How Travelling Has influenced what I cook at home

One of my favourite aspects of travel is trying new food, whether it is from a street food vendor or browsing some of the best foodie markets in Europe. There's something about food that really brings people of all cultures together and when you're on holiday, food is one of the best ways to get to know the country you are visiting, by either sampling the local delicacies or speaking to the people who eat it.

Travel has enabled me to try a lot of food that I never thought I would be able to experience and has introduced me to a lot of new flavours. From eating stirfrys and curries in Thailand to eating sauerkraut in Germany, Paella in Spain and even feasting on all the different local delicacies that various parts of Britain has to offer, travelling has really played an influence on what I cook from home and for the better.

I've become more experimental

Since travelling to Thailand back in 2015 and even lesser known parts of Europe, I have become much more experimental with what I eat. When I was in Thailand I fell in love with 'morning glory' which is a stirfry of different vegetables and I love trying all the different curries. Most of my diet these days in now Thai orientated as I love the flavours.

It has made being vegetarian less boring

So many people ask me if I get bored of being vegetarian, but I really don't. The key to never getting bored of a vegetarian diet is learning different cooking methods of all your vegetables and learning how to inject flavour into your dishes - most of which can easily be picked up by trying many different types of cuisines.

I appreciate different cultures

One of my favourite food experiences was visiting the Klienmarkthalle in Frankfurt as it was full to the brim of shoppers sampling different food and market traders boasting about their wares. I was able to peer into peoples shopping baskets and see what people in Germany were picking up as their staple shopping ingredients and I browsed the stalls and discovered lots of different pastries unique to that area. It made me appreciate food that each country has to offer, so much so that it has now become a slight addiction. I try to make myself try lots of food from different countries every month so I can learn more about the culture and why they eat the things that they do.

You don't have to travel far to experience the plethora of cuisines that embraces our planet these days. Most towns have a variety of ethnic stores from Polish supermarkets to Asian superstores and even our own high street supermarkets are becoming much more savvy to world food, incorporating food from all seven different continents into one scrumptious food aisle. So many brands are now coining in on that fact that people want to try new food and have different food experiences.

One of the latest recipes I have cooked is from Thai Taste, a brand which specialises in authentic Thai ingredients and it is a Pumpkin (can be substituted for butternut squash), Galangal coconut curry, which is so aromatic that it reminds me of being back in Thailand.  The recipe has been designed by Thai restaurateur Seb Holmes to inspire customers to create restaurant-quality Thai food at home. The recipe is vegan, gluten free and incredibly easy to make, it's perfect for those who want to try new flavours or relive their own travel memories. 

Pumpkin, Galangal and Coconut Soup

Serves: 2 (GF/VE)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

1/4 small pumpkin, roughly 50-60kg, peeled and sliced into 2cm by 2 cm pieces (or squash can be used)
8 Thai Shallots, peeled and slightly bruised
1 head pak choy, tough stem removed and leaves sliced in half
2 green birds eye chillies
1 teaspoon Thai Taste chopped Kaffir lime leaves
2 sticks lemongrass 
10g Galangal peeled
2 coriander roots
2-3 teaspoons Thai Taste soy sauce
200ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of Thai Taste Tamarind Paste
300ml Thai Taste coconut milk
100g Thai Taste rice vermicelli noodles, left soaking for 10 minutes until soft and then refreshed under cold water
10g Thai sweet basil
1 lime, juiced

Firstly, in a small sauce pain bring a little bit of water to the boil and then submerge pumpkin into it. Leave this to simmer and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until soft and then remove from heat.

Next place vegetable stock, 100ml of the coconut cream, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, tamarind, galangal, coriander roots, birds eye chillies, lemongrass, lime leaves, pumpkin, pak choy and Thai shallots into a medium saucepan and bring to simmer.

Once simmering continue to cook gently for 4-5 minutes until all vegetables have softened and flavours infused. Finish by adding rest of the coconut milk and sweet basil and serve into soup bowls lined with vermicelli noodles. The dish should be creamy, salty, a little bit spicy and aromatic with a fresh hint of lime.

Many of the ingredients for this dish can be purchased in jar form from Thai Taste, who gave me some of these products so I could test the recipe out for myself.

What is your favourite cuisine?

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Why You Should Visit Borough Market, London

Borough Market made the headlines in June 2017 as one of the places in London hit by deadly, unpredicted terrorist attack. The attack targeted people on a Saturday evening enjoying themselves in nearby bars and restaurants at Borough Market, killing eight people. Since the events only eight weeks ago, the market has been steadily rebuilding itself and restoring normality. Borough Market has always been one place I wanted to visit in London and now, more than ever it seemed more poignant for me to go pay my respects and visit the traders whose livelihoods have been temporarily destroyed.

