Happy first of May! It may be the month that university students everywhere have been dreading, but give it 22 days and my university career will be over - I don't know whether to laugh or cry! It's been the best experience of my life so far, and I've definitely learnt a lot over the course of it, so I think a big grin with a hint of gnashing teeth from the exam pressure will suffice for now.

Looking back over the last month, I'm also enjoying a sense of accomplishment. I went back to my "adopted hometown" of Paris, I took up running and I've given up chocolate, which has been surprisingly effective in my fight against bad skin. On top of that, I've created a few great recipes (along with a few flops!) and had the chance to bring awareness to ethical fashion. Here are a few of my favourites from April, and one exciting new project for the month of May!

1. Almond butter and maple smoothie
I'm still raving on about this one - it's been quite the revelation, such a delicious smoothie made from solely plant-based food and no sugar at all! Maple syrup is becoming a firm favourite in my kitchen, alongside the giant tub of almond butter I have in my fridge, yum yum yum.

2. The Green Paris series
This was such a treat to put together, as I got to revisit some of my favourite places in Paris and also take a week out of my schedule to enjoy the sunshine with old friends! If you're thinking of visiting and want to know the best spots to eat well (whether you're vegetarian, vegan) and also get away from the tourist trail, take a look through my posts.

3. Deliciously Ella's cookbook
I'm pretty sure that anyone who has the teeniest tiniest interest in eating healthily has heard of Deliciously Ella, or Ella Woodward to be precise. She's a leading-light on adopting a fully plant-based diet, and her book has been really handy around the kitchen this month. My full review can be found here.

4. Plant-based spirulina smoothie bowl
Following on from a plant-based cookbook is my very own plant-based creation - this spirulina smoothie breakfast bowl that's been a great boost after my (few and far-between) morning runs. The protein that the spirulina gives, along with a whole array of vitamins means that I'm keeping my body topped-up from natural, earth-friendly sources. If you are looking for other means of gaining protein after doing fitness that is suitable for vegetarians, I've written a review on whey protein and other sources here.

5. Nomads Clothing and Fashion Revolution Day
Tying in with the recent Fashion Revolution Day, where we asked who made our clothes, I reviewed Nomads Clothing's fair trade and organic clothing collection. You can read more about the beautiful shirt I was gifted and the shop itself here.

6. Ethical Living Challenge
My last favourite on the list is the Ethical Living Challenge, which starts today! I was kindly invited to participate in the 21-day challenge to raise awareness of living in a more ethical way (something that I am a strong advocate of, as it fits very nicely with "conscious living"). Taking place across 1st-21st May, you can join me in receiving email updates, challenges and surprises by signing up here.

As you may have realised by now, I love throwing ingredients into my blender and seeing what kinds of smoothies and smoothie bowls I can make! This recipe was an experiment into the world of "American Diner" milkshakes, but by using plant-based ingredients only, it transformed into this treat - possibly my favourite smoothie ever, too! I normally have it as a dessert, because it's so sweet and creamy - you can even reduce the amount of milk and have it as plant-based ice cream if you prefer.

For a while now, I've been enjoying my massive 1kg tub of pure almond butter* from MyProtein, but it was only this weekend that I tried it out in a smoothie. Usually I have it for lunch, spread thickly on wholemeal bread with slices of avocado and tomato, like a juicy open sandwich - avocado and almond butter work so well together. Let me know if you give that a go too, it's become one of my staple lunches!

Serves: 1

1 ripe (frozen, sliced) banana
1 tbsp MyProtein almond butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
250ml unsweetened almond milk

  1. Take your banana (I prefer sliced, frozen overripe bananas, as they're sweeter and make the smoothie cold) and put it into the blender in chunks
  2. Next add your almond butter, maple syrup and unsweetened almond milk (this can be substituted with soy milk if you prefer) and blend until smooth
  3. Pour into a glass and enjoy as a tasty treat!
I am so excited to be writing this post now - it's been in the pipeline for a while, but now it's time! I've been chosen as an Official Blogger for the Foodies Festival, and along with that, I get to offer one lucky reader a pair of tickets to the event!

