Wessel Stoltz gets the to the heart of the raw food matter with Irene Arango, owner of Talbot Road’s new raw food hotspot Nama. She tells us how she converted even the most die-hard carnivore, and why uncooked equals unparalleled
Raw food is all about…
The basic principal behind raw food is to keep the vitamins, minerals and nutrition of the food intact. When you cook food above 42 degrees, you change its composition, which makes it harder for the body to absorb all the nutrients. Our bodies then have to work hard to get all the nutrition from the food, which leaves us feeling a little lethargic. It also has to do with taste. A lot of vegetables’ flavour also change when we cook them, but by not cooking them, we eat them the way nature intended.
What got you interested in raw foods?
I met a couple who were trying raw food and after six months they had changed so much. They looked so much happier and that really hooked me. I started experimenting with raw foods at home and my friends really liked it.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu and why?
I really, really, really like the kale salad with pumpkin seed dressing. In England, it is a vegetable that is always cooked, but it is actually delicious when it is not cooked. It also has an amazing nutritional profile.
What does Nama offer for the health conscious with a sweet tooth?
All of our sweets are guilt-free. They are all made without refined sugar – we only use 100 per cent raw and natural ingredients like dates, nuts and seeds to create bases and creams. Here you can have a slice of cake and not feel bad about it. We have a blueberry cheesecake that is delicious; it has a nut and seed base with dates and is made from fresh berries blended with fermented cashews.
All your dishes are presented beautifully. Do you think the aesthetics help to convert people to raw food?
I enjoy my food more when it is pretty. If we used the same ingredients in a different way, it would still taste the same, but it won’t be as pleasant to eat it. A lot of the eating process is also about how you see the food. You are not only nourishing the body, but also the spirit and when something is pretty it just makes you feel better about it.
What is your go-to healthy super snack and how can we can prepare it at home?
Let’s go for the courgette pasta with pesto. Take a courgette, wash it, and slice thin ribbons with a potato peeler – this functions as the pasta. In a blender you mix lots of basil, a handfull of cashew nuts, some lemon juice, a pinch of salt and some garlic. Now mix your ribbons and the pesto and you have your pesto pasta!
What is the one ingredient that Nama could not function without?
Courgettes. We use courgettes for the bases of our pizzas, for crackers, wraps and pasta. Without them we wouldn’t be able to make half the things on our menu.
Everybody vaguely knows that raw food is good for you but not necessarily why that is. Can you explain in a nutshell?
Most of our customers are not vegetarians. They just like the food and keep coming back! At our previous location there was this pretty big guy who worked up the road and for the first two or three months we were open we tried to convince him to eat raw food, but he would say: ‘I’m a big guy, I need my meat.’ But after trying our lasagne one day, he came back every following Wednesday!
Why did you choose to open on Talbot road?
We had this little spot in Queens Park, but we couldn’t keep up with the demand as the space was too small. So we thought about other areas where people might be willing to try new things and set our hearts on Notting Hill. We found this space on Talbot Road and really liked it because it was just a shell. It was like a blank canvas. Talbot Road is great; it’s not Portobello Road where the people aren’t local – we aim to create a sense of community, and in Portobello that would not really be possible. Where we are is perfect.
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