Monday, 26 October 2015


It's true! The above title is happening!

In two days time I'm setting off from London for Bangkok, via Dubai. I can't quite believe this is actually happening!

I remember months ago, in the midst of my finals at Uni, walking through rainy Bristol and dreaming of travelling to a far-off land with turquoise seas and white sandy beaches. And now I'm actually going to go there. (Google Image search Ko Samui. Don't be too jel.)

I'm heading off for just under two months (quote Mum: "you're going on an extended holiday") - God forbid I'm not home for Christmas! Am I slightly sad to be missing most of the Christmas period AKA the best time of the year ever ever ever? Yes.

However this is a trip I may never have the opportunity to take again, Christmas ain't going anywhere, and I'm just going to have a few days of MEGA INTENSE CHRISTMAS JOY (caps = strictly necessary to demonstrate the intensity of said joy) when I'm back. Get ready for it. Aaaaaand hopefully I'll have a tan in all this year's Christmas photos. [insert sassy girl emoji here]

I'M SO DAMN EXCITED! I've never been eastwards really, and I cannot WAIT to explore another part of the world. Who knows, maybe I will just "find myself" (whatever that even means). I'm pretty sure I'm going to find a selection of great food and pretty views if nothing else though so I'm fairly confident this is going to be a winner.

Oh snap! I haven't told you where I'm going! Well I shan't bore you all with a day-by-day itinerary (that was a gem saved for my immediate family) but basically I'm starting in Bangkok, heading down to some Thai islands (see: the aforementioned Ko Samui), down into Malaysia and through the Cameron Highlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, over to Medan and doooooown down down to Jakarta, through Indonesia before finally ending up in Bali. You share my excitement right? If anyone has any tips for any of these places, PLEASE hit me up!

This is a trip unlike anything I've ever done.

For starters, I'm taking a backpack. Yes, me. Backpacking. I know. And nooooo don't be silly, of course it's not my backpack (y'all know I'm not the kinda girl who's likely to own a backpack) - I'm borrowing one from the very lovely and more adventurous Amber (you remember Amber from France right?)

Yeah, so backpacks? Not so big.

Packing light? Not my forte.

Like, this is really hard. How do I know what I'm going to want or need till I get there? How can I be prepared for everything if I'm trying to keep my bag under 10kg?

I'M NOT EVEN TAKING NAIL VARNISH! You can get a mani-pedi in Southeast Asia, right? Wow I sound like such a diva.

But like, I'm totally forgoing material things. The only jewellery I'm taking is one pair of earrings. Alright, two, for my second piercings. Okay FINE, six. But if that's not packing light I don't know what is.

There's been a lot to do to get ready for my departure: I've had to get some VERY expensive jabs (srsly, they cost like £500), buy also expensive travel insurance, establish that I shouldn't need Visas, sort a currency card (I'm planning on using Revolut) and spend ALL the money in Boots in order to hopefully avoid getting ill (how did I spend £56 in Boots?!)

But I think hope I've done everything I need to and can now just go forth and have a wonderful time.

Naturally, I'm a little apprehensive. But if you're not nervous before doing something like this I think that's a little odd. (Quote Mum again: "Do you know what a tsunami looks like? If that happens, RUN! Away from the sea."

I can't wait to meet new people - both travellers and locals - and learn about different cultures.

I'll be documenting my travels as much as I can but please forgive me if posts are a little sporadic. Instagram will obvs be updated as much as poss though. And snapchat. #sorrynotsorry to my friends in offices.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

RECIPE: Healthy banana-nut-oat cookies

Think of these as banana bread crossed with muesli. And take my word for it - I'm munching one riiiiight now. Don't be too jel.
You know when you really want to bake but you're not in your own kitchen and you have limited equipment? Cookies.

No fancy equipment or special baking tins required. And these cookies use super basic ingredients too. Hoorah!

I whipped these up on one of those most Sunday-ish of Sundays: I'd spent the morning reading the paper (well, in iPad form) in my PJs on the sofa - and when I say reading the paper I of course also mean pinning pictures of pancakes, fb stalking old schoolfriends' sisters' boyfriends and instagramming my breakfast - I'd been on an autumnal stroll and had done laundry, so obviously baking was the logical next activity of the day.
With 1D's Perfect playing on repeat (I'm 100% obsessed, #sorrynotsorry to the neighbours), I whipped these cookies up in no time.

