Melissa Hemsley on Family, Feelgood Food & Fast Cooking

Food writer Melissa Hemsley, one half of the Hemsley + Hemsley sibling foodie duo, is going it alone with a new cookbook focusing on feelgood healthy food

Lead photo: Issy Croker 

Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley made their names in the food and wellbeing industry as the sassy sister duo, Hemsley + Hemsley. For two sisters to be so in tune with all things food, health and happiness, it’s perhaps unsurprising to hear that their mother was a huge influence.

Melissa Hemsley of the Hemsley Sisters releases her first solo cookbook, Eat Happy, with a focus on simple, healthy eating recipes and one-pan cooking

Melissa Hemsley (photo: Sarah Malcolm)

‘My Filipino mum has played a huge part in my love for food. She was always teaching me to respect food and not to waste it and how to conjure up an entire meal out of almost nothing,’ says Melissa.

‘I cook food that makes me happy, feel comforted, connected – to my loved ones who I share my food with, to the growers, the farmers – and that’s why I think I love it so much!’

Melissa was taught from a young age to embrace all aspects of food, from the health and wellbeing benefits to the simple joy of eating.

‘Having been quite spoilt by my mum cooking for me until I left home, nothing fancy just simple nourishing food.

‘I learnt to cook in my early 20s and I have always cooked to please myself and make myself feel better.

‘But my mum also taught me the importance of resting, good sleep and a bedtime routine. Even if I couldn’t sleep as a kid, she’d say “just rest your eyes!” She’s the best.’

It’s clear that family is important to Melissa, and is at the centre of Hemsley + Hemsley’s success. But with two sisters of my own, I wonder what it’s like working together day in, day out.

‘Incredible,’ announces Hemsley. ‘We have supported each other throughout the whole journey and wouldn’t be where we are today without that. It’s great to have someone you can bounce ideas off and we balance each other out really well.’

This year sees the sisters branch out in different directions, and I ask what the catalyst for this was. ‘Naturally as sisters, Jas and I have different loves and things we like to focus on,’ says Hemsley.

‘We both had different ideas for the third book so we thought why not embrace what we both wanted to work towards. We are still together at our cafe in Selfridges (it will be two years this April) as well as other H+H projects.’

Melissa’s book, Eat Happy, came out in January and, as a huge advocate of reducing food waste, she wants to make leftovers attractive and inspire people to make new, exciting dishes, as well as ‘recipes that are fast, fuss-free and so easy to make with inexpensive ingredients that are often in your cupboards’.

‘Every recipe can also be doubled and frozen so that your home cooked food is always accessible when you’re in a hurry and time can be spent enjoying the food rather than cooking it,’ she says. ‘I’m not precious with my recipes; if you don’t have all of the ingredients, play around and use what you’ve got.

The recipes are also 30 minutes or less as I believe that we should spend less time in the kitchen and more time with our feet up enjoying our food with loved ones

‘The recipes are also 30 minutes or less and based on one-pan cooking, as I believe that we should spend less time in the kitchen and more time with our feet up enjoying our food with loved ones.’

In many ways, it was south London that helped Melissa create the book: ‘I wrote the book back at my mum’s in Kingston where I grew up,’ she smiles. ‘My mum and I would pick up produce at Surbiton Farmer’s Market or any of the local markets and cook together.

‘My dog Nelly and I love Richmond Park, and Petersham Nurseries is one of my fave restaurants in the world. Kew Gardens is such an inspiring place, and I just love walking down the Thames stopping at the pubs and meeting old friends.’

Eat Happy (Penguin, £20.99) is out now;