By Tanya Maher
In 1998, I was in a near fatal car accident, breaking my back and badly damaging all my internal organs. My insides were so badly bruised and damaged, that my body instantly rejected any food I swallowed.
We did what came naturally in a moment of despair – we used intuition. Mum and Dad asked me to imagine different foods and name those that didn’t immediately make me feel nauseous.
There were so many foods I craved, I was literally starving, but the only ones I could entertain the idea of actually keeping in were peppermint tea, high-factor manuka honey and liquidized vegetables. How clever our bodies are. Even in the most vulnerable state, they know exactly what they need to survive.
My body knew that raw foods have the power to heal, it knew exactly which foods had the right nutrition for this healing and it was because of raw foods that I got to keep my pancreas – although I didn’t even realise it at the time.
It was when I read Victoria Boutenko’s book and her collection of testimonials from people who had reversed all manner of illnesses (from diabetes, heart conditions, obesity, asthma, chronic fatigue and cancer) with raw food that I made an important connection – that I had also healed my body, all those years ago, with raw food. It also occurred to me that if we can heal disease with raw food, surely we can prevent it, too. Now we’re talking!
I trained as a Holistic Health Coach, which brought me into contact with many clients. This allowed me to witness the countless benefits of raw foods among athletes, expectant mothers, young professionals and the newly retired.
How lucky we are to have a cuisine so pure, nourishing and life enhancing that still has sweet treats on its daily menu. Decadent living desserts are precisely why raw food is not a diet at all, although you’ll always have my permission to eat raw cakes for breakfast and tell others you’re on a diet.
Squashed Berry & White Chocolate Cheesecake
For the cheesecake layer:
180g (6.25 oz) cacao butter
260g (9.5 oz) cashew nuts, soaked for 4–6 hours
120ml (4 fl oz) boiling water
Grated zest of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 lemon
40g (1.5 oz) lucuma powder
110g (4 oz) agave nectar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
For the berry topping:
220g (7.75 oz) mixed frozen berries (I like a combination of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and red currants)
Shave the cacao butter on a grater and melt it gently in a double boiler (or in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, ensuring the base of the bowl does not touch the water below).
Transfer the melted butter to the jug of a high-powered blender, add the remaining cheesecake layer ingredients and blend, using a tamper, until creamy.
Cover the entire base of an 18cm (7in) round cake tin with the frozen berries and pour the blended cream all over the top. Gently rock the tin so that the cream spreads evenly between all the berries.
Refrigerate the cake for a minimum of 1 hour to set.
When you are ready to serve, run a small knife between the cake and the internal tin wall to loosen the cake. Place a serving dish face-down over the top of the tin, then flip over the tin and tip out the cake onto the serving dish.
Tanya Maher is the founder of Better Raw, a health coaching practice and resource hub for raw foods, and is co-founder of Tanya’s Café, a popular raw food café with multiple locations in London. She also recently published her first cookbook The Uncook Book. She is a 2013 graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.