Vegan banana bread & cashew cream frosting

Another Sunday, another recipe! Lately, I’ve really been enjoying plant-based eating more so than my usual vegetarian diet, and so I’ve filtered this into this week’s bake. I absolutely adore banana bread, so I figured a vegan-friendly version would be a quick and easy go-to for anyone wanting to experiment with baking with substitues.

A note on the ingredients – I’ve left out the eggs and butter, instead opting for the classic ‘flaxseed egg’ and dairy-free butter which both work a treat. The cake itself is quite close textured and dense because of the wholemeal flour, and the addition of soft, chewy dates gives a subtle caramel sweetness. The finishing touch is the fluffy cashew cream frosting which is super simple to make and the perfect substitue for mascarpone, traditional butter icing or cream cheese.

Serves 8-10 | Prep: 15 mins | Cooking: 1 hour

For the cake batter: 

  • 100g (organic) self-raising flour
  • 100g (organic) wholemeal flour
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 200g dairy-free butter (Pure, Flora or Vital are good brands)
  • 2 over ripe bananas, mashed
  • 10 soft pitted dates, chopped
  • 2 grated carrots
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or rapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup water

For the frosting:

  • 50g dairy-free butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g soaked cashew nuts
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond or oat)
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Step one: Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a 20cm loaf tin. Set aside.

Step two: In a large mixing bowl, add the flours, baking powder, salt and spices and mix well. In a smaller bowl, add flaxseeds and water and leave for 5 minutes to thicken.

Step three: In a seperate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until creamy or use an electric mixer. Add the ‘flaxseed egg’, oil, grated carrot and chopped dates, then mix well.

Step four: Blend the bananas for 1 minute or mash well by hand. Add to the wet ingredient mixture.

Step five: Add the dry ingredients to the wet bit by bit, ensuring you continue to mix well for an even finish. You should have a thick consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Pour into your lined tine and bake for approx 1 hour. You can adjust the temperature if the cake browns too much on top. The knife test will check the centre is cooked through.

Step six: Blend the softened cashews and milk until a thick yet smooth texture is achieved. Set aside.

Step seven: In a bowl, cream the butter and icing sugar until whipped and smooth. Add the cashew mixture and set aside in the fridge to keep cool.

Step eight: Once the cake has cooled, finish with the frosting and grated lemon zest to serve. Et voila!

Love Lisbon: Solo travel guide

For the last few years Lisbon has been on my radar. I feel as though there was a period when everyone was heading there, and I kind of missed that bandwagon (thankfully). I figured a trip this summer was well overdue, so I booked a few days in early July. I can tell you with certainty that ever since returning, I’ve had major holiday blues. Let me explain…

If you’ve seen photos of the Portuguese capital, or even heard stories, then you’ll know just how pretty it is. Every inch is covered in intricate detail; colourful buildings laced in patterned tiles, sun-kissed balconies and cobbled streets that make a city hike up rolling hills oh so worth it. Typically, I found myself in an airbnb staying with with an artist in Principe Real (yes, holiday goals indeed). She was amazing, and so was her home. I won’t share detailed photos here, but when a host leaves you cheese, a bottle of red and fresh fruit as a welcome gift you know you’ve found a good’un.

Here’s a quick and honest rundown of some of the best places I visited, and where I recommend you go too.

Getting around

The simple answer is by foot. Not only will you see more of the city this way, but you’ll want to walk around just to get a feel for the place. There’s always something to take a photo of or a side street to meander down, but those legs WILL be tired come evening. On a few ocassions I got the bus up to LX Factory and Belém, which is kind of essential being a fair distance away. Also, a tram ride from Baixa-Chiado is a fun way to do some hop-on hop-off sightseeing around the inner city.

Shopping

Possibly half the reason I came here. Lisbon is so cheap compared to other european cities, and you will not be disappointed with it’s array of designer and vintage boutiques, speciality food shops, independent stores and high street chains. One of my favourites was Embaixada, the Portuguese concept department store in Principe Real. Outdoor creative island LX Factory is home to agencies and professionals, plus a trendy mix of food outlets, fine art, fashion designers, world-famous chocolate cake-makers Landeau, and the rather special bookstore Livraria Ler Devagar. Head to Baixa-Chiado for the main shopping district, that will eventually lead you down to Lisbon Square where you can quite literally dip your toes in the river Tagus.