Foodies Festival, the UK's biggest celebration of food and drink, will be coming to Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham to transform it into a foodie heaven - and there will be something there for everyone, including vegetarian and healthy options too. It's the first time the festival is going to be hosted in the city, along with 12 other locations around the country, and I'm so excited to be going! There will be Michelin-star chefs alongside MasterChef winners and other celebrity chefs hosting events, plus my personal favourite - Katy Beskow from Little Miss Meat-Free, one of my favourite bloggers, will be sharing some of her vegan recipes there too.

The event will be taking place on the weekend of 15-17th May and is suitable for anyone with a shred of interest in food - whether you like vintage tea, cake making, supporting artisan producers or even watching the chilli eating challenge (uh oh, I definitely won't be taking part in that!), you'll have a great time there. And even better, you now have the chance to go for free - just enter using the competition box below. I will be announcing the winner on Sunday 5th May, so make sure to check back then. Good luck and I hope to see you there!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

With it being Fashion Revolution Day yesterday, a large number of us have been asking #WhoMadeMyClothes and focusing on transparency in the fashion industry. Luckily for me, I was able to not only know who made my clothing, but also how well they were treated, thanks to Nomads Clothing.

Fashion Revolution Day was set up in memory of the 1133 people killed in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in India, on April 24th 2013. As a stand against the poor working conditions of others, large fashion brands are being ordered by their consumers to implement fair treatment of workers - something that will hopefully progress into a large movement. However, small fashion brands such as Nomads Clothing already pride themselves on their wholly fair trade collections, creating pieces that not only show the best production methods, but also the best quality too.

With summer around the corner, I chose this plain modal shirt to feature on Curiously Conscious as my first foray into the world of fair trade clothing - and I've been pleasantly surprised at how well-made the piece is. Unlike some hand-made clothes I've bought in the past, the production standard is really high, reflecting its justified £50 price-tag. The cotton is light and airy, and the dainty details such as the engraved buttons and sprinkle of sequins keep it interesting too. So far, I've worn the shirt loosely tucked into jeans to prevent it from looking too "mumsy", and I can't wait to try it with shorts when it gets hot enough!

Regarding Nomads Clothing's fair trade policy, they personally inspect their factories, implementing age restrictions (16+ workers only) with equal pay for men and women that is equal to or above the national average. They have also taken a holistic approach to their social and environmental impact, caring for the communities they work with in numerous ways (you can find out more here). Nomads Clothing is also a member of the British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers, a social enterprise grouping together likeminded shops and suppliers in the UK.

On top of their fair trade clothes, Nomads Clothing also has an organic fashion collection, which reflects my sentiments on organic cotton that I expressed in an earlier post on why we should purchase organic cotton (Nomads has also been added to the list of suppliers there too!).
When turning vegetarian, protein is often highlighted as a nutrient we need to really focus on. So far, with a little research, I've been able to maintain a good balance of protein in my diet through dairy, eggs, and even spirulina powder. But is this enough, especially now I'm intensifying my fitness regime? Which source really provides the highest amount of protein?

As stated in my post "how much protein do you need in your diet?", your body's daily protein requirement is dependent on size as well as gender, but also whether it's plant-based or animal proteins that you're consuming. When it comes to "bulking up", this is even more important - and whey protein has become synonymous with the fitness world.

For my requirements, I want to maintain a steady intake of 45g of protein per day to keep my body in shape and healthy - including the ability to tone up through yoga and running. Along with my approach to fitness, I've also been a little averse to consuming cows' milk - chiefly because of the welfare of cattle, but also the incredibly high fat content. So I was fortunate enough to be gifted The Organic Protein Company's Organic Whey Protein powder* to try it out alongside my new fitness regime. For once, I can categorically say that I don't feel guilty when consuming dairy because of the low fat content, as well as the company's promise that its cows are free to roam organic, unpolluted pastures.

