Meet Melissa Hemsley, the healthy, happy foodie

As a cook, teacher, cookbook author, TV presenter, podcast host and owner of a popular cafe inside Selfridges’ department store, you might expect Melissa Hemsley (one half of healthy cooking sister duo Hemsley + Hemsley) could feel a little frazzled with so much on her plate (pardon the pun) – but, this happy foodie from London demonstrates the adage ‘love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Although, we must admit, from the outside she seems to be a very hard-working woman too. Like a good meal, Melissa is balanced, colourful and multi-faceted. And now, having just released her first solo cookbook, Eat Happy, we wanted to know more about the life of this talented food lover and what we can expect from her next. Here’s what Melissa told us when she came to visit the Khoollect studio kitchen

This is your first solo cookbook. How have you found writing a cookbook on your own?

It was much easier! It’s my third so, I guess like it is for Rachel [Khoo], it does get easier – although I still made some silly mistakes in the process. I love the process of writing the books and Jas [Jasmine Hemsley, Melissa’s sister] and I learnt so much from our first two. I adored my all-female team, the dream team, we had so much fun together that we went on holiday to Mallorca this summer and just swam, read and cooked for each other. Because Eat Happy has a really big promise – easy and delicious meals in 30 minutes, it was simple for me to make decisions on what went in! I couldn’t ‘um and ahh’ for too long. I used to find cutting recipes and pages devastating (as I always over-delivered!).

How do you manage to juggle all your different commitments?

It all involves a lot of juggling. My biggest weakness is that I find it hard to say no because I love what I do! But it always seems to work out.

You have a mixed heritage very similar to Rachel’s. There are influences from your mother’s Filipino side in your cooking as well as the British side too. Which food do you naturally gravitate to when you’re feeling a bit under the weather?

And I lived in Germany too [like Rachel], and I think Rachel and I both love cabbage. I’ve got a speedy spiced cabbage and egg scramble in Eat Happy; it’s very tasty and gives me that morning boost. One of my fave comfort food dishes is my Filipino mum’s beef and onions dish – it’s really quick and is utterly delicious, everyone loves it. And always soup; when people tell me they find soup boring, my ears prick up! Every week I make a big soup, using up anything in my fridge; some of my fave lunches have been a simple soup that’s been made up from the fridge. Both my Mum and Dad were big on no waste and eating everything up.

What is your go-to pick-me-up ingredient?

I love ginger, be it in a savoury dish, sweet dish, smoothies, juices, or a cocktail! It works for everything, I even put some in the bath!

There seem to be lots of exciting projects on the horizon with your own solo cookbook this year. Are there any other projects you’re working on you would like to share with us?

As well as the podcast, which I’ve loved, as I just get to chat to brilliant people for ages in a nice cosy room, I’m excited to continue my ambassador roles in 2018 with the lovely people at Future Dreams Charity who raise money to support men and women with breast cancer and their families, also with the mental health ‘tool kit’ website Headtalks.com. And, I’m looking forward to my role for a third year as a YBF (young british foodies) judge, where I get to eat and drink, and meet so many interesting and inspirational foodies from all over the UK.

Where do you currently call home?

East London with my boyfriend Henry and my beloved blue staffy, Nelly. I grew up in Kingston Upon Thames in Surrey, just outside of London, or Greater London as some people call it (it felt FAR from london growing up!). I have lived in North London and South London for past 14 years, but am absolutely loving East London now – I’ve got parks and forests on my doorstep.

I khoollect a few…

Plants and books! Books for forever and plants now I’m a ‘grown up’. My Dad was a ferocious reader, our house was floor-to-ceiling books, and even though we moved house about 15 times as kids, as he was in the Army, he always wanted more and more books. He wasn’t bothered about anything else, just books! I’m the same now. And now that I’ve got a garden, it’s plants, indoors and outdoors, in every room. 2018 is my year to start collecting seeds and start my veg patch! I also love an eye mask – I have a colourful selection now, I sleep so much better with one and whenever friends, family and guests come to stay (I love having colleagues and industry friends come stay when they come to london to work) they all love picking an eye mask for bedtime, especially if I’ve never used one before. I love my sleep.

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection?

My friend who’s a furniture maker made me the most amazing spice cupboard of dreams! I open it up and just stare – it’s like an Aladdin’s cave of spices, herbs, a million types of lentils, jars of friends’ pickles and jams; it smells wonderful and it’s like a trove of memories.

We are itching to buy a plane ticket. Inspire us with your most incredible holiday memory…

My 30th birthday in istanbul! Some of my friends came with me, and we had the most glorious long weekend of bazaars, street food, rooftop restaurants and hammams. It inspired the recipe I cooked in the Khoollect studio kitchen (spiced lamb and pistachios on baked aubergines), as two of my fave dishes I ate there were Imam Bayildi and lamb and pistachio koftas.

Your three desert island must-haves?

  • A radio or something musical – I wish I could sing!
  • A cooking pot. Or maybe I could fashion one out of a giant coconut shell! I’m not very handy…
  • A never-ending book!

A life lesson that you’d tell your younger self?

Be kind to yourself.

Where do you find your motivation?

Sorry, shameless shout out but I’ve just started presenting a podcast called Live Life Better with Penguin Books and the seven episodes cover topics like self care, empathy, sleep, relationships – I really recommend it; I’ve had some fascinating and inspiring guests.

A favourite corner of the Internet?

Probably Instagram and Spotify. I love YouTube for yoga videos. Check out my ‘Bake For Syria’ playlist on Spotify, I made it when my friends Clerkenwell Boy and Lily Vanilli put on a fundraising bake sale and it was freezing cold at the end of last year! It’s about 8 hours long and ends with a 90s garage rave up!

Can you imagine a world without Internet?

I can just about remember life before it! I’m a big fan of a digital detox. I try to turn things off before 9pm and I do love the connection on social media, but I relish sometimes looking up at the sky and stars instead of looking down.

Do you believe rituals are an important part of creativity?

Yes, both for creativity and to carve out a bit of sacred time everyday for just you. I love some self-care time. My morning tea and meditation and in the evening, that digital detox, dimming of lights, spraying my homemade lavender spray on my sheets, a glorious soak in the bath with some salts, a candle, really comfy PJs, my eye mask, book, it’s bliss.

What do you do on a rainy day?

Watch a period drama with my mum (our fave film ever is Sense & Sensibility, and we love the soundtrack too). I’ve since met both Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet and I was lost for words with both and just wanted to call Mum! Then, I’d cook together with a group of friends and a great bottle of wine.

Best place for fresh produce?

A weekend farmer’s market – or, when I’m really busy, a seasonal delivery box from a farm. I like Riverford, and Natoora have a beautiful shop too with more unusual varieties like spaghetti squash and so many types of cabbage.

Best nook for daydreaming?

In bed with a cup of tea.

Follow Melissa on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to follow her heatlhy food adventures!

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WRITTEN BY:
Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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Cook like Melissa!

Try out a delicious recipe from Melissa’s new cookbook, here.