Thursday, 3 September 2015

Monkey around with new Bananagrams Wildtiles ! (review)

There's always lots of monkeying around going on at The Madhouse ...

So we didn't need much encouragement to be extra silly when this Bananagrams Wildtiles package arrived in the post ! After trying on the monkey mask and making appropriate ape noises, I decided it was time to stop being silly at look at the game !

We discovered the original Bananagrams game all the way back in 2011 when we took part in a bloggers challenge, creating crosswords to represent ourselves, kids' TV, yellow things and fruit. I was intrigued to see what had been changed and the clue was in the name - wildtiles !

In the new game, you get six tiles illustrated with a monkey which can be used to replace any letter you wish.

This does make it easier to play so may make it more apealing to younger children. The rest of the rules have remained unchanged - just like a game of Scrabble without the board, you dish out letters and have to make a grid of interconnecting words. We've come up with several versions of the game, playing all by yourself and trying to get the most words; playing in a duel against the clock, both creating your grids simultaneously; or playing more like Scrabble, adding a word to a communal grid one at a time.

However you choose to play it, it's great fun, really makes you think, is great practice at spelling and word formation for younger players and takes no time to set up. It's also totally compact, making it the ideal travel game.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £16.99

for more information :

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

Globecooking recipe : Arepas con Chorizo y Guacamole (Colombia)

Despite the name, these Colombian pancakes don't have any chorizo in them - they use smoked sausage - but they are really tasty and family-friendly.

They required several ingredients from my Colombian-themed Kitchen Trotter box - maize flour, panela (a solid cake of brown sugar), triguisar and crystallised ginger. If you're worried about sourcing those ingredients though, don't panic - you could use ready made maize tortillas as a shortcut and brown sugar would work fine too.

Triguisar, the ubiquitous Colombian spice blend, is a combination of achiote (a spice made from the red seed of the annatto tree - I used the whole seeds in a different recipe here, if you want to see what they look like), cumin, coriander, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. It isn't spicy at all so I would say that you could substitute cumin.

The maize flour is coarser than regular flour and gives a lovely toasted flavour halfway between tortilla wraps and tortilla chips. I'll definitely be looking out for this in the supermarket because I love the flavour and texture.

Arepas con Chorizo y Guacamole

ingredients (for 4 arepas - serve 1 as a starter or 2 as a main meal with salad) :

for the arepas :

300g white maize flour
300ml water
1tbsp salt
1tsp triguisar
1tbsp butter (plus extra for frying)

for the sausages :

1/2 a panela (about 120g)
1tsp triguisar
1tbsp finely diced crystallised ginger
50cl water
4 sausages (smoked sausages or saucisses de Toulouse work best but any thick sausages or even chorizo would do)

for the guacamole :

2 ripe avocados
1 small onion
1 small tomato
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper or chilli powder
a squeeze of lemon juice
a pinch of salt
2tbsp mayonnaise (optional)

to serve :

1 tomato, chopped
200g grated cheese

Start by making the arepas. Put the flour, salt and triguisar in a large bowl.

Add the water, bit by bit, and the butter and knead thoroughly until it comes together.

Form into four balls and put to one side.

Put the panela in a saucepan and warm over a gentle heat until it melts - be careful it doesn't burn.

Add the water, triguisar and crystallised ginger.

Throw in the chopped sausages and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the sausages are cooked through. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce forms a nice thick syrup.

Make the guacamole by throwing all the ingredients into a blender and whizzing until it forms a smooth consistency. Add the mayonnaise for a creamier, smoother texture.

Flatten out one ball of dough with your hands. (Run your fingers under the tap if it is too dry and cracks.) You need a thickish pancake about the size of a small plate and half a centimetre thick.

Melt a teaspoon of butter in a frying pan and gently fry the arepa for a few minutes on each size. You may be able to flip it over with a fish slice but if it looks like it will break, remove the frying pan from the heat, lay a small plate upside down on top the arepa, flip the whole thing over then carefully slide it off the plate back into the pan.

To serve, garnish each arepa with guacamole and tomato, top with the sausage (spoon on any extra sauce from the pan) and sprinkle with cheese.

The recipe card in the Kitchen Trotter box said tat this was a starter but I served two each with salad as a main meal. The kids had opted for chicken nuggets and wedges because they thought it would be too spicy but they regretted their decision so I'll have to make it again ! If I can't find maize flour, I'll use tortilla wraps and do "Colombian sausage fajitas" instead !

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

Book review : Righteous Release - Richard Gardner

Righteous Release introduces us to life as a follower of the Eternal Followers, a strict religious sect who expect their members to shun "wordlies", the non-believers, and their sinful temptations, such as books, computers and television.

