Baked white chocolate and ginger cheesecake, winter berries.

This has to be my ultimate dessert. A rich, creamy cheesecake ticks all the boxes for me; indulgent, just sweet enough and satisfying. Now that autumn’s here, this is a seasonsal take on what can be quite a summertime dessert. I also champion this recipe because it looks a lot more challenging than it actually is (trust me!). With a hint of ginger in the base, and a vibrant forest fruit medley on top, it’s a winner all round for this time of year. It’s time to organise that dinner party you’ve been talking about!

Serves 8-10 | Prep: 20 mins | Cooking: 50 minutes

For the biscuit base: 

  • 250g pack of McVities ginger nuts (substitute if desired, but these are the best)
  • 50g butter or sunflower spread
  • 1 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

For the cheesecake:

  • 280g  full fat cream cheese (I use Philadelphia original)
  • 200g marscarpone cheese (I use Galbani)
  • 100g good quality white chocolate (I use Green & Black’s 30% cocoa with vanilla)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Zest of a whole lemon
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 150g frozen berries (blackberries, cherries, currents, blueberries)

Step one: Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees (fan assisted). Grease and line a 20cm round tin. Set aside.

Step two: Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin in a sandwhich bag or plastic bag. You want a semi-smooth texture with a few chunky bits.

Step three: Melt the butter on a low heat, add the crushed biscuits, ginger and cacao and stir until well coated and softened. Remove from the heat and press evenly into the lined cake tin. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Step four: In a heatproof bowl, gradually melt the broken white chocolate over a bain-marie (a pot of simmering water) until completely smooth. This should take around 8 minutes. Set aside.

Step five: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and marscarpone until smooth. Add the salt, grated lemon zest and eggs one at a time, mixing throughout.

Step six: Once cooled, stir the white chocolate into the mixture along with the honey. At this point the mixture will be silky smooth and cover the back of a spoon completely.

Step seven: Remove the base from the fridge. Pour in the wet mixture and smooth with the back of a spoon for an even finish. Bake for approx 50 minutes. The edges should be light brown and coming away from the tin slightly but firm to touch (don’t worry about minor cracks). The centre should still have a little give.

Step eight: On a low heat, thaw the frozen berries until softened and oozing natural juices. Set aside and cool before topping the cheesecake for serving.

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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.