Melissa Hemsley, bestselling author of Eat Happy and Eat Green, brings you Feel Good with 100 easy and uplifting recipes to help you feel your best, whether it's a quick dinner after a long day, cook-ahead lunches to see you through the week or a heart warming tray bake for an evening of comfort and nourishment.
Feel-good cooking is not just what we eat, it’s the mindset around it - a relaxed, flexible approach that encourages you to tune in to what you feel you need – what suits your mood, your time constraints, and what you happen to have in the fridge. Here, Melissa chats about the new book, sustainable, healthy eating and tips on saving money...
Congratulations on your new book ‘Feel Good’, can you tell us a little bit about the message behind the release?
Thank you and I hope you get a chance to cook something from it!
FEEL GOOD FOOD is how I’ve long described how I like to cook end eat at home. More and more of us are cooking with both our mental and physical health in mind. Feel good food for me is all about recipes that bring comfort and bring joy in our kitchens. Whether you need a pick me up, something to cosy up with, a real family favourite to look forward to after a long week or a celebration feast, feel good food is food for every mood. It’s recipes that feel good to cook, the sort of recipes that you crave all day and think about when you’re on your busy commute home, it’s food that feels good to eat, food that hits the spot taste wise and food that leaves you satisfied. Feel good recipes are simple, quick, and easy and as always with all of my cooking, it’s about wasting less, saving money and spending less time washing up - all of those practical tick boxes things help you feel good too!
"Whether you need a pick me up, something to cosy up with, a real family favourite to look forward to after a long week or a celebration feast, feel good food is food for every mood."
How did your career in food begin?
I started as a private chef with my sister about 12 years ago cooking for actors and bands like the fantastic Take That boys… then came a column in Vogue magazine online which ran for years and from then on to two cookbooks with my sister and now in 2022, this is my third solo cookbook my first called ‘eat happy’ all about 30 minutes recipes and half our heroes, then ‘eat green’ is all about sustainable home cooking , low waste recipe, lots of tips and tricks on how to make the most of your leftovers and be really smart with your cooking and energy and now it’s ‘feel good’. I’m so excited for everyone to cook their way through ‘feel good’ and I’d love to thank everyone for their support because writing and making cookbooks is great fun and I really enjoy it.
…and when did you start to focus your efforts on sustainability and cooking healthy food?
My mother Evangelina from the Philippines always cooked and fed us with a view to rolling over food, so we called them rollovers! Of course, as kids, I didn’t also want leftovers, but she’d magicked them up into something different and just as tasty if not tastier than the night before. She is the Queen of making something out of nothing. My dad is from an army background, and we grew up in army bases so my dad also showed us how to resourceful - he hated waste and throwaway attitudes and I’m sure like many parents told us off all the time about lights, recycling, opening presents carefully so you could reuse the wrapping paper! So being smart with money and waste - whether with food or anything around the house - was always something we felt as children and something I feel really pleased and lucky that has been instilled in me that feels quite habitual and natural … having said that I always have lots to learn on the sustainability front and trying to be more sustainable and make more sustainable choices in all areas of life is a lifelong journey but top of my to do list daily.
How important is it to make cooking easy and fun, and do you think that some people avoid cooking meals from scratch because they feel it is either too complicated or time-consuming?
Oh yes, I’d agree with that … some cooking is much more complicated and time-consuming than others… I feel it’s my duty and responsibility to come up with and share (both in my books and on my website), truly simple quick and easy recipes and I think that sort of what I specialise in… I love helping people build up their kitchen confidence, I do lots of cooking classes for the various charities I support and there is nothing better than seeing someone who feels shy or anxious about cooking for themselves and seeing them really bloom in confidence and feel really great that they have cooked a fantastic meal and feel excited and inspired to do much more.
With the cost-of-living crisis in the UK, what tips can you offer readers to help them reduce costs?
Hopefully some of these tips might come in useful…Tips I picked up from my mother and other cooks along the way and they do help me feel more efficient in the kitchen
If you have freezer space, I recommend making good use of your freezer you might need to do some jigging around perhaps there is something that is taking up a lot of space that doesn’t need to be there. I really rate especially at busy times - batch cooking your favourite comfort food - be it a curry, Bolognese, bean chilli, spicy Thai coconut soup etc - and that way even on frazzled days or busy days stressful days I know there’s something really delicious that hits the spot that’s in the freezer that I can simply heat up and get on the sofa with. I try to make a double batch of something most weeks and even if I don’t freeze it, I’ll keep leftovers in the fridge for about 3 days, they just get tastier and I’ve saved on so much time, energy and washing up.
I’m a huge fan of pulses and beans and they are a fantastic cupboard ingredient for bulking out mince meat based dishes like any family favourite ragus, shepherds pies, meatballs. They make small amounts of good quality meat go further and make the overall dish heartier.
