A weekend of taste
It’s not every weekend you experience a food journey that encompasses two extremes. Yet, luckily for this food adventurer, that’s just what I did. I scaled the pinnacle of raw foods and the heights of hearty winter wholefood cooking, and discovered a common thread between the two: highly nutritious, extremely delicious dishes made with love and care.
Soft, traditional jazz music and candles flickering shadows on the walls welcome me as I walk into the restaurant, Sadhana Kitchen. The space is intimate and has a relaxed feel, with a communal table in the centre of the room. Joining me at this dinner seating are 12 others and, once everyone has arrived, founder Maz Valcorza comes out with a warm smile.
Soft, traditional jazz music and candles flickering shadows on the walls welcome me as I walk into the restaurant, Sadhana Kitchen.
She explains that, after a series of serendipitous moments, Sadhana Kitchen set up shop in the Sydney suburb of Enmore, where it has been for almost two years. Tonight we’re here for a seven-course organic raw food degustation, curated and crafted by Maz and her team of three chefs. I clink glasses with Tess, my closest friend, in anticipation and bring a coconut water probiotic tonic to my lips. I am delighted by its sweet strawberry and mango taste.
Maz explains that all the food is organic, the menu seasonal, the produce locally sourced — and that every dish will be raw. She shares that raw foods are prepared and processed without exceeding 40°C and that the food at Sadhana Kitchen doesn’t exceed 38°C.
People are curious when it comes to the raw food lifestyle, Maz says, but often relate to “raw” as a mere salad or smoothie. Her degustation provides a rare opportunity to experience the creativeness and flavours of raw foods.
The first course is a walnut, almond, cashew and sesame cluster with orange tahini drizzle. Presented delicately on the plate, it’s almost too precious to eat. I chew mindfully, preparing my palate for the intense tastes to come.
Next, two meticulously crafted cucumber rolls with julienned capsicum and carrot, enoki mushrooms and kumara chips arrive, with spicy chilli chutney on the side. The crunch of the vegies reinforces why Maz chooses to use only fresh, organic produce — you can really taste the live enzymes and feel the energetic vibrations of the food.
My favourite dish comes next: a beet ravioli with onion, cashew, cheese and basil walnut pesto. This dish contains a certain element of surprise. The bright purple beetroots are thinly sliced and stacked together, providing a pleasant crunch. The cashew and basil pesto oozes out, creating a creamy explosion in my mouth. The combination of flavours, coupled with the freshness of the beets, is a true delight.
My eyes widen in awe of the creative extravagance of this dish; it is a sculpture, a masterpiece far too beautiful to eat.
Eggplant pastrami parmigiana with baby spinach, sun-dried tomato marinara and herbed cashew cheese is our next delicacy. My eyes widen in awe of the creative extravagance of this dish; it is a sculpture, a masterpiece far too beautiful to eat. Multi-layered, Maz’s creation stands tall and proud on my plate. It flirts with an array of different textures and showcases the creativity and resourcefulness of the chefs. I begin to understand the love affair you can have with raw foods.
A watermelon and papaya carpaccio with pecan and date crumble and vanilla lime dressing is the penultimate course, followed by the grand finale: a choc-raspberry cheesecake with rich, full-bodied chocolate sauce. The cake has such creamy texture it’s hard to believe it’s dairy-free. Crafted magnificently and decorated with cacao nibs, edible flowers and freeze-dried strawberries, it’s a picture on a plate.
Open for breakfast, lunch and, soon, à la carte dinners, Sadhana Kitchen is a sanctuary of exquisite tastes and exotic textures. To create raw dishes that are vegan and sugar-, dairy- and gluten-free — and still taste this divine — is truly a craft.
The next day, I drop in to Michele Chevalley Hedge’s winter warmers cooking class at her home in Mosman, on Sydney’s north shore. Michele, who has the brightest eyes I’ve ever seen, welcomes me with a homemade spiced chai and we chat in front of a warm open fire.
The class is casual and intimate with a dozen other people in attendance, all eager foodies like me. Michele, a nutritional medicine practitioner, introduces her colleague, Simone Kopkas, a wholefoods chef and food coach. These two ladies know what they’re talking about. The depth of knowledge shared and the wisdom I pick up in just three short hours is inspiring.
A big believer in efficiency, Michele shares with the class her “cook once, eat twice” philosophy and instructs us to always “keep it simple, keep it easy, keep it clean”.
As Michele speaks, Simone demonstrates the dishes. We learn how to make probiotic yoghurt as well as why it’s important to keep our gut flora happy. We learn why we should activate nuts and how to make ghee (which, just two days later, I’ve already made and used in my cooking!).
We go on to sample a roasted pumpkin and root vegetable soup, coriander fish and a protein-dense, dairy-free chocolate banana cake. All three are simple to create and packed with flavour and nutrients.
What I find most fascinating Simone’s bone broth recipe, which includes used onion skins and leftover eggshells! I learn that bone broth is one of the best ways to build strong bones and teeth thanks to the high amounts of calcium and magnesium it contains. Simone says eggshells are exceptionally high in calcium, too, and onion skins are full of anti-inflammatory properties. Put that way, it makes perfect sense to throw them in.
Sadhana Kitchen’s approach to raw foods is fresh, flavoursome and exciting; Michele and Simone show how warm, cooked foods can be simple and nourishing. Both food philosophies are equally valid — you just have to figure out what works for you.