Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Globecooking recipe : Molokheya Chicken (Egypt)

Ermmm if you're thinking that this looks like the dog has just regurgitated the contents of its stomach on a nice piece of roast chicken, you wouldn't be far wrong ! But that's the whole point of globecooking - it takes you out of your culinary comfort zone and sometimes, you have to just admit that it's not very tasty ! That said, it was edible (just about !) and definitely tastes, well, if not better, let's say nowhere near as bad as it looks !

This recipe called for two ingredients from my Egyptian-themed Kitchen Trotter box - Taamia spices (which I used in the much tastier Egyptian falafels or taamias) and Molokheya powder.This green powder made from a plant was described as being similar to spinach but it had a strange herbal smell a bit like green tea and a rather disturbing colour !

Molokheya Chicken

ingredients :

1 chicken (or I used 6 chicken thighs)
2tbsp molokheya powder
1tbsp taamia spices
250g rice
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion
2 tomatoes
1tsp salt
2tbsp olive oil

Put the onion, taamia spice and 1tbsp olive oil into a pan of water and bring to the boil.

Add the chicken and reduce the heat slightly. Allow 45 minutes for a whole chicken or about 20 minutes for chicken thighs.

Transfer the chicken to an ovenproof dish but reserve the stock. Finish cooking the chicken in the oven so it goes nice and crisp and golden.

Meanwhile finely dice the garlic and put it in a saucepan with the remaining 1tbsp olive oil. Gently fry for 1 minute then add the finely diced tomatoes. Cook for a further 3 minutes. Look at that gorgeous vibrant colour - make the most of it because it's about to disappear into sludge !

Stir in the molokheya and add a couple of ladlefuls of chicken stock. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding extra stock if you want to reduce the thickness of the sauce.

Serve a piece of chicken on a bed of rice and, if you're brave enough, spoon some of the molokheya sauce over the top.

It was edible but we weren't keen on the flavour of the molokheya. The kids didn't even taste it - they just went for plain chicken and rice !

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

If you want to try some more Egyptian dishes, you might like Aish BaladiTaamias, Karkadeh and Date-filled Kahk

Monday, 6 July 2015

Book review : Tightrope - Simon Mawer

Tightrope tells the story of Marian Sutro, a plucky and headstrong young woman who is attempting to pick up the pieces after her traumatic experiences during World War II. Working as a double agent for the allies in the SOE (Special Operations Executive), she was parachuted into France before being arrested by the Gestapo, barbarically interrogated and sent off to Ravensbrück concentration camp. She eventually managed to escape but the scars, both physical and mental, have still not healed when she returns to the now alien world of post-war England.

She returns to her parents and tries to ease into a period of convalescence in a peaceful cottage on the Sussex coast but her haunting memories and irrepressible longing for adventure make this into her toughest challenge yet. Outwardly settling into her new life with a 9-to-5 job and a husband, Marian is soon lured back into her old ways and returns to the shadowy, secret world of espionage. Nothing is the same though - the new Cold War means that old Soviet allies are now seen as political enemies and Marian is no longer sure where her loyalties lie. The Nazi threat may have been eradicated but the new sinister threat of atomic or even hydrogen bombs wiping out vast swathes of humanity have led to an uneasy sense of peace and a delicate reevaluation of what is morally and politically right or wrong.

Marian has a rich, complex personality so the supporting cast of characters, with the exception perhaps of her brother Ned, seem to pale into insignificance around her. Just like Marian, the reader is constantly on edge, looking out for sinister shadows or dangers lurking in the background at every turn, but I couldn't help but think that this post-war period of her life is undoubtedly less exciting and poignant than her dangerous escapades as a spy, before and after her capture by the Germans. I didn't realise that this is the sequel to The Girl Who Fell From The Sky and, while the book does work fine as a stand-alone novel, I do think I would have felt more empathy and attachment to Marian if I had read the account of her earlier experiences.

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP : £16.99

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (4 Jun. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408706210
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408706213
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.7 x 24.1 cm

Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.

Globecooking recipe : Toucinho Do Céu (Portugal)

When the temperatures sky-rocketed last week, I knew it time to try out Toucinho Do Ceu, the dessert option from my Portuguese-themed Kitchen Trotter box a couple of months ago.

I had a packet of instant Toucinho Do Céu mix to use, along with the end of a jar of Orange Jam with Port from the same Kitchen Trotter box. 

The contents look a bit like cornflour or custard powder.