When I visited Borough Market last week, it was a hive of busy tourists and locals soaking in the market atmosphere , feasting on all of what Borough Market has to offer and enjoying their Saturday. It was a place bursting with energy, from the enthusiastic market traders selling their products to the hoards of tourists making the most of every photo opportunity. From the moment I entered the building, I fell in love. It was full to the parameters of foodie favourites from all around the world, as well as catering for so many different dietary requests. The fruit looked colourful and fresh and the scents that filled the air gave me hunger pangs. It was a market place determined to move on from recent events and live life to the full.

I decided to write this post on why you should visit Borough market because there's so much to see and do. Whether you're stocking up for a picnic on a day trip to London or fancy a meal with friends, Borough Market needs to be on your London bucket list.

As Borough market is a quintessential English market place, there's plenty of hog roasts, burgers and meat stands on offer, but one thing that really captured my attention was the plethora of vegan food available. From these juicy mock burgers to hummus stands and vegan curries, there's just so much to choose from which is great for those with dietary requirements and it makes Borough Market the perfect place to visit with friends all of whom have different foodie needs.

Another item that Borough Market has in abundance is freshly squeezed fruit juices. You can get almost any fruit juices from Borough Market from watermelon to your typical orange, pineapple and apple juices. They are great for anyone looking for a morning pickup, lunch time refresher or an evening pre-drinking quencher.

As previously mentioned, the fruit in Borough market is as fresh as it gets and there's vast quantities of it over in the fruit and vegetable market. I was really impressed with the prices of this fruit - my friends and I managed to get two punnets of strawberries for a £1 whereas supermarkets sell just one of them for around the £2 mark. If you live locally London, it is worth visiting the market to stock up on fresh fruit and veggies.

If you're gluten free, dairy free or wheat free, I also stumbled across a lovely bakery in Borough market selling vegan creamed buns in a variety of flavours, as well as gluten free ginger men, to name but a few products. Unfortunately I didn't get the time to sample these, but they are definitely on my radar for my next visit, which I'm planning before the end of this year.

Once we had browsed the market, my friends and I set off to Jubilee Gardens for a picnic, where we sat down and ate some of our foodie findings - pepper Focaccia bread,  strawberries, freshly made samosas and a few sneaky buys from M&S.

My visit to Borough market was brief, but very exciting and I was glad that I got the opportunity to visit the hustle and bustle of the Saturday market. It reminded me that life is short and that Saturday's are the best days to go spend quality time with the ones you love and what brings people together? Food, of course.

Have you been to Borough Market before?

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Seven Days of Summer at Victoria Leeds

Leeds has always been a city that I have been proud to call my second home because of its diversity, the culture, the foodie scene and of course the eclectic mix of places to shop. In the last decade,  the city has gone from being a little bit tired and run down, to being voted the UK's 'best place to live for culture' and making it in to the top 10 of Lonely Planet's 'Best Places in Europe.' One of the places that makes Leeds so special in my opinion is Victoria Leeds, merging the old - the Victoria Quarter Shopping Arcade and the new - Victoria Gate, to make one superior shopping district full to the brim of luxury and high end stores with superb architecture exhibited in both buildings.

Recently I was asked to take part in the 'Seven Days of Summer' campaign by Victoria Leeds, showcasing some of my favourite places to shop in both Victoria Gate and Victoria Quarter. As I spend a lot of my time there already, it was a great excuse to do some shopping.

The first store on my hit list was Anthropologie. Anthropologie is part of the newly opened Victoria gate and is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing stores you will ever visit. They sell a variety of home ware, clothing and accessories from both established and upcoming designers and the store is laid out in a bohemian, yet luxury style - full of bold prints and character. I fell in love with this gorgeous Ikebana Floral Maxi dress when I was trying on clothes - it has such a vibrant design and is perfect for summer.

After trying on clothes at Anthropologie, I then headed to my second favourite store, Neom Organics, again in Victoria Gate. I've written a fair bit about Neom on my blog - I love the staff, the story behind the brand and the fact that they are incredibly passionate about wellbeing. One of the services they provide is a 'Scent Discovery' test where you blindly smell a few scents and the one that appeals to you the most, is the one thing your body is craving the most. The last time I did this I got stress - showing that my body needed something to relax me and this time I got energy, which demonstrates that my body is craving an uplift. Neom sells a variety of organic candles and body products all of which can enhance your wellbeing from your desired scent.

