Black bean brownies and courgetti (aka, zucchini spaghetti) might not be the first foods that spring to mind when you think of hearty British fare but for Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, the sisters behind London-based food consultancy Hemsley + Hemsley, whole, organic, and nutrient-filled ingredients are a way of life. We caught up with the duo to talk mindful eating and the magical benefits of bone broth following the US launch of their first cookbook, The Art of Eating Well. ALEXANDRA RHODES
Tell us how you both became involved in cooking?
We’ve always loved food and recognized early on the relationship between food and good health. The more we really tuned into our bodies, the more we realized the impact the food we ate had on how we felt. Our mum is from the Philippines and our dad is an English Army officer so growing up we were often on the move between the UK and Europe. Mum cooked very intuitively based on availability and seasonality yet everything was made with love and care. We picked that up from her but we were never actively taught or trained to cook.
How was your bespoke food service born?
We’ve been developing and growing the Hemsley way of eating for almost ten years through research, study, and practice. Five years ago, Hemsley + Hemsley was born as a bespoke service aimed at helping people with their digestion and relationship with food. We were cooking for clients, clearing out their cupboards, filling up their fridges and freezers, and showing them how to cook our recipes. Back then we didn’t have a name, our clients called us their ‘food fairies’! Within two weeks of launching our own blog, we were asked to contribute recipes to vogue.co.uk and became the London based editors of sousstyle.com. We then developed our book The Art of Eating Well as a go-to guide for people to use as the foundation of eating and feeling well by championing good food.
How do you perceive the recent healthy food revolution?
More than ever people want to know what is in their food. We recently came across the assertion ‘count chemicals, not calories’ and this mentality is very in tune with our philosophy. We focus on real whole foods prepared properly, free from pesticides, chemicals, added hormones and any other unnatural ingredients; food that delivers on taste and health.
What sorts of things did your mother cook?
Traditional British with an Asian flair. And many of our childhood favorites are included in The Art of Eating Well such as Chicken Tinola, Mum’s Baked Trout, and Chicken Adobo. She didn’t keep sweets in the house so we’ve loved making healthy versions of the foods we coveted as kids: Paradise Bars are our take on the Bounty, we make cookies with ground almonds, the classic British Sticky Toffee pudding with coconut flour and dates, and the most delectable brownies with a secret—well, now, not so secret—ingredient… black beans!
What is the starting point for your recipes?
We are constantly inspired by our travels and requests from our readers and clients. We love the challenge of reworking their favorite recipes to make them healthier and nutrient-dense. By making clever use of whole foods we try to reinvent classics: spaghetti is made from zucchini (courgetti) and lower starch vegetables like cauliflower replace the mash in our shepherd’s pie. Eating well can be easy and enjoyable and we always keep three requirements in mind when writing our recipes: taste first, nourishment, and simplicity.
What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?
Bone broth, coconut oil, and butter! Cook up vegetables in any of these with a sprinkle of sea salt and you have a delicious meal. As well as being super tasty, fat is necessary to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the vegetables as well as making a meal taste complete and satisfying.
What is some of your favorite local produce to seek out?
There is so much! In winter, all types of squash, beetroot, kale, mushrooms, and hardy herbs. In summer, we love courgettes, tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, and as many different types of greens and salad leaves as we can get our hands on. Grass-fed beef and butter, line-caught mackerel, and our favorite eggs come from a biodynamic apple orchard (Brambletye Fruit Farm) in East Sussex. Oh and cherries! The season is short but sweet.
What are your favorite places to eat in London?
We love Elliotts Cafe in Borough Market; they source their produce direct from Borough Market that same day. Also Brunswick House in Vauxhall, Raw Press on Dover Street, Paradise in Kensal Green and Rochelle Canteen, a secret hideaway in East London.
What’s your most frequently used cooking appliance?
Melissa – The grater and blender.
Jasmine – I love a slowcooker.
What 5 things should we always stock our pantry with?
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Raw (unpasteurized) ACV can help promote better digestion, aid with heartburn, help with calcium absorption and alkalize the body. We love it in salad dressings, dips and sauces, and it’s something our Mum always championed growing up.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat, which makes it heat stable; a perfect and tasty fat for stir-frying, baking, and roasting as well as adding to smoothies and sweets. Made up of medium-chain fatty acids, it provides an easily obtainable energy source that doesn’t spike blood sugar levels.
Mung beans are easy to sprout, delicious in salads and stir fries, and the basis of Mung Dahl, a regular supper for us. Soaked mung beans, cooked with medicinal spices, ginger, garlic, onions and soothing bone broth, makes for an incredibly delicious and immune-boosting dish that we stockpile in the freezer. Some days we enjoy them for breakfast, lunch and dinner as a body and taste bud reset, or for any time when we’re feeling a little less than our best!
Regular table salt is highly processed and bleached, and bears little resemblance to natural salts, like rock and sea salt, which are dried in the wind and sun. The enzymes are preserved as well as the trace minerals and elements, which will help make your food taste incredible! Proper salt is the key to tasty food. Our favorite, Himalayan salt, contains the same 84 trace materials and elements found in our bodies. We also use it medicinally for gargling with warm water.
A great pick-me-up for the whole system, this detoxifying and anti-inflammatory bright orange root contains curcumin, known to have extremely potent medicinal properties. Widely available in powdered form, add turmeric spice to soups, stews, juices, smoothies and, of course, your favorite curries and Asian dishes.
What’s next for Hemsley + Hemsley?
We’re thrilled to have launched our book in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand, and we’re looking forward to traveling to these countries to share our philosophy with others and help them make better food and lifestyle decisions. After all, the stomach is the way to the heart.