Friday 31 August 2012

So You Want To Be A Pirate! DVD review

On 22nd July this year, my home town of Hastings proudly reclaimed their Guinness World Record for the "Largest Gathering of Pirates" with 14,231 loonies people dressing up as pirates for the day. We weren't there sadly but did have a good giggle at the photos of my family - and even their pets ! - getting involved. 

This made it all the more exciting for the Madhouse Mini-testers when we received a So You Want To Be A Pirate! DVD to review.  

So You Want To Be A Pirate! is a short animation DVD from Aardman, the makers of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, and you can tell this from the outset because it has their unmistakable print all over it. It only lasts 17 minutes which is ideal for younger viewers and is a preview to Aardman's full length feature The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists, released on 3D Blu-ray and DVD on September 10th.

The animated film brings together some great actors for the voices. The blurb says : "Let the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain, voiced by Hugh Grant (About A Boy), and his band of misfits (Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey and Ashley Jensen) guide you with hilarious, fun-loving tips and advice to becoming a seaworthy addition to the crew and help them in their madcap adventure to win the coveted annual “Pirate of the Year” award. SO YOU WANT TO BE A PIRATE! also includes appearances from Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and The Pirate King (Brian Blessed)."

DVD Bonus Features Include:

Make-A-Wish - #RememberMay

Back in the summer of 2010 Make-A-Wish UK granted the wish of five year old May who was fighting a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma – she wished to be a princess for the day. Sadly May passed away just a couple of months after her wish, two years ago today, on 31st August 2010.

May’s family have been involved with Make-A-Wish ever since, raising as much money as they can to ensure that other families going through the same awful experience can have their wish. May’s Dad, Neil, has made this short video and would like as many people as possible to watch it and support Make-A-Wish:

It's only a minute or so long, so please watch the video if you have a moment to spare. And if you could share it with as many people as you can it would mean so much to Neil and his family. If you are able to make a donation too, to help grant a wish to another child like May, you can ‘Remember May’ at

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Silver Spoons Little Local Hero Awards & Macmillan World's Biggest Coffee Morning

WeightWatchers Mini Lemon Cupcake Mix review

Cakes and diets are two words that you wouldn't normally put together, so it came as a pleasant surprise to find a box of Mini Lemon Cupcake Mix in my last WeightWatchers hamper. Even better was that, on closer inspection, they only count for one single ProPoint each ! The contents of the pack are exactly the same as the kids' baking kits we sometimes buy - you get a sachet of cake mix, a sachet of icing mix and some cupcake cases. All you need to add is a bit of water.

Juliette is an old hand at these kinds of kits so she wanted to help and set to work, laying out the cases in a bun tin. The packaging calls them "Mini Lemon Cupcakes" and they certainly are smaller than normal cupcakes, which explains the amazingly low number of ProPoints.

The instructions call for two tablespoons of water but I found this to be slightly insufficient so I added a bit more, otherwise the mix remained too dry and lumpy.

Juliette said : "There's not much mix, is there?"! There's probably about half of what you get in one of the normal kiddie kits.

We just about managed to get enough to fill the twelve mini cupcake cases.

After eight minutes in a preheated oven, they were ready to come out. 

The icing mix just needs a bit of water to be made into a smooth paste. Juliette did the honours and drizzled it over the cakes. I thought there was way too much icing mix. We generously drizzled ours over the cakes and still only managed to use about half of it. (Juliette, who is not on a diet, ate the rest by dunking Rich Tea biscuits in it !)

Here are the finished cupcakes. They're very cute and each one is about one mouthful. That's not much in terms of quantity, but they are incredibly sweet so that's actually enough to satisfy any sugar-cravings you may have. I have to say I think the proportions are out though. I would think the icing (which is all icing sugar) is the highest calorie part and there is way too much of this. (Icing sugar is the first ingredient on the list in fact.) I'd rather have a bit more cake mix and less icing mix. They're very tasty though, especially for one ProPoint each, and they're really quick and simple to make so they're handy if you need a quick cake fix (or cakes to offer guests) and don't have any in the cupboard.

