Thursday, 30 June 2016

Globecooking recipe : Amok (Cambodia)

Amok is a Cambodian dish made with fish that is traditionally steamed in banana leaves. You can use foil to make a papillote instead though, or I used a foil steamer bag that I had in the cupboard. It's a delicately-flavoured, light dish that was a total leap of faith because the flavours sound like they really shouldn't go together - who puts curry powder, sugar, fish sauce, coconut milk and raw eggs in the same dish ?! It came out lovely though.


ingredients :

800g firm white fish (such as cod)
8 Chinese cabbage leaves
1/2 red pepper
1 clove garlic
2 shallots or an onion
1tbsp sunflower oil
1/2tsp chilli powder
a pinch of salt
20cl coconut milk
3tsp mild curry powder
3tsp fish sauce (nuoc mam)
3tsp sugar
2 eggs
3-4tbsp of kroeung (see here)

Finely chop the shallots/onion and garlic and gently fry it in the sunflower oil in a small saucepan until soft and translucent but not browned. Turn off the heat and stir in the chilli powder and salt. Reserve.

 Create the marinade by mixing together the curry powder, fish sauce, sugar, 2 eggs and the coconut milk.

Add the remaining kroeung that I told you about in the last Cambodian recipe and also the onions/garlic/chilli from the saucepan.

Chop the fish into large pieces and put in the bowl with the marinade. Stir to cover the fish and leave to soak up the flavours for half an hour.

Chop the Chinese cabbage leaves into thick strips and slice the red pepper.

Prepare your papillotes, using sheets of foil (or banana leaves if you want to be authentic !) or a ready-made foil bag. 

Put the Chinese cabbage and red pepper in first.

Then top with the fish and spoon in the remaining marinade. Fold over the ends of the bag to seal it and put in a preheated oven at 180° for 30 minutes.

Serve the fish and vegetables on a bed of rice and spoon over some of the sauce.

It's a surprising blend of flavours but they all combine really nicely. The fish was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the cabbage soaked up all the coconut milk and curry flavours without going soggy. A surprising success !

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Fantastic burgers made in minutes #GrillMates

Schwartz have released a new range of homemade burger mixes and we've been putting them to the test. They come in two varieties, Classic Steakhouse and American Smokehouse, and I was surprised to see that they're in liquid (like runny relish) rather than powder form. The instructions on the back of the pack give you various ideas of things to do with them - burgers obviously, but also meatballs or koftas on skewers and I think they'd be great as a non-spicy, family-friendly filling for fajitas and tacos too.

I started off with the Classic Steakhouse, which contains mustard, garlic and black pepper. I kept things simple, adding it to a pack of beef mince and a finely chopped onion.

After giving it a stir, I used my hands to shape them into patties - no need to add an egg, they held their shape perfectly.

I cooked them on the Optigrill which gave them a great stripy, ridged look. They tasted lovely - not overly seasoned but just like good quality, fresh burgers bought directly from a butcher.

For the second sachet - American Smokehouse, with tomatoes, smoked paprika and garlic, which has a lovely BBQ sauce flavour going on - I decided to jazz things up a bit and make meatballs with mozzarella in the middle.

I again added the mix to a finely chopped onion and a pack of mince and gave it a stir, then chopped the mozzarella into chunks.

I took a handful of meat, squashed it flat in the palm of my hand then wrapped it around a piece of cheese. They held their shape perfectly but did tend to fall apart during the cooking process so I'd be tepted to add an egg to the mixture to help hold it all together next time.

The meatballs were lovely though. The GrillMates gave them a lovely rich smokey BBQ flavour which perfectly complemented the gooey cheese in the middle. Clean plates all round !

RRP : £1.49

Disclosure : We received the products in order to write an honest review.

Madhouse diaries : Festijeunes Kids' Festival

At the weekend, while Madhouse Daddy was watching the footie on the telly and Sophie was soaking up the atmosphere watching the match on a big screen in the town centre with her friends, I took Pierre and Juliette along to Festijeunes, a free kids' festival that was going on in a nearby town. It was set in a park along a canal and we saw a big heron. Pierre made me laugh on the way home when he said that it was cool to see the "herring" !

The first thing that Pierre wanted to do was have a pony ride. A few weeks ago, he went on a school trip to a riding centre and came home proudly clutching a certificate to say he'd ridden a pony called Haribo so he told the horse handlers that he knew how to ride ! He did amaze me by managing to mount and dismout all by himself though.

I thought he looked a bit wobbly (especially his head !) but I asked him if he'd enjoyed it and he said it was brilliant !