You mix it up with 500ml of water and a spoonful of cinnamon and bring it to the boil.

Simmer for a few minutes, whisking continually, until it thickens up.

Turn off the heat and add a couple of spoonfuls of orange jam with port (or marmalade would do, as would lemon curd). Leave to cool.

Put 8 tablespoons of sugar in a frying pan and heat on a moderate heat until it creates caramel.

I've only ever made caramel by adding a small amount of water or butter so i wasn't sure this would work.

But it did ! Just keep a close eye on it and turn off the heat as soon as it colours so that it doesn't burn.

Pour into individual ramekins. This sets solid - I will definitely use this pure sugar caramel for making toffee apples next time as it sets quickly and goes crunchy.

Top with the Toucinho Do Céu mixture and chill in the fridge for a few hours until it has set.

I was a bit disappointed that mine came out brown rather than vibrant yellow but that's down to the cinnamon. It did give it a lovely flavour though so I wasn't too sad !

We all really loved the flavour and it was the perfect dessert during a heatwave, very refreshing and reminiscent of French flan or egg custard.

I always like to look up the "from scratch" recipe after trying a packet mix and I have to say, the real Toucinho Do Céu looks nothing like the packet version. The real version is translated as Portuguese Almond Cake and it has a much "cakier" texture. The name apparently means "Bacon From Heaven" because it contains pork fat - hmmm not sure about that ! I've bookmarked a more authentic recipe for Toucinho Do Céu and will be giving it a go at some point so I'll report back to see how the two compare.

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

Fancy trying some more Portuguese cuisine? How about Bacalhau a brasOrange Tart and Squid Salad?

As this finished off my jar of Orange Jam, I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linkie. Fancy joining in? What's lurking in your larder? Have a rummage at the back of your kitchen cupboard, fridge, freezer or spice rack and show us what you've got !

Fun kids' cookery project : Stork with Butter-fly Cake !

Stork recently released their new Stork with Butter, which they say has been perfectly blended with baking in mind to deliver cakes with both a fluffy texture and a delicious buttery taste. Its unique combination of oils and butter makes it easier to mix with other ingredients and it creates more volume as you mix, producing a lighter, fluffier texture. It can also be used to make a rich, creamy and smooth icing in minutes. We received a voucher to try out the new product, along with a rather fabulous recipe for a fun butterfly shaped cake.

Butterfly Cake

Serves: 10
Preparation Time: 30 minutes


Vanilla cake:

250g Stork with butter
250g caster sugar
4 large eggs
250g self-raising flour, sieved
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


150g Stork with butter
300g icing sugar, sieved
1-2 tablespoons milk
Food colourings

To decorate:

Green sugar paste
Dried spaghetti
Coloured sprinkles (optional)


1. Place Stork and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. (This was so much easier to work with than butter, even straight from the fridge.)

Fold in the flour until blended.

2. Place mix into a 20cm (8 inch) greased and lined round cake tin. Bake on middle shelf of oven 170°C, 160°C fan, Gas mark 4 for about 70 minutes.

3. For the icing, beat the Stork with the icing sugar, adding a little milk for a soft spreadable consistency. Using the cutting guide (see bakewithstork.com) cut the cake into the four sections as indicated on the template. (Imagine a CND peace symbol as a rough guide !)

4. Coat the top and sides of each piece of cake with the icing.

5. Position the pieces as indicated on the template on a serving plate. Colour remaining icing in complimentary colours for the butterfly decoration. Place the icing into piping bags, and pipe the decoration onto the wings.

6. Decorate with sprinkles

7. To create the butterfly’s body, roll small balls of green sugar paste, slightly tapering in size and slide a piece of spaghetti through the middle of each ball, finishing with a slightly larger ball for the head. Place in position down the middle of the butterfly. Enjoy! (We raided the crafts cupboard for the finishing touches instead !)

This was a great cake that tasted lovely and was really fun to put together. The kids really enjoying getting involved in the mixing and the decorating and it looked pretty spectacular, so it would be great as the centrepiece for a birthday party.

Disclosure : We received a voucher to try out the new Stork with Butter and make the Butterfly cake.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Welcome to the dark side ! (Magic Blackout Blind review)

As I was born and brought up in England, I love waking up to the sun streaming in through the windows on a summer's morning, inviting me to get up and get outside and have some fun. As Madhouse Daddy was born and brought up in France, where all houses have shutters so people sleep in absolute darkness, he, on the other hand, always grumbles when we go on holiday because he wakes up too early and can't get to sleep because of the light coming in through the curtains. Well, this could well be the solution : the Magic Blackout Blind, a temporary window covering that’s guaranteed to completely block out all the light, even at a window’s edges. Although I tend to roll my eyes at Madhouse Daddy's grumbling, research has apparently shown that sleeping in total darkness ensures a good night’s sleep and is much healthier for people, whatever their age, so I guess I'll have to admit defeat on this one !