They're so simple and so scrummy!

Soft and chewy with crunch and squidge from the almonds and raisins respectively - what's not to love?

They're packed full of goodness too: you've got your protein from the peanut butter and almonds, vitamins from the banana and raisins, slow-release energy from the oats and natural sweetness from the honey.
I also love that these are totally customisable:

Vegan? Sub agave syrup for the honey.
No flaxmeal? Use a normal egg?
Allergic to peanuts? Use any nut butter you like!

And of course use gluten-free oats if you need to.
You can also totally mix up the dried fruits and nuts you add in. Orrrrr you could go for chocolate chips. And I don't think anyone can argue with the fact that that would be an inspired move.

They're not overly sweet so are totally justifiable for breakfast, but they also make a great afternoon pick-me-up. Make sure your bananas are reeeaaally ripe, as that'll give your cookies flavour and sweetness.

This recipe makes eight cookies.


1.5 really ripe bananas, mashed
1 heaped tbsp smooth peanut butter (I use all-natural stuff)
1 tbsp honey
1 mug oats (I used a standard tea mug, not a little coffee cup)
1 tbsp flaxmeal
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp almonds, chopped
1 tbsp raisins
A pinch of salt if your peanut butter is unsalted


1. Make the flax egg by combining 1 tbsp of flaxmeal with 3 tbsp water in a little bowl and set aside. Preheat the oven to 170 fan and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper or foil.

2. Whisk the mashed banana, peanut butter and honey together until creamy and smooth (this mix is deeeeelish!)

3. Add in the rest of the ingredients, including the flax egg, and stir to combine.
4. Use your hands to roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls before pressing down and flattening out on the baking tray. Bake for 12-15 minutes until turning brown at the edges.

5. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire cooling rack. Enjoy!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

An autumn afternoon in Amsterdam

I'd been meaning to go to Amsterdam throughout my whole six months in Brussels for my year abroad - it's so easy to get to! - yet somehow I failed to do so.

So this time round, despite only being in Brussels for a month, I was determined to hop over to the Dutch capital. And that, dear chums, is exactly what I did yesterday.
There's a quick train from Brussels to Amsterdam which, amazingly, takes under two hours.

I didn't get that train. It's expensive.

There's a slower train which is unsurprisingly cheaper but takes a fair amount longer.

I didn't get that either.

What I did get was the coach with FlixBus - it's quicker than the slow train and my return trip cost me a mere 22€! I was lured in by the price and the promise of on-board sockets and wifi. Unfortunately I was unlucky enough to be on older coaches for both my journeys which lacked both wifi and sockets, but the journeys were perfectly pleasant nonetheless and I'd definitely recommend you check out FlixBus for getting around Europe.
It was an unfortunately overcast, drizzly, grey day. Can we just imagine all my photos have bright blue skies and sunshine beating down, mmm kay? Cool. That's the central station above^... Pretty nice eh?

I was pretty wowed by all the architecture in the city though - very ornate, with lots of detail and gilded touches, especially in the main squares.
^That's a shopping centre. I know.

I started off wandering through the centre of the city, round Dam Square (there was a big, gaudy funfair in town which somewhat ruined its charm in my eyes) and down the main shopping high streets.

Amsterdam seemed GREAT for shopping, and I was surprised to see a whole host of British chains too - I managed to resist Topshop and River Island, but the lure of M&S was too much. I know. And I've only been away from the UK for three weeks. Nothing like home comforts!

I was also drawn into an interesting-looking restaurant-slash-food-shop called La Place, which I've only now learned (thanks, Google) is the most successful restaurant chain in the Netherlands.

It was super busy and I could see why!
The restaurant area was huge, but there was also an amazing take-away section. You guys, the salad bar was what salad dreams are made of. (Don't pretend you don't have salad dreams too.)
It wasn't lunchtime so I decided to make myself a huge salad to have for dinner on the bus home. And of course, as is always the case with pay-by-weight things, I ended up creating a rather pricey dinner for myself BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT!


