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Cook from the book: Feel Good by Melissa Hemsley

by Alice Palmer Brown

published on 20 May 2022

From the thirty-minute meals we rely on to get us through the working week to the fridge-raid favourites that help us to reduce food waste, Melissa Hemsley’s recipes are a permanent fixture in The Happy Foodie team’s weekly repertoire. So you can imagine our excitement when we heard Melissa had a new book on the way.

Melissa has always been an advocate of food that not only tastes fantastic but makes you feel good and it’s this principle that underpins her latest collection of recipes. Feel Good is full of joyful, nourishing meals that will pack your plate with colourful veg and boost your mood in the process. As with Melissa’s previous cookbooks, flexibility and sustainability are also central to the book’s ethos, with plenty of simple swaps to make your recipes vegan or vegetarian and ideas on using up ingredients to keep food waste to a minimum. Many of the book’s recipes also take thirty minutes or less. Could this be the ultimate Melissa Hemsley cookbook? We couldn’t wait to start cooking from it to find out…

From the book

Melissa Hemsley

Who: Sarah McKenna, Managing Editor, Penguin Audiences

What I made: Fried Halloumi and Chickpea Rainbow Salad

What I thought: Desperate to eat something other than defrosted soup for lunch, I was delighted to see the words ‘fried halloumi’ together with a salad that can be made in just fifteen minutes. Packed full of texture, colour and flavour, this was the perfect mid-day meal which kept me full all day. With a mixture of salad, spicy chickpeas and crispy halloumi you can’t really go wrong, but the cashew-coriander-mint chutney elevated this dish to new levels. I can’t wait to try the other recipes in this book although this rainbow salad will be my new lunch go-to for a while yet.

Who: Abby Watson, Senior Campaigns Manager, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Spaghetti and Veg Balls in Tomato Sauce

What I thought: I’ve never made veggie “meatballs” before and these did not disappoint. They’re super simple to make, especially if you have a food processor, and I really appreciated the fact that once they’re chilled they’re baked in an oven vs the need to turn them and watch over them frying in a pan – although you can do this if you’d prefer. A delicious weeknight meal that’s full of flavour.

Who: Francesca Thomson, Campaigns Assistant, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Sesame Fish with Tricolour Quinoa, and Quick Pickled Veg

What I thought: THE most fresh, zingy, delicious meal! I can’t believe how quickly and easily this came together, and it felt healthy whilst being very satisfying and full of bold flavours. I made this exact recipe twice in one week because I loved it that much. Melissa’s recipes are very flexible, encouraging you to use up whatever delicious, seasonal ingredients you can get your hands on. It’s such a joyful and comforting way to cook, and this lovely recipe was no different; the recipe is adaptable, encouraging you to use any fish (or I bet tofu would work perfectly, too), and play around with different sides and serving suggestions to make it work for you.

Who: Emily Brickell, Editor, Ebury Publishing

What I made: No-Bake Chewy Nutty Bars

What I thought: A really simple recipe and absolutely perfect for snacking. You can use whatever nuts you have on hand so this is great for clearing out your store cupboard! I love anything that can be left in the fridge and is then ready to go, so these bars are ideal for me.

Who: Celia Palazzo, Editor, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Halloumi Veg Tray Bake with Chilli-Honey Drizzle

What I thought: This is everything I love about Melissa’s food: simple ingredients, very doable recipe and the end result is completely delicious. The chilli-honey drizzle is genius, such a simple way to transform roasted veggies – I am going to be making this very often.

Who: Jessica Lockyer-Palmer, Marketing Manager, The Happy Foodie

What I made: Chocolate and Strawberry Baked Oats

What I thought: Melissa’s midweek meal recipes are always on heavy rotation in my kitchen and I’ve already fallen firmly in love with several from Feel Good (special mention for the Vietnamese-style tofu which has a dressing I’m now craving daily and the feta-stuffed meatball traybake), but for this Cook from the Book I wanted to try one of the recipes from the breakfast chapter. I love the attention all of Melissa’s books pay to breakfast; it’s clear Melissa, like me, is a ‘breakfast person’. For the fellow breakfast people among you, you’ll be equally thrilled to find fluffy pancakes, exciting ideas for eggs and not one but three ways with baked oats in Feel Good. Having tried and loved the Bakewell variation, I made this luxurious chocolate and strawberry recipe the very next day. It has a pleasingly fudgy texture with pops of freshness from the roasted strawberries. I enjoyed a bowlful with Greek yoghurt, maple syrup and some extra strawberries and it made a weekday breakfast feel weekend-level special but couldn’t be easier to make.

Who: Alice King, Publicity Manager, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Spring Vegetable Noodle Broth with Miso-Ginger Drizzle

What I thought: This was the perfect warming, nourishing weeknight meal. The miso-ginger drizzle gives a lovely kick and cooking the mushrooms in the broth gives it a much deeper flavour, which was great. It was on the table in thirty minutes and left me feeling full and restored. I also love the winter variation idea, I’ll definitely be trying that!

