Saturday 31 October 2015

Globecooking recipe : Che Bap (Vietnam)

All the way back in June 2014, I received a Vietnamese-themed Kitchen Trotter box and one of the recipes was for a dessert made using tapioca pearls and sweetcorn. Looking around online, I've discovered that it's an authentic Vietnamese pudding whose name is Che Bap. It just really didn't appeal to me so it never got made. However, after having a big clearout of my spice rack, I came across the bag of tapioca pearls and decided to bite the bullet. 

This is what the tapioca pearls, or Bot Bang, look like. It's very similar to sago, which I remember being referred to in my childhood. (Sago is derived from palm trees whereas tapioca pearls come from cassava starch.)

As I was having a #KitchenClearout, I decided to use up another product that has been lurking in my cupboard - coconut sugar. The only thing that has put me off using it is the fact that it is flavoured with turmeric and tamarind, which I thought would give a weird taste to cakes or cookies. As I was pretty sure we wouldn't like this pudding, I didn' t mind experimenting here though !

Well, it still wasn't really to my taste but it was edible and nowhere near as bad as I expected ! The kids turned up their noses but Madhouse Daddy thought it was nice. The murky brown colour came from the flavoured coconut sugar so I'll be tempted to try this again with plain sugar as it looks better white. I've also seen lots of versions topped with fruit (banana, coconut, strawberries, jackfruit, mango ...) which I think would help it out, so I'll call it a work in progress.

Che Bap

ingredients :

4tbsp white tapioca pearls (you can buy black ones too)
250ml water
a tin of sweetcorn
400ml coconut milk
60g light brown sugar
25g vanilla sugar (or just add sugar and 1tsp vanilla essence/vanilla paste)
1/2tsp salt

Soak the tapioca pearls in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain off the water.

Put 250ml of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. As soon as the first bubbles appear, pour in the tapioca pearls and reduce to a gentle simmer. Stir constantly for 10 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, the sugars and the salt. Mix until smooth.

Add the sweetcorn and cook for 20 minutes. Stir from time to time so that the tapioca pearls don't stick.

Spoon the tapioca and sweetcorn into five bowls and top up with the coconut milk mixture. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

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

If you fancy trying some more Vietnamese cuisine, how about Ban Xeo (Crispy Crêpes)Bo Kho (Beef Stew)

Linking up to this month's #KitchenClearout linky. What's lurking in your larder?

Dr Oetker Ristorante Pizza Calzone Speciale review

Dr Oetker recently invited us to try out the latest edition to their hugely popular Ristorante range and we think it's going to be a huge hit. Their Pizza Calzone Speciale may look like a Cornish pasty but it's actually a crispy thin pizza base that is folded over and richly filled with mushrooms, salami, ham, tomato sauce and cheese, then sprinkled with cheese and herbs.

I have fond memories of calzone because it was the pizza I chose on one of my first dates with Madhouse Daddy in a little Italian restaurant called La Casa Mia. I'd never had a calzone before so cutting into it and having all those delicious gooey fillings splurging out seemed really decadent. It's lovely to be able to recreate the Italian restaurant experience at home and we thought that the Dr Oetker calzone was really nice. It's not really the sort of pizza you can share easily though - each calzone is designed for one person - so it's probably better for dinner for one or two than a family feast.

If you fancy giving the Calzone, or any of the other Dr Oetker Ristorante pizzas, a go, there is a fabulous promotion on at the moment. Buy any pizza from the range with a "Fresh Pizzeria Taste Challenge" badge on it, enter the unique code from inside the box on the Dr Oetker website, answer three quick questions to share your feedback and you can download (or request by post) a voucher for another pizza for free if you liked it or claim a full refund if you didn't. (There's only one entry per household, before you see this as a chance of never paying for another frozen pizza though !)

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP :  £2.99

The Calzone is currently only available in ASDA.