The powder is made to be used with 100-150ml of cold water, which can then be consumed neat or added to smoothies. The flavour is like a strong form of milk, yet there is no creaminess that comes with the fat of cow's milk. The whey protein powder comes from organic cows' milk sourced within the EU, and not only does it come in single-serve sachets that provide 15g of protein per 20g of powder, it also is well-presented - nothing too scary! However, I wanted to know how well it compared to other sources of protein in my life at the moment - so here is my analysis:

Nutrition per 100g:
Energy                    368 kcal
Carbohydrate          5.6g
of which sugars      2.1g
Fat                          4.0g
of which saturates  2.4g
Protein                    77.5g
Sodium                   0.8g

As the serving size is 20g, 15g of pure protein is provided - that's one third of my goal in one small sachet!

Nutrition per 100g:
Energy                    143 kcal
Carbohydrate          1.0g
of which sugars      1.0g
Fat                          10g
of which saturates  3.0g
Protein                    13g
Sodium                   0.1g

If I'm going to eat eggs, I'll have two medium-sized ones, totalling 88g on average. This means I'd get 26g of protein per serving - which is more than the whey protein, but a highly reduced percentage per 100g of egg in comparison to 100g of whey protein powder.

Nutrition per 100g:
Energy                    290 kcal
Carbohydrate          24g
of which sugars      3.0g
Fat                          8.0g
of which saturates  3.0g
Protein                    57g
Sodium                   1.0g

When it comes to spirulina, the high percentage of plant-based protein makes it a great option for vegan and plant-based diets, but it still is small in comparison to whey protein. In fact, in order to get the same amount of protein from spirulina as you would get from a 20g sachet of whey protein, you'd need roughly four tablespoons, or 28g.

Nutrition per 100g:
Energy                    403 kcal
Carbohydrate          25g
of which sugars      3.0g
Fat                          12g
of which saturates  1.0g
Protein                    45g
Sodium                   0g

I've also included hemp protein powder in my analysis, as this is great alternative for a vegan or plant-based lifestyle and I too have a pouch of it in my cupboard. Surprisingly, hemp protein powder has smaller percentage of protein in it than spirulina, and quite a lot more calories too. To gain 15g worth of protein in one sitting, I'd have to consume 34g of hemp protein powder.

What's important to remember is that the amount of each source of protein consumed differs - I'll easily eat two eggs in a meal, but will only have one sachet of whey powder, or one large tablespoon of spirulina in a smoothie. The best way to maintain a high-protein intake is to combine these ingredients - along with other high-protein foods - across your three meals per day. If you're specifically looking to add whey protein to your diet, I would highly suggest trying The Organic Protein Company's products, but also be mindful of the other sources of protein in your diet.

Sources: The Organic Protein Company  -  Nutrition Data

You may have seen on my Twitter that on Monday I decided to go for my first morning run - and while I really didn't enjoy finding out how weak I am in the jogging department, the release of endorphins afterwards gave me such a rush that I'm dedicating three mornings per week to go out to my local park and beat my previous record. Keeping up the fitness in the run-up (pun intended!) to my exams is helping me stay in a stable place.

To go alongside my run, I've come up with my new favourite breakfast - this wholly plant-based spirulina smoothie bowl! Most mornings I have a smoothie, but to make it into a thick yoghurt-like consistency makes it feel even more filling. I've been using spirulina for a while now to keep up my vitamin B12 intake (a nutrient hard to find in most other veggies - thankfully this algae is a blessing to the vegetarians and vegans of the world!). On top of that, I've been adding wheatgrass powder, a great all-rounder for vitamins and minerals. Normally for my previous smoothie bowls, I've used a pre-sliced frozen banana, but with this I simply reduced the quantity of almond milk and included frozen spinach and mixed berries that were in my freezer - you can mix it up to suit the ingredients you have in your kitchen. Here's the exact recipe I used, just in case though!

Serves: 1

1 overripe banana
2 handfuls frozen spinach
4 tbsp frozen mixed berries
200 ml unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp spirulina powder
1 tbsp wheatgrass powder
Sprinkle of dessicated coconut
Handful of goji berries

  1. In your blender, pop your banana (in chunks), spinach, mixed berries, spirulina powder and wheatgrass powder
  2. Next, pour in your plant-based milk - I'd advise 200ml as stated, and then you decide if you want to make it a thinner mixture or not!
  3. Blend, pour into a bowl and then sprinkle with the toppings - you can use whatever you have in the cupboard!