Eating + drinking

If brunch is your jam, make your first morning stop at Copenhagen Coffee Lab. Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2013, these guys are onto a winner and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Staff are well-versed, and the vibe is very east London coffee-house. All white interior, communal seating, fresh-baked goods (cinnamon rolls are insane), and a neo-soul playlist to rival my own. The breakfast deal here is a winner for around 6 euro, and the speciality coffee is good and strong. Similarly, The Mill is perfect for avo on toast, eggs your way, great service and an eclectic crowd – but it gets busy. Just opposite here is a tiny little juice bar called YAO Pressed Juicery and it’s WONDERFUL.

Lunch on the go is the perfect excuse to head to the Time Out Market – an old fishing market near Cais do Sodre. It’s a buzing food hall, with around 35 vendors plus a couple of bars and a gift store. The made-to-order pad thai at Asian Lab and traditional pastéis de nata at Manteigaria (sister to the Chiado branch) were worth the trip alone. If you fancy a quiter spot for food or cocktails, Lost In blends Bohemian decor and nature with uninterupted rooftop views.

If like me you eat a vegetarian or plant-based diet, Lisbon won’t fail you for dinner. There’s plenty of seafood and meat floating arond the city’s restaurant scene, but look hard enough and you’ll find some amazing vegetarian gems suitable for attending alone, too. Jardim dos Sentidos is in a beautiful garden setting where you can eat a full three-course meal for under 20 euro, and you’ll find the BEST stonebaked organic pizza at In Bocca al Lupo – a cosy and friendly joint along the most unassuming side street. On my second visit they knew my order!

And to relax?

I found myself lazing around Jardín del Príncipe Real in the evening warmth – a neighbourhood garden filled with beautiful flowers and a conservatory-style restaurant. You’ll find these gardens dotted around Lisbon districts. If you enjoy being by the river, when in Cais do Sodre take a walk along the seafront; there’s a nice buzz around there. Equally, when in Belém, a walk along the prominade of this slow-paced town is a nice way to wind down with great views of 25 de Abril Bridge. For sunrise and sunset views, head to the infamous Portas do Sol (The Gates of the Sun) for panoramic views over the rainbow-coloured houses of Alfama.

 

 

 

Vegan banana oat pancakes & spiced maple

 

Over-ripe bananas mean one of two things for me: banana bread or pancakes. The latter is one of my absolute favourite breakfast or brunch items, especially when made fluffy and thick with just enough chewiness. One of my go-to places for American pancakes is The Breakfast Club (faultless 99.9% of the time!) but they’re not the healthiest, admittedly. So in those moments when I fancy something similar, these homemade vegan-friendly pancakes are a winner and the perfect way to use up those extra sweet fruit.

For this recipe, the main flavours are bananas and oats, with a few spices and nuts thrown in making them more nutritious. Big win! While I can’t imagine anyone subbing maple syrup from this recipe, warm runny honey or agave syrup will work just as well drizzled at the end. Likewise, fresh blueberries and peaches, or a spoonful of coconut yoghurt elevate these even more. The most important meal of the day is about get tastier!

Serves 2-4. Makes 6-8 pancakes | Prep: 5 mins  Cooking: 12-16 mins

For the pancakes: 

  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk: soya, almond or oat work well
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or fresh vanilla bean paste
  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp Linwoods flaxseed, almond, brazil nut and walnut mix (ground almonds will also work)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Vegetable or sunflower oil

To serve:

  • Good quality maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice

Step one: In a blender, nutribullet or by hand, mix the chopped bananas, milk and vanilla until completely smooth in texture.

Step two: In a large dry bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, oats, nut mix, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the liquid banana puree and mix well. Set aside in the fridge for 10 minutes to activate the raising agent.

Step three: Heat up a non-stick pan with a little vegetable or sunflower oil. 3 tablespoons of mixture should be enough for each pancake. Cook for a minute on each side or until well coloured, adding more oil when needed.

Step four: Heat up the maple syrup in small saucepan (as much as desired) with the mixed spice until warm. Drizzle over the pancakes and serve.

Coconut, almond & honey granola

Autumnal Sundays… bliss! Like most people, the weekends are my excuse for a bit of a treat come breakfast time, and this nifty recipe gets things started on a high. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a good granola. Whilst trying to stay mindful and start the day off on a positive note, I always reach for granola, yogurt, and fruit/seeds. It’s a satisfying combo and if you’re on the go, you can always take it with you. I’ll have those lazy days where a Pret granola or bircher pot is a damn good substitute, though, but there’s nothing better than making your own. I feel like granola has joined the health craze just like green smoothies, matcha tea and almond milk, but before this breakfast item became all the rave, I’d always experiment with ways make my own. There’s only pot involved and one oven tray, meaning minimal fuss and washing up. On an evening or weekend, you can whip a batch up in under 30 minutes and store the remainder in an airtight kilner jar for the next few days. Winner for those who like to meal prep!

