De­li­cious and healthy

ELLA WALKER talks to food blog­ger Ella Mills about be­ing mis­in­ter­preted, and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to eat their greens

The Chronicle - - Food & Drink -

VEG­GIES and ve­g­ans can get a lot of flack for be­ing self-right­eous and judgy – and Ella Mills (for­merly Wood­ward) has ex­pe­ri­enced a shed-load of that flack since found­ing her blog-turned­brand, Deliciously Ella.

The 27-year-old started blog­ging in 2012 af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with pos­tural tachy­car­dia syn­drome – a con­di­tion where stand­ing up can cause a huge rise in heart rate with dizzi­ness and con­fu­sion among the symp­toms. Her de­but cook­book was a mas­sive suc­cess. Now the Rugby-born en­trepreneur and grand-daugh­ter of Lord Sains­bury is back with The Plant-Based Cook­book, and it’s all about in­clu­siv­ity. “It’s not de­signed] with the in­ten­tion of any­one need­ing to be­come a ve­gan, but for peo­ple who do want to try cook­ing more veg­e­tar­ian food, it’s a nice way to get in­volved,” she ex­plains. In fact, she is at pains to point out that she eats plant-based for “very per­sonal rea­sons. I was very un­well. Chang­ing my diet al­lowed me to get my life back, and I do it ev­ery day to man­age my ill­ness.” Her mantra ap­pears to be “you’ve got to make it work for you” – whether you’re just look­ing to hit your five (or 10) a day, or a ve­gan in a recipe rut. The cook­book fea­tures 100 recipes from Deliciously Ella’s delis and events but runs to al­most 20,000 words – it’s part recipe col­lec­tion, part diary, with mini-es­says be­tween chap­ters. “It al­lows us some space to tell our story,” ex­plains Ella, “about who we are and what hap­pens be­hind the scenes – the good and the bad.”

It’s a strange nar­ra­tive to stum­ble upon if you’re just in­ter­ested in whip­ping up a charred broc­coli and kohlrabi salad, but Ella was de­ter­mined to fol­low in the same vein as her de­but cook­book, and her blog, al­low­ing for “a hu­man and per­sonal el­e­ment” in the gaps around the recipes.

You can see how she man­ages to work along­side her hus­band Matt, son of the late MP Tessa Jow­ell, day-in-day-out – they even have desks side-by-side.

Matt takes care of re­tail and prod­ucts thanks to his fi­nance back­ground, while her fo­cus is the cre­ative side.

“We work to­gether on the shared vi­sion and strat­egy,” Ella adds, ever busi­ness-like. And at home? “I do all the cook­ing, Matt doesn’t cook, no – but I love that, he is a phe­nom­e­nal washer-up­per!”

That merg­ing of her pri­vate life and her health con­cerns with the Deliciously Ella tra­jec­tory may be at the core of her busi­ness, but it’s also what caused Ella prob­lems be­cause of Deliciously Ella’s per­ceived align­ment with the eth­i­cally and nu­tri­tion­ally du­bi­ous ‘clean eat­ing’ move­ment.

“We’ve never been about restric­tion or tak­ing the fun out of food – we’ve been about plant-based cook­ing. Never been about weight loss or any­thing around that space. It was a com­plete mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

While in­tent on dis­tanc­ing her­self from ‘fad’ food, she ac­cepts there is an “im­por­tant” con­ver­sa­tion to be had around food as as­pi­ra­tional and part of an In­sta­grammable life­style, rather than achiev­able at home.

She’s mind­ful that, when healthy food ex­ploded, it be­came too con­nected to ex­otic in­gre­di­ents, the su­per­food pow­ders and things – that are not ac­ces­si­ble.” But she’s also un­shake­able that some­thing needs to be done to tackle the in­creases in health is­sues re­sult­ing from life­style-re­lated diseases and obe­sity.

And if post­ing pretty pic­tures of veg­eta­bles on the ‘gram en­cour­ages peo­ple to eat more greens, then where’s the harm? “When you’re at home, there’s no ex­pec­ta­tion that food needs to look that beau­ti­ful, but we know that peo­ple aren’t eat­ing their veg­eta­bles, so how are we go­ing to get them to do it? We’ve got to get them to seem more ap­peal­ing,” says Ella. “And we do eat with our eyes.”

The Plant-Based Cook­book, she says, focuses on us­ing in­gre­di­ents peo­ple are al­ready com­fort­able with, and are very much su­per­mar­ket sta­ples.

She’s firm, though, in do­ing her ab­so­lute best to not sound preachy: “I changed my diet for me be­cause it al­lowed me to man­age a chronic ill­ness, and ev­ery­one’s got to do what works for them,” says Ella. There’s no right and wrong way of do­ing it, but there are nice ways to get more veg­eta­bles into your diet.

“I’m a big be­liever in the con­cept that, for any­thing to be sus­tain­able, it has to be en­joy­able.

“So you’ve got to make it in­ter­est­ing, you’ve got to make it colour­ful, you’ve got to make it abun­dant,” and, she adds, “you’ve got to make it de­li­cious.”

Deliciously Ella The Plant-Based Cook­book by Ella Mills, pho­tog­ra­phy by Nas­sima Rothacker, Hod­der & Stoughton, priced £25

Pic­ture: Sophia Spring

A chronic ill­ness made Ella Mills turn to healthy eat­ing – now her new book shares even more fan­tas­tic recipes.

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