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Living raw

Rosa and Margo Flanagan

Meet the two Kiwi sisters who are working to challenge the way we approach plant-based food, making it a lifestyle choice and not a diet.

Entrepreneurial sisters Rosa and Margo Flanagan are the brains behind Two Raw Sisters, a business created to show the benefits of eating plant-based food. It’s a journey that began when they were living in Los Angeles and suffering from multiple mental and physical health issues. To help this, Rosa and Margo changed their lifestyle to be purely plant-based, choosing to survive on food that is as minimally processed as possible. Since returning to Christchurch they hold in-demand cooking workshops across the country to educate people about the huge benefits of consuming plant-based food. Now working full time on Two Raw Sisters, they are releasing their very first cookbook, aptly named, Two Raw Sisters. We caught up with the duo to ask them about their exciting new venture. 

Mental and gut health is a big topic right now. How has going plant-based helped you both?
We believe gut health is the future of medicine and we are so stoked both mental and gut health is being talked about. Focusing on our guts literally helped transform our lives. It all began when Rosa had parasites in her gut and was battling with a training obsession – over training and under eating. And, Margo had chronic fatigue (CFS) for three years and all the health professionals told her there was nothing that could be done, other than resting. Our fit and healthy dad also had a stroke and was told he could never drive again.  
When we went to America to study at a raw plant-based culinary school we met this amazing lady who asked us if we had ever focused on our gut health. We looked at her blankly; we have health issues, not gut issues. She said the gut is the stem of every process that goes on within the body, if you have anything wrong with you, start with the gut. To cut a long story short, within three months Rosa’s parasites had disappeared, Margo’s CFS symptoms had significantly improved and Dad had regained 50 per cent of his eyesight and was back driving. 
Our recipes are plant-based, not vegan. By no means do you have to cut out red meat, dairy, fish and poultry. It’s about basing your meal around eating as naturally as possible. We both struggle with our iron levels, so to remain at peak fitness we incorporate red meat once weekly. It’s about quality vs quantity. 

Tell us about your cookbook – how did it come about?
Getting a book deal has always been a dream. So, when we were approached by our publisher, it was a straight-up “hell yes”. A cookbook is the perfect place to store nifty tips and tricks learned in our workshops. Everyone always leaves so inspired to get cooking – now they have 90+ recipes that they can take home with them after the workshop.
We want it to be a kitchen bible; an easy-to-use book that’s filled with easy, quick, delicious and cost-effective ingredients and recipes. A lot of health food recipes take a lot of time to make and use expensive ingredients. We believe we bring a different element to the health food sector, showing just how much you can do with pantry staples.  

The book is called Two Raw Sisters, but the recipes are not strictly raw food. Can you explain why?
By ‘raw’ we mean wholefoods, using as minimally processed foods as possible. 

Often, there are associations between the cost of diets and a high price point. How have you challenged this stigma? 
We’re all about living a balanced, sustainable lifestyle using minimally processed ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, sourdough, dates. So, we never associate ourselves with diets. Natural ingredients are mostly all vegan-, gluten- and dairy-free. It’s when people buy packaged products that there become issues because companies always go for the cheaper option – when they use the actual ingredients it’s going to be more expensive. 
We work to change this stigma by working to teach, educate and inspire people that making your own is so much better and cheaper for you. For example, store-bought granola can retail for $18 – you can make it at home for $5. 

People look for simple and quick midweek meals. Was it a challenge to condense the cooking time and not risk vital nutrients being erased?  
Not at all, if anything it’s easier. We’re huge fans of batch roasting vegetables – kumara, potatoes, pumpkin – or cooking up a grain dish at the start of the week. This one part of the cooking process always takes the longest. Then, you can use the dish throughout the week by making a stir fry, punchy salsa with capers, herbs, apple, currants, apple cider vinegar, tahini with a bit of fish, meat or falafel. We come up with tips and tricks on the daily to cut your time in the kitchen down. 

What are your favourite recipes from the book?
We are both absolute suckers for the banoffee pie – it would have to be our most made recipe in the book. 

What’s it like working together and being sisters?
It’s great! We definitely have a one-of-a-kind special bond. One’s weakness is the other’s strength, so we work very well as a team.

What’s next for you both?
We’re currently in the process of opening the first plant-based culinary school in the Southern Hemisphere, opening 5 October 2019. We also have plans to take Two Raw Sisters online so you can access it anywhere in the world. 

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