You’d be surprised how many variations of this recipe you can make, from adding dried fruits and raw nuts, to things like nutmeg, flax seeds and even dark chocolate! I’ve gone for a classic combo here with dried coconut, flaked almonds and runny honey. I like a good chunky texture, which is the only main difference between this and a shop bought version as I find those way too crumbly, plus there’s a hint of vanilla extract which makes the whole thing smell incredible. Why not switch up your weekend routine and try this super quick granola? I best enjoy mine with chopped apple, cinnamon, and my favourite greek yogurt, but a natural or soya yogurt will work just as well.

Makes 1 large kilner jar | Method: 10 mins | Cooking: 20 mins

For the granola mix:

  • 100g softened unsalted butter
  • 250g rolled oats
  • 60g flaked almonds
  • 75g unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 25g raisins or sultanas
  • 25g demerara sugar
  • 3 tbsp runny honey
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or essence
  • Pinch of salt

To serve:

  • 1 small apple (preferred variety)
  • 1 small pot or three tbsp thick Greek yogurt (preferred variety)

Step one: Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees for 10 minutes while you prepare the granola mix.

Step two: Add the butter, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon to a large pot. Melt on a medium heat until evenly mixed.

Step three: Add the almonds, coconut and saltanas then slowly add the oats and finish with the salt. Mix until everything is well coated with the butter mixture.

Step four: You’ll want to turn off the heat at this stage and add the honey. Adding it at the end will stop it from melting too much and will allow the mixture to become sticky and pliable.

Step five: Whilst the mixture is still warm, take handfuls and begin to mould with your fingers. The idea is to take small chunks and scatter onto the baking tray. The bigger the chunks, the more texture you’ll have once baked.

Step six: Bake for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven. Once baked, cool for 10 minutes before eating and decanting into a jar. This will keep for 3 days.

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Travelling in Europe

Travelling is one of those things most of us aspire to do, but in reality we don’t do enough. For anyone like me, you’ll have a revolving wish list that grows month after month. One minute you’re soul searching for Yoga retreats in Bali and the next you’re certain a girls trip to Miami will be the best experience of your life. The world is a colossal place after all, and in 2016 finding travel inspiration is almost too easy.  I usually flick through Stylist’s ‘Escape Routes’ on a Wednesday and find myself lured into the charm of coastline views and thermal spas across the Far East. This is swiftly followed by the realisation that £2,000 is probably a little extreme for some sunshine. So, feet firmly back on the ground I look at more realistic ways to travel and find that I’m never disappointed with what’s just on my doorstep.

Luckily, I’ve been able to visit a substantial amount of destinations (24 and counting) and that has shaped my outlook on what it means to really enjoy holidays, big or small. When it comes to planning, packing, spending and those exciting bits in between, I’ve managed to adopt a list of essential tips to guide me through, especially on a budget! This year, if a five star holiday to desolate sandy shores isn’t feasible but a three-day city break is, there’s no reason not to make the best memories!

Where to start?

– Write down what kind of holiday you want. What are your interests? Are you a huge foodie or culture enthusiast? Do you want to relax or explore? Let this be the basis of your search in terms of location
– Assess your budget and mentally stick to it; it’ll help you avoid browsing holidays that you simply can’t afford
– Who are you travelling with? Solo or a group? If it’s a group, who is the lead organiser? You’d be surprised how essential this is to save time and confusion
– Do your research! Get online, read magazines and blogs, speak to travel agents, friends and family. They are all helpful in planning a holiday
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 Six travel hacks: 

– Price compare: Flights can drastically increase or decrease just days apart so it’s worth checking out a few different sites and being flexible with departure dates. Flying off-peak can save you £! Shop around for currency conversion rates too. Post Office Currency is a good start but avoid currency bureaus in busy stations and airports that will charge a premium.

 – airbnb : A firm favourite. Take your pick of local people’s homes in near 200 destinations based on style, size, location and price. Let them host you or rent the entire property for your stay. It’s a revelation.

 – easyJet Euro currency cardA simple and secure way to take money abroad. It’s free and uses chip and pin security. Oh, and there’s no transaction fees.

