Melissa Hemsley has mastered the art of eating well. She and her sister have championed the wellness scene in London with their blog, healthy cafes and amazing whole food cookbooks that now have a global audience. Her new solo cookbook, Eat Happy, captures the lifestyle well featuring 30-minute feel good meals that are as beautiful as they are delicious. It’s one of our favorite cookbooks of the year so far!
We asked Melissa to join our favorite food-centric series, In My Fridge – and the woman did not disappoint. We loved the opportunity to rifle through her pictureseque pantry and the well-stocked fridge inside her newly renovated East London Victorian townhouse. Hemsley told us “I’ve spent 2 years (and ongoing) restoring an old Victorian wreck and all I want to do is hang out in my kitchen and garden where I’ve just started growing veg on a small scale which is so unbelievably satisfying.” Dive in to Melissa Hemsley’s fridge below…
Food philosophy in one sentence:
Nourish your whole self (mind, body, spirit!) with feel-good food that comforts you, cheers you, does you good and most of all tastes really good.
Always in my fridge:
Greens, grass-fed butter, some fruit (I love popping grapes) and it’s been SO HOT herein London that I’ve been keeping my lemons and limes in the fridge for when I juice them for citrus water. I also always keep cheese in the fridge! Feta and halloumi are my favorites. Feta is ideal for a packed lunch, and who doesn’t love halloumi? I rub it with dried mint or za’atar and lemon zest.
On my grab-and-go shelf I keep snacks (blueberries, carrots, cucumbers and my ‘any bean hummus’), base salads building blocks like boiled eggs, a glass container (avoid plastic as much as poss) of quinoa or lentils dressed in olive oil and lemon as it cools), a jar of salad dressing or a pesto (using up any herbs) ready to go, veg that needed using up and was getting a bit sad, so it goes onto a tray and gets roasted with the first spice mix I see when I open the cupboard!
There are always leftovers in my fridge too – leftover coleslaw (see the red cabbage) lasts for a few days or can be stir fried later in the week. My Mum taught me to clear the fridge before you go shopping again. She is the “leftovers Queen” and I believe that the best way to cook is to cook from what’s in front of you, that needs using up and not from recipe books!
Condiments – homemade or bought, pickled radishes, cucumbers, onions, kimchi, sauerkraut (love fermented foods), then mustard.
Chocolate – see at the top, a good selection, I like it cold from the fridge.
Wine or gin. My clever friend has made this ‘happy gin’ and gave me some from his first batch as I’m all about happy food (called my book EAT HAPPY)
I don’t always keep them in the fridge – but because of the heat, my tomatoes and avocados are happier in the fridge this week. I’ve been growing tomatoes and courgettes / you say zucchini! Absolute joy, though I’ve been messing up along the way.
7 recipe staples always on hand:
Smoked oily fish like mackerel, trout and sometimes salmon; cooked quinoa or lentils; a dip – any bean hummus; a pesto – leftover herbs or a bit of green like spinach or kale blended with garlic and lemon and evo; leftover veg (roots and onions and garlic); ripe bananas – to make smoothies, ice cream, banana bread muffins for breakfast grab and gos; a cabbage – keeps so well – to make a quick slaw, crunchy salad, stir fry or if time, make a sauerkraut or kimchi.
Dark choc, grapes or berries, an organic boiled egg with great sea salt on top – if it’s still bit yolky and warm, the best.
Mum’s chilli sauce, pomegranate molasses, amazing extra virgin olive oil, pepper – started using Cambodian kampot pepper and can’t stop making a cambodian style noodle salad.
Ingredient that makes everything taste better:
Salt, lemon, garlic, LUUURVE!
I keep smoked fish (mackerel, salmon, trout) as it keeps well in the fridge. I can add some to frittatas / omelettes/ quick salads / stir fries. Boiled eggs ready to go. Homemade chicken broth. I keep it in the freezer at the moment in portions but most of the year, when it’s not this crazy hot, I always have a jug or a big jar in the fridge to add to sauces, soups, stews.
Organic meat boxes – direct from the farm – I buy once a month and keep in the freezer and defrost what I need when I need it.
