Kiran Branch meets Amber Locke, the raw food fan behind foodie blog Raw Vegan Blonde to find out why she does it and how it all began
Contributing Editor of Vogue and nutrition expert Calgary Avansino as well as the nation’s most loveable chef Jamie Oliver are both fans of Amber Locke, and for good reason. Amber is the brains behind Raw Vegan Blonde , a site that makes raw fruit and veggies look like works of art. No, really. Enough to make even a junk food addict salivate, the Glossy Posse are completely and utterly hooked.
GTG’s Kiran Branch sat down with the blogger du jour to talk about her healthy eating journey, the benefits of eating raw and the high fashion model who inspired it all.
Firstly, what made you decide to start your blog?
I started a blog and website as an extension of my Instagram page (@rawveganblonde).
What’s your favourite aspect of blogging and are there any downsides?
I just started blogging a few months ago so it’s still all a brave new world to me… I love it!
How much of a techie are you?
Not at all! It’s been a steep learning curve setting up a website and I was a defiant Blackberry user up until a year ago when I lost my beloved white leather-backed one and was reluctantly persuaded to get an iPhone to replace it! However I quickly fell in love with it (the brilliant camera, the high definition screen and all the handy apps you can get for it) and now we’re rarely parted.
How do you balance blogging with other interests or jobs? Do you ever go offline?
I work freelance in marketing so I take advantage of any gaps in my day to take photos and blog and I always log off before I go to sleep!
What is your personal food philosophy? Are there any food groups/types that you avoid?
I’ve been a passionate foodie all my adult life and love to cook, eat and eat out in restaurants but last summer I discovered the raw food lifestyle and was blown away by how incredible it made me feel - it’s like nature’s happy pill. So now, although I occasionally enjoy other foods, I choose to eat raw fruits and veg at least 90% of the time.
NB: By ‘raw food’ I mean a low-fat, uncooked vegan plant-based diet. So mainly whole, ripe fruits and vegetables in their vibrant, natural, naked state - just as nature created them!
How has eating healthily impacted on you personally? Do you ever find it difficult to stick to it?
The beauty of raw food is that it’s such a great and delicious way to fuel yourself and it’s a really easy lifestyle to follow. We’re all encouraged to incorporate more fruit and veg into our diets and in their raw form they’re typically more nutrient-dense, alkalising and easier to digest so they feed and nourish your body with pure, living, high-vitality foods which it absolutely loves!
As well as the fantastic health benefits of eating raw it also gives you incredible energy, improved mental clarity and a general feeling of calmness, harmony and wellbeing – so it really is ‘feel-good’ food.
Preparing raw food is also really simple; it’s quick, easy, requires very little washing up, there’s virtually no waste and there are no complicated recipes to navigate. Another big bonus is that it’s a diet of abundance and gives you complete ‘food freedom’, so you can eat as much as your appetite dictates and never have to worry about counting a calorie again, a huge relief!
How do you create new recipes? Is it a trial and error process?
I keep a file of cuttings with ideas and sometimes refer to that, but generally I look at what’s growing in the garden, what I find at the farmer’s market or just what I have in the fridge at the time and create a dish out of that.
Have you had any cooking disasters?
There’s very little to go wrong when preparing raw food dishes although once I overfilled my Blendtec blender and my whole work surface turned into a green smoothie swamp!
How do you decide which recipes to feature on your blog?
I choose recipes that I think people will find interesting and I also incorporate interviews with people that inspire me. So far I’ve interviewed the supermodel and face of Ralph Lauren, Valentina Zelyaeva and healthy eating expert for The Sunday Times Style magazine and Contributing Editor to British Vogue, Calgary Avansino.
What are your three favourite recipes?
1. I love to make nut milk. It’s so nutritious and the process is really simple. It’s also unbelievable to think it isn’t a dairy-based milk when you taste it.
2. Anything made in my Blendtec always gets my heart-racing! It’s that alchemy of putting in a variety of fruit and vegetables and it producing something velvety smooth and delicious that’s also so good for you – I don’t think I’ll ever tire of that!
3. I’m always experimenting with salad dressings as a good one can transform a bowl of basic salad into something really special. One of my favourites is light guacamole dressing which tastes really rich and creamy but is actually low in fat.
