Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vegan MoFo: Interview - Udo Erasmus

Taking part in Vegan MoFo has been a great challenge over the past week and a half- it has (nicely) forced me to blog more often and gotten me out of the cooking rut that I was in for the past few months.

On Monday, I told you about the food styling workshop I went to, and today I have an interview for you - with none other than Udo Erasmus, the creator of Udo's Oil. As I'm a journalist I jumped at the chance to do an interview with him for the blog, as he was in town to promote his new cookbook, Omega 3 Cuisine: Recipes for Health and Pleasure. He wrote the book with the chef Alan Roettinger and I have a recipe from the book below.

The best bit? The cookbook is entirely vegetarian with lots of vegan recipes, and recipes that can be veganised. And Udo's oil is a certified vegan oil. You can buy the oil in health food shops around Ireland and you can purchase the cookbook in Eason or from this site. If you've been curious about this oil, but have been even more curious about how to use it - it is to be used cold and not heated so you cannot fry with it - then this book is for you.

When we met in Dublin, Udo told me he has been coming to Ireland since 1998 and his product, Udo's Oil, is brought to the country by the company Natural Life. Udo's Oil is an oil made up of a combination of unrefined oils such as coconut oil and flax seed oil, and Udo says it is in the perfect ratio of Omega 3 : Omega 6 oils. These oils all contain 'essential fatty acids', also known as EFAs - they are termed essential because our body cannot produce them. Udo is a fervent believer in the power of good fats and wrote the book Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill.

When did he first realise that good oils were so important? "In 1980 when I got poisoned by pesticides," he told me frankly. "The doctors couldn’t help me and I had a very good background in biological science, biochemistry, genetics." This set him off on the quest to learn about the links between nutrition and people's health - are we what we eat?

Udo told me that he began to realise that our "body is a reflection of what we put in it". "So," he said while sipping some hot water and lemon,"if we put in garbage we end up with a garbage body." He believes that we need to give the body what it needs and our body will know what to do with it. "Life knows how to make an amazing body but life has to have the building blocks. The only responsibility we have is to make sure we bring in all those building blocks. The absorption of those building blocks, life takes care of that."

Udo told me that as humans we have a choice in what we eat: "There’s a deliberate choice we make – we can make so many bad choices or we have to be more deliberate. I guess it’s a choice." This extends to businesses also. "Do you want to make a lot of money? You try to throw together something that is really cheap, and you try to find a way to cut corners on the production, you try to figure out how to pump it up with advertisers and marketers so it sounds like something really fabulous that makes you sexy or makes you this or makes you that," said Udo, speaking about a fictional business. "And then you charge as much money as you can for that because all you’re really interested in is making a lot of money."

However, there is an alternative to this: "If your goal is improving quality of life, or making people healthy, or giving the possibility of making choices that make them healthy, your starting point is different," Udo said passionately. "You want the best raw materials, you want to take the most incredible care of what you’re making." Udo's Oil products are housed in dark glass bottles to protect them from light, oxegen, and heat, and they're stored in a fridge at every stage in the production process. When you buy a bottle of Udo's Oil, you're instructed on the box to make sure you store it in the fridge. The oil is not to be heated.

"We start with organically grown seeds because to get pesticides out of oil takes a lot of processing which causes damage to the oil," added Udo. "We put them in glass. We figure out what is the best ratio between omega 3 and 6 that are essential building blocks." How Udo's company treats the oil - each step is deliberate and well-planned - is how he sees life and health.

"If you think about what we’re doing it’s very deliberate. And I think because these days we have so many bad choices, negative choices, deliberate choices are very important – living deliberately is very important," mused Udo. "Living deliberately is like living consciously, and if you’re unconscious then what’s the point of being alive? So I think life is about consciousness, about being deliberate, about being really clear what is your goal: wherever you want to go, whoever you want to be, and where you spend your time on earth."

When Udo first became interested in this link between healthy oils and healthy bodies, he says it was seen as  a radical idea by some. "It wasn’t a radical point of view from life’s point of view, because life has always been about fresh, organic food. From the point of view of the social system in which I lived in North America, it was radical. Why would you want to make oils for health, what about the oils we already have? Why shouldn’t we fry? Why should we think about what frying does to the body? If taste is the only thing you’re interested in, and then your taste buds have been corrupted by bad food, because a lot of our tastes are it was radical from that point of view. And my friends were partying while I was writing the book. And I would sit there and say ‘why am I doing this?’ but there was always something that would happen to say no, no you’re on the right track, keep going."

