Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Hemsley + Hemsley (and me...)

You're probably really over people banging on about things like eating clean, going sugar free, juicing, cold-pressing, spiralizing, etc, etc. But I'm afraid I'm going to add to the seemingly never-ending stream of articles, blogs and TV programmes on healthy eating with this post, sharing my love for the Hemsley and Hemsley girls, or rather their book 'The Art of Eating Well'.
My healthy eating bible
Slightly annoying title aside, this book isn't a pretentious foray into faddish food habits or the latest health obsession. It's written in a helpful, supportive way with a common sense philosophy at its core -  the 'better than' rule - which suggests that striving to eat the best, most nutrient-rich food wherever possible is the way forward. Many of the recipes are re-interpretations of old standards - shepherd's pie, beef ragu, sausage casserole - and the book relies heavily on something that was a mainstay in the cooking habits of our grandmothers: the bone broth, which is integrated into many of the books soups and sauces as a way of getting a good dose of nutrients, as well as keeping your gut in good nick(being mindful of one's gut health is another guiding principle of the book.) If you were given bone broth as a child (or in my case the Italian version - 'Brodo' - a comforting broth swimming with tiny pasta shapes), you'll no doubt remember its amazing capacity to make you feel instantly better when you were run down and poorly.
Can you tell I make this recipe a lot?
Aside from the recipes, the book is actually very interesting to read, shedding light on the science behind the buzzwords. If you've ever been dismissive about the power of that most middle-class of foodstuffs - quinoa - you might change your mind when you find out it's one of nature's most 'complete' plant foods, and a veritable powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And if you've ever tried cooking it only to end up with a bowl of flavourless, unappetising mush, this book explains how to 'do' quinoa properly - turns out it can actually be quite nice when you combine it with the right ingredients. I can personally vouch for the Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Salad with Brazil Nut Pesto, which helped me to finally 'get' quinoa.

If you're thinking a recipe book written by two sisters who also run a bespoke food service, catering to dietary whims of the rich and famous, equals expensive recipes featuring a myriad of weirdly named ingredients you've never heard of, I'm pleased to report that the recipes are - on the whole - pretty accessible (though I've yet to track down dried arame seaweed or furikake so I can have a crack at the Superfood Salad...). While some dishes do call for expensive ingredients - raw honey don't come cheap, unfortunately - I haven't noticed that following a healthier philosophy has had much impact on the weekly food spend. Places like Lidl and Aldi are great for stocking up on your fruit and veg, plus you'll pay much less here for what can be expensive items in the usual supermarkets (think pecans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, for example.) You will need to spend some extra time sourcing some of the less obvious items, however, but even Tesco is waking up to the fact that quite a few people want the odd pseudocereal in their lives. 
Broccoli, Pea & Basil Soup
Having tried to stick to a low-sugar diet in recent years, I have to admit that it can get a little boring sometimes, and while I've turned my tastebuds against processed sweet stuff, I don't think I'll ever completely lose my sweet tooth. However, I don't want to fall off the wagon, which is where the pudding and sweet treat recipes in this book have been most helpful. Who knew mousse made from raw cacao and avocado could be so nice (and so quick to whip up) and that amaranth makes a delicious alternative to rice pudding, satisfying a sweet tooth thanks to the use of maple syrup as a sweetener. Even my kids ate the no sugar, no flour banana bread for breakfast - a much better alternative to the standard toast 'n' jam or bowl of cereal. 

So, yes, buy the book. Everything I've made from it has been a success, and I'm using it more than any of the other books on my shelf at the moment. I feel pretty good on it and am finally getting my blood sugar issues under control, helping me feel a tad more energised, a little less stressy and generally more healthy.

Here are the recipes I've made so far and which I recommend trying:

Healthy chocolate mousse

Broccoli, Pea & Basil Soup

Feel justifiably virtuous whipping up a batch of this easy to prepare soup, packed with green goodness and boasting a deliciously tangy basil and lemon flavour. 

Beef Ragu & Courgetti

I nearly choked on my courgetti in amazement at the fact that my kids were happily slurping up their pasta sauce from actual COURGETTES. This ragu recipe is the best I've tried and you don't need to spend out on a spiralizer - I use a julienne peeler to get the same effect. 

Papaya, Halloumi & Watercress Salad

Papaya's never really done it for me, but it's packed with antioxidants and helps to cleanse your digestive tract. Combined with halloumi (one of my favourite cheeses) and peppery watercress, it's so much more palatable.

Hot Buckwheat Noodle Salad

They call it a "15-minute please everyone meal" - and it is. Delicious.

Banana Bread & Instant Chia & Blueberry Jam

Malaysian Lentil & Squash Curry

Not keen on lentils? Me neither, but this dish is so full of creamy flavour you'll forget that lentils have never excited you eating this yummy curry. 

Sausage & Cider Stew

Think swede, think bad memories of school dinners, but this recipe will make you realise that the humble vegetable is perhaps a little misunderstood. This stew combines swede with sausages, cider, leek and carrot to create an absolutely awesome winter dish. Highly recommended!

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Get a sweet hit without the sugar - this mousse takes moments to make and is full of antioxidant goodness.

Banana Bread

Ground almonds make a great alternative to flour, it turns out, and in this recipe they bulk up a mix of banana, flaxseed, maple syrup and cinnamon to make a filling, tasty bread perfect for breakfast or elevenses. Tastes great slathered with the book's recipe for instant blueberry chia jam.

You can buy 'Hemsley Hemsley: The Art of Eating Well' from all good bookstores and online at The Book Depository. A selection of recipes is also available on the Hemsley Hemsley website.

And if you're trying to cut down on sugar, you can read a post about my experiences here.


  1. This book sounds really good! The Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Salad with Brazil Nut Pesto sounds lovely. I'll have to give that a go. Thank you for linking up with #ThriftyThursday

  2. Yes, that's a great recipe! I really recommend the book - I was really surprised by how accessible it is for 'normal' people like me! It's really changed my eating habits.


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