Seaweed as Nature’s Own Beauty Product

P1030195I’ve been very lucky to have two close friends who make their own, chemical and preservative-free skin food ranges that feel like absolute bliss to the skin. Using their products for about a year now has inspired a new sense of responsibility and awareness about what I put on my skin and in my hair.

Everyday on the internet, you get the fear-factor version of all the atrocities surrounding make-up production, the morbid lists of chemical ingredients and some award-winning evidence photography of some poor woman whose eyelids have fallen off because she used a moisturizer from a known and recognized manufacturer, perhaps someone you’ve been using for years, so I will spare you the theatrics.

Instead I’ll talk about Irish moss. Irish moss is a red seaweed that grows along the rocky parts of the Atlantic coastline of Europe and North America (wiki). Colours range from light yellows to dark purples. In the picture above, we have the reddish variety. Irish moss. This kind of seaweed is commonly consumed in Taiwan as part of a salad.

In raw food cuisine, Irish moss is used as a thickening agent. Indeed in most mainstream food production as well. It contains a polysaccharide called “carageenan”. Carageenan is extracted from Irish moss and used as a soldifier/ thickening agent in canned foods, it’s used in ice cream, it’s used in most shelf-stored desserts and it’s also used in toothpaste. I’m sure the list is longer but this is just what I remember from what I read.

Recently, Irish moss and more especially, carageenan have come under fire from academics who claim that it is a cancer-causing agent and has been linked to diabetes and heart conditions. Although I can link lots of those research papers here, I’m not going to. My point is not to cause distress. Also, there is always the question one should ask when reading a research paper: Who is funding this research? Asking myself this question when trying to understand the soy bean debacle has brought some clarity on the matter and now I know that non-GMO soy from outside the US is a healthy food source.

I chose not to work with Irish moss because I don’t like how it works as a thickening agent in raw food. But, I do use it as a hair conditioner and a face mask. It’s got a lot of good stuff in it: vitamins, amino acids, iodine, calcium, potassium, protein, sulphur and zinc. It’s a great de-tangler, moistens the skin and hair and adds a gorgeous shine and sleekness. I have used it a few times and will now make it the sole conditioner I use on my hair and face.

It’s easy to get in Taiwan. I found mine at the Cotton Lands organic store.

P1030194How to do this:

1. Take about 1/2 a cup of Irish moss and soak in a large bowl of water for 12 hours. It will expand in size, so be sure to use enough water and a big enough bowl.

2. Rinse it out under running water then pop it into your blender and add just enough water to create a thick paste.

3. Spoon it into a container and let it set it in the fridge for a few hours. It is now ready to use.

It is said that it lasts for up to ten days in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer. I have long hair so half a cup gets used quickly as a conditioner and face mask. However, I also have some frozen in ice cube trays in the freezer.

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This is what the blended and chilled paste should look like.

I wash my hair with a solution of bicarbonate of soda and water and after rinsing, I lightly press the water out with a towel then apply the Irish moss as a conditioner. I leave it in for about 20 minutes, doing a face mask (it tightens and lubricates the skin) at the same time, then rinse it out.

I blow dry my hair downwards so that it stays sleek and after drying, I dip my finger tips in the smallest amount of olive oil and rub them through the ends of my hair. It really helps to tame humidity-abused hair. It also feels so good to know that everything that I put on is natural and nourishing.

Give it a bash. Let me know how it feels.

 

 

 

Summer Canapés Workshop with Delicious Taipei

CONCEPT As more and more people worldwide are becoming health conscious, clean eating and whole foods movements are flourishing. Delicious Taipei has found that there is both a lack of information and accessibility regarding healthy eating in Taiwan. We have also discovered that there is an overwhelming interest in gourmet raw food after holding ten successful workshops in 2012. We believe that with the right venue, there is an even bigger market to tap into and even more healthy and delicious avenues to explore.

RAW FOOD Raw foods are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains that have not been heated above 40°C. Consuming these foods in their natural state ensures that they are not only fresh, but remain packed with enzymes, vitamins, and nutrients. Uncooked and unprocessed foods are also rich in phytonutrients and micronutrients, which are essential to maintaining an alkaline state in our body and preventing diseases. Delicious Taipei invites guests to explore the concept of a raw food lifestyle.

