Top healthy eating chefs Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley demonstrated their approach to food and how to create the perfect Italian-inspired spring feast at a special workshop held at The Island Grocer by Ballymore.
When did your passion for food begin?
Jasmine: Our Mum’s Filipino, Dad’s English and was in the Army, They are both old fashioned, frugal and eat what’s put in front of them, but also love trying new stuff.
Melissa: Our Dad grew up all over the world and had a big love for Georgian food, Russian food, and Polish food. Between them, our parents probably covered the whole world. We weren’t a family of recipe books, but we always had cooking TV shows on like Ready Steady Cook and we loved Naked Chef and Rick Stein.
What was the first thing you cooked?
Jasmine: Mum started going to work and Dad had to look after us on Saturdays and after about three Saturdays of only eating pork pies, I decided to cook. Mum said she came home and a bottle of wine or vinegar was out and I think I cooked fried white rice or maybe it was risotto, with either vinegar or wine and I had grated my knuckles grating the cheese.
What’s your favourite dish?
Jasmine: I love curries and peasant food, especially casseroles and stews. But I would never say no to a seafood platter or a really good rib-eye.
Melissa: Proper roast chicken. I haven’t had one for ages, but I love a proper lemony garlicky roast chicken, with very crispy skin.
What ingredients would you never be without?
Melissa: Lemon juice - and salt, butter and eggs, because if in doubt, make scrambled eggs.
How would you describe your approach to food?
Melissa: Very relaxed, but thoughtful, flexible. The whole point of our recipes is that you can adapt them to yourself and never feel restricted.
Jasmine: We’re really keen on food provenance and championing farm to table, nose to tail and understanding that fats are really good for you and busting those myths.
What’s your signature dish?
Melissa: We’re really known for broth and spiralising but some of our famous dishes are the black bean brownies, avocado lime cheesecake and bagna cauda, which is a creamy anchovy dip.
Jasmine: There’s also Pablo’s chicken, which is our version of Southern friend chicken, the courgette ragu and celeriac setti, which we pronounce however we want because it’s a made up word!
Are friends intimidated by the idea of cooking for you?
Melissa: I don’t think any of my friends are intimidated by me at all. I love being cooked for, I love being told what to eat.
What makes you stressed?
Jasmine: Travelling and having to learn a whole load of new names and faces, or turning up and realising they’ve got orange blossom extract, not orange, it’s not going to taste right.
What do you do to relax?
Jasmine: Yoga, meditation and because we’ve got three dogs, long walks.
Melissa: Yoga, dogs and watching TV. I never used to watch it, but my boyfriend loves watching it and I’m obsessed with this programme called Dinner Dates.
Any guilty pleasures?
Jasmine: My thing is a croissant. I recently went to Padella in Borough Market and had my first pasta in a year, maybe longer. The one I had a year ago didn’t make me think I’d missed anything, but this was delicious.
Does the bad press clean eating has received recently concern you?
Melissa: Clean eating is a term that has been misused and no one has really defined it. We took it to mean without pesticides and so on but some people have taken it to mean an extreme way of eating, with no fats. We like butter and fat, you’re supposed to eat the skin on the chicken, we don’t eat refined sugars, but we like sweet treats.