LONDON (Reuters) - Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley are getting noticed for their style of cooking using wholesome ingredients, but which has diners saying “this doesn’t taste healthy” -- and meaning it as a compliment.
Over the last year, their debut cookbook, “The Art of Eating Well”, has been translated into three languages and shortlisted for an award, while challenging traditional approaches to healthy eating.
This includes embracing “good” fats, like butter and coconut oil, and enjoying sweets without resorting to refined sugar.
The London-based sisters, who run a food consultancy business and write a blog for Vogue magazine, spoke to Reuters about their newfound success and the importance of cooking food that tastes good.
Q: Did you anticipate that the book would do so well?
Melissa: No. We’ve never written a book before. The book came out last year and at that point we’d been Vogue bloggers and had our own blog for two years, so we thought our following on Vogue might buy the book. Our publisher said you’ll have the type of book that someone will buy it and they’ll cook from it, then their friends will ask them about it -- and that’s what happened.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of the art of eating well?
Jasmine: Mel and I, we love food. We were brought up to eat our greens, not waste anything, try everything or you’ll be the first in the world to die, which was our mom’s favorite thing to say! But our experience wasn’t idyllic or romantic.
Q: Why did you write the cookbook?
Melissa: The book pretty much wrote itself in that, a lot of the tips and tricks, we were giving our food clients on a one-on-one basis. Some of our clients would already have a diet plan that never felt good or tasted good. So that’s what they wanted -- and with us, they found it enjoyable. The biggest compliment we would get is “this doesn’t taste healthy” -- and that’s the whole point of our book. It’s a book sharing recipes we love that makes you feel good.
Q: The book offers a lot of unusual recipe ideas such as black-bean brownies or rice made out of cauliflower -- but your favorite ingredient in the book is bone broth. How do people respond to the idea of boiling bones?
Melissa: The kind of people who’d only eat chicken breast and wouldn’t eat anything with a bone in, for sure, they don’t like anything of that side of things. But for me, I’d choose broth over a juice or a smoothie. It’s a really good thing, full of nutrients.
Q: You both have created a new philosophy to healthy eating -- but if you could narrow it down to one tip, what would it be?
Jasmine: Slow down. Chewing slowly all comes down to connecting with the food again. That word mindfulness has been bandied around a lot lately, but there’s a lot in it. Just by eating slowly, food is more satisfying.
Beef Ragu and Courgetti
2 tbsp ghee or butter
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 tsp mixed spice (or try a tiny pinch of nutmeg)
2 tsp dried oregano
400 g minced beef (chuck or braising steak and don’t go for lean meat)
A large glass of red wine, about 250 g
14 large tomatoes, roughly chopped, or 2 tins of chopped tomatoes or 800 g passata
2 tsp tomato purée
200 ml bone broth or water (you won’t need as much if using chopped tomatoes)
2 large carrots, finely grated
1 large handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 large courgettes
sea salt and black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls of grated Parmesan
1. Heat the ghee or butter in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion over a low heat until softened, but not browned (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic, bay leaves, mixed spice, oregano (and any other herbs that you choose) and fry for a further 2 minutes.
2. Increase the heat and add the beef to the pan, using a wooden spatula to break it up as you cook.
3. After 5 minutes, pour in the red wine and stir to deglaze the pan, then add the tomatoes, tomato purée and bone broth or water.
4. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid, leaving the lid just slightly off, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2½ hours until rich and thickened. It is even better after 3–4 hours – keep an eye on it and add more liquid if needed.
5. Add the grated carrots 15 minutes before the end of cooking. Turn up the heat to a medium simmer and season with sea salt, a good grind of pepper and the fresh parsley.
6. Meanwhile, use a spiraliser or julienne peeler to make the courgetti. Or use a regular vegetable peeler to slice the courgettes lengthways into very wide ribbons, which you can then slice in half. You might want to cut the long strands in half to make them easier to eat.
7. Soften the courgetti in a pan with a little butter, stirring over a low heat for 3 minutes. Alternatively, save washing up another pan by just running some of the hot sauce through your spirals -- the heat and salt in the sauce will soften them.
8. Drizzle each bowl of ragu and courgetti with extra virgin olive oil and serve with Parmesan for everyone to help themselves.
Editing by Michael Roddy and Crispian Balmer