We moved on to some calmer pursuits - some stress-busting colouring while we waited our turn for the next activity.

Now, this was an ingenious, albeit very messy, activity - filling water pistols with paint then spraying them onto big sheets of paper.

Pierre and Juliette both had great fun and created some very colourful designs.

Time for some refreshments and Pierre opted for a candy floss that was even bigger than his head !

There was one final activity left to try out (because they didn't want to do the rifle shooting, archery, face painting or water jousting !). After strapping himself to a big elastic band, Pierre had to try to pull himself along far enough to stick a bean bag covered in velcro on to a sticky strip.

It was very hard work so the girl gave him a helping hand, pulling him along by his arm then letting him go, at which point he went shooting back on the elastic band and landed in a heap down the end. His face was a picture but it must have been fun because he wanted another go straight afterwards !

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Globecooking recipe : Sath Ko Ann (Cambodia)

 Sath Ko Ann is one of the recipes from this month's Cambodian-themed Kitchen Trotter box and it's a simple beef dish. The presentation on the recipe card was as beef skewers, stabbing the marinated meat onto wooden sticks before cooking it on the barbecue or under the grill, but for simplicity, I cooked it in a large frying pan instead. The starting point for the marinade is kroeung, which I showed you in the recipe for noum protchok khmer, a fishy stew, but I'll give you a refresher course here too.

Sath Ko Ann

ingredients :

for the kroeung:

90g lemongrass paste
30g powdered galanga
1 bird's eye chilli
a few Kampot black peppercorns
1tsp curcuma
3 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
the zest of a lime
a pinch of salt
2 or 3tbsp water if necessary

for the sath ko ann :

800g beef
3tbsp fish sauce (nuoc mam)
25g sugar
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Throw all of the kroeung ingredients in a blender and give it a whizz. The quantities above are for enough kroeung to make the three recipes in the box and you'll need half of it for this recipe. You can keep the rest in the fridge until required.

Stir in the fish sauce, the sugar and the oil.

Chop the beef into thin strips and toss in the marinade. Leave for the flavours to soak in for at least an hour in the fridge.

Thread onto skewers and grill them or fry in a large frying pan. Serve with rice.

It was nice enough but I thought it was lacking in veggies so the next day, I went through the fridge and stir-fried everything that needed using up - red pepper, green pepper, mushrooms, courgette and also some onions.

To intensify the lemongrass hit from the kroeung, I added a lemongrass and ginger flavour pot (which is a nifty shortcut if you don't want to make your own kroeung, even if the flavour's not quite the same).

I added the beef and stir-fried it until warmed through. I actually thought this was nicer than the day before with just plain rice.

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

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Picture book review : George and the New Craze - Alice Hemming

We've come to love George the giraffe here at The Madhouse, having followed his adventures in two previous picture books, The Black and White Club and A Gold Star For George - click through to read my reviews of those titles - so we couldn't wait to see what he'd get up to in this latest book, George and the New Craze.

We instantly recognised all of George's friends from the Heavenly Hippos Wildlife Park in Kimberley Scott's enchanting illustrations and spent ages pointing out the details and naming the animals. The drawings are full of action and really bring the texts to life.

In this story, the new craze alluded to in the title is collecting people cards - this made Pierre laugh because he said usually it's people collecting animal cards so it's the world back to front !

As with all the best picture books, the story also gives little readers some great life lessons about sharing, working together as a team and combining forces.

While the animals haven't got enough cards individually to do anything exciting with, when they put them all together, they come up with a spectacular collection. I introduced a new expression to Pierre - "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" - which he'd never heard before but perfectly understood in the context of the story, as was proved when we made cookies later the same day and he told me that was another example of the saying, because the results of our baking efforts were worth more than the individual ingredients !

It's a fun story with appealing characters and some brilliant reinforcement of positive values such as teamwork and solidarity.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99

Disclosure : We received the book in order to write an honest review.

Madhouse diaries : Bouncy castle fun

A couple of weeks ago, the town centre was completely taken over with a load of bouncy castles. As it was free, we decided to head over for a look, despite the decidedly grey skies.

The sun was missing but we did have palm trees - inflatable ones at that !

Pierre took it all very seriously when trying to shoot the hoops - easier said than done on a bouncy castle !

It was even harder for Juliette because she did it properly and strapped herself in to the big elastic band that was pulling her back every time she tried to go forwards !

I think the squeals on the death slides were an indication of how much fun they were having (judging by the smiles afterwards !).

Some refreshments were in order and these brightly coloured slushies got a big thumbs up.

Where do they get all their energy ?! Pierre was half asleep on the bus back home though !