Bryony and Harry Lancaster remember the night they dreamt up Egg of the Universe, Sydney's only integrated yoga studio and wholefoods cafe.
"We were sitting in our little flat in London, gazing out a window overlooking the park," Bryony says.
"We imagined a place where we could combine our passions of yoga and good food, a place where you could go for a yoga class then enjoy a nourishing meal afterwards, where you felt a genuine community and could practise the art of combining modern science and ancient wisdom in a lighthearted and fun way."
Situated in the Sydney suburb of Rozelle, the Lancasters have run the Egg spaces for 13 years, through many evolutions into what it is now.
At the core is their philosophy of seasonality, for nutrition, movement and stillness. As we enter spring, it's all about drawing inspiration from what we observe and feel happening around us.
"After the sleep of winter ... we can see fresh, tiny, bright green buds on the ends of bare, wintry branches, new leaves budding from trees, an explosion of flowers, the energy of the earth rousing from the slumber of winter," says Harry.
"If we have taken the time to rest during the colder, more inward-focused months, we may feel a new up-welling of energy within us.
"Almost like taking a huge deep breath, spring is the start of a new cycle and of new life. Nature changes around us, bursting forth with vitality, and we can often feel this intrinsically within ourselves."
The Lancasters write that spring is the time to let go of the more internal and sluggish states of winter, both physically and emotionally, making room for fresh growth and inspiration.
"During this season especially it's important to be mindful of what your body craves and desires. This is a time when we naturally tend to eat less, or even fast, and cleanse the body after the heavier and often more fatty foods of winter."
In looking towards Eastern cultures, this season is focused on supporting and clearing the "wood element" and the organs of the liver and gall bladder - they find the best way to do this is to undergo a period of simple eating or cleansing.
"Our approach with food at Egg is to combine the traditional wisdom of the wholefoods philosophy with influence from ancient healing methodologies, while always staying mindful of modern scientific research and understanding.
"Our advice will always be that you need to connect via your senses to that which truly nourishes you, but if you have any specific goals you wish to achieve through the season - be they weight loss or cleansing - seek advice from a health practitioner of your choosing."
What follows is an edited extract.
Foods of the season
Our diet through this season should be among the lightest of the year, including pungent and sweet flavours, which support and reflect the upward energy that surrounds us.
Fresh young vegetables such as carrots and beetroot, along with fresh greens, sprouts and sprouted seeds and grains, provide beautiful yet light nourishment. You can include lots of raw and lightly cooked foods, while limiting heavy, salty and fatty foods.
To support the liver and gall bladder it's best to eat moderately, avoiding late meals. Strong foods and spices, such as members of the onion family, mustard greens, turmeric, horseradish and rosemary, are effective at stimulating the liver, while sweet foods, such as baby carrots, beets and grains, along with natural sugars, can harmonise with the natural yang energy of spring.
Bitter and sour foods, such as apple cider vinegar, lemon and grapefruit, radish, quinoa, dandelion and chamomile, are all excellent for reducing liver excess. Chlorophyll-rich leafy greens are ideal to help with detoxification.
To do in spring:
* Begin your day early with a brisk walk or yang practice.
* Begin new things - at home, in your work, and within yourself.
* Manifest new ideas, move forward, make plans.
* Be assertive, make decisions, be discerning.
* Have vision and hope for the future.
- Egg of the Universe: From the community kitchen cafe and yoga studio, by Bryony and Harry Lancaster. Murdoch Books, $49.99.
Heirloom spring carrots with almond-tahini purée and coconut dukkah
2 bunches organic or baby heirloom carrots, scrubbed (skins left on if young)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 handfuls wild rocket
2 handfuls radicchio leaves, larger leaves torn
2 handfuls snow peas
1 tbsp coconut dukkah (see below)
350g almond meal
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
125ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
1. For almond-tahini puree, combine all ingredients in a blender with 400ml cold water and one teaspoon salt and blitz until smooth. Season to taste. Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
2. Preheat oven to 220C. Spread carrots on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with half a teaspoon salt and roast for five to 10 minutes until carrots take on a little colour but still have some firmness.
