Saturday, 23 April 2016

A delicious lunch at Cafe Fleur, Wandsworth

I first heard of Cafe Fleur a month or so ago when I was invited to a supper club by the lovely Madeleine Shaw and the delicious Ombar. It was the most delightful evening, and the ambiance and interior of the cafe definitely played a big part in that.

And since that evening, Cafe Fleur seems to be popping up everywhere in my life: it came up in conversation with friends (who were all big fans) and there was a feature on the cafe's founder, Lucy Piper, in new wellness magazine, Balance.

I love the story behind Cafe Fleur: Lucy used to work in the City but after a few years found herself depressed and hating it. So, she took the bold decision to pack it all in and open her friendly, stylish cafe with lots of healthy, organic options. Madeleine Shaw is a big fan, which says a lot.
Photo from Balance
After falling in love with the menu (I stalked online, obvs), I was desperate to pay Cafe Fleur a visit ASAP, and so that is exactly what I did.

It was on a drizzly Saturday that I made my way across South London from Brixton to Wandsworth, riding the top deck front seats of the bus like a boss.

You probably wouldn't stumble upon Cafe Fleur unless you lived nearby. It's on a quiet side street, but was busy when I arrived at 3pm on Saturday.
I love the vibe of the cafe: it's welcoming, relaxed and trendy. Amazingly, Cafe Fleur opened a mere week after Lucy got her hands on it. She told me she didn't have much money to turn a former greasy spoon into Cafe Fleur so the beautiful space she's created is extremely impressive.

Lucy is super involved - she was working behind the till when I arrived, devised the menu along with her chef Oscar, bakes all the cakes AND runs the business side of things.

Impressive lady, eh?
And Cafe Fleur's success is testament to her hard work. It was named Best Cafe in Wandsworth by Time Out in 2015, don'tcha know. The cafe only opened in 2013 and its third birthday is coming up!

I'm already desperate to go back to Cafe Fleur as there's so much I want to eat! The menu is right up my street, and I love that there's such a mix of healthy and more indulgent dishes - perfect for vegan ladies with burger-loving boyfriends (or just me and my veg-fearing friends).
It was a tough choice, but I went for the veggie burger. It. Was. Divine!
The burger is a secret recipe made from simply chickpeas and spices - Lucy asked Oscar to make a veggie burger that was basically just chickpeas, because "if Oscar had his way he'd add butter and cream to everything!" Lucy told me. He is French, after all. The resulting burger is a winner in my books.

The patty isn't as thick as a beef burger, but it wasn't dry at all, which is often the case with veggie burgers. The glazed brioche bun was deliciously soft too. And huge! Hence why the burger was slim but big, I guess.

I am incapable of resisting sweet potato fries, and these ones were some of the best I've ever had. Top five, for sure, and I've eaten many a sweet potato fry in my life. They were crisp on the outside and cooked to perfection inside.

With a lovely side salad, it was pretty much my idea of a perfect meal. Lucy does big portions too. I like that.
And to try and convince myself it wasn't rainy and cold outside, I enjoyed a deliciously tropical smoothie that was simply frozen pineapple, frozen coconut and coconut water. In a mason jar, natch.

There's a really fab selection of smoothies actually. I could've drunk them all.
What's also quite nice is that Cafe Fleur does serve alcohol too and Lucy swears her organic wines don't give you a hangover. I suppose maybe I should return to test out her theory...

I definitely want to go back for breakfast or brunch, and in very exciting news, Lucy revealed to me that this summer Cafe Fleur will be open for dinner in the evenings too. I can't wait!

It's my new favourite cafe, and I couldn't recommend Cafe Fleur more.

I was a guest at Cafe Fleur but that hasn't influenced my post, I swear. Do you like the look of the cafe?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A luxurious Peruvian dinner at Coya, Mayfair

I think Peruvian food is having a bit of a moment. Or it is in my life at least.

And I couldn't have had a better introduction to the cuisine than a visit to the oh-so-amazing Mayfair restaurant, bar and members’ club, Coya.

