Meet Lily Simpson, The Founder Of The Detox Kitchen

Lily Simpson started her business with the simple and humble idea of making healthy food “really delicious”. Now the owner of three London The Detox Kitchen delis, a food delivery plan loved by Gwyneth Paltrow amongst others and the author of two cookbooks, it’s safe to say she more than made a success of it. To celebrate the launch of her new book ‘Detox Kitchen: Vegetables’ we caught up with her to try her delicious recipes and talk all things balance.

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Describe yourself in 3 words?

Creative, resilient, driven.

What inspired you to start The Detox Kitchen?

I wanted to create food that made people feel good. I had spent too much of my early twenties running myself into the ground and not really understanding the impact that diet had on the way I looked and felt. There is not enough real food being created for consumers and I wanted to create food that people would trust and absolutely love eating.

Why a vegetarian cookbook?

Because vegetables need to be celebrated more. A butternut squash or aubergine can be as much of a star of the show as a piece of meat or fish, we just need to treat them in the same way. Add lots of delicious herbs and spices and bring out their brilliance. I became a vegetarian about 18 months ago, mainly for ethical reasons, and I can honestly say I don't miss meat or fish and it’s because I make sure everything I eat is super tasty and enjoyable.

What’s your favourite recipe from the book?

The cauliflower steak with salsa verde is great, and really simple, it’s a perfect summer dish and is even more delicious if you cook it on a bbq! The Pak choi and tofu is really flavourful and moorish. The rhubarb granita and banana ice cream is fun to make and super tasty.

Can you describe your normal day on a plate?

Breakfast is usually toast with marmite, a boiled egg or avocado. Lunch is always a big plate of Detox Kitchen salads and dinner tends to be loads of veg with some grains or pulses, I’m obsessed with black rice at the moment. I tend to always make a really chunky dressing if I’m having a salad with loads of toasted nuts and seeds and fresh herbs, it makes anything taste delicious!

5 staple ingredients in your pantry?

Oat milk, eggs, avocados, sunflower seeds and a jar of artichokes.

How do you unwind after a long day at work?

Once my children are asleep I have a bath every night which is my 30 minutes of peace! I also read a lot, most nights I’ll either read of novel or newspaper.

What’s your favourite way to stay active?

I walk everywhere. I sometimes walk from Maida Vale to Battersea, where our kitchens are. I’m trying to get back into doing yoga regularly, but since having kids it’s hard to find the time!

How do you find a work/life balance?

Not sure there is a thing. I basically have a few 'non- negotiables' which help to keep the really important things happening in my life. I am always at home in the morning and we all have breakfast together and I get home for dinner at 5.30 with the kids. Weekends are sacred - I tend to switch off my phone entirely and always leave it at home if I am seeing friends or family.

Any guilty pleasures?

Of course. I’m partial to a white wine spritzer and I love a Kit Kat now and again!

Your one tip for someone to live a healthier lifestyle?

Do things that actually make you feel good. Eat food that makes you feel great and spend time with people that make you happy.

Exclusive recipes from The Detox Kitchen Vegetables

Cauliflower Tortillas

These tortillas are great if you are feeding some hungry people. With five different toppings to mix and match, they are a fun dish to share. You can prepare the pickled onions, black beans and ranch dressing well in advance, so all you need to do at the last minute is fry the battered cauliflower and make the avocado salsa. Warm the tortillas through and you are good to go!

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Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 eggs
150g gluten-free flour
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
12 small corn tortillas
Fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish
Lime wedges to serve

For the pickled onions
½ red onion, finely sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp honey

For the ranch dressing
150ml soya yoghurt
A handful of fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried tarragon
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder

For the black beans
Rapeseed oil for frying
1 spring onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
400g tinned black beans, drained and rinsed

For the avocado salsa
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 spring onion, sliced
1 large tomato, diced
A small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 gherkin, finely chopped
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Method

Prepare the pickled onions by placing the onion in a bowl with the lemon juice, honey and ½ teaspoon salt and leaving to soak.

In another bowl, mix together the ingredients for the ranch dressing. Set aside for about 20 minutes.

For the black beans, heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the spring onion and garlic until the garlic is golden. Add the red pepper and black beans and cook on a low heat, stirring frequently, until the beans begin to break down. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Combine all the ingredients for the avocado salsa in a bowl and set aside.

Whisk the eggs and flour together to make a thick batter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cauliflower florets to the batter, turning them to make sure each is completely coated. Place a good glug of oil in a frying pan set over a medium heat. When the oil is very hot, add the battered cauliflower and fry until golden all over (do this in batches). Drain on kitchen paper.

Cook the tortillas in a dry frying pan to slightly brown on both sides and soften.

To assemble, smear the black bean mixture over the tortillas. Add the cauliflower and the avocado salsa and drizzle over the ranch dressing. Top with pickled onions and coriander. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

Mushroom Curry

Mushrooms add a hearty texture to a dish, which you need in a curry. They also have a subtle flavour that lets other flavourings do the talking. Here it is coconut, tomatoes, and fragrant cardamom and cloves that give this curry its distinctive fresh, floral taste.

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Ingredients

Rapeseed oil for frying
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp grated fresh root ginger
250g chestnut mushrooms, larger ones cut in half
1 tbsp curry powder
4 cardamom pods
2 cloves
4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
200ml coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
250g brown rice
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Method

Heat a little oil in a sauté pan or saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onion, garlic and ginger until the onion has softened.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms until slightly browned. Stir the mushrooms into the onion mixture along with the curry powder, cardamom pods and cloves. Cook gently for 1 minute.

Add the chopped tomatoes and red pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and lime juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for a further 5 minutes to heat through.

While the curry is cooking, put the rice in a pan with a pinch of salt and cover with three times the amount of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20–25 minutes until the rice is tender and fluffy. Drain.

Remove the cloves and cardamom from the curry. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving with the brown rice.

Treat yourself to Detox Kitchen Vegetables by Lily Simpson (Bloomsbury, £26). Photography © Issy Croker