Making simple food for busy lives

The arrival of her first child drove Australian nutritionist Ellie Bullen to write her latest book focusing on making delicious meals fast.

Bullen, author of online platform Elsa’s Wholesome Life, had her son Bowie in 2020 and found her life became much more chaotic, and involved less sleep and less time to cook.

“It is very much a reflection of my current life stage as a busy working mum. I wanted to simplify my recipes so that they contained fewer ingredients and steps and required shorted cooking times, while not sacrificing flavour or nutrition.”

So in Simple (Mostly) Vegan Kitchen she has created family meals that are quick to whip up, even on a busy week night.

She has included some baby and toddler friendly recipes for those who are in a similar life stage to herself and are looking for new ideas to feed their children.

There are also ideas for slow cooker meals which can simmer away all day, providing an easy meal for dinner.

Bullen’s journey with food began early while growing up in a small beachside town, Lennox Head, in northern New South Wales. She was always interested in cooking, food and nutrition so went on to study nutrition and dietetics at university and began creating recipes which she shared online.

A self-taught cook, she has learned about food while travelling, taking cooking lessons and experimenting.

“I enjoy helping people to become more confident in the kitchen.”

She is an advocate of giving up processed foods as the best thing people can do for their health.

“It brings me joy to help people learn to cook wholesome meals using simple, fresh ingredients and notice the positive impact on their health.”

After years of travel, Bullen and husband Alex moved back to Australia and now live on the Gold Coast with their son.

The new book is divided into chapters following the days meals from breakfast to light meals and then mains and condiments and finishing off with sweets and drinks.

“I couldn’t live without a treat now and then.”


Simple (Mostly) Vegan Kitchen by Ellie Bullen, Macmillan, RRP $44.99

Sweet potato falafels

Falafels are a great staple to have in the fridge, and I love them even more when they’re homemade. Enjoy these with a colourful salad, in a wrap or simply dipped in hummus.

Makes 18-20

500g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2.5cm pieces

2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 tsp ground cumin

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 long red chilli, chopped

1 tsp sea salt

⅓ cup coriander leaves, chopped

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 Tbsp olive oil

250g (1 ½ cups) gluten-free flour

135g (½ cup) hulled tahini

Black and white sesame seeds, for coating (optional)

Olive oil spray (optional)

To serve (optional)


Salad of your choice

Sriracha chilli sauce

Pita bread

Lemon wedges

Pickled red onion


Preheat the oven to 180degC fan-forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil over high heat, add the sweet potato and boil for 20 minutes or until soft.

Drain, then transfer to a food processor. Add the chickpeas, cumin, garlic, chilli, salt, coriander, turmeric, olive oil, flour and tahini and blend until smooth.

Transfer the falafel mixture to a large bowl. Sprinkle the sesame seeds (if using) on to a flat plate.

Using wet hands, roll heaped tablespoon-sized portions of the falafel mixture into balls, then roll in the sesame seeds to coat.

Place on the prepared tray and spray with olive oil, if desired. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and slightly crisp.

Serve the falafels on their own with some hummus or with your favourite salad, sriracha, pita bread, lemon wedges and pickled red onion.

Any leftover falafels will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

Alternatively, freeze the uncooked falafels for up to three months. Cook from frozen and increase the baking time to 35–40 minutes.

Baked lemon cheesecake

Cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts because it combines creaminess, decadence and a touch of fruity zing. This baked cheesecake has a light lemon flavour and is best served with fresh berries on top – yum! You need to cook the cheesecake the day before you intend to serve it.

Serves 10-12

240g vegan digestive biscuits

125g (½ cup) vegan butter, plus extra for greasing

300 g vegan cream cheese

1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

165g (¾ cup) caster sugar

1 Tbsp cornflour

125ml (½ cup) coconut cream

1 Tbsp solid coconut oil

fresh berries, to serve

Preheat the oven to 160degC fan-forced and grease a 20cm round cake tin with vegan butter.

Place the vegan digestives and vegan butter in a food processor, then process for one minute or until a dough forms. Tip the dough into the prepared tin and press it evenly into the base and around the side.

Rinse out the food processor, then add the cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, caster sugar, cornflour, coconut cream and coconut oil and process until smooth. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, then tap the tin on the bench a few times to remove any air bubbles.

Bake the cheesecake for 55 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and firm to touch. Switch off the oven, but leave the cheesecake inside for a further hour. Transfer the cheesecake to the fridge to set overnight.

The next day, top the cheesecake with fresh berries, then cut into slices and serve.

Any leftover cheesecake will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.

Best ever brekkie burrito

Nothing quite hits the spot like a breakfast burrito. Although you can add any number of ingredients to your tortillas, the combination here of hearty potato, punchy tomato and jalapeno salsa and creamy tofu scramble makes for a nourishing breakfast that is one of my absolute favourites in this book.

Serves 2

300g potato, cut into 1cm cubes

1 Tbsp olive oil

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 Tbsp finely chopped coriander root

2 large flour tortillas

1 avocado, mashed

2 Tbsp grated vegan cheese

Tofu scramble

300g silken tofu

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp vegetable stock powder

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

¼ tsp ground turmeric

Tomato salsa

2 tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced

1 fresh jalapeno, deseeded and finely diced

2 Tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves and stalks

Finely grated zest and juice of œ lime

¼ teaspoon sea salt

To serve

Coriander leaves

Sliced fresh jalapeno

Pickled red onion

Lime wedges


In a small bowl, toss the potato with the olive oil, salt, smoked paprika and coriander root. Transfer to a small frying pan, place over medium–high heat and saute for 15–20 minutes, until golden and crisp.

While the potato is cooking, prepare the tofu scramble. Mash all of the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Place a frying pan over medium heat, add the mashed tofu and cook, stirring frequently, for eight minutes or until lightly golden.

Prepare the tomato and jalapeno salsa by placing all of the ingredients in a small bowl and tossing together well. Set aside.

Heat the tortillas according to the packet instructions.

To serve, evenly divide the potato, tofu scramble, tomato and jalapeno salsa, avocado and vegan cheese between the two tortillas. Scatter a few coriander leaves, some sliced jalapeno and pickled red onion over the top, then wrap up into a burrito and serve with lime wedges.

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