Thursday, 26 February 2015

A family weekend in Devon: Totnes, Dartmouth and Blackpool Sands beach



I adore my student life in Bristol (not exactly breaking news, I know), but a weekend away truly is a delight.

Last weekend my sister (who also has a hilarious blog, by the way), parents, dogs and I escaped to a cosy cottage by the sea in Devon, and it was a real treat.


This was hanging in our bedroom in the cottage – isn’t it great?


I think I definitely did all those things. Except 'see the sunrise'. Because that would clash with 'sleep in', silly. And I don't like getting up early. *shudders at prospect*

So anyway, my dears, I loved exploring a new part of England - we mustn't forget to be tourists on our own doorsteps - and I thought I’d share some highlights from our trip with you.


Totnes


It may not be a huge place but Totnes is an utterly charming little town. It was bustling with life on the Saturday morning we visited, and the blue sky was the perfect backdrop for exploring.



We wandered up the main street, browsing in lovely independent gift shops and peering through the windows of the many enticing-looking tea-rooms, cafes and bakeries.



OK, so we may have stopped off to buy a little summin’ summin’ at one of them, but the above date-banana-cashew slices were too good to resist! May have to try and recreate them myself. I'll keep ya posted.

I also spotted an amazing number of vegan/veggie cafes which was super cool.


Dartmouth


Next stop: Dartmouth!

Bigger than Totnes and full of life, the town was looking beaut in the sunshine.

How incredible is this view!?


I’m all about the colourful houses. I also love that the town has a port - there's something lovely about being by a large body of water, don'tcha think?


Dartmouth definitely had charm and was perfect for a little lunch stop.


As we left the town a couple of hours later we spotted the most incredible view and, like the diva I am, I insisted my chauffeur father pull over so I could take a quick snap or two.



Too pretty.


Blackpool Sands beach


To the beach!

This name is confusing on multiple levels: firstly, the beach is not in Blackpool. It's actually not far from Dartmouth. And secondly, if I'm going to be picky it's more stony than sandy.

However I can forgive the beach for that because it was looking stunning! Don't these pictures look like they're of somewhere far more exotic than Devon?



Ahhh, don't you just love the beach? I haven't been to many coastlines lined with cliffs and really appreciated the bright colours of the sea, sand and hills all drenched in late-afternoon sunlight.

Needless to say, the dogs were loving it even more than we were.


Sis working the colour pops
However, it was cold. I mean coooooold! Hence these facial expressions:



And then, seemingly literally out of the blue, the heavens opened. I actually watched the rain make its way across the beach towards us which was both cool and terrifying in equal measures.


A mad dash to the car ensued, and boy oh boy, were we glad to get back to our cosy cottage.


Love this pic of Tippy taken by the sis.

Our relaxing weekend culminated with a stop-off in Exeter. We went for luncheon at Urban Burger, and oh ma days, I just have to tell you about it because it was diviiiiine!




My burger (the top one) was actually veggie: layers of halloumi, grilled peppers, aubergine and courgette, houmous, tzatziki and salad in a gluten-free bun with sweet potato fries on the side. It was so so good, but I think I'm going to have to go back for a meaty affair too.

There was just time for a snood selfie - all knitted by my extremely talented mother - before we said goodbye to Holly and hit the road again, dropping me off in Bristol soon after. 


Family, food and exploring new places. Oh yes indeedy. That's the stuff.

Have you been to Devon? Do let me know where else I should visit!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Lunch at Maitreya Social, Bristol: "Britain's best vegetarian restaurant"


As a student in a big city, it's easy to think you know said city well. But last weekend I realised that although I feel I know my way around Bristol, I really only know a very little part of it. The student bubble, if you will. 

I adore Bristol, as many of you will know, but it is a biiiiig city.

Last weekend I ventured out to an area of Bristol I'd never been to before. And what was it that drew me out of the bubble? You guessed it: food. Quelle surprise. 

I was off for a Valentine's Day lunchdate with my Bristol blogging bud, Ambi from Bombay Rose. We're both really into Honestly Healthy/Deliciously Ella-style eating so were keen to check out what has been voted the best veggie restaurant in the UK, Maitreya Social

Situated waaayyy over in Easton, it was a bit of a walk. Slightly more of a walk than I'd expected. But still, it was a beautiful sunny day and I rather enjoyed wandering my way through new areas.


I'll be honest, I didn't massively love Easton. I mean, it's no Clifton, but then again no city can be solely pretty Georgian terraced houses, am I right?

The thing is, Maitreya Social didn't seem to fit in with its surroundings.

The café-restaurant is cosy, quaint and charming - think homemade cakes on the counter and chalk-board menus on the walls.