As soon as I walked through the door, I was wowed. The upstairs is the private members’ club – I had a nosy, it was very swanky – and downstairs you find the restaurant and Pisco bar.
I found the interior design totally unique: it was Latin American but with London elegance, luxurious yet somehow dilapidated, edgy but glam. There was a real juxtaposition but it worked, with colonial touches, metallic finishes and lots of textures. I liked it.

Situated right on Piccadilly but with a discreet entrance, you wouldn’t know it was there unless you knew, if you get me.

I arrived on a bright, early spring evening and made my way down to the restaurant and bar to meet the lovely Leah and Katherine. Although we were on the lower level, there was a still lots of bright daylight shining through, and it’s not the type of place that only comes alive once the sun goes down.

Now, I have to apologise once more because my camera is still in the repair shop so I’m using a combination of PR shots and fuzzy ones from my tragic iPhone 4 (seriously, new iPhone, could you get a shift on and be delivered already?).

We kicked things off, as one should on a Tuesday evening, with cocktails and Champagne. I was going to try Coya’s signature Pisco Sour, but this tropical concoction was calling out to me so badly I couldn’t not answer.
The Ron Jeremias: Pampero Blanco Rum, pineapple, passion fruit, vanilla and prosecco. It was utterly scrumptious. Possibly too sweet for most, but perfect for me, with a tasty tanginess too.

When it comes to food, the Coya way is to share lots of little dishes, tapas style. And being the diligent food blogger that I am, I figured it was best to sample as much as I could. Selfless, I know.

To start, we had crocantes con guacamole - corn tortillas and shrimp crackers with homemade guacamole. Hands down, the best guac I've ever had. It was just the perfect consistency. Scrumptious.

Then we moved on to our starters (after the pre-starter, natch). We had a couple of different ceviche dishes...
These weren't my faves of the night because, well, ceviche is traditionally made with raw fish or seafood of which I am not a fan, but I tried a tomato bit and the sauce and it was definitely packed with flavour.

We had calamares fritos - calamari to me and you - next. And although it's not something I usually choose, this was top-notch calamari. It was so crisp and flavoursome.

And seeing as you can't go to a Peruvian restaurant and skip the classics, we shared some mini tacos too. Look! So cute and mini!
We had the asparagus with truffle ones. I mean, truffle. Need I say more? These were little flavour explosions with such a fab mix of textures.

And it's not all fish and veggies at Coya - hellooooo, chicken skewers!
These were gorgeously marinated in garlic and spice and the meat was perfectly tender.

So, on to the main courses - yes, all that had been the starter!

There was sea bass...
Like I said, I'm not a fish fan. But, because I will always (well, to an extent) try things, I did try this sea bass. Oh my days. You guys, it wasn't even fishy in the slightest! It was buttery and delicious with crisp, caramelised edges. Be proud, parents.

We also shared the pollo asado (corn-fed baby chicken, which I presume does not mean chicks) and papa seca (Peruvian potatoes, butternut squash and poached egg, cooked in an iron pot).
Both these dishes were sensational. The chicken, on a bed of roast veggies, was just so juicy and flavoursome. And the potatoes may just have been my favourite dish of them all - real comfort food. And butternut squash is basically my bae so that was always going to go down well.

​Conveniently, all three of us are gals who enjoy our veggies, and the veggie side dishes at Coya certainly don't play second fiddle to the meat and fish. We enjoyed Japanese aubergine skewers cooked with miso and sesame (not sure how Peruvian that is but I'll go with it) as well as tenderstem broccoli with garlic and chilli. The broccoli was a smidge on the crunchy side for my liking but both dishes were lovely.

I loved how we shared everything too - it created a fun, informal atmosphere that's perfect for a party and is great for indecisive people like me who can never decide what to order.

Luckily the girls were up for sharing puddings too!
At the back of the above snap, you're looking at a pumpkin cheesecake with caramelised pecans. Now, I don't usually choose cheesecake but the prospect of pumpkin was just too intriguing. Oh my days, this was sensational! Pumpkin and pecan is a winning combo and can we all just appreciate the presentation? Beautiful.