Once I had talked to the staff at Neom Organics about my wellbeing, I then popped across the road at the Victoria Quarter to Kurt Geiger. Kurt Geiger are the only high heels I can wear and I love shopping at my local Leeds store. They have an incredibly variety of shoes and the store is very elegant with mirrored glass that makes everything look shimmering. My favourite pair of shoes currently in stock are these Guide Carvela heels with floral fabric and a wonderful floral gemstone piece at the front of the shoe.

One of my favourite places to eat in Victoria Gate is Le Pain Quotidien and somewhere I regularly pop for brunch. LPQ is an organic bakery, specialising in Belgian cuisine using seasonal produce. I usually order their tartines, which is a Belgian open top sandwich and my favourite is the avocado and feta. They also do all day brunches for those who love having breakfast in the middle of the day.

Although I don't spend that much time gambling, you cannot mention Victoria Gate without mentioning the stunning £10 million casino. The casino sits over three floors which covers an almighty 4,645 square feet and has two bars and a restaurant. One of my favourite places in the casino is the curve bar, which has a beautiful glass wall, lit from behind, displaying alcohol bottles - it is truly spectacular.

Another major part of Victoria Gate is the John Lewis. The John Lewis is a much-welcomed addition to the retail scene in Leeds and covers five floors of the Victoria Gate shopping centre. I love shopping in John Lewis as it has pretty much everything you could ever need under one roof from clothes to shoes, beauty to homeware. I picked up these beautiful flowers when I was visiting to help with my photography, they almost look real.

Last, but definitely not least is another one of my favourite stores, & Other Stories. & Other Stories is a clothing, accessories and  beauty store with designs derived from three key styling destinations - Paris, Stockholm and Los Angeles. Their store has such a beautiful, contemporary design and their wonderfully curated collection is everything that a professional, working woman would want for her wardrobe. It is simple, yet elegant with a twist of fun.

There are many stores at Victoria Leeds that I could shout about and many that I spend my wages in each month - hopefully these will give you a little taster of what the shopping centre has to offer. Victoria Gate and Quarter are both magnificent shopping destinations and I'm so fortunate to have them on my doorstep.

Have you shopped at Victoria Gate or Victoria Quarter before?
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A Night in the Lake District and Yewfield Guest House

The Lake District has always been one of my favourite places to visit - it is quintessentially British with beautiful old Tudor and slate buildings, has the most wonderful views of rolling hills and lakesides and every little village or town that you visit just oozes character, no wonder it was recently given a UNESCO World Heritage status. Windemere, one of the most popular areas to visit in the Lake District is England's biggest lake and Scafell Pike, which attracts thousands of tourists each year is England's highest mountain. The Lake District was also once home to (in my opinion) one of the best children's authors that ever lived, Beatrix Potter. There's so much to do and see in the Lake District, making it the perfect place to visit.

Last week, my husband and I had a week off work and decided to head up to the Lake District for a few peaceful days in the countryside. We visited Ambleside, Windermere and Hawkshead and stayed in the beautiful Yewfield Guest House which was kindly organised by the team at Go Lakes, the Cumbrian Tourist board. We were truly blessed with the weather - it was sunny and warm and the perfect weather for rambling, taking boat rides and eating copious amounts of ice-cream.  We arrived at Bowness on Windermere at lunchtime and after browsing a few of the shops, we headed to the lake to catch a boat ride to Ambleside with Windermere Lake Cruises. The boat we caught was one of the older steam yachts, the M.V Tern which was built in 1891. The Tern still exhibits some of the original Victorian features, but now has a modern engine to deal with the vast amount of tourists that catch this boat every half an hour, 364 days a year.  Our trip to Ambleside took around 35 minutes and through the duration of the journey, we had a guided tour who told us all about the history of lakes and nearby points of interest.

We disembarked at Waterhead and made our way up to the village. It was a twenty minute scenic walk which passes by a lot of the local farm life and villages, as well as a beautiful Borrans Park, which is perfect for a picnic. Once we got to Ambleside, we had a coffee at one of the many coffee shops and had a quick look around the village, before heading back to the boat and getting back into the car to visit Yewfield.

Yewfield Guest House is a five star vegetarian bed and breakfast on Hawkshead Hill, which is fifteen minute either side of Coniston and Windermere. It is situated on 80 acres of private land which is available for guests to walk around and it is well and truly in the countryside, which is perfect for those looking for some R&R in the peace and quiet. The drive up to the hotel can be a little difficult at times - it is up a very steep, narrow hill, with lots of bends, but once you arrive there's ample parking space and the view from the B&B makes it all worthwhile. Yewfield is priced at £90 per night, which is really affordable compared to other places in the Lake District, so I was excited to see what it had to offer.

