Brought up on Rocky Ridge organic farm in Muldersdrift, Gauteng, in a vegetarian home where meals were made from the seasonal produce growing outside, Antonia De Luca has always had a love of good, wholesome food. She spent her younger years helping out in the family restaurant, Casalinga Ristorante Italiano, where her passion for feeding people surfaced, so it was only natural for her to train as a raw-food chef and later open a vegan-friendly restaurant just down the road from the Italian eatery. Based on a holistic philosophy that supports knowing where your food comes from, Leafy Greens Café serves delicious farm-to-table dishes made from organic fruit and vegetables harvested at Rocky Ridge.
The positive response that Leafy Greens Café received was overwhelming, and Antonia soon decided to translate what she does at the cafe into a healthy, plant-based cookbook. ‘From the first day that Leafy Greens opened its doors, my customers have been asking for a recipe book. And now it’s in your hands – your own taste of Leafy Greens,’ she writes in the introduction of Leafy Greens Café – Recipes From Our Organic Garden. And a taste is all that’s needed to open your eyes to the wonderful possibilities and benefits of consuming natural living foods.
At the start of the book, Antonia gives a brief family history and includes testimonials from a few family members – including her grandfather, South African golf legend Gary Player, who is known for his sustainable and active lifestyle. She then goes on to explain the principles behind her food philosophy and gives tips for living a healthy life before presenting colourful, flavourful dishes in eight categories: juices, smoothies, salads, raw-food dishes, cooked dishes, dips and sauces, snacks and desserts. ‘All our dishes are 100% vegan with no animal products whatsoever, just the way nature intended them to be,’ Antonia says. And they’re unusual, too: think Thai green coconut smoothie, seaweed and rocket salad, stinging nettle soup, Moroccan preserved lemons and orange toffee, to name a few.
‘I want people to rediscover the joy of getting back to basics, to eat eat simply again, to grow our own food – or at least know where it comes from. To savour the beauty of each fruit and vegetable, and to bring the authentic flavours of vegetables, fruit and herbs to their fullness and enjoy them for health and longevity,’ says Antonia. Whether you’re a vegan looking for recipe ideas or just someone with an interest in introducing more plant-based dishes into your diet, this is food for the body and the soul.