For those not on the ProPoint plan, each cake contains 55 calories, 7.2g of sugar and 0.4g of fat.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.89 for 175g

Disclosure : I have been given a year's membership to Weight Watchers Online and receive monthly hampers of products in return for honest reviews.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Weight Watchers Lemon & Ginger Cookies review

Belvia Ultra Comfortable Seamless Bra review

When JML recently got in touch to ask if I'd like to review a Belvia Ultra Comfortable Seamless Bra, I jumped at the chance because, in my experience, "bra" and "comfortable" are two words that often don't go together. I'm sure I'm not the only woman who, after a long day at work, can't wait for pyjama-o'-clock when I can ease my shoes off my aching feet, ping off my bra that has been digging into me all day and relish the comfort of pyjamas and fluffy slippers !

Well, when it arrived, I was initially a bit underwhelmed and I'd even go so far as to say dubious. It looks very baggy and shapeless so I couldn't see how it would offer any support whatsoever. It doesn't look particularly flattering or attractive either. Nevertheless, I slipped it on and was amazed to see a little bit of magic occuring. It totally moulds to your shape, clinging to your curves like a second skin, giving you gentle lift just where you need it without any of the usual cutting in on your sides or underwires digging in that normal bras often torment us with.

 It reminds me of the nursing bra tops I used to wear when I was breastfeeding and couldn't wear underwired bras (because they risk interfering with your milk ducts) but with a bit more support. In fact, they would be absolutely ideal for pregnant or breastfeeding mums because they are stretchy so they'd adapt to your changing shape and size, as well as offering easy access for baby when feeding - you just need to lift up the elasticated bottom part when breastfeeding. This stretchiness and the fact that you just order by rough size (S - M - L - XL) also makes them ideal for people in the middle of a weight loss mission, who won't have to keep buying a new bra every time their size changes.

Even if you're not breastfeeding or pregnant, they are fabulous though, and I can quite understand why JML (who sent me the bra to review) have sold over a million of them since their launch in the UK in February. They really are comfortable, so much so in fact that you could even sleep in them (if you need extra support or are breastfeeding and need to keep your breastpads in place so you don't leak everywhere !), and because they don't dig in, you don't get any of the unflattering bulges that many normal bras create.

I received a white one to review but, looking on the JML site, they are also available in black, beige and pastel colours. They are machine washable - oh yes, that was another thing that impressed me actually. The washing instructions are printed on the back of the garment so you don't even get a scratchy label to annoy you. They really have pulled out all the stops to make this the ultimate comfy bra ! If you're thinking that it won't offer you enough support, the website suggests you double them up and wear two. 

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £12.99 for one, £38.97 for a 4-pack

Disclosure : I received a Belvia bra in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Hot Milk's cheeky maternity bra fitting guide !

Vote For Your Favourite British Flavours In Thorntons Great Chocolate Britain Competition

Hmmmmm toffee vodka or Iron Brew? I can't decide ! What's your favourite ?


In Britain we're famous for our great food and drink, and now one of the country's famous flavours will be recreated in chocolate by Britain's best-loved chocolate maker Thorntons, as part of its Great Chocolate Britain competition. But the winning flavour will be chosen by you!

Thorntons has been calling for chocolate lovers across the country to submit their chocolate creations based on the flavours they think best represent their region. From hundreds of entries across 11 regions of the UK, three flavours have been chosen per region by Thorntons chocolatiers and the public will now have the final say as to the region's top choice. 

Fancy a chocolate based on Kendal Mint Cake, Lincolnshire Plum Loaf or Devon Cream Tea? Or perhaps you'd love some delicious chocolate with pieces or Pontefract liquorice, Grasmere Gingerbread or Staffordshire Oak Cakes.

