Suzanne Harrington initially dismissed Ella Woodward’s clean eating cookbook as another genetically blessed rich kid hitching herself to the foodie bandwagon. After eating her recipes for three weeks, she changed her mind

It’s that time of year again. Except this year I thought I’d save you the trouble — instead of you going out in the January sales and getting the Nutribullet, the cold press juicer, and the spiralizer, I’ve done it for you.

I’ve been to the whole food shop and loaded up on organic fruit and veg, buckwheat flour, medjool dates, raw cacao, cashews, spirulina, and many other ingredients you won’t find down the local chip shop.

And to guide me through it all — and, vicariously, you too — I’ve enlisted the help of the Queen of Clean, Ella Woodward.

Deliciously Ella’s first cook book promises “awesome ingredients and incredible food that you and your body will love”. Her second book, Deliciously Ella Every Day, is just out in time for the January clean-up.

Ella herself is young, rich, and beautiful.

She used to live on pick’n’mix, Ben & Jerry’s, and cereal at university (St Andrew’s, same as Prince William and Kate Middleton — her mum is a Sainsbury’s heiress, her dad a former cabinet minister), but during her second year there she became seriously ill.

A rare condition which affects the autonomic nervous system — postural tachycardia syndrome — left her bedridden. She was only 19.

So Ella adopted the classic Hippocratic mantra — let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food — and chucked out everything in her kitchen that contained sugar, dairy, dead animals, gluten, or anything processed.

She was going to heal herself via nutrition.

The only problem was that she couldn’t cook, so she started a blog, which nudged her towards experimenting and trying out three new healthy recipes a week.

People loved the blog. And then came the book, which was the fastest selling debut cookbook ever. Healthwise, she made a full and total recovery.

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I've written a big blog post this morning all about why I don't like using labels to describe a way of eating. It's been something I've wanted to write about for a while and I hope it's something that's helpful and makes you feel more relaxed about healthy living. The way you eat is so personal and it's so important that you enjoy it - it's all about what works for you individually and there's never a one size fits all, so you should never ever feel guilty about what you eat. Please give it a read and can't wait to hear what you think ❤️ The link to it is in my bio! 📷 @charkibbles 👕 @deliciouslyella_shop

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Anyway. So why I am doing this?

Well, initially it was just curiosity, but then an unexpected medical situation left me half dead in hospital, unable to eat anything for weeks.

When I came home, I felt horrendous — weak, depleted, poisoned from medication, and in desperate need of decent nutrition.

Suddenly my I Do Deliciously Ella So You Don’t Have To project seemed very sensible indeed.

WEEK ONE

This is what it's like to follow a clean eating diet for three weeks

Already not eating any animal products gives a distinct advantage with Deliciously Ella’s kind of food — there’s no savage withdrawal from bacon and eggs.

I’m already on the healthy eating track, and have been for years, but am looking to refine it even more.

Depending on where you are at foodwise, this could translate as Gwyneth Paltrow levels of nutri-neurosis, or a basic desire to avoid future hospitalisation by any means.

Even by kale. And I hate kale.

So what does raw, vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free eating look like? What do you have for breakfast? Not Frosties or Cheerios, that’s for sure.

Let’s see. How about a big fat creamy smoothie. Banana, almond milk, almond butter, medjool dates. But what’s this?

Oh God. She wants me to make my own almond milk using a muslin nut milk bag and a high powered processor — the best one is a Vitamix which costs around £500 — and to make my own nut butter using the same fancy processor which I don’t have.

So I cheat, and use unsweetened almond milk from a carton, and sugar-free almond butter from a jar. The smoothie is gorgeous, rich and filling, and I want more.

Ella wants me to make everything from scratch. Everything. But I can’t because I would never leave the kitchen, so I improvise a bit.

Within days I realise that good organisation, the right ingredients, and the right equipment are key — otherwise you will just end up living on smoothies, which could get a bit samey.

And there’s no way I am doing 100% raw. I am not a woodland creature.

I make a delicious tomato and red pepper soup which involves roasting the veg first. But where’s the crusty baguette to eat with it? Er, there isn’t one.

I want some bloody carbs. I knock up some pancakes from chick pea flour (gluten free, fat free) and they go great with the soup. I make some lovely lemony hummus.

