Alkaline Cooking Methods
At Honestly Health we love raw foods and like to cook in a way that keeps ingredients as close to their natural state as possible. But we also like the myriad of possibilities cooking offers in terms of adding texture and taste. There are many ways of cooking - from roasting and baking to poaching and steaming. All have their benefits and some their drawbacks. Each of the methods below are best suited to certain ingredients to bring out the best in their taste or the texture they impart to a dish.
Traditionally a cooking method used for fish, seafood and chicken, poaching works wonderfully for soya products and vegetables to create meals-in-a-bowl, with added noodles. Ideally the herbs, spices and other flavours need to be poached in a water based broth first, to allow the aromas to develop before any foods are added. Ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, chillies and tamarind, for instance, can all meld together; the same goes for star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg if poaching fruits for breakfasts or puddings.
This supremely gentle way of cooking on the hob is and excellent way of preserving the shape and texture of the foods, and adding a lid keeps the aromas and nutrients contained within. Try this delicious Poached Plum with Star Anise
recipe for a delicious breakfast or dessert option.
Cooking food in a hot pan with a little fat (butter or oil) is often used in Mediterranean cooking. We use sautéing but opt for the healthier oils such as coconut and sunflower oil to infuse the foods with flavour without browning or blackening them. Sautéing allows you to 'layer' flavours and cook vegetables alongside beans and pulses. Constant tossing or jiggling of the food is vital when sautéing, so do watch the pan - a minute with your back turned can result in a ruined dish. The secret? It's low-temperature slow cooking. Use the juices from the pan with water and stock, reducing to intensify the flavour even more! To keep the temperature low and maintain nutrition, I add splashes of water every now and then which helps cool the pan. Recipes like soups
always start with the sautéing of some onions and garlic to develop flavour - adding celery is another great addition too sometimes. Try our Wild Mushroom & Millet Risotto Recipe
Often used in the kitchens of Michelin-starred chefs, reducing allows a combination of flavours to be simmered own to less than a third of their original volume, thereby providing a stickier consistency and a far more intense flavour. We tend to reduce fruits for our delicious treats, cooking them at low temperatures to reduce them to a sticky, binding consistency. Whether savoury or sweet, this is a wonderful way of producing sauces and drizzles. Be brave and hold your nerve and the flavour will be stronger - try making our Blueberry Friands
which come with a delicious, zingy reduced lemon glaze.
The benefits of eating raw vegetables and fruits or adding raw sprouted beans and seeds to salads cannot be underestimated. Green smoothies,
our Raw Green Curry with Courgette Noodles
or Sunflower Seed Paste & Sundried Tomato Pesto (recipes in our second cookbook
) are just a few raw dishes to try. Eating raw produce delivers the highest amount of nutrients in a meal - try to include at least one juice or salad per day (even in winter) for optimal nutrition.
This brilliant method of literally 'drawing out the water' of fluid content of a vegetable or fruit yields a nutrient-dense, crispy version of whatever has been put into the dehydrator the night before. Dehydration isn't a quick process, which is the only downside, but dehydrated foods are a far healthier version than their commercial counterparts; this method of 'cooking' is increasingly popular with the raw foodists and healthy food eaters. Some dehydrators can be reasonably priced (though some are expensive), and are a wonderful addition to any kitchen. You can also dehydrate some things on the lowest fan setting on your oven. Either way, you'll never buy crisps ever again!
Blending & Juicing
The ultimate tool in the Honestly Healthy kitchen is a high-speed blender (we use a Vitamix
); we recommend that you purchase the best that your money can buy. All sorts of dishes - sauces, soups, dips
, dressings & drizzles - are all pummelled together in the blender. We use ours many times a day (starting with our green smoothies
), so the investment is actually worth it. A juicer is not the same as a blender, and all you need to look for in a juicer is one that works on a centrifugal basis, since that ensures the maximum volume of juice from your ingredients.
Roasting - using a combination of heat and oil - works amazingly well for vegetables, particularly root vegetables, as it allows for their sweetness to come through. The secret is to roast at a low to medium temperatures, to ensure that there is no damage to the vegetable's nutritional values. You'll find vegetables such as butternut squash, sweet potato, beetroot, parsnip & kohlrabi all roast wonderfully. Try our Butternut (roast) & Aduki Bean Salad.
Using the heat of an oven but without any oil, toasting is a great way of bringing out the granola mixes, grains and seeds. Toasting uses low temperatures; it's even better in the bottom of an Aga if you have one. The low temperatures allow the flavours to develop without damaging the delicate essential fats found in them. Toasting barley and quinoa, in particular, if turning into risottos, can be done ahead of the actual preparation of the meal itself, and adds a wonderful depth to such dishes. All nuts and seeds should be toasted in the oven at low temperatures to prevent rancidity, and then allowed to cook completely before storing in airtight containers.
The beauty of baking is that it allows you time in the kitchen to be cooking other things while the cookies, cakes, breads or muffins are doing their own thing. If you think about it, baking was one of the earliest forms of cooking, when fires were constructed in pits, and foods were wrapped in dampened leaves to 'bake' in the embers of the fire to allow tastes and flavours to develop, without the ingredients being overcooked.
While some may think of baking as a difficult aspect of cooking, and that one has to be incredibly precise, we have made it so easy. The trick with baking is to always use a timer - too many cakes, biscuits and timers are ruined because they get forgotten in the oven!
The benefit of being able to consume muffins, for instance, that they are 'good for you', is immeasurable, delivering goodness from vegetables or fruits that some family members might ordinarily shy away from. Try our Orange & Almond Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Excerpt taken from our second cookbook Honestly Healthy For Life which is available to purchase now on Amazon.