I first came across Ella Woodward in a magazine article. I skim read it, admired the accompanying picture of a beautiful young girl in a shabby SUPER chic kitchen brandishing a strip of courgette and I concluded that she was just another model with a fancy food blog. Nothing for you here Jackie, I told myself.
Then a few months later, I found another article. This time a six page spread inclusive of a selection of recipes from Deliciously Ella, the book of the blog effectively. I found my transfixed and more than a little bit attracted to the picture of a Lentil, Courgette and Mint Salad. I found I had most of the ingredients and so I made it for my lunch. From then on, I was hooked on Ella.
I signed up to her blog and made some Almond and Chia Energy Bites, which not only delivered this promised energy kick, but, tasted delicious and left me satisfied at just the one. That NEVER happens with anything remotely related to chocolate!
I scoured KL for her book without success. One shop told me they had one copy but it could be anywhere in the shop. I looked for about 27 minutes and only stopped because my son was eating his own leg. Later I enquired at the desk of the largest bookshop I know and the assistant disappeared for about 14 minutes, leaving my heart pumping in expectation. She returned to say the book was out of stock and more was due ambiguously soon. I NEEDED this book. Thankfully, we had a visitor due from the UK and so, two weeks later a copy was mine.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this book. So, basically, Ella Woodward has an interesting back-story whereby she was diagnosed with a debilitating illness, Postural Tachycardia. To cut a longer story short, alongside medical treatment, she began eating a plant based, vegan diet which eventually nourished her back to health, ultimately negating the need for the medicines. That itself is a pretty inspiring story, however, for me that is not the magic of Ella. Nor is it the amazing recipes, which are indeed as promised, delicious. Having devoured her book, I believe it's more than that.
Personally, I am not a vegan. I don't eat meat but I do eat fish and as far as I know, I am not intolerant to anything. In LBE (life before Ella), however, whilst I do love a good vegetable, I had never previously found a vegetarian recipe book that I opened more than once. I also found myself frustrated by my shelf full of other more general books, in which there were usually around 5 meat based irrelevant chapters. I can (and want) to eat everything in this book.
I don't even bother putting it away anymore. It's permanently on my work surface.
Here are the 5 things I love the most:
The way it's written:
Ella has a very distinct way of writing. Going back to that first magazine article, I had initially filed her under annoying. At first glance it's easy to see her as a somewhat naïve, pretty, posh kid. She gushes. Everything is amazing and the best thing she's ever tasted. Yet, having now lived her methods, I get it. Everything really IS amazing and she is actually having these little epiphanies. I know this because I have now had them too. It really IS amazing to discover that freezing and squishing a banana makes a kind of ice cream. A Raw Brownie really does taste delicious and doesn't leave you with palpitations and a craving for six more. I really do get it. I believe that Ella Woodward dances around her kitchen because I too have done it.
Initially I was a bit put off by these. There is however, a really useful section upfront that takes you through each item she uses in turn explaining a bit about them and why they are included. I confess I had never previously heard of Tamari or Tahini and my only memory of a date was the box left on the shelf that never got eaten at the end of a typical British Christmas. Medjool? Really? The great thing though, is once you are stocked up with the basics store cupboard items and a good weekly shop of fresh fruit and veg, you really can make practically everything.
So often I've picked up the book for a little browse and realized that I have everything I've needed to make the recipe I'm reading. That is one of the big reasons I use the book so frequently. There really is nothing worse than getting sucked into a recipe and realizing you need to shop for at least four random things you'll never use again.
The genuine simplicity
As well as the ingredients guide, Ella gives you a short equipment list. This is basically a food processor and heavy-duty blender. At least one or the other I would say is an outright essential for her recipes. I was lucky enough to already own a Magimix Food Processor, bought for me to puree food for my first-born. It had barely been out of the cupboard. I now use it every other day.
I guess for some, this could be a bit of a stumbling block as this equipment is a big outlay if you don't already own it, but if and once you do, there is nothing in the book that is not ridiculously simple.
For every recipe, Ella gives a little preamble (it's her favourite of course), but she also suggests several ingredients you can swap or substitute. After a while this gave me the confidence to go freestyle. I've chucked nuts on her Roasted Squash, Olive and Avocado Salad. I've added tuna to her Broccoli with a Tahini Dressing (sorry Ella). I've left out the almond butter in the Creamy Coconut Porridge and added honey to some of her dressings. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't so much but life's a journey. It's always edible.
The book itself is aesthetically delightful. Importantly for me, there is a picture for every recipe. I simply cannot work a recipe if I can't see what I'm aiming for. I can't do it. Second to this, the photography is beautiful. The food is gorgeous and so is Ella of course, but it the kind of style that makes me happy. OK, the picture of her and her mates happily perched on a park bench with a Quinoa Tabbouleh between them may have been staged but I don't care. I would sit on that bench and eat grains with Ella.
And so, to conclude I promise, if you love Purely B, you will love this book.