Inspiration: Alex, 26 Grains

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I’m so glad that you all enjoyed my first inspiration interview last month with Green Kitchen Stories so much. I’m really excited to continue this section of the blog by introducing another one of my inspirations – the beautiful Alex, from 26 grains. Alex started her own business, 26 grains, this year and I’ve found it incredible watching her flourish. I’m continuously inspired by people who are brave enough to start their own companies, especially when they start something that promotes health and happiness, so I hope you’ll find this interview as inspiring as I do. Alex is incredibly talented and makes the most wonderful food, especially porridge. It’s totally different to your average porridge – it’s tasty, healthy, artisanal porridge that comes in delicious flavour combinations: raspberry, pistachio and elderflower; blackberry, rosemary, almond butter with roasted seeds; and orange, raisin, pistachio, cardamon and maple. It’s amazing! 26 grains is currently popping up in different locations all around London, so have a look at all their social media to see where they’ll be next.

Name: Alex Hely-Hutchinson, 26 Grains

Where do you live? London

What sparked your interest in health and wellness?

A number of things really. I found that the more natural ingredients I chose to cook with, the better the food tasted and the better I felt, a win win really.

Spending a year in Copenhagen also really sparked my interest in food. Even in the simplest of cafes, the bread was fresh, often rye, the menus were interesting, using delicious simple foods and really embracing foods for what they were rather than trying to give them a long shelf life, or over sweetening/salting them. They use lots of herbs and spices, much more then I had experienced here in London, and it was an exciting way to be able to eat delicious, good food.

How did you build your passion for healthy living into a career?

Goodness, I guess just by embracing some of the things I love most and putting in out there. I (like you Ella!) am a huge porridge fan. I once lived off it for a week during exams at University. I had found that in Copenhagen the Scandis really embraced grains and porridge as a base for trying interesting spices and flavour combinations. So I thought, we Brits are porridge lovers, and although we can be set in our ways, it could be fun to put porridge on the map and make it interesting and exciting over here.

Who inspires you?

So many people. I couldn’t possibly choose one. But really, those who I admire most are those who are doing what they love and doing it really well.

Favourite quote?

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind”, C S Lewis. Whether it’s been a good day or a bad one, this just makes me excited to wake up each morning.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

That is tough. I get excited about the little things really. I would say my biggest achievement so far with 26 Grains was the first return customer – porridge made, spoon in, they disappear and then they come back for more – what could be more exciting. I also must say that some of my biggest achievements have been poaching 24 eggs in one go and also recently serving porridge to 200 people after a Sleep Out to raise awareness about homelessness amongst young people. I really believe in educating young people about the importance of wellness and food as a healthy start to life.

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What’s your typical…

Breakfast:

During the week: bowl of porridge, can’t get enough of it.

Weekend: I love some eggs with garlic saffron yogurt and asparagus or possibly some cinnamon buckwheat pancakes. I love breakfast. I’m often up at 5am and so I find myself having breakfast not once, but twice a day.

Lunch:

Smashed avocado with lemon, olive oil and chilli on a fresh slice of sourdough or rye bread, or a good grainy salad, like a pearl barley, beetroot, rocket and hummus salad.

Snack:

Carrots, apples, plums

Dinner:

Some warm roasted vegetables, or a big sweet potato, and a wild salmon fillet with garlic, mint and lemon mash. Or if I’m feeling exotic, a chana masala (spiced indian chickpea curry) with spinach.

What’s your favourite dessert?

Some Orignal Beans dark chocolate. It’s the best. I also love a cinnamon roasted apple and dollop of vanilla coconut yogurt.

What’s the best recipe you’ve ever made?

I think some of the simplest recipes are some of the best. Savoury porridge with truffle oil and parmesan, such a warming delicious winner. Or fresh local ripe tomatoes with big, almost aniseed-y basil leaves and olive oil.

Where do you get the inspiration from to create so many awesome recipes?

Ah, I would be lying if I didn’t say I get so much of my inspiration from reading beautiful blogs such as yours. But I would also say just looking at everyday classics and seeing how it would work as a porridge. For example, I quite wanted to create some Moroccan style recipes so I made a porridge with a rose, strawberry and raw honey cashew cream piped with hazelnuts. I also saw a friend of mine eating a gorgeous looking pistachio and pomegranate cake and I’ve been playing around with that.

What are the ingredients you can’t live without?

Vanilla salt is a really lovely way to bring all the liquid and the oats together to make a really cohesive bowl of porridge. And my go-to simple seasoning – garlic, lemon, olive and a pinch of salt.

Where are your favourite places to eat?

We are so spoilt in London with food! Some of my favourite places have to be the food markets around London. They have such delicious fresh food, which is well thought out and they’re so fun to go to. I would also have to say that I’ve been really blown away by some of the healthy food restaurants but the restaurant that I’ve enjoyed the most recently has to be Mayfields on Wilton Way – clever food and flavour combinations and such a high quality of ingredients.

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What do you do to stay active?

I try and get on my bike as much as I can, but I am so often lugging hobs and pots I don’t get to cycle around too much. I love yoga, it is such a great way to work your body but also just get out of your head and stop thinking for a minute, stop making lists and just concentrate on how you physically feel. I do try and fit in cardio alongside yoga and find that running can be hugely rewarding, often best with a buddy, and I have recently found a real joy in spinning, it’s like a big sweaty party and just gets you moving and out of breath the right way. 

What is your beauty routine?

I must say I’ve very bad with beauty. I just have a shower in the morning, moisturise lots, put on a little make-up and if you’re lucky I’ll manage to fit in curling my hair, but that often doesn’t happen when dashing out to the stall. Other than that I just try to listen to how my skin and hair are feeling, if they’re tired I just give it a little break from using make-up and too much heat on my hair and have a good rest day.

Do you have any favourite natural skin care products or awesome beauty recipes?

Not really, other than when I’m feeling super dry I end up a bit like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and his obsession with putting Windex on everything, and go -“I should probably put some coconut oil on that…” Having said that, I do often burn myself on hobs and getting things out of the oven and I love the Pai Skincare Organic Rosehip Oil – I just soothes the burns and makes them heal really well.

Where’s your favourite place in the world?

Probably this small village called Eygalières, in the southern Rhone Valley in France. It is so beautiful and sweet and on Saturdays when you order a coffee in the village the local fisherman will bring you a fresh oyster with shallot vinaigrette and tabasco. It feels like a place where I can restart, breathe and conquer anything.

What makes you happy?

Yoga, cooking, cycling on an warm autumn day, being with friends and family, cats, accidental naps on the sofa, polo necks, the changing of the seasons, sun, new pairs of socks…I could go on forever.

Describe your perfect day:

Waking up fairly early, knowing I’m going to see light from sunrise to sunset, a challenging class of yoga, cycle to brunch and finding a spot in the sun somewhere outside, walking through a new part of London, meeting friends in the evening for a catch up, cooking a new dish back home and then a cup of fennel tea before bed.

 Do you have any favourite tips and tricks to stay healthy and happy everyday?

I am always amazed at how many times I start the day in a real mess about how much I have to do, but really everyday I get through it and everything is ok. So just remember to start the day excited for what is to come, be confident you will get through it and remember to take breaks, feed yourself good food and breathe. Then you’ll be able to do anything.

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