CANAPÉS Canapés are a type of hors d’oeuvres, or bite sized decorative morsels of food, that pack a lot of flavor and exude an air of elegance when served. These gourmet appetizers take little time to prepare and are far from fiddly when put together. Serving these posh finger foods accompanied by a glass of wine is the way to wow even the finest epicurean palate.

Join me on July 6th from 14:00 – 17:00 as we discover the world of raw food by making two exquisite canapés and one gourmet, delicious dessert.

On the menu:

1. Macadamia nut pâté served on zucchini with cranberry chutneyP1020561

This canapé is filled with the aromatic fragrance of fresh rosemary and the vibrant tones of garlic which perfectly accompany the tart fruitiness of cranberry chutney. The nut protein ensures that your guests will feel full and satisfied. So even though these are only vegetables, nuts and fruit, they produce a gourmet canapé that will surprise your guests.

2.Beetroot/ Jicama Ravioli with Spicy Cashew cream, marinated shiitake mushrooms and salted Ginger

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Loosely based on the idea of Italian ravioli, this raw version brings out the Asian flavours we all know and love – ginger, garlic and chili in a decadent cashew/avocado cream. Topped with salted ginger, this canapé is so unusual, most people would not even be able to imagine its personality. Showstopper stuff!

3. Raw Chocolate Banana Cream Cake

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No flour, no refined sugar, no eggs and no milk. If it’s raw, you can be sure, it will be better than any baked dessert you have ever tried. This cake is made with walnuts and figs as the base (fibre, fibre, fibre!), banana, vanilla, lemon, avocado and raw cacao as the topping. It sets like a firm cheese cake and will absolutely blow your socks off.

This summer, go gourmet but stay healthy with DELICIOUS TAIPEI!

Date: July 6th, 2013

Time: 14:00 – 17:00

Venue: The Watermoon Tea House (FuXing South Rd, Section 2, Alley 180 #2, 1st floor/ 台北市復興南路二段180巷2號1樓)

Cost: NT2000

Some Guidelines:

1. This will be a hands-on workshop so please be prepared to get your hands dirty:-)

2. Conversation will be limited to breaks only.

3. Cell pones should be on silent and no calls should be accepted during class time. You may however, click away on your phone camera should you wish.

4. We will start precisely at 14:00 and end precisely at 17:00. Please be on time.

5. It will greatly decrease your stress levels, if you figure out how to get to the venue before the day of the workshop:-)

6.Payment should be remitted to the following bank account: E. Sun Bank (玉山銀行: 808),

Songshan Branch (松山分行)

Account Name: 棒活動藝文有限公司 Account #0565-940-001-768

by no later than July 3rd. 

7. This workshop is limited to 14 participants only.

8. Please contact: prish(at)delicioustaipei(dot)com/ 0975-021-931 for any questions.

 

Yale Club of Taipei’s “Yale Day of Fun!”

P1020561   The Yale Club of Taipei hosted a “Yale Day of Fun” at the beautiful law office of Pamir Law on Dunhua North Rd. Pamir partner, Nicholas V. Chen, visionary and self-professed gourmand invited Delicious Taipei to provide gourmet raw canapés for 60 of their guests. I was absolutely honoured for the invitation and very excited since I love my food projects so much. Nic’s company isn’t too bad either 😉 Pamir Law has the sexiest 12-meter long steel table that was constructed inside the building because pieces were too big, heavy and fragile to transport via crane. Ever since I first laid eyes on the gorgeous table, I have fantasized about teaching a workshop there or catering a cocktail party so when the invitation came, I was happy! In order to enhance the beauty of the table, I used plain glass trays which created the effect of the food just sitting on this vast, reflective surface. I decided to make raw beetroot and jicama ravioli with marinated shiitake mushrooms, a spicy cashew/ avo sauce and salted ginger as shown below: P1020556   P1020567

The beets and jicama are marinated in liquid amino and olive oil. The spicy cashew sauce had avo, ginger, garlic, chili, etc to create a sweet, spicy thick cream and the salted ginger added the final flavourful zing to this incredibly balanced and layered canapé. The second canapé was one of my favourites – macadamia nut pâté served on rounds of zucchini with cranberry chutney as shown above but here’s another angle:

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The pate is gorgeous with fragrance of fresh rosemary and the pungent delight of fresh garlic with the tart accompaniment of cranberry. Showstopper. These canapés got lots of compliments which was great as I was a bit apprehensive about Taiwanese’s preference for cooked food over raw. The full bursting flavours in raw food always wins people over.

