Sunday, 6 April 2008

Raw cashews, cheese 'n' chives & tzatziki

The cashew has always been one of my favourite nuts, pre-raw and raw, hence it has to have an article to itself!

Like all nuts, cashews are a great source of vitamins and minerals (in particular, copper and magnesium). But, best of all for the raw fooder, (and in fact for anyone on a non-dairy diet) they make great raw 'cheeses' and 'creams'. I'll be sharing with you two of my favourite cashew recipes - one from Ani Phyo, and one RawforLife original.

Cashews grow on trees, like this one, in various warm climates around the world (originating in South America). The trees are grown for the cashew nuts, and the cashew 'apples'. The apple (not technically a fruit) grows from the flower; it turns red or yellow as it ripens and is edible, with a strong taste variously described as sweet and acidic! It can be eaten raw, is often used for jam or beverages, but in many parts of the world is simply discarded after removal of the nut (as the apple doesn't last long, fermenting after 24 hours). From the cashew apple develops the true fruit, which contains a seed - the cashew nut. The cashew nut is surrounded by a dark green double shell, and this shell contains urishiol, which can irritate the skin and be toxic when ingested.

Raw cashews

The shelled cashews on sale at supermarkets and 99% of health food outlets are not raw but have been steamed. Steaming enables the shell to be opened without the toxic urishiol getting onto the nut. So, most of the shelled cashews many people think of as raw are actually cooked.

However, as many of you will know, it is possible to obtain raw cashews. 'Nature's First Law', David Wolfe's company in the US, supply truly raw cashews, which are sold on to UK online companies, such as Detox Your World.

These cashews come from Indonesia and are harvested and shelled without heating the nut. Specially-designed tools are used to split open the shells by hand, and the proof that these cashews are truly raw is that they will sprout and grow into little cashew plants! And of course not only do we then receive all the nutrients in the nut intact, in the proportions nature designed the nut to give, but we can also enjoy nuts that are softer, and sweeter in taste, than their cooked counterparts. The cashews are sold at around £12 per 500g, and if that sounds a lot, bear in mind that good-quality cooked cashews sell at high prices for small bags of around 150g.

Now, here's a 'be aware....' I did hear of a raw fooder experiencing a rash after handling cashews, and I have seen on another site the claim that 'raw cashews make some raw fooders sick.' Now whether this is due to traces of urishiol having got through the processing, or whether it's to do with something else in isolated batches, or whether the ill-effects have been entirely unconnected with the cashews, it would be wrong of me not to tell you that there are some who are wary of eating raw cashews. But, as someone who has eaten rather a lot of them (!), this is my experience: I once felt unwell after eating raw pizza containing cashews. BUT...I had eaten a LOT of raw pizza! So I really cannot be sure that the cashews were to blame.

Since that time, I've consumed many bags of raw cashews within various 'cheeses' and 'creams' and other dishes, and have not had any ill effects. I find 'Detox Your World' to be a trustworthy company and feel that they would not sell a product if there was any significant risk of upset. I feel quite happy (no - in factI feel very happy!) eating raw cashews in moderation. I wouldn't chomp my way through large quantities, but feel confident using one cup of cashews for a recipe that would feed four people or more. So, if you haven't tried raw cashews yet, I can only suggest you consider the information here then make your own decision.

Cream Cheese and Chives

This is really Ani Phyo's 'Sour Kream and Chives' from 'Ani's Raw Food Kitchen', but I renamed it because it'sso reminiscent of the Philly Cream Cheese 'n' Chives that I used to enjoy in .... a former life! I've taken this to various potlucks and it's always been very popular, spread on flax crackers with slices of tomato and shredded spinach. It also tastes even better the day after making.

1 cup cashews (soaked)
2 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
1/4 cup water
1-2 tbsp chopped chives, to taste

Blend cashews, lemon juice, salt and water until really smooth. Stir in chopped chives

RawforLife 'Tzatziki'

We are a grecophile family so naturally I had to come up with a raw non-dairy version of the famous Greek dip. Luckily, this one has met with approval from family members so I offer it to you! Great with crudites, flax crackers, raw olives...mmmmm!!!

1 cup cashews (soaked)
1/2 cup grated cucumber (unpeeled)
Juice of a lemon
Pinch sea salt
Garlic to taste, crushed (suggest 1/2 clove)
1/2 cup water
Small handful mint, chopped

Blend cashews, lemon, salt, garlic and water until really smooth.

Stir in cucumber and mint, adding a little extra water if necessary. Serve really cold, and, like the cheese above, this is also even better the next day!


RawBin said...

Oh, thank you Debbie! This is great!! I absolutely love the greek cream sauce that I used in "my previous life" and this looks wonderful!

Debbie Took said...

I hope you enjoy it! And any non-raw people you know...but, be careful - they might like it...too much - keep aside some extra for yourself later!


Hi! Thank you for the info...I am trying the raw diet, but I am having trouble getting the right stuff!I live in NYC...
I bought raw cashews, but I am now thinking maybe they are not raw! How can I know? I germinated them for 2 hours and they are soft but grayish...Are they safe to eat?
I also bought raw sunflower seeds...How can I make sure everything I buy is in fact raw? Sometimes the vendors don't really know...I also bought rolled oats from whole foods..are they raw?

Thank You Very Much!

Debbie Took said...

Hi Ana

Cashews...unless you bought them online (eg from somewhere like Sunfood Nutrition) they are probably not raw - the average health food store will sell as 'raw' cashews that are simply unshelled and not roasted, but they will have been steamed for shell removal. Raw cashews from online stores are hand-cracked. Raw or not, your cashews should be fine to eat.

Sunflower can probably assume that those sold as raw are raw. As a double-check, soak overnight then drain, leave in a sieve in a sunny place for a day or two, rinsing occasionally and see if they sprout.

Rolled oats from Wholefoods - I'd guess they wouldn' pass the raw test as raw fooders would apply it (unless they say something like 'genuinely raw'). They've likely been heated at high temperatures to remove bugs. In the US, I think Alissa Cohen's site sells real raw oats (or groats), but there are probably other sources. (They're a bit different from standard rolled oats though.)

Hope that helps! (A bit?).

Hipnotizer said...

Ah you are a raw food angel. I am making a greek sandwich today with onion flax bread, olives, sprouted chickpea hummus and now, your tzaziki! I had a hard time restraining myself from eating it all when I was making it. LOL. Thank you so much for the recipe! Fantastic.

Debbie Took said...

That's good to hear, H, and it reminds me that I really ought to make this again soon - my (not-very-raw) husband loves it!