Written by Lydia in Cookbook Corner

To be honest, initially both Hayley and I had a bit of an up and down relationship with Deliciously Ella, but something changed about four years ago and we have been a firm fans ever since.  In fact, we both listened to a podcast she did with Elizabeth Day (How to Fail) and Hayley rang me up to say that she thought we could all be friends.  When she first started out, at the time there seemed to be a lot in the media around ‘clean living’ and I think at first we thought she might have just been a bit of a fad and the rebels in us didn’t want to buy into what she was promoting.  But we couldn’t help but be interested.  I think it was only natural to look to her as a bit of a food idol as she is similar in age to us, loves cooking and is focused on getting the nation cooking to eat better and why it is crucial that we do so.  She isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but you cannot discredit the incredible amount she has achieved.  Her business and career is just getting started and I honestly believe that she has and will continue to make vegetables cool, part of her business’ mission statement.  She has completely changed the way I see a plant based or vegan diet.  I was so naive and ignorant to plant based living during my late teens and most of my twenties and I had no interest in learning about it. I recoil when I think back to a two week vegan challenge my house mates and I did in 2010 when we were on our placement year and we went along to Holland and Barrett’s to buy vegan cheese for my sandwiches.  We had no idea what we were doing and I vowed never again.  We did it on a complete whim and I never properly researched it.  I don’t think I even thought about beans on toast being a vegan meal even though we all worked for Heinz at the time. But now, I think I could easily do Veganuary with no complaints.  I have said it before on here and I will say it again, I don’t think I could ever be completely vegan due to my love for cheese and dairy, however I have dramatically reduced my animal based product consumption in the last two years and feel all the better  for it, in addition to doing my bit for the planet.

Satay Sweet Potato Curry (big batch section)

Lemony Courgetti with Spinach Pesto (I added edamame beans into mine) (10-15 minutes section)

Ella has opened up this whole plant based living world and compeltely changed the narrative.  Vegan food is delicious and there is so much choice when you actually stop to think about it.  She hates crudites (as do I) and there is so much more to it than that.  Vegetables and fruit are the canvas to which delciousness can be created.  Think curries, pasta dishes, dips, falafels and stews. Only the other week someone in my office was fretting about what to feed her vegan friend who was coming to stay.  I would have been the same a few years ago.  I showed her a sweet potato and butternut squash curry she could make, a favourite of mine from Ella’s last book ‘The Plant Based Cookbook’ and explained to her the endless possibilities (including beans on toast) she could potentially cook.  I insisted that she would like the meal too and that she would not have to cook separate meals for everyone.  Most of my friends, family and colleagues now all seem more aware of what they are putting on their plate and most of us now have dramatically cut down our meat consumption.  Change is defintely happening.

Spanish style rice (weekend section)

Creamy Kale and Mushroom Salad (10-15 minutes section)

Aside from her cookbooks, she has a brilliant app that is just 99p a month and includes hundreds of recipes as well as yoga and fitness classes.  I can’t think of another app that is of better value.  She also hosts a really interesting podcast which covers a magnitude of health and wellbeing topics including nutrition, sleep, period power, mental health and climate change.

