In The Kitchen With: Tanya Maher

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When it comes to Tanya Maher you’re more likely to know her as the woman behind Tanya’s raw food café, which has been a sensation in London since it opened. But this Russian-born, New Zealand-raised, now converted Londoner is also the creator of a best selling DVD: ‘Raw Food 101’ and author of ‘The Uncook Book’.  So, as a pioneer of the clean-eating movement in the UK it’s kind of obvious why we were so keen to get into her kitchen…….. and then rush home to fix ours just like hers.

Tanya – you’ve created your own mini empire revolving around raw food. How does that translate to your own personal shopping list? What would we found on there?

This is a bit embarrassing for a wellness coach who always encourages everyone to shop with a list, but I don’t keep one. Unless I’m organising a dinner party I go to the shops with an open mind and I’m always ready to create. I swear by using whatever is in season, feels good and gets my taste buds excited. Those items make it in to the shopping basket for a brand new dinner every night.

What are some of your food preparation tips – do you do food-prep Sunday?

Yes this is something I’ve always done, and because of those 30 magical minutes in the kitchen each Sunday you can usually find at least 3 spreads in my fridge: cashew soured cream, sundried tomato ketchup, sunflower seed hummus, spinach and basil pesto and my personal favourite – ranch dressing. All of these have made it into The Uncook Book.

Do you spend a lot of time making stuff from scratch when you’re not at work or do you tend to go for store-bought alternatives for convenience?

I actually really enjoy making everything from scratch whether it’s cake, chocolate, granola, living bread, soup, pizza, ice cream, or salads. Something you will always find in my pantry though are the items which assist in making things from scratch like nut butters, raw chocolate, mixed green powders (like my pH booster), ground medicinal mushroom powders, tea (lots and lots of tea), flax crackers and pliable wraps for veggie burritos.

Do you think it’s important to buy all of your fruit and veg organic? Are there some that should be bought organic and others that are less likely to have harmful pesticides?

I definitely believe that everything is better without chemicals in your life and in your body. It is unfortunately still reasonably expensive to only buy organic (we struggle with the balance of keeping prices affordable while purchasing the best quality for Tanya’s café chain all the time) and sometimes the organic version is not available, but if you follow the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen table you’ll be good.

Do you shop for basics at supermarket chains and head to farmer’s markets and organic supermarkets/health food stores for your organic-needs?

I love my local Waitrose and do the majority of my shop there. I also really love Planet Organic and Whole Foods Market. Sadly there’s not a farmer’s market close to me so I only end up doing a monthly trip to one. I always have to grab a taxi to go home as I buy way more than I can carry.

In The Kitchen With: Tanya Maher

Image: Tanya Maher

Where do you go for hard-to-find health products?

There are a few online retailers like Detox Your World, Raw Living and Tree Harvest, which I use most often. But as I travel quite a bit I like to find super random stores and stock up on strange ingredients and superfoods, which I haven’t heard of before. I love experimenting with them all when I get home.

Well then, we’re expecting some superfood madness in your pantry! Which ones are your favourites and must-haves?

Cordyceps mushroom powder, cacao powder, acai berry, spirulina and matcha. I have most others you’ve heard of as well, but these I use ALL the time.

What’s your favourite way to get superfoods into your diet? Smoothies? Bircher Muesli? Raw treats?

It’s pretty much always the drinks: smoothies, lattes and flavoured waters. But raw cheesecakes are amazing with superfoods in them as well.

So what’s your go-to on a busy day when you’re low on groceries?

Almond butter and manuka honey on raw crackers or rice crackers. I would say avocado and cherry tomatoes with pink salt and cracked pepper on a cracker, but if I’m low on groceries that’s doubtful – avocados always go first!

I don’t think you’re alone on the avocado front (#healthfoodieproblems). Do you see yourself as more of an instinctive eater or do you plan your meals for the week (I suppose that would help on the avocado front)?

I used to when I started coaching and have a very handy ‘How to menu plan’ guide in my free eBook ‘One Day Raw’, but I’ve since evolved into a very intuitive eater and even shop for ingredients on a daily basis as my body requests change.

Do you have a particular focus on portion sizes between breakfast, lunch and dinner or do you just eat three equally nourishing meals?

I’m a snacker and eat about 4-6 tiny meals a day. If I didn’t have a husband to prepare meals for then I’d have another 1 or 2 small meals towards the evening, but we end up having a big early dinner, which is now my main meal of the day.

So do you prefer a big, buffet style meal or a sit-down course by course set up?

Buffets scare me! Course-by-course is much more fancy and civilized.

What about drinks? Your café is famous for those superfood cocktails. Do you make a big jug?

We prepare some mixes like homemade tomato mix for a Bloody Mary or frozen berry cubes for frozen Margaritas, but each and every drink is made to order. You can also pick your sweetener of choice so even the drinks are bespoke.

Now, the important question: dessert! What’s your favourite style of dessert for a big get-together?

You left the hardest questions till last! I love making desserts and hardly ever find myself repeating recipes, but something bite-sized with chocolate drizzled all over has got to be a winner. Recently I’ve been all about the Salted Caramel Slices from The Uncook Book.

For more information on Tanya’s Cafe and The Uncook Book visit: www.tanyascafe.com

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