They ARE allowed a few wordly pleasures, such as cream cakes and alcohol though, and it's the latter that gets David Chambers into hot water when he drunkenly agrees to marry a girl he barely knows. He soon regrets his decision and decides to thwart his family's plans to see him married off and producing children, as the fellowship would like. It would be easy to condemn his actions but his betrothed is an incredibly bossy woman with few redeeming features. It may seem like a cowardly decision, but David stands to lose everything - his home, family and friends and job - as he will be shunned by the community.

Once David has escaped his oppressive lifestyle, he discovers new pleasures and interests - TV, cinema, his childhood crush and, surprisingly, politics. The latter features heavily, with the Tory/Labour battle over the Gulf War given extensive coverage - it is obviously a passion for the author but I'm not totally convinced it really fits in with the plot, as I doubt any political party would ask David to get so actively involved, given his extremely limited knowledge of society and current affairs.

It's easy to assume that David has had a lucky escape but he struggles to fit in with his strange new world and actually contemplates going back to his previous life as a follower. Predictably, he ends up with a happy ending though, following his heart and dreams to find happiness.

Some parts of the story seem unlikely, notably the hit-and-run accident and its consequances, but the Eternal Fellowship is loosely based on the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, who shun followers who fall out of favour. Ex-followers were in fact invited to share their stories at the book launch.

Richard Gardner set out to write a story that is both entertaining and thought provoking and I would say he's succeeded.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 418 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (4 Dec. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501076639
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501076633

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

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Back to early breakfasts with Special K ! (review)

Well, that's it - another summer done and dusted. It's time to set the alarm and drag our feet in the mornings as we get ready to head back to school and work. Special K have helped to give us a slight incentive to get out of bed earlier than we'd like to by sending us through a selection of their lovely new products. 

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the range. I tend to associate Special K with lower fat products designed to help you lose weight - more virtuous than indulgent or exciting - but these new products, launched last month, promote the brand’s ‘Live in Colour’ campaign, encouraging women to live a life full of variety, choice and fun.


Leading the charge is Tess Daly’s Recipe, a blend of Special K with red apple, almond and vanilla flavour chosen by Tess herself. The Strictly presenter, who has her face on the cereal box, was involved in the cereal-making process from the get go, assessing different options and being very clear about the taste she wanted. The final flavour decisions were even made at her home. She's done a great job - the different flavours and textures really complement each other.

Although I must admit that I'm rather partial to the totally moreish Chocolate & Hazelnut Granola too. There's something that just seems incredibly naughty and decadent about eating chocolate for breakfast so this appeals to my inner rebellious child ! For a purely healthy (but nevertheless tasty) option, you might prefer the Special K Protein Crunch -  crunchy clusters made from six wholegrains with a touch of honey and cinnamon that pack in 7.7g of protein per 45g serving. They're rather tasty too !

When the colder weather kicks in (which won't be too long, judging by the current weather), I love a bowl of porridge to start the day or, more often, as a light evening meal on a Sunday night, and these  “super” porridges look great. They contain barley, oats, rye, wheat flakes and spelt, with a selection of fruits, seeds and nuts for added flavour, and they’re high in fibre with seven vitamins and iron. I do have a niggle though - one of my pet hates (that I've mentioned many times here on this blog) is excess packaging and, as you can clearly see in the picture above, the porridge boxes could have been half the size. Not only would this cut down on the cardboard needed to make the packs, it would also take up less space on the lorries delivering them, which would reduce the carbon footprint too. Come on Kellogg's, sort it out ! The porridge itself is lovely though, and comes in three flavours : 5 Grains With Apricot, Linseed and Pumpkin Seed; 5 Grains With Raspberry, Pomegranate and Pumpkin Seed; and 5 Grains With Almond, Pecan and Sunflower Seed.

My absolute favourite product from the range though is not a breakfast option, it's the Red Berry Cereal Bars.

I have tried these before but they  have undergone a recipe overhaul. They now contain a mix of three different cereals for added texture, and are now a source of wholegrain and berries and are lower in sugar. They still taste gorgeous though.

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

Giveaway #502 : Win Drumond Park Barbecue Party game - 16/9

Barbecue Party (rrp £19.99, age 4+) is the perfect game for playdates, holidays and visits to the grandparents. It’s all about anticipation, nerve and dexterity - where children do their best to remove or place different ‘foods’ on the barbecue grill, depending on the card they have picked. But when the grill is inadvertently shaken or the load gets too heavy, the food dramatically catapults into the air! The first child to collect three (or four, depending on what is decided at the beginning of the game) matching cards and pieces of food is the winner.

You can see the fun we had with this game by reading our Drumond Park Barbecue Party review.

Drumond Park have kindly offered to send a Barbecue Party game to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 16/9/15

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 !

Drumond Park Barbecue Party review

If it's too wet outside to fire up the barbecue, don't be disappointed - Drumond Park have a fun family-friendly barbecue game for the whole family to play together, whatever the weather !

First we tipped out the plastic food items and Pierre practised his reading skills to see which sets of eyes went with which item.

Time to add the googly eyes !