 – Cash over card: I’d always advise taking cash (converted) and keeping a credit card as back up. You can monitor what you spend much easier avoid unnecessary charges.

 – Avoid the excess: Pack with interchangeable outfits and accessories in mind rather than too many single items. Like a mini capsule wardrobe. You’ll save suitcase space, potential airport fees and time stressing in the mornings!

 – Going solo: More and more of us are travelling alone and it’s a liberating experience. If a hotel isn’t on the cards, airbnb is perfect if you want a little home comfort. I’d always recommend learning just the basics of the language so you can talk to locals. Be sure to try new food, find new ways to relax and take in everything you see around you. It’s a completely different experience to having company 24/7 and you can plan your time (and expenditures) freely.

– Citymapper app: A great journey planner that is available for a wide range of destinations. It has live departrure times for all available transport, plus tube, train and metro line maps.

European city escapes:
If you are on a shoestring budget and a tight timescale, here’s my top four recommendations that can be reached within a few hours.

 

– Copenhagen and Stockholm ooze Nordic charm and are aesthetically pleasing, within easy reach of major UK cities like London, and are a perfect mix of great food and culture. You’ll find cheap last minute flights on easyJet and Sky Scanner, two of my recommended travel websites, and once there you can travel mostly by foot or bike. Explore lush green spaces, island hop by boat, explore attractive shopping districts, eat your way through local delicacies and capture the candy coloured buildings through your lens. The streets are extremely clean, the people are friendly and the pace is uber laid-back.
– Berlin is another incredible city full of vibrancy and adventure year-round! Whether you hit the stylish streets to people watch during Fashion Week, mingle with the locals at karneval der kulturen, or explore the energetic nightlife and music scene, there’s something to keep you occupied from dusk till dawn. Make the most of free galleries, markets, coffe shops, lakes and parks. At its cheapest, you can get to Berlin for around £20 each way – a bargain if there ever was one! Most people speak fluent English there, so getting around is a breeze on public transport.
– Prague in the Czech Republic is a mere two-hour flight away from London, and it’s beautifully well preserved. Again, flights are a snip with airlines like easyJet and Ryan Air. Explore the Old and New Towns, National Galleries and the historic Prague Castle, or enjoy live music through the cobbled streets before a dreamy sunset over Charles Bridge. Amongst bespoke jewellers, bakeries, bars and cultural hotspots, Prague will have you lusting over its picture perfect postcard streets.

In the kitchen: Five essential reads

For some people, cookbooks can seem like a little bit of a hassle. You buy them with good intention and then you look at the lists of ingredients and hours of preparation time required, and things go downhill from there. Instead, they sit gathering dust on the shelf and those wonderful recipes you envisioned never get made (except that one time… remember?). My mum springs to mind here, because growing up she always had a treasure chest full of books and magazines that lay dormant for “next weekend”. She is a brilliant cook might I add, so I guess she had no immediate need for those books but she would whip them out now and again have a quick read then they would go back to their nest, untouched. I’d read them in my spare time and I think visually, I started to appreciate food and food photography from there.

Fast forward 15+ years and I’ll spend hours rummaging through book shops, charity shops and online looking for inspiration from my favourite chefs and influencers. Things have taken a huge shift since the 90s and earlier 00s in terms of what’s available out there on the market. Authors know people want speedy, fresh, flavourful food that can adapt to working family lifestyles and those on both a budget and timescale. More bloggers and influencers are creating recipes for their online following. More of us are opting for alternative diets; plant-based, vegetarianism, gluten-free, dairy-free. Recipe books are offering up recipes as diverse as those who buy into them and I personally am so excited by this.

So, I’ve taken my time and sifted through my collection and here’s five of the best. I champion the vegetarian diet, so there’s a mix of books aimed to keep our health and wellbeing in balance. I hope you’re inspired to go out and try some of these!

Amanda Brocket | The Raw Food Kitchen

My latest addition to the bookshelf is The Raw Food Kitchen which I picked up in one of my favourite homeware stores, Oliver Bonas. Amanda’s philosophy on food and health is really refreshing and she aims to make raw diets accessible and appealing. She manages to break down the meaning of eating ‘raw’ beyond fruits and vegetables and talks about the benefits to the body, changes you’ll expect, ingredient lists and shares personal stories about her struggle with Candida and gut health. I can relate to this so I have enjoyed learning as I’ve flicked through the many beautifully photographed pages.

