Eat with Ella
Ella Woodward is all about the deliciousness and avoids being a diet dictator. With her second cookbook due for release, she tells Keeley Bolger about banishing food guilt, wedding plans and working with her fiancé
After a whirlwind year, which saw her first book become the UK's biggest-selling debut cookbook of all time, health blogger Ella Woodward could be forgiven for having a bit of time off.
But this 24-year-old isn't one for thumb-twiddling. Her follow-up book - Deliciously Ella Every Day - has just hit the shelves (a third is already in the pipeline), plus there's a new venture, The Mae Deli in London, which she runs with her fiancé. There's also cookery classes to teach, a new modelling campaign for Amanda Wakeley, and her ongoing training to become a nutritionist.
"It's good," she says with a laugh. "There's a lot going on, but it feels like a really exciting time."
Another of those exciting things is her forthcoming marriage to Tessa Jowell's son Matthew Mills. They got together last year, and enjoy a happy working relationship as well as romantic one.
"It is really nice," says Woodward, of teaming up with her beau for The Mae Deli. "Up until now, everything I've done, I've worked on my own.
"With everything that has happened with Deliciously Ella, it's been amazing, and obviously all your friends and family will be excited for you, but I don't know if it's quite the same. There's something nice about when you start something together, when you share in the excitement.
"We're both really excited by the same things, and you've got someone to bounce ideas off all the time."
She says they're planning to have a "really small wedding" later this year. "It's another thing to plan, but a nice thing ..."
Much as they'll give the cooking a wide berth on the big day, crossover was an inevitability.
"We were doing recipes recently for the deli and I was like, 'oh my God, this one could be our wedding cake', and I was so excited by it," she reveals with a laugh.
Like her deli and books - and presumably her wedding cake - Woodward has built her reputation on the idea that, with a few clever ingredient swaps, healthy eating needn't mean fussy and boring eating.
It's been a steep learning curve for the former "sugar monster". Indeed, just five years ago, Woodward radically changed her diet when her health was on the wane, leaving the then 19-year-old model and history of art student bed-ridden for up to 16 hours a day, unable to risk a short stroll without suffering heavy heart palpitations and chronic pain.
Eventually diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), a potentially debilitating condition which affects the autonomic nervous system, she found that traditional treatments only went so far, and so she looked to her diet for answers.
She'd rarely cooked before that point, but she overhauled her diet, cutting out meat, dairy, sugar and processed food. Soon she felt much better, and began documenting her culinary experiments on her blog.
Today, her subscribers are in excess of 60,000, in addition to her 715,000 Instagram followers and 85,000 Twitter fans. And much as the regime works well for her and her devotees, she is keen to avoid guilting others into following her food path.
"I don't particularly like the concept of a guilty pleasure," says Woodward. "Be forgiving of yourself. I think people want to 'eat perfectly', and that doesn't exist. Eating perfectly is what makes you happiest, and that might be eating a smoothie for breakfast, but having a pizza with your girlfriends for dinner - that's fine.
"As long as you don't wake up the next day and make yourself feel guilty about it. There's so much guilt associated with food."
If you want to try rustling up some healthy - and guilt-free - treats for you and your loved one this Valentine's Day, here are three lovely new recipes from Deliciously Ella Every Day ...
Deliciously Ella Every Day by Ella Woodward is published in hardback by Yellow Kite, priced £20. Available now
Chocolate ganache cake
What you'll need
For the cake
Coconut oil, for the tin
7 tbsp almond butter
8 tbsp raw cacao powder, plus more to dust (optional)
11 tbsp maple syrup
140g ground almonds
3 tbsp chia seeds
For the frosting
4 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp raw cacao powder
4 tbsp maple syrup
Makes 1 cake
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4/350°F. Oil a 20cm cake tin with coconut oil - I don't line it with baking parchment as my 'tin' is made from silicone; if your one isn't, you might want to.
Scoop the avocado flesh out of the skins and discard the stones. Add the avocados to a food processor with all the other ingredients and blend until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and level the top.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool and bind together for at least 20 minutes before turning out of the tin.
Sift over a little more cacao powder, if you like, to serve (as we did for the photo), or make the frosting.
For the frosting, warm the coconut oil in a small saucepan just until it melts. Stir in all the other ingredients until you have a smooth, glossy glaze. Use it to frost the top of the cold cake, then leave to set.
This cake is perfect just as it is, frosted or not, but you could add a scoop of coconut ice cream to each slice if you want.
The perfect garden fry-up
What you'll need
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper
6 chestnut mushrooms, very finely sliced
10 cherry tomatoes (halved or quartered if large)
Juice of 1 lemon
Pour the olive oil into a frying pan and add the cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Let it heat and develop its fragrance for two minutes.
Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and half the lemon juice and let everything cook for about three minutes, at which point the veg should have softened.
Stir in the spinach and let it wilt for another minute or so.
Pile the vegetables from the pan on to a plate - or a piece of toast - and slice the avocado on top.
Drizzle the remaining lemon juice over the avocado and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to serve.
Chickpea, quinoa and turmeric curry
What you'll need
500g new potatoes, halved
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli flakes or powder
1 tsp ground ginger
400g can of coconut milk
1 tbsp tomato puree
400g can of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil, then let them cook for about 25 minutes, until you can easily stick a knife through them. Drain them well.
Place the potatoes in a large pan and add the garlic, turmeric, coriander, chilli, ginger, coconut milk, tomato puree and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then add the quinoa with a mug of just-boiled water (300ml).
Reduce the heat to a simmer, place the lid on and allow to cook. Over the next 30 minutes, stir every five minutes or so, to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. This is quite a long cooking time, but this is how long quinoa takes to cook in all these ingredients, rather than just in water.
Halfway through cooking, add the chickpeas. When there are just five minutes left, add the spinach and stir it in until it wilts. Once the quinoa has cooked and is fluffy, not crunchy, it's ready.