THE MAGIC INGREDIENT: CHAGA MUSHROOMS ARE SUPER HEALING & SUPER DELICIOUS

Feeling the Spring fever? Ysanne Spevack whips up an immune boosting pudding with chaga mushrooms that’s equal parts powerful and subtly healing. Main Image: Mariano Peccinetti 

April is an invigorating time of year, with spring’s changing moods inviting us back out of our homes and into the streets. The month also brings indecisive weather, from thunderstorms to sunshine. To face this fluctuating weather and to address the rising allergen percentage in the air, our immunity needs a natural boost right now.

Enter chaga mushrooms, a humble type of mycelium that grows on trees. More like a tree fungus than a regular mushroom, chaga is probably best known and most widely used for its scientifically confirmed anti-oxidant qualities that protect against cancer, and also for its use for people with HIV. Chaga doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to antioxidant qualities.

That said, chaga is equally powerful when eaten to reduce seasonal allergies, and it has a soothing effect on the respiratory system. What’s more, chaga mushrooms have a subtle flavor that lends itself well to sweet recipes. It has a woody taste with an undertone of vanilla, so blends well with anything containing vanilla.

Chaga grows right here in the US and is always wild, never cultivated. You can find it on birch trees anywhere along the East Coast that experiences a cold winter. And if you’re not ready for a trip into the woods, you can find it ready-powdered online at High Vibe or your local independent purveyor of high-quality medicinal superfoods.

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Chaga Chia Pudding Recipe 
by Ysanne Spevack 

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 medjool dates
1½ cup water
2 tbs hemp hearts
2tsp powdered chaga
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup black chia seeds

Method:

Remove the pits from the dates using your fingers, and drop them into a blender. Add the water, hemp hearts, chaga, and vanilla, then cover and process at the highest speed for 45 seconds.

If you have a Mason jar, pour the chia seeds into it, and pour the liquid into the jar. If you don’t have a Mason jar, any kind of 2 cup lidded container will work.

Secure the lid, and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds, to ensure the seeds are all thoroughly wet and aren’t clumping together. If you see obvious clumps, open the lid and break them up with a fork.

Set aside on the counter to gel for at least three hours. After that duration, it’s either ready to eat, or to refrigerate. Consume within 3 days.

Discover more about Ysanne Spevack HERE.

GASTROLOGY: A RECIPE FOR VIRGO SEASON

A unconventional lentil soup is the perfect recipe for Virgo season…Concept and styling: Georgia Ashdown, Dish Pig; Words: Mojave Rising; Recipe: Alex Watts, Dish Pig; Image: Chris Chen

Virgo season conjures careful concoctions, herbaceous blends, process-based cooking, and the delicious sensation of detoxification. The zodiac’s most meticulous minx invites us to break out our measuring cups and to revel in acts of sorting, discerning, and finely chopping.

It’s a month to celebrate how singular flavors contribute to the integrity of the whole, hearty stew of being human, and how complex proportions demonstrate that in doing the difficult work we are sumptuously rewarded for our care.

We’ve chosen a spicy, delightfully intricate yet simple, sweet and sour soup for Virgo season—perfect for channeling the earthy goodness inside masked by outer complexity. There’s also the collisions between perfectly proportioned piles and the glorious moment of blending, where we let distinction merge with the world as it is and serve it on up.

Astrology’s so-called “virgin” is actually a wild, witchy woman who lives by her own code and gathers provisions for a proprietary brew befitting a self-contained queen of everyday alchemy. Her soup is for celebrating each piece of ourselves: from the tangy lime cheeks, to the sweet, sweet coconut cream on top!

RECIPE FOR VIRGO SEASON :: SWEET AND SOUR LENTIL SOUP

serves 4-6

Chefs notes ~ with the addition of some a dollop of coconut cream and harissa this soup can really come to life.

1 red onion diced
1 red capsicum, charred and peeled
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp ground coriander
100ml grapeseed oil
600g Kumera diced approx. 1cm
4 ripe tomatoes diced
2 garlic cloves sliced
1 long red chilli, de-seeded and sliced
1tbs tamarind pulp
100 ml boiling water
1 tbs vegan fish sauce
½ tsp tumeric
1 cup Red Lentils, soaked
1.5litres veg stock
1 handful chopped coriander
1 handful shallot (scallion) rounds
2 Lime cheeks

Wash the lentils under cold water, and repeat three times then strain off the water.

Soak the tamarind pulp in boiling water and pass through a sieve to remove seeds.

In a heavy based saucepan, fry the onions and garlic in grape seed oil until, soft but not coloured. Add the chilli & spices and cook for a further 5 mins stirring constantly. Add the kumera, red lentils, tomato, tamarind, red capsicum and veg stock. Cook until the Kumera just begins to soften and remove from heat.

Season with fish sauce, chopped herbs and serve with a grilled lime cheek.