After Udo released his book, he set up his company and soon began producing Udo's Oil. The company also offers other products like digestive enzymes. "It was unique in a way, but once you get fired up for something, you don’t really care if everyone agrees with you or not. I’ve been fired up about it for 30 years now! To have the possibility to do something unique that helps a lot of people is really a good thing to live for."

Udo told me that people who use Udo's Oil have experienced weight loss, weight stability, better skin, more energy and healthy appetites. "We knew most people don’t get enough [good fats] so there have to be consequences. But when the results started showing up, that was exciting," he enthused. Alan Roettinger's cholesterol went down and he lost weight over the months he was testing his recipes containing the oil.

I put it to Udo that many people today believe that fats make you fat. He laughed. "The good fats actively help you lose weight," he said, going on to say that carbohydrates can in fact make people put on weight. "Carbs turn on fat production in the body and they turn off fat burning," he said. While he does advocate that people get their carbs from green vegetables, he added: "Or if you want to keep eating the carbs you need a monitoring system."

"The good fats give stable energy, suppress appetite and improve virtually every major degenerative condition," said Udo. But his pro-fat stance only applies to these good fats, Omega 3 and 6, not saturated fats, hydrogenated fats or fats used for frying.

Foods that are damaged by processing or by food preparation Udo terms "the ugly fats"."I say to people the body needs an oil change just like a car. You dump the dirty oil, the ones that have been damaged by processing and we need to replace it with good oil. But you can't fry with this oil because when you fry this oil you damage it and when you damage oil you damage your health," he says.

So, if you can't fry with this oil, how do you use it? Many people, including me, have been curious about how to use this oil. This is where Alan Roettinger, a celebrity chef from America, comes in. He and Udo met in Los Angeles in the Bonaventure Hotel, when they were coincidentally seated at the same table at a busy restaurant. 

They got chatting about their respective careers - and you can guess what happened next. "I explained to him how to use oil in food preparation without using the oil and he then created the recipes. It's amazing his sense of taste and smell. He's the kind of guy who says I don't care how healthy it is; if it doesn't taste good I won't eat it. And I'm the kind of guy who says I don't care what it tastes like, as long as it's healthy I'll eat it!" Laughs Udo. "You want to eat his recipes, you don't want to eat mine!"

There are 140 recipes in the book and I've chosen a vegan one to share with you all.

Dal Saag

From Omega 3 Cuisine: Recipes for Health and Pleasure by Alan Roettinger with Udo Erasmus
Omega 3 Cuisine, Roettinger and Erasmus, Book Publishing Co

 Makes 4 to 6 servings

(For cups, if you don't have US cups just use a normal cup but use the same one for each ingredient that is weighed in cups)

1 cup dried moong dal (skinned)
4 cups water
1 small tomato, grated
7 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 green chiles, chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons peeled and minced (very finely chopped) ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon asfaoetida (ground)
1 pound fresh spinach, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped (note: these aren't included in the dish in the picture below)
11/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup Udo's Oil

Pick over the dal to remove any small stones or other debris, and wash well.
Bring the water to a boil in a heavy pot and add the dal.
Return to a boil and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes, skimming the foam frequently.
Add the tomato, garlic, green chiles, ginger, coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric and asafoetida.
Return to the boil, lower the heat to maintain a slow, steady simmer, cover and cook until the dal is soft, about 40 minutes or longer.
Check often during the last 10 minutes or so and stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Add a little more boiling water if needed.
When the dal is tender, raise the heat to high and stir in the spinach, scallions and salt.
Cook just until the greens are tender - no longer than 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the oil. Serve at once, in bowls as a side dish or with rice and vegetables

Copyright: Omega 3 Cuisine, Roettinger and Erasmus, Book Publishing Co.
Please do not reproduce without permission of the publishers.


Pure2raw Twins said...

I have yet to try this brand. But I have heard great things about it, thanks for sharing.

Tea and Sympatico said...

Very intersting and the dahl looks lovely.