It’s Sunday and the wool shed at Criffel Peak Station, high in the hills near Wanaka, is abuzz with excited chatter, the clinking of glasses and the anticipation of a delicious lunch to share. We are here to meet Rosa and Margo Flanagan, dedicated foodies and the founders of ‘Two Raw Sisters’ – their plant-based cooking company – in the hope of learning some smart new techniques to imbed into our daily cooking routines.
The woolshed’s rustic interior is the perfect background for this workshop that is based around the principles of cooking and creating plant-based dishes with flair and ease. Rosa says they like to keep the process relatively simple and approachable.
“I think our workshops can be hugely inspirational, but the real benefits are in education because a lot of people don’t feel comfortable cooking vegetables. These workshops are about teaching quick and easy methods for inventive vegetable dishes in a fun, exciting way.”
The entrepreneurial sisters are full of enthusiasm with a knack for keeping the creative process relaxed and doable. The informal workshop setting is charming with a trestle table set up with a transportable induction cooktop, wok, pans and bowls, and a medley of fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, and fruits.
Margo says, breaking down people’s perceptions of their cooking ability is key.
“So many of us get stuck in our ways cooking, making the same things every single day and that’s when food becomes super boring. You can easily lose motivation and the will to cook. What we discover within these workshops are fresh ideas and an eagerness to get back into the kitchen and try out new dishes with friends and families – people lift to another level, and food becomes exciting again.”
On today’s workshop menu there is a mouth-watering line up of raw based salads and treats to learn including a green buckwheat salad, tahini greens with tamari, a fresh herb paste and a mango lime ice cream with a ginger crumb.
While cooking and sharing tips and tricks with the assembled group, Rosa and Margo draw on their time spent at the Californian plant-based culinary school, Plant Lab.The informative experience has led the pair to adapt their techniques for Kiwi audiences and develop recipes tailored to simplify food planning, preparation, and time spent cooking.
“In America, we learn’t a lot but they were very strict on what we could do and use – everything we worked with had to be raw and plant-based which is sometimes difficult and time-consuming and not always sustainable,” says Margo. “Back in New Zealand, we decided to flip some of that around to focus on using seasonal produce, creating quick and easy meals in under 20 or 30 minutes because people have minimal time and families to feed.”
“We encourage using substitute ingredients and pantry staples rather than buying expensive ingredients you might only use once. Desserts and healthy cakes often cost a lot to make, so we use lots of alternative ingredients like oats and our own nut butters to suit a wider range of budgets while still achieving great results.”
With their ‘Two Raw Sisters’ brand developing fast, the sisters are pioneering a way forward for their unique approach to healthy lifestyles.
“The big thing is you don’t have to go full vegan or vegetarian to be healthy,” says Rosa. “By Two ‘Raw’ Sisters, we mean another word for whole-foods, and always emphasis diets are not sustainable. All you need to do is eat minimally processed foods, and if your body needs meat, then incorporate some into your diet. Don’t restrict yourself in any way, be intuitive, and listen to your body.”
She says their personal food journey has provided valuable insight into how to make healthy choices and informed their business philosophy.
“I had an eating disorder and Margo too – not as severe as me – but we both had bad relationships with food and were restricting ourselves by avoiding things we didn’t think were healthy. So, then I did a degree in nutrition, learning how the body works and functions, and that was a big part of the recovery process in just becoming more intuitive. Our plant-based philosophy grew from.”
Margo adds that often, the pursuit of a healthy ideal can lead to the increased consumption of the wrong types of food.
“We had eating disorders, and I had chronic fatigue, and a huge part of our healing process was gut health. Often people are eating highly processed foods which can cause an imbalance within their gut. This has a direct link to the brain and can increase things like depression, so it is an important part of your overall health and wellbeing.”
As the Wanaka workshop comes to a close, the final flourish is sharing a lunch filled with the delicious salads and treats Rosa and Margo have taught us all how to make. Refreshing, tasty, and immensely satisfying, the dishes are a tantalising way to wrap up the insightful day.
The pair are about to open a cooking school, Two Raw Sisters Kitchen, in Christchurch, as part of a health and wellbeing collective in Well Street.
“It’s the first centre of its kind in New Zealand with a group of like-minded businesses working together to create an amazing destination,” says Rosa. “We love educating and motivating people and showing them how to eat and live like this. It’s an exciting step for us.”
But first, there is the launch of their Two Raw Sisters Cookbook (today) which is available from their website.The future looks very, very bright for the ‘Two Raw Sisters’ who are on a mission to share their knowledge and expertise with the world.