Finally, for something wickedly sweet but healthy, I made raw chocolate chipotle brownies.

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Inspired by Susan Powers of Rawmazing, these brownies are made with dates, figs, cacao and the smoky gorgeousness of chipotle. It is subtle but warming and as always, when guests taste raw desserts, the questions about raw food in general start pouring in!

To accompany the food, local, women-run wine company, Wine Casa provided red and white Dormaine Auzias Cuvee Monsieur, with aromas of black berries and black currants.

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Ellen O’Neal on the right, of Wine Casa

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Betty Cheng from Pamir Law on the left, enjoying the jicama ravioli.

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More guests enjoying the ravioli.

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With Nicholas Chen, the man who made it all happen! Thank you, Nic and Yale Club for a lovely opportunity to showcase gourmet raw food.

The Joe Calpin Gourmet Raw Picnic Project – Very Romantic!

Romance these days is so rare. On the one hand we have a slowly-desexualizing culture emerging and on the other hand, recourse to romantic opportunities are so limited due to our bulging, vein-popping work schedules, work goals work achievements and work, work, work. Some people even feel strange and disoriented when you pay them a compliment let alone pull out a solitary, blushing rose to gift them with.

Whether you’re gay or straight, I believe in the male-female polarity relationship as being one of balance and harmony. For the sake of not generalizing, I will speak from my own straight perspective. Thus: a man must be a man and a woman must be a woman. For me, it simply means that I love it when my man protects me, when he loves and adores me, when he makes good decisions that guide us well and when he lovingly tells me to get over my shit. I in turn, love serving him, supporting him, bringing more awareness to his strengths (I suck at this – I am very critical and complaining at times) and surrendering to him.

For those of you that know me and my man will think this is a bit of an, um… ideal. And yes, it is – to a certain extent. BUT, we are constantly in practice of these principles. For me, it is difficult to let go of decision-making. Now don’t get me wrong. Decision-making is not primarily of the masculine but I find that I bulldoze my decisions and choices onto my man at times and what it does is makes his voice smaller, his participation less. I believe, a man leads and a woman follows. That is my feminine strength – to surrender. But as a beautiful, spiritually energized man once said, a woman will only surrender when she feels led by the unabiding love of a conscious man. So here we are, I’m learning to surrender and he’s learning to lead.

What does this have to do with Joe Calpin? I mean who is Joe Calpin in the first place?! Joe Calpin is a very romantic man who called me up a few weeks ago and asked me to put together a gourmet raw food picnic for his beloved’s birthday. I hadn’t met Joe before and only met his girlfriend, Carolyn once, at one of my raw food workshops. She tried the macadamia nut pâté and fell in love.

I was deeply touched by Joe’s words and energy through his emails. He pulled out all the stops for Carolyn; patiently went through all my menu ideas with me and showed absolute enthusiasm all the way through. As you can imagine, this ignited my own creative juices, opened up my heart a whole lot and led me to dedicate myself to Joe and Carolyn’s birthday picnic. I love occasional doses of well-thought out romance (but too much makes me nauseous). Diamonds and pearls mean very little compared to a creative and honest gesture from the heart.

The week I worked on Joe and Carolyn’s picnic, I sourced and bought a good picnic basket, some good quality food containers, a cake tin, and some glass jars for drinks. Conceiving a menu was a little tricky because some of the ingredients used in raw food acts as a binder or soldifier so it energy-draining heat like we have in Taipei, I had to pay attention to what could handle being in the basket and what needed a cooler box.

As I was working on the food, I thought it would be a great idea to add some love quotes near the description of each dish as I cook with love and respect and pray that people feel that through my food. It was more importantly, a way for Carolyn to see how Joe honours her. I told him the idea and kind of expected him to say, “Now that’s taking things too far!” but instead, in true Joe Calpin style, of which I was slowly becoming accustomed to, he said, “Haha! Love quotes are perfectly fine :D”

Here’s the final elements:

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I sun-cooked Rooibos (Red Bush) tea for about 10 hours then blended with cashews, dates and apricots, adding a bit of ice once Joe arrived to pick up.

