Deli located at 18-20 Weighhouse Street, Mayfair, London
Why did you start blogging?
I got very unwell in 2012 with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome that affected my autonomic nervous system. I spent months in and out of hospital, followed by months in bed taking medication, which didn’t work. I became interested in the power of diet and lifestyle and began experimenting with plant-based cooking. I shared my creations on a blog, deliciouslyella.com.
How did the blog become so popular?
It grew organically but quickly, and transitioned to social media, then an app, then four books, then a deli in London and now four ranges of food products in about 6,000 stores across the country. It’s been quite a whirlwind! The brand is all about helping people live better, making vegetables cool and generally working to change pre-conceptions around plant based living, making it delicious.
What does 2019 have in store for you?
The second season of our podcast starts in January; at the start of February we’re launching a brand new app with over 400 plant-based recipes, recipe videos, yoga videos, meal planners etc; we launched a line of all natural, plant-based frozen meals in September, and we’re getting ready to bring new products to market.
Healthy frozen meal: Sweet potato & black bean shepherd's pie
2018 was a rollercoaster year for you – what did you learn?
The death of my mother-in-law [Dame Tessa Jowell] and the decline of her health as she dealt with a cancerous brain tumour was the toughest moment. My husband was so close to her and the heartbreak has been incredibly painful for the whole family. She inspired us beyond belief. She truly was the most remarkable woman and I feel incredibly lucky to be part of such a special family. I learnt so much, but first and foremost it was the importance of gratitude, optimism and kindness no matter what the situation.
What would you advise anyone who wants to be more healthy next year?
If you do want to use this time of year to make a change, focus on positive changes, on positive nutrition, rather than a sense of stripping back and deprivation. Look at what you’re adding in, not what you’re taking out and focus on adding in loads of fresh fruit and veg, getting inspiration from plant-based recipes. I really think 2019 is the year of plant-based cooking, as it’s so incredibly important for the planet – studies have shown going vegan is the single biggest thing we can do as individuals if we want to make an impact.
What are the easiest diet swaps to start with?
Always start with the positives not negatives, so focus on getting more nutrition into your diet. I’d start by simply trying to get your five-a-day every day, then building up to ten-a-day.
Ella, her husband Matt and cocker spaniel Austin.
If you could cook for anyone who would it be?
I love cooking for anyone that’s skeptical about veggie food, it’s really satisfying showing people how delicious, abundant and colourful it is – too many people think it’s all rabbit food. I’m obsessed with big warming bowls of stews ad curries so often make one of our Thai curries or Sri Lankan curry from The Plant Based Cookbook. Other times I make a big spread with a creamy artichoke and edamame dip served with our black rice, piquillio pepper and pistachio salad, roasted aubergine, tomato and pesto salad and sweet potatoes with spring onions, chilli and tahini. Our fudgy brownies are a staple in my life (and they already seem to be the most popular from the book as far as I can see from Instagram), as are the mango flapjacks and our coffee cake, so I often include those too.
Tell us about your husband – what made him The One?
I honestly don’t know, I never believed in the idea of love at first sight and wasn’t even sure I believed in marriage but as soon as we met I just knew it. We moved in together a week after our first date and four months later we got a dog, had started working together and were engaged. We were married about a year after the day we met. Lots of people thought it was mad and I can see why, from the outside it does seem a little impulsive, but we both just knew that it was 100% the right decision and it was undoubtedly the best decision I’ve ever made. I love working together, we have very different skill sets though, he’s our CEP and oversees business development, our finance department, supply chains, operations etc and I work as our brand director, overseeing everything creative. Of course we disagree from time to time, but ultimately we work in a way that focuses on always respecting the other one.
I’ve noticed more behind-the-scenes shots on your Instagram account – is this a conscious effort to move away from the ‘highlights reel’?
I think it’s important to acknowledge social media for what it is, a brilliant space of inspiration and idea sharing with likeminded people. But equally I feel it’s key to highlight that it’s a snapshot into someone’s life ad not a blow by blow account of reality and that it’s never possible to get the entire picture in one image and a few hundred words. Life is much more complex than that.
Yellow Thai Curry
Ella says, “Aubergines are one of my favourite ingredients to use in a curry as they soak up all of the flavours like a sponge. I’ve lost count of how many bowls of this curry I’ve eaten in the last few years; when I’m having a busy week I pop into the deli and devour a bowl with brown rice – it’s warming, hearty and always keeps me going for hours. This one also happens to be one of Matt’s favourites too.”
For the curry paste
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger,
peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 lemongrass stalk, bashed and
1 lime leaf
31/2 tablespoons coconut oil
For the curry
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut
into bite-sized chunks
1 large aubergine, cut into bitesize
100g button mushrooms
100g baby corn, cut in half
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 x 400g tins of coconut milk
(see tip on page 174)
1 tablespoon tamari
handful of Thai basil,
Preheat the oven to 240.C (fan 220.C).
Place all of the paste ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Place the peppers, aubergine, mushrooms and baby corn in a baking tray with a little olive oil and salt. Roast in the oven for 10–15 minutes, so that they take on a bit of colour, then remove and leave to one side. Next, place the coconut oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the curry paste and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add the coconut milk and tamari and bring to the boil – then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and blitz using a hand blender, then pass through a sieve to remove any unwanted bits (if needed). Place back on to a medium heat and add the roasted vegetables, then cook for a final 5 minutes. Try not to overcook this curry – the sauce only needs this short cooking time and there is a chance it could form a layer of oil on top if you cook it for longer and reduce it too much. Once everything is cooked through, sprinkle with a handful of chopped Thai basil.
You could make a double batch of this curry and freeze half for another day. It freezes so well and is really easy to cook straight from the freezer – just place it into an oven set at 200C (fan 180C) for 20–25 minutes until cooked through. Or if you don’t feel like cooking, you can buy this recipe from Deliciously Ella’s new frozen food range.