TALKING WITH MELISSA HEMSLEY ALL ABOUT EAT HAPPY 30 MINUTE FEEL GOOD FOOD
March 10, 2018
Eat Happy is a collection of quick meal fixes that neither require a lot of fuss nor a lengthy list of ingredients. Taking you from breakfast through to dinner and with plenty of exciting options for smoothies, teas and store cupboard essentials that get you through the day. This book more than covers the basics. Each dish is packed full of flavour and shares delicious ingredient combinations that will have you keen to cook from this book time and time again. Melissa’s enthusiasm and passion for food culminates in this beautifully styled and shot cookery book which is vibrant and mouth-wateringly good.
Where’s home for you?
I’m from Kingston and spent my first 10 years in London in Camden, now I’m an eastender for life in East London! I’ve got glorious Epping Forest on my doorstep and me and my blue Staffy Nelly put the world to rights gallivanting around it. Everything is better after a brisk walk even a 10 minute one, I work a lot from home so really important to get out the house and get in amongst nature.
What inspired you to write the book?
So many of my friends and loved ones would whats app me about 7pm on their way home on the tube for quick and easy meals that they didn’t need to think much about, that they could get from the shop by the station and get on the table asap. I’ve learnt that the things that put people off home cooking are lack of time, hard to get ingredients and too much washing up, so I made a cookbook that banished all of those things and made cooking feel good food simple and fuss-free! I love to pack my meals with veg and flavour and have them be uplifting, energising and nourishing as well as delicious. I know some people steer away from so called healthy recipes because they think they’ll be bland, tricky to make and unsatisfying so I show them that mine are anything but!
Who should buy it?
The first time cooks because it’s simple, quick and fuss free as well people who like to cook but save it for the weekends because they don’t have time to cook during the working week. I’m getting big thumbs ups from families too especially parents who now say they don’t have to cook two different meals every day and they’re happy that their kids are eating more veg (almost without realising it) I’ve got tons of fake-aways (my versions of takeaways) and my twist on comfort foods and the classics
Favourite recipe from the book and why?
I am a sucker for the crispy duck pancakes in chickpea wraps with hoisin sauce (which my boyfriend gets me to make a huge jar of so he can spoon it onto everything) and the spiced halloumi & chickpeas with black quinoa tabbouleh (leftovers of this make the best packed lunch). Sweet wise it’s got to be the little chocolate pots, they take 5 mins and 5 ingredients (see below). Another favourite is my BLT salad – bacon, lettuce, tomato, egg and asparagus – I’d eat this for breakfast, packed lunch, take it for a picnic, it’s a great all rounder.
Looking for a quick mid week, no fuss dinner, which recipe should we head to?
All of them! Every single recipe is designed to be fuss-free, quick and easy so take your pick- I usually make a decision based on what needs using up in the fridge and cupboards. My chinese egg fried quinoa is perfect for this, chop any leftover veg up throw into the pan with garlic and leftover quinoa and while it gets crispy and hot through, mix up a spicy sesame oil to drizzle over the top, then because a fried egg is always a good idea, fry one up in the same pan, season with a bit of tamari and soy.
Your ultimate dinner party dish (from the book), failsafe and impressive?
You can’t go wrong with my buckwheat blinis topped with spiced feta (or anything you fancy) as a real show stopper canape. I’ve made them 3 times in the last week and they always get a “wow!”. The sesame salmon & miso veg tray bake is minimal effort with almost no washing up so you can get it in the oven and enjoy your guests.
Your ultimate dessert and why?
My little chocolate pots are absolutely my go-to dessert for having friends over. Make them in advance and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to serve and they will not disappoint. I’ll change up the toppings each time – pomegranate seeds with fresh mint leaves, or summer berries, toasted salted pistachios / almond flakes or coconut flakes, or sometimes I blend in a dash of peppermint or orange extract or even rose & touch of cardamon – delish!
Which chefs excite you?
I very much admire Tom Hunt and his ‘root to fruit’ philosophy. I adore Anna Jones and am honoured she gave me a quote for EAT HAPPY and I love Romy Gill and am excited to cook at her restaurant in Bristol with her in March, she’s the best
Top 3 favourite restaurants?
Rochelle’s in Shoreditch, we book a big table outside in May for my boyfriends bday and my dog runs about in the walled garden.
I love Jose Pizarro’s on Bermondsey Street (my first grown up job in London was when I was 18 on Bermondsey Street so I love going down there)
Had so many great meals at Quality Chop House And I’ve got got wonderful memories special occasions at River Cafe & Petersham Nurseries.
What cookery books do you always reach for from the shelf?
I don’t use any! I let my meals be dictated and inspired from what’s in my fridge / freezer and cupboards. But I collect cookery books and read them for pure enjoyment.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been so enjoying presenting the #LiveLifeBetter podcast for Penguin Books interviewing everyone from a professor of sleep to a flirtologist , a body positive campaign to a monk. One of my favourite things is cooking classes, i love it when someone leaves my class feeling full of confidence.
Eat Happy by Melissa Hemsley (Ebury Press, £20) photography by Issy Croker