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A hint of the love quote at the back of the jar

The flavours and textures on this canape are wild and sublime. This is the original dish that Carolyn fell in love with.

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Neatly packed into solid food containers, they made their way into the picnic basket.

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Some Shakespeare with your pate?

Next we have the haute couture of raw food dishes: Raw Lasagne. This dish alone takes about 1 week of prep, if I make my own sundried tomatoes. Now that I make my own tomatoes, every single store-bought type kills the joy in any dish. You can’t help but taste the flatness and the preservatives in it.

Usually, when you say raw lasagne, people have no idea about the complement and quality of flavours inside this dish. I would go so far as to say that it is better than cooked lasagne any day.

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Layers of zucchini, walnut meat, macadamia cheese, tomato sauce, basil pesto and marinated wilted spinach rock the socks off this dish

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Serving for one

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Looks very similar to cooked lasagne

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The love quote for lasagne

The components of the lasagne are as follows:

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Organic, Ceylon Spinach – this spinach has such an interesting, stretchy texture

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Top left: walnut meat with miso, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tamari, etc
Top right: Ceylon spinach marinated with oregano and olive oil
Bottom left: Basil pesto, Middle: Tomato sauce and Bottom Right: Zucchini lasagne sheets

The walnut meat tastes like real meat with the addition of miso, tamari and sundried tomatoes. Since this is a really expensive dish to make, I tried my best to substitute ingredients to lower the cost. Thus, I used pumpkin seeds to make the pesto and it turned out great. Try it, just add more olive oil since it will be a bit drier.

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macadamia cheese with yellow pepper is really such a strong player in this dish

That tomato sauce is one one of best and richest tomato sauces I have ever tasted. Simply made with sundried tomatoes, raw tomatoes, dates and garlic, this thing is a thing of beauty.

Finally, Joe and I decided to make Carolyn a raw chocolate mint cake.

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Joe’s personal quote: “May our love always be marked by the deepest care intimately tied to both word and deed.”

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No romantic rendezvous would be complete without raw chocolate truffles

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I added some complimentary raw sunflower seed crackers

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Final little feminine touch: a wonderful natural skin care product company called Emba and run by my friend, Emily McKee, decided to add their luscious, earthy skin care products as part of a free gift bag

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Soft, gentle, organic and additive-free

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Carolyn is a lucky girl!

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Joe, on his way to meet his Beloved in the park:-)

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Carolyn, absolutely beaming with delight:-)

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Cheers to romance!

Thank you Joe, for bringing this wonderful project to me. I had a great time doing it. Here’s to many more years for you and Carolyn!

The Resource Project

Although this is in the catering section, The Resource Project  is so much more than that.Take a look:

The Re-source Project 

As you can see, this project involved a lot of heart, soul and passion. The Integrated Arts Education Association (IAEA) works with autistic children in an environment that guides the child towards independence, contribution and participation. Children are taught how to connect with their bodies through physical movement. They are taught to connect with nature through understanding permaculture and they are shown how to use the fruits of their labour to cook and take care of each other.

Sheenru Yong (creator) invited a group of collaborators to host a fundraiser that would enable IAEA to hire more staff and open more classes. There was already such a need. So many testimonies from parents held IAEA up in high regard as creating a space for their children to grow and thrive.

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Collaborators were made up of dancers, artists, photographers, installation artists and food artists. Sheenru asked every contributor to give what they could. She did not tell us what she wanted. The magic of this simple gesture ignited every single contributor to give of their best, to think outside the box, to really give without thinking of return.

There are fundraisers and then there is the Resource Project. From beginning to end, there was magic in the air. Giving, compassionate magic.

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The project spanned two days and the intention was to show food as art and to create a space for the community to share and participate. These happen to be my favourite words, “share” and “participate”. The community would be taken through a series of happenings – from a tea ritual in the garden, to incense and oils, to installation art to food, to singing to dance. We had estimated about 80 people attending on the first day which was the day I was scheduled to present my food art.