Am starting to feel appallingly smug. And nourished.

WEEK TWO

My strength returning, I realise I need a proper blender.

I get a small Nutribullet for €108, which is powerful enough to turn dates and cashews to mush — the base of raw vegan cheesecake — plus it makes great smoothies and mills dry ingredients, so it is a really good investment.

I end up using it several times a day.

But what about a dessert hit for my massive sweet tooth?

I try Ella’s sweet potato brownies. Buckwheat flour, cacao powder and sweet potato mush do not scream ‘brownie’ to me — but I follow the recipe and am pleasantly surprised.

I make more, and cheat by chucking in some good dark chocolate to make them gooey. My kids spit them out in horror and go back to their Hobnobs.

But my own monster sugar cravings are nowhere to be seen.

WEEK THREE

I am definitely in the swing of it. I have a go at making courgetti with my new spiralizer, which is quite good fun and tasty and doesn’t make you fall asleep the way pasta does, but is still satisfying with a rich homemade pesto that involves Brazil nuts, pine nuts, and avocado.

I play with my juicer, mixing up different flavours of fruit and veg, and recycling the pulp into Ella’s superfood crackers, which are a bit weird, to be honest.

I make Brazil nut ‘cheese’ and cashew ‘cream’ and they are yummy. I am starting to feel really enthusiastic.

I even try chia seed pudding, which is a bit frogspawn-ish — you soak the chia seeds in coconut milk and add berries or mango or whatever you fancy — but it is so nutritious that I get over the whole sliminess of it.

My tastebuds are in overdrive.

This is not a diet, however, but a way of living, so when I go out to eat, I don’t suddenly start craving cheeseburgers.

One day in a cafe, to accompany my soya latte, I get a coffee shop granola bar because it seems healthier than chocolate fudge cake, but it tastes so sugary it is actually unpleasant.

My tastebuds are enjoying a new lease of life like smokers get when they first give up tobacco — everything tastes bright and fresh.

By the end of the third week I am ready to face my nemesis — kale. Ugh. And then I do Ella’s kale salad, which involves — bear with me on this one — massaging the kale in fresh lime juice.

Yes, actually massaging the stuff. Like you are a Swedish masseuse and the kale is a tense athlete.

The citrus juice breaks down the horrid cellulose chewiness of the kale, wilting and softening it. Which makes it not only edible, but with pomegranate seeds and tamari dressing, very moreish.

Who knew?

CONCLUSION

This is what it's like to follow a clean eating diet for three weeks

I wasn’t expecting to, but I am loving this way of eating. It takes loads of effort, but it’s worth it.

The recipes themselves are easy — you can make an Ella roast dinner in the same time it takes to make a traditional roast dinner — but you just have to have the right food, the right gear, and the right frame of mind.

Give your taste buds a while to readjust from all the salt, sugar, and fat in normal food, and then wait for the taste explosions. It takes a few weeks, but you won’t look back.

Obviously, none of this is cheap.

She only uses wholefoods. There’s no point, for instance, in buying cheap plastic dates instead of the posh medjool ones she specifies. They won’t work in the recipes.

You also need some fancy kit — if you must pick one item, get a Nutribullet, because they do everything — and you need to think ahead.

But once you have made the necessary head space adjustments, it becomes second nature.

And bearing in mind how it turns out that 90% of cancers are lifestyle related, rather than genetic, I’d rather spend my cash on good food as an ill-health preventative than on healthcare specialists later on.

It’s cheaper in the long run, and more fun.

After a month of Ella-inspired cooking, I am brighter, livelier, and more bushy tailed.

Not bad for a non woodland creature.

Items you need to make your life delicious

THE COST OF BEING ELLA: 

  • Vitamix around €680
  • Nutribullet around €108
  • Sage juicer around €200
  • Spiralizer from €27

STORE CUPBOARD ESSENTIALS

  • Cashews, almonds, coconut oil, olive oil, coconut milk, gluten free flours, gluten free grains, medjool dates, nut butters, pulses, seeds, raw cacao powder, tahini, maple syrup, tamari, miso paste, apple cider vinegar, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables.

All available in wholefood shops or online


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