Pudding number two was salted caramel chocolate ganache with berries and raspberry sorbet:
This was absolutely divine. V indulgent, but I loved the combo of salted caramel, sweet chocolate and slightly tart berries. The ganache was so smooth too. Dreamy.

And finally, the corn sundae with sweetcorn ice cream and popcorn.
I know, right? I love sweetcorn so couldn't resist trying this. It was yummy and definitely different, although it didn't quite match up to the other two in my eyes.

Oof, by this point we were three full ladies! When sharing little dishes it's sort of hard to tell how much you're eating, don't you find? Luckily there was fresh mint tea on hand to help us digest.

It had been a decadent and delicious evening and was a real treat. As you might have guessed from its Mayfair location, the prices do not make a visit to Coya an everyday occurrence for most people. It's definitely somewhere you'd go for a treat - look into it the next time you need somewhere for a special celebration dinner, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

I also heard on the grapevine that on 1st May, Coya's launching a new Sunday Brunch with live music, interactive food stations including a guacamole counter(!), where fresh guac will be ground by hand especially to taste, AND there'll also be unlimited Champagne, Peruvian Punch and Bloody Marys.

Sounds epic, right? I don't imagine it's going to be the most bargainous brunch in London but doesn't it sound spectacular? The brunch scene is pretty big in London so I like that Coya is doing something a little different.

Who wants to take me?

I was fortunate enough to be a guest at Coya but my opinions are 100% honest, promise. Find out more on their website.

What do you think?!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Natural Blender: easy healthy smoothies at home

You can literally get anything delivered these days, from a massage to a box of goodies to help you through your period.

And one new company on the delivery scene is Natural Blender, a 'smoothie ingredient subscription service' which sends out weekly boxes full of all the ingredients and recipes you need to make five delicious, healthy smoothies.

I was fortunate enough to try out one of their boxes last week and I'll be honest, after Easter and two back-to-back ski trips (poor me, I know), I was definitely in need of a health boost.

The idea behind Natural Blender is making it just that little bit easier to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, which I love. 

It's no secret that I love making smoothies, but I'd found myself in something of a smoothie rut, making the same couple all the time. And I'm not going to lie, my usual smoothies are definitely more on the indulgent end of the scale - often more like milkshakes really - as I love to use nut butters, cacao powder and lots of sweetener. So I was excited to try out something new and shake up my smoothie routine.

Aside from occasionally chucking in a handful of flavourless spinach, I'd never used veg in my own smoothies. I was apprehensive to do so, I'll be honest, but I trusted Natural Blender not to make me drink anything that tastes like celery, blergh.
If you have a look at this here page, you'll see that Natural Blender have absolutely loads of different smoothie recipes, and they're not even all on there. I mean, there are some seriously drool-worthy ones. Also the names are hilarious.

The trouble is, you can't choose which ones you're going to get. If I'd had the choice, would I have chosen different smoothies to the ones I got? Yes. But then again, I also think it's good sometimes not to have a choice and be forced to try different things. 

What I also love is that the recipe cards tell you in what order you should make your smoothies to ensure all the ingredients last. And they're all locally sourced where possible (not sure we grow passionfruit here in the UK yet but ya know, global warming and all so fingers crossed).

All Natural Blender's recipes call for a superfood too - think lucuma powder, maca powder, spirulina and the like - and as the delivery box gives you the exact amount you'll need in a little sachet, it's a great way to try out these often pricey products before deciding if you'd like to splash out on a big packet.

Everyone thinks juicing is like the health thing, but I'm not a fan. To make yourself one glass of juice, you'll often need about five different pieces of fruit or veg which is super expensive and you then have to throw away all the pulp anyway which is such a waste. Food waste makes me sad.

With smoothies, however, you use the whole fruit which fills you up and delivers all that lovely fibre, yay!

Each recipe makes two smoothies. But I figured that probably meant as a snack and I decided I wanted to have my smoothies for breakfast aka a whole meal, ergo, I drank the whole smoothie myself each morning.

