Ella Walker talks to the food writer about borrowing her mum's recipes and removing the pressure and guilt from cooking.

Melissa Hemsley is quite probably the reason your kitchen contains a spiralizer.

She and her elder sister Jasmine, food caterers-turned-Vogue bloggers and cookbook writers Hemsley + Hemsley (The Art Of Eating Well, Good + Simple), pioneered the thing.

Now, London-based Hemsley is branching out alone, with her debut solo recipe collection, Eat Happy. "Every time I say it I have to do jazz hands," says the 32-year-old with a laugh.

What are her recipes trying to achieve?

The crux of the book is to make cooking as simple and stress-free as possible. "What are people's main objections to cooking?" she considers. "It takes too long: OK, I can make it take 30 minutes - and with a lot of the recipes, you can do the work then go hang up the laundry or have a shower, then sit on the sofa and eat it when you're relaxed."

She's also tackling mountains of washing up ("There's only one pan!"), soggy leftovers for packed lunches, having to shop around ("I use store cupboard ingredients you can get in a corner shop") and getting more veg in "without putting on another pan to boil a bit of broccoli".

Ease aside, the book is underpinned by an acute awareness of food waste and its implications. "I grew up with an army dad and a Filipino-catholic mum; very, very thrifty and frugal, don't waste a single grain of rice, always be prepared for a war, that sort of mentality," Hemsley explains. "My dad used to make us pack our bags the night before school and I still do that now, and my mum would make us carry an emergency snack, which is brilliant and really useful, because when my blood sugar levels go and I'm ready for a meal, I need that snack."

Why is it important to factor in leftovers?

She reckons taking responsibility for wasting food is something we're more conscious of than ever. "Back in the day, if you were good about waste, you were quite angelic, now it's terrible to throw away food and, quite rightly, you feel awful doing it. On the positive side, you feel amazing using stuff up. It's really satisfying.

"I hate taking the bin out, so if I can put even less in it and avoid taking it out as much as possible, I'm up for that."

She's always looking for nifty ways to transform leftovers into dishes that are as "special" as their original incarnation. "Say you have leftover sweet potato wedges or roast squash, you might be like, 'Oh, this is quite boring', but fry them up with some butter and harissa spice and suddenly they're incredible," she buzzes. It's part of what makes Eat Happy a Melissa book, not a Hemsley + Hemsley book, as well as the fact Melissa's taste buds are firmly in charge.

"For instance, I haven't got a massive sweet tooth (although she does recommend her banoffee pie in a glass)," she explains. "I LOVE a takeaway. I don't often feel great when I eat one; they don't quite hit the spot, so I have recipes for a chicken katsu curry, a pad Thai, a buckwheat pizza."

You can't beat sharing family recipes

There are, she says, still "lots of nods to Jas and my mum" in the book though. "I'm eking out, recipe by recipe, book by book, my mum's secret Filipino recipes. She's very proud when we reference her, but I've got to say, getting a recipe off my mum is the hardest, because she changes it every time she makes a dish.

"Hand-me-down cookery books from grandmas, I haven't got that, I envy those that do," Hemsley adds.

Why do we need to ease up on ourselves in the kitchen?

Despite criticism the Hemsleys have received for being aligned with the clean-eating movement, and lacking cheffing and nutritional qualifications, she is utterly opposed to the current culture of guilt around food.

"We have to stop allowing ourselves to feel that pressure," Hemsley says earnestly. "We don't always have to have Instagrammable food, we don't always get our nine portions of fruit and veg in every day - or whatever the number now is - and it's important not to feel guilty about it."

Hence why she'll happily post truthfully captioned pictures to Instagram: "I'll say, 'Before you notice, that bit is burnt', or, 'I overcooked my yolk there'."

She doesn't agree with cutting out food groups and depriving yourself, either. "I'm not a big fan of extremes," she says. "I love a positive goal and things that make me feel happy - like, 'Clear that cupboard out', but I don't say, 'I'm going to change everything about myself'."

Instead of going on a crash diet, or bullying yourself into a month without alcohol or meat, she says, why not make an effort to fill up your freezer with home-cooked meals once a month instead? Use your ingredients in a different way, or buy less to begin with and meal-plan - "and then go spend that money you've saved on a dress - that's what I'd do!"