Happy Monday! Tonight's post is the last of the Green Paris series (as you may have noticed, my Sunday journal has been pushed onto today due to the sheer amount of posts... I hope the guide comes in useful to any of you looking to visit Paris or are living there!).

As mentioned in yesterday's post, the centrepiece of my Paris souvenirs is the book The Physiology of Taste (Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy) by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. I was caught by the long but mysterious title which combined two of my main principles for life - eating well, and being mindful towards everything, including food. So far, I've read one chapter and while its uppity tone does make me giggle at times, I do enjoy the way Brillat-Savarin has taken the time to preserve the way he saw and enjoyed French cuisine. It's like he's pickled a moment in time and left it to rest in a cellar somewhere, and now I'm reading through his words as an almost second point of view on Julia Childs' take on French cooking.

My other souvenirs go quite nicely with the book. I bought a tin of Bourbon Vanilla flavoured Kusmi Tea from one of their specialist stores - they're quite the rage at the moment, although I haven't yet seen them cross the Channel into Britain. The tea is great in the mornings without needing to sweeten it up, which is a nice way to reduce my sugar intake further, however I now have a few different types of teapots saved on my wish-list!

Along with the tea, I picked up a gorgeous white and gold (no, not black and blue) egg-cup that wishes me a great day every time I use it, and a blue ornamental ceramic vase that I picked from a vast array at possibly the prettiest shop full of useless items (fourth photo) called Fleux'. As a conscious living blog, I'm aiming to actually cut down on useless items, hence why I chose two that would be made use of (just the week before I had burnt my fingers trying to eat a soft-boiled egg with no egg-cup), so these two just made the cut.

The one thing I wanted to highlight along with the Green Paris series is that Paris has a lot more to offer than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, with a great healthy living culture and the possibility to find unique things to do and to take away with you. In part, the city's culture inspired the creation of Curiously Conscious so I'm really hoping this week-long guide has done some justice in inspiring you to visit the city yourself!

So as the final post of the Green Paris series, I'm talking about my favourite bookshop (as cliché as it is) - the Shakespeare and Company. The heritage of this wonderful little store is littered with literary genius, including visitors and live-in writers such as Allen Ginsberg, William Borroughs, Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The shop itself is a teeny tiny place, crammed full of bookshelves ranging from general fiction to poetry, murder mysteries to cooking - and it's one of the only bookshops that specialises in novels printed in English. I've always been attracted to dainty and cluttered places, so I must have visited this place at least five times, purchasing Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" upon first moving to the city, and my latest one on the Physiology of Taste, a rather complex and intriguing novel about chiefly French cuisine and the way one should approach the subject.

Unlike the other establishments on my list, Shakespeare and Co. is the only real tourist destination, but it's one that I love so much, with its quirky layout, beautiful decorations and chilled-out house-cat, as well as the feeling of stepping in an area that so many other amazing writers came to and were often first stocked at too. It's something I couldn't leave off the list, even though it doesn't quite enter the realm of conscious living or healthy eating. If you're thinking of getting a quirky souvenir from Paris, this is definitely a good place to come - they even stamp your book and seal it in a brown-paper bag!
Today's Green Paris post is all about my favourite place to go, whether its to relax, exercise or get away from the bustling city for a few hours. La Coulée Verte is a four and a half kilometre footpath planted with beautiful gardens, grass, trees and a park too. The path was created in place of a railway route that stopped being used in 1969, and it makes a great stretch to walk or run along. It's also great for relaxing, as its elevation above the city's busy streets make it quite a peaceful place to come.

One of my favourite things to do when I was living in the city, was to visit the park with some picnic food as well as a lemon and water bottle to make my own lemon detox water - but this time with a difference! The park situated at the half-way point of the walk boasts the only sparkling water fountain in Paris, which is a complete hit with the locals (have you seen how popular Badoit and Perrier are?) as well as with me. I've once even brought along mint leaves and a lime to make a refreshing virgin mojito.

