Bestselling author, passionate cook and one half of Hemsley + Hemsley, Melissa Hemsley is at the top of her game. Her recently published Eat Happy: 30-minute Feelgood Food celebrates fast, real food that is simple, packed with flavour and uses easy-to-source ingredients. At The White Company, we are passionate about creating the perfect setting to enjoy wholesome meals with family and friends. Read on to discover the secret behind Melissa’s success, her top tips for a healthy diet and her favourite recipes.
1. Your new book, Eat Happy, has recently been published. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind it?
I’m not a chef and I don’t enjoy washing up (does anyone!?), so I was so keen to create recipes that require ‘no skills’ and minimal washing up by being one pot, as much as possible. My love for leftovers is also reflected in the book, as I really wanted to share my own ethos. The recipes incorporate the parts of vegetables you would normally throw away and, instead, shows you how to celebrate and make the most of every part.
So many of my friends and loved ones would WhatsApp me on their way home for quick and easy meals they didn’t need to think much about, could get from the shop by the station and get onto the table ASAP. I’ve learnt the things that put people off home cooking are lack of time, hard-to-get ingredients and too much washing up. So, I created a cookbook that banished all of those things in favour of feel-good food that is simple and fuss-free.
2. Do you have a favourite recipe from Eat Happy?
I’ve got so many, it’s hard to choose! My speedy Indian-Spiced Cabbage And Scramble is so tasty and gives me that morning boost. One of my favourite recipes for comfort is my Filipino mum’s beef and onions dish – it’s really quick and utterly delicious, everyone loves it. Sweet wise, it’s got to be the little Chocolate Pots. They take five minutes and five ingredients. And, I’m a big fan of hearty salads, especially ones that make a great packed lunch the next day, such as my Spiced Black Quinoa Tabbouleh.
3. Of all your career achievements to date, which are you most proud of?
I’ve achieved so many wonderful things and have been so fortunate but, genuinely, when I get my God-children to eat new things, or get a friend to try something they’ve always said they hated and change their mind – that is my biggest achievement!
4. Can you share the most valuable life lessons you’ve learnt so far?
Be kind to yourself and listen to your gut.
5. You built a fantastic business with your sister, Jasmine. What does family mean to you, and how has food always played a part in it?
Growing up, our mum always taught us to respect food, never waste anything and how to make a meal out of almost nothing, so my love for food really came from her. She taught us the importance of home cooking, and I grew up eating food that made me feel good, such as brothy soups and stews. That’s where my passion started.
6. What tips would you give to someone who’s looking to improve their health through diet, but feels overwhelmed by the vast amount of information out there?
Cooking your own meals and for others is a great starting point. There’s something so humbling and nurturing about creating a really delicious dish for yourself. Healthy doesn’t just mean what you look like, so it’s important to do things that make your mind and heart happy, too and, for me, cooking really helps with that. So, go back to basics and cook with everyday ingredients. Soups and stews are always a great starting point when you’re first learning to cook from scratch, as you can leave them to work their magic. Also batch cook your favourite dishes for dinner so you have lunch for the next day, or even freeze them for good food that’s always on hand.
7. Food is an amazing way to bring people together and celebrate. Do you have a go-to dish for a family get-together?
I love making food sociable, so I love to cook with my family – that way everyone enjoys the process. You can’t go wrong with my Buckwheat Blinis With Spiced Feta (or anything you fancy) as a real show-stopper canape. I’ve made them three times in the last week and they always get a “wow!” The Sesame Salmon Miso Veg Tray Bake is also minimal effort, with almost no washing up, so you can get it in the oven and enjoy spending time with your guests.
8. What are your store-cupboard essentials, and how do you use them?
My go-to ingredients in every recipe are sea salt or good salt, olive oil and garlic. In my cupboards, I always have chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, coconut milk and spices, which can be used as a base to make pretty much anything yummy, such as soups, stews and hummus.
9. Your new podcast, Live Life Better, focuses on subjects such as productivity, sleep, empathy and happiness. There’s no quick-fix solution, but which simple steps would you suggest to someone wanting to improve on one or all of these areas?
Write a list of everything that makes you feel good and uplifted. I’m a Virgo and a big lover of lists, so I always find they help me get things off my brain and feel comforted in what’s going on. I have a Happiness List as a reminder to treat myself with kindness when I need extra TLC. Plus, whenever I feel flat, tired, creatively blocked, demotivated – anything – I make a soup! Making a big pan of soup is an act of self care and it can be relaxing and meditative. It makes you step away from your laptop and phone, and then you’ve made a big pan of delicious, nourishing soup. You can give portions away to a neighbour or colleague, or freeze some for rainy days and busy weeks. It’s a win-win situation that always cheers me up.
10. For us at The White Company, ‘white space’ represents calm. What is your white space?
My bathroom. I’d never been into baths until we renovated our house (it’s taken almost two years and counting!), and now my bathroom is my little piece of heaven where I can switch off from the world and relax. I like to read in the bath, often with a glass of wine. I have a few gorgeous hanging plants in there, as well, and, even though it’s supposed to be my private sanctuary, my dog, Nelly, likes to push open the door and come and lie next to me as she finds it so relaxing in there, too!
5 questions, 5 minutes
Favourite Summer reads?
I’ve been presenting a book podcast for the last few months – you can search for it on Live.Life.Better on iTunes. I’m such a bookworm anyway, but I’ve been loving reading so much recently. I very much enjoyed Ruby Wax’s new book How To Be Human, The Manual. Our mental wellbeing needs to be prioritised more. I’m an ambassador for Head Talks, too – check them out.
Top three Summer songs?
- Give It Up – KC & The Sunshine Band
- I’m Your Man – George Michael
- My Baby Just Cares For Me – Nina Simone
City break or beach escape?
I like a beach escape for a few days, but then I get a bit bored and too hot. I’m not a big sunbather. If I could, my dream holiday would be proper chilling and reading on the beach for half the trip and then some exploring and adventures for the rest of the trip, once I’m nicely rested.
Bath or shower?
Mainly quick showers with an invigorating body brush before. But, when I get the chance, I’ll take a glass of wine into the bathroom with me and a book. And then my boyfriend goes in half an hour later and we swap! I’m all about re-using the bath water.
Early rise or lazy lie-in?
Both! Now Spring is here, I’m much more of an early riser. I often work weekends, so whenever I do get a whole morning off, I love to know the night before I can have a lie-in, if I want, because half the time that’s the best thing about the lie-in, knowing you don’t have to set an alarm.
Melissa’s White edit
From hosting family meals to styling food shoots, discover what Melissa is coveting from our collection
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