The Art of Eating Well | Interview with Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley

7th July 2014
Robbin Mackey
Masthead The Art of Eating Well | Interview with Jasmine and Melissa HemsleyJasmine and Melissa Hemsley © Nick Hopper

Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley want to change the way we eat and cook but without taking away what is good about good food. Their book, The Art of Eating Well has recently come onto the market and is looking to become the food bible, bringing inventive new ways of looking at our love of ‘meat and two veg’. The sisters have a food philosophy, that they have developed over the past decade of which aims to re-train our bodies to lust after what’s good for us, and banish the cravings for what our bodies don’t need.

The book is full of recipes, but it’s also glossary of pantry items and advice on how to use the book that may seem foreign to those just embarking on a new food lifestyle. The duo have tweaked their recipes so that it’s more about getting the best of both worlds and not having to feel over-indulged or deprived. Ultra Vie interviewed the sisters and got their thoughts on the food revolution they are a part of.

With so many health and wellness cookbooks in the market, what is the core of yours, how is it different from the other cookbooks?

Food should be simple and taste delicious and be free from confusion. Our book is not a diet and it isn’t just a regular cookbook, it’s not faddish, it’s more a lifestyle guide embodied in recipes to enjoy for the rest of your life. Eating good food will make you feel your best.

Cucumber Make Spicy Crab Rolls © Nick Hopper 230x300 The Art of Eating Well | Interview with Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley

Cucumber Make Spicy Crab Rolls © Nick Hopper

We approach everything from a very holistic way, focusing in on helping people with their digestion and relationship with food, reconnect with food and be more mindful about how and what we eat. We recognise that everyone is an individual and will have different needs but our approach to cooking and eating will give you the best possible shot at being the best version of yourself.

With that in mind all of our recipes are grain, gluten and refined-sugar free. We champion, pesticide-free foods and champion fats including saturated animal fats from a quality source and keep all our natural sugars to a minimum – your tastebuds will soon adjust! We activate all nuts and seeds including the pseudocereals (quinoa and buckwheat) and pulses such as cannellini beans by soaking and sprouting them for best digestion and culture our own foods like sauerkraut and yoghurt for a more economical way to enjoy/get our probiotics.

And at the heart of much of our cooking is simple homemade nourishing bone broth – a historical superfood. We also propound a lot of cooked and warming foods – essential for those with poor digestion and helpful for anyone living in a cold climate  i.e. us in the UK! We approach this as a lifestyle, that should be non prohibitive – food that is all about provenance and taste, simple honest values.

The book isn’t just a collection of recipes, but has a lot of guidance on produce, cupboard staples, alternative ingredients, etc. What inspired you to include this into the book?

Pablos Cajun Chicken © Nick Hopper 230x300 The Art of Eating Well | Interview with Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley

Pablo's Cajun Chicken © Nick Hopper

The Art of Eating Well is about a lifestyle – a way of eating well for life so as well as over 150 of our favourite recipes, including breakfasts, quick suppers, snacks, condiments and making your own staples like nut milk and coconut yoghurt, we also wanted to share the background for our choices and the ethos in which we believe.

It’s not just about what you eat, it’s about how you eat it so it was important to us to show ‘The Basics’ – how to chew, why to take more time over eating a meal, why we soak and activate nuts and pseudocereals and how to make bone broth – our secret weapon – which is at the heart of our cooking.

With our philosophy simply laid out in the beginning of the book and lots of menu ideas and guides to eating out at the back, we’ve also woven the philosophy into all the recipes which means that  if you want to just dive into cooking, you can – starting with the recipes that excite you the most and pick up the philosophy along the way. But if you are someone who wants more details and knowledge, then you’ll find plenty of good reading or – ‘food for thought!”

What is your advice for a new-comer to this kind of food lifestyle? Such as those who don’t know where to start with ingredients such as carob, ghee or arrowroot?

Most of the recipes use simple ingredients, with as few stages as possible. Wherever there is a more unusual ingredient we have offered an alternative. We would recommend just diving in with some of the more recognizable recipes such as stews, shepherds pie, etc… and as your interest is piqued you can look at trying some delicious new ingredients.

We’d recommend starting with the below – our recipes are all simple with as few stages as possible and there’s lots of alternatives offered in many of the recipes.

What are your favourite recipe’s from the book and why?

Chia Chai Butternut Breakfast Pudding © Nick Hopper 220x300 The Art of Eating Well | Interview with Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley

Chia Chai Butternut Breakfast Pudding © Nick Hopper

There are over 150 recipes of all types – breakfast, snacks, suppers, desserts/ puddings, its almost impossible to choose but a few favourites that are popular with adults and children alike – the Flower Power Pizza (the base is made from cauliflower and ground almonds), BB Brownies (made from black beans which give it an amazing fudgy texture) and Courgetti with Ragu (spaghetti made from courgettes)

We love these because they are reworked favourites – comfort foods that dont leave you feeling heavy but energised and nourished

What are your thoughts of other food lifestyles out there, promoting health and wellness such as raw foodists or lacto-veganism?

We, along with many of these other food lifestyles share a similar message – to take back control of what you put into your body and to make sure that it’s real food! This fantastic championing of real food and awareness of the connection between what we eat and our health has seen a resurgence after a few decades of slowly being caught up in fads and overly processed and highly marketed foods and ideas on what is good for us.

Our philosophy is born of what makes sense to us and works for us, our friends families and clients. Everybody is different and everyone has different needs but until we go back to the basics of real food it’s very hard to tune into what makes us feel our best.

Pea and Mint Lollies with Chocolate © Nick Hopper 200x300 The Art of Eating Well | Interview with Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley

Pea and Mint Lollies with Chocolate © Nick Hopper

We draw on all aspects of food cultures and believe that in our often complicated and busy modern lives, going back to basics with whole foods of the best possible provenance and good food preparation, goes a long way to giving us the best possible chance to lead happy and energised lives. We’ve developed an approach that is sustainable, obtainable and appropriate to the lives we lead. We encourage our clients to become mindful eaters and when you are really tuned in to your body and how certain foods effect it you can make more informed choices about the best way to eat for you. We encourage a way to eat for life not just to get in shape for the beach!

What is your advice on how best to approach your book to get the most out of not only the recipes, but also the philosophy?

Start off with the recipes we’ve suggested – once you make them, you’ll be hooked. Everytime you shop for ingredients replace old cupboard essentials with new and improved ones e.g – swop vegetable oils for ghee or coconut oil when cooking and stock up on some good cupboard essentials like red lentils, buckwheat noodles and miso. Do some research online and find good suppliers of meat and veg and get some good deals. The more you cook, understand you food and ultimately nourish yourself on a deeper level, you’ll feel the difference and feel inspired to try more.

Even if you consider yourself a terrible cook and the dish doesn’t look quite as beautiful as you hoped, don’t worry, you are not just eating with your eyes here – just in knowing how wonderful the ingredients are, the choices you made and your intention to eat well you’ll enjoy every mouthful.

Some people like the challenge of a fresh start and do well to throw everything away and start anew but a gradual approach is more gentle and of course more practical.  Remember small changes make all the difference and become part of the overall picture – it will all become second nature in time!

The Art of Eating Well by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley is now available, £25 hardback