Ella Woodward’s first book broke all sales records for debut cookbooks, and the blogger’s second effort, Deliciously Ella Everyday, is expected to do even better.
The 24 year old is the power behind the wildly successful gluten-free vegan blog Deliciously Ella, where readers can find recipes and lifestyle tips for healthy living.
Deliciously Ella Everyday addresses some of the criticisms leveled at Ella’s debut offering by focusing on foods that are more readily available in non-specialty grocery stores, and which are considerably more budget-friendly. This is important: costly, unfamiliar ingredients give many people the impression that a more plant-focused diet is overly challenging and expensive when in fact it can help them save money while improving their health.
The book has the breezy, friendly tone that typifies the blog. Ella is an evangelist for a healthy lifestyle without seeming judgemental or dogmatic. People looking to make some changes in their routines will feel themselves cheered on by Ella’s upbeat vibe.
So let’s get to the details.
Layout and Organization
Like most new best-selling cookbooks, this one is full glossy with lots of whole page photos. Most of these are of food, and several are of Ella (sitting, jumping, always smiling).
The book is divided into 6 chapters: Breakfast, Healthy eating on the go, Salads, Easy weekday dinners, Big-batch cooking, and Sweets. Within each chapter there is a range of servings, so readers can find dishes for one or a gathering. This is a nice feature, as people often have to cook for different numbers of people.
The Big-batch chapter includes menu suggestions, which is another nice touch. For cooks new to this type of cooking, having these suggestions can help inspire confidence.
Each chapter includes a grocery list with the items used in that section. Most of these would be available in an urban supermarket, particularly as gluten-free and vegan foods have become more mainstream. A few items (like date syrup, for example), might require a trip to a specialty store.
Some of the ingredients can easily be substituted, depending on one’s dietary restrictions or preferences. Gluten-free pasta can be replaced with wheat pasta. Dairy products can replace the cashew or almond milk if dairy isn’t a problem.
There are no really complicated techniques in the book, but readers should make sure to scan the recipes carefully before cooking. Some recipes, for example, require baking or roasting of key ingredients before they are used in another step, so reading through will help with planning.
Cooks will also need to pay attention to timing. One recipe, for example, has carrots added to a dish in the first phase during which they cook with other ingredients for thirty minutes. In the second stage, zucchini rounds are added, and the dish is simmered for a further 30-40 minutes. Instructions say ‘until the carrots and zucchini are nice and soft’, but a cook with any experience will realize that cooking either of these vegetables for that length of time will turn them into mush.
There is some inconsistency in the ingredient listings – sometimes an approximate weight will be given for vegetables, but other times not. Weight measurements are used for some ingredients like nuts and greens, and occasionally these include a volume equivalent, but most often they don’t. Consistently offering an alternative helps readers, and is a good editorial practice for recipe writers.
As stated in the book’s introduction, these are Ella’s everyday go-to recipes. They are generally easy to prepare (if not always quick).
One thing that puzzles me is the inexplicable lack of onions. Not a single recipe uses them, and I couldn’t find an explanation. Given that onions are such a basic element in developing flavor, this is a curious omission.
I also found that the use of salt is inconsistent. Sometimes the salt is delivered via tamari soy sauce, but other times it seems to be simply omitted in recipes where it would seem appropriate. (Disclaimer: I am a big believer in salt unless a person has specific health reasons for avoiding it. If you aren’t eating too much processed food, the salt used for developing flavor in cooking isn’t likely to be a health problem.)
Again, cooks need to use their judgement with some of the recipes. One calls for a small bunch of chopped cilantro to be sprinkled over a dish before serving. Even if you love cilantro, that is overwhelming.
I tried the Spiced Sweet Potato Stew (p.170) and enjoyed it. The instructions suggest cooking sweet potatoes and red peppers for an hour, which is far too long. 20 minutes was more than sufficient to cook the sweet potatoes, and too long for the peppers. I prefer cooking out the spices rather than adding them ‘raw’ to a recipe as specified here, but these did taste okay nonetheless.
I also cooked the Kale and Cannellini Stew with Sweet Potato Wedges (p.187) and found it tasty, but again am a bit mystified by the cooking times. The recipe suggests cooking the wedges for an hour until they are tender, but sweet potatoes cook much more quickly that this.
The Sesame Marinated Kale (p.75) appealed to me, though I let it sit for a while to soften the kale rather than massaging it with the dressing as specified in the recipe.
(UK food journalist Joanne Gould put 10 recipes from the book to the test. She offers her reviews of them here.)
Overall, Deliciously Ella Everyday is a comfortable book with a good range of gluten-free vegan recipes, some of which are sure to become favorites. Experienced cooks will be able to adapt the recipes and build out the flavor, while less experienced cooks new to plant-based cooking will be encouraged by Ella’s enthusiasm and emboldened try new ingredient combinations.
For more reviews, take a look at these from my fellow bloggers who are participating in a blog tour to celebrate the Canadian release of Deliciously Ella Everyday:
Try Small Things (where you can enter to win a free copy of the book)
Where to purchase
You can purchase a copy of Deliciously Ella Everyday in bookstores, or online at:
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Scribner (April 5 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1501127616
- ISBN-13: 978-1501127618
Disclosure: I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher for review.