MATERIAL GIRL, MYSTICAL WORLD: RAW VEGAN BLONDE

Amber Locke, a.k.a. @rawveganblonde has gained a cut following for her beautiful and unique farmers’ market art. We meet the woman behind the phenomenon, and ask her…what vegetable would you be?

The artist at work…

How long have you been a Raw Vegan Blonde, and what drew you to the lifestyle?
I’ve always been blonde, but only discovered the concept of raw food about 18 months ago! I first read about it on the blog of Ralph Lauren model Valentina Zelyaeva and decided to try it out as an experiment, but I was so blown away with how amazing it made me feel after just a few days, I carried on.

Eating raw gives me incredible energy, improved mental clarity and a general feeling of calmness, harmony and well-being. I’ve become far more in tune with my body and very aware of how what I eat can dramatically affect how I feel both emotionally and physically.

What makes you so passionate about vegetables?
For me it’s the fact that fruit and veg not only taste amazing, they’re visually fascinating and have the power to nourish and heal our bodies too. They really are super foods.

Zucchini Shadows print, £180 from Ambaliving.com

And why do you think they’re so beautiful to you?
I love the beauty of natural elements, and I’m constantly amazed and delighted by their different shapes, colours, textures, and character. So my designs aim to showcase their unique qualities and reflect the changing seasons of the year, as well as being a celebration of living a healthy lifestyle.

If you were a fruit or a vegetable, which would you be and why?
I think I’d probably be a candy beetroot. They look pretty much like a normal beetroot on the outside, but when you slice them, they reveal their amazing pink and white striped flesh and it never ceases to make me smile.

What’s the most out there plant-based experience you’ve had to date?
I’m not sure I’ve had an ‘out there’ experience…but I always get a sense of something greater at work when I’m composing my designs. I sometimes stand back and wonder how I did it.

:: M A T E R I A L  G I R L ::

My label
I love Hermes and although I only own a few pieces (mainly leather goods and scarves) they all have special memories and are so exquisitely made they will last a lifetime.

Hermes Zebra Pegasus scarf, $1175

My shoes
I’m addicted to Belstaff boots as they’re so comfy, look great and fit my narrow shins well! I have several pairs and wear them almost all year round.

My fragrance
I’ve worn ‘Un Jardin Sur Le Nil’ by Hermes for years. I think the top notes are green mango but I love it as the smell reminds me of tomato leaves which are one on my favourite fragrances along with orange blossom. I’m still pursuing my quest to find the perfect orange blossom perfume and the closest I’ve come across so far is by Jo Malone and I wear this sometimes in the Summer.

Un Jardin Sur Le Nil by Hermes, $131

My jewels
I don’t wear much jewellery apart from my boyfriend’s old Breitling watch which I love as it’s so big and chunky on my wrist, and an antique silver fob chain given to me by my Mother which I wear as a charm bracelet.

My pampering
A trip to the hairdressers! I recently took the plunge and had 10” chopped off by the brilliant team at Richard Ward Salon in London, their colourist David Viner is a legend too!

My home
I live in a quirky house in a small countryside village. Its part Tudor, part Georgian, part Victorian and part Medieval so it’s a real mix of architectural styles.

My food
I love to eat a mainly raw diet so my kitchen is always full of fresh fruit and vegetables and I eat this way at least 90% of the week. I love green smoothies, as well as my beloved high-speed ‘Blendtec’ blender makes them super smooth, rich and creamy.

Blendtec blender, $649.95

:: M Y S T I C A L  W O R L D ::

My awakening
I have a very simple morning ritual; I drink a large glass of water (warm water and lemon if I have time) then take a walk with my dog before making a big green juice for my boyfriend and I. We’re really into stronger flavoured spicy juices now the weather has turned colder so I use a lot of ginger, lemongrass, whole lemons and sometimes a bit of green chilli for an extra kick.

My sign
I’m a Capricorn

My mantra
I don’t really have a mantra as such but I love the line in the Baz Luhrmann song ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ which goes: ‘Enjoy your body… it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own’. I think so many people live unhappily with their body but if you can learn to love it and feed, nourish and exercise it properly the rewards of such team work can be incredible.

My healer
I think a balanced diet of fresh, natural food can be a great healer – physically, medicinally and emotionally.

Hermes-esque print, £180, Ambaliving.com

My reading
I’m fascinated by food so for me it’s any book related to the subject (I have hundreds!) and I really love searching out vintage cookbooks and out of print titles.

My transformation
Trying out a raw food diet was a big transformation for me as I had no idea eating this way had the ability to make you feel so good. I think it should be renamed the ‘Happiness Diet’ as it’s almost like nature’s happy pill.

My mission
I love to share my passion for fruit and vegetables (through my designs and recipes) and if that encourages or inspires others to eat more of them then that makes me very happy!

Purchase one of Amber’s limited edition prints at Ambaliving.com, and follow her on Instagram @rawveganblonde