Ani's Raw Food Desserts (by Ani Phyo)

I'd never come across Ani Phyo before. Probably not surprising, since I'm neither vegan, nor a raw food fan - although I do agree that there are many benefits to raw food eating, particularly fruits and vegetables. We do eat quite a bit of raw fruit; I make fresh fruit juice each morning, and we have pure fruit smoothies most evenings.

But when I saw this on the 'Bookbag' shelves, it looked most appealing. And, indeed, the book itself is a delight. There are 85 recipes, most of them with accompanying (and very appetising) photos. Interspersed, here and there, are extra pages of hints for such things as boosting metabolism, or keeping one's skin young. I read the book pretty much cover to cover, and found it very inspiring.

Unfortunately, some of the ingredients sounded strange to me: agave syrup, mesquite powder, coconut oil, cacao nibs, Medjool dates. I'd never heard of any of them. Nor, it seemed, had the health food shops I visited in both the UK and Cyprus, in the hope of finding them. I could have ordered them online (at vast price) - but was disappointed, since Ani Phyo assures us that her ingredients are all easy to find.

I did manage to discover Medjool dates, to my surprise, in a coffee and nut shop in Cyprus. They were rather pricy, but much juicier than regular dates, and also free of any added sugar. I tried two of the recipes that used dates without any of the other unusual ingredients, and they both turned out extremely well.

Then I thought I might as well try some substitutions: I used honey instead of the agave syrup, and creamed coconut (in a sachet, intended for curries) rather than coconut oil. The recipes I concocted also came out well, so I'll probably try similar substitutions in other recipes from the book.

We have various friends and relatives who are dairy-free, and/or gluten-free, and/or diabetic. Almost all the recipes in the book would be suitable for any of them. I still don't know what I might use use as a substitute for cacao nibs or mesquite powder, however.

My longer review of Ani's Raw Food Desserts, with accompanying explanations of exactly which ones I tried, can be found on the Bookbag site.

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