own.