By Prudence Wade
Often seen as a poster girl for wellness, Ella Mills – otherwise known as ‘Deliciously Ella’ – actually isn’t too keen on the term.
“I do think the conversation has become quite charged, quite loaded,” she says thoughtfully. “Even the word ‘wellness’ sometimes makes people think of weird and wacky things in LA. When you hear it, you don’t necessarily think of going for a walk and then making a bean chilli, which feels more within your remit.
“I think in most people’s eyes, what we need is a meal that’s pretty easy to make and you can make a really big batch of, and then just chuck in the freezer.”
With her latest cookbook, Deliciously Ella Quick & Easy, Mills wants to help make wellness healthy eating feel less alienating. And the fact it’s built around speedy recipes is no coincidence – she and her husband and business partner, Matt, welcomed her first child, Skye, last year.
The book may be all about ease – but it was born out of blood, sweat and tears. Mills says frankly: “This cookbook has actually been on a personal and emotional level, the hardest project I’ve ever done. I went back to work with it four weeks after Skye was born, so I was pretty all over the shop at that point.”
With a baby, another on the way, and a business to run, Mills has a new appreciation for how simple wellness should – and can – be. “It’s going on a walk or doing a five-minute meditation,” says the 29-year-old.
She emphasises how cheap and easy things like chickpea stews and lentil daals can be, and her efforts to make recipes that are more accessible are admirable.
“The way we live and the way we eat is so reflective, and often when people think about getting healthier and making a change in the way they’re eating, they go first and foremost to their diet. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s what I did as well. But at the same time, there’s so much more to it. Broccoli is great, but broccoli isn’t the answer to everything.”
Instead, Mills says she’s interested in wellness (for lack of a better word) as a whole – how your mental health can affect your gut, the impact sleep has on your wellbeing, even analysing your relationship to people and the world around you as a whole. “I think it’s increasingly important to look at all of it in context, and not get too overly focused on one thing or another,” she says.
Spinach and Chickpea Curry
1tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 × 400g tin of coconut milk
A 2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1tsp mustard seeds
1tsp ground coriander
1tbsp medium curry powder
1tbsp ground cumin
24 cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 × 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2tbsp plain yoghurt
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
Put the coconut oil into a large saucepan with the onion, garlic and celery, and some salt and pepper, and let them cook on a medium heat for five to 10 minutes, until the celery and onion have softened.
In a separate pan, wilt 100g of spinach with a splash of boiling water. Once wilted, add half the coconut milk and use a hand blender to blitz the spinach, so that it’s smooth.
Once the celery and onion have softened, add the ginger, mustard seeds, coriander, curry powder and cumin. Let the spices toast for a minute or so before adding the puréed spinach, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and the rest of the coconut milk, plus a big sprinkling of salt and lots of pepper.
Turn the heat up so that it starts bubbling, then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 15–20 minutes, adding the rest of the spinach for the final few minutes. Once the spinach has wilted, add a squeeze of lemon and the yoghurt plus a sprinkling of chilli flakes, if you’re using them, and serve.
Chocolate Banana Muffins
3 large overripe bananas (about 350g, peeled weight)
150ml almond or oat milk
3tbsp coconut oil, melted
4tbsp cacao powder
200g spelt flour
100g coconut (or brown) sugar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
80g dark chocolate
About 12 walnuts, roughly chopped or broken
Preheat the oven to fan 180C fan and line a 12-hole muffin tray with cases.
Chop the dark chocolate into chunks, roughly the size of a chocolate chip.
Mash the bananas in a large bowl using a fork, until smooth and creamy.
Add the almond milk, coconut oil, cacao powder, spelt flour, coconut sugar, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt, then stir until a smooth batter forms.
Stir the dark chocolate into the mixture.
Spoon two tablespoons of mixture into each muffin case, scatter over some walnuts, if using, and add a little piece of chocolate to the top.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Deliciously Ella Quick & Easy: Plant-based Deliciousness by Ella Mills is available now