Honeymoon Hiatus

10 Nov
4 mile beach Port Douglas, Queensland. © www.pddt.com.au

4 mile beach Port Douglas, Queensland. We’ll be walking down it this week! © http://www.pddt.com.au

As you read this I will be having a restful last day at home before heading to the airport. Or I’ll be frantically trying to close suitcases and ticking off my to-do list. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which scenario is more likely…

Either way, today is the day we leave the UK for our 4 week honeymoon to Australia and New Zealand. I am so excited, I literally can’t wait to be on that plane! Even if it is the start of 20 hours of flying. But it’ll be worth it once we’re there. 4 weeks of sun, relaxation, sightseeing and visiting friends. We booked our flights way back in January so this trip has been a long time coming.

Marlborough Sounds New Zealand where we will visit with our Kiwi friends from Wellington © newzealandtravel.org

Marlborough Sounds New Zealand where we will visit with our Kiwi friends from Wellington © newzealandtravel.org

Although we got married back in August, we made the conscious decision to delay our honeymoon until the Autumn, partly to spread out the joy, partly because our chosen destination is in the southern hemisphere but mostly to let me rest and recover post wedding so I was as full of health and energy as possible before we set off on our trip; a minor concession to ME/CFS which has worked out perfectly.

See you soon Sydney! © www.sydney.com

See you soon Sydney!
© http://www.sydney.com

Whilst we’re away I won’t be blogging. I intended to be more organised and have posts written and scheduled in advance but that hasn’t happened. Life has got in the way. But come December, once we’re back and I’m over any jet lag, I’ll be back to blogging.

Daintree Rainforest waterfalls and walks © www.capetribbeach.com.au

Daintree Rainforest waterfalls and walks © http://www.capetribbeach.com.au

Until then, you can picture me relaxing on the beach in the Whitsunday Islands, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef, sampling Marlborough sauvignon blancs in New Zealand, seeing the sights in Sydney, exploring the rainforest and waterfalls of Northern Queensland and generally having the time of my life!

Bye for now!

Jess x

Gold Leaf Afternoon Tea

3 Nov
My gluten and dairy free afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel London © Jess Bruce 2015

My gluten and dairy free afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel London © Jess Bruce 2015

Recently Mr B and I went for afternoon tea with his family at the Lanesborough Hotel in London. It was nice getting dressed up and living a decadent luxurious life for an afternoon. And of course consuming our weight in finger sandwiches, delicious and delicate pastries and a never ending supply of freshly brewed tea of any type you could imagine.

Afternoon tea is a beloved tradition in England, and especially in London with all the big hotels offering it. We chose the Lanesborough because it offers a gluten and dairy free afternoon tea option. Many of the other hotels, such as the Ritz and Claridges, offer gluten free but are slightly behind on the dairy free front (in my experience at least). So I was thrilled to discover the Lanesborough is super allergen aware and will happily accommodate gluten and dairy free diners with advance notice.

Celeste Winter Garden at the Lanesborough, venue for the afternoon tea © Jess Bruce 2015

Celeste Winter Garden at the Lanesborough, venue for the afternoon tea © Jess Bruce 2015

The tea was held in the Celeste Winter Garden, a gloriously rich room decorated in deep gold, creams, turquoise and pale blue. Crisp white linens, glistening chandeliers, china plates and weighty silver cutlery abound as you sink down into plump velvet chairs, of course pulled out for you by a smiling, ever so helpful waiter. No detail is overlooked from handbag rests (I mean who would put their bag on the floor?!) to thick padded hand protectors on the silver teapot handles.

A pianist plays a baby grand in one corner with the lilting music providing the perfect backdrop. What I liked most about the Lanesborough (after the food of course) was that the atmosphere was beautifully relaxed. I’ve had afternoon tea at a few of the big name London hotels and sometimes found them almost frantic with the amount of guests, verging on a factory production line like feeling to the dining room; not what you want when you’ve paid £50+ for an experience that is, by it’s very nature, meant to be relaxed and lingering.

Ok, enough waffle, time to get down to the important stuff, what did I eat?

