Are you a tea lover? If so, how does having a selection of delicious loose leaf teas delivered straight to your door every month sound?

Yorkshire-based tea subscription service, True Tea Club, offer just that. They specialise in seven different teas – white tea, green tea, black tea, oolong, chai, rooibos and herbal – and have packages starting from £10 per month.

Subscribers receive a box containing four different teas each month and the lovely folk at True Tea Club very kindly sent me my own to try. So naturally, this was the perfect excuse to buy lots of cake (not that I need one!) and enjoy a lovely afternoon tea in the sunshine.

Each one of the teas was lovely and I thought the packaging was so cute. It was hard to pick a favourite, but I’d probably have to say the Mighty Mango took the crown.

Mighty Mango

Now, perhaps I’m being swayed by the fact that it was an absolute scorcher of a day and this was the only one of the teas we had iced, but this was lovely.

I’m a huge fan of mango iced tea anyway and though this one wasn’t quite sweet enough for me, with a tiny dash of agave syrup it was perfect. Also, the leaves smelled incredible!

Earl Grey Rebel


Earl Grey is usually my tea of choice and this was as lovely as they come. The leaves are wonderfully fragrant with strong citrus and bergamot notes. The blue cornflower also made them look beautiful.


This was lovely both with, and without, milk. It had such a refreshing, delicate flavour that I’d love to try it iced, as I think it would work really well.

Rainbow Chaser

Described as a ‘magical concoction of apple pieces, blackberry leaves, peppermint and orange peel’ this tasted like a really lovely peppermint tea with a twist. It was zingy and fresh, yet also very soothing. Again, I think this would work really well as an iced tea.

Vanilla Cupcake

Admittedly, this was the one I was most excited to try. Cake: good. Tea: gooooooood. Cake flavoured tea: GOOOOOD!

The banana chips were a wonderful addition to an already lovely, smooth rooibos tea. I had a cheeky banoffee cupcake with this and it’s safe to say my taste buds thanked me. My mother-in-law even went as far as to describe it as the best rooibos she’d ever tasted!

I was so impressed with the quality and selection of teas in my subscription box and I could definitely see this being a great gift for that special tea lover in your life (or just for you!).

You can customise your subscription by leaving a note on checkout. So, for example, if you’re not a fan of green tea, you can let them know and they’ll be sure not to include it in any of your boxes. If you fall in love with any of the teas they are available in the online shop and subscribers get 15% off all orders. I know I’ll be placing an order soon!

Delivery is free in the UK and just £3.75 for international shipping. Plus you can get 50% off your first subscription box by using the code ‘LOVE’ on checkout.

You can also find True Tea Club on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

 

Now I’m going to start this post by saying that I’m not a vegan, so a plant-based raw café wouldn’t be my usual choice. However, I’d heard such good things about Sukha Lounge (in particular, their hot chocolates!) that I had to give it a go.

Located next to Yoga Lounge, Boscombe, Sukha Lounge has exactly the relaxing, peaceful vibe you’d expect. The owner, Juliette, is warm and welcoming, and her passion for her food shines through.

Naturally we started with her famous hot chocolate and it did not disappoint! Made with cacao nibs, dates and almond butter, it’s hard to believe a hot chocolate so smooth and indulgent is completely dairy-free.

We were torn between the colourful array of salads on offer, as well as the sumptious all-day breakfast options, so we ordered ourselves a bit of a feast!

Fresh, crunchy and flavourful, the spring rolls were a personal favourite, and the pancakes topped with peanut butter and berries were a definite hit as well.

What surprised me the most was how much variety there was. We were spoiled for choice and each dish was simple, but full of great texture and flavour.

And then there were the cakes. Oh, the cakes. We tried a selection, including lemon cheesecake, banoffee pie, chocolate and raspberry cake and quite honestly, the most delicious apple tart I’ve ever eaten. Each one was indulgent, rich and impossibly creamy.

Last up I had a matcha latte, something I’ve been very keen to try for a while. Creamy, comforting and with an interesting seaweedy flavour, I could see how it might be an acquired taste, but I loved it.

I came away from Sukha Lounge feeling calm, relaxed and most importantly, full! The food is healthy and delicious, and the atmosphere warm and inviting. The simple, stripped back decor is complemented nicely by a few quirky pieces of furniture and soothing music helps to turn the cafe into a little oasis.

Vegan or not, you should visit Sukha Lounge if you want wholesome, delicious food served in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. I promise, you’ll be glad you did!

The lovely folk at Franco Manca Bournemouth very kindly invited me to attend their press event recently. Being a MASSIVE pizza lover, how could I say no?

We were welcomed at the door by lovely staff, who offered us a drink from a selection of wonderful sparkling wines, beer and the most delicious homemade lemonade I’ve ever tasted.

We were seated shortly after and from this point we enjoyed what I can only describe as a constant stream of food brought to our table.

