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Ella Woodward: I'm not a believer in guilty food pleasures

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 spoke to Keeley Bolger

Cook, food blogger and model Ella Woodward is getting married this year, to English politician Tessa Jowell's son Matthew Mills

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 the new deli that she runs with her fiance, cookery classes to teach, modelling 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."

Added to all that, there's her forthcoming marriage, to Tessa Jowell's son Matthew Mills. They got together last year, and enjoy a happy working relationship in their London business as well as romantic one.

"It is really nice 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.

"There's something nice about when you start something together, when you share in the excitement."

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.

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 student bed-ridden for up to 16 hours a day.

Eventually diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome, 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 whatever 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."

Try these healthy – and guilt-free – recipes from Deliciously Ella Every Day...

THE PERFECT GARDEN FRY-UP

(Serves 1)

2tbsp olive oil

1/2tsp cayenne pepper

1tsp dried oregano

1tsp dried thyme

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Salt and pepper

6 chestnut mushrooms, very finely sliced

10 cherry tomatoes (halved or quartered if large)

Juice of 1 lemon

50g spinach

1/2 avocado

Pour the olive oil into a frying pan and add the cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Let it heat and develop its fragrance for two minutes. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and half the lemon juice and let everything cook for about three minutes, at which point the veg should have softened. Stir in the spinach and let it wilt for another minute or so.

Pile the vegetables from the pan on to a plate – or a piece of toast – and slice the avocado on top. Drizzle the remaining lemon juice over the avocado and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to serve.

CHICKPEA, QUINOA AND TURMERIC CURRY

(Serves 6)

500g new potatoes, halved

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3tsp ground turmeric

1tsp ground coriander

1tsp chilli flakes or powder

1tsp ground ginger

400g can of coconut milk

1tbsp tomato puree

400g can of chopped tomatoes

Salt and pepper

180g quinoa

400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

150g spinach

Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil; cook for about 25 minutes; drain well. Place in a large pan and add the garlic, turmeric, coriander, chilli, ginger, coconut milk, tomato puree and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper; add the quinoa with a mug of just-boiled water (300ml).

Reduce the heat to a simmer, place the lid on and allow to cook. Over the next 30 minutes, stir every five minutes or so, to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. (This is quite a long cooking time, but this is how long quinoa takes to cook in all these ingredients, rather than just in water.)

Halfway through cooking, add the chickpeas. When there are just five minutes left, add the spinach and stir it in until it wilts. Once the quinoa has cooked and is fluffy, not crunchy, it's ready.

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. 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.

:: Deliciously Ella Every Day by Ella Woodward is published in hardback by Yellow Kite, priced £20.

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