Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Globe-cooking recipe : Pirogi (Poland)

All this week I'm on  a work trip to Poland - our school is one of the partners in a big European project about sport as a vector of integration so we've headed back to Gdynia for the second and final time. Yesterday, I got my first taste of Poland at the airport when we tucked into these pirogi. They're a bit like ravioli without a tomato sauce and when we met up with the Polish delegation later on, I asked one of the girls how you make them. She gave me her mum's recipe !

You can make different fillings - as well as these meat ones, there are versions with cheese and potato, potato and cabbage, mushrooms...


ingredients :

(makes  about 30)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

filling :

ground beef (more finely ground than mince, maybe more like sausage meat)
salt, pepper, garlic/onion salt
finely shredded cabbage

Mix the flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sour cream, egg and oil. Stir into the flour until it makes a dough, cover with a teatowel and set aside for 20 minutes while you make the filling.

Cook the finely minced onion and cabbage with the ground meat, remove excess liquid, season and leave to cool.

Separate the dough into two balls. Roll out and cut into circleswith a cookie cutter. Brush a little water around the edges of the circles and put a tablespoonful of filling in the middle. Fold over and press to seal the edges. (They can be frozen at this stage if you've made too many.)

Drop them one at a time into a pot of boiling salted water. When they float to the top, they are ready.

Some people like to cook them in a frying pan in butter once they have been boiled.

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

Fancy trying out some more Polish cuisine? How about Bigos or Golabki?

Getting creative with madeleines

Bonne Maman recently sent us through some of their lovely madeleines and asked us to see what we could do with them, apart from just eating them straight out of the bag. They wanted us to get creative and see if we could come up with a lovely dessert. To help us in our challenge, they also enclosed some sprinkles and cake decorations.

Pierre took one look at the shape of the madeleines and decided he wanted to make a ladybird.

A bit of piped icing and some mini Smarties for eyes and a nose and I think our madeleine-dybird looked quite cute !

We decided to stay on the icing and mini Smarties theme to create this funky design. I thought it was a flower but the kids thought it was a sun.

Either way, it looked great and tasted great too, judging by how quickly the whole lot disappeared ! The firm sponge actually works really well as a base for decorating - it's much more resilient than the usual cupcakes which can fall apart if they're handled a bit too enthusiastically !

Bonne Maman madeleines are available in two flavours – the traditional buttery sponge cake and also with a layer of milk chocolate for an extra special, sophisticated treat. They are available in Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Visit for more product information.

Disclosure : We received the products in order to take part in the challenge.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Kids' app review : Kapu Fishing

Kapu Toys recently got in touch and asked if we'd like to try out one of their kids' apps, Kapu Fishing. They explained that they believe in fun play and clever apps that spark the imagination so their main motivation has been to encourage creativity in children and find ways to preserve the true nature of play, even in the digital age.

Kapu Fishing is a simple game, targetting children aged 2-5. You join Mr Fox fishing on a lake and the app teaches you to catch the biggest whoppers in the lake, cruise with your motorboat, build lures, tickle and feed your foxy friend and much more.

Gameplay is very easy and intuitive. It doesn't penalize mistakes, there's no racing against the clock or running out of lives and it always encourages you to try one more round.

Pierre is absolutely mesmerised by the fishing part of the game, tapping and stroking the screen with some technique only he is aware of, then squealing in delight when he catches lots of fish to toss into the boat !

One of our favourite parts of the game is creating your own lures, which you then use to go fishing in the app. Pierre finds it quite magical to see a little creature that he has created wiggling about on the end of his fishing line each time !

You can change the colours and add accessories like dummies and pirate eye patches to create some really funny lures. You will attract different fish, depending on the colours and decorations that you use.

You can also try to find the best fishing spots by motorboating around the beautiful lake scenery with islands, summer cottages, lighthouses and other places to discover. It's a lovely soothing, stress-free game (no scores to beat, time limits or specific challenges to complete). I thought Pierre would soon lose interest and get bored, because it seems quite repetitive, but he hasn't yet !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.49

Disclosure : We received a download code in order to write an honest review.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The May Degustabox : The Bank Holiday One (review)

A little earlier than usual, the May Degustabox has landed ! This month's box has a bit of a BBQ theme going on and a bit of a healthy theme going on but it's designed as a Bank Holiday box, aka a  "whooop! here comes Summer" box!

A lot of the recent Degustaboxes have been a bit heavy on the drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, depending on your subscription options), but this box is almost drink-free. As usual, it's a mix of products we've tried and loved, unknown products from well-known brands and brands we've never heard of.

This month's box contains :

Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce (£2.99) - We still have the big bottle of barbecue sauce from last month's box so this has gone into the cupboard for now. I was excited to learn that this is the number one BBQ Sauce in the States. It can be used for marinades, dips and as an ingredient in cooking, on burgers, ribs, hot dogs and a whole lot more. I fancy trying this on chicken thighs as a marinade/glaze and drizzled over steak as a sauce, but also to add a nice lift to stews and casseroles in the slow cooker. Hmmm I may just have to finally give pulled pork a go just to try it with this sauce which I'm sure would be a match made in heaven.

