Eating Well on the Road With Hemsley + Hemsley
London-based chefs, Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, are on a mission to prove that healthy eating can be delicious too. Nikki Ridgway spoke to the globetrotting sisters about their first cookbook, The Art of Eating Well, reinventing the airplane meal and healthy food on the go
Congratulations on your first book! What was the inspiration behind The Art of Eating Well?
Jasmine: We’ve always loved food and through our busy jobs and traveling constantly, realized the relationship between food and good health. With so many diets and conflicting ideas on clean eating, we wanted to make healthy food that was as delicious as it was good for you. Too often health food is tasteless and uninspiring, but we’re all about taste.
Melissa: We love to make clever use of whole foods to reinvent classics — our fudgy brownies are made from black beans, zucchini ribbons replace spaghetti in our recipes, and we suggest cauliflower or chickpeas in place of flour to make pizza bases.
How has travel influenced your cooking?
M: We grew up with a Filipino mother and an Army father, living in barracks in the UK and Germany. Our family rarely ate out at restaurants, but we loved trying new foods from different cultures. We were both lucky to travel a lot with our previous jobs — Jasmine was a model for 15 years and I was a footwear brand manager — but the long hours, late nights and trying to eat on the go were challenges for both of us. We were just constantly craving nourishing, home-cooked food.
J: These days we’re always adding flavors we’ve picked up on the road to our cooking. We often make a big batch of soup for the week, but stir in some miso, lime juice and chili one night and perhaps toasted cumin seeds and fresh coriander the next. It completely transforms the dish.
What are your tricks for eating well on the road?
M: We always start a trip with a big green smoothie in a cool bag — it’s the best way to concentrate your greens in a portable way and keep yourself full on the move. For the flight, remember to chew well to avoid bloating, and drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
J: You have to go with the flow when you’re traveling and that’s why we enourage the “better than” rule. Rather than trying to stay in control of everything, just look for the next best options: eggs and fruit over the pastry basket, a bar of dark chocolate over chocolate cake, hot water and lemon over coffee and eating lightly before bed.
How would you redesign airplane meals?
J: Some airlines have made definite improvements with their in-flight offerings, but most of the time you’re still looking at overly sweet and salty foods, processed snacks and sugary drinks. Our airplane meals would be a version of what we pack now: meat and vegetables on short-haul flights, plus something like sardines and biltong to snack on. There should be sweets, too, like 85% dark chocolate, some dried and fresh fruits, or our Paradise Bars. For a filling and nutritious snack, we’ll make Tahini Bliss Balls and Chickpea Crunchies. The bliss balls provide a dose of fats and protein to keep you full on a long haul flight, and the Chickpea Crunchies are great if you crave chips.
What are your favorite restaurants in London?
M: We love Brunswick House in Vauxhall, Elliots in Borough Market, Rochelle’s Canteen in Shoreditch (it’s hidden from the street in a converted school), and Paradise in Kensal Rise. And we’ve just discovered Sea Containers inside the new Mondrian Hotel on the Southbank, which is incredible. The chef, Seamus Mullen, focuses on all seasonal ingredients, and there are beautiful views across the River Thames.
What’s next for Hemsley + Hemsley?
J: We’ll be travelling across Europe for the translated editions of our book The Art Of Eating Well, as well as Australia, and back to America for the US edition. We’ve almost finished writing our second cookbook, which will be out in 2016. Further down the line, we’d love to create Hemsley + Hemsley wellness hubs for teaching and sharing. We’ve already started with our small urban weekend retreats called The Mind Body Reset, which we host with friends Yasmin Sewell and meditation teacher Gary Gorrow, so that’s the focus and the dream!
Most memorable travel meal?
J: A papaya on a beach in Cape Town. It started a love affair with a fruit that I’d written off.
M: A surprise picnic of beautifully wrapped meat, cheese, figs, olives, tomatoes and a few boiled eggs from the owner of our hotel in Florence.
Best street food destination?
J: Germany! It might sound surprising, but I used to live there and miss the food a lot.
M: Sao Paolo. I had delicious fresh fish cooked to order with lime and chili on the beach.
Best food market in the world?
J: I love the artisanal market outside the Sacre-Coeur in Paris. Eating oysters and drinking local wine on the steps of the church with a view across the rooftops of Paris is the perfect travel experience.
M: Marche d’Aligre in Paris followed by a picnic in the park.
Favorite foodie souvenir?
J: Biltong (South Africa's answer to beef jerky) travels very well.
M: Spices, herbs and locally made plates and bowls, because I like everything to be mismatched.
Favorite hotel in the world?
J: I’ve loved many different hotels around the world, but the standouts are Maroma in the Riviera Maya, Cambodia’s Song Saa and Soho House, Berlin.
M: Definitely Song Saa, a private island in Cambodia
J: A year-long tour of India, including visiting Ananda Spa in the Himalayas, which I’m actually planning for my boyfriend Nick’s 40th in April; Japan, because Mel’s been there and brought back all sorts of weird and wonderful things; and Mongolia to do the Trans-Siberian railway trip that my Dad did and loved so much.
M: Our Mum is from the Philippines, but I’ve only been once so I would love to go back with her one day.
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