All of these flavours will be sure to make Britain's chocolate lovers smile but to ensure your favourite flavour makes the final, get voting online at: 

Thorntons' Master Chocolatier Keith Hurdman has been really impressed by the creativity of some of the entries and explains: 'Many of the entries really made us smile as people have been so creative with their ideas and are clearly passionate about them. Some of the chocolate creations even surprised us! It's been great to hear from people all across Britain and to learn about some of the flavours regions are famous for that we didn't even know about. We're really excited about the final three we have chosen for each region and believe they would all work fantastically well in chocolate. It's over to the public now to pick their favourite.'

The 11 lucky finalists will be announced in the coming weeks and will all be invited to Thornton Park in Derbyshire to make their chocolate creations in Thorntons' kitchens with the help of their chocolatiers. One overall winner will be announced during Chocolate Week in October and as well as winning a year's supply of chocolate, the winning chocolate will be launched by Thorntons.

Get voting for your favourite chocolate creations online at 

The full regional list is below:

North West
Amy's Manchester Tart - milk chocolate infused with Maraschino cherry jam, vanilla and coconut. Kendal Mint Choc - peppermint flavoured white chocolate with cake pieces. Grasmere Delights - milk chocolate with crumbles of Grasmere gingerbread.

Northern Ireland
Steph's Smouldering coffee - milk chocolate with rich Irish coffee, cream and a hint of Irish Whisky Maria Coco - dark chocolate laced with Irish whisky 

North East
One Ale of a Chocolate Bar - Devilish dark chocolate infused with Newcastle Brown Ale and crunchy malted shortbread chunks. Lynne's Lemon and Lime Top - milk chocolate with wafer pieces and lemon and lime flavours to represent the famous ice cream of Redcar. British blackberry Bombe - dark chocolate with blackberry jam and a soft, smooth blackberry cream 

Scottish Tablet Taster - milk chocolate with Scottish tablet and creamy vanilla chocolate Cranachan Crunch - Scottish raspberry pieces with heather honey and rolled Oats in creamy milk Chocolate. Irresistible Iron Brew - Creamy white chocolate with an electric orange, zingy, fizzy centre. 

Wonderful Welsh Cake - crumbled pieces of Welsh cakes encased in white chocolate. Welsh Wizardry - Thorntons chocolate with crispy toffee waffle pieces flavoured with toffee vodka, based on Anglesey vodka and Tregroes waffles. Welsh Wimberry Truffles - milk chocolate with Welsh wimberries. 

Yorks & Humber
Hayley's Rhubarb Heaven - milk chocolate with Yorkshire Rhubarb and Custard flavour. Louise's Parkin - milk chocolate with treacle and ginger centre reminiscent of Parkin Cake. Chocorice Allsorts - Dark chocolate with Pontefract liquorice pieces. 

Norfolk Lavender lumps - milk chocolate with lavender fondant pieces. Hertfordshire Honey Heart - milk chocolate containing Hertfordshire honey. Strawberry jammy doughnuts - white chocolate with Tiptree jam and crystalised sugar. 

East Midlands
Moorland Magic - dark chocolate made with heather honey and Derbyshire bilberry compote Lincolnshire Plum Treat - milk chocolate with a mix of prunes, sultanas, spices and flavours of Earl Grey tea Nottinghamshire Apple Pudding - smooth milk chocolate with Nottingham Bramley apples. 

West Midlands
Oatcake Fudge - milk chocolate with Staffordshire oakcakes with fudge. Praline Pear Drops - dark chocolate with droplets of heavenly praline and Worcester black pear. Damson Dream - white chocolate with damson and sugary nut crumble 

South East & London
Garden of England - a dark chocolate slab inspired by Kent's Garden of England with delicate floral flavours including violet, rose and lavender, combined with delicious nuggets of Kentish summer strawberries Eton Mess - strawberry ripple intertwined with pieces of meringue in a sumptuous white chocolate representing Eton College. Kentish Apple Crumble - chocolate with Kentish apples and lots of crumble pieces.

