Since bursting on to the food scene over the past few years, Hemsley + Hemsley have introduced the nation to likes of courgetti and cauliflower couscous, and shared their love of bone broth and natural fats, as part of their mindful approach to eating nutritious and sustainable food.
When the sisters, Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, came to Cheltenham to host a lunch and supper club, I was keen to sample a flavour of their take on healthy food, with dishes from the pair’s second book, Good + Simple.
The event was part of the Lucky Onion Club’s popular series, which sees chefs host intimate pop-up dinners at its hotels and restaurants across Gloucestershire, offering foodies the chance to enjoy sampling dishes from some of the country’s top chefs on home turf, with past events including Gizzi Erskine at The Tavern and Valentine Warner at The Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach.
The elegant surroundings of No. 38 The Park, an oh-so-stylish boutique hotel opposite Pittville Park, provided the perfect backdrop for the event.
After being cheerfully greeted by Jasmine and her friendly dog, Julie, the evening kicked off with a Hemsley Collins cocktail, made from Ketel One Vodka, which we enjoyed in the outdoor courtyard space before taking our seats on the long tables.
Before tucking into dinner, Jasmine and Melissa introduced themselves to the room of about 50 guests and told us a bit about their background and their culinary philosophy, which favours a wheat-free, plant-rich diet, shuns processed, refined or sugary foods and encourages us to focus on nutrients rather than obsessing over calorie counting.
The pair, who started out their career by cooking and catering for private clients and celebrities, has gone on to take the health food industry by storm following on from their successful blog, with two cookbooks, a café in Selfridges Oxford Street and a new Channel 4 television series already under their belts.
Jasmine explained the menu choices for the evening, which are favourites from their new book, with the starter of seasonal crudités with multi-seed crackers and two dips, minty broad bean and creamy cashew ranch, offering a colourful and refreshing start to the evening, demonstrating that starters don’t need to be rich to be tasty.
The crackers, which were made from chickpea flour, buckwheat flour and ground flaxseed, were completely moreish, while the rainbow selection of vegetables made me vow to recreate the simple yet effective dish at home.
For the main course we tucked into spiced roast chicken thighs with watercress salad, salsa verde and a giant green salad. The meat was delicious and flavoursome, so it was a shame that there was only one thigh per person, leaving us wanting more, but we did also get to sample the vegetarian courgette and cannellini bean lasagne to curb any lasting hunger pangs.
The girls’ take on carrot cake, topped with honey and yoghurt frosting, proved that it’s possible to enjoy desserts that aren’t laden with sugar yet still tick the box when it comes to post-dinner sweet cravings.
While I happily polished off the carrot cake, it was the chocolate orange bar with clementine – which Jasmine and Melissa demonstrated how to make – that I was telling people about for days after, as it was truly melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
Throughout the enjoyable evening, Jasmine and Melissa milled around, answering culinary questions, posing for selfies and signing copies of their book, with it clear that the sisters are excited to share their love of good and simple food with others.
For more information see No. 38 The Park or call (01242) 822929.
By Anna McKittrick
Thursday 02 June 2016
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