If you have access to seasonal foods at your local shop or supermarket, you’ll probably find that food eaten seasonally tends to be more affordable than eating it out of season I also love to keep frozen fruits which I use in my baked porridges, but I batch cook and eat all week and I keep frozen greens to add to smoothies or to stir through dahls and my favourite stews and soups
What recipes can we find in ‘Feel Good’?
There’s something for every mood and occasion in here.
Some of my favourites are:
the 3-ingredient chocolate pot - dates, milk or plant milk of your choice and then good quality chocolate - top with your favourite summer berries, make them in advance, a crowd pleasing SUPER quick and easy recipe
15-minute leek, white beans, and parmesan on toast. People on the shoot team keep texting me to say it’s become their late-night Monday supper.
The chickpea farinata with olives, rosemary, and red onion. Crispy, salty, delicious. It’s the perfect party snack.
Mum’s Filipino chicken with mango salsa
What are your earliest memories of cooking, and do you think that getting the family (including young ones) to help prepare meals encourages a healthy attitude to cooking?
Making my first scrambled eggs and then an omelette and adding in all my favourite ingredients - peas, peppers, extra cheese please! Making a homemade pasta sauce from scratch and seeing how easy and incredibly tasty it was. I think young and old, the more we cook with each other, eat with each other, the more we inspire each other. I’m constantly learning, I go to a friends for dinner and learn a whole new kitchen hack or technique and think ‘how did i live without that!?” I have 5 god kids and they constantly challenge me and keep me on my toes with their changing likes and dislikes, they always end up helping with one part of the cooking, whether it’s sprinkling the salt or the herbs, drizzling the oil on the salad or shaking a jam jar of dressing, arranging the sweet potato wedges on the roasting tray before going in the oven. Kids are creative and like presentation a lot so I like to ask them to help my lay the table or decide what food should go in what dish or bowl. Plus meal planning. asking them to oversee deciding what we eat on say Friday night means that they are more likely to eat or at least try the entire meal, new trial variety of veg and all!
With summer on the horizon, what seasonal ingredients are you looking forward to cooking with?
I’m so looking forward to some good old British sun kissed tomatoes and having them with basil and chives and parsley from my garden. I love the flowers that bloom with herbs like chive flowers and so on. I also adore courgettes - I like to grill them, along with red peppers and red onions and then dress them with lemon juice, lemon zest and crumble over feta and have that warm then cold the next day chopped and tossed through orzo pasta and chickpeas and rocket leaves as a lunchbox pasta salad.
One of my favourite recipes in feel good is a charred sweetcorn and tomato pink pickled red onion salad which you can also add beans to, like butterbeans or black beans and really make it a much heartier light summer lunch. I really recommend that recipe to take to a BBQ or pick if.
…and what do you always have in your fridge or on the shelves at home?
Some lovely English mustard and some cheese. Love a bit of Somerset cheese like Westcombe cheese - delicious - and a home-made chutney I’ve got a couple of freestyle chutney recipes in feelgood, i don’t think you can go wrong with having a jar of chutney in the fridge- home-made or otherwise - and stir a little bit through a sauce or stew that needs lifting or to add depth to a gravy or chilli or to just add a bit of pizzazz to some leftover veg in a wrap. Miso from Miso Tasty to add to dressings, drizzles and soups and always leafy greens in the fridge and freezer. I’ve always got a stash of the ‘Any nut date bar’ from FeelGood in a container for a grab and go snack. It’s a winner. On the shelves, Maldon Sea salt, some Fairtrade spices, Zay’toun za’atar from Palestine which I buy lots of and give as presents.
a copy of FEEL GOOD by MELISSA HEMSLEY
(EBURY PRESS, £22). For a chance to win, simply click on the link below and follow the steps. Good Luck!
Finally, what about food education in schools. Do you think there is more that we can do in the Education system to encourage healthy eating and positive messages about food?
I do yes. There is a fantastic organisation called Chefs In Schools and others like it around the UK. I plan to do much more to support in that way myself. It would be wonderful if children could cook together at school…we know the resources are limited for equipment and space. But absolutely video how to classes… perhaps some tik tok cooking classes led by the next generation of young chefs (as a 36 year old I don’t really know how to use tik tok myself!) but back to your earlier point yes we can and really must show children how fun and delicious and feel good cooking for themselves and their families and friends is… then I think that we have a stronger chance of the next generation taking real joy and appreciation in homecooking on a regular basis and receiving the benefits from that.
To purchase a copy of FEEL GOOD by MELISSA HEMSLEY
(EBURY PRESS, £22), simply click on the link below...
To try a couple of recipes from FEEL GOOD by
MELISSA HEMSLEY, simply click on the link below...