Food

How to Love Raw Food, From a Modern Pioneer

Solla Eiríksdóttir is known for her vegan cooking, and she's sharing her secrets in a new cook book
Photographer: Richard Vines/Bloomberg

Solla Eiríksdóttir is one celebrity chef you may not have come across, but she is a household name in Iceland because of  her TV shows and four restaurants focused on raw food and vegan dishes.

If such an approach sounds a little purist, Solla, 55,  is more interested in flavor than philosophy, and she laughs a lot during an interview at Gló restaurant in Reykjavik. Sitting alongside is daughter Hildur, 36, the collaborator on her first English-language cookbook, "Raw," which will be published by Phaidon on May 4.

"It's a way of preparing food, not a way of life," she says. "Everywhere in the world, people are told to eat more fruit and vegetables. What we're doing is transforming fruit and vegetables into real dishes instead of just making salad all the time. This is just food. We love the freshest raw materials so your taste buds are screaming for more."

VINES_ICELANDIC_Raw_COVER
Photographer: Simon Bajada

Solla is an interesting story. She was studying handicrafts in Copenhagen when Hildur was born. Her doctor told her to stop breast-feeding so he could prescribe drugs for her allergies. She said no, and on the way home stopped at a health-food store for the first time.

She met a nutritionist who put her on a vegan diet that cleared up her allergies in six months. Solla returned to Reykjavik, studying at the Myndlista- og handíðaskóli Íslands, a craft school, and working part-time as a server at Á næstu grösum, Iceland's first vegetarian restaurant, where she helped in the kitchen and started to cook.

She went on to open her first restaurant with a friend in March 1994, selling it a decade later and going to study at the Living Light Culinary Institute, in Fort Bragg, California. She became a regular on Icelandic television, even making four programs with the country's first lady, Dorrit Moussaieff, who has also cooked with Martha Stewart.

Solla currently owns four restaurants in Iceland and is now looking at expanding her Gló street-food concept internationally. She mentions London, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo as possible cities, along with California and Germany. She also has her own organic food brand and has published five cookbooks in Iceland.

She wrote the book with Hildur so the mother and daughter could spend more time together. They also write a blog. There are 75 recipes, all vegetarian and many raw and vegan. I've rarely been so excited by meat-free recipes. Here are some to try.

Lasagna

VINES_ICELANDIC_Lasagna
Photographer: Simon Bajada

1 zucchini (courgette)
2 avocadoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into slices

For the Brazil nut cheese

½ cup (2¾ oz/75 g) Brazil nuts
¼ cup (1½ oz/40 g) cashew nuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2–3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon probiotic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the green pesto

½ cup (2¾oz/75 g) cashew nuts
1 handful of basil
1 handful of arugula (rocket)
1–2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 large clove garlic
¼-½teaspoon sea salt flakes
¼-½teaspoon cold-pressed olive oil

For the marinade

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano

For the red pesto

1 1/4 cups (4 oz/125 g) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 plum tomatoes, pitted
½ red bell pepper, cored and seeded
1 clove garlic
2 dates, pitted and finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
A pinch of sea salt

  1. For the Brazil nut cheese, put the Brazil nuts and cashew nuts into in a bowl, pour in enough water to cover, and soak for 2–4 hours. Drain and discard the soaking water. Set aside.
  2. For the green pesto, put the cashew nuts into a bowl, pour in enough water to cover, and soak for 2 hours. Drain and discard the soaking water. Set aside.
  3. For the marinade, put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Set aside.
  4. Use a mandoline or a cheese slicer to cut the zucchini into long, thin slices. Put them into a bowl with the marinade, stir to coat the zucchini in the marinade, cover with plastic wrap (clingfilm), and let stand while you make the pesto and cheese.
  5. For the green pesto, put the cashew nuts into a food processor with the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil, and blend. The texture of the pesto should be chunky. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and add the olive oil. Stir gently to mix together. Set aside.
  6. To make the red pesto, put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until chunky. Add a little salt, if needed, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  7. To make the Brazil nut cheese, put the drained Brazil nuts into a food processor with all the remaining ingredients. Season with pepper, add 2–3 tablespoons water, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  8. To assemble the lasagna, arrange a layer of zucchini in a shallow dish, add a layer of green pesto on top, followed by a layer of the nut cheese. Add another layer of zucchini, then a layer of the red pesto and a layer of sliced avocado. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with the nut cheese. Alternatively, you can assemble individual servings on each of 4 plates.