South West
Devon Cream Tea - milk chocolate with clotted cream and strawberry jam Apple & Cider with Rosie - cider infused milk chocolate with caramalised apple pieces. Cornish Cornucopia - milk chocolate with Cornish clotted cream fudge with lashings of rum soaked raisins and honeycomb pieces

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Thorntons new Best of British range of chocolates

DVD review : Scooby-Doo Spooky Games review

When we booked our holiday to Tunisia back in December, we didn't even think about the dates but it turned out that we missed the entirety of the Olympic Games. We flew out the day after the Opening Ceremony and got back home the day of the Closing Ceremony. Oops, it wasn't planned, honest ! Luckily, Warner Brothers sent us through a sporty-themed DVD that stopped the Madhouse Mini-testers grumbling - Scooby-Doo Spooky Games.

This being Warner Brothers, they didn't just send us through the DVD though - they added in some extra goodies that tied in with the sports theme of the DVD. It may be more school sports day than Olympic Games but the Madhouse Mini-testers LOVED them, as you can see below.

Pierre and Juliette first tried out the sack race bags - I have visions of turning these into brilliant tidy-up toy bags or laundry bags, but I'm meeting resistence. They want to keep them for sack races !

Then they practised throwing the bean bags to each other and balancing them on their heads ! After all this energetic play, it was time to chill out on the settee and watch the main attraction - the DVD.

See? We didn't totally miss out on the Olympics ? We just saw the Scooby version instead of the London one ! Scooby-Doo Spooky Games is a collection of episodes including a brand new one (the Spooky Games episode which gave its name to the DVD) in which the gang go off to participate in the Games (that's the World Invitational Games rather than the Olympics but who's fooled really ?!). Sportiness and spookiness go hand in hand when an ancient statue comes to life and threatens the games, until the Scoobsters get on the case and sort it all out.

This first 20-minute episode is the only new one though. The rest are classic episodes from the 1970's Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics that I remember from my childhood with three teams of Hanna-Barbera characters (comedy heroes, action heroes and villains) taking each other on in madcap events across the globe. The Madhouse Mini-testers loved seeing characters from other cartoons popping up in Scooby Doo, such as Yogi Bear, the Flintstones and the Pink Panther, because it just blew their mind seeing them in the "wrong" show (it would be like seeing Alfie and Kat from Eastenders popping up in Casualty or Crimewatch !) but they didn't find the older episodes as entertaining as the new one - which they've watched several times, especially after seeing the highlight of the real Olympics and wanting to watch it to compare and contrast. (Which led to hilarious exchanges like : "Ooh look, the athletes are walking around the stadium, that's the same. There aren't any ghosts and monsters in the real Olympics though" !)

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £4.99

runtime : 113 minutes

rating : PG

Disclosure : I received a DVD (and extra assorted goodies) in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

DVD review : Journey 2 The Mysterious Island

Thursday 30 August 2012

Feel like chicken tonight ?!

Wowee ! Look at what the postie delivered today ! A huge hamper packed with Chicken Tonight and Ragu products to try out - both product ranges that I remember from my childhood in the eighties. Do you remember this advert ?!

I'm sure I will be totally incapable of cooking Chicken Tonight without doing the song-and-dance routine which will totally confuse the Madhouse kids who never knew the original commercial ! I'll be back soon with reviews once I've tried them all out - yum ! 

for more information : 

Disclosure : I received the fabulous hamper of Chicken Tonight and Ragu products above, in order to write honest reviews.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Poppy Cat: Birthday Treasure and Other Adventures DVD review

The Madhouse Mini-testers have had several new DVDs arrive for them to review over the past few weeks and the one they've been asking for non-stop since the start of the week is Poppy Cat: Birthday Treasure and Other Adventures. This DVD seems extra special because it is the first time Poppy Cat is available to own on DVD so it's a brand new addition to their DVD collection.

Last year, I wrote a blogpost telling you all about the (then) new Poppy Cat series on Nick Jr but most kids (and their parents) knew Poppy well before that because of the wide range of books by Lara Jones. Each episode only lasts for eleven minutes so it is perfect for young viewers who only have a short attention span or if you want to snuggle up with for a quick cuddle with a little one when you haven't got much time.