I have to add here, that the Coulée verte is never busy with tourists so it's quite the hidden gem. If you're looking for a place to go running or relax for an afternoon in the sun, you will find everything you need here - there are ponds, chess tables, benches every couple of meters, water fountains, a creperie and toilet next to the central park, as well as a secluded walk to some allotments at the end of the trail (if you take the right-hand path) or a couple of exercise areas with a pull-up bar, and other not too strenuous pieces of equipment (on the left-hand path).

The best way to approach the park is from Bastille metro station and ending at Bel Air, although you can directly access the central park at Dugommier or Montgallet. If you are staying in Paris for an extended amount of time, this is definitely somewhere I would encourage you to go, but if you're only looking to visit the monuments and fancy shops, it's not going to be quite to your taste!

Here's my crowning glory for the Green Paris series in terms of vegan food - Hank and its vegan burgers! This was a completely new place to visit for me, and I was surprised at just how great the food was - especially the vegan cheese (which tasted practically cheesier than actual cheese!) and vegan mayonnaise.

Hank burger is not only a vegan-only burger shop, but it's also completely organic, including its drinks. The organic peach juice is especially good! I was also really impressed by the fact that my burger was made in front of me, rather than pre-prepared. The place provides a choice of five different flavoured burgers (the majority of which aren't spicy, which makes a change for vegetarian burgers) and they come with chips or salad, with sauces and a drink for 11 euros. I chose the L'allumé burger, which featured barbecue sauce and smoked peppers, plus I chose the vegan cheese to go with it, and it was more than delicious. On top of that, they make vegan desserts too, which also are part of a 13 euro menu deal, but I was too full to get one!

Surprisingly, after researching the restaurant, it also offers a delivery service for nearby residents! So if you're staying in the 3rd arrondissement, lucky you! This is actually a pretty good idea, as there isn't much space to sit and eat in the restaurant, although there are a lot of parks in the vicinity to eat in. Overall, if you're vegan, this is definitely a restaurant to visit while in the city.

You may be wondering why I'm focusing this post on Saint Michel, a specifically small area of Paris, rather than a specific restaurant. It's mainly because you will undoubtedly end up in if you're going sightseeing but may struggle to find vegetarian options! Saint Michel is located in the historic Latin Quarter, where Sorbonne students and literary legends alike used to hang out, and it's a two-minute walk from the Notre Dame too. It's also packed full of restaurants, but as with a lot of restaurants and particularly French cuisine, their menus feature a lot of meat, so you may struggle to find a vegetarian option. Here's my quick guide to help out!

My first restaurant recommendation, and the one pictured, is Frogburger. While they don't specialise in vegetarian food, they do offer a vegetarian halloumi burger which is just delicious! This food of course is not very healthy, nor are those delicious crispy chips, but it may just be the best place to go if you're with other people who don't share your vegetarianism. On top of that, the burger falls under the fixed price menu, and they serve Cawston Press drinks, which are a lesser evil when faced with other soft drinks such as Coca Cola. The rhubarb and apple flavour is really refreshing!

Another great place to go is Maoz, a completely vegetarian eatery just round the corner. They specialise in falafels and have an unlimited salad bar that offers some great Middle Eastern treats (this may be a good place to go for vegan food too, so long as you're careful!). The one downside to the place is the lack of seating, but if you're looking for something to grab and go, this is definitely the place.

My third option is Le Paradis du Fruit. This is a really beautiful chain-restaurant that specialises in fancy dishes featuring fresh fruit and vegetables (but is not solely plant-based, nor vegetarian or vegan). I've only ever visited for dessert - and oh my gosh they are magical - but I have seen a few great veggie options on their menu.

The backup options that I would also recommend are plain or vegetarian pizzas in the few pizzerias in the area, or a crepe or panini with cheese or egg. While these aren't great options health-wise, I think we've all been in a situation where these backups have been a life-saver! Hopefully with this guide though, you'll be okay for food. I'll also be posting a blog on a vegan burger restaurant soon so look out for that!
Around the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris are a lot of vintage clothes stores, ranging from bargain-bucket-based shops such as Free'p'star (if sifting through clothes is your forte, then you'll love it there) to what I'd class as overpriced boutiques. Kilo Shop is a happy medium - clothes are hung up and grouped by fashions, as well as gender, although they are crammed in pretty tight!

