June 25th 2020
Jasmine Hemsley: how Ayurveda keeps me on track when life knocks me back
October 30th 2017 / 0 comment
She's been a follower of the Indian wellbeing system for more than a decade and her first solo cookbook East by West, out this week, will share her personal journey. She gives us an exclusive preview and takes our quickfire quiz
I’m really excited to get the chance to spread the word on Ayurveda and this Thursday sees the publication of my Ayurvedic-inspired cookbook East by West. It’s been one of the major catalysts for my journey into health and wellbeing and is increasingly important in our fast-paced world, as our focus on what it means to be healthy shifts to understand the importance of a 360 view of mind, body and spirit.
I’ve been looking at Ayurveda for the last ten years. When I was researching the best way to look after myself during my modelling career it kept coming up. At first, it looked too complicated and foreign, but several things made complete sense: getting in line with the circadian rhythm of the earth, sleeping before 10pm, cooked food for easier digestion, lunch being the biggest meal of the day. Also being mindful in your actions, from limiting distractions when you’re eating to really being present to the taste of your food. I’ve been incorporating it more and more into my life, including in my health and beauty routines - learning more about myself according to my dosha type (Ayurvedic body type) and making adjustments accordingly.
Last year, I opened a pop-up cafe in Mayfair East By West and threw open the doors to passers-by for them to get a taste of Ayurveda. Our offering was very simple; two choices at lunchtime of freshly cooked, high quality, seasonal food, either a soup or a Pakti Bowl (my newly-coined term for a solid cooked meal - Pakti means cooked, digested, dignified in Sanskrit). It was a runaway success and spread the message that even if you might not know your dosha type, or even what on earth a dosha is, everyone can enjoy the freshly cooked, good food and exciting flavours and its overriding simplicity.
East by West, the cookbook, out this week, is for the novice and enthusiast alike. It will follow on from the cafe’s ethos, with delicious recipes peppered with tips and tricks (and lots of black pepper!) to gear towards your dosha type. There will be classic Indian dosas (fermented lentil crepes) for breakfast - delicious with mint and coconut chutney - and the same batter makes uttapums, little scotch-style masala pancakes. I’ve given it a twist for a sweeter breakfast with raisins, cashews and cinnamon. There will be Chicken Soup for the Soul; this kind of comfort food is always a winner especially when it’s got chickpea flour dumplings bobbing around in it. Then there are my teff waffles with ghee, turmeric and jaggery or hazelnut.
For me, the most exciting recipe is the simplest of all; it's for ‘Golden Spoons’. This was the cult recipe at my pop-up café. It’s a gorgeous bright yellow sweet turmeric paste that you can spoon out and lick like a lollipop as a pick-me-up, or stir into your hot drink or porridge. Everyone loved it, including the slightly scared businessmen who ordered it!
The principles of Ayurveda have really helped fine-tune my relationship with my body, mind and spirit
Seven years ago, I sought out Vedic (ancient Indian) meditation with teacher Gary Gorrow in Sydney. My passion for Ayurveda has grown as it continues to wow me. What’s even more fascinating is how 5000-year-old theories from the East are increasingly backed by modern science. This is the kind of knowledge I want more of in my life! The principles of Ayurveda have really helped fine-tune my relationship with my body, mind and spirit and allowed me to live a life that is in balance - giving me tools to adjust the balance when life’s obstacles knock you off track. Ayurvedic philosophy allows you to see these obstacles as lessons. Life is about experience and learning and should always be approached playfully.
Many Ayurveda enthusiasts have found themselves initially hemmed in by only choosing ingredients that suit their body type. However, the system is far more elegant and sophisticated than that. In Ayurveda, there are no rules, only guidelines and I believe it’s a system of healing that you can apply to your everyday life, no matter what your needs are. It teaches us to tune into ourselves and our needs - after all, everyone is different and we’re all influenced by our own environment. In the end, only we can truly know ourselves best.
A lot of the books and information out there on Ayurveda are geared towards meditators, yogis and those who have suffered as a result of their health and are looking for another way. Ayurveda hasn’t yet gone mainstream in the West which is a shame as it’s a system for health promotion and disease prevention, as well as the treatment of disease, so while yoga has become everyday and turmeric lattes (or ‘golden milk’) have hit the cafes, I want to share the roots of these seemingly new trends.