The recipe cards handily give you all the nutritional info for each smoothie which is useful. I'm no calorie-counter, but even when drinking what was supposedly two smoothies all myself, I don't think any of them came to more than 350cals which in my books is still a pretty light breakfast.

So, let me talk you through my smoothies!

1. Live With Passion
This one was baby kale, courgette, pear, passion fruit, maca powder, cashews, water and ice.

I was a little worried it wasn't all going to blend but it actually whizzed up just fine. It made a solid 800ml (I was also a bit worried the portion sizes would be tiny, hate that) which was one and a half fillings of my big mason jar.

I'll be honest, after whizzing up my smoothie exactly to the recipe, I found I needed to add some sweetener so squeezed in some agave syrup. I know this makes it less healthy but I did want to enjoy my smoothie, and after said addition it was delish!

It really filled me up and I felt so healthy afterwards, but that may have just been a mental thing after drinking a green smoothie. Look at me go! Drinking green stuff! So healthy!

Tbh it was perf post-night-out.

2. Lettuce Be Friends
In this here green beverage there was lambs lettuce, apple, banana, mint, lucuma powder, chia seeds, water and ice.

Pleasingly, this one was a little sweeter than the Live With Passion... although I still added a squeeze of agave, oops. I'm also not a huge mint gal so only added one mint leaf, which was enough.

This smoothie was fine, but it wasn't my fave tbh. Not all my chia seeds blended and there was a definite smokey/savoury undertone which slightly confused me. I also found myself needing a mid-morning snack to see me through till lunchtime.

Got a load of goodness in me anyway so yay!

3. Green Dream
This one was bok choy (yes, really), kiwi, grapes, ginger, lemon, pea protein powder (you what now), coconut water and ice.

I'll be honest, I wasn't sure about the sound of this one. But do you know what? It was much better than I'd been expecting! Really tangy and refreshing.

I only used a quarter of the nub of ginger as I don't like ginger to overpower my drinks, and yes, I added agave yet again, but it was very tasty.

4. Paradise Found
The greenness continued with a beverage consisting of courgette, spinach, apple, grapes, flaxseeds, cinnamon, coconut water and ice.

I really liked the sound of this one and it was nice, if not mind-blowing. Felt pretty awesome after starting the day with so much goodness though - I'd had like a million of my five a day before even leaving the house. Go me!

5. Banana Bliss
Oh, I'd been really looking forward to this one. This is more like my usual smoothie. And although I'd been enjoying the week's smoothies, I was so ready for one that wasn't green!

So this one was banana, date, hemp protein powder, cacao nibs, hazelnuts, almond milk, water and ice.

The consistency was thinner (more milk than milkshake) and it didn't make as much (about 600ml) as the other smoothies, but it was creamy, dreamy and delicious. I was slightly worried the nuts, cacao nibs and date wouldn't blend but they did, but if you have a less powerful blender you may find you need to soak them first.

And finally, I didn't add any sweetener! Well, the almond milk was already sweetened with agave so I figured I really couldn't justify it. I loved the nutty flavour of the one though. Deeeelish!
There's no minimum length of time for which you have to subscribe to Natural Blender, so you can try out just one box before making your mind up. I like that. One box costs £24.50 including shipping (they deliver everywhere in the UK) and as each box makes ten smoothies, that's £2.45 per smoothie, which isn't bad.

You can also order a fortnightly box which might be good for people who don't actually want a smoothie every day.

At the moment, it's not something I'd subscribe to on a permanent basis because ya know, just started in journalism in London and am slightly lacking all the money, but I think I will genuinely order a weekly box whenever I feel I want a health kick. 

I've really enjoyed this week and it's been great to get some new smoothie ideas. Couldn't recommend Natural Blender more! Thanks for the trial, smoothie-loving friends!

What do you like to put in your smoothies? Like the sound of Natural Blender? Let me know!