Who: Daniel Bhattacharya, Product Lead, Penguin Random House

What I made: One-pot Sweet Potato and Spinach-lentil Bake

What I thought: I was drawn to this recipe because of the magic ‘one pot’ wording in the title, and anything that means less washing up is an instant winner in my book. Considering the simplicity of the ingredients, it really does have a huge amount of flavour, and the addition of rose harissa (use with caution) added a lovely piquancy. I let mine cool down a bit before putting it in the oven because I feel tomato-based sauces increase in flavour over time. I decided to use some good chunks of bread to scoop up the sauce that was left, because everything is made better with extra carbs. Overall it was a hit and I’d definitely make it again.

Who: Meredith Adams, Social Impact Manager, Audiences, Brand and Communications

What I made: Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

What I thought: Pancakes are a Sunday morning favourite in our house so I was keen to test how this recipe fared against others. Well let me tell you, the outcome was the fluffiest pancakes I have ever created! The recipe was easy to follow and most of the ingredients it required were already in the cupboard – time and ease being two cooking criteria that matter a lot to me! It was my first time using buckwheat flour and cooking pancakes in coconut oil but these new flavours worked well together and balanced out into a lovely, light end result. If I was making it again – which I will be soon – I would try out some different fruits in the pancake batter, depending on what’s seasonal at the time.

Who: Morgana Chess, Campaigns Officer, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Roasted Broccoli and Tofu with Sesame-Peanut-Lime Noodles

What I thought: I am a huge fan of Melissa’s recipes and this one was no exception. It felt a little odd to build this noodle dish in a baking tray rather than a wok but all I can say is trust the method. Baking the tofu and broccoli in coconut oil gave a really nice flavour that worked so well with the sesame-peanut-lime dressing once it was all combined. It was really zingy and moreish and I loved the crunch of the peanuts too. This was a great healthy weekday dinner and had me covered for meal prep for a while too.

Who: Mia Oakley, Campaigns Officer, Ebury Publishing

What I made: fish finger tacos with avocado cream

What I thought: I have fallen slightly in love with Melissa’s new cookbook Feel Good. It’s bright, bountiful and brilliant, filled with so many wonderful recipes it was very hard to choose what to cook first. After a vigorous selection process I settled on the fish finger tacos, mainly to trick myself into thinking I was enjoying Tex-Mex in the sunshine. I used a combination of haddock and cod and enjoyed the texture the added almond crust. Rather ambitiously for me, I made the tacos myself, using a recipe from Jack Sturgess’ debut cookbook Bread Every DayThe slaw and quick-picked onions where my favourite elements of the whole meal. I have since made both of these sides on various occasions for lunch and dinner meals. I would highly recommend having the slaw with halloumi and adding the pickled onions to spice up your cheese on toast.

Who: Steph Reynolds, Head of Campaigns, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Creamy Mushroom and Spinach Pasta

What I thought: My ‘go to’ comfort food is always BIG bowl of pasta – it never fails to make me feel good. And this recipe didn’t disappoint! It was so easy and mostly uses things I ordinarily have in the cupboard anyway. Melissa describes it as being inspired by a beef stroganoff – but a veggie version. It was a huge hit with both myself, a vegetarian, and my meat eating husband! Melissa also handily provides swaps to make the recipe vegan which is handy. I doubled up the recipe so I had enough for leftovers for lunch the next day. So simple and so delicious – Melissa never lets me down for easy weeknight meals – I know I’ll go back to this recipe again and again.

Who: Ellie Auton, Communications Assistant, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Store-Cupboard Sardine Puttanesca with Tagliatelle

What I thought: Wow!!! The pasta of dreams! I absolutely love how Melissa sneaks vegetables into her recipes so an indulgent bowl of pasta is still full of goodness. I think this is going to become a solid staple in my house – it was so quick and easy and, most importantly, delicious.  

Who: Samuel Heaton, Editorial Assistant, Ebury Publishing

What I made: One-pan Masala Beans with Eggs

What I thought: Baked beans, chips and eggs is one of my all-time favourite things to eat so I absolutely loved this spicy version which turned the nostalgic treat into a more nutritious and satisfying meal. Following Melissa’s advice, I served my beans with potato wedges and a handful of grated cheese but the beans would have also made a great brunch on their own or with a slice of toast. The flavours were amazing and the washing up was minimal, so this will definitely be a recipe I return to regularly – I might never reach for a tin of boring old baked beans again!

Who: Ru Merritt, Senior Commissioning Editor, Ebury Press

What I made: Shiitake Mushroom Adobo with Coconut Rice

What I thought: You wouldn’t notice this recipe didn’t have any meat in it. Really filling and full of flavour, it was easy to prep and the coconut rice works so well to complement the mushrooms. It’s a great midweek meal.


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