5 minutes with Hemsley + Hemsley
If you haven't heard of Hemsley & Hemsley – where have you been? Sisters Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley are rocking the health food scene with their low sugar, gluten-free and grain-free diet. It's no wonder they both look radiant all the time! It might not sound like a barrel of laughs, but recipes like their banana and basil cake, peanut butter shortbread cookies and raisin quinoa flapjacks in our February issue (pictured below) taste amazing and they're (pretty much) guilt free...
We caught up with the sisters on the photoshoot for our February issue of Sainsbury's magazine.
How did you get into healthy eating?
MELISSA: Our mum always cooked with plenty of seasonal vegetables and an appreciation for all styles and flavours of cuisine. Fat was always on the menu - oh and proper butter was a must on Dad's strict instructions, none of this margarine malarky! When we came to cooking for ourselves we realised that there was nowhere you could buy really nourishing, healthy food, and the messages out there around healthy eating were really confusing.
Jasmine worked as a model for over 10 years and during that time developed a way of eating that focused on easy-to-digest, nourishing foods, while avoiding those that can negatively affect your mood and energy levels, or cause any skin or stomach issues.
Do you cook for the rich and famous?
We do, yes, but we also cook for all sorts: busy people that work in an office all day with big families; busy bachelors and people recovering from illnesses or operations...
JASMINE: We work with a lot of people who have been stung in some way by cooking and food so we try to integrate them back into doing it for themselves and find a way of eating that really suits them.
How did you start as a company?
MELISSA: Hemsley and Hemsley began without a name; our clients called us their food fairies.
Jasmine had been helping lots of people understand food better - myself included - and I in turn started helping friends and family. Word spread and before we knew it we were coaching people and cooking for them as private chefs.
Many of our clients had tried lots of food delivery services, recipe books and regimes, but nothing was working for what they wanted whether it was weight, energy levels, how they felt... so we'd go to their houses and cook them all their food for the day from local markets and put it in their fridge with labels on listing all the ingredients and heating instructions.
We did that for about two and a half years, very underground, then we started our food blog which was picked up by vogue.co.uk and they asked us to be their food bloggers.
What do you do with fussy customers?
MELISSA: Well, we came up with some great ways to get people to eat more vegetables that they didn't like; we snuck them in everything! One of our clients said he didn't like cauliflower so we put it in everything: cauliflower mash, cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza and then he loved it.
What's different about the way you cook?
This is healthy food but not as you know it. Instead of the low-calorie, low-fat dogma that's been around lately, we embrace the old-fashioned foods such as bone broth, soups and stews and mix it up with modern inventions like smoothies and vegetables noodles for a fun, delicious and completely satisfying way of eating.
We champion fats including the much misrepresented saturated fats, which makes us quite different to other health foodies, and we are gluten free, grain free and refined sugar free. We use just enough natural sugars like maple syrup or honey to sweeten a dish but we don't go heavy on them as we aim to promote balance in the body and reduce cravings.
What are your favourite ingredients?
A proper cooking fat like coconut oil, which is heat stable. It's not only really tasty, but incredibly moisturising and antimicrobial - we use it on our hair and skin, too.
MELISSA: A proper sea salt or rock salt. People get quite nervous about salt but as well as flavour it has a lot of nutritional benefits.
Of all the 'super foods', our favourites would be broccoli, watercress, proper butter, bone marrow, eggs and chicken livers.
There are ingredients like chia seeds (full of omega 3 with a slightly nutty flavour) and maca (mineral-rich powder that can be added to smoothies etc.) that you can get from health food shops and that have huge benefits but they are hard to come by and a bit more expensive. If you can get hold of them and they encourage to you experiment and cook more at home, then great, but you don't need them to eat more healthily. There are lots of steps you can make to make you feel better. You definitely don't need to change everything.
A few of the Hemsleys' favourite ingredients from The Art of Eating Well:
– a bit more dear than normal flour but you don't need much as it expands to three times its size when mixed with liquid.
Ginger – great for flavour and has great immune-boosting properties. Freshly grated ginger in tea is great for digestion.
Fish sauce – great for salt flavouring; use sparingly.
– it's full of minerals but make sure you buy a pure syrup and not a blend.
Cacao and dark chocolate – full of antioxidants. The higher the cocoa percentage, the less room there is for additives.