Being gluten and dairy free I got my own stand filled with sandwiches, pastries, desserts and cakes. Having my own separate stand emphasized the hotel’s allergen awareness and specifically the risk of cross contamination and meant I didn’t have to share!

My sandwich selection © Jess Bruce 2015

My sandwich selection © Jess Bruce 2015

First up, delicate little finger sandwiches; crust free (naturally), all perfectly identical in shape and size with an exciting array of fillings (from left to right in the photo): tomato chutney and roast chicken, ham with aubergine pâté, smoked salmon with avocado, celeriac and apple and finally cucumber and olive tapenade. My favourite? The chicken and tomato and the cucumber and olive tapenade. The gluten free bread was soft, perhaps ever so slightly dry, and tasted good. As with everything on my special stand, you would barely have known it was lacking the twin pillars of modern cuisine, namely gluten and dairy.  The Lanesborough chefs did good.

The waiters replenish the selection as soon as you finish, but after two rounds of sandwiches it was time to move onto the sweeter treats.

Gluten and dairy free desserts and pastries © Jess Bruce 2015

Gluten and dairy free desserts and pastries © Jess Bruce 2015

Next up desserts and pastries. This was my favourite tier. I was blown away by the clever creations, attention to detail and delicious flavours. There was a pineapple panacotta made using almond milk and topped with perfectly tiny dice of fresh pineapple, a dark chocolate soup (AMAZING), a strawberry mousse, a blueberry macaroon, a pistachio macaroon and a chocolate raspberry cream sponge slice. They were all good, but boy the pistachio macaroon literally melted on my tongue. It was superb; as was the chocolate raspberry little ditty. I just wish that had been bigger! (Yes my name is Jess. Yes I am a cake-aholic).

Raspberry chocolate cream slice naturally topped with the ubiquitous gold leaf of course © Jess Bruce 2015

Raspberry chocolate cream slice naturally topped with the ubiquitous gold leaf of course © Jess Bruce 2015

Finally came the cakes. These were the least inventive but still incredibly tasty. A chocolate muffin and a lemon drizzle cake were the two offerings. I preferred the lemon, it was lighter. The chocolate muffin was a little dense.

Decorating all of the cakes, pastries and desserts were slivers of gold leaf. This was such a nice touch and summed up the decadent nature of the whole of experience. It was the icing on the cake so to speak.

My sorbet selection © Jess Bruce 2015

My sorbet selection © Jess Bruce 2015

The only slight criticism I have is that they do not provide scones with the gluten and dairy free afternoon tea. Instead I was given two scoops of sorbet; one mango and passion-fruit, the second raspberry. As delightful as the sorbet was, and it did taste delicious with a deep fruity flavour, I feel this is a bit of a let down, scones piled high with clotted cream and jam are after all the quintessential element to a traditional English afternoon tea.

When asked why they do not provide gluten and dairy free scones, the staff told me that it is too difficult to make a good scone without butter. The omission of gluten they said is not the problem. It is that without butter they can not replicate the rich buttery flavour they want. Agreed, a scone without a high butter content is not perfect, but they made an almond milk panacotta for goodness sake, surely they can master a scone using a dairy free olive oil spread or coconut oil as the fat? We have made both at home and whilst they will never exactly echo the flavours and texture of a ‘normal’ scone, they are delicious and moreish. Perhaps I can get a gig as a gluten and dairy free scone consultant…

To be honest though, I did not really miss the scone from my afternoon tea. It was not like I was lacking in mouthwatering food and I definitely didn’t go home hungry. I even felt quite virtuous tucking into my sorbet as my fellow diners piled super fattening clotted cream onto carbohydrate heavy scones!

To wash down the copious amounts of food, the Lanesborough offers a highly extensive tea menu with a vast choice of black, green, red, white and herbal teas; as well as coffee and hot chocolate for non tea lovers (crazy people). I had a very enjoyable apricot white tea followed by a jasmine green tea. In addition you can add a glass of champagne to your afternoon tea to truly celebrate a special occasion.

