COOKBOOK REVIEW: Raw is More by Eccie & Gini Newton
Simon & Schuster Australia
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Cooking / Special Diets
I have grave reservations about any diet which goes too far in any direction, and a ‘raw only’ diet certainly falls, in my opinion, in that category. After all, to many, ‘raw’ just means salad, for the most part.
So on the first hand, it’s a breath of fresh air to find this book from the sisters Newton, who run a lunchbox delivery service to office workers in London. The sisters go to great lengths to espouse the undeniable nutritional benefits of eating more raw produce, but also insist that they “enjoy a very varied diet of which raw is one part.” What a relief to find someone not telling us that our entire life’s dietary habits have been wrong and we must instantly convert to their new church of food.
‘Raw’ is also defined here – and it’s an important factor in enjoying the recipes in this book. For the Newtons, ‘raw’ is “any food that has never been heated above 40ºC.” A lot of the recipes herein require the use of a food dehydrator, which is a bit of a catch – I certainly don’t know a single person who owns one. The girls do provide alternatives for low temperature oven drying, but are very honest in admitting that the results in an oven may vary, and won’t be as good.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds at the very least the title of the book is a little misleading.
To further make this a hard sell, dehydrated ‘pizza bases’, pastry squares, the extraordinarily unappetisingly named ‘pulp cakes’ and ‘spicy tacos’ just don’t seem like any kind of real substitute for breads, however nice they may be as a cracker. Trying to force these alternatives into the more traditional recipe concepts we know and love strikes me as trying a little too hard, when in reality they are completely different beasts indeed.
Raw Is More may have its issues, but where the girls really excel is in coming up with some legitimately nice raw dishes.
They make no claims that raw and vegetarian or vegan go hand in hand, offering up a variety of options for cold smoked or pickled seafood such as cured gravadlax salmon, and several ceviches. There is a divine beef carpaccio recipe, pairing the paper-thin slices of beef fillet with rocket, cherry tomato, pickled red onion and a honey vinegar dressing. Their cured duck looks amazing, and whilst their beetroot ravioli is simply two thin slices of raw beetroot pressed together with a goats cheese mix between them (so, not ravioli so much, any more than it is a beetroot & goats cheese oreo) it is a wonderfully fresh and light dish. On the dessert front I can confirm that their raw avocado chocolate tart is divine.
I can’t help but think the Newton sisters – 20-somethings with permasmiles grafted onto their pretty faces – aren’t in the slightest bit interested what a near-fifty year old chef on the other side of the world thinks of their food. In all honesty, if they want to call the above dish beetroot ravioli, and say that dehydrated food and melted chocolate is technically still raw, then who am I to argue the point? The Newton sisters have the fresh unstoppable passion of youth behind them: what better to inspire a rewrite of the rules for the generation behind them?
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