The dinner menu looks particularly awesome, but Ambi and I decided dinner à deux on V-Day evening perhaps wouldn't have been the best move ever. So lunch it was.

My initial plan was to go to Maitreya for dinner too before writing a review, but our lunch was too tasty to wait. Y'all wanna feast your eyes on this baby right now:


Yup. Let's get in closer there...


That's right. I'm talking vegan burgers bursting with nuts, beans and spices, served with chunky wedges, homemade sweetcorn relish, and 'slaw. Corrrrr!

The burgers were also blimmin' HUGE! Although not gluten-free, we couldn't pass up the delicious homemade buns, despite having been given the option of having some gluten-free bread on the side instead. I think it's great that so many different diets are catered for.

I massively loved the sweetcorn relish on top of the burgers - there was so much yumminess going on in there. As delicious as veggie burgers are though, they will never take the place of meaty burgers in my heart. However, I do adore veggie/vegan ones as they are.


The chunky hand-cut chips on the side were glorious - fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Our 'slaw was delicious too - instead of dairylicious coleslaw, we chose vegan-friendly 'slaw with a scrummy maple dressing. 

Just look at these happy faces:



Burgers are undoubtedly the way to a girl's heart. And they fuelled our loooong catch-up perfectly.

The staff were friendly and the prices are reasonable considering the huuuuuuge portions - our lunches were £7.95 each, which I am so happy to pay for a one-off treat. 

Ambi and I both loved Maitreya Social and will definitely be back. 

Maitreya Social: 89 St Mark's Road, Easton, Bristol, BS5 6HY.

Have you ever been to a solely vegetarian restaurant? Do let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

RECIPE: Simple banana bread (vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free.)


Oh my gosh, I could dance round the kitchen grinning from ear-to-ear about this banana bread.

Ok, I may indeed have danced round the kitchen grinning from ear-to-ear about this banana bread. But I reckon you might too.



So tasty, yet vegan, gluten- and refined sugar-free, say WHAAAAAT?!

Upon finding myself with three super ripe bananas, I really had no choice but to make banana bread, right?


I was also pretty keen to try out the Coconom coconut sugar I'd kindly been sent. (How fab is the name Coconom, for starters?)

100% natural and unrefined, coconut sugar has been appearing in more and more healthy recipe books and blogs of late. Never one to pass on a food trend, I was intrigued and eager to experiment with some.

The sugar is dark and added a muscavado-y undertone to this banana bread, almost like molasses. I think it worked jolly well!



Sweetened simply with Coconom, honey and bananas, this banana loaf isn't sickly but is sweet enough, even for someone with a sweet tooth like mine!

It's full of flavour, despite being simple. I wanted to keep it basic this time but there are so many twists I want to try! I'm thinking chopped pecans, dark chocolate chunks or perhaps peanut butter in the batter would be divine.



The texture is also dreamy: both fluffy and moist at the same time. The oats aren't distinguishable but simply create the slightest chewy texture.

The loaf has that gorgeous classic banana bread crust too. You know the one I mean.



I genuinely think the smell of freshly-baked banana bread may be the best smell in the world - waiting for it to cool is a killer! But alas, a necessary pain, otherwise it'll fall apart when you try to slice it.

A warm slice, lightly spread with butter, honey, or (my fave) peanut butter makes for an awesome breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up.



And it's just awesome as every slice is packed full of nourishing goodness!

I really can't take credit for the fabulousness of this banana bread though, that goes to the amazing Minimalist Baker. I made a few changes though, including using coconut sugar which makes my version entirely refined sugar-free!

Makes 10-12 slices.




Ingredients

3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2-3 tbsp honey, depending on ripeness of bananas (or agave if vegan)
3 medium ripe bananas
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 2.5 tbsp water and set aside for 5 mins) or a normal egg if you're not vegan)
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or use brown sugar)
3.5 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup almond milk
1 1/4 cup ground almonds
1 1/4 cup wholemeal buckwheat flour

1 1/4 cup oats (gluten free if you need them to be)


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a loaf pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.

2. Make the flax egg (if using) and melt the coconut oil and honey together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Mash the banana in a large bowl. Add all the ingredients up to and including the almond milk and whisk vigorously to combine. Finally add the ground almonds, flour and oats and stir to combine. The batter will be thick.



3. Pour it into the tin and bake for 50-70 minutes, but check it before then - if the top starts to get too dark, carefully cover it with foil. When ready, the loaf should feel firm, be crackly and golden brown on top, and a sweker inserted into the middle should come out just about clean.

4. Leave to cool in the tin for about half an hour before carefully turning out on to a wire rack to cool fully. Wait until it's at least nearly fully cool before slicing and DEVOURING!