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

The October Pawsomebox (review)

Look how happy Vicky, the Madhouse pooch, is looking. Didou was even more enthusiastic but he was so over-excited, he wouldn't stay in shot for the picture ! So what were they so excited about?

This month's Pawsomebox, packed full of doggie treats and accessories. 

There was lots of energetic tail-wagging and excited snuffling as they tried to discover what was in the box !

As usual, it was a good mix of edible, fun and useful products. There were three foodie items : some Ahoy There! Captain Jack's Salmon Bites (made with 100% salmon, low fat, provides omega 3, helps keep teeth healthy); some tiny square Pet Munchies Liver & Chicken Training Treats (made with beef liver and chicken breast and no artificial additives or preservatives); and a Rawhide Lollipop.

There were two toys. Firstly a Sporty Squeak's vinyl ball with an incredibly loud squeak that made Didou jump then run away and hide, much to our amusement ! We'll be passing this on to the Madhouse grandparents' dogs as they seem to know how to play with doggie toys much more than our two, who are more content to lay around on the settee !

The second toy was an intriguing stuffing-less Cow Toy which you fill with an empty drinks bottle for your pooches to catch and chew and run about with. In theory, because as I've mentioned, our doggies just don't get playtime and they looked at Pierre like he was totally mad when he tried to encourage them to play ! All is not lost though, Pierre has taken it to his room, to stash his treasures or his pyjamas in, he hasn't quite decided yet. He's probably got room for both in there, to be honest !

This month's functional products were poo bags (you can never have too many !) and some fab Towel Off Pet Shampoo which requires no water - this is great for a quick clean up after a walk in the rain on their feet and they really don't enjoy bathtime so I'm sure they appreciate it too !

Vicky and Didou's favourite product from the box is the Salmon Bites. All the humans think they stink and they give the dogs really fishy breath, but the dogs can't get enough of them and go absolutely wild whenever we get out the bag !

Contents of the box vary depending on the size and breed of your dog so have a look at the website to see the full range of products that went out in previous boxes. As well as Pawsome boxes for dogs, there are Purrfect boxes for cats, so your feline friends don't feel left out. 

A monthly subscription costs £19.90, six-monthly works out at £17.90 per month and yearly is the equivalent of £15.90 per month, including delivery. If you love to pamper your pet pooch and you like receiving surprises through the post, this is a great scheme to sign up to.

STOP PRESS ! Pawsomebox have a new Special Edition Christmas Box that is available to order from now only until the 1st of December. The Special Edition Christmas Box is a box of 6 specially chosen products, perfect for those wanting to treat the pets of their friends and family. Plus, delivery is free, and they guarantee it will be delivered before the 25th of December!

 for more information :

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

Friday 30 October 2015

Cool Create Sparkle Activity Kit review

When Cool Create offered to send us their Sparkle Activity Kit to review, I had a look at the product description and noticed that it promised hours of entertainment. I still wasn't quite prepared for just how many goodies are inside though ! There are over 600 items, including 500 temporary tattoos and lots of colouring activities.

The kit targets girls aged 4+ but all three of the Madhouse kids - so that's two girls aged 10 and 14 and a 6-year-old boy - enthusiastically looked through the contents to see what they wanted.

In the end, I split everything three ways and they still got loads each - a complete sheet of tattoos and a selection of colouring and painting supports.

I was surprised to see all three of them sat at the table, happily occupied while I was busy in the kitchen - for that alone, it's priceless ! Definitely a boredom-buster, sanity-saver and peace-restorer during a wet weekend or the school holidays !

The Glitter Colour-Up posters are great fun - they are on thick card with thick contour lines so it's almost impossible to go over the edges and parts of the background are already coloured in. 

This means that they produce really vibrant, beautiful designs - even better, they are useful and decorative because they can be used as door hangers, book marks or postcards that could be framed on a bedroom wall.

