Say what you will about Rosanna Davison, but you can’t deny she is a stunningly beautiful woman. In her first book, Eat Yourself Beautiful, she spilled the beans (and my god there was a lot of beans) on the diet that maintains her radiant glow but at the end of the day, Rosanna’s eye-catching beauty is for the most part the result of fantastic genes, and not just the Freddie’s she is known to rock.
Last year when Eat Yourself Beautiful was released it quickly topped the best sellers list here in Ireland, despite being somewhat niche extolling the virtues of a plant-based diet. The book’s roaring success couldn’t just be down to curiosity, but I myself bought a copy out of sheer nosiness….what does she eat, I pondered and is it do-able, never mind tasty? Four months of veganism later (I like a challenge!) I had surprised myself by broadening my culinary repertoire with her book alone and learned that Rosanna is by no means a novice in the kitchen – this girl can cook, deliciously.
Never judge a book by its cover kind of goes out the window when you pick up a copy of Rosanna Davison’s second book, Eat Yourself Fit. It is difficult not to be drawn in by the crop-top touting, rock-hard abbed beauty queen promising a how-to guide to achieve similar results for yourself by eating a certain way in conjunction with a fitness regime. While I was unsure of my commitment to the latter part of the deal, a quick glance at the back end of the book, a treasure trove of healthier sweet recipes made up my mind – this was a cookbook I had to dive into immediately.
Although I had little intention of adopting as rigorous a workout regime as Rosanna maintains on a daily basis, I was intrigued by all the hints and tips for sustaining energy levels and fuelling the body with the essential nutrients pre and post workout in the most delicious way possible. I appreciate Rosanna’s refreshing honesty – life is not about counting calories, but in the pursuit of a trimmer figure gorging on high energy nuts and avocados with abandon is not a good idea, so included in this book are macros for each dish and the hard fact that treats should be just that. There is also a fantastic good mood food section to help you get over the aforementioned truth!
Pawing through the pages, one thing in particular I note loving about both of Rosanna’s books is that they are bursting with bright ideas on how to make little changes to dishes to boost their nutritional profile and add new flavour dimensions. Most recipes have various inventive components like pine-nut parmesan, coconut whip and chia jam to name a few, that can easily be converted for uses in your other favourite recipes, vegan or not. I learned from following Rosanna’s vegan diet in her first book that the limitations force you to be more creative in the kitchen, and this definitely carries through to Eat Yourself Fit.
Rosanna has a clear inclination towards bowl-food – hearty, warming dishes with numerous curries and veggie stews making up a large portion of the savoury sections. With winter closing in on us I knew I’d be drawn to at least one of these one-bowl wonders. Rosanna whips up a Vegan Stroganoff, using meaty portobello mushrooms and curiously at first blush, coconut milk. I feared the German Asian fusion could result in a flavour lost in translation at best. Thankfully, transforming plant-based ingredients into various guises is one of Rosanna’s strong points, and a genius method of softening onions and garlic in tamari to create a base for the mushroom sauce was key to taking the sweet edge off the coconut milk.
Along with vegans’ answer to cheese nutritional yeast and a dash of Dijon mustard, this rich, creamy sauce felt like the real deal and would fool dairy devotees with ease. Rosanna serves hers with quinoa, but as I’m not the greatest fan I spiralized and baked some sweet potato (another Rosanna recipe) and enjoyed a seriously hearty meat-free dinner. Although completely against the vegan ethos of the book, I think this would make the ultimate paleo friendly steak sauce and intend to smother a striploin with it very soon.
Recent Instagram food gawking on my part has revealed a trend of replacing the somehow 2016 chic breakfast component of toast with every clean eater’s favourite carb, sweet potato, thinly sliced and popped in a toaster. I was unconvinced by this method, visualising electrocution-opportunities galore fork scraping orange mush from my toaster, but was pleased to discover that Rosanna’s version, Sweet Potato Bruschetta, avoided this disaster plot.
Baking thin slices of sweet potato in the oven with a drizzle of coconut oil and dash or paprika was a cinch, and made for a genuinely addictive base for whatever topping takes your fancy – think one big, flat sweet potato wedge begging to be adorned. I stuck with Rosanna’s toppings of smokey red pepper and walnut hummus (bean free and whipped up in seconds in my Nutri-bullet) with yellow pepper strips and avocado. I am not ashamed to say I photographed these at top speed so I could have my way with them – so simple yet singing with flavours as bright as the dish’s components. Bruschetta is officially back on the menu in my house and the variations are excitingly endless.
As I mentioned, Rosanna is big on healthy pulses like chickpeas and beans, so I opted to test out Smokey Falafel Burgers as a big fan of the delicious Middle Eastern nuggets. Lightly spiced with cumin and smoked paprika, these could probably have used a little more coriander for my taste but crisped up beautifully in the oven with little added oil – far superior to a bath in a vat of it. Served in a red cabbage shell which was a delicious and sturdy vessel, these were quite crave-able indeed, satisfying and perfect for making a big batch for lunches.
Leftovers of the delicious main dishes make perfect boxable lunches, but as someone who needs sweet breakfast lust to tempt me out of bed I was keen to test out how Rosanna sets herself up for a day of exertion. Partial to a chia pudding in summer and oats in winter, I went for the hybrid Overnight Oats with a super quick raspberry chia jam requiring a fraction of the effort and sugar normally the preserve of preserves. Overnight oats are the ultimate laissez-faire brekkie and I added a few texture rich toppings of cacao nibs and some buckwheat granola for a bit of crunch. These were delicious eaten leisurely in the garden as below, or frantically on the way out the door to work.
I get a sort of perverse kick out of feeding ‘clean’ treats to people without revealing their sometimes unusual ingredients. More often than not this works well, with awe and surprise of my taste-testers when I reveal the secret, bar one instance of a cannelini bean cake dubbed by Keith as reminiscent of ‘human flesh’. Slightly disheartened by that damning indictment I decided to avoid Cookie Dough Blondies made with chickpeas in favour of trying Rosanna’s Healthy Snickers Bars, which she had mentioned was among her favourite recipes from the book when I met her at its launch.
Note to self. Boiling water in Nutri-bullet leads, at least 80% of the time, to a Champagne cork-like pop with a less appealing aftermath – namely molten caramel all over the kitchen. And myself. To be fair, Rosanna had advised a 20 minute soak of the dates, but I was impatient and already wary of the freezing time I would have to endure before tasting my snickers. Apart from this blip, my little bites came out of the freezer stickily, sinfully good – maximum pleasure with minimal effort. Almost too good. Note to self again about treats being treats.
Throughout my review of Eat Yourself Fit my fridge was bulging with the building blocks of delicious meals, a sweet potato hummus here and cauliflower cake there, something which was very comforting indeed and made eating well so very easy. So often the sequel to a smash hit is a disappointment, but Eat Yourself Fit can certainly hold its own next to Eat Yourself Beautiful. In today’s #FitFam dominated social channels, Rosanna has honed her body without an insipid egg white or boiled chicken breast in sight and proves that you don’t have to gorge on meat to look like a fox. If abs are made in the kitchen, Eat Yourself Fit is the perfect guide to enjoying the process. Miss Universe may consider adding the title of Domestic Goddess to her CV.
To order your copy of Eat Yourself Fit click here.
REVIEW BY DARINA COFFEY
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that (and greed) as the ultimate motivators, I quickly realised that home-baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, which fuelled my desire to set my focus on food in a serious way. Working with The Taste allows me to satiate this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me as I share my food adventures and hopefully inspire others to indulge their passion for cooking and food in the process!Darina Coffey Darina Coffey