Thursday, 9 May 2013

Vanoffee by the Raw Chocolate company

It's exam time, which is pretty synonymous with stress. When it gets too much, I try and get as far as possible in the first series of ashtanga yoga on my mat, early in the morning. I am also trying to stick to a healthy diet, avoiding gluten (being coeliac), and dairy (lactose intolerance), besides being a vegetarian! This often proves difficult when I need high energy products to fuel hours spent studying.

Fortunately, the Raw Chocolate company were kind enough to send me three samples of their raw chocolate bars to try out. In order of strength, from the sweetest and closest to white chocolate to the darkest and most sensual, I received: Vanoffee, Vanoffee dark, and Pitch black.

Vanoffee is marketed as the closest thing to white chocolate which is raw, and often described as having a caramac-like flavour. Considering this association, I was quite surprised to open the packet and find a bar which looked like milk chocolate. According to the packet, the ingredients are: Cocoa butter, Lucuma (which is a kind of fruit and gives the chocolate this colour), coconut sugar, and vanilla. Not a long list of ingredients, which is definitely a plus. The Vanoffee bar doesn't really taste like white chocolate, though without this expectation in mind, it is a fantastic alternative to milk chocolate. Most raw chocolate tastes very raw, with the obvious inclusion of dates, nuts and bitter cocoa nibs (which personally I like). This bar is smooth, milky tasting and sweet, yet not sickly. It would be difficult to tell the difference between this and dairy milk chocolate, the slight hint perhaps lies in the texture. Like dark chocolate, this doesn't melt so easily in the mouth, and doesn't leave that waxy feeling on the tongue. Though not my favourite of the three, this would be a good bar to give to children as it is quite mild tasting and doesn't contain caffeine. For 44g you pay £1.99, which is quite competitive in comparison to other major bars. 

The next level up in terms of strength is the Vanoffee dark, which is potentially my personal favourite. It contains essentially the same ingredients as the Vanoffee bar, with the inclusion of cocoa nibs. These really make the bar more interesting in terms of texture and depth, and provide many of the antioxidant benefits that are missing from the cocoa butter alone. 

Another potential favourite of mine is the more sophisticated and intense chocolate hit, found in the pitch dark bar. Here the emphasis is on the cocoa beans, making for a more bitter bar. The ingredient list is also refreshingly short: Cocoa mass, coconut sugar, cocoa butter. 

The Raw Chocolate company do not stop with milk and dark chocolate bars, there are many flavours which other natural flavourings and sweeteners like Xylitol, mint oil and orange oil. The chocolate mulberries and goji berries also look worthy of investigating. All the bars are dairy free, gluten free and vegan, and the company has an aim to be a "zero carbon company". Do check out their website. There are plenty of flavours to match your tastes, and often many deals. It's fantastic to see a company with such fantastic customer service and ethics. 

Images taken from the company's facebook page.

Orb cafe, raw food in Edinburgh

I went here with my boyfriend and I think he was prepared to not like it, thinking that raw food would be tasteless and consist of more or less just salad.. He came out not only saying it was one of the best meals he'd ever had, but also wanting to experiment a little with raw food at home. We're both vegetarians, though I am verging on vegan. This place caters for vegans, coeliacs, and people with wheat and lactose intolerance.

It's quite tucked away, it would be quite easy to miss it if you didn't look for the signs to 'shining light', a centre which offers yoga, tarot readings etc. The corridor downstairs gives no indication about the quality of the food upstairs; up a flight of stairs, beyond shining light is a great spacious room with a stage, chill-out music and an aesthetically pleasing layout of very modern and stylish furniture, with a variety of high chairs and comfy low chairs. There were no customers when we came, it felt like we had discovered an intimate little secret.

Claire, the owner, came to greet us and showed us where we could help ourselves to herbal tea and water. The water was free, and the tea cost only £1 a cup, which was great considering how many flavours there were to choose from. Jess, a friendly waitress (who happens to go to my uni) came and brought us the menu. Before booking the table, I had spoken to Claire online about a particularly memorable meal I had in NY a few years ago: raw ravioli and pecan pie. She told me they'd be happy to try out any new recipe, so custom made a serving just for us! Though not quite the same as the meal I had in NY, this dish was delicious in its own right: Courgette pasta enclosing a walnut cheese filling, accompanied by fresh pesto and sundried tomato sauce, and a massive salad. My boyfriend and I shared this, then shared a Thai green curry with cauliflower 'rice', which was also delicious, with lots of flavours and interesting textures. 

                                                                   Raw Thai green curry with cauliflower "rice". 

                                                                   Raw Ravioli with cashew nut cheese and pesto.

For pudding we both ordered the pecan pie with coconut ice cream. I would love to have a high power food processor so I could make this at home-it was truly outstanding. I think the crust was made of ground down cashew nuts and agave syrup, whilst the filling was rich and the taste of pecans was very evident. The coconut ice cream was the perfect balance to the richness of the pie. Though I'm not about to become a raw food vegan, I truly believe that raw food puddings are much nicer than cooked ones. If you make a pecan pie, usually the eggs, flour and butter distract from the taste of the pecans. With a raw pudding, you have strong flavours and massive sugar hits. The bill came to us accompanied by a 'rocky road' chocolate bite. 

                                           Raw pecan pie with booja booja coconut ice cream.

I'd love to come back and try everything on the menu, especially the puddings! I have seen some really interesting things on the menu, including raw carrot cake, twix, lasagne and kale chips...