I've never stayed in a B&B before - I've always thought of bed and breakfast hotels as quite run down, with very cheap furniture and I always preferred the amenities that much larger hotels have to offer. However, Yewfield captured my heart from the get-go with it's charming building, the living area downstairs that makes you feel at home and the countryside decor of the bedrooms, which were stylish and spacious. I also loved the fact that it is a vegetarian guest house - there is no meat served at all on the premises, which disappointed my husband, but was a blessing for me who has been a vegetarian for thirteen years.

The bathroom was also very modern and had a really deep bath with great water temperature and these luxury, eco friendly Organic Damana bath products. They had the most refreshing citrus scent and after a long day of walking, they really helped freshen me up in time for dinner.

One of the downfalls about Yewfield guest house is the fact they don't have a restaurant or bar area, so if you're looking for food in the evening, you will have to travel for it. This didn't bother me too much - we read up on the area and discovered that Hawkshead was only a twenty minute walk away and we came prepared with a bottle of wine for when we got back. I could have easily driven back to Ambleside or down to Hawkshead which is only a short journey away, but we felt like exploring and as I was technically on holiday, I wanted a nice G&T in a country pub.  The walk to Hawkshead was a little adventure, walking by nearby farms and in the heart of the countryside with the only living creatures that we saw for miles being farm life. However, once we  found our bearings it was easy enough to find and because it was a nice, bright evening, it was quite a romantic walk down. 

When we arrived in Hawkshead, we stumbled across an old 17th Century guest house  called the Queen's Head and decided that this was place we would stay and have dinner. The menu was quite extensive with lots of options for vegetarians and was reasonably priced at around £12-16 for a main course. Each of the menu options had been designed to utilise local ingredients and there was everything from pizza to pasta to more a la carte options like rosemary and thyme polenta cake with butternut puree. I opted for the wild mushroom pappardelle made with incredibly fresh pasta and my husband ordered a pizza, which was huge. 

The next morning we woke up at around 8am for breakfast, after what had been one of the best nights sleep I have had in a hotel. Breakfast was served downstairs and consisted of a continental buffet, as well as a vegetarian cooked breakfast of your choice. To start I had the vegan smoothie was wonderfully refreshing and a bowl of soya yoghurt and fruit. I then ordered a cooked breakfast of vegetarian sausage and scrambled tofu. It was the perfect, healthy ending to our trip at the Lake District.

It was a short, but sweet visit to Yewfield and Windermere and I loved every moment of it. I've been to the Lake District several times now and each time I go, I discover even more wonderful places and come back with even better memories. Yewfield Guest House has really transformed my opinion of B&Bs and I would definitely stay there again. 

Have you been to Yewfield or the Lake District?

*My stay at Yewfield Guest House was complimentary, but views are my own.
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How to stay fresh on Impromptu Date Nights #challengebodyform

We've all been in the situation where we've been invited out straight after work, whether it's by our best friends, partners or colleagues and we haven't felt our usual, glamorous selves. After working nine to five and leaving work with smudged worn in makeup, frizzy hair from the humidity of the office atmosphere and having that sweaty icky feeling even when you've applied deodorant and perfume all day, who can blame us. If you commute quite far and don't work close to home, there's no opportunity to have a quick shower and say 'meet you later' either. It can sometimes be a difficult situation when you're not at your peak confidence level.

Another thing many women have to contend with after a long hard day is feminine hygiene. Along with periods, feminine hygiene is often a taboo subject - a problem that all of us women have to deal with from time to time, but something that is rarely discussed. After a long day of running around, things 'down there' don't feel as great as the moment we put on our fresh underwear on first thing in a morning, so at times all of us could do with a freshen up, like the way we spritz ourselves with perfume to make us smell fresh as a daisy and give our confidence a boost.  

To give us ladies one less thing to worry about when we're heading out, Bodyform have unveiled their new Bodyform Daily Fresh Liners (£1.65) with ProSkin formula that are breathable, like cotton underwear and are perfectly engineered to care for your intimate skin, whenever, wherever. These liners are for your everyday needs, not just your period and enable you always feel fresh on the go. Body form recently asked me if I wanted to challenge their new liners to see if I could feel the freshness and I decided to wear these on a spontaneous evening out with my friends. Unlike other liners, these are really thin and almost feel invisible when you wear them, like part of your underwear and they felt really comfortable. In terms of freshness, it was great to have that new underwear feeling when I was going out and didn't have time to get changed.

Fancy winning £250? Bodyform are asking people to take the Bodyform challenge and leave their reviews for the chance to win a £250 shopping voucher each month that will give you a fresh new wardrobe.  All you need to do is buy a pack and head over to Challenge Bodyform.

How do you freshen up before an impromptu night out?

*Collaborative post

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