It’s that time of year when most people focus on a fresh start, shedding the holiday excess and eating as healthily as possible.
But for Sheffield chef Inga Dirziute and her family, the drive for top-rate nutrition is a year-round pursuit.
The Lithuanian mum-of-two became a vegan to help her son overcome severe asthma, following the methods of her grandmother, who lived to 108 and swore by the natural healing of plants and herbs.
She then e discovered raw food - which is produce prepared without any cooking whatsoever - and soon her son was well again, while she had shrunk four dress sizes, and was on her way to America for an in depth course on the practice in America.
Now she runs the only raw food cafe in the north of England, Pure on Raw on Shalesmoor.
“In four years we have very loyal customers and some come from all over the world”, said Inga, who also runs an online delivery service.
“We love what we do, I know we do our best to make healthy and nutritious food.”
Raw food may sound simple, but some of the dishes at Pure on Raw can take two days to prepare.
A specialist dehydrator removes moisture from produce and creates a cooked-like texture.
Fragile spinach wraps made only of the greens need to be dried just enough, but not too much, and ‘pizza crust’ is made with buckwheat, sunflower seeds that are soaked and washed several times, root vegetables and seasoning before drying.
Inga believes it the effort is ‘worth it’ - and relishes the obvious surprise of perhaps reluctant new customers when they taste raw cheesecakes made with cashew nuts or agave syrup rather than sugar.
She said: “There was one young man who was obviously dragged in by his female friend.
“He sat and studied our menu for what seems a very long time and finally without a hope on his face he ordered a Mexican wrap.
“After he’d eaten he had a huge smile and admitted that he was very sceptical about vegan food and after trying our food he joked that he is considering to become a vegan for few days a week! “Since than he is our regular customer.”
Inga’s signature dish, shared with Sheffield Telegraph readers in today’s chef’s dish, is aubergine with herbs and mango squash.
She said: “This dish brings wonderful memories of us working at the cafe before opening.
“Our close friends and family would come over to help and at the end of the day my mum will bring variety of delicious meals for us to feast on and the aubergine was my most favourite dish.”
Pure on Raw has extended its menu with some cooked foods, such as the hot miso soup with raw vegetables and baked breads.
At home Inga and her family eat almost entirely raw food, with some cooked vegan food such as baked sweet potato for extra calories.
She added: “We drink a lot of green juices and smoothies, we eat seasonal food when possible and add a lot of superfoods like barley grass,spirulina, chia seeds and much more.
“I think introducing kids to many different fruits and vegetables trains their palette to like greens and a great variety of vegetables.”
Aubergine with herbs and mango squash
For the mango squash
1 medium size butternut squash
1 ripe mango
1Tbsp curry powder
1Tbsp cumin powder
2Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
For the aubergine with herbs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup pesto (or add extra herbs)
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh coriander
3 aubergines, sliced 0.5 inch thick
For the mango
Peel and wash the butternut squash and grate into match sticks using a food processor or mandolin slicer.
Add curry powder, cumin powder and apple cider vinegar to the squash and mix well by hand
Peel and slice mango in cubes and mix in to the butternut squash mixture.
for the aubergine
To your blender add tomatoes, lemon juice, oil, pesto and blend well
Chop fresh basil and coriander well and add to the tomato mixture.
Pour tomato and herb mixture over the sliced aubergine and let it marinate for 30 minutes.
Serve by adding three tablespoons of mango squash salad with 4 to 5 slices of marinated aubergine.
If desired add grilled nan bread or raw corn bread on the side.