3. Meanwhile, wash and trim salad and snow peas. If snow peas are lovely, tender and young, simply slice them into thin batons that can easily be mixed through the salad (otherwise steam them briefly). Dry salad leaves thoroughly and mix with the snow peas.
4. For garlic-maple dressing, whisk all ingredients together until well combined. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
5. Remove carrots from oven and allow to cool a touch.
6. Spread almond-tahini puree on one side of a serving platter to form a bed for carrots, then arrange them on top. Dress salad with garlic-maple dressing, toss well, then transfer onto the platter beside the carrots. Sprinkle dukkah over the top to serve.
2 1/2 tbsp black sesame seeds
2 1/2 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp nigella seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 1/2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1. Toast sesame seeds, tossing, in a dry frying pan for 1-2 minutes until golden. Remove from pan and repeat with spices until fragrant. Blitz to a coarse crumble with a spice grinder or pound with a mortar and pestle.
2. Toast coconut in a dry frying pan for 1-2 minutes until golden, toss with the dukkah and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Dukkah will keep in an airtight container for two weeks.
Makes 1/2 cup.
Beetroot and purple carrot muffins
200g rapadura sugar
160g brown rice flour
1 heaped tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
600g grated purple carrot
280g grated beetroot, scrubbed, then grated with the skin on
180ml olive oil
3 organic eggs
sumac or beetroot powder, to serve
whipped yoghurt or coconut cream, to serve
Golden beetroot icing:
200g golden beetroot, peeled
1 tbsp lemon juice
50g raw sugar
1/2 tsp pectin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1. For golden beetroot icing, cover beetroot with water in a small saucepan, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until soft. Cool, then puree with lemon juice in a blender. Transfer to a saucepan. Whisk together sugar, pectin and spices, then add to beetroot. Bring to a gentle simmer to activate the pectin, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature, then chill.
2. Preheat oven to 170C. Whisk together sugar, rice flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl, then add carrot and beetroot. The sugar in the mix will begin to macerate the vegetables and draw out their juice. Pour the oil over this mix and gently fold it through.
3. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl, then add them to the batter and fold through until thoroughly incorporated. Once combined, transfer batter into lined muffin moulds and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into a muffin comes out clean (or with only the merest hint of purple).
4. Top each muffin with a spoonful of golden beetroot icing, dust with sumac or beetroot powder, and serve with whipped yoghurt or coconut cream.
Raw caramel slice
365g coconut oil, plus extra for greasing
750g raw cashews
500g date paste (or simply deseed and mash medjool dates)
400ml brown rice syrup
100ml coconut milk
150g raw cacao powder
chia seeds, to serve
1. Grease a 26cm x 36cm slice tin and line with baking paper.
2. To make base, melt 65g coconut oil over a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water). Pulse cashews in a food processor until coarsely chopped (be careful, too much and it can become a paste). Place 250g date paste in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and pour 100ml water over the top, stirring to combine. Add melted coconut oil, chopped cashew and a generous pinch of salt, then beat gently to combine. Transfer to slice tin, pressing the layer flat with the back of a spoon. Place tin in freezer for base to set.
3. To make middle layer, melt 150g coconut oil in the heatproof bowl as before. Meanwhile, combine tahini and remaining 250g date paste in stand mixer, then pour in melted coconut oil, mixing to combine. Add one cup brown rice syrup, followed by coconut milk. Mix well. Once base layer has cooled, remove from freezer and spread this middle layer on top, smoothing it with a knife. Return to freezer to firm up.
4. Melt remaining 150g coconut oil in a bowl as before. Meanwhile, whisk raw cacao into 150ml water in a bowl until smooth. Whisk in remaining 150ml brown rice syrup, then melted coconut oil. Remove slice from freezer and spoon this final layer over the top, smoothing with a knife. Sprinkle with chia seeds and return to freezer to set, about one hour.
5. Once fully set, remove from freezer, gently tease whole slab from the tin and cut into squares or triangles.
Makes 30 bite-sized pieces.