The Poppy Cat DVD contains a whopping eleven episodes, so it has a total runtime of 121 minutes, making it really good value. Each episode takes you on a new adventure through wonderful exotic lands, giving your child great ideas for imaginative make-believe play once the DVD has been turned off. To give you an idea, in one episode, Poppy Cat is given all sorts of random presents for her birthday, including a treasure map, and her and her friends go off on a hot air balloon ride to Mystery Jungle - both stories that the Madhouse Mini-testers had fun recreating (with a little encouragement from me).

The eleven episodes on the DVD are :
- Birthday Treasure
- Bad Robot
- Magic Show
- Sunken Ship
- Bumble Fumble 
- Cheese Mountain
- Marshmallow Mines
- Missing Keys
- Chilly Hills
- Space Race 
- Buried Treasure

You can watch the trailer here :

The Poppy Cat: Birthday Treasure and Other Adventures DVD will be released on 3rd September 2012 but can be pre-ordered on Amazon already.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £12.99

run time : 121 minutes

Disclosure : We received a preview disc in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Kids DVD review : Thomas & Friends Blue Mountain Mystery - The Movie

Hipp Organic Little Nibbles Organic Apple & Blueberry Rice Cakes review

You may remember that in a recent blogpost, I told you about Ocado's new "free from" shop, packed with foodie treats and ingredients designed for everyone with special dietary requirements. Well, we're slowly working our way through all the lovely goodies they sent us and today's pick was Hipp Organic Little Nibbles Organic Apple & Blueberry Rice Cakes.

The Madhouse Mini-testers have tried these before - we reviewed the Carrot & Pumpkin Rice Cakes in a previous blogpost - but the Apple & Blueberry flavour was a new one for us to try. Juliette was immediately attracted by the pink colour although she had just as much fun playing with them as eating them to start with ... until she realised Pierre was quietly munching his way through the whole bag and got in quick before he ate the lot !

I tasted one and thought they tasted just like popcorn, with a delicate fruity sweetness coming through. They were crunchy and didn't have the "polystyrene" texture some grown-up rice cakes have that set my teeth on edge !

Each rice cake only contains 8 calories (100g of product - that's a whopping 50 rice cakes, and the whole big bag only weighs 40g - contains 397 calories). They are gluten-free, contain no added sugar, milk products or salt, are suitable for vegetarians and have no artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives.

They're great as a clean snack-on-the-go - you might get a few crumbs but no chocolatey or sticky fingers and they won't melt ! - and they're lunchbox-friendly.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.08 for 40g

Disclosure : I received a "free from" Taster Box from Ocado in order to review their new Free-from shop.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

"Free From" snacks from Ocado review

Hipp Organic Little Nibbles Carrot & Pumpkin Rice Cakes

Hi-Tec's Top Tips To Encourage Kids To Walk To School

I must admit, I've never had a problem getting the kids to walk anywhere, even on long treks. In fact, they enjoy it and often ask if we can walk into town rather than taking a bus. I think the trick is to get them used to it from an early age so that they have the automatic reflex of walking rather than taking the car or bus (I don't drive so we've always done it) and to make long walks into an adventure - pick and play with granny-pop-out-of-the-beds and dandelion clocks, look out for spiders' webs and ladybirds, make up stories about the people you see on the way, stop off for a few minutes at each playground you pass, race the bus (see if you can get to the next bus stop before a bus passes you) ... It makes the walk into a fun activity rather than a chore.


Top Tips For Encouraging Children To Walk To School From Hi-Tec

After a summer of British sporting success, leading outdoor retailer Hi-Tec is encouraging families to adopt an active lifestyle in the autumn and walk, rather than drive, to school.

The British walking boots specialist has compiled five top tips for parents to use to get children enthused about walking, including playing games on the journey and ensuring that they have the correct footwear for walking.

