Blogger Laura-Jane Koers (aka The Rawtarian) talks about her new cookbook ‘Cook Lively’ and living on a plant based diet
Fed up of complicated recipes because they require a fussy technique or an endless list of ingredients? Fear opting for a vegan cookbook no more. Thanks to blogger, food writer and podcaster Laura-Jane Koers (aka The Rawtarian) you can reap all the benefits of vegan whole food cooking without setting up camp in the kitchen all day, or night. With a passion for easy plant based food that’s not only good for the planet, but human health, Laura-Jane has curated a cookbook dedicated to teaching us how to cook delicious and nutritious vegan recipes with 10 ingredients or less. From courgette nuggets to protein-packed burgers, chocolate donut holes and silky watermelon juice — Laura-Jane takes junk food and transforms it into a healthy plant based creation. Below, we spoke to The Rawtarian to discover how ditching instant food and sparing only 10 minutes to make healthy dishes can revitalise energy levels, nourish skin and set you up to a whole new vibrant lease of life.
Congratulations on your new book. You’ve created a really vibrant and health-enhancing collection of recipes, full of tasty and nutritious cooking inspiration. Is this something that took a lot work or did you find it second nature given your experience as a raw vegan cook…
Thank you! Having had my recipe blog since 2009, both writing and recipe development (or recipe simplification, as I like to think of it!) have always come naturally to me. But I am a writer first and a reluctant photographer second. I wanted to do my own photography because I was excited about the creative challenge and having control, but cooking, styling, and photographing the recipes on my own was challenging and at times frustrating. Also, creating a real book felt intimidating, but I tried to approach the project with lightness and fun. Also, it was different thinking about the book in terms of a cohesive collection of recipes and photographs, rather than the one-offs that a blog can be.
What drew you to the book’s concept of using plant-based fuel for its high energy, healthy skin and vibrant living benefits?
For the same reasons that I was drawn to raw and vegan ingredients in the first place; I wanted to experience those benefits for myself! Before I began eating a whole foods plant based diet in 2009, I was a “junk food vegetarian.” I was sluggish, very low energy, and I didn’t like where my health was heading. But when I found this way of eating, I truly felt so energetic and liberated in my body, and so much happier. My goal for this book is to introduce anyone and everyone to this simple and healthful way of eating so you can also feel at home in your body.
What were your main sources of inspiration when compiling the book?
For me, everything starts with a craving or an idea for a particular recipe. For example, I wanted to include a healthy, no-fry pancake recipe in the book, so I just started experimenting in my kitchen. Or I’d suddenly think, “I want to do something with curry!” And then the recipe just flows from there. It happens organically that way.
Visually, I was greatly inspired by Tom Hunt’s “The Natural Cook,” Hannah Queen’s “Honey & Jam,” and Emily Von Euw’s work. Creatively, Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing book “Big Magic” helped me find the joy in my creativity and learn not to take myself so seriously.
Are there any specific cuisines as a cook you favour?
Yes, anything that’s delicious, satisfying, and takes less than 10 minutes to make! Although I am a professional foodie, I don’t like to spend much time in the kitchen; I just want to eat delicious, nutritious food and get on with my day. I also have a massive sweet tooth, so my desserts are my greatest pride!
Who inspires your cooking style in terms of chefs or bloggers?
I have such respect and admiration for everyone who shares their culinary vision with the world. I am lucky to consider some of the world’s best raw vegan chefs and authors as my friends, including Russell James, Emily Von Euw, Susan Powers, and many more. I am also inspired by Chef Dominique Crenn, and, most of all, my generous friends and family who cook more than I do.
What are your favourite recipes in the book?
It’s hard to choose a favorite, because every recipe has its place and they all have only 10 ingredients or less! But you can’t go wrong with Famous Raw Brownies, Thai Coconut Soup, or Plant-Protein Burgers.
If someone’s just started their journey into veganism and is finding the diet adaptations tricky — or boring, what cooking advice would you give them?
I wrote Cook Lively with the new or dabbling reader in mind. The book includes a week’s worth of sample meal plans, shopping lists, 100 easy recipes, and a number of sections that include tips and tricks. But ultimately, the best thing you can do is to choose recipes that appeal to you, set aside a little time to get used to a different approach to cooking, and try it one recipe at a time.
Have you ever tried to veganise an old classic into a plant based dish? If so, how did you approach it?
Yes, almost all of my recipes come from this angle. I actually crave classic unhealthy food, so I am always on a quest to create healthy versions of my favorite classics! For example this book includes pizza, Alfredo pasta, courgette Mcnuggets, burgers, fries, chocolate milk, banana cream pie, strawberry cheesecake, homemade chocolate bars, and much more.
My approach is usually something like this: “I wish I could have the satisfaction of eating chicken mcnuggets and none of the guilt! How can I get this done?” And so I set out to make something that satisfies like the original does, but uses only plant based ingredients and isn’t too complicated to make. It’s a lot of trial and error, but I usually don’t rest until I’ve achieved it to my satisfaction.
Do you thinking opting for a healthy take on plant-based food is important if you are vegan or transitioning?
Not necessarily. Life is a journey, and we are always transitioning into different ways of eating, being, and doing. If you’re eating more plant-based foods than you were eating yesterday, that’s success for you. Everyone’s journey is different, and I am honored to play a small part in introducing readers to a new way of eating more fresh, plant-based ingredients. Progress, not perfection!
Cook Lively: 100 quick and easy plant-based recipes for high energy, glowing skin and vibrant living – using 10 ingredients or less by Laura-Jane Koers is out now in stores and online.