Kilo Shop operates in a pretty novel way - the majority of its clothes are priced by weight! Unless it's an accessory, you'll find little badges on the clothes denoting the price by kilo. As pictured, this varies from 20 to 60 euros per kilogram, which works out pretty reasonably for most of the items stocked, including shoes.

I've always liked rifling through vintage clothes, as it's great to know you're not creating new demand for clothing (although I'm still against leather, fur, or any other animal by-product, second-hand or not). Plus you just know that no-one else is going to be in the clothes you've picked up!

As part of my Green Paris guide, I'd suggest popping down to Kilo Shop if you're looking for a unique souvenir that you'll actually use too! Perhaps a floaty scarf to mimic the Parisiens themselves, or some summer wear to suit the European temperatures?

(As an aside, for anyone that's familiar with the area - look who I caught in my photo of Kilo Shop! Hairdresser guy! Unfortunately I don't know his name, although he often hands out hair-cuts on the street and has a gorgeous flowing mane of hair himself... perhaps another fashionable addition to your trip if you spot him!)

If you're looking for some delicious vegan food in Paris, this is the place to go. Bob's Kitchen is seen as quite "bobo" - that roughly translates to "posh hipster" I guess, or "bohemian bourgeoisie" in full, but there's a reason why both the health-obsessed and fashionistas flock to it. Hidden away in the 3rd arrondissement, it's most famous for its cold-pressed green juice, which is crammed full of superfoods and superfood powders - in fact, Bob's Kitchen is an extension of Bob's Juice Bar, the initial outlet for its delicious cold presses, smoothies and protein-packed vegan drinks.

I was first introduced to Bob's by a friend who worked there and would regularly sneak the day's leftovers for me and my flatmate to snack on - at that point in time I didn't realise how healthy everything was, but I knew that I liked the taste! The café offers a range of breakfast goods, veggie stews, bagels, sushi, artisan coffee, cookies and some really great crumble. Pictured is my last meal there - a satay veggie stew (underneath that rocket is a mix of steamed broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, rice and more) and a green smoothie, which was technically a cheat version of the cold press - there was far more mango and banana in it than what the colour reveals!

Prices are somewhat high (9,50 euros for a stew, with drinks ranging from 6,00 to 7,50) but it's definitely worth it even if it's just once. I'm always surprised by how filling the food is, and it's also nice that the staff working there are fluent in both French and English. One thing I would recommend - turn up slightly earlier than when you want your food. This place is popular! Queues often track out onto the road and people waiting for their order can be found on the little benches on the shop front.

As an important side note - upon my last visit, I was surprised to find a few items on the menu that weren't vegan or even veggie (looking at you, smoked salmon bagel). So if you're not sure before you order, please ask someone! They're super friendly and I've never had trouble with my orders (I actually don't think I've ever eaten anything but vegan food there!).

For opening times, the full address and further contact details, visit their website here.

To kick off this week's Green Paris series, I thought I'd start at the basics - supermarket shopping. Whether you're staying for a weekend or a couple of months, there's going to be a moment during your trip in Paris that you're going to need to pick up food, drink or snacks from a supermarket. My favourite is Bio c' Bon, or "organic is good" in English. I'm yet to see a wholly organic supermarket in the UK (but perhaps that's because I live in central Birmingham) but these places are surprisingly large and offer a huge range of fresh produce, refrigerated goods, store-cupboard favourites as well as cheese and meat counters, aromatherapy, cooking equipment and baby food.

One of my favourite things about the shops is that all of those that I've been in offer cereals, pulses, beans and certain pastry goods in large vats instead of surgically packaged in plastic in random amounts. This low-impact way of vending produce is a real step forward in being environmentally friendly, and the kid inside me is always excited to use the dispensers because they're like an adult pick 'n' mix!

As well as the goods being completely organic, they are seasonally-based too (although this is quite common with fresh groceries in most supermarkets across Paris). This means you don't even need to consult a seasonal guide to find out which fruits and veggies will be the most nutritious and tasty while shopping.

The other great thing about these supermarkets is that they're pretty popular across France, not just Paris, with over 60 shops across the country (you can see where your nearest one is here if you're destined to visit the Hexagon anytime soon!).