Helen Durant, UK Marketing Manager at Hi-Tec, says: "Walking to school with your kids in the morning allows for some quality time together in the fresh air, as well as contributing to your weekly exercise quota and reducing your impact on the environment.

"After Great Britain's medal successes this summer, there's no better time to teach your children about the benefits of being active!"

Hi-Tec's Top Tips To Encourage Kids To Walk To School

1. New shoes!
It's important that children are wearing durable and supportive shoes when walking to school. You needn't spend a fortune to get a pair, but it's important that the shoes fit properly. Letting your child choose their own shoes ought to give them an extra incentive to put them on too!

Hi-Tec has some great kids' walking shoes like the TT EZ Sport Junior, in all-black for boys and with pink detailing for girls.

2. Be weather-ready
Not having proper outdoor gear will mean that you're more likely to fall back into the habit of dropping the kids off by car. A waterproof coat, umbrella and spacious bag to keep all your kit in, should give you an incentive to keep walking. Conversely, sunglasses, a change of summer clothes and optional ice lollies will really help on sunny days too!

3. Healthy incentives

If your walking to school motives are part of a 'health kick' for your family, why not reward little ones with some extra-curricular exercise? You could treat them to a trip to the park or the local swimming pool, if they walk at least one way for a whole week.

4. Walk with them (or not) 

For younger children, setting a good example is a great way to encourage them to pick up a healthy habit. Making the journey with them can make the experience less daunting, especially if they are starting a new school this term. On the other hand, if you have teens, your presence may be cramping their style. Letting them walk to school with friends gives them a sense of independence, just make sure that you know their route and that they're contactable.

5. Make a game of it

Spending the journey playing I-spy or counting how many red, blue or yellow cars you can spot will make it seem much shorter for little legs. Change4Life has compiled some great games, downloadable here, but for extra fun, why not create your own with your child?

Additional information

Primary school-age children need to undertake an hour of physical activity every day and, with the average school being around a 20 minute walk away, the journey to and from school could make up a significant amount of the exercise they need. 

Research by the charity Living Streets shows that one person walking, instead of making five car journeys fewer than 2km a week could save 86 kg of carbon a year. The charity also note that, because of traffic congestion, making a short journey to school on foot could actually be quicker than traveling by car. Parents who make the journey with their children benefit from the impact on their health as well as getting to spend extra quality time with their child. 

For more information on Hi-Tec and walking inspiration, visit

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

I'm an Oasap Fashion Blogger !

Flavrbox review

A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet go by from Flavrbox and just the name was enough to get me intrigued enough to go off investigating. They explain : "Flavrbox was started by a group of friends who wanted to do something about the food industry. We love discovering new things and we also love food. So we thought we'd combine these passions to create something that we can all enjoy together. [...] Armed with only our goodwill and passion for food and enterprise, we decided to create a Flavrbox; a community that exists to champion independent food and drink producers by making it easy for people to discover and buy their products. At a basic level it works a bit like a farmer’s market, but it’s online, runs all year round and is national! Our vision is to draw people away from supermarket shopping habits and big multinational brands and open up a world of culinary delight."

That sounds fabulous so when the opportunity arose to review a flavrbox, I jumped at the chance and was already salivating, imagining the little known brands and foodstuffs I'd soon be discovering. I wasn't disappointed. Soon this lovely selection was dropped off by the postie :

- Sharpham Park Speltotto Sundried Tomato & Chilli
- Sharpham Park Speltotto Courgette, Garlic & Thyme
- Amori pasta
- Olives et Al Red Pepper & Almond Pesto
- Forest Pig Rustic & Walnut Charcuterie
- Booja-Booja Organic Raspberry Truffles