Friday, 8 April 2016

RECIPE: Healthy chocolate chunk peanut butter coconut flour brownies (gluten-free)

Is it possible to be in love with a brownie?

Actually I know the answer to that and it is very much in the affirmative.
Hey there.

Disclaimer: the day before I made these brownies I had the most tragic accident: my water bottle leaked in my bag soaking my camera and essentially killing it. I'm distraught. But it's so rare for me to find the time to bake these days that I went ahead and made them, even though I knew I'd have to make do with my iPhone 4 camera. IPHONE 4, PEOPLE!? Who even still has one of them!? I'm living in the past, I know, and am currently trying to get my hands on the new iPhone SE but it ain't easy. So long story short, I apologise for the quality (or lack thereof) of the photos in this post.
I love these brownies because they're fudgy, moist and rich but at the same time full of ingredients that genuinely nourish your body. I am for real.

And how are they so chocolatey, you ask?

Raw cacao powder, I answer!
If you're an avid reader of Handbags and Cupcakes you'll know I've been a keen user of raw cacao powder for some time - during my final year of uni in Bristol, I was lucky enough to live near a fantastic independent food shop that stocked lovely raw cacao powder.

Upon moving to London, I thought it'd be easy peasy to track down. Not so, mes amis.

But I have recently discovered that trusty ole Amazon are amazing for obscure ingredients, particularly healthy ones. Raw cacao powder, coconut sugar, acai berry powder... They've got it all! Aaaand you can buy big packets to make your purchase better value without the stress of lugging it home. Win-win!

I know I have a fair few student readers so I want to let you know that with Amazon Student you can actually do a six-month free trial of Amazon Prime where you get unlimited one-day delivery, access to Prime Video, Prime Music and Prime Photos which would normally cost £39 a year. I did it back in my student days and it was great, I have to say. Who likes waiting for stuff? Not me.
So back to the brownies of gorgeousness.

These are gluten-free as I used coconut flour again (I use The Groovy Food Co). As well as having a lack of gluten, coconut flour makes your bakes moist and dense which is perf for brownies. It also has a subtle sweetness which I love.

Raw cacao powder is totally bitter on its own, so I counteracted that with some lovely agave nectar. You can use honey though if you like.
I also used Ombar chocolate as it's raw and dairy-free and in my head a totally justifiable way to eat loads of chocolate, but you could absolutely use normal chocolate if you like. Essentially, you can make these brownies as healthy or regular as you like by making substitutions, although coconut flour can't be swapped out for normal flour in the same quantities, so maybe leave that one.

These brownies aren't vegan as they contain eggs - it's important that your eggs are room temperature not chilled so that the coconut oil stays liquid - but you need eggs when baking with coconut flour to bind everything together.

I simply adore the salty-sweet peanut butter-chocolate combo of these brownies and hope you do too.

This recipe makes nine brownies (adapted from Ambitious Kitchen).


30g coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly (30 seconds in the microwave did the trick for me!)
160g agave nectar (or honey)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaped tbsp peanut butter (I like the all-natural slightly salted stuff)
30g raw cacao powder
30g coconut flour
A pinch of salt
35g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks


1. Preheat the oven to 180C, melt the coconut oil and line a 9 x 9 inch baking tray with greaseproof paper or foil (or just spray with nonstick cooking spray).

2. Using a handheld electric whisk, mix together the coconut oil, agave, eggs, vanilla and peanut butter until smooth. Add the cacao, coconut flour and salt and mix again until fully-combined.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth the top before sprinkling the chocolate chunks evenly over the surface.
Bake for 15-18 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean - they may not look done, but that's fine. You don't want to overbake these.

4. Transfer the tin to a wire rack to cool. After about five minutes, carefully go round the edge of the brownies with a knife. Leave to cool fully in the tin if you can as they'll be a lot easier to get out of the tin. I failed...

But hey, nobody's perfect and waiting for freshly-baked brownies to cool must be the hardest thing in the world. The choice is yours, amigos!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

RECIPE: Coconut flour chocolate chip banana peanut butter muffins (gluten-free)

Coconut flour has been the Thing in the healthy food world for a while now, yet somehow I hadn't got round to trying it out. Shame on me.