At £65 a head, it is not a cheap afternoon out. One best to be treasured and saved for a special occasion I think – we went on Mr B’s birthday. But I do think it’s decent value for money. Overall with such ingenuity in their gluten and dairy free offerings with the chocolate soup and almond milk panacotta, originality of sandwich fillings and mile long tea menu, I was very impressed. They refill your cake stands and tea pots as often as you like (within reason I guess) and our leftovers were boxed up and went home with us. So it genuinely is fairly good value, all things being relative of course.

I was too busy stuffing my face  delicately sampling the divine offerings of the gluten and dairy free afternoon tea to pay much attention to the ‘normal’ teas around me. Suffice to say, Mr B was very impressed and went home stuffed. And that is coming from a savoury, ‘don’t do cake’ kinda guy. High praise indeed.

Would I go again? You bet! Just perhaps need to leave it until a time when I’m not meant to be on my pre-honeymoon diet!

You can check out the full Lanesborough afternoon tea menu here.

A Simple Soup

27 Oct
My Perfect Lunch © Jess Bruce 2015

My Perfect Lunch © Jess Bruce 2015

The simplicity of today’s recipe, with its short ingredient list and method, belies its true depth of flavour and sheer deliciousness. Warm, hearty, nourishing, quick, simple, versatile. This recipe has it all.

As much as I love making and eating dishes with many layers of spices and herbs and exotic ingredients, sometimes the most satisfying meal is actually quite simple. Here the fresh produce is allowed to sing for itself, enhanced merely with salt and pepper and a smattering of fresh parsley.

Hearty Vegetable Soup © Jess Bruce 2015

Hearty Vegetable Soup © Jess Bruce 2015

This soup is perfect for this time of year (it being Autumn in the northern hemisphere) bringing in the heavy hearty flavours of new season winter veg, with the  carrots, suede and sweet potato, vegetables akin to warming stews and soups of cold blustery days, whilst still showcasing the tail end of summer produce with courgette and green beans. You can of course switch up the vegetables you use depending on season and market availability. But stick to the principle of a lovingly melted down hearty base of root vegetables combined with a couple of handfuls of fresh green goodness and you’ll keep the happy outcome of a clean wholesome meal that will nourish you from the inside out. Seriously this is a dish you can feel virtuous eating without feeling any deprivation. Clean eating at its very best.

Use the freshest veg you can get your hands on and, if you can, make your own vegetable stock as the liquid base. Your taste buds will thank you. That said, I admit I used a cheat method on the stock, saving the water from boiled potatoes and carrots and enhancing it with a spoonful of vegetable bouillon powder to round out the flavour.

I like to serve a big steaming bowl of this soup with a slice of gluten free bread to dunk and soak up all the lovely veg flavour. Most perfect lunch ever.

A Simple Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 50 minutes: 10 minutes prep + 40 minutes cooking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Gluten, dairy and nut free, vegan


  • 2 onions, chopped finely
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced, skin left on
  • 1/2 a large suede, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • Handful of green beans, cut into bitesize pieces
  • 1 courgette, cut into bitesize pieces
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped curly leaf parsley
  • Splash of olive oil


  1. Sauté the onion in the olive oil in a large saucepan for a few minutes until golden.
  2. Add the sweet potato, suede and carrots to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking to the pan.
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock. I used 1.5 litres in total (including the extra stock added at step 5) but here you really just need enough to cover the vegetables. Pop a lid on the pan, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are fork tender.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and lightly mash with a potato masher until the root vegetables are broken down. (You could pop it all into a blender or use a stick blender if you prefer a smoother finish to your soup but I prefer the coarser texture of mashing. Up to you).
  5. Return the pan with the mashed vegetables to the hob and add in the courgette and green beans and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through. You want to retain a little bit of bite to the green veg so it contrasts with the softness of the mashed roots. You may need to add a little more stock when you add the courgette and green beans depending on how thin/thick you want your soup.
  6. Season to taste with a generous grind of black pepper and a good pinch of sea salt.
  7. Sprinkle in the parsley, stir and you’re ready to serve.

Robin T. photo

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