This is my first solo cookbook and it’s different but somehow the same as working in a duo as Hemsley+Hemsley. I’m in my same flat, creating the recipes in the same kitchen, with my boyfriend, photographer Nick Hopper as well as my best friend, organic makeup artist and nutritional therapist, Sjaniel Turrell wandering in to taste test and giving me oh-so-honest feedback. Nick is a director for Hemsley+Hemsley, and Sjaniel has been working with us for years; she was even living with me when the last books were being created. It’s a real team effort. Nick will be shooting the cookbook in the same studio, a stone's throw from the house, with mostly my own cookware and props.
The only differences are that I have a fresh new publishing team at Bluebird and this time I’ll be sharing a more personal journey, distilling a 5000-year-old healing system so as many people as possible can benefit from this knowledge as much as I have.
"I got my big break by having a big mouth." Jasmine takes the GTG quickfire quiz
In three words, I’m… vata, pitta and (a touch) kapha! You’ll have to read my book to find out what that means!
My last health check was… with an Ayurvedic doctor in February, I haven’t been to my GP in at least seven years I think. I’m definitely not a hypochondriac but I make it my duty (and job!) to be aware and tuned into my body and the latest medical science.
The workout that works is… yoga. I do the 12 classic yoga postures every morning, that’s 15 minutes that I can’t talk myself out of! It compensates for sitting at laptops and powering around a busy city all day. It also requires undivided attention so it’s a brain trainer and helps to calm your nervous system.
The product I tell everyone about is… a tongue scraper. Seriously I’d rather lose my toothbrush!
I sleep… with my other half Nick, three dogs and most important of all, an eye mask! It’s a king size bed and it was feeling a tad too small until we got a new Leesa mattress which meant we no longer roll into the middle in one heap!
My secret to staying sane is... meditation. I’ve been a Vedic meditator for seven years but I’m game for every new technique, whether it’s breathing, singing, sound baths or hiking - anything to get a break from technology and still the mind. That’s when my creativity really flourishes and I can thrive in the city environment.
I got my big break by... having a big mouth! I’ve been interested in health and wellness for 15 years, ever since becoming a model and I can’t help but talk about it. Everyone I worked with went from ribbing me to asking for advice and soon I was giving cooking lessons, restocking their kitchen cupboards and taking on clients.
My best budget beauty buy is... cold pressed sesame oil, excellent for my vata body type/dosha as a body moisturiser and also to do oil pulling.
My biggest health/beauty spend is… food. Real food has a price and feeds your health and beauty from the inside out. It’s also chance to vote with your money about what we should be eating, and supporting the farmers and producers creating good food for us to eat.
The toughest thing I have to cope with is... balancing work and life. We are all brought up to fill every second of every day, to achieve and to feel guilty if we don’t. It’s a constant struggle to remind ourselves that riches should be measured not in a bank account but in friendship, experiences, family and having a healthy mind and body. The more you chase things so often the less you get.
I’m surprisingly good at... DIY, painting and decorating. I studied furniture and product design at uni. I was a scenic artist for a few years and renovated a few flats before I began modelling full-time.
What I do before breakfast… I tongue scrape, oil pull, drink a mug of hot water while I get the dogs locked and loaded and head out for a walk in the park with my other half. For breakfast, I’ll have anything from eggs to poached apples, or maybe an amaranth porridge or kitchari, by around 8am.
The new find I’m excited about is…. my alchemy crystal sound bowls. I bought them with my friend Toni earlier this year after a pub lunch when we both discussed needing more of the feminine in our lives. We both have our own businesses and felt we needed some more balance. We met on a sound course learning tuning forks and both loved sound baths so we said let’s do more of this and created www.soundsebastien.com sound bath workshops.
Complete this sentence, money is… nice to have so long as it doesn't have me!
If I could be anywhere on earth right now… I’d time travel to the sea with my nearest and dearest for lunch and a walk on the beach with the dogs.
If you came by for lunch I’d make… I’d make you eat whatever is on the kitchen table - a medley of recipe testing galore! Otherwise how about some dosas fresh off the griddle with some sambhar curry, green chutney and a turmeric honey lassi - basically my new favourite meal of the moment.
I always say yes to… a reason to travel. I love to explore and it really makes me appreciate home and the amazing world we live in.
I always say no to… there are very few things that I don’t like, if any, but I realised recently that meringues and meringue related dishes are not my thing. And don’t ask me to read anything in the car, it makes me so queasy!
If I gave myself a performance review… I’d say that "Jasmine, she’s a daydreamer (says Dad), a jack of all trades (says Mum) and she can’t stack a dishwasher to save her life (says Nick) but when she gets her teeth into something she runs with it, is loads of fun and is a little bit in love with everyone and everything."
East by West, by Jasmine Hemsley, published by Bluebird, £25, comes out on 2nd November and is available here.
Instagram images: @jasminehemsley