Schwartz Grill Mates Marinade In A Bag (£2.19) -  I've tried several of the Schwartz Grill Mates mixes in the past and loved them all, and the addition of the cooking bag sounds like a great idea, locking in the flavour and juiciness of the meat, as well as making washing-up nice and easy ! Simply put your favourite meat, fish or veg into the bag for 30 minutes and it will be ready to sizzle ! Available in six flavours : Honey & Soy (which we got), Spicy BBQ, Red Wine & Garlic, Brazilian BBQ, Teriyaki and Korean BBQ.

 Maggi So Stir Fry (2 x  £1.49) - Maggi is a great brand for injecting some excitement into quick midweek meals and this new range of So Stir Fry mixes sounds like it will hit the spot again. The recipes sound very exciting and exotic - Singapore Curry Chicken Noodles and Oriental 3 Spice Chicken Noodles. The packet contains noodles and a seasoning sachet with herbs and spices, which you add to fresh ingredients (meat and veg) to cook a complete meal in one pan. These will be great as a shortcut when cooking from scratch after a long day at work.

9 Bar Fruity Bars (£2) - A box of four healthy but tasty snacks. "This delicious bar is stacked with nutritious seeds including sunflower, sesame and pumpkin and combined with succulent dried apricots and dates then topped with carob, making it the perfect mid-morning or afternoon treat – one you needn’t feel guilty about!" I've tried these before and, while they're not as indulgent and moreish as chocolate snacks, they are pretty tasty and stave off hunger pangs until your next meal.

Daelmans Stroopwafels (£2) - We cheered when we saw these in the box ! The inimitable soft, toasted waffles with their characteristic sweet, creamy caramel filling are delicious straight from the box or warmed over your favourite hot drink to enjoy in the traditional Dutch way. I also highly recommend using them to create the ultimate banana sandwich - yum !

 Sarsons Balsamic Vinegar (£2) - I always have a bottle of Sarsons Malt Vinegar in the cupboard to shake over chips so I was intrigued to learn that they have branched out into Balsamic Vinegar too. They suggest using it on a salad or in a homemade pesto. I seem to remember reading that it goes well with strawberries too.

 Slim Pasta Lasagna (£2.49) - Pasta by name but not pasta by nature ! Slim Pasta is made using konjac so it is carb-free and only contains 21 calories per 100g. I reviewed some of the other Slim Pasta products here. Be prepared for an unpleasant fishy smell when you take it out of the pack, but don't worry, you can't taste it at all once it's cooked. It doesn't really taste of anything much so make sure you use a rich sauce to perk it up. I'm not keen on the strange texture but if you're trying to lose weight, it's a good option.

 Green Coco kid's coco juice with banana (80p) - I gave this to Sophie for taking on a school trip and the verdict was, it was very nice.

Fuel 10K Protibrick (£2.69) -  the first ever protein boosted wheat biscuit, designed to suit a growing appetite for more protein in our diets and to keep active early morning risers feeling fuller for longer. Basically it's a 100% wholegrain, high protein, bigger than average Weetabix, that is high in fibre and low in both sugar and fat. Nice with milk and fresh fruit.

This month's recipes are for Singapore Curry Chicken Noodles and Oriental 3 Spice Chicken Noodles - not very exciting as they are the serving suggestions on the packets of  So Stir Fry.

A Degustabox subscription costs £12.99 including delivery per month, with each box having a value of much more than that. This month's totals up to £20.14. I have a discount coupon code for you too, which gives you a £3.00 discount when registering - just enter code 13NC5 at the checkout. (This will be valid until October 2015).

This box is an interesting mix - some things the whole family love, some things we're not so keen on and some things we wouldn't have bought - but that's the whole point of the subscription, introducing you to products that you may not have tried otherwise.

for more information :

Disclosure : I received a free box in order to write an honest review.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Madhouse Diaries : War and Peace (Operation Dynamo 2015)

As I told you on Friday, the Little Ships have come back to Dunkirk for the 70th commemoration of Operation Dynamo and the Evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II.

As part of the celebrations, there was a parade of vintage military vehicles through the town centre yesterday.

Opening the parade was Arthur Taylor, one of seven Dunkirk veterans, all in their nineties, who have made it back to Dunkirk to mark the occasion. He got the biggest round of applause as he walked proudly past, waving to the crowds, which was very poignant and heartwarming. 

It must have been very strange for anyone who was in Dunkirk during the war to see the British, French and Belgian vehicles, along with people in WWII military uniforms, rolling back into town. Dunkirk was the last French town to be liberated at the end of the war, the day after VE Day in fact, on 9th May 1945.

As the years pass by and there are fewer and fewer Dunkirk veterans still alive to invite back, there is always a question mark hanging over the Operation Dynamo commemorations. It looks like there are still plenty of enthusiasts willing to take part in the event though. 

As well as the British and French military vehicles, there were also some vintage cars.

And some military marching bands.

Pierre asked why these ones kept sticking their drumsticks up their noses !

At the end of the parade, they all parked in the town square.

We got up close and had a good look at the insides, often complete with WWII memorabilia (or reconstitutions).

