In a treacherous world where so many columnists are throwing down their chopsticks to take up pitchforks against anyone who has ever suggested that food can be clean, I thought I’d say a few words about why I really like this book by the oh so photogenic Hemsley gals.
I’m not sure when clean eating became so dirty, as I have a vague understanding of nutrition and food science so I never really fell into the trap of believing that it is packaging or MSG alone that makes us fat or slow or spotty. Unfortunately the Clean Gimmick can be seen as guilt-inducing, and there is enough in this world to feel bad about without hating yourself for going with shop bought dips and a family sized bag of twiglets on a Friday night. But much like the Brexit bus, the Clean Lifestyle was over pitched with under-truths and now everyone who gave up sausages and beer is pissed off because the NHS is still ruined and they probably still could have lost a bit of weight by just cutting back to half-fat crisps and visiting a treadmill three times a week instead.
I’m pretty sure this doesn’t make the Hemsley & Hemsley the Farage of the foodie realm, however.
Yes, ok, so they bang on about wellness and pseudo grains and they won’t let you eat crumpets but the sudden backlash on clean eating seems to have thrown an unfair shadow on some really good cooking. I’m the first to admit that I believe there is space in most lifestyles to accommodate the odd Camembert binge and frequent slices of toast, coeliacs aside, but just because you don’t have to eat exotic and complicated home smashed hummus all the time it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t want to once in a while.
Get past the lifestyle trend that they are trying to sell here and you have a bloody gorgeous book about food and cookery with some very pretty pictures. It is a real browser- lovely to flip through to kill half an hour on a Sunday morning or leave casually on the coffee table when your judgey neighbours who work in marketing are coming over for an almond milk latte.
Yes, there are a lot of faff intensive and lengthy methods and you will learn all kinds of things about soaking that your brain didn’t really have the space for. Yes, you will doubt that you really need black bean brownies in your life when the James Martin ones take half the time and a third of the cost to knock up. You will seriously question what possible difference there could be between vegetable and olive oil. Aren’t olives vegetables?
But in all the irritation and googling of arantha stockists, you will find some cracking recipes. They probably wont all be your bag (if they are, you are lying) but I promise you will find at least two to cook and two dozen to modify into your more day to day repertoire. My go to favourite is an atypically simple braised fennel with garlic, lemon and rosemary which works perfectly as a side, salad or even pizza topping (don’t tell the twins if you do that though!). And of course we must mention the infamous Bone Broth, which yes is just bloody stock but it’s a really good staple stock recipe and any self respecting foodie needs one of these under their belt.
You can eat from every meal from this book, assuming you don’t have a full time job or anything like that, or you can stumble into it once in a while for a funny weekend granola attempt or some sweet treats for the gluten-free warriors in your life. Or you can just sit up in the sunny spot at the end of the sofa with a coffee and have a browse for a little inspiration about some ingredients I guarantee you never heard of before. It’s a lovely book. You don’t have to believe in candida over growth or give up chips to enjoy it.