Finally a recipe book where healthy food tastes as good as it looks. Where have you been all our lives, Hemsley + Hemsley?
Photo: Nicholas Hooper
They make pizza bases out of cauliflower, pasta from courgettes and put avocado in their desserts but sisters Melissa and Jasmine, AKA Hemsley + Hemsley, are all about food that tastes good, not fads. Hallelujah.
There’s no shaming you into a trip to the health food shop armed with a list of ingredients you’ve never heard of, nor will you be confined to a life of eating celery sticks. Oh no.
It’s not hard to see why their book, The Art of Eating Well, has not slipped out of Amazon’s top 10 cookbooks since it was released in June last year.
We caught up with the girls to talk all things food, fats and what to do with that spiralizer.
Your food seems to champion mindful eating rather than fad diets, would you agree?
Jasmine: “Our recipes are grain-free, gluten-free and refined sugar-free and very low in natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup. We really take it right down and very much promote natural fats, saturated and unsaturated, and animal foods, not in eating meat all the time, but in things like bone broth.
“If your takeaway tastes nasty when it’s cold, it’s probably nasty. Think: 'would you eat that if you savoured it and really thought about it?'”
Melissa: “Or would you eat that if you weren’t drunk?”
Jasmine: “A lot of women think: 'if I eat it really quickly then I didn’t really eat it.' There’s this really bad mindset when it comes to eating. There are so many rules, feelings of guilt and people are jumping from one thing to the next which is why I think diets are so popular. Everyone wants the next set of rules, the next thing to hang on to.”
Melissa: “That’s why people think diets are faddy. I understand when you ask the question 'is this just another diet', and it’s absolutely not. If anything, we’re just talking about food as opposed to a diet. It’s always got to be delicious, we’re totally against food that is holier than thou and has no taste.
“We have three things we think about when we come up with a recipe: the taste, the nourishment and the ease of it. We’re not chefs, that’s why everything is roughly chopped, there's no messing around.”
Jasmine: ”It’s not gourmet food, it’s just how to eat good food and enjoy it every day. We use all these natural fats that make food taste satisfying.”
Do you think people are now programmed to discriminate against fats?
Jasmine: “Some people think that diet foods have to have no fats in them. Coconut oil is such a fantastic transition back into fats.
“Fats have kind of crept in with the attitude of: “Oh you have to eat fatty fish, avocado and nuts.” People are starting to get familiar with fats again but finding it tricky.”
What should we be doing with coconut oil?
Melissa: “Take Brussels sprouts. You wouldn’t want to eat a bowl of sprouts by themselves, you just wouldn’t.
“If you roast them in coconut oil, they’re completely different. They’re moreish, they’ve got texture.”
Jasmine: “You can pop them like Maltesers.”
Melissa: “You can use it in smoothies too. Try adding beetroot to a spinach one, so it’s pink. Colour is a big thing. If someone saw a green smoothie, they’d be less likely to have it than a pink one.”
Is this the kind of food you ate growing up?
Jasmine: “We were brought up to eat our veggies and to enjoy them.”
Melissa: “We always had to try something before dismissing it.”
Jasmine: “Our mum is Filipino and our dad is British. Mum cooked from scratch every day. She was into proper fats and meat on the bone. Understanding food, such as the difference between one loaf of bread and another, came later.”
Melissa: “Mum always cooked and worked full time so she did a lot of batch cooking. No one wants to be in the kitchen all the time and everyone has to eat. She was always looking for ways to pack in the veg. When we got older and went out to eat, we’d think: “why is the veg on the side?” We always think of vegetables as the centrepoint and then work out from there.
“A lot of the recipes are inspired by our childhood, such as After Eights and Bounty bars. We just adapt things and make healthier versions of them.”
Jasmine: ”It was in our 20s that we really started to realise and develop what made us feel good.”
The Art of Eating Well uses ingredients such as beetroot in desserts. What other ways can you incorporate veggies into those naughtier dishes?
Melissa: “We do pea ice lollies, avocado cheesecake …”
Jasmine: “We use cannellini beans in a lot of our desserts. We use them as a sponge, the bulk that the flour would be.
“Mixing avocado with chocolate is a really good way to make sure children are getting something good into them and it’s better than them having a commercial chocolate bar.”
You pioneered the spiralizer revolution – for the spirilizer virgins among us, what can you do with it besides making courgetti?
Jasmine: “Lots. You just need a dense fruit or vegetable.”
Melissa: “There’s squashetti, celeriacetti, cucumber noodles, carrot or beetroot noodles, apple … you can pretty much do anything.
“Anywhere you would use spaghetti or noodles, put these in. A lot of people think you can’t replace pasta and that it won’t fill you up, but vegetables will.”
Jasmine: “It’s great to get more vegetables on your plate and avoid refined food. Getting children involved too is good.”
If we were to make one change to our diets, what should it be?
Melissa: “Cooking oil is a big one and making sure you’re using them in a more thoughtful way, to get the most out of them. For example, don’t cook at high temperatures with olive oil. Make a curry or stew with coconut oil or ghee and then put your olive oil or flaxseed oil over at the end.”
Which three ingredients could you not cook without?
Melissa: “Bone broth, and coconut oil is a biggie, it’s an all-rounder.”
Jasmine: “It’s a great nourishing fat for vegetarians. I’d add salt, lemon, garlic and ginger too.”
If you get ill, what do you eat?
Melissa: “Pep-up tea. It’s ginger, turmeric, lemon, cayenne and hot water. It’s great for cutting down on caffeine too.”
If you could abolish one dish, what would it be?
Jasmine: “Feeding kids pasta with chips on the side at school or sugary cereals.”
Melissa: “Something that has nothing to offer, like deep fried food or bad chicken. Plus food that claims to be healthy too. I see why people get annoyed with healthy food and calling it a fad because there are people saying these things are healthy when they’re not.
“Be mindful of what you’re eating. Good food makes you feel good. Things should have honest labelling on them and people need to know more. Food has become scary and complicated when it should be much more intuitive and pleasurable.”
Where do you like to eat out?
Jasmine: “I like Brawn in east London. Anywhere with real food, nose-to-tail eating and where the prominence is on seasonal veg.”
What’s it like working with your sister?
Melissa: “It’s not just us, Jasmine’s boyfriend works with us and my best friend – it’s incredibly incestuous.
“It’s really good though because I’ve always worked in small companies and I like it. A lot of people used to have family businesses and you can see why, everyone gets involved.”
Melissa: “We’re writing our second book at the moment which should be coming out in January 2016. A lot of people have said that they want to see us cooking more so we’re launching a YouTube channel this month and will be doing more demos. People think cooking has to be really stressful and shouty and use lots of pans – that’s exactly what we’re not."
Hemsley + Hemsley have teamed up with Vita Coco Coconut Oil to share their secret tips, tricks and coconut oil recipes. For more information Tweet: @vccoconutoiluk #swearbyit