Once that was done, we were ready to play. Inside the box you get the happy-looking barbecue with removable grill, a pair of tongs, sixteen plastic food items and matching cards, along with a joker card.

Barbecue Party is designed for children aged 4+ and, as with all good games, the rules can be tweaked to suit the ages and abilities of the players. The tongs, for example, could be quite fiddly to use for very young players, so you could let them use their fingers instead. 

The rules are very simple. You pick a card and look for the corresponding food item. If it's already on the grill, you can take it and keep the card. If it isn't, you need to place it on the grill.

What makes it more exciting is that the grill will spring off at an unexpected moment, if you accidentally knock it or if there is too much weight on it, throwing the food off and making you miss a turn ! I was most impressed to see that the game requires no batteries - how often can you say that these days?

Our players were aged from 6-65 so its appeal reaches well beyond the suggested 4+ age !

It's quick to set up, needs no explaining and each game only takes a few minutes so it's ideal for playdates with children who only have a short attention span or for spending some quality time with the kids (or grandkids) when you haven't got much time to spare.

It wasn't just the kids who were having fun playing though !

You have fairly even odds of winning, whatever your age, so Pierre was very proud to be the first person to collect four cards ! (You could adjust the rules for younger players or with more players so it is the first to collect three or even two items.)

It's a great game for the whole family to play together. If you like the look of it, don't go away - I have a giveaway coming right up where you can win Drumond Park Barbecue Party here on my blog. Drumond Park also have a giveaway going on on their revamped website, with the chance to win two of their September releases Rattle Me Bones and Gee Whizz so make sure you try your luck there too !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £19.99

For stockists and to play games online, visit

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

#KitchenClearout August roundup and September linky

Many of us (including me) were off on our holidays and not cooking much last month, but there was some last minute pre-holiday winding down of the fridge and cupboards, so there's still a lovely slection of #KitchenClearout recipes to share with you this month. As the months go on, I still get a real kick out of seeing what's been lingering in your kitchens and I think we're a very resourceful bunch !

Starting us off was Elaine at Fun As A Gran with her round-up of ways to cut down on food waste - peeling, chopping and freezing carrots before they go mouldy is a great idea and definitely one that I should I adopt !

Jane at Onions and Paper had me at the words cheap and comforting so I love her recipe for Stuffed Jacket Potatoes.

Her Omeletttey Frittataey Thing ticks all the right boxes too ... including a name that makes me smile !

I turned some leftover cooked pasta and barbecued meat into the Ultimate Mac & Cheese - it's all in the mozzarella and crispy breadcrumbs !

My Honey Soy Pork & Veg Fried Rice was another unexpected delight and is great for clearing out the veg box in the fridge.

I finished off with a sweet offering, using up the end of a bag of mini Smarties in these Mini Smarties Oaty Cookies.

Alison at Dragons and Fairy Dust gets bonus points this month for combining #KitchenClearout and globe-cooking with her Hot and Spicy Chicken with Ackee Ratatouille.

Fabulous ! And I can't see what we all come up with this month. Feel free to link up as many posts as you like and if you could add my badge and link people back to this post, that would be fine and dandy ! :)

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Madhouse recipe : East meets West BBQ Rice has recently launched to promote the versatility, variety and health benefits of rice to a Europe-wide audience, offering delicious recipe ideas and dispelling some of the myths around cooking with rice. The site was created by The Federation of European Rice Millers (FERM), who help to promote and defend the interests of Europe’s rice milling industry. It is FERM’s mission to get everyone cooking more frequently with rice and its numerous varieties, so they sent me over a lovely selection of rice and asked me to see what I could come up with. You can see my first recipe below but they would love for you to be involved in this project too, by submitting your rice recipes to be featured on the site. (You will be credited for your recipe and can even get a link back to your blog if you're a blogger !)

This cheap and simple dish is a #KitchenClearout recipe, using up leftovers from the fridge, where East meets West - in this case, the Oriental inspiration is special fried rice and the Western influence is Tex-Mex/BBQ. It made a nice change, was a simple one-pot wonder and the whole family loved it.

East meets West Barbecue Rice

ingredients (serves 5) :

a drizzle of oil
3 medium onions
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
3 mushrooms
chopped up meat, bones removed, from the BBQ or a roast dinner (I used the meat from 2 chicken thighs, 3 slices of herby pork belly and a small piece of BBQ beef)
a generous squeeze of honey barbecue sauce (or your favourite BBQ sauce)
leftover cooked rice (long grain/basmati)

Chop all the veggies into large chunks and fry them in the oil over a moderate heat for 5 minutes until they start going soft.

Add all the diced cooked meat and cook, stirring, for a further 5-10 minutes.

Add a generous squeeze of BBQ sauce and mix. Add extra if needed, so that everything is nicely covered and moist.

Add the cooked rice and heat, stirring continuously, until it is piping hot all the way through.

As this used up leftover BBQ meat and cooked rice, I'm adding this to this month's #KitchenClearout linkie.