My Day, My Way

Daily moments that matter with Melissa Hemsley

Melissa Hemsley
Holly Rains,-Senior Editor

The chef, columnist and best-selling cookbook author on morning mantras, feelgood food and the simple secret that’s guaranteed to elevate any meal

Melissa Hemsley is the undisputed queen of feelgood food, with each of her five cookbooks packed full of recipes that not only taste great, but work just as well the next day – she’s a massive advocate for loving your leftovers and preventing food waste in the home. These are meals created to be enjoyed and shared, an ethos that comes alive on her Instagram page, where she regularly gives her followers a glimpse into her (very) easy-on-the-eye kitchen, plating up incredible feasts from sumptuous seasonal salads to big batch baked oats. Here, Melissa gives us her tips on making the most of every meal and shares the secret to elevating the everyday with clever tablescaping hacks… 

What are the first three things you do when you wake up?

1. Count my blessings. Someone told me they say ‘thank you’ out loud when they plant their feet on the ground and I love that so I’ve adopted it.

2. I try to wake up slowly and gently and maybe have a read for ten minutes of something inspiring and try not to touch my phone! I have my dad’s old alarm clock so I don’t need to rely on my phone’s alarm. I love my job so it’s always tempting to launch straight into worky stuff, but I resist.

3. Hydrate (before I caffeinate!). I drink a big glass of water and then head downstairs to make a matcha, green tea or coffee. I’ll bring a mug of tea back to bed for my boyfriend, too.

Melissa Hemsley

What’s your healthiest habit?
To me, healthy means feelgood. I’m not sure if it’s the ‘healthiest’, but it’s certainly free, old school, easy and I do it every day without fail. It’s just a walk! But I think a daily walk is one of the best things I do for myself and if I ever miss a day, I feel grouchy, lethargic and a bit claustrophobic. Sometimes when I’m super busy, I do work calls while walking, but if I can I try to walk with a podcast or some relaxing music in my ears.

What’s the weirdest utensil in your kitchen drawer?
I’ve just gone rooting around in my kitchen drawer for a look and I can’t find anything at all weird. Coming from an army family and Filipino catholic mother, it is very tempting for me to keep absolutely everything for a rainy day or to reuse again, but I think it’s so important for your kitchen to not get overly cluttered as it becomes an obstacle to enjoying cooking. That said, I do love my zester for lemon, cheese, garlic, ginger etc. My boyfriend also bought a foot exfoliator for his dry heels and they look very, very similar – dangerously so in fact. He obviously keeps it in the bathroom, but in terms of ‘weird’, I do always triple-check his foot exfoliator hasn’t made it into the kitchen drawer by mistake!

What are the kitchen staples you can’t live without?
I use this bowl and plate set from Royal Doulton’s Urban Dining collection every day – from my Bircher muesli (I make it the night before in the bowl, then pop the plate on top of the bowl for easy storage and let the flavours develop overnight in the fridge) to a summery minestrone-style soup for lunch with whatever veg is in season at the time, and then for supper a veg-packed roast tomato and courgette halloumi black rice salad. 

What’s your go-to lunch?
Even on sunny warm days, I am partial to a soup for lunch, like a noodle veg soup with a soft-boiled egg, but I usually save that for a weekend. For most lunches, I’ll grab leftovers from the fridge – like beans or lentils or quinoa, then top with feta cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and some roughly chopped fresh veg or leftover roasted veg from the night before. Vibrant, full of veg and so quick to pull together. Then I always carry a little pot of dates, a few squares of dark chocolate and some nuts for a mid-afternoon snack. And once or twice a month, I make a big batch of my oaty raisin banana bites which are so tasty and easy. I’ll always have a few of those after lunch.

Melissa Hemsley

Any tips on making a mundane meal look extra?
Herbs! I love to pop pots of herbs down the table, I sit them in bowls or on plates. Not only can they take the place of flowers, but they smell heavenly and people can pull off the herbs to garnish their own plates – tearing off handfuls of basil, dill, parsley. And if you ever feel a bit disappointed in your food, I’d say firstly, don’t feel you need to be any kind of master chef to serve food, your loved ones are just happy they’re not the ones cooking! Secondly, make a herby drizzle by combining some herbs with olive oil, the juice and zest of a lemon, a little garlic if you like, some salt and pepper – it takes two minutes and will transform a dish, both taste-wise and visually! 

How do you create the perfect tablescape? 
As with most things, I always think KEEP IT SIMPLE. Use seasonal ingredients to dress the table, so let figs, tomatoes, lemons, limes, pomegranates and pots of herbs act as decorations. It’s a win win. Candles of course as the sun goes down. A sprig of something fragrant like lavender or rosemary on each napkin is a pretty touch.

You don’t have to be any kind of master chef to serve food, your loved ones are just happy they’re not the ones cooking!

Melissa Hemsley,-Chef and author

Quickfire questions

What would you save if your house was on fire?
My best friend in the whole world Nelly – she’s my nine-year-old Staffy and she would probably be trying to save me!

Where’s your happy place?
By water! Preferably the sea. I love Cornwall, I love the Watergate Bay Hotel near Newquay, I adore the coastal walks and all the National Trust cafés you stumble across for scones and lemonade and ice cream.

What would you spend £100 on in John Lewis?
Has to be a set from the Royal Doulton Urban Dining range – you won’t regret it. They look gorgeous, are fantastic quality and great value for the price.

Splurge item?
A wonderful extra-virgin olive oil will make all the flavour difference to the simplest of suppers. And if you’re doing all the cooking and entertaining, perhaps treat yourself to something wonderful that makes you feel amazing! Whether it’s a dress or, even better, the softest, loveliest summer PJs or nightie to wear after your bedtime shower – bliss!

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