We sampled amazing meats, focaccia bread with homemade pesto and burrata so good I’ve had dreams about it since.

The burrata of dreams!

Then we moved onto the main event: the pizzas. All Franco Manca pizzas are made with sourdough and fresh, simple but delicious toppings. We tried so many it’s hard to say which one was my favourite, but if you’re a fan of goat’s cheese, I have to say the goat’s curd is divine.

The wine was flowing freely as well, with the highlight definitely being a biodynamic (no, I had no idea either) sparkling red. I’ve never tried anything like it – smooth and mellow yet refreshing, with a light fizz. Wonderful.

Thankfully, we had a little break before dessert, at which point we had a go at making some pizzas ourselves. The chefs guided us through the process and it was great fun to have a go at picking our own toppings and use the giant paddle to put our pizzas in the oven.

The fab Kirsty having a go. Check out her vlog of the event here.

I pull some lovely faces.

The gorgeous Emma with her pizza creation!

My finished pizza.

Dessert was a wonderful selection of cakes, including tiramisu (an Italian favourite!), chocolate and hazelnut cake, and my personal favourite, a lemon and rosemary semolina cake served with natural yoghurt and honey. The perfect balance of sweet and tart, it was a great way to end what was admittedly a very rich meal!

I felt thoroughly spoiled as the drinks continued to flow and we enjoyed coffees and Limoncello, a cheeky digestif.

Cheers!

The service was wonderful and the food was honestly incredible – I would highly recommend! I also loved the simple, modern decor of the restaurant, with its beautiful, open kitchen offering you the chance to watch your food being freshly prepared.

Bournemouth’s Franco Manca is attached to Debenhams, and one quirky feature of the layout is that they have a door leading straight into the menswear department!

Everything, from the staff to the music, lent itself perfectly to the chilled, friendly atmosphere, making this not only a delicious, but thoroughly enjoyable dining experience.

Find your nearest Franco Manca here!

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Bournemouth Gin Festival recently and I had a fab time with my lovely friend Amy.

The Art Deco glamour of the Pavilion Theatre and the soulful music of pianist Dan Burnett made the perfect setting for sipping on gin cocktails and eating street food.

Taquitos

I must admit I was a little bit overwhelmed by the vast selection of gins, and wandered around the room unsure of where to start. In the end we were tempted by the cocktail bar, and the awesome Sean mixed me the most delicious cocktail I’ve ever had.

  

Sean very kindly sent me the recipe for the Rhubarb Rumble. All you’ll need is:

50ml (double shot) of Edinburgh rhubarb and ginger liqueur
50ml Advocaat
50ml good quality, clear apple juice
A dash of rhubarb bitters and a squeeze of lemon.
Shake well and garnish with a rhubarb and custard sweet!

If you’re wondering what Amy had, she tried a Tipsy Rocket – a lovely sparkling cocktail that would be perfect to serve at a garden party or summer wedding! All you’ll need to make this is:

50ml Adnams Copper House Gin
50ml good quality apple juice
Squeeze of lemon
Shake well together and pour over ice. Pour (from a height, I’m assured this isn’t just because it looks cool!) 25ml of crème de cassis directly into the glass and top off with a generous glug of Prosecco. Garnish with a lemon wheel and two plump blackberries.

Next up we decided to have a couple of cheeky G&Ts. I tried a Welsh gin called Dà Mhìle. “This one has seaweed in, seems right up your street” – Amy knows me well!

I can’t say it was particularly seaweedy (seaweedesque?) but it had a lovely flavour. We were given a pairing guide and I was really impressed that each gin came with its own recommendation for both tonic and garnish.

I was very jealous of Amy’s drink. She tried Poetic Licence’s Picnic Gin, garnished with strawberry and served with Fevertree elderflower tonic. It was basically summer in a glass.

I didn’t actually realise Fevertree did so many different tonics, and I absolutely loved the elderflower one. A lot of people don’t like the strong taste of normal tonic, so I think this is a lovely alternative.

I was drawn to the fab stand for Brockmans Gin (seriously, they have the sexiest branding EVER!) and ended up having a great chat with the lovely Pip, who gave me a sample of their delicious gin, infused with blackberry and blueberry. It was light, fruity and a perfect summer alternative to regular gin.

I’ve been a big fan of Conker gin for a while now. They’re a Dorset-based company and their gin was the first one I actually really enjoyed. So when I saw they were launching their own coffee liquer I was so excited.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. Conker describes it as ‘espresso-driven’ rather than the usual sweet or creamy coffee liquers most people would be familiar with. It would make an ideal gift for any coffee-lovers in your life and I imagine it would make a lovely Christmas-time tipple.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with Scandinavia, so obviously I had to try a Swedish gin. This (right) was Ragnarok, paired with regular tonic and garnished with…dill of course! Smooth and light, the delicate flavour of the dill complimented it surprisingly well.