 It was great to see the camaraderie between all the participants.

 The poppy wreaths on the fronts of some of the vehicles were a poignant reminder of what we are commemorating though.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

#silentSunday #mySundayphoto 24/5/15

Sorry it's not one photo this week as per the rules, but you'd never have understood the first photo without seeing the others ! If you're wondering where the curve comes from, it's the reflection in a shiny French horn at a miltary band parade.

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Book review : The Fifth Gospel - Ian Caldwell

The Fifth Gospel is a religious-themed literary thriller. It is set in the fascinating and rather mysterious world of The Vatican, but you don't need to be a believer, belong to a particular faith or be well versed in the finer points of the religious texts to enjoy it.

I'll admit to being pretty uneducated when it comes to all things religious and I learnt an awful lot of fascinating facts about life in the Vatican, the complicated politics of the Catholic church and the ambiguity and contradictions of certain passages of the Bible. I kept thinking to myself "yes, but this is fiction, it may not be true" but the book took an amazing TEN YEARS to write, in which time Ian Caldwell studied a vast array of primary sources to use in his novel.

The central characters of the novel are two brothers, Simon and Alex Andreou. Both are Catholic priests but Alex is Greek Catholic, with an estranged wife and a young son, while Simon is Roman Catholic. Both men are friends with Doctor Ugo Nogara, a man who is working on a mysterious, highly controversial and, in terms of Catholic politics, potentially dangerous exhibition about the Turin Shroud. While he seems to be focusing on the authenticity of the shroud, Nogara makes a possibly earth-shattering discovery in the scriptures. We all know the four gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but I was totally unaware of a fifth gospel, called the Diatessaron, which tries to compare all four gospels and condense them into a truer, real-life gospel. It is commonly assumed that John's gospel is a theological text rather than an eyewitness account, using symbolism rather than realism, unlike the other gospels. Just as Nogara's exhibition is about to be unveiled and his big secret revealed, he is found dead. Even more shocking, Simon Andreou is at the scene and becomes the prime suspect.

Simon is put on trial, not in a regular civil court but in front of a papal tribunal, with its own mysterious rules and regulations. Father Alex has to try to unravel Doctor Nogara's research in order to prove his brother's innocence before it's too late.

Despite the rather high-brow content, Ian Caldwell delivers an intense, dramatic thriller with believable and perfectly imperfect characters. The Vatican, with its unusual protocol and mysterious secrets, provides the perfect backdrop for a murder-mystery and the huge amount of background research is evident when you read the story.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £14.99

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (26 Mar. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471111024
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471111020
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.6 x 24.2 cm

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

Giveaway #482 : Win a copy of The Mindful Mother - closing date 7/6

Naomi Chunilal, a Yoga and meditation teacher from North Devon, has just written a new book for mums-to-be that promises unparalleled support and nurturing throughout pregnancy, labour and early motherhood.

She explains : "I wrote the Mindful Mother after searching high and low for guidance to keep me afloat on my own journey into the unfamiliar territory of newborn babies. Upon standing on the shores of new motherhood, I realised that I didn't seem to have a natural aptitude to be a mother to say the least! And so I wanted to understand how to be present and enjoy this incredible phase of life. 'The Mindful Mother' supports and nurtures you to find more resilience, joy and fulfilment to cope with the reality of sleepless nights, feeding upon demand and looking after a young baby or child around the clock."

Speaking with humour and clarity to women's hearts, the Mindful Mother provides you with an emotional lifeline to not only survive but thrive through daily mothering dilemmas and challenges of looking after a baby. Through simple and clear meditation and self-development practices, it enables you to cultivate an authentic practice of mindfulness to help you navigate a clear path through the joys and frustrations of new family life.

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Watkins Publishing (21 May 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780288743
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780288741
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.4 x 23.4 cm

I have one copy of the book to give away to a lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 7/6/15

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook, twitter and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after a week, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !

Globe-cooking recipe : Greek Salad (Greece)

This is the taste of summer on a plate ! Crunchy lettuce (which wasn't part of the original recipe but I'm glad I added it), juicy sweet tomatoes, salty feta and olives and slightly acidic vinaigrette - it's an explosion of flavours that makes you forget it's diet-friendly !

Greek Salad

ingredients (per serving) :

a big handful of salad leaves (I used little gem lettuce)
2 ripe plum tomatoes
a few slices of red onion
10 Kalamata olives
100g feta
2tbsp olive oil
the juice of 1/2 lemon
dried oregano

Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the lemon juice and olive oil and stirring in the salt and pepper. That was it for the official recipe in my Greek-themed Kitchen Trotter box but it tasted bland to me so I added a splash of Light Asian Lucy's Dressing - it needs something acidic and tangy like vinegar to bring it alive (in my humble opinion !).

Arrange the salad leaves on the plate. Top with chopped tomatoes, drizzle with vinaigrette, sprinkle with cubes of feta, olives and very finely sliced red onion. Drizzle again with vinaigrette and sprinkle with dried oregano.

That's it !

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

Want to try some other Greek dishes? Take your pick from this little lot ! :