When it comes to the new wave of young, healthy-eating gurus, no one impresses us more than SL Leading Lady Lily Simpson, founder of The Detox Kitchen.
The chef-turned-entrepreneur has helped transform the eating habits of countless Londoners (and top models) with her gourmet, healthy food delivery service and deli – and has now added to her list of achievements with a new cookbook, The Detox Kitchen Bible, which showcases the best of her signature, bright and flavour-packed dishes.
We caught up with Lily to chat all things wellness and find out a bit more about her eating philosophy and top foodie tips...
Describe the ethos behind The Detox Kitchen Bible?
The Detox Kitchen Bible is effectively a hardback dossier of everything we believe in as a company. It contains 200 recipes of wheat-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free healthy and unadulterated food that is both delicious and good for you.
Where Did The Idea Of The Detox Kitchen come from?
Whilst I was training to become a chartered surveyor I set up my own private catering company, creating food for events. When the business took off I realised I wanted to fully devote my professional time to the food industry, so I left the property world to grow the company. As this became successful, I began looking for a business idea that would allow me to create a scalable company and realised there was a gap in the market for homemade, delicious and healthy food. I set up a website for daily home delivery packages and had launched The Detox Kitchen within two months of coming up with the idea.
Gwyneth Paltrow wrote about you on Goop, which other celebrities have you created diets for?
It was great that Gwyneth wrote about us – she tried our food for five days and loved it. We have worked with many celebrities, many of whom I can’t talk about – they like to keep their diet secrets to themselves and we’re happy to oblige! But we have delivered to Elle Macpherson, Bobbi Brown, Agyness Deyn, Jo Wood, Pixie Geldof, Nicole Appleton, Sophie Dahl and Henry Holland.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
I always start the day with a mug of green tea (or two!). This morning I followed that with a bowl of homemade muesli with a handful of blueberries, a chopped banana and a drizzle of honey. I love to get a good dose of fruit in the morning, and I find oats always keep me going until lunchtime.
What staple ingredients are always in your fridge?
Avocados, limes, aubergines, blueberries, chicken thighs, and broccoli…
If there is one superfood we should include in our diet, what would you recommend?
Wheatgrass! I am obsessed with this stuff. One little shot matches the nutritional content of a kilo of vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. I am such a fan of this superfood that I made it part of our delivery packages.
Favourite dish for a dinner party?
It has got to be my lemon chicken with cauliflower cous-cous (using chicken thighs as well as breasts to add extra flavour). It is such an indulgent, satisfying and flavoursome dish. I always get clean plates all round with this one!
Favourite recipe in the book?
The Banana Bread, without doubt. I never consider myself much of a baker but this is a fool-proof recipe that works every single time. It’s perfect for using up overripe bananas and goes very well with a mug of chamomile tea!
What other chefs/food blogs inspire you?
I am marginally obsessed with Ottolenghi. His food is delicious and so different and I love the foreign influences. I tend to be too busy to keep up with online blogs but I love Tess Ward’s creations – she is such an imaginative chef.
Which kitchen gadget can't you live without?
My blender. I use this at least three times a week. It’s such an indispensable piece of equipment to me. I use it to make pestos, marinades, soups, dips and even for chopping fruit and vegetables.
Is there a snack you always keep in your handbag?
Yes, almonds. I once read that almonds are one the few foods that suppress your appetite so they make the perfect little snack to eat on the go.
Do you have a go to recipe for a dinner party/supper?
Lemon chicken and cauliflower cous-cous (as above). Or, my grilled salmon with ginger always gets a good reception, with the beetroot brownies for pud!
Do you ever cheat? If so what's your vice?
I don’t think it’s a healthy mind-set to think of it as ‘cheating’. I try to live by an 80:20 regime. If I’m sensible 80% of the time, I can eat without thinking for the 20%. Just enjoy food and enjoy being healthy – it’s a way of life, not a discipline.
Eating in or dining out?
I’m a cook by nature so eating in is a delight for me. I make sure I always have my cupboards and fridge stocked with useful ingredients and I enjoy experimenting to try out new dishes on my friends and family. That isn’t to say I don’t like eating out though… I have to admit I often stop by Ottolenghi’s Nopi for lunch. It’s a stone’s throw from our Kingly Street deli and is my favourite eating out spot!
What's your favourite restaurant in London?
To name just one would be difficult! Apart from Nopi, some of my other favourite restaurants in London are The Summer House in Maida Vale, Edera in Notting Hill and Polpo.
Any secret London hangouts?
I’ll always stop by our Kingly Street deli to pick up some food when I’m around the area… It’s not exactly secret but it’s definitely one of my hangouts!
What beauty product couldn't you live without?
I absolutely love the organic skincare range from Pai. It was developed specifically for sensitive skin and allergy sufferers and only uses natural ingredients. When I was pregnant I used the Pomegranate & Pumpkin Seed Stretch Mark Cream, which worked amazingly on my skin! I couldn’t have got through my pregnancy without it. Now I use the Chamomile & Rosehip Calming Day Cream which is a great everyday moisturiser and really gentle on my skin. A dressing table essential!
Describe your ideal day off?
I would start the day with a huge teapot of green tea and a hearty breakfast of poached eggs and smashed avocado with my husband and son, Finley. Then I would have a lengthy outdoor yoga session before meeting up with friends for a lazy lunch and an afternoon walk up Primrose Hill. I’d have the family over for an early supper (probably my lemon chicken) and then reside to the sofa with a mug of peppermint tea and a soppy film!
I have a big weakness for bubbles! My favourite drink has to be a delicious concoction I make by mixing prosecco with elderflower and blueberries. My dinner party go to. If I’m out of blueberries, I’ll always go for a white wine spritzer…
Lunch or supper?
Food is most easily digested when we are active, so in fact it’s best to have your main meal at lunchtime and just a light dish for supper. During the week I always try to stick to having my largest meal at lunch (which tends to be a pretty impressive selection of salads from The Detox Kitchen chefs), but at the weekend it has got to be a roast dinner – chicken with roasted root veg and homemade gravy.
Starter or dessert?
Dessert, definitely. I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about having a sweet tooth. It’s just a matter of having a little bit of what you fancy, and not overdoing it. I’ll always make a batch of my beetroot brownies on a rainy weekend.
Fact or fiction?
A bit of both. I lead a very busy lifestyle so whenever I can I’ll try to get an early night and get lost in a good novel. I always take a gripping thriller on holiday with me! But from time to time I also like to dip into a good autobiography. I find it fascinating to learn from other people’s journeys and life lessons – definitely important for any businesswoman, mother or wife!
Stay-cation or trip abroad?
When my job allows me I’ll try and go abroad. It was family holidays to Italy, India and Morocco as a child that influenced a lot of my cooking and inspired many of The Detox Kitchen meals. I love exploring foreign influences and think it is such an important part of broadening my cooking knowledge and encouraging new ideas.
What's Next For The Detox Kitchen?
We’ve had a lot going on with the launch of our first cookbook The Detox Kitchen Bible, and now we’re very excited about the imminent opening of our new London boutique deli in Fitzrovia. It’s a 2,000 sq ft site, three times the size of our Kingly Street location, and will offer a wider selection of food as well as a secret that I can’t reveal! You’ll have to pop down for the opening.
Finally what was your plan B?
This may sound silly, but to be honest I’ve never really had a plan B. I have just always followed my heart and led with my gut instinct. I have never let my imagination get carried away and have always just taken things step by step. I suppose if things really didn’t work out in the food industry I would have completed my chartered surveyor qualifications and perhaps moved to India!