Healthy indulgences

Sophie Steevens favours a raw and plant based diet. Photos: LOTTIE HEDLEY
Sophie Steevens favours a raw and plant based diet. Photos: LOTTIE HEDLEY
Being able to truly thrive from the inside out is the aim of Kiwi mum Sophie Steevens.

Steevens, who lives in Gisborne with her partner, professional surfer Ricardo Christie, and her three boys, has created a cookbook Raw and Free to share the recipes and advice she has learnt on her journey towards a raw and plant-based diet.

THE BOOK: Raw & Free, by Sophie Steevens, Published by Allen & Unwin NZ,  RRP$45
THE BOOK: Raw & Free, by Sophie Steevens, Published by Allen & Unwin NZ, RRP$45

It is always good to be wary of books that claim a diet can cure a disease - Steevens believes the diet has enabled her to recover from Graves’ Disease - but the base message that people should incorporate more plants into their diets is a good one.

"Whether you’re already living a plant-based lifestyle or simply beginning to include more plants in your diet, any positive change you can create, whether small or large, is an amazing step in the right direction," she says.

She has some great tips such as eating more fruit, drinking more water, getting exercise and good sleep and most importantly re-creating your favourite indulgences as a way of easing into a healthier lifestyle.

"What I found works wonders in this lifestyle is to re-create the things you love in a healthful way. It is incredibly easy, can be really fun and for the most part the outcome tastes better than what you were trying to replicate - while also providing nourishment."

Steevens also includes tips on how to ensure people can get the correct nutrients such as protein, calcium, iron and B12, while eating plant-based foods.

She starts off her recipes with a section on smoothies and juices, then breakfasts and brunch, salads, hot pots and mains, snacks and raw treats.

Raspberry Bounty Bars

Get the children involved in making these lush bounty bars. They are super fun and easy to whip up, and result in the most beautiful chocolate-coated coconut bars with a sweet raspberry twist. They can also be shaped into bite-sized balls — you’ll get twice as many.

Makes 12 bars

Bounty base

2¼ cups desiccated coconut

½ cup coconut flour or almond meal

¼ cup pure maple syrup

3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

½ cup coconut cream (see note)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ cup fresh raspberries

Chocolate coating

3 Tbsp coconut oil

3 Tbsp raw cacao powder

1½ Tbsp pure maple syrup


Line a large baking dish (or two small ones) with baking paper.

For the base, place the ingredients in a large food processor and blend into a creamy mixture.

Form the mixture into 12 balls, then mould into small bars. The mixture will be very soft and moist from the raspberries, but should still be firm enough to hold a shape. Carefully place each bar into the baking dish as you go, then place them into the freezer to set for 2 hours.

For the chocolate layer, heat a small saucepan over medium heat.

Add the coconut oil, cacao powder and maple syrup, and stir until the coconut oil is melted and the ingredients are combined.

Remove the bars from the freezer and dip each bar into the chocolate, then place on to a cooling rack (if you have one) to allow them to drip. Repeat the chocolate dipping 2–3 times, in the same order. Place the bars back into the freezer to completely set for at least 30 minutes.

Serve immediately, or store in a sealed container in the fridge or freeze.

Note: When a recipe requires the use of coconut cream, try to ensure you scoop out the thick cream, often settled on the top half of the can. To easily access the thick coconut cream, place the can in the fridge overnight.

By doing this, the cream will naturally settle towards the top of the can.

Roast butternut, red quinoa, rocket and cranberry salad with mint aioli

There’s something addictive about these tender roasted butternut chunks, especially when they’re tossed through fresh mint, peppery rocket and chewy cranberries for that bite of sweetness, then finished with a drizzle of creamy mint aioli.

This is another awesome salad to have on hand for lunches or an easy weekday dinner.

Red quinoa has a mild, earthy flavour and not only does it add a pop of colour to your meal, it also contains many nutrients, including fibre, protein, iron and magnesium.

Serves 4

750g butternut pumpkin, skins on,

cut into bite-sized cubes

1 tsp olive, avocado or coconut

oil (optional)

sea salt, to taste

¾ cup red quinoa

1½ cups water

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

handful fresh mint, chopped

½ cup dried cranberries

2 cups baby rocket leaves

3 Tbsp lemon juice

⅛ tsp white pepper

1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)

½ cup mint aioli (see below)

Mint aioli

Makes 1 cup

⅔ cup raw cashews, presoaked (see notes)

⅓ packed cup fresh mint leaves

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 small clove garlic, diced

1 Tbsp pure maple syrup

½ cup water


Heat the oven to 180degC fan bake. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place the pumpkin on the baking tray and spread out into a single layer. Drizzle over the oil, if using, and season with sea salt. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until tender.

Place the quinoa and water in a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 12–15 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is soft and fluffy.

To serve

Place the pumpkin, quinoa, onion, mint, cranberries and rocket leaves in a serving bowl. Add the lemon juice and white pepper, and pomegranate molasses, if using, and gently toss through the salad to combine. Finish by drizzling over the mint aioli.

Mint aioli

A refreshing, minty take on the classic aioli. It’s perfect as a salad dressing or paired with any main to add a mild, minty flavour.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about 10–15 seconds, until thick and creamy.

Store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Notes: Soaking your nuts will soften them, making them easier to blend, and will also decrease the anti-nutrients (such as phytate) that block our body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

To do this, simply place the nuts/seeds into a bowl, cover with (preferably filtered) water and leave them to soak overnight, or for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse. For a faster preparation time, add them to a bowl of just boiled water and soak for at least 1 hour prior to using.

Rosemary and thyme hasselbacks with the best-ever creamy coleslaw

The obsession is real - this simple combination of herby potatoes and creamy coleslaw is amazing.

If you’re looking for something different to try with your potatoes or kumara, hasselbacks make for beautifully tender potatoes that soak up all the herby flavours I’ve added in this recipe.

The creamy coleslaw is an absolute staple in our family, enjoyed as a side to almost any main.

The sweet and creamy dressing is so versatile and also works perfectly with steamed potatoes, parsley, celery and red onion to create a beautiful potato salad.

Serves 4-6

Hasselback potatoes

8 small–medium potatoes (agria,

russet, red, etc; approx. 1½kg)

1 Tbsp olive, avocado or coconut oil

1 tsp dried rosemary

1½ tsp dried thyme

½ bunch fresh rosemary (15g)

To taste

sea salt and cracked pepper


3 cups thinly shredded red cabbage

2 cups grated carrots

1½ cups roughly chopped parsley

1 spring onion, sliced

¼ cup finely diced red onion

½ cup sliced almonds

½ cup raisins

Creamy cashew tahini dressing

1 cup cashews, presoaked

(see note)

2 Tbsp tahini

2 Tbsp wholegrain mustard

3 Tbsp lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp pure maple syrup

¼ cup water


Heat the oven to 180degC fan bake. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Hold the end of one potato and use a sharp knife to make 1mm–2mm cuts across the width of the potato, all the way along, slicing about two-thirds of the way down into the flesh. Be careful not to slice all the way through. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

Place the oil and dried herbs in a large bowl. Add the potatoes and gently toss them until they are evenly coated in the herby oil. Place them on the baking tray cut side up.

Pick the fresh rosemary leaves and stuff them sporadically into the cuts of the potatoes. Season, then bake for 50–60 minutes, or until the largest potato is soft and the edges are crispy.

For the dressing

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for 20–30 seconds, until smooth and creamy. Pour over the coleslaw and mix to combine.

For the coleslaw

Place all the ingredients in a bowl.

Serve the hasselbacks with coleslaw on the side.

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