So a friend and I are slightly obsessed with Deliciously Ella. While I am not even vegetarian, let alone vegan, I find it fascinating to see how easy it is to create unusual yet exciting food in a different way. My friend Natasha is passionate about local produce and the environment and so we came up with a plan to divulge into the world of Ella Woodward and to show our friends what her food was like by hosting a dinner party… a vegan and gluten-free dinner party. “Woah,” I hear you say, “surely you were eating nuts and cucumber”. But oh no how wrong you are as we had some fascinating creations up our sleeve (well Ella did…).
The aim of the evening was to show our friends what nutritious and whole foods tasted like and, more importantly, to show them whether or not it could be done on a student budget. So our test revolved around the questions: Does it taste good? Is it sustainable on a student budget? All was yet to come…
We planned our menu based on Deliciously Ella’s ‘dinner party’ menu:
Starter: Beetroot Carpaccio
Main course: Coconut Thai Curry with chickpeas and brown rice
Dessert: Key Lime Pie
(Note: All the recipes used can be found in her book ‘Deliciously Ella’ or on her website)
Once we had planned our menu, we drew up a list of ingredients ranging from avocados and chickpeas to almonds and coconut milk. Initially, we had a little panic about the amount of expensive ingredients on our list but in the end, we went ahead with it and followed Ella.
The majority of the ingredients were bought from fresh food markets, local producers and specialist ingredients stores as opposed to supermarket chains as we believe that buying from locally run places is not only better for the environment and community but is also a fun experience as you can have a poke around and discover some interesting things. Check out Durham’s indoor market for a super exciting ‘spice and all sorts’ shop.
The total cost of a meal for seven of us came to £36.39. Now although this may initially look rather pricey on a student budget (and not going to lie, it probably is…), bear with us here! Firstly each of our guests chipped in £10 towards the costs and hence it ended up costing £3.70 per person, which for a 3-course meal, is not bad at all.
After the ingredients were bought, the cooking commenced. We started to get to work with the pie – be warned that you really do need fresh avocados for this (as we discovered!) and you definitely need a food processor to blend. Despite this, the pie was surprisingly very straightforward to construct. However do note that the base of the pie is a lot more than you actually need – we ended up decanting much of the date and almond base to use for granola bars, so no wastage!
The curry and beetroot carpaccio were equally easy to prepare, as they both just involved chopping and cooking, which were very therapeutic after a long day at the library. However, again be warned that the curry recipe makes a lot… I would say at least double of what we needed and expected, but I guess this just means lots of yummy curry for future meals!
So the first question of the test: Does it taste good?
We invited our guests and made a little introductory speech as to why we had done the meal, which was to show them that nutritious food could be yummy and affordable (or so we hoped). The beetroot went down well, a simple and yummy starter that Natasha described as “pretty with green and pink”. However as Natasha admits that despite this, “it was a lot of work for what it was”. One of our guests declared that although she was initially put off beetroot by the colour, she really liked it!
After the beetroot starter, we moved onto the main course, which according to everyone, was amazing. In addition to being super creamy, tangy and full of flavour, the curry was also hearty and filling. The brown rice took approx. 1.5 the time it usually takes to cook, however, the resulting nutty flavour and wholesome fibre made it worth it. And although the aubergine was probably my favourite part of the dish (mainly because I love them!), all of our guests gave positive feedback for it.
And atlas we reached the pudding and wow… I don’t think any of us knew what to expect of a lime pie primarily made of avocados but boy it was incredibly good. One of our guests who didn’t like avocados voted the pie as her favourite part of the dinner and this was followed by another guest stating, “I think I could cut out refined sugar.”
So what’s our verdict? Well, it definitely wasn’t cheap but for a three-course meal, £3.50 isn’t bad and is much cheaper than most college formals. Overall the meal was nourishing and satisfying, whilst knowing it was doing your body a whole world of good, and on top of this, there were some leftovers, so the money really does go further! One thing we did find however was that sometimes Deliciously Ella portions are way off, so do watch out for that.
Is it sustainable on a student budget? Maybe not as a regular thing, however, it’s a nice treat to try something different once in awhile and has made us all more aware of what we are eating and where we source our food.
Finally, was the test run a success? Our guests enjoyed themselves, the food tasted good and wasn’t as expensive as we initially expected. So although it isn’t suitable as an everyday student menu, it was definitely a fun way to spend an evening and both Natasha and I would recommend it!
P.S. Follow @TheBubble_Food on Instagram for your dose of all things good & yummy!