She also goes into lengthy detail about variations on everyday foods we enjoy (as not to alienate readers) as well as adding a nifty little meal planner before delving into recipes. If you’re on a new raw food journey and need some realistic inspiration, give this a try. Expect colourful salads, juices, snacks, stir-frys, ice-cream, breakfast foods and more.

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Plenty More | Ottolenghi

Plenty More is the book I return to most often. It’s just one of a series of cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi and offers superb recipes and photography that focus on the humble vegetable with strong Mediterranean influence. In his introduction (so well written), he explains his journey to appreciating the vegetarian diet and his influences. Dishes are vibrant, daring and visually inviting, yet with minimal fuss. I think the pictures really speak for themselves! What’s nice is that every recipe introduction is a personal account referencing friends, colleagues and family.

If you get the chance, visit one of his restaurants and deli’s across London. Nopi is next on my hit list!

LEON – Ingredients & Recipes

An oldie but goodie. Londoners know the well-know chain that is LEON – offering naturally fast food and getting us through the hectic working week, but where did it all begin? This book focuses on the founders; Henry, John and Allegra who opened up the first branch in Carnaby Street mid 2004. This book is split into two halves essentially: the first touches on the A-Z of ingredients (this book includes meat and dairy) and the second is the recipe book. So for anyone wanting a thorough lesson in seasonality, sourcing, understanding ingredients, eating habits and local produce then this book will get you an A* grade.

As well as the retro visuals, smooth matte pages and colourful content, LEON does a wonderful job of sharing recipes from the LEON family and is not short on ideas or creative content. From hearty soups and stews, to superfood salads and puddings all in line with the LEON philosophy, there are recipes to see you through the seasons. Wholly worth the read.

Neal’s Yard Remedies – Healing Foods

I have a lot of love for this book. It is simply a fantastic curation of ingredients, recipes and knowledge on the power of foods to heal the body of ailments. It talks about dietary patterns, the western diet, seasonality and healthy supplements before going into an A-Z of ingredients and properties. Now, I thought I knew about food but this will educate even the most seasoned traveller and foodie out there!

Expect recipes from breakfast to dinner, snacks, condiments and a pretty clever recipe chooser which offers up a list of recipes from the book for specific problems like heart health or detoxing. All in all, a handy book that leaves no stone unturned. You’ll definitely reevaluate your next weekly shop!

Natasha Corrett | Honestly Healthy Cleanse

Alkaline, alkaline, alkaline. It’s the motto of this neat and tidy book from Natasha Corrett. It’s split into four sections: feel good, slim down, high energy and life changing – all designed to cleanse the body over a set amount of days – menu planner included. Natasha gently guides you though the rules of the cleanse, why our bodies should be more alkaline than acidic and answers common questions too. A quick ingredient list sets you up for the next few pages of simple, honest food that looks (and tastes) fab. I enjoy making recipes from this book and it’s one I pick up when I want a quick one week detox.

Summer style: In focus

It’s May and I’m so ready for summer! I’m wondering if I’ll get to pull out my stash of floaty fabrics gathering dust under the bed anytime soon? I guess during the warmer months, we tend to experiment a little more with our personal style. We stray away from monochrome and inject a pop of colour and personality into our attire. For me, I like to freshen up my mostly high street and vintage aesthetic with understated jewellery, bold lip colours and varied textures. I also love to accessorise with a great pair of sunglasses!

For some reason, most styles I try on suit me which is a great confidence boost but not so great for the purse strings, you know? They really elevate a look into something effortlessly stylish and individual. Like a vintage bag or great pair of shoes, they instantly become the centre piece of the outfit and meaning you can essentially ‘build your look’ around this single item. Good news for those fashion conscious folk who are rushed for time!

Buying glasses online can be a challenge because you can’t always determine how they might look in person, but buying online is a smart and savvy way to find special offers and exclusive styles! It’s also a great place to find new online retailers, share with your friends and read genuine customer reviews. These super sleek Wayfarer frames from Glasses Shop are my new favourite accessory this spring/summer! The two-tone detail and shape really frame my face and the muted browns go with so many outfits without being OTT. Whether you like an eccentric Cat Eye or a squared oversized frame, there is a style to suit every taste. Their range of high quality, light and durable frames extend to prescription sunglasses too which are amazingly affordable, so you can get holiday ready in no time!

Glasses Shop offer customised lenses and coatings, and ship internationally so you don’t have to miss out on a stunning pair of cheap glasses this season! Get 50% off your order using the discount code GSHOT50. Excludes sale items.

This post is in collaboration with Glasses Shop. Check out the full range online.