Culinary queen Jasmine Hemsley is using ancient teachings to help fine-tune the body and mind. Happiful enjoys a cup of ‘golden milk’ with the holistic guru
In a bustling cafe near London Bridge, Jasmine Hemsley, one half of holistic food and cooking empire Hemsley + Hemsley, is clutching a cup of steaming lemongrass tea. Jasmine, make-up free and radiant, is the ultimate advert for going caffeine-free. She turned her back on coffee 12 years ago while working as a commercial model after questioning the effect that umpteen cups daily was having on her health.
“By 4pm I used to feel a bit green and I’d crash,” says Jasmine, 37. “I had to have a word with myself and think ‘as cool and delicious as it is, coffee doesn’t make me feel very good’.”
Instead, Jasmine began blending home-made green smoothies, made from greens, apple, lime and ginger, which her colleagues labelled “Jas Juice” before they slowly started following her example.
“They became interested, started coming in with their own juices and stopped the coffees because they had so much more energy,” recalls Jasmine, who subsequently educated herself about different food philosophies and launched a bespoke health food delivery service designed to encourage her clients to eat well and live more energised lives.
By 2010, with her sister Melissa, 32, on board, H+H was born. Within two years they were writing a recipe blog for Vogue. Two bestselling cookbooks followed, The Art of Eating Well and Good + Simple. They opened a cafe in Selfridges and later starred in their own Channel 4 TV show, Eating Well with Hemsley + Hemsley.
Now the duo, who boast more than 300,000 Instagram followers, are temporarily flying solo.
Melissa’s Eat Happy cookbook is out this month, while wellness guru Jasmine recently released East By West, an Ayurvedic-inspired cookbook named after her Mayfair pop-up cafe and centred on 5,000-year-old theories that promote a 360-degree approach to wellness.
A mind, body and soul one stop shop, if you will.
“5,000 years can’t be wrong,” says Jasmine, who came up with the book idea on a detox retreat in India last year. As well as meditation, yoga and sleep, she says food is one “access point” to daily wellness.
“By eating a meal with friends and family or even by yourself in a really calm environment where you are connected, it looks after you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” she explains, adding that before her dad, Jack, a former Army officer, passed away, aged 72, in 2014, food played a pivotal role in helping the family cope with their emotions.
“During that time, with all the doctors looking after him, the one thing we could do was make dad a nice meal,” says Jasmine. “It was the one thing that dad had left. He wanted to emotionally think about where he’d travelled in the world. It was nostalgia.”
For the Ayurveda beginner, Jasmine suggests these three practices to kick-start mind, body and soul healing:
“Scientific experiments have proved that if you’re not consciously connected to your food, you eat one and a half times or twice the amount. Slow down when eating and remove distractions like the TV. One of the biggest problems in modern day society is we’re multi-tasking and not tasting. We expect our food to shout at us instead of us tuning into it. The next time you have lunch, say: ‘I’m really grateful for my lunch.’ Take a breath and eat instead of typing away on your computer while you eat. As soon as you take 25 minutes to eat your food, you will find a level of fullness, which is satisfaction, and won’t feel inclined to eat anything else.”
“You take to bed a big heavy meal eaten late in the evening, which creates what I call a ‘food hangover’ the following morning. The moment I brought my evening meal forward an hour earlier and ate a bit lighter, my sleep improved tenfold.”
“Unless you’re pregnant or doing some extreme sport and need to fuel your body all the time, snacking constantly is like filling a kettle with cold water.
It never comes to boil; it never gets to work efficiently. We’re surrounded by available food and we tend to use it emotionally. Don’t snack all the time. Instead, leave a good three hours between each meal to give your digestion a rest.”
While Jasmine says that emotions can be affected by “what you eat, how you eat and when you eat,” she cautiously refuses to list foods with any such benefits.
“For me, it’s [about being] less prescriptive because that goes into the whole superfood realm and becomes very distorted. I’m not about saying ‘a certain food will lift you’ because it’s about everything,” she says. “For me, it’s about home cooking.”
One of the biggest problems in society is that we’re multi-tasking and not tasting. We expect our food to shout at us, instead of us tuning into it
The Hemsleys’ “back to basics” style of cooking centres on the philosophy that a healthy gut and good digestion helps lead to a healthy body and their recipes include things like bone broth and natural fats, fish, meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Gluten, grains or refined sugar are, however, off the menu, which has attracted criticism. Last year, former Great British Bake Off star Ruby Tandoh accused H+H of “wellness evangelism” and the sisters have come under fire for apparently promoting clean eating, which has been linked to orthorexia, an obsession with healthy food. It’s an association they both deny.
But what are her views on wellness bloggers – many of whom, like her,
Jasmine insists we should be “conscious” of the influence they could have on youngsters but, overall, she is thrilled with the effect that Britain’s wellness boom is having on consumer choice.
“We’re changing what the supermarkets stock and what cafes sell us, we’re creating a demand. All in all, it’s a really positive change,” she says.
Asked to predict the direction of wellness in 2018 and Jasmine returns to the Ayurvedic practise of tuning into your body to know what it requires.
“It’s about understanding your individual needs, that change from moment to moment. When you go through the book and see the recipes you can tweak them. Do I need heating up? Then I’ll put more ginger in. Am I too stimulated? I won’t put the chilli in. If I’ve come in and feel really frazzled, I’ll probably want a bit more fat in my food because that’s more grounding,” she explains. “For the first time, it’s understanding yourself as a whole in relation to the world around you.”
‘East by West: Simple Recipes for Ultimate Mind-Body Balance’ is out
now (Bluebird, £25).