Funny, warm, and passionate about making the most of her leftovers; Melissa Hemsley talks sustainability, war-time recipes, and how you can use your leftover carrot tops
I called the book Eat Green because I didn’t want anyone to think that caring about the environment meant eating boring, beige food. It’s a chance to let your plate showcase the best of the seasons. I need a lot of green on my plate, whether that be carrot tops, stems, or just some kale. There’s a lot of good food that we’re throwing away, and I want to talk about that more.
The main difference between this and my first book, Eat Happy, was the 30-minute food aspect. Everything in that book was half an hour, which was great because time is one of the main reasons that people do or don’t cook. I believe in the power of home cooking and noticing what’s going into your body. Labels can be good and bad, but I think everyone shares the fact that they want to eat more veg.
I don’t talk about weight or calories, but what I do want to know is are you looking forward to coming home to your dinner? And, after a long day is it delicious, is it satisfying, does it make you feel good while you’re eating it and can I have a positive impact on the planet while I’m cooking this? I think it’s important to think about your spending power.
When I was doing my research for the book I took inspiration from recipes from World War 2, because they covered rationing and waste-free cooking. Back in the day, for a Sunday roast, you’d have a small amount of meat and then the rest of your plate was just veg. Now it’s the other way around. Somehow things got flipped.
To cut back on food waste, keep the stuff that’s going to go out of date at eye view in your fridge, don’t let it get pushed to the back. And, when you’re chopping ingredients, have two bowls in front of you. In one of them add your food waste, so anything you wouldn’t want to eat, and then, in the other, keep the ends of celery, carrots, or any green leaves. You can use these to make a pesto that you can pop into the freezer and use in the future. You can also ferment foods, make butters out of leftover ingredients, and use your bruised apples to make delicious fruit bowl bakes.
If we all had time to go to a farmer’s market every single weekend, that would be great. But that’s a luxury that’s not available to all of us. I’d love to see more allotments, community garden spaces and kids cooking more. I would also like to see supermarkets making seasonal food stand out more, industries clearly showing consumers what’s recyclable and what’s not, and I’d love more water fountains everywhere. If you go to Pret A Manger, they will fill up your water for you, as will most chain cafés. I think this year, waste-free and sustainability are going to be the words on everyone’s lips.
One of my favourite comfort dishes in Eat Green is the butterbean feta stew because it’s so hearty and nourishing. I also love the parsnip dahl. (I was never really a fan of parsnips, but I’ve learnt that they go so well with spices) and with the pickled onions on top, it makes this dish look so beautiful. I also love the tahini chocolate chip cookies.
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