The main city centre wasn't really where I wanted to be. It was jam-packed with people, both tourists and locals alike, and I was in search of the parts of the city with a touch more character.
As you may know, Amsterdam is a city of canals, and I soon reached the main ones.
Even on a non-sunny day, they preeeetty! It was also slightly moody and atmospheric, and I loved the reflections of the trees on the water.
And guess what? You know that cliché of Dutch people cycling everywhere? Totally true. As a pedestrian you have to really watch out for cyclists whizzing past and there are bikes everywhere you look.
I ambled up and down the canals and soon found myself in an area full of little galleries, antique shops and cafés.
They're a stylish bunch, the Dutch, not to mention good-looking. It was pretty fab people-watching.

As I explored further, I found more and more interesting boutiques and quirky shops full of little-known labels and unusual presents.
I loved Mint Mini Mall, The Darling and Urban Cacao in particular. And I feel like I definitely need to go back to Amsterdam for longer so I can fully make the most of the fab shops and cafés.

Speaking of cafés, it soon reached that point in the afternoon where I was in need of a sit-down and a warm-up. As tempted as I was by a PSL*, I always prefer going to non-chains where I can. It was pleasing then to stumble upon De Koffie Salon, which has apparently won a bunch of awards for its coffee.

OK sure, I don't actually like coffee, but I can appreciate a nice coffee shop all the same. And I love me a hot milk steamer with syrup (yes, essentially a flavoured latte without the coffee.) Soya with hazelnut, please!
Mmm so tasty and warming and comforting.

I sat in the window seat for quite some time and just watched Amsterdam go by. It was wonderful. And just what I needed to fuel me up for a few more hours exploring before jumping on the coach back to Brussels.

Although I only had about seven hours in Amsterdam, it was a wonderful seven hours and more than enough to get a feel for the city. I absolutely loved it!

I'm simply going to have to go back for longer. And pray for sunshine.

What are your thoughts on Amsterdam?

*Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, do keep up.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Burgers chez Rachel, Brussels

I know what you're probably thinking: "oh, this must be a blog post in which Rachel makes burgers in Brussels." And that's understandable. But, mes amis, you are wrong.

Rachel is in fact not just my name but also the name of a charming burger and bagel place in the centre of Brussels.
Did I mention I'm back in Brussels? I'm not sure I actually have done (although Instagram/Twitter followers are likely to have grasped as much.) I've been back here for a couple of weeks now and am here for a couple more which is lovely indeed - the six months I spent in chocolate-land for my year abroad was over spring and summer, so I'm really enjoying seeing the city in my favourite season of them all, autumn.

I discovered Rachel (the restaurant, not myself. I'm still yet to find myself) right near the end of my year abroad and annoyingly somehow never managed a visit. If the fact that it's a burger and bagel place wasn't enough, HELLO! We share a name! I know y'all share my excitement.

So when I learned that I'd be coming back to Bruxelles for a month I put a trip to Rachel on the top of my to-do to-eat list.

Luckily I had a willing accomplice in the form of my dear friend and uni-pal Jenny, and on a fresh, autumnal Saturday we made our way through the tourist hordes and past chocolate shop after chocolate shop to Rachel for a catch-up and a munch.
I love that the idea behind Rachel is "slow fast food" - they want you to take your time eating, enjoying every mouthful.

The restaurant isn't huge, but there's a nice relaxed atmosphere and a great menu.
Deciding what to have wasn't easy. Although all the bagels sounded delish (and having seen some being served I knew they were huge!), it may come as no surprise to you to learn that I went for a burger.

Keeping things relatively simple, and despite having been highly tempted by the great-sounding veggie burgers, I went for the Chuck:
Top-quality beef cooked to perfection, cheddar cheese, sautéed onions, gherkin, tomato, lettuce, mustard. ketchup and mayo, plus added baked pepper, courgette and aubergine.

It was SUUUUUPER good! The meat melted in the mouth, all the juices merged, the bun was soft and just lightly toasted, they didn't scrimp on the topping... I devoured that baby. There was perhaps a touch too much mustard for my taste which slightly overwhelmed the other flavours occasionally, but just a tad.

Jen had the L'Ambburger:
Lamb, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, oven-baked pepper, aubergine, courgette and onions, cucumber and alioli. I am assured it was also dreamy.

