Ella Woodward, photo © Neal's Yard Remedies

Deliciously Moreish

19th August 2016

Lisa Botwright catches up with the queen of clean eating, Ella Woodward, to find out more about her brand new collaboration with Neal’s Yard Remedies and discovers a skincare edit that’s almost edibly good.

If you’re even remotely interested in health and nutrition, chances are you’ll own a copy of Deliciously Ella – the vegan cookbook that tempted even the most hardwired carnivores amongst us: after all, it holds the record for the highest first week sales for a debut cookbook ever.

As notoriously cynical as we Brits usually are, we all appear to be beguiled by Ella’s fairy tale story of severe ill health, morphing into health and vitality, simply by overhauling her ‘sugar monster diet’ (her words). Her authenticity and the obviously health-giving results of her diet make it all sound much more attractive than the usual sanctimonious self-denial. (And without sounding like a schoolgirl with a crush – she’s just soooo pretty…)

Since going from bed-bound semi-invalid to bouncy entrepreneur, Ella has developed a best-selling app, written more cookbooks, tied the knot, opened a trendy cafe (Mae Deli) in Marylebone with new husband, Matthew, and most recently teamed up with the country’s most successful organic skincare brand, Neal’s Yard Remedies, to launch a new facial range.

I feel a little tired taking this all in and think that maybe I need some of Ella’s famous ultimate energy bites. This is the attraction, you see: we all want a piece of this abundance of wholesome drive.
Ella tells me that she was already a fan of NYR and had worked with them long before the skincare collaboration, developing superfood recipes. “They’ve been my go-to brand for years now.”

The skincare partnership is largely about sharing the same commitment to pure and natural ingredients, and certainly makes sense. “As I became more conscious about what I was putting in my body, I started thinking more and more about what I was using on my skin.”

The lightbulb moment came when she visited the NYR headquarters in Dorset. “I loved seeing the organic ingredients that they use in their products being grown in their gardens,” she recalls. She spent time in the lab with some of the formulators and could see the parallels with what she was already doing. “It was just like mixing products in a kitchen, but on a bigger scale.”

Once the idea really got underway, Ella immersed herself in learning all about aromatherapy: smelling the essential oils and understanding the blending process. “In lots of ways, it’s similar to creating a recipe: you want it to look great, smell great and make you feel great – it’s all about tweaking an idea until you feel it’s right.” In the end, the ingredients she chose were “the ones that resonated the most…”

…And these happen to be rose – “I am obsessed with the scent of rose, if you open my bathroom cabinet it’s rose everything” – as well as lime and cucumber (“really moisturising”). The end products are a refreshing facial wash and deliciously moreish moisturiser, dispensed from those striking NYR blue bottles that grace the smartest of bathroom sinks.

Ella is understandably excited about her latest project and says it has been a labour of love. “We went through so many smells and textures – I can’t tell you how much love has gone into those blue bottles.”

At the time we touch base, Ella is getting ready to appear at Wilderness (the well-known foodie-music festival), and I ask if she enjoys the opportunity to interact with her fans. “Definitely – that’s why it’s so great working in Mae Deli: speaking with customers and hearing their feedback. Every day I go to the Deliciously Ella hashtag on Instagram as I can see what people are thinking in real time. It’s incredible.”

Asked if she has any tips for us mere mortals whose fridges are more wine and cheese than watermelon and chickpeas, and she’s reassuringly down to earth. “I think it’s all about starting slowly, just making one small change a day is amazing – adding in one new serving of fruit and veg a day is fantastic, some sweet potato wedges or guacamole make an insanely delicious addition to any meal and they’re such an easy place to start.”

She also urges Optima readers to try her new breakfast smoothie from some of the ingredients from the skincare that she “can’t get enough of at the moment”. (See below for recipe.) “Whizzing up a smoothie in the morning is incredible too as it always starts you off on the right track for a positive day, while giving you an abundance of goodness and energy.”

Oh, that energy. As Ella dashes off, I pull out my laptop and book a delivery from my favourite supermarket. “Blueberries,” I type, “limes, avocados, sweet potatoes…”

Ella’s Super Skincare Breakfast Smoothie

Ingredients:
1 cucumber, juiced
½ a mango,
1 tablespoon of almond butter
½ a lime, juiced
Handful of frozen blueberries

Method:
Start by juicing your cucumber and lime, then blend the juice with all the remaining ingredients until totally smooth.

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