Pierre was very excited about trying the Magic Paint Sheets, which have a palette of watercolour paints embedded at the bottom of each picture. You just have to use a wet paintbrush to activate the paint and use it to complete your design.

They're great in theory but, as is often the case with magic painting books, the colours are quite wishy-washy so Pierre added more water and then the paper got so wet, it almost ripped. It's a mess-free alternative to regular painting but you don't really get the same results.

So, what's next ? Ah yes, the glitter tattoos !

These were a huge hit and, although there are lots of "girlie" designs like hearts, flowers, butterflies and unicorns, there are also lots more unisex ones, such as animals and rainbows. 

A few of them didn't work, falling apart when we peeled off the backing, but most of them adhered perfectly and they are actually pretty resistant, surviving for several days, even after bathtime. I particularly loved the jewellery tattoos which were a bit different and great fun, offering ring, bracelet, earring and nail tattoo designs.

In total, the bumper kit contains 4 large sheets of glitter tattoos (500+ tattoos), 10 magic painting posters, 1 sheet of glitter stickers and 10 colourups, as well as 8 felt-tips and a little paintbrush. That's plenty to keep three kids occupied, let alone one ! This would actually be a great kit for keeping everyone busy at a kids' birthday party too.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £19.99

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

All-Bran High Fibre Muesli review

All-Bran have launched a new range of high fibre muesli and they kindly sent us a bag to try out. You may be wondering if we actually need another breakfast option - is it just me that thinks that a whole aisle in the supermarket for breakfast cereal, muesli, granola and goodness what else is just a bit OTT ?! - but the unique selling point of this new range is that it contains 30% more fibre than the average muesli.

As soon as I poured out a bowlful, I could see the bran shreds - I'll be honest, visually they remind me a bit of the pellets in rabbit food ! - along with wholegrain oats, banana, coconut, hazelnuts and sultanas. The proportions are just right to give you a sweet, juicy hit from the fruit alongside the earthy flavour of the bran and oats. The nuts give it some nice crunch too.

One bowlful (45g) provides 20% of your daily fibre requirement so it's a great way to start the day. Unlike many muesli options, it doesn't go mushy - it stays quite chewy even after you've added the milk. A 45g bowl provides 167 calories, 4.3g of fat (of which 1.8g saturates), 7.7g of sugar and 0.11g of salt.

As well as the Fruit & Nut one that I tried, there is also a Cranberry & Sultana one with pumpkin seeds which sounds equally tasty. If you're concerned about your digestive health or just want to increase your fibre intake, it's a great breakfast choice.

star rating : 4/5

RRP £2.99 for 550g

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

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 30/10/15

As it's been the holidays for the last two weeks, plans kept changing at the last minute so I didn't make everything that was planned, plus I kept ending up with leftovers to use up. I've listed on this week's menu plan the things that got made instead of what was planned so that I can work through the last few meal plans to catch up, if that makes sense !


lunch - in theory, it'll be the eat-all-you-like Chinese buffet for my belated birthday meal

dinner - vegetable soup


lunch - roast chicken dinner

dinner - toasted sandwiches


dinner - all-American hot dogs (with American pickles and American hot dog mustard plus loads of fried onions), hash browns and coleslaw


dinner - Hawaiian pizza & salad


lunch - tacos

dinner - Southern fried chicken (except it'll be baked) with chunky chips and bbq beans


dinner - the remaining tuna fish cakes from the freezer, rice and peas/carrots


dinner -  cheesy veggie chilli baked potatoes

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***

Meal Planning Monday

Want to see what everyone else is eating ? Head over to Meal Planning Monday at Mrs M's blog !

Forget the A-listers, meet the aaaah-listers carved as pumpkins !

A couple of weeks ago, ASDA emailed me and told me about teaming up with world record-holding pumpkin carver David Finkle as their official pumpkin artist for Halloween 2015 to creep out the nation by pumpkin'ing Britain's most fearsome celebrities. I smiled but thought to myself that they probably wouldn't look very true to life. Well how wrong was I ?!

