Bread Sundays: Madeline Shaw
After our Sunday brunch with Madeleine Shaw, London’s prime health guru, we’ve been turning over one question in our heads – have we got the glow?
The chances are that you’re already familiar with this proverb (usually preceded by a good old #), which Madeleine coined 3 years ago when she launched her website. Her philosophy urges the general public to eat well, move around a bit more, and fill their bodies with things to make it twinkle with radiance. Madeleine first caught the healthy living bug in Sydney, where she moved to study Ancient History at university. After landing a job at an organic café, she went about educating herself in the art of clean eating, and returned to London 3 years later with the intention of bringing this salubrious lifestyle to the Big Smoke.
And that’s exactly what she did. While spirulina and spiralizers might be standard household items now (for some people…), Madeleine entered the wellness world when it was still snubbed by the masses. “People thought it was really weird at first, it just wasn’t seen as very cool!” She tells us, “Food blogs weren’t really a thing a few years ago, they were generally more reserved for fashion and beauty.”
But as the food world became increasingly obsessed with all things healthful, Madeleine’s name became one of the brightest around. The cook and health coach now looks after the svelte bodies of the stars, and her cookbook Get the Glow has been celebrated for its array of delicious, simple recipes.
We headed over to Madeleine’s Wandsworth home, where she whipped up a Sunday brunch favourite of hers – braised beans and baked eggs with sage. It’s a recipe she picked up during her days in Australia, and it fills the house with the rich aroma of simmering tomatoes.
Here’s what we learned about this wellness wizard when we ambushed her this Sunday. Yes, she had just come from the gym. Yes, she was full of pearls of health wisdom. And yes, she did glow.
So is this your favourite brunch dish?
Eggs are definitely my Sunday staple. I actually never ate eggs until I was in Australia. I had this thing where my brother was allergic, so I just assumed I was too. And then I discovered that I definitely wasn’t, and had my first egg aged 21!
How often are you cooking at home?
I definitely cook something every day in here. When I was developing the recipes I was testing about five dishes a day. I’m working on the text side of the book at the moment, so for the last week I’ve been getting up at 6am and pretty much been in my pyjamas all day. So this is a pretty accurate representation of the last couple of weeks!
So what are you working on at the moment?
I’m finishing off my second book at the moment. It’s called ‘Ready, Steady, Glow’, with lots of fast, healthy recipes. We all work really long hours, so we need to have something we can make at home that’s going to nourish us and taste great. It’s inspired by readers and what they’ve been asking for the most. It’s all about ‘fast weeks and slow weekends.’ - how to eat quick in the week, and then make your weekends about slow roasts, soups…the things you’re never going to make on a Tuesday night.
What tips would you give to someone who feels like they never have time to cook in the evenings?
I think a little bit of planning goes a long way when it comes to food. If you have some good, quick recipes on-hand then it’ll make you less likely order a pizza.
Do you think people are less intimidated by very healthy food now?
Healthy living isn’t a farfetched idea anymore. People are definitely more used to it now. Attitudes have started to change in the last couple of years, and I think there’s a lot more to come. People are more interested, and because of that there are so many more options.
Is this healthy eating thing here to stay?
I don’t think it’s just a phase. It’s certainly at its height now. But it’s not a diet per se, so it’s more sustainable. There are obviously trends within the industry – everyone’s always looking for that new magical ingredient that they’ll eat once and will turn them into Giselle. The media can lead us to believe all sorts of things. I try to push for healthy eating with longevity. I want to stay away from these short-term solutions.
So you push for general health, not wright loss?
Exactly. We hear about weight loss way too much. We’ve had enough of it! It doesn’t help anyone and it makes people feel bad about themselves. I try to stay away from that conversation completely. I just want to encourage people to live well and enjoy themselves in the healthiest way possible.
What made you want to live in Sydney?
I went there on my gap year and thought ‘this is the best place in the world, why not spend a few years here?’ So that’s what I did!
Was the lifestyle noticeable healthier there?
Sydney as a city has a really healthy attitude to living. It’s a bit like L.A. The weather’s good, the food is fresh, so it’s easy to pick up a healthy lifestyle there. The sunshine makes you want to be out all the time. Even just walks with friends or swims in the evening. It’s just got a more relaxed, outdoorsy vibe than here.
It’s such a different university culture out there, because all the students work as well as studying. Because you have an income, you live well there.
And is that where you became interested in health?
It’s definitely what sparked it all. I worked at an organic café cooking whilst at uni, and I knew straight away that I wanted that to be my job. I wanted to be around food and nutrition all the time.
So what brought you back to London?
I wanted to come back home, I hadn’t been here for 3 years. I had learnt so much about healthy living in Sydney. I knew that people weren’t talking about it so much in London so was really determined to bring it home. Plus, when you’re starting a career you need your family around you.
It must be great being able to cook whatever you want?
I think I’d find it hard being told what to do in a kitchen now, because I’ve just developed my own way of working. I don’t want to be a Michelin Star chef; I just want to cook the food I like really well! It is amazing to have the freedom to create my own recipes at my own pace.
Did you have a serious case of post holiday blues when you got back?
God yes! I definitely go through stages where I’m like ‘why did I leave again?’ especially on rainy days like today…! People always ask me why I left! I definitely do want to end up there at some stage.
Do you collect anything?
I have a lot of cookbooks! Since writing one I’m so much more appreciative of them, because I know how much work’s gone into it. I love Diana Henry. And you can’t go wrong with an Ottolenghi recipe.
I also collect menus from restaurants. My plan is once I’ve enough to make them into wallpaper. My boyfriend collected wine labels, so we might do some kind of wallpaper collaboration…
What job would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I would be a facialist, definitely! I think it would be such a relaxing job. I love skin, my favourite thing is washing my face. You would make people feel so beautiful!