When Ella Woodward was lying in hospital in 2011 in almost constant pain, sleeping 16 hours a day, and barley able to walk, she suspected that whatever illness had struck her down was going to be life-changing. But back then she had no idea that change would actually be for the better.

Ella, now 23, was diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS). The condition is the result of an improperly functioning autonomic nervous system and is an abnormal increase in heart rate after sitting or standing up that causes dizziness, fainting and sweating.

“None of the doctors had ever heard of it either,“ laughs Ella, “it’s really random. They don’t know what causes it, it might be the result of a virus.“

Ella’s symptoms – which also included such severe bloating of the stomach that she says she looked nine months pregnant – came on almost overnight, but it took almost four months of exhaustive tests, hospitalisations and postulations before anyone could work out what was wrong with her.

“I was so relieved when they finally told me what it was,“ remembers Ella, who is the daughter of Camilla Sainsbury, of the supermarket family, and Labour MP Shaun Woodward.

“People had been saying maybe it was psychological, so to finally have a name for it was a relief, even though it was going to be for life.“

But the relief was shortlived, as Ella and her doctors soon realised that none of the pills or steroids she was on were working.

“I was at a loss what to do, so I just started googling things like ‘natural healing’,“ says Ella, who grew up in London Bridge and now lives in Earls Court. The result was a decision to completely overhaul her diet and the self-confessed ‘sugar monster’ gave up meat, gluten, dairy, sugar and almost all processed foods – pretty much overnight.

“My diet before wasn’t awful,“ says Ella, who was studying history of art at the University of St Andrews at the time of her diagnosis, as well as doing some modelling, “but there wasn’t very much fresh food in there, and no fruit or vegetables. I’d have cereal for breakfast and then lots of pasta – to be honest, I ate how a lot of people in the country eat.

“I threw myself in at the deep end, all or nothing, as I really needed to see if this would work. “My god, it was so hard!“ she laughs. “I didn’t know how to cook or what to eat, I was only 20. So I read a lot of books and articles and then just started playing around in the kitchen.“

Ella’s diet consisted of whole foods and plant-based, all-natural ingredients, and in a few months she started to feel a little bit better, so she kept at it and, after 18 months she was able to “come off my medication and be a normal human being again“.

That was the first change for the better from her illness, but there was more to come.

In the summer of 2012, she started posting occasional recipes and ideas on a newly-created blog, Deliciously Ella, and, to make herself try new and exciting recipes, made a promise to herself to put up three new posts a week.

“It was just for myself to begin with, but about a year later I realised there were quite a lot of people around the world reading it. It was weird, but so nice to get an email from someone in Australia saying how it had inspired them. It’s really cool to know that you’re spreading a happy, positive message.“

The blog regularly attracts visitors in their hundreds of thousands, last year she launched a related app, which topped the food and drink app charts in both Britain and the US, she runs regular cookery classes in London, and next week she is releasing her first cook book, also titled Deliciously Ella. The change in her life has been phenomenal.

“I’m so happy with the book,“ she says. “I had so much fun making the recipes up, just thinking of things that sounded delicious. I’m going to be doing lots of talks and book signings here and then it comes out in the States in March and, and I’ll keep on with my blog. Everything’s going really, really well.“

  • Ella Woodward is at Chorleywood Memorial Hall, Common Road, Chorleywood on Friday, February 6 at 7.30pm. Deliciously Ella is published by Yellow Kite on Thursday, January 29. Details: 01923 283566, deliciouslyella.com, chorleywoodbookshop.co.uk


Warm Winter Salad

This salad was one of the first recipes I created for the book and I’ve been coming back to it time and time again ever since. I just love the mix of flavours and textures here, from the wilted spinach and roasted aubergine to the crunchy pine nuts, sweet sun-dried tomatoes and creamy tahini sauce. It’s a pretty filling dish, but if you’re feeling really hungry, then try serving it with some brown rice or quinoa with a little lemon drizzled over. It’s one of my favourite meals to make for friends when I’m after an easy kitchen supper and it’s always such a winner.

Serves 4

4 small aubergines (600g)

olive oil

1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs (I love herbes de Provence)

2 bags of spinach (about 500g)

4 tablespoons tahini

juice of 1 lime

2 mugs sun-dried tomatoes (360g)

1 mug pine nuts (100g)

salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C).
Slice the aubergines into thin strips about 7.5mm thick.
Place the strips on a baking tray with a generous amount of olive oil, the dried herbs, salt and pepper.
Bake for 20 minutes.
About 5 minutes before the aubergines finish, place the spinach into a large frying pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and allow it to wilt. Once it’s wilted, add the tahini, lime juice and sun-dried tomatoes.
In a separate pan, toast the pine nuts for a minute or two, being sure not to let them burn – they don’t need any oil to cook as they contain enough of their own oil.
Add the aubergine and pine nuts to the spinach pan and mix well before serving.

Top tip:

Watch out for the ingredients of sun-dried tomatoes – they can often contain lots of sugars and preservatives. If you can only find these ones, then rinse them in boiling water before using them.

  • Recipe extracted from Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward, out now published by Yellow Kite, £20 © Ella Woodward 2015