It's incredible to see how intricate and realistic the carvings are - although I'd never realised quite how similar Frankenstein's monster and a certain F word-loving chef look, at least in pumpkin form !

Here's the complete range of designs that David Finkle created. How many can your recognise?

The celebs were all voted as Britain's most fearsome celebrities and they are, in order:

1. Alan Sugar
2. Gordon Ramsay
3. Simon Cowell
4. Katie Hopkins
5. Jeremy Clarkson

Other voted fearsome celebs include José Mourinho, Craig Revel Horwood, Lucy Watson, Gemma Collins and Vicky Pattison. I managed to recognise the first five !

David Finkle, who is known for his pumpkin carving speed, not only holds the Guinness World Record for the number of pumpkins carved in an hour, but also for his uncanny ability to recreate spookily similar likenesses of his subjects. The pumpkins were painstakingly created, with each taking over five hours to complete to ensure the resemblance to each celebrity was alarmingly accurate.

ASDA sent us our very own pumpkin carving kit which we had great fun with, but there's no way we'll be world-record holders any time soon !

David has shared his top tips to help you carve the perfect pumpkin :

1. Cut out the bottom of the pumpkin not the top as this makes you pumpkin more stable. Plus it will last longer and keep its shape better.

2. Try to choose a pumpkin that is lighter in colour as the skin is thinner and easier to carve.

3. Preparation is key, be thorough when cleaning out the insides of the pumpkin. The cleaner it is, the brighter it will glow.

4. Avoid using wax tea lights as they cook the ceiling of the pumpkin and it can get really smelly! There are now battery tea lights which are much safer... I have used red and green lights which look really spooky and will make your carving the best in the street!

5. Avoid using kitchen knives, buy a purpose made Asda pumpkin carving kit for the safest and best results.

Disclosure : We received a pumpkin carving kit.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Madhouse diaries : Life behind bars (the circus zoo)

This week, Juliette had to go to the orthodontist's to have her braces tightened up (the orthodontist was very impressed with how much progress there's been already) so we decided to make a day of it. After walking into town, we had a quick lunch at McDonald's then went to check out the animals at the visiting circus.

I always feel really sad for animals as big and majestic as these tigers in their tiny little cages.

They seemed quite restless and agitated, possibly because there was a show about to start.

The lion seemed much more content and chilled out than the tigers !

I thought he had a seriously saggy mummy tummy until I realised he had a mane so he was a male - maybe he's just got skinny?

Pierre's favourite moment (so far) was when the tiger decied to do a huge poo. This was trumped (no pun intended !) when the elephant kept doing huge farts that made his tail waft about ! Never work with children and animals !

We headed over to see the lone elephant, sharing his space with some totally unfazed alpacas and shetland ponies !

It was slightly startling to see that there was only a piece of wire marking the edge of his enclosure - he seemed to respect it though.

As well as delivering the aforemention trumps that had the Madhouse kids giggling their heads off, the elephant delighted us all by drinking out of his water butt with his trunk.

I attempted to get a film but my camera battery died. Sophie's will be better so check out her blog, Sophie's Bilingual World, in a couple of days.

We went and stroked the horses, donkeys and zebras.

And got up very close to some camels.

This one looked very cute and docile.

But most of the others had very foamy mouths - yuck !

The big white tiger had chilled out now and was contentedly licking his paws, just like a pet cat.

The orange tiger looked as if he was sadly peering out, wanting to get out of his cage.

Even the elephant looked sad.

Unlike Pierre !

Sophie was enjoying herself taking hundreds of photos, which I've no doubt she'll be adding to her blog very soon.

On the way home, we saw loads of jellyfish in the harbour.

Nothing particularly unusual but we'd never seen them coming to the surface and sucking in air or going to the harbour walls and eating seaweed (presumably).

Life Unexpected

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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