The thought of preparing food for 80 people by myself was not something that occurred to me as impossible. Indeed, nothing occurred to me. Things just happened, they just flowed. Some magical force took over me and gave me super human strength to such a level that I worked my tail off, slept a small amount but felt refreshed, invigorated and really blessed to be a part of this project.

I decided that the best participatory dishes would be a raw beet humus,

raw beetroot hummus served in bread croustades

raw beetroot humus served in bread croustades

Fresh and light

Fresh and light

where the community would scoop up the hummus into empty croustades.

Then, some oven-roasted vegetables served in raw purple cabbage cups. One of the intentions of The Resource Project was to be in itself a sustainable event. This meant, we did not buy disposable paper cups, plates, knives or forks. This excited me beyond belief. I love nothing more than a challenge (no, I lie…I love chocolate even more!) so thinking of what to make AND how to serve was awesome!)

oven-rosted vegetables served in purple cabbage cups

oven-roasted vegetables served in purple cabbage cups

Being Indian, living in Taiwan, dating an American-Taiwanese boyfriend whose Mum’s family hails from Hunan Province of China (second spiciest region after Szechuan), the complement of flavours in this dish was um…various. And wild. I chose to work with pumpkin, bell peppers, green beans and mu-er (a fungus). These vegetables maintain their shape and colour after marinating and cooking. I marinated the vegetables in ground Szechuan peppers, curry powder, cumin, coriander, fennel rice wine vinegar, a dash of soy sauce (“dash” relative to 80 people:D) and honey. Twenty four hours later, they were roasted in various friends’ (saviours – I have one toaster oven) ovens. We had enough purple cabbage to fill three, huge  cardboard boxes. I love purple cabbage. It can do no wrong in my eyes.

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Next, I decided to work on some falafels. Who doesn’t love falafels?! In the falafels I made for The Resource Project, I was more inspired by the artistry of my raw food peer,  Adela Stoulilova.

Sweet potato falafels served on lettuce leaves with sweet chili sauce

Sweet potato falafels served on lettuce leaves with sweet chili sauce

Adela had just created a sweet potato falafel that sounded so divine, I promptly called her up and asked her if I could use her sweet potato falafel recipe. Since I was cooking for 80, it was more convenient to use chickpea flour than it was to use the chickpeas themselves. I love sweet potatoes, especially in Winter where it warms and fills the body. Even though this fundraiser was in Summer, with the wrap being a lettuce leaf, the weight of the sweet potato was appreciated by the community. The chickpea flour proved to be the perfect binder to the delicious sweet potato falafel.

Finally, something familiar, simple and much-loved by Taiwanese people – Indian food!

Potato curry with Tortillas (seriously, I had no time to make Indian flat bread - give me a break!)

Potato curry with Tortillas (seriously, I had no time to make Indian flat bread – give me a break!)

Final presentation

That's me in the blue dress, describing how to assemble each dish. Boy, was it a hot day!

That’s me in the blue dress, describing how to assemble each dish. Boy, was it a hot day!

A special mention must be made to the person who sponsored all the vegetables. Her name is Tammy Turner. She is an American woman who has lived in Taiwan for over 25 years. Tammy has a profound history in Taiwan. It was in her undergraduate years that she discovered the Indigenous People of Taiwan and embarked on a journey of discovery that spanned decades, into Taiwan’s people and natural environment.

Tammy now sits on the board of directors of the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Enterprise and Economic Development Association. Tammy teaches permaculture to students from universities across the island as well the restaurant industry and individuals. For Tammy, permaculture is not a job, it’s a way for life.

For Tammy, sponsoring the vegetables to The Resource Project, was an obvious contribution. We were deeply touched by this generous contribution. Taking it one step further, Tammy also went into the more lush areas of her mountainside dwelling to hack off some taro plant leaves for me to use as serving platters! She carefully wrapped them into damp paper and sent them over and they provided the most beautiful addition to the presentation.

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We eventually raised  US $7,655.78 for IAEA which enabled them to do what they needed to do, but above that, we created a network that was one of co-creating and sustaining. You don’t need a lot to do a lot. You need you, your heart, soul and passion. I had no idea I could cater for 80 people but I did because the cause was bigger than me and based on what I could bring to the table. I brought myself.

photo by IAEA

photo by IAEA