Ella was at the University of St. Andrews when she was diagnosed with a rare illness called Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which basically breaks down the autonomic nervous system, leaving her bedridden for 95% of the time. She was just 19-years-old.
After failing to find a solution through conventional medicine, and inspired by holistic approaches to healing and such figures as Kris Carr, Ella decided it was time to change her diet. She had never been a fruit and veggie lover or a cook and describes her relationship to refined sugar before her illness as an addiction.
She started slowly, learning how to cook and making the same basic, healthy meals daily — porridge with berries for breakfast, buckwheat avocado toast for lunch, and brown rice pasta with veggie sauce for dinner. Ella decided it was time to mix it up and started her blog, Deliciously Ella, as a way to commit herself to trying new healthy recipes at least three times a week. Her readership started with just a few friends (and her mum.) After 18 months of consistently posting beautiful, plant-based, whole food recipes to the site, she had over five million hits.
There was one recipe in particular that, despite being one of the first she posted and spent the least amount of time creating, continues to be one of the most popular ever for Ella — her sweet potato brownies. Ella's book, Deliciously Ella, is due out in March 2015.
It happened like this: she was getting ready for a friend's dinner party one evening when she remember she was supposed to bring dessert. She didn't have time to go out and get ingredients so she rummaged through her pantry to see what she had/what she could make. She found a couple of sweet potatoes, ground almonds, buckwheat flour, dates, maple syrup and raw cocoa. So, she steamed the potatoes, blended it with the dates and mixed everything else in and baked it. Here's what happened next.
"I have to admit that when I made these I was beyond excited, like really way too over excited. I was jumping around a lot, making a lot of 'mmmmm… delicious… wow… these are outrageous… can you believe it' type noises! Anyway I was so excited that I told everyone that would listen about my new creation — but the response was a little mixed. Most people seemed to think the idea of making dessert from a vegetable was too bizarre and maybe I'd taken my healthy baking a step too far! But I absolutely promise you that I haven't and that you will adore these, it is impossible not to."
Ella's Sweet Potato Brownies
"Sweet potatoes are incredible: they're bursting with nutritional goodness with all their antioxidants, and their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being awesome blood sugar-regulators. Each cup contains an almost unrivaled amount of vitamin A, with more than four times your daily need of this antioxidant boosting vitamin, which is essential for strengthening your body's immunity against infection.
Their bright color also doses you up on anti-inflammatories which have been shown to reduce inflammation on the brain and nerve tissue. Each serving also contains lots of wonderful fiber, which gives each brownies a 'slow burning' quality, meaning their energy is used up much more slowly than low-fiber carbohydrates (like normal brownies), so you'll be fuller, more energized and more satisfied for way longer! So if you needed an excuse to eat brownies then here it is! They're healthy!
Don't forget that raw cacao is also a superfood as it is such an insanely rich source of antioxidants, one of the best in the world, as well as being packed with a number of other beneficial nutrients: manganese, which helps oxygenate the blood; magnesium, which helps maintain healthy bodily nerves, muscles and bones; and sulphur, which builds strong nails and hair, and promotes beautiful skin." -Ella Woodward
Makes 10 brownies
- 2 medium to large sweet potatoes
- 2/3 of a cup of ground almonds
- 1/2 a cup of buckwheat flour (brown rice flour will also work)
- 14 medjool dates
- 4 tablespoons of raw cacao
- 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
- a pinch of salt
1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 350ºF, then peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into chunks and place into a steamer for about twenty minutes, until they become really soft.
2. Once they are perfectly soft and beginning to fall apart remove them and add them to a food processor with the pitted dates – this will form one of the sweetest, creamiest, most delicious mixes ever!
3. Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl, before mixing in the sweet potato date combination. Stir well.
4. Place into a lined baking dish and cook for about twenty minutes, until you can pierce the brownie cake with a fork bringing it out dry. Remove the tray and allow it to cool for about ten minutes. This is really important as it needs this time to stick together. Remove the brownies from the tray, leaving it another few minutes before cutting them into squares – then dig in and enjoy!