Cookbook road test: Deliciously Ella Every Day
Ella Woodward (aka Deliciously Ella) knows how to turn a bad situation into a profitable one. In 2011 she was diagnosed with the rare illness postural tachycardia syndrome: a disorder that causes an abnormal increase in heart rate when the sufferer sits or stands up.
As part of her recovery, she decided to overhaul her diet, cutting out meat, dairy, refined sugar, gluten and processed food and switching to plant-based and whole foods. Pretty radical for a self-confessed sugar end. But, five years later, she’s well – with an award-winning recipe blog, more than 670,000 Instagram followers, a London deli and two cookbooks under her belt. Not bad for a 23-year-old who, before her diagnosis, couldn’t cook.
Like many people, I’ve been riding the healthy-eating wave since it started to swell a couple of years ago and I’ve occasionally snooped around the Deliciously Ella blog in search of recipes. But I refuse to cut ties with entire food groups. So it’s refreshing to read that Ella, in spite of her particular dietary preferences, doesn’t force free-from eating upon her readers in this latest book.
“I’m not here to preach or to make anyone feel guilty about eating pizza or chocolate cake,” she says. “I want to make it as easy as possible for you to combine my recipes with other kinds of food.” If you’re a novice healthy eater, her introduction covers what to shop for, how to get ahead and the 10 commandments for living a healthy, happy life (not as utopian as it sounds).
Quality of the recipes
The 100-plus recipes here cover breakfasts, snacks, weekday dinners, batch cooking and desserts. But there’s something that irks me: Ella’s use of sweet ingredients is excessive – a tad off-key given the recent disquiet about sugar. Adding 200g apple purée, 2 tbsp honey and 8 tbsp maple syrup to a 12- portion brownie recipe seems over the top.
So I chose something savoury to test – pesto butter beans and Middle Eastern-inspired salad. Both recipes were ready in a flash and looked picture perfect – Ella may not have had any cookery training, but she has an eye for what looks good on a plate. Technique is where her inexperience shows. Roasting the cauliflower with the aubergine for the Middle Eastern salad caused both to sweat and steam instead of turning into the expected crisp, golden morsels (yes, I used a large roasting tin to avoid overcrowding, as Ella recommends) – and the overpoweringly garlicky dressing numbed my taste buds for two days.
Bright, fresh and inviting, thanks to photographer Clare Winfield.
Ella devotees and those whose interest has been piqued by the trend for plant-based eating.