My favourite find while there was a big bottle of kombucha tea, which I drank throughout my stay (along with tap water - I'm pretty sure the bottled water rule does not apply when visiting most European countries). I hope to see it in shops here soon too, as I really do enjoy the clean feeling that it gives, although buying it from local producers will always guarantee its freshness! I wish there was some kind of kombucha tea delivery service or café nearby...

As you may have seen on my Instagram a week or so ago, I've been giving Gousto's healthy food delivery service* a go. I was kindly sent a surprisingly large box full of fresh produce, as well as a wool cool cool bag with cheese in, to whip up three satisfying vegetarian meals and give it an overall review. Well, here it is - along with a discount code for those of you that would also like to try it out!

In essence, the food delivery service from Gousto provides ingredients for weekly recipes, from which you can choose three meals, paying per week or on a subscription basis, that is then delivered for free. The produce is gathered seasonally and from specifically chosen suppliers, the most part being British, making it a great step in supporting local agriculture as well as it being quite the culinary journey!

From the get go, I've been impressed by the service offered and how well thought-out everything is. Upon receiving my box of goodies, I found inside all that delicious produce you can see pictured, as well as two types of cheese and the three recipe sheets (which are perforated, hinting that you could slot these into a recipe folder if you're that way inclined).

The meals that were sent all catered for two, although there is an option to increase that to four (upon order as well as within the recipes), and I found the portions to be generous, yet weighted more in favour of the vegetables rather than carbohydrates (I am a big fan of that!). The three sets of ingredients I received made up Aubergine Millet, Beetroot & Feta Salad, and Lemony Lentils dishes - all of which catered to my vegetarianism, although they do offer recipes including meat too.

As a bit of a foodie, I was impressed to see how the meals slotted together, offering new techniques and flavours throughout, thus making the service a bit of a culinary journey. I personally think that if you have no experience in cooking, that these may be a little advanced for you, but anyone with an interest in cooking and the usual pieces of equipment (I think the most exotic tool I used was a grater, so there's no need for a food processor etc.) will really enjoy trying out these meals each week.

On the quality of the food - I really enjoyed all the meals (even the green lentils - I was a little afraid about it at first!) and I was impressed with the freshness and effort made to provide organic produce too. All the ingredients required came within the box (except seasoning and olive oil) and there was easily enough to satisfy the dishes (I came away with half a block of feta too - result!). With everything being pre-weighed and sealed, I enjoyed the ease of putting the meals together, although on reflection, there was a lot of plastic packaging. I know that there's a strange cultural taboo on packaging here - having lived in France, barely any fresh produce is packaged, so you would buy food with flies and all - but I am striving to live in a more sustainable manner, so not being able to recycle everything was a little downside to the service. On the other hand, the wool cool bag was a stroke of genius, keeping the cheese cold even after it had sat waiting to be picked up in reception all day, and I've kept the ice packs and cool bag for future use.

Overall, I'm a big fan of Gousto - I even have the friendly face of Chef Gusteau from Ratatouille in my head every time I think of them! Their service is incredibly convenient for anyone with a passion for cooking and eating well, while also being reasonably priced - around £4 per meal - which is cheap, considering the restaurant quality of the meals it provides and the range of organic, fresh produce. It's also great that you can customise it to your dietary requirements and number of portions, although for someone who most of the week lives alone, I'd say that this service would be better catered to couples or families at the moment (Gousto only caters to 2 or 4 persons at a time). Better yet - if you're vegetarian, the boxes are slightly cheaper too!

On that note - if you like sound of Gousto and would like to save a rather substantial amount of money on the service, I'm offering a special £20 discount code for all UK-based readers of Curiously Conscious. Thank you to the Gousto team for this opportunity - considering a box of three vegetarian meals for two people will cost £13.99 once the code is applied, it's basically daylight robbery!

To get your discount, simply enter the code: BESMA20 when you get to the checkout on www.gousto.co.uk to get £20 off. For everyone that does give it a try, I hope you enjoy the service as thoroughly as I did - I'm hungry just looking back at those photos!