Best label-reading tip:
Less is more when it comes to an ingredients list. And I try to only buy products in glass or paper (where poss). Reuse the glass jars for dressings, pestos, use them as storage.
Fave veggie + what you make with it:
In the summer – courgettes /zucchini – ribboned and served with mozzarella, basil and lemon zest, slow cooked with garlic and anchovies or olives into pasta sauces, grated into risottos, fried into coin shapes with sage and basil into herby frittatas
In the autumn (as it’s coming up!) – squash, I’ll stuff it with quinoa, spices, dried fruit and nuts, I roast it into squash fries and have with a smokey ketchup, I grate it into breakfast fritters with a fried egg on top, I use leftover squash to make hummus
Must-have pantry staples:
My favourite part of my place is the kitchen and my friend made this larder for me. It’s my pride & joy. Sometimes I just stand in it to think!
Craziest thing I buy:
I’m not very crazy. Craziest thing I do, according to some people, is save everything and not let anything go. I will gather chicken bones off plates and make broth, save an inch of carrot or tomato or the last bit of onion and stick it in the fridge to turn it into something the next day. I hate waste and used to drive a new flatmate or boyfriend crazy but now they love it and see the undeniable multiple values of wasting less!
Sweets and other indulgences:
Dark chocolate straight from the fridge and I have a ‘chocolate drawer’ for those that don’t like cold chocolate. All my friends know where it is and they’ll go and help themselves. I always keep a small choc bar in my handbag too for an emergency snack and when I’m on a book tour and regularly travelling, I always keep dark choc bars in my suitcase as the number of times I’ve sat on a train platform at 11pm at night waiting for a train back to london with no shops open!
Dairy or non-dairy faves:
Black bomber cheddar is an amazing English cheese. Really mature and I will eat a little wedge as a snack. Rebel kitchen do a great nut milk but I love my good quality organic dairy.
Skip labels that read:
Skip labels that read of too many ingredients.
Really good extra virgin olive oil. It’s my fave present to receive as well.
For Last Minute Entertaining:
A last-minute killer salad that takes 10 minutes and looks and tastes incredible: big chunks of watermelon, feta, tomatoes, mint or basil leaves and avocado. For extra points, griddle the avocado chunks! Get a jar of olive tapenade and loosen a few tablespoons into a dressing with a little honey and vinegar and olive oil and drizzle over the top. Bulk up the salad with grilled prawns, fish or serve with a deli board of smoked meat and fish. And for pudding, I have a 5 ingredient, 5-minute chocolate pot that works wonders every time.
Favorite places to shop:
Selfridges (I’ve got a cafe on 3rd floor with my sister!), for food I love farmers markets and there’s lots of allotments in East London where I live and they leave out produce and you pay into an honesty box! I get meat boxes delivered from coombefarmorganic.co.uk and I love FarmDrop. And nothing is better than a Sunday stroll down Columbia Road market where I pick up flowers and get a coffee and cake from my friend Lily Vanilli’s bakery.
Simple Go-To Recipe:
Sticky spicy chickpeas – to make salads better, to make leftovers better, to make a boring soup better, to make dinner go further (if a friend stops by). It’s cheap and cheerful and takes 15 minutes:
Take a large frying pan and toast some spices – make your own mix eg bit of smoked paprika and chilli or a harissa mix or curry powder mix or paste, toast till fragrant, add a tablespoon of coconut oil and a big pinch of sea salt, empty a tin or 2 of drained chickpeas (or any bean), stir to combine and coat the chickpeas then let fry on a medium high heat for 5 – 10 minutes til the chickpeas go golden, stir every now and then, then add a tablespoon of maple syrup or 2 (depending if you did 1 or 2 tins) stir and let bubble away until sticky for a few minutes then serve hot or cold. DIVINE.
Best Food Memory:
First food memory and therefore got to be the best: Sitting on the carpet in a nappy (you say diaper) with my mum hand-feeding me really sweet prawns that she’d just simmered up plain on the stove, then dipping them in vinegar and feeding me one by one. I remember it so vividly. Mum’s from the Philippines and we both love sour flavors – vinegars, limes, tamarind.
This recipe for grain and gluten-free flax bread by the Hemsely sisters
is a staple in our rotation for a reason…