Plant-based eating helped her beat POTS – her new book shares simple recipes

February 26, 2024

“It’s about taking these familiar ingredients that are often seen as a little bit bland, a little bit boring, and trying to give them gentle twists, to make them feel really exciting and rejuvenated,” she says.

The cover of “Healthy Made Simple” by Ella Mills. Photo: AP

Healthy Made Simple contains dishes Mills eats at home with her husband and two young children. She aims to have the recipes take less than 30 minutes to make, use no more than five simple steps, and need 10 ingredients or less.

“I just found that was essentially the sweet spot where action and reality merged closer together,” she says.

Mills took a hard look at some of her favourite dishes and tried to create a better balance between flavour, practicality, nutrition and speed.

“What I found was that oftentimes there was an extra step or an extra pan in there, or like two or three extra ingredients. And it probably made it 5 per cent nicer or 10 per cent nicer,” she says. “But I’d end up not making the recipes any more because it was just that little bit more effort.”

Healthy Made Simple celebrates whole foods and uses proteins from things like nuts, , lentils, beans and chickpeas. The flavours are global, with ingredients including harissa, udon, satay, miso, pesto, tagine and curry.
“As you start to look around the world, there are so many places where not necessarily the whole society is vegetarian, but and they’re treated with a lot of TLC,” she says.

We so often see health and looking after ourselves as a trend, as a fad, as a six-week plan. Ultimately, that’s not health

Ella Mills

Take her one-pan peanut and cauliflower stew, which combines peanut butter, ginger, coconut milk, garlic, rice and curry powder with simmering cauliflower florets. It’s got heat and crunch and tastes indulgent.

Lauren Whelan, the publisher for Yellow Kite, the lifestyle and cooking imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, says Mills’ creativity shows the versatility and simplicity of plants. Her sweet potato brownies revolutionised the way that the vegetable is used in the UK, Whelan says.

If Mills is an evangelist for vegetarianism, she says she’s proof of its benefits. At 21, she was diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a condition in which the heart rate increases quickly after getting up from sitting or lying down. This affected her nervous system, and she was put on a variety of medications.

She chose to overhaul her diet and started documenting her experience in a blog. Able to wean herself off medicines, Mills has since built up her Deliciously Ella business into seven cookbooks and a food brand.

Mills isn’t preachy and knows her readers may not be ready to go full-on vegetarian. For her, it’s about small steps that can make meaningful changes, like making one or two plant-based dishes a week or highlighting a vegetable one night with the meat as the side dish.

“This is not all or nothing. This is not ‘everyone should go plant-based tomorrow’ or ‘everyone should only cook from this book,’” she says. “But it’s like on a Sunday night when you’re at home, could you do one of these recipes and then you’d have some leftovers for lunch?”

One of her new dishes – spicy sun-dried tomato and eggplant ragu – is perfect for sceptics. It adds some heat from harissa and chilli to a pasta with eggplant and parsley, finished with .

“It has this kind of chunky, bolognese, ragu-esque texture. That’s the kind of thing that I would make a lot for friends or family who are not sure they’re going to love plant-based stuff, but when you’re tossing that through some nice spaghetti you can always serve it with Parmesan on the side,” she says.

Mills knows the world of health and wellness often chases trends, but she believes in the ultimate power of a well-dressed carrot.

“We so often see health and looking after ourselves as a trend, as a fad, as a six-week plan. Ultimately, that’s not health. Health is looking after yourself for decades,” she says.

And to do that, “It can’t be deprivation. It has to be something you want to do on a regular basis.”

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