Despite this being Brussels, the burgers were served not with frites but rather oven-baked rosemary potato wedges which I have to admit were absolutely divine. Who doesn't love a wedgie? (Was it just my family who called potato wedges "wedgies"? Yes? OK, moving on...)

We also had some slaw on the side which was light and fresh and just what we wanted alongside our burgers of epic proportions.
I think that's the appropriate reaction. And yes, there is a gorilla behind me.

The staff were friendly and the service was great. If you ever find yourself in Brussels I heartily recommend a trip to Rachel. This Rachel sure loved it, and I think it's only right that I go back and try the bagels too, don't you?

Find Rachel at Rue du Marché au Charbon 100, Brussels, and on Facebook here.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A #ThriftyOrganic masterclass and supper club with Deliciously Ella

I have a lot of recipe books. Like, seriously a lot. From baking to curries to healthy eating. And whilst I absolutely adore all my cookbooks – is there anything better than flicking through a hardback book full of glossy pictures of delectable delights in bed at the end of the day? – the majority of them tend to end up as inspirational coffee table books rather than instructive, useful guides.

The exception to the rule, however, is the Deliciously Ella book. I use it at least once a week and it’s without a doubt my favourite recipe book.

What I love is that Ella’s recipes are really accessible, delicious and simple. Whilst you may have to stock up on a few new ingredients to begin with, once you’ve got some tahini, tamari and almond butter in your pantry you’re good to go! Ella uses a lot of the same ingredients throughout the book which is really helpful.

I’d been a big Deliciously Ella fan before her first book came out though, and am one of many devotees of her blog.

So when an invitation to a Deliciously Ella masterclass and supper club popped into my inbox last month I practically squealed with delight. And I have no shame about it.
The event took place at Whole Foods in Kensington (don’t you just love Whole Foods? I’m such a clichéd middle class foodie) and was put on to celebrate Organic September, which, as you may be able to guess, is a September-long movement championing organic produce and encouraging us all to eat more organic food.

The theme of the evening was #ThriftyOrganic, and Ella was there to show us all how we can eat organic food on a budget.

I’d brought along fellow Deliciously Ella fangirl, Liv, and we were accidentally super keen and the first to arrive. (Why am I always early?)
We took our places at the prettily-laid tables and gossiped as girls do while the rest of the guests arrived, sipping delicious infused water and fresh cucumber, pear and mint juice as we waited.

The masterclass soon got under way and the demonstrations commenced with homemade oat milk (20p per recipe), houmous (£130 per recipe) and courgette noodles with avocado pesto (£8.20 per recipe).
All the recipes sure seemed simple enough – I suppose by putting in that little bit of extra effort (by making everything from scratch) you can save money and eat well. 

The demonstrations had certainly got our tummies rumbling too! So, hoorah! It was dinner-time!

Out came big platefuls of three of Ella’s dishes, and we were given the costs for making each one to prove how affordable they are: roasted butternut squash risotto (£1.12 per person), sautéed potato, kale and houmous salad (50p per person), and the aforementioned courgette noodles (£1.12 per person).
The risotto was definitely my fave!

Plateful 1. Yes I had seconds.
Although not strictly within budget, we were also offered some organic Prosecco which went down a treat and a half.
Very sweetly, Ella came round and chatted to all the guests at the supper, and it was lovely to meet the lady herself (and yes, she’s just as beautiful IRL and super passionate about her food.)
For pudding we had chewy sultana cookies and raspberry and coconut mousse. Both were yummy, but oh my days that mousse! It was so so good. My corner may have snaffled the leftovers too. Oops.
Was I surprised by the prices of organic eating? Yes and no. 

Friends are always asking me how I managed to eat things like medjool dates, almond butter and chia seeds on a student budget, but I totally did and so I’m fully aware of how possible it is to eat healthily despite being strapped for cash.

However I have to admit that I tend to choose non-organic produce purely because it’s cheaper. That said, I know organic food is better in various ways, and I think I will now incorporate more into my weekly shop. What am I saying? I go to the supermarket most days, not once a week!

What are your thoughts on organic eating?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Handbags and Cupcakes. All rights reserved.