So when the Groovy Food Company kindly sent me some of their finest coconut flour to play with, I had no excuse not to get experimenting.
I know, I'm a lucky lady to be sent nice food things.

So, you may be wondering just what the deal is with coconut flour. Well, oh curious one, coconut flour is pure finely-ground coconut flesh. Simple as. It's gluten-free, super high in fibre and protein, unrefined and great for baking as it has a subtle sweetness.
Y'all know I do a lot of vegan baking, often using flax eggs instead of real ones (mainly just cos I don't really eat eggs and ceebs to buy them), but when baking with coconut flour you need legit eggs. They bind everything together, you see.

I'm not averse to buying supermarkets' basics ingredients, but when it comes to eggs, I do think we should all buy free-range. For my 12th birthday, all I wanted was pet chickens. And would you believe it, my parents obliged. I loved those hens like you wouldn't believe (yes, I was a bit of a weird kid).
As the hens have now become my parents' egg laying machines pets back home in the countryside (not the same ones I got for my birthday, mind, chickens don't live that long), I am forced to buy eggs from the supermarket.

When you do, look for British Lion Eggs (not a brand but simply eggs that are stamped with a red lion), as that means they've passed the government's safety standards. They've got a load of enticing looking egg recipes on their website which may actually tempt me to eat more eggs.

So although these muffins aren't vegan, they're pretty gosh darn healthy. But they've got chocolate in! I hear you protest.
Well, you observant one you, I have used Ombar raw dairy-free chocolate which is legit good for you. I kid you not. It's my new fave thing.

Of course, you could just use normal chocolate if you have that to hand, you can still feel pretty virtuous with these muffins.

They're gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. HOLLA!

They're also blimmin' delicious. The texture isn't as fluffy as your standard muffin. It's denser, but also somehow cloud-like. Thanks to the three bananas up in there, the muffins are delectably moist. No-one likes a dry muffin.
The peanut butter-chocolate-banana combo is an absolute winner, and I love the subtle coconut addition. Coconut goes with peanut butter (srsly, get the Meridian jar), it goes with banana (ever had a banana colada? thank me later) and it goes with chocolate (helloooooo Bounty!), so it was a no-brainer to whack all those flavours together to create something delicious.

More is always more.

Oh, and don't be put off by the cinnamon - you can't taste it as such, it just adds a certain richness and warmth to the overall flavour.

These muffins are super easy to make btw. I whipped them up on a sunny Saturday morning with my 5SOS playing (yes, I am actually a 14-year-old girl in the body of a grown woman) and it was all really rather delightful.
You may have noticed from the pic at the top of this post that I in fact had two ludicrously ripe bananas and one yellow one. Speckly and brown are the best for these muffins as they're the sweetest, but if all you have is yellow bananas that's OK, but you'll probably want to add a squeeze of agave or honey to add some sweetness.

Hope y'all love them!

This recipe makes eight muffins and was adapted from Ambitious Kitchen.


3 very ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 heaped tbsp coconut peanut butter (or normal)
A squeeze of agave nectar or honey (optional, only if your bananas aren't that ripe)
2 eggs
70g coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
70g dark chocolate, cut into chunks


1. Preheat the oven to 180C, line a muffin tray with eight paper cases (or spray with cooking spray), and mash the bananas.

2. Using a hand-held electric mixer, whisk the mashed bananas, vanilla and peanut butter (and agave, if using) together until smooth (and delicious, trust me). Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between each addition.

3. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks. The batter will be thick, almost like cookie dough.
4. Spoon into muffin cases, filling them to the top, and bake for approx. 17 minutes, until the tops are turning golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean - you need to make sure you dodge the chocolate chunks though!

5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about ten minutes in the tin before removing the muffins and placing them on a wire rack to cool fully. Or eating. Because melted chocolate oh my dayyyyys.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Handbags and Cupcakes. All rights reserved.