The most triumphant moment of the night was, without a doubt, when Amy and I decided to try out the photo booth. Believe it or not, this was the best photo we managed (and we took A LOT!).

If you’re a gin-lover (and even if you’re not!), the Gin Festival is well worth checking out. Just make sure to eat a big lunch first – it’s impossible to make your way round the room without being lured in by the cocktail bar, or offered loads of free samples!

Now, I love me a good lasagna and I pride myself on making a pretty mean one.

Today though, I had the opportunity to make one for someone with a very specific diet and I had great fun rising to the challenge.

I had to make it completely gluten free and substitute cows’ milk and cheese for goats’ as well as switching several of my usual ingredients.

Here’s what I used!

  • Buckwheat flour
  • Just under two boxes of gluten free dry lasagna sheets

Lasagna ingredients

For the red sauce:

  • 2 bottles of passata (I would normally use tinned tomatoes)
  • Small bunch of fresh basil
  • Dried oregano
  • 3 courgettes
  • 1 aubergine
  • Most of a large bag of spinach

I chopped the aubergine and courgettes into small pieces and fried in olive oil until lightly browned. Usually, a little before this point I would add in some finely chopped garlic, but I had to forego it this time. I also normally use mushrooms, but I substituted them for aubergine.

I added the passata and threw in some salt and pepper to taste (sorry, I never use measurements!) as well as finely chopped basil and dried oregano.

While that bubbled away nicely I set to work on the white sauce. I just added the spinach in right at the end so it didn’t overcook.

For the béchamel:

  • Butter (I used regular butter as my friend didn’t mind)
  • Buckwheat flour (I thought I had gluten free flour, so had to improvise)
  • Semi-skimmed goats’ milk
  • Nutmeg
  • Small block of hard goats’ cheese

I wasn’t sure the sauce would thicken as it normally would, as I was unfamiliar with the textures of the flour and cheese I was using. There was a worrying moment when I didn’t think the cheese would melt either, but thankfully it all came together.

If you don’t know how to make a béchamel, it really is quite simple.

Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan (I used two very generous ice-cream scoop sized knobs of butter as I was making a lot of sauce). Once completely melted, slowly sieve the flour into the butter, stirring gently as you go. Keep adding flour until the sauce reaches a thick, sticky consistency. I roll it into a ball, as it makes the next bit a lot easier.

From there, slowly keep adding dashes of milk, while stirring gently. It’s important to add the milk gradually and keep stirring so you don’t get lumps. The key is to keep stirring the sauce over a low heat so it doesn’t go lumpy or stick to the pan.

Once you’ve got a good amount of sauce and it’s at a consistency you’re happy with, gradually start stirring in the grated cheese. I used most of the small block, saving a little bit to put on the top.

Once the cheese is all melted in, you might need to slowly add more milk in. Again, I never use measurements, I just keep throwing things in until it looks and tastes good!

Then I added in salt and pepper to taste, and grated in some fresh nutmeg (you can also use the pre-ground nutmeg). Again, I add this to taste, but have to be supervised as I’m notorious for using far too much nutmeg. I love it so much I think I’ve gone mouth-blind. Is that a thing? Like nose-blind?!

To assemble the lasagne

Line the bottom of a large glass dish with some lasagna sheets. You’ll need to snap some into small pieces to fill in gaps, unless you happen to have the perfect sized dish. Word of warning, gluten free lasagna sheets are harder to snap than regular ones – I got shards of pasta sheets everywhere! The pack did suggest blanching them first which would probably have helped, but I personally never bother with that.

From there you just layer pasta, white sauce, pasta, red sauce, and so on. The last layer should be sauce, not pasta, and then I like to sprinkle a bit of cheese on top.

Lasagna

Pop in the oven at 180° for 45 minutes. This will vary depending on size, but I just wait until the top looks nice and brown, and I always cut through to make sure the pasta sheets are soft enough.

Serve up and enjoy!

My verdict

I’m a huge fan of goats’ cheese so I absolutely LOVED the flavour of the béchamel sauce. I found the buckwheat flour gave it a slightly grainy, mealy texture, but I still really enjoyed it.

Using passata instead of tinned tomatoes made the sauce a lot smoother, which was quite nice. While I missed the mushrooms I enjoyed the aubergine. I don’t know why I haven’t always been putting it in my lasagna! I found it difficult not being able to use garlic, but with fresh basil and the other seasoning, I thought it still had a really nice flavour.

I didn’t love the texture of the gluten free pasta sheets, but that could have been my fault for not blanching them first. I just found them a bit chewy and grainy.

Overall though, I would definitely make this again. I didn’t feel as bloated as I normally do after lasagna, and the flavour of the goats’ cheese was a winner in my book.

Lasagna

Just look at that bubbling, cheesy goodness!