The Magic Blackout Blinds come as perforated sheets (so that they're easy to rip off) on a roll. Each roll comprises 10 x A1 sheets (60cm by 80cm), which can be overlapped to cover larger windows or cut to size for smaller ones. It’s quick and easy to use as the sheets cling using static, so no adhesive is needed and it leaves no nasty marks on windows. What’s more, each of the 10 sheets can be reused up to 100 times.

They really are easy to put in place and they can be peeled off and stuck back in place within seconds. I remember many times when the Madhouse kids were small and we wanted to put them down for a nap but didn't want to use the noisy rolling blinds in case it woke them up - this would be a great alternative.

They've been an absolute Godsend for blocking out the sun which always goes straight in my eyes when I'm watching the TV in the evening. As it sets, I can move the blind along so that it's always in exactly the right place without pulling the curtains to shut out all the light, which seems a shame.

The Magic Blackout Blind also works as an instant blackboard for children to chalk on, because it sticks to walls as well as windows. 

Pierre got busy personalising his blind before putting it on his window to keep the bedroom cool during the heatwave by blocking out some of the sunshine.

The Magic Blackout Blind has also got the thumbs up from gamers and home movie enthusiasts, as it allows them to create the perfect darkened environment. Owners of aquariums also love it, as a Magic Blackout Blind creates a background that makes the colour of fish really stand out.

star rating : 4.5/5

Available online at www.magicwhiteboard.co.uk, a single roll costs £30 or a twin pack costs £49.

Also available at Jo Jo Maman Bebe, Great Little Trading Company, NCT shop, Ryman Stationery, Argos and Amazon.

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

Family Fever

Madhouse recipe : No-bake marscapone cheesecake

Holyart, an online e-commerce for religious and natural products made by a number of monasteries, recently got in touch and asked if I'd like to try out some of their foodie products. They are based in Italy but sell all over the world and they sent me two of their products to try out: a jar of "Limoni E Mapo", lemon and tangelo marmalade made by the discalced Carmelites of San Remo in Italy, which is produced according to ancient recipes and artisanal methods, and extra bitter cocoa powder, produced by the trappist monks of the Frattocchie monastery using traditional recipes and 100% natural ingredients.

The cocoa powder is as bitter as it sounds and the lemon and tangelo marmalade is gorgeously fresh and fruity but also very tart, so I decided I needed to incorporate them into a sweet dessert recipe (although I want to try the marmalade in a glaze on pork or chicken too). As it's been really hot lately, I've been trying lots of no-bake recipes so this marscapone cheesecake was ideal. It's quick and simple to put together and is really refreshing at the end of a meal.

No-bake marscapone cheesecake


5 digestive biscuits
40g butter
250g marscapone
80g sugar
squeeze of lemon juice

topping 1 :  lemon and tangelo marmalade

topping 2 : 1 banana + extra bitter cocoa powder + crushed pasteli (sesame/honey biscuits)

Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

Melt the butter in the microwave and mix in the biscuit crumbs.

Press into the bottom of individual ramekins and put in the fridge to chill.

Gently fold the sugar and lemon juice into the marscapone with a spatula.

Spoon the marscapone mixture on top of the biscuit bases then dollop a tablespoonful of lemon and tangelo marmalade on top.

These were my favourites because they are really fresh, fruity and zesty.

For the second option, I placed slices of banana in the ramekins then sprinkled cocoa powder and crushed pasteli on top. (Pasteli are the sesame/honey biscuits that I had in my Greek-themed Kitchen Trotter box.)

The kids loved these ones and the different flavours and textures all balanced perfectly - soft sweet banana, crunchy sweet honey/sesame biscuit, bitter cocoa powder, cold smooth marscapone ...

This is such a quick dessert - it takes all of ten minutes to throw together - but it looks and tastes really special.

Disclosure : I received the marmalade and cocoa powder in order to write an honest review and use them in a recipe.

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

#silentSunday #mySundayphoto #SundaySnap 5/7/15

I couldn't decide which one to use so you get both !

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls