An Interview With Melissa Hemsley
Melissa is one half of superfoodie duo, Hemsley + Hemsley who have two bestselling books, a Channel 4 cookery show, a London restaurant and a food-delivery service. Melissa and her sister Jasmine have now gone their separate ways and this year Melissa released her fabulous book Eat Happy.
We chat to Melissa about what happiness truly means to her, both in and out of the kitchen…
Where has your passion for cooking come from?
I absolutely loved the TV programme, Ready Steady Cook and would rush home from school to watch it. My favourite part was when the chefs were given the ‘£5 mystery bag’ and had to cook something on the spot. I think it reflects my approach to cooking now, using up what I’ve got rather than following recipes completely step by step.
You have a very busy schedule. What are your favourite things to do that help you unwind?
I try to spend as much time as I can outside. I love being with my dog, Nelly so it’s nice to get away from laptop and take her out for long walks. I often try to get the last bit of light as I find this time the most peaceful.
After a very busy day, I love to get into the bath with a page turning book, and a glass of wine! I also love bath salts, particularly with ginger. Ginger is amazing for giving you energy.
I try to make some time for me, even if its just taking an extra 5 minutes to let bath oil soak in.
Do you have any top tips for for incorporating a healthy diet in to a busy schedule?
If I have a really busy week I love to make soup. It’s quick and easy and you can use what’s in the fridge. I tend to also keep the freezer and the store cupboard well stocked, it’s amazing what you can cook up with the essentials.
I think it is always good to share advice on how to feel better through food, and to encourage others to eat well by sharing your own experiences.
If you have fussy kids it’s quite good to grate vegetables in to recipes- they will never know!
And lastly, don’t forge to Chew!
What would you say are the most important habits to prevent stress?
Don’t let work get too much and make time to socialise. I try to save money during the week on food so I can spend more on going out at the weekends.
I think it is also important to use your weaknesses so they become your strengths. I like to list 8 of my favourite things to do. If everything becomes overwhelming I can go back to the list to remember what I can do to feel better, because when you are stressed you can forget.
What are you favourite things to do that make you feel good?
Call a friend. Don’t just Whatsapp. Make a cup of herbal tea, sit on the sofa, and put the world to rights. A good phone call is lovely.
Dance! I love to dance, especially while i’m waiting those 5 minutes for the bath oil to soak in…
I enjoy helping others. Whether it is giving advice or looking after my friend’s kids, it makes me feel good to be able to help.
What are you top tips on self care?
Look after yourself. It sounds simple but it’s easy to forget.
Let good things happen - don’t always plan for it! Enjoy social time more but learn to say no when nesecary.
Have gentle reflection each day (even on the loo or when washing up) and think about the great things that have happened that day- no matter how small.
Animate the day! Whether thats making soup, making a phone call or looking after someone else children… karma always wins.
Here we find Melissa’s delicious recipe for her Spanish chickpea & almond stew:
Using store cupboard staples and spinach from the freezer, this Seville-inspired stew from ‘Eat Happy’ comes together in under 20 minutes and is a hit with everyone. You could swap the spinach for other greens, such as chopped chard, or add extra bits and bobs, such as a few tablespoons of capers, olives or chopped sun-dried tomatoes. I love this as a stew-like soup in a bowl, but you could make it thicker and serve with a side of quinoa (p. 150 of ‘Eat Happy’).
In a large, deep frying pan, toast the almonds over a medium heat for just under a minute until golden, then set aside. Melt the butter in the hot pan, add the onion and pepper and fry for 6 minutes until starting to soften.
Add the garlic, spices and parsley stalks and fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent them from burning, then add the tomato purée and cook for another 30 seconds.
Tip the tinned tomatoes into the pan, turn up the heat to a medium simmer and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered, to thicken and reduce. Add the chickpeas and cook for another 3 minutes with a lid on. If you want the stew to be more soup-like, add the stock.
Turn up the heat, drop in the spinach and cook for 1 minute, covered with the lid, then add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Serve each bowl with a good drizzle of olive oil and with the parsley leaves and toasted almonds scattered over.