Cook Book Review - Deliciously Ella with Friends
In the Introduction to her latest cook book, Ella (Deliciously) Woodward asks you to challenge those friends or family who are sceptical abouteating well. Can it be delicious as well as nutritious? She touches on the subject of Clean Eating without actually using those dirty words, urging us to enjoy food and not to feel guilty if you don’t always eat healthy and balanced meals. Instead she encourages you to learn what works for you without preaching. At first glance, this colourful book feels more about Ella’s lifestyle and less about the food. Lots of images of beautiful, happy people, hanging out and eating together. But on closer inspection it’s split into clear, concise chapters with recipes for Breakfasts & Brunches, Lunch (Light & Easy), Feasts, Sides, Parties and Sweets. Alongside some of the recipes, she adds little footnotes that give you handy tips on how to prep food, or how long it takes to get from pan to plate.
As a home cook and food obsessive, I believe there’s only one way to judge a cookery book and that’s in the kitchen. So I called upon my A-Team of taste testers, AKA my hungry friends to see if we (Ella and I), could throw together a three course meal for six. Will we all turn vegan, start everyday with sun salutations and become photogenic or is it all a bit too much of an effort to bother?
The Menu - I struggled on deciding what the starters should be, I had ruled out the Beet & Sweet Potato Crisps, Mini Baked Potatoes with Cashew Sour Cream & Chives because the main meal included potatoes. The Charred Padron Peppers with Cashew Chipotle Cream looked delicious but alas Padron peppers aren’t easy to find in Edmonton Green Market. Instead I chose theAubergine & Tomato Pesto Rolls with Coconut Tzatziki and Socca Pizza Bites as Ella tells me it’s one of the best recipes in her book. The Pesto topping is a slight variation on both dishes so I swap one for a homemade black olive tapenade and spread this on the Socca Pizza bites and in keeping with the theme I make it vegan, no anchovies. The taste of basil cut through the tomato pesto and worked well wrapped in the aubergine rolls. Even the guest, who’s convinced that aubergines are usually a bit slimy, happily eats them. The socca bites, a little more like blinis than pizzas are fun and easy to make. Worried that the tapenade would make the bases soggy if left to sit there for a while, I assembled these moments before serving and it took moments for them to be eaten. Good team work Ella.
As we were eating on a Sunday afternoon the obvious choice for the main was the Sunday Lunch Herbed Nut Roast with Maple Roasted Root Veg and Smashed Turmeric & Mustard Seed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy. Should I have added the Chilli Garlic Broccoli or maybe the Carrot and Fennel Slaw? It felt like it was missing a dish, something a little lighter and fresher to balance all the strong flavours. Neither felt right so I made a simple shredded red cabbage and grated Beetroot salad, lightly dressed in apple cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon and scattered some roasted melon seeds over the top (melon seeds?! Yes, they’re a “thing” don’t you know). The overall feedback was that each dish on its own exploded with beautiful flavours, but served together there was no balance. Adding a little helping of the cabbage and beetroot salad to the plate helped even this out. The nut roast was light and tasty if not a little crumbly, but the star dish unanimously agreed by all was the roasted root veg. Sweet and sticky with a kick of spice that kept everyone going back for more. On reflection, if you decide on trying this meal out, check with your guests first to see if they like spicy food as this is a flavour in abundance.
Ella convinces me to bake the Orange & Polenta Cake for desert as it’s her office favourite, well if it’s good enough for her team, its good enough for mine. I serve this with the suggested coconut ice-cream, shop bought and a cup of Rooibos tea. The polenta makes this simple cake quite dense and gives it a lovely grainy texture; soaking up the orange juice glaze it stays moist and sweet as expected with 180ml of Maple syrup!
As I’m left alone with a stack of empty plates, I’m wondering if this books a keeper. Does it stand out from an already crowded market place? I’m not so sure it does. It could make a great gift for those reconsidering their health and diet, but walks well-trodden cookery ground for the initiated.