Melissa Hemsley, author, good food goddess and one half of food business Hemsley + Hemsley
I grew up on brothy soups and stews and my mum’s motto has always been “if you’ve got garlic, onion and ginger, you can make anything taste delicious”.
Food was at the heart of my family growing up. My mum is Filipino and is fiercely loving, thrifty and no-nonsense so would always manage to make a meal out of nothing. She has definitely put the love to feed people in me. I adore cooking for others but I also love making food with those who think they can’t or lack kitchen confidence – it’s such a great feeling to show them how easy it really is, and see them get real enjoyment out of it.
Eat Happy is a celebration of feel-good food that makes you happy. I believe that delicious meals should be enjoyed by everyone so I really wanted to create a book that made that as accessible to as many people as possible. All of the recipes in the book can be made in less than 30 minutes, without fuss, with staple store cupboard ingredients and minimal washing up – so more time can be spent appreciating the tasty food. I’m also a big lover of leftovers and this is a big part of the book as I give a lot of tips on how to use up what you’ve got and make the most of your meals, even creating dishes out of leftovers!
I’d written two books prior to Eat Happy and the feedback was always the same in that people wanted fafffree recipes that they didn’t have to think about, and my own friends and family are exactly the same. They inspired me to create every recipe to be as simple as possible so that they could enjoy fabulous food with minimal effort attached. I love to eat soups and stews – things that can just be thrown into a pan and left to simmer away and come back to. I’m also a big fan of the chickpea pancakes in the new book, they make the best breakfast tacos with smoky beans, a fried egg and jalapeno salsa on top or even wrapped up with my broccoli falafels.
I think the vegan trend is great because it shows people are becoming more mindful of what they are eating and how much meat they are consuming, and it also means they are eating more vegetables which is so important! I’m a firm believer that cooking is the key to leading a more healthy lifestyle – home-cooked meals packed with plenty of vegetables and made with love are essential to adopting healthy habits as we are seeing exactly what is going into our food. It really is so easy to make extra when cooking and freeze some. In a dream world you could team up with a friend or colleague with one making a big stew or soup and the other making two loaves of my quinoa bread or a big batch of granola and then you can share your feast. It means less effort and there’s so much to gain! I prefer to cut down on the time I spend shopping, cooking and washing up (who doesn’t?!) so I can actually have longer to sit down at the table and enjoy my meal.
I’m not really a big snacker, I much prefer to have three great meals a day but if I’m on the road I’ll eat lots of berries in the summer. In the winter I like an apple and a bit of mature cheddar! If I’m having an organised day I’ll make a batch of chickpea crackers and use up any roast veg left overs and dip them in my homemade houmous by blending tahini, garlic and lemon. For a spring dinner, my dream three-course meal would start with a carrot salad with carrot top pesto and spiced sticky halloumi, then a seafood main course, possibly mackerel and tamarind greens with sesame soba (buckwheat) noodles, and dessert would have to be my banoffee pie in a glass to finish!
Less is definitely more when it comes to kitchen appliances. The more you have filling up your cupboards and taking up valuable work surfaces, the more jobs you have in the kitchen I think. I just need a quality pan, an all purpose knife, a grater and a blender. I adore one-pot cooking – you can achieve anything with one good pan! I love to blend curry pastes and pestos and then freeze them into portions so that when I need something quick, they’re there waiting and ready to go with no prep required.
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