When Melissa was growing up, the Hemsley household was a ‘zero waste’ zone where food was concerned. ‘Every grain of rice!’ was a favourite saying of her parents and it’s a learning that’s helped shape her approach towards cooking and her new book, Eat Happy, a collection of 120 healthy-but-thrifty meals designed to save you both time and money.
Featuring advice on how to cut down kitchen waste and put leftovers to good use, its repertoire of recipes are inspired by a range of global influences that also reflect Melissa’s Filipino heritage. Colourful and vibrantly flavoured, they’re also easy to make and built around accessible ingredients available from your local supermarket. If you’re looking for an uncomplicated way to step outside your cooking comfort zone, this could be your next must-read. Here’s what you need to know about this new release.
What’s the main message?
“Eating well is for everyone and for every day,” Melissa writes in the intro. If cost and time are often factors that make cooking from scratch not especially appealing, this book helps provide a new perspective thanks to its 30 minutes or less recipes and ingredients that can be sourced without too much strife. A self-confessed ‘frugal-shopper,’ the meals are budget-friendly and many also only need just one pan to make (to keep washing up to a minimum too - definite plus point there!).
Who’s it for?
Any cooking level. All of the recipes require basic skills to complete. From meat to vegetable dishes, there are vegan , vegetarian and pescatarian options available too, with Melissa providing useful tips throughout the book on swaps and substitutes to fit your particular dietary preferences. With an emphasis on keeping waste to a minimum and making the most of what’s in your fridge or freezer, it’s ideal for those who find that they’re always throwing out food and are keen on discovering ways to give their ingredients a good few days’ extra cooking power.
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What will I need?
Two pans, two baking trays (the wider and deeper they are, the better as they’ll aid quicker cooking time), a food processor and a blender.
What will I learn?
That making healthy comfort food can be faster and simpler than you may have thought. The ‘Bowl Food’ chapter is especially handy in this regard, providing a wide range of soups, stews and curries to experiment with that can be chopped and changed to best suit your mood.
Also featuring meat, vegetable, salads, sides, snacks, dips and canapés, sweets and drinks sections, almost all of the recipes abide by Melissa’s ‘Double and freeze’ rule to add extra endurance to your kitchen efforts. Melissa also provides handy tips on easy ways to batch-cook to help you get ahead and the ‘Kitchen Swaps’ section provides a degree of flexibility in case you don’t happen to have a certain ingredient to hand.
It also features useful ‘Fakeaways,’ each designed to provide a modern makeover to well-known takeouts such as Pad Thai, burgers, pizza and curry by using whole food ingredients. The idea is that they’ll be tastier and quicker than the real thing.
Any final takeaways?
If like me, your skills with a pan leave much to be desired, you’ll be particularly pleased to hear that the book contains a useful troubleshooting page called ‘Kitchen Saves’ to help you out if you’ve run into a particularly trying culinary conundrum. Whether you’ve made something that’s too soggy, salty, thick, thin or even burned, Melissa provides a welcome helping hand - she’s got your back.
I’ve genuinely enjoyed reading all of the chapters and I’ve earmarked quite a few of the recipes to try out in the coming days. It’s feelgood food that’s filling, flavoursome and pretty foolproof too.
Eat Happy, 30-minute Feelgood Food by Melissa Hemsley, £20, published by Ebury Press. Buy it online here .
Photography by Issy Croker.
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