Eat Happy: 30-minute Feelgood Food by Melissa Hemsley, photography by Issy Croker, is published by Ebury Press, priced £20.


Fresh and tangy, this is mackerel at its finest.

"Tamarind is what makes the sauce for Asian dishes like Pad Thai taste so good, and this dish is inspired by my Filipino Mum who loves tamarind and always fed it to me as a child," says cookery book writer and foodie, Melissa Hemsley.

"Its tangy, sweet-sour flavour perfectly cuts through the oily mackerel, which you could swap with another type of fish fillet, or use whole fish instead. The ginger greens are lovely hot or warm, or eaten cold as a salad. You can swap in any green veg you have in the fridge."


(Serves 4)

1tsp coconut oil or ghee

8 mackerel fillets (total 700g)

Sea salt and black pepper

For the Filipino-style tamarind sauce:

3tbsp tamarind paste

1tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)

1tbsp maple syrup

2tbsp tamari (or soy sauce will do)

Juice of 1 lime

For the greens:

1 1/2tbsp coconut oil or ghee

4 spring onions, sliced (green parts saved to garnish)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3cm piece of ginger, finely chopped

1 head of broccoli (about 300g), cut into small florets

250g green beans, trimmed

250g sugar snap peas or mangetout, chopped

To serve:

1 large handful of mixed fresh herbs (such as coriander, basil or mint), finely chopped

1 large handful of cashews, toasted and roughly chopped


1. Preheat the grill to high. Add the oil to a baking tray and pop under the grill for a few minutes to melt.

2. Whisk the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Toast the nuts in a dry saucepan and then set aside.

3. For the greens, melt the one-and-a-half tablespoons of oil in the saucepan, add the white parts of the spring onions, garlic and ginger and fry over a medium heat for 30 seconds.

4. Tip in all the green vegetables and stir-fry for five minutes until just tender. Add a splash of water if the greens are getting too dry and sticking to the pan.

5. Meanwhile, place the mackerel fillets on the greased baking tray, skin side up, season with salt and pepper then grill for four to five minutes until just cooked through.

6. When the greens are just tender, pour in the tamarind sauce and stir in. Increase the heat and simmer for about 30 seconds to heat through. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more tamari if you'd like it to be saltier.

7. Serve the greens with the fish, scattered with the green parts of the spring onions and the fresh herbs and toasted nuts.


A decadent pud that will impress your mates.

Whipping up a fancy pud doesn't have to be complicated.

"These lovely little pots are not only rich and smooth, they use just five ingredients and take only five minutes to make. They are perfect for preparing ahead of time as they need to set in the fridge, then all you need to do is pull them out at pudding time and grate over a little chocolate to serve," says feelgood foodie, Melissa Hemsley. "You can use any type of milk here. Nut milk makes the mixture 'moussier' and lighter. Coconut milk makes it really rich and quite thick, but without tasting coconutty."

She adds: "These pots will keep, covered, in the fridge or freezer for a few days. If freezing, allow to defrost for 40 minutes before serving."


(Serves 4)

180ml any milk

140g dark (70-85%) chocolate, broken into squares

3tbsp maple syrup

1 egg

1tsp vanilla extract

To serve:

Sea salt flakes

1 handful of fresh raspberries or cherries or a mixture


1. Gently heat the milk in a saucepan for about 45 seconds until hot all the way through.

2. Place 120g of the chocolate in a high-powered blender or food processor with the maple syrup, egg and vanilla extract.

3. Very carefully pour a quarter of the hot milk into the blender or food processor (or use a ladle, if you prefer) and blend until smooth, then repeat, adding a quarter of the milk at a time, until all the milk is combined and the mixture is silky smooth. (You need to add the hot milk slowly so that it doesn't scramble the egg.)

4. Pour into four small ramekins or glasses and leave in the fridge for a minimum of one-and-a-half hours, or one hour in the freezer, to set.

5. When you're ready to serve, grate over the remaining dark chocolate or top with a sprinkling of sea salt flakes or a few fresh raspberries or cherries.

Eat Happy: 30-minute Feelgood Food by Melissa Hemsley, photography Issy Croker, is published by Ebury Press, priced £20.