Food: A Valentine’s Day treat

Ella Woodward
Ella Woodward

She might be all about the deliciousness, but Ella Woodward is keen to avoid being a diet dictator. As her second book is released, the blogger-turned-bestselling-recipe-writer talks about wedding plans, working with her fiance and why food guilt should be banished

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 (and a third is already in the pipeline), plus there’s a new venture - The Mae Deli in London, which she runs with her fiance - and 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, “because up until now, everything I’ve done, I’ve worked on my own. I do love it, and I’ve got girls in the office who help me, but it is all me.

“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, books - and presumably her wedding cake too - 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 admits she’d rarely cooked before that point, but gradually, 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 715k Instagram followers and 85k Twitter fans. And much as the regime works well for her and her devotees, she is keen to avoid guilt-mongering 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’s a lovely new recipe from Deliciously Ella Every Day...

Chocolate Ganache Cake

(Makes 1 cake)

For the cake:

Coconut oil, for the tin

3 avocados

7tbsp almond butter

8tbsp raw cacao powder, plus more to dust (optional)

11tbsp maple syrup

140g ground almonds

3tbsp chia seeds

For the frosting:

4tbsp coconut oil

4tbsp raw cacao powder

4tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C). Oil a 20cm cake tin with coconut oil. (I don’t line it with baking parchment as my ‘tin’ is made from silicone. If yours isn’t, you might want to.)

Scoop the avocado flesh out of the skins; 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.