Deliciously Ella started out as a health-food blogger- now she is a best-selling author, is opening her second Deli and has just launched a new energy ball. She is currently supporting the ‘Potatoes: More Than A Bit On The Side’ campaign, which aims to bust health-based misconceptions around eating potatoes. We caught up with her to talk about the recent expansions to her business and where potatoes have a place in her own diet.
Why is it important to you to make healthy, home cooking accessible to everyone?
I think there’s such a misconception that healthy eating is about dieting and restriction, which I don’t think it should be – instead it should be about celebrating delicious, natural ingredients that taste great and help you feel good. I think cooking at home, getting creative in the kitchen and experimenting with food helps change this perception. I’m always cooking big veggie curries for friends with tons of spices, coconut milk, chilli – I’ll sauté potatoes in the spices, then cook them with all the flavours and stir in some chickpeas and spinach at the end, before serving it on a bed of sesame brown rice. It’s easy to do and tastes amazing!
What is food guilt and why do you want to battle this concept?
I don’t believe in the concept of guilt when it comes to food and I think it’s really important that we remove those negative feelings from our plate. I think it’s really important to find the right balance for you, a way of eating and living that satisfies you physically and mentally and that’s different for everyone. Eating a natural diet with loads of fresh fruit and veg and little processed food helps me manage the symptoms of my illness. My husband and business partner Matt, loves porridge with almond milk and berries, big bowls of quinoa with roasted veggies and pesto and energy balls, but he also loves going for pizza and ice cream and I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for that. I want to make vegetables a bit cooler and help people see them as something that can be an interesting, delicious addition to any meal, but that doesn’t mean you should feel you only need to eat broccoli!
Why do you think British people are moving away from eating fresh, unprocessed food?
Everyone is so busy and it’s so easy to eat everything on the go now, which I completely understand. That is why I think it’s so important to show that eating fresh food can be as simple as sautéing some garlic with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, chilli, basil and spinach and then tossing that into some boiled new potatoes – it’s a ten-minute meal that uses simple ingredients but it tastes great and you can get three of your five a day into it.
How can people change their old habits for new healthier ones?
I think it’s all about making simple, easy changes. I’m a big believer in the idea that for something to be sustainable it has to be enjoyable, so it’s much better to find something that you love and can continue with than to force yourself into something that makes you feel deprived. I think small steps like trying to include an extra portion of fruit and veg into every meal – it sounds easy, but it’s three extra portions a day and 21 extra across the week!
Also stock your kitchen with the essentials – tons of herbs and spices, olive oil, tins of beans/lentils/chickpeas, tubs of hummus, rye bread, potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, oats etc. When you have delicious, healthy food in the house you’ll eat it and when you don’t you probably won’t, especially when you’re stressed and tired, and having these foods in the house means you have the base of an easy meal. The other thing I do is double up my quantities when I have friends over, so that I only cook once but I can then put the rest in the freezer ready to go another time. This works especially well with stews, curries, soups and sauces. Finally, don’t get too worked up about it, just find little things you can do that fit into your life – no one is perfect and we all just have to do what feels achievable on a day to day basis.
Are carbs really THAT bad?
I find carbohydrates important in my life for giving me energy – I normally have porridge with berries and almond butter or rye bread for breakfast, either with peanut butter and banana, or with smashed avocado with chili flakes, lemon juice and black pepper. I then include things like quinoa, rice, beans and potatoes in my lunch and dinner.
What is next for you?
Lots of projects… we’re working pretty hard at the moment. We’ve just opened a Deliciously Ella pop-up garden and deli in Exchange Square behind Liverpool St, which will be there until June, along with a permanent deli in Herne Hill, as well as running the two existing ones. We’ve just expanded our energy ball range in shops to include a delicious coconut and oat ball, as well as a veggie protein one which is blueberry and almond, and we’ve got a new range of products coming out this summer! So there is a lot to get excited about.
Why do you think people avoid potatoes within their diets, and why do you feel this isn’t necessary?
I think potatoes are often a misunderstood vegetable because they are considered high-carbohydrate and people often think of ‘carbs as the devil’. In fact, they are one of the most versatile vegetables and easy and quick to prep and cook with.
How do potatoes fit into your unprocessed free-from diet?
I love cooking with potatoes as they add a filling, delicious element to any meal. We make loads of little roast potatoes every week, they’re a favourite in our house, especially when they’re nice and crispy with a good sprinkling of sea salt. I’m a big fan of potato cakes too with lots of spices and I also use them in veggie curries - I boil the potatoes until they’ve softened then sauté them with mustard seeds, turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and salt and finally them cook with coconut milk and tinned tomatoes, chunks of cauliflower and chickpeas, it’s such a great supper.