If I’m allowed a fourth; spiralised courgettes as they have the most amazing al-dente texture and so similar to real pasta – I’ve converted many a sceptic to try a raw vegan dish with them!
If you kept a food diary, what would a typical day look like?
I like to start the day with a big glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed in to it, and I’m not a big breakfast person so I usually make a kale-based green juice.
For lunch I’ll have a big green smoothie and some seasonal fruit plus lots of infused water to sip throughout the day. I like to infuse my water with herbs and fruit as it makes it more interesting to drink than plain water, and looks pretty too!
For supper I have a HUGE salad with a yummy dressing and then later in the evening I might have a bowl of fruit salad if I’m still hungry – that’s my ideal day, it doesn’t always work out like that but it’s what I aim for on a daily basis.
Which ten ingredients do you use most often?
Lemons, leafy greens, apples, chia seeds, fresh herbs, ginger, celery, almonds, Medjool dates and coconut water.
What five things are always in your fridge?
Tender leafy greens, fresh almond milk, coconut water, lemons and fish sticks (my choc lab’s favourite treat!)
Where are your favourite places to buy ingredients?
I live in Derbyshire and we’re lucky to have some fantastic local market gardeners so our farmer’s markets are usually well supplied with beautiful seasonal veg. More exotic items are harder to source from local independent retailers, but Morrisons supermarket seems to stock an incredible range these days. However, if I had just one choice of place to shop it would be Turnips in Borough Market – it’s my Mecca!
Which three kitchen appliances could you not live without?
My Blendtec blender (I love it so much I even named it ‘Parker’!), a masticating juicer and my two favourite knives; a large Japanese chopping knife and a Kom Kom wave knife.
Where are your favourite places to go when eating out?
I had the most amazing raw vegetable salad at The Electric House in Notting Hill last week and it far surpassed anything else I’d eaten recently. It was just a huge pile of multi-coloured vegetables, cut wafer thin on a mandolin with a very light walnut oil dressing; very simple but pure heaven!
What advice would you give to those considering a healthier lifestyle?
Don’t be put off by thinking you’ve got to go all out and in at the deep end with eating healthily. This way works for some people but by just choosing to eat one healthier meal a day is a great way to start, and the more healthy food you eat the more your body craves it.
If you fancy giving the raw lifestyle a try it’s as simple as incorporating more raw fruits and veg into your diet, be it in the form of juices, smoothies or salads etc. You don’t have to be 100% fully-raw to feel the benefits, and starting with just one raw meal a day is a great way to put yourself on the highway to super-health and happiness!
What are your favourite cookbooks and/or books relating to health?
One of my favourite health books is Raw Energy by Leslie and Susannah Kenton. It was published in 1984 but way ahead of its time in terms of promoting a raw diet. Another great discovery was the Treasury of Secrets written in the 1950s by the American nutritionist Gayelord Hauser. I came across it after reading a local newspaper article about a lady in a neighbouring village who was celebrating her 100th and put good health down to rigidly following the principles in this book, so I thought it had to be worth sourcing a copy!
More up to date favourites include The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit; a treasure trove of inspiration and fascinating information on flavour combining, peppered throughout with a wonderful sense of humour. I’m also a big fan of It’s all Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and of course, anything by Jamie Oliver!
Who are your favourite bloggers?
Discovering the blog of Valentina Zelyaeva was the whole reason I started to eat raw. She is not only stunningly beautiful (a supermodel and the face of Ralph Lauren) but also one heck of a healthy girl! I love Amanda Brook’s blog ‘I Love Your Style’ for its mix of fashion, art and her enviable quintessentially English lifestyle in her beautiful Oxfordshire farm. Elin Kling - I just love HER style! Also the food and lifestyle blog of Jessica Fiorillo , a NY-living gorgeous mum of three and their super-characterful Visla, Jackson.
What does the future hold for your blog? Are there any exciting developments in the pipeline?
I’ve got some very interesting interviewees for my blog lined up which I hope everyone will enjoy reading. I’m also in the process of developing a collection of limited edition prints to sell on my website which is very exciting too!