The first thing that everybody was drooling over and wanted to eat before I'd even unpacked the rest was the Forest Pig Charcuterie, which looked like it belonged on a wooden trestle table at a farmers' market in France. Aside from the products themselves, I love the fact that Flavrbox tells you all about the producers so you can get a real feel for where your food is coming from. Forest Pig has an outstanding ethos. The write-up explains : "Forest Pig Charcuterie is a family run business producing charcuterie from dedicated premises on their smallholding. Using their own forest reared pigs they replicate systems that they learned in the mountains of Tuscany. Working in collaboration with the Forestry Commission, their home bred rare breed pigs are reared to over 12 months of age, spending at least the last 8 months foraging in the Wyre Forest. Together with strict adherence to slow artisan production methods that allow the full cured flavour to develop, their charcuterie is of distinction, as noted by Rose Prince in the Daily Telegraph. . “as good as any made in southern Europe”." The pack contains two varieties, Rustic and Walnut, which are both absolutely succulent and delicious. Even the Madhouse Mini-testers loved it, which isn't always the case when they find it too tough to chew and Pierre spits it out claiming it is chewing gum ! The whole pack disappeared in record time !

The Amori pasta reminded me very much of the authentic Italian pasta I was sent to review from Garofalo. The kids loved the unusual long spiral shapes and the pasta stays nice and firm with a slightly nutty flavour when cooked al dente. It is totally unlike the often bland, soggy pasta that you find on most supermarket shelves. It released less starch too so it didn't all stick together or to the pan. My only slight niggle is that the packet wasn't big enough for a family of five (so I had to throw in a few handfuls of regular pasta to pad it out a bit which was a shame). I love the fact that it is produced by Bookhams at Bates Green Farm in Arlington, East Sussex, just a stone's throw away from my hometown of Hastings !

The Sharpham Park Speltotto - a risotto dish made with spelt instead of rice - is actually a product that I wrote an in-depth review for quite some time ago so I'll let you read that instead of repeating myself. The Courgette, Garlic & Thyme flavour was a new one for us and everyone loved it.

Sadly, I had a bit of an issue with the Olives et Al Red Pepper & Almond Pesto. When I unpacked the Flavrbox, there was some oil that had leaked from somewhere all over the bottom of the box. Although I couldn't actually see it leaking anywhere, by deduction it had to be the jar of pesto because it was the only thing with an oil content.

When I opened the jar, it made a weird fizzy noise, exactly like when you open a bottle of lemonade ! Although it looked and smelt perfect, it had obviously fermented - you could actually see bubbles working their way up through the pesto. (There's one at the top of the jar (at 12 o' clock) if you look closely at the picture.) I wrote an Olives Et Al Putney Sauce and Chilli Billy Jelly review a while ago so I was actually quite gutted because I know how lovely their products are. This is obviously an issue with the individual product though and absolutely not the fault of Flavrbox. As this was a complimentary box for review purposes, I didn't complain but I'm sure they'd be happy to replace it on a paid order.

The final product - Organic fresh raspberry truffles from Booja-Booja - was delicious. The dairy-free truffles were quite melted when they come out of the box but, on reading the packaging, I noticed that you should keep them in the fridge and take them out 20 minutes before eating them to enjoy them at their best. Oops, I hadn't noticed that !

I popped them in the fridge for half an hour which firmed them up nicely, sliced them into small squares and - hmmmmm ! - they were divine. They're very rich so you only need a small amount (great news for the diet !) and, in fact, they were so rich that the Madhouse Mini-testers didn't like them - even better news  for me and Madhouse Daddy Mike! They're perfect as an indulgent grown-up treat for finishing off dinner or sharing on the sofa.

I loved all the products in the Flavrbox as well as the fact that they introduced me to some great companies that otherwise would have passed me by. I also love the totally random element - you have to trust them to pick the products for you so you never know what you'll get, which makes it as exciting as a Secret Santa !

*** STOP PRESS ! Just in case you missed it, Sebastien from Flavrbox has replied in the comments below about the pesto problem and confirmed that everyone concerned did get a full refund, as I suspected. He also mention a fabulous discount - you can use the code HALFPRICE2012 to get 50% off your first box (£10 instead of the usual £20) :) ***

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £20 a month (cheaper if you sign up for a longer subscription)

for more information :

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

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