To get “glow-y” skin (aka the fabled “lit-from-within” look described by beauty magazines since the dawn of time), most makeup artists recommend highlighter. A good bronzer. Maybe a spritz of rose water if you really want to go to town. Wendy Rowe is not most makeup artists. She wants you to eat sardines.
Rowe, an internationally renowned makeup artist who’s known for her simple, natural style, insists that radiant skin originates with what you put in your body. After years of doling out advice about skin health and nutrition to her clients (a list of models and actresses that includes Sienna Miller and Suki Waterhouse), she decided it was time for her wisdom to extend beyond the upper echelons of Hollywood and backstage at fashion shows, even beyond the realm of her 57,000 Instagram followers. In her new book, Eat Beautiful: Food and Recipes to Nourish Your Skin (Clarkson Potter), Rowe dishes on simple things you can eat to improve your complexion.
Rowe claims that fundamentally Eat Beautiful is not a cookbook (“It’s a book about achieving beautiful skin,” she says), and to be sure, there is plenty of information about free radicals and phytochemicals and other hard-to-explain biological phenomena. But she doesn’t beat readers over the head with complex scientific principles; overall, the advice is simple: Eat whole grains, tons of vegetables, drink lots of water, supplement with vitamins, and avoid complicated and processed foods. “I think throwing around a lot of impenetrable words alienates people and they get confused and they don’t actually learn anything,” she says. “When my clients have skin complaints, it has a lot to do with what they are eating, what they are putting in their bodies.”
The 60-plus recipes include not only what we can safely call detox dining (you know—smoothies, juices, and “guilt-free” salads), but also more surprising fare. There are inspired takes on comfort foods from around the globe (like Jamaican chicken and rice and meatballs arrabbiata) as well as simple British fare.
Which brings us back to those sardines. The number-one thing people can do to instantly improve their skin, according to Rowe? Eat fatty fishes that are loaded with omega-3s and low in mercury. Her recipe for sardines on buckwheat flatbreads is a perfect source of that healthy fat, and the way she pairs the coconut-oil-fried fishes with watermelon radishes is ingenious.
Though her job as a makeup artist takes her all over the world—she’s lived in North Africa and in France—Rowe was raised in Waltham Abbey, just outside London, and you can feel that British tradition in her cooking as strongly as you can hear it in her warm accent. “My mom wasn’t a very international cook. She didn’t cook with a lot of garlic and onions—it was quite British,” she says. This is evident in some of the recipes in Eat Beautiful, like naked fish pie, a mainstay of British cuisine. It’s the first of the book’s recipes I tried, using Wendy’s suggestion of coconut milk (instead of whole milk), and despite my skepticism at its short list of ingredients and lack of spices, the dish was elegant and delicious, the cod swimming in a coconut broth with fennel and covered in a perfectly browned blanket of mashed sweet potatoes dusted with Parmesan. “I added coconut milk because it’s not fattening and it gives it this wonderful southeast Asian flavor,” Rowe says, adding that she used sweet potatoes rather than russets so that the stewed fish cooks in its own juices with the sweet potato. “It’s a bit of a no-brainer,” she says.
Not every recipe in the book yields an actual meal. As it turns out, what you put in your body can also go on your face (though it might not taste as good). On a recent weekday morning, I tried Rowe’s spirulina face mask: 2 teaspoons spirulina, 1 teaspoon coconut oil, and 2 teaspoons of mineral water, and my skin felt as energized as my body does after a protein shake. Glow-y, even.
It’s tips like this that attract A-list material like Cara Delevingne and Victoria Beckham to the Wendy Rowe school of living. The insights in Eat Beautiful are uncomplicated and wise, and the recipes present a fresh take on how to eat well without sacrificing flavor. “People ask me if I’m going to change my life now that I’ve written this book, and I say, ‘Well, no, I’ve always done this; it’s just no one’s been interested before.'”
SARDINES ON BUCKWHEAT FLATBREADS
I keep cans of sardines in my pantry to have as a simple snack–great on toast with a sprinkling of sea salt and cracked black pepper. While they’re lower in mercury than other sea fish, it’s important to buy wild-caught sardines and opt for those packed in water or oil, rather than brine–you can always add the salt later. Even better, buy them fresh from your fishmonger. Bursting with flavor, they need very little to enhance them–just a few herbs and a squeeze of lemon.
4 tablespoons buckwheat flour, plus extra for dusting
Raw coconut oil, for frying
4 fresh sardines, gutted and cleaned (ask your fishmonger to do this)
Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
INGREDIENTS FOR SERVING
1 watermelon radish (or a handful of red radishes), sliced into thin circles
1. Place the flour in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water and knead together to make a dough. (Buckwheat can be quite sticky, so you may need to add more flour.)
2. Roll the dough into a tube and slice into four sections. On a work surface lightly dusted with flour, roll each piece out into a flatbread about ⅛ inch thick.
3. Heat a little coconut oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, add a flatbread, and cook on each side for 2-3 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a plate and cook the remaining flatbreads in the same way.
4. Meanwhile, cook the sardines. Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet and add the sardines, parsley, and lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through (see tip).
5. To assemble, place slices of radish on top of each flatbread, top with a sardine, and serve with extra parsley sprinkled over and a wedge of lemon.
TIP: The only downside of cooking fresh sardines is that they will stink up your house! To avoid this, cook them outdoors on the grill.
Excerpted from Eat Beautiful by Wendy Rowe, copyright © 2016, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography copyright © 2016 by David Loftus.