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Mīra Manek: Indian food made healthy

Citizen Femme sat down with Mīra Manek, a healthy Indian food pioneer whose name is making waves within the food industry.

She has her own growing range of products sold at Raw Press (Mayfair and Chelsea), and at the Holborn Dining Rooms, Rosewood Hotel. Alongside this, she does menu collaborations, wellness events and supper clubs. Mīra talks healthy eating while travelling and her favourite restaurants.

I love your Instagram pictures and recipe ideas, what drew you towards cooking and healthy eating?

Awareness of eating well and eating the right foods comes from understanding your body, understanding what energizes you and what makes you feel sluggish, and my awareness only came about after years of thinking low fat and dieting was the answer to everything, but all the while suffering from slow digestion and constant weight fluctuation. It was only years later, after I took up yoga while I was living abroad that I returned to my own home cooked Indian food… the vegetable curries and daals my grandmother, mother and aunts have been making for years! I realised that being healthy is all about eating food that is nutritious and having balanced meals, and of course all complemented by some form of exercise – for me, it’s mostly yoga.

What’s the most delicious, but healthy, meal you’ve ever had?

Tricky one… there are so many! But if I was to pick something memorable, drawing on all aspects of atmosphere and place and food, I’d choose some of the most authentic gujarati meals I’ve eaten in the villages of India, and then the incredible vegan cafes and food in New York when I first discovered them a few years ago – Blossom on the Upper West for brunch, Hungawi for dinner, Pure foods and wine…

Do you find it easy to stay healthy when travelling?

To start with, I have lots of water and hot water or herbal tea during any flight, refilling my cup over and over again. There’s always something healthy on a hotel menu. I try not to include breakfast in my hotel package so I’m forced to get out and find a café earlier in the day. I often travel with a small pack of flax seeds, spirulina and chia seeds, so that I can sprinkle it on my breakfast when away. I think it’s the years of travel (I used to be a travel journalist and writer) when I was doing almost everything that was wrong for my body – snacking all day – that have made me realise the dos and don’ts relating to my body. And then ending the day with some sort of herbal tea again or just hot water.

What about Hotel menus and room service menus, do you find it difficult to find healthy meals?  What would you change or improve?

This is often to do with the destination and in places like Italy or France, it’s harder to be a healthy vegetarian, so I try to eat more fruits and ask if they can include some grains in the salads since I’m a vegetarian. For changes… I would love to consult on any hotel menus, there is always room for improvement to cater for vegetarian and the new healthy eating tastes (like I do at the Holborn Dining Rooms, Rosewood Hotel in London)… I have lots and lots of ideas!

As a foodie, which city has it right in terms of food?

Again from a vegetarian perspective, I find cities like New York and LA fabulous (and London, of course)! Mumbai is also a favourite – incredible food! – although a healthy breakfast, for example in India, isn’t so easy to find.

What are your favourite restaurants in London?

This has to be the best for all my favourite cuisines – China Tang for Chinese, Ohisama for quick delightful Japanese, Woodlands for dosa (South Indian food, which is healthy and light), Opso for al fresco brunch, Raw Press for healthy snacks (my coco fudge, of course and a cup of my chai!), Maple and Fitz for the tastiest salads, Nama if I want some raw yumminess and the most divine raw date caramel bars… to name a few!

Where is on your travel bucket list?

I visited Bali in my teens and I have been wanting to go back since. Can’t wait!

Orange and Saffron Muesli (serves 4)

5 tablespoons oats
3-4 tablespoons yoghurt
2 apples, grated
2-3 oranges, squeezed
1 cup almond milk
handful walnuts, broken
1 tablespoon goji berries
1 teaspoon chia seeds, optional
1 teaspoon flax seeds, optional
few raspberries and mint leaves for garnishing, optional

Soak everything together overnight or for as long as you can (I would suggest a minimum of 1-2 hours). When serving, mix together and taste for sweetness and consistency. Add honey if required and add a little more orange juice or almond milk if the muesli is too thick.

Note: if you don’t have goji berries, use raisins

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