(Serves 4)

Quinoa Pizza Crust 

VINES_ICELANDIC_Quinoa-Pizza
Photographer: Simon Bajada

¾ cup (4 oz/115 g) quinoa
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
¼ cup (¾ oz/20 g) grated vegan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the topping

Scant ½ cup (3½oz/100 g) vegan cream cheese
½ zucchini (courgette), very thinly sliced
2–3 tablespoons pine nuts
3–4 sprigs rosemary
1 tablespoon truffle oil

  1. Put the quinoa into a bowl, pour in enough water to cover, and let soak overnight.
  2. The next day, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/Gas Mark 5 and line a baking sheet with parchment (baking) paper.
  3. Drain and rinse the quinoa, then put it into a blender together with 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) water, the salt, garlic, black pepper, and oregano and blend until smooth. Pour the batter into a bowl and mix in the cheese and olive oil.
  4. Put a 9 inch (23 cm) tart ring on the prepared baking sheet and pour in the quinoa batter. Bake for about 20 minutes, then remove from the oven. Wearing oven mitts, flip the crust over by covering it with another baking sheet, grasping both sides of the 2 baking sheets, and flipping the sheets with the crust between them. Bake on the second sheet for another 5–10 minutes.
  5. Remove the crust from the oven and lower the temperature to 345°F/175°C/Gas Mark 3–4. Spread the crust with the cream cheese, top with the zucchini slices, and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Bake for another 8 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small skillet (frying pan) briefly cook the rosemary sprigs in the truffle oil over medium heat. When the pizza is ready, sprinkle with the fried rosemary and serve.

(Makes 1 pizza)

Falafel With Sesame Seed Sauce 

VINES_ICELANDIC_falafel-sesame
Photographer: Simon Bajada

Do not let the long list of ingredients discourage you - this is really a very simple recipe. Falafel is exceptionally good in a cooked wrap or romaine lettuce with some homemade fermented carrots, sesame seed sauce, and fresh vegetables, such as ripe tomatoes, onions, and cucumber. The sauce is great for falafel and salad.

For the falafel

1½ cups (8 oz/225 g) almonds
1½ cups (5 oz/150 g) walnuts
½ cup (2 ½ oz/70 g) sesame seed paste (tahini)
¼ cup (1½ oz/40 g) raisins
½ cup (½ oz/15 g) parsley
½ cup (1/2 oz/15 g) cilantro (coriander), plus extra to garnish
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

For the sauce

3 tablespoons lemon juice
⅓ cup (2 ½ fl oz/75 ml) orange juice
⅔ cup (3¼ oz/90 g) sesame seed paste (tahini)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt or sea salt
2 tablespoons cilantro (coriander)
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 dates, pitted (optional)

To serve

10 cooked wraps or romaine lettuce leaves
Fermented Carrots with Spices

  1. To make the falafel, put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend well. Using your hands, roll the mixture into 20 small balls. Put the balls on dehydrator trays, then put the trays into the dehydrator and set to 116°F/47°C for 4–6 hours. Alternatively, you can dry the balls in a normal oven with the fan on and heated to the lowest setting.
  2. Place the balls on a baking sheet, keep the oven door open with a wooden spoon, and leave for 3–4 hours.
  3. The balls are ready when they are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
  4. Meanwhile, for the sauce, put all the ingredients into a blender, add 1/3 cup (2 1/2 fl oz/75 ml) water, and blend well. Set aside.
  5. Transfer the falafel balls to a serving bowl, garnish with parsley and serve the sauce in a bowl on the side. To eat, place 2 falafel balls on a wrap or lettuce leaf with some fermented carrots and the sesame seed sauce.

(Serves 4)

Green Cake to Live For

VINES_ICELANDIC-Green-Cake
Photographer: Simon Bajada

For the crust

1 cup (3½oz/100 g) walnuts
½ cup (2¼ oz/60 g) raw cacao powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 ½ cups (7 oz/200 g) medjool dates, pitted
¾cup (4 oz/120 g) raw pistachios, coarsely chopped

For the filling

1 cup (5 oz/150 g) cashew nuts
2 avocados, peeled, halved, pitted, and cut into cubes
1 handful of spinach
¼teaspoon chlorella
1 cup (9 fl oz/250 ml) almond milk
½ cup (5 ½ oz/160 g) maple syrup or coconut nectar
⅓ cup (2 ½fl oz/75 ml) lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom powder
⅛ teaspoon sea salt

To serve

chlorella, to taste

  1. Line a 9 inch (23 cm) round springform cake pan or mold with parchment (baking) paper. For the filling, put the cashew nuts into a bowl, pour in enough water to cover, and then soak for 2–4 hours, or overnight, then drain and discard the soaking water.
  2. Put the avocados and cashews in a blender with the remaining filling ingredients and blend for about 30 seconds, or until smooth.
  3. For the crust (base), put the walnuts, cacao powder, and sea salt flakes into a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the dates, one at a time, through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running on slow speed or pulse after each addition. The mixture is ready when it sticks together. Put the mixture into a bowl and combine with the chopped pistachios. Press the mixture into the prepared cake pan or mold, pour the filling over the crust until it is completely covered, and chill in the refrigerator or freeze until ready to serve. Just before serving, sprinkle with chlorella.

(Serves 10)

"Raw: Recipes for a  Modern Vegetarian Lifestyle," by Solla Eiríksdóttir, will be published by Phaidon on May 4 at £24.95 or $34.95.

Richard Vines is the chief food critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and on Instagram richard.vines

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