As a pre-requiste to any Deliciously Ella book, I would suggest you invest in a good food blender/processor as so much yumminess is created from the dips and dressings she makes to go with things.  It also helps if you love hummus, avocado and tahini (which I luckily do).  I was so excited for the launch of this book and it has definitely not disappointed. In my opinion this is hands down her best book.  She openly admits that she knew nothing about food or cooking when she started her venture and I think it is very evident that with each book she has become a better and better cook and has more of an understanding about flavour profiles and texture combinations.  I have cooked so much from it recently and will continue to do so.  We have to also talk about the way the book has been thoughtfully set out – breakfast, dips and dressings, 10-15 minutes, 20-30 minutes, big batch, sweet and weekend. This is exactly how I like to cook.  Recipes are also highlighted where they are nut free, freeze well (bonus) or are great for lunchboxes (another bonus).  I also find it really useful how she makes suggestions of what to pair some of the recipes with from other recipes in the book.  I am usually annoyed if a chef has a recipe for the main event but leaves it up to you with what the pair it with and sometimes I just like to be spoon fed. Every recipe has a photograph; I am one of those people who are sucked in by pictures, sadly recipes that don’t have pictures don’t usually even get a look in.  There is even a chapters page and store cupboard ingredient list, another double tick.  This girl has clearly done her research.  Every chapter, Ella thoughtfully writes about all the lessons she has learnt so far on her journey, including lots of insights from guests she has had on the podcast along the way.  Ultimately I think she is trying to help us all to live a healthier lifestyle with more balance and calm, something I think everyone wants to achieve.  These things are all tangible, whether that be from cooking a plant based meal once a week, practicing mindfullness or going for a walk everyday.  She constantly reiterates that you cannot make life-changing changes overnight, this most be done gradually, and that change has to be something you see the benefit of or enjoy or you just won’t do it long term.

Spicy Fajita Bowls (20-30 minutes section)

Spicy Falafel with Pulled Aubergine Dip and Giant Couscous and Almond Salad (weekend setcion)

 

Cucumber and Cashew Noodle Salad (10-15 minutes section)

Thinking about what to have for dinner when you come home from work is something we all struggle with.  But turning to the 10-15 or 20-30 minute section of the book takes a lot of the chore out of evening meal cooking. That’s the other brilliant thing about not cooking with meat or fish, everything is so much quicker, as well as being cheaper.   Quick and Easy is the title of the book and is so aptly named.  Compared to similar, such as Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals, which take more like an hour, I cannot fault this book for doing exactly what it says on the tin.  So far, the two stand out meals for me have been the mushroom and walnut ragu and no-waste cauliflower bowls (photos below).  The addition of walnuts in the ragu is great as it does feel a bit like you are eating meat as they add a good bite to the sauce.  The addition of the dried porcini mushrooms and their liqor also gives the ragu great depth of savoury flavour.  The no waste cauliflower bowls are a genius invention and I love how you can use the whole thing, leaves and all, which I have never done before.  It was really flavoursome and my husband was so surprised how much he liked it and went back for seconds! I did think the ‘mash’ part of the dish did need to be a bit looser and creamier in texture so I just added more liquid and some tahini to give it the creaminess I was after.  I also had never made falafels before either and the ones from this book were really tasty and simple to make.  The wonderful thing about cooking with vegetables/nuts/legumes is that you can easily substitute things for whatever you have in, whether that be in the freezer, in jars, packets or tins in the cupboard or hiding away in your veg drawer in the fridge. I have also used oat milk mainly as my dairy milk alternative as having tried different plant based milks, we like this one the best, particularly the brand Oatley.

Mushroom and Walnut Ragu (Big Batch section)

No Waste Cauliflower Bowls (20-30 minutes section)

I haven’t yet made a huge amount from the sweet section of the book apart from the apple, almond and blackberry crumble and tahini cookies, both of which were great, but I think secretly I am still a bit of a butter snob when it comes to desserts and cakes. However, having success with the latter, I will continue to try a few things out – the first on my list being her oatmeal and raisin cookies.  We actually bought some of her fudgey chocolate brownie from the frozen aisle recently and had them with some Oatley salted caramel ice cream which was very yummy.  Talking of products she has available in the shops and online, we are also a big fan of her porridge and granolas as well as the salted caramel almond butter cups.

 

So often I am excited for a new cookbook to come out and end up disappointed with the content, knowing that I will only cook a handful of recipes from it perhaps once.  But this book does exactly the opposite; even flicking through the pages now as I write this, I have flagged loads more recipes that I want to try out and I know I can easily do them. We all need to be eating more fruit and veg and Deliciously Ella has definitely been my key for unlocking this.

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