Saturday 30 April 2016

Globecooking recipe : Maza Morra Antioqueña (Colombia)


Maza Morra Antioqueña is basically rice pudding that uses white corn instead of rice.


Nobody at The Madhouse is keen on rice pudding so the tub of white corn - maïz trillado blanco - that I received in a Colombian-themed Kitchen Trotter box has been lurking in the cupboard for months. I finally decided to give it a go and the verdict was that it was "ok" but nothing special.

Maza Morra Antioqueña

ingredients :

200g maïz trillado blanco
125g panela (solid Colombian brown sugar - or just use regular brown sugar)
2tbsp cinnamon
to decorate : bocadillos veleños rojos (guava jelly sweets)


First the white corn needs to be soaked in water overnight, which gave it the alarming appearance of teeth ! Put it in a saucepan with boiling water and simmer for 60-90 minutes until cooked. It should be soft but not falling apart.


Drain the corn, put back in the pan and cover with milk. Grate over the panela (or sprinkle over the brown sugar) and mix in the cinnamon. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the milk has reduced and thickened. Leave to cool then transfer to ramekins.


Chop the bocadillos veleños rojos into small cubes. This traditional Colombian sweet is made with panela and guava paste. The word veleños refers to the town of Vélez, which is the biggest producer of the sweets. These were declared delicious, unlike the rest of the dessert !


Once the corn has cooled, scatter with cinnamon and top with bocadillos. I must say, it's very labour-intensive for what you end up with ! 

*** Click through to my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Fancy trying some more Colombian cuisine? How about Arepas con Chorizo y GuacamoleFruit Salad with Ginger Sauce or Posta Negra ?

A bumper week for Star Wars Force Attax Extra cards #CollectExtra @MyTopps

You may remember last week, I told you (here) all about the latest card collection to be released by Topps - Star Wars Force Attax Extra - and all the bonus free cards that are on offer in weekly instalments up until the 16th May, in partnership with MRG Stores (Martin’s, McColl’s and RS McColl’s). As I mentioned, there were vouchers published in The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday for even more free cards last week, so our collection is coming along nicely.

Pierre was most excited to discover the collector binder - they're available free at MRG Stores while stocks last, so get in quick if you haven't already !

He liked looking at all those empty spaces so full of promise, waiting to be filled up with his new collector cards.

I suppose this must be how an artist feels when he gets a blank canvas in front of him, imagining it filling up with pictures and colours !

Then we were off ! Week 1 offered the chance to pick up a free sheet of four Force Attax Extra cards containing two exclusive cards and two regular cards from the Force Attax Extra collection, along with the aforementioned collector binder. I always love C-3PO so I was excited to get him, but the kids informed me that you weren't supposed to look at the characters themselves but their scores. Oops !

The voucher in The Mail on Sunday gave our collection an instant boost with an extra sheet of cards, including two more of my personal faves - Hans Solo and R2-D2.

The next two days had more vouchers for even more cards. Eek ! Those Stormtroopers always give me the creeps !

And finally (for now)  the next week's free cards (from 26th April), with the cuddly (but probably quite stinky, I would imagine !) Chewbacca, which is who I say Sophie looks like when she pulls her long, thick hair over the top of her head and across her face (which she does surprisingly often, for some strange reason !!). A new week, and another free sheet will be available from Tuesday 3rd May from any of the 3 stores: McColl’s, Martin’s, RS McColl.

Don't forget, if you haven't entered already, there is also a fantastic free prize draw to win a family ticket to Madame Tussaud’s in London, including transport, one night's accommodation and entry to the exciting Star Wars exhibition, as well as a fun packed Star Wars goody bag plus an exclusive Topps trading card signed by one of the Star Wars cast. To win, head over to and enter your details anytime during the promotion period which runs from 19th April to 16th May.

Have you been collecting the cards? Who is your favourite character from the Star Wars Force Attax Extra collection?

Disclosure : Topps are sending us some goodies to help grow our collection.

Friday 29 April 2016

Madhouse recipe : Oriental chicken with peaches

When I saw a recipe go by on a foodie newsletter that I'm signed up to for Asian Chicken with Peaches, I had a real "hmmm that sounds nice ... I think" moment. While I'm quite happy pairing fruit with meat, I wasn't sure how it would work with the Oriental flavours of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Well, there was only one way to find out and it actually came out really nice, so it's a great dish if you want to do something a bit different with a pack of chicken fillets.

Oriental chicken with peaches

ingredients :

5 chicken breasts
a large knob of butter
a clove of garlic
salt, pepper, chilli powder/paprika
a tin of peaches
2 spring onions (optional)
3tbsp brown sugar
2tbsp rice vinegar
2tbsp soy sauce (I used sweet soy sauce so taste to adjust the balance)
squirt of lime juice

Preheat oven to 200°. Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the garlic and fry the chicken on all sides until golden brown and starting to go crispy. Don't worry if it's not cooked all the way through - it will finish off in the oven. Season with salt, pepper and paprika or chilli powder, depending on how much of a kick you want. Reserve.

Melt an extra knob of butter in the pan you cooked the chicken in then add the peaches and, if using, the spring onions. Stir in a tablespoon of brown sugar and cook, stirring, until it starts to caramelise. Add a splash of juice from the can if it starts to stick. Turn off the heat.

In small bowl, mix the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the rice vinegar and soy sauce. Taste and adjust until the flavours are balanced.

Transfer the peaches to an ovenproof dish, lay the chicken on top and pour the sauce over the chicken. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked all the way through.

Serve with rice and a squeeze of lime juice on top.

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 29/4

There's a bit of a holiday feel next week because Thursday is a bank holiday and the French have a brilliant tradition of "making the bridge" and taking off the Friday too to make an extremely long weekend, especially as Wednesday is my day off  so I get a five day weekend! That means I'll be planning lunches for most of this week too.


lunch - I think today will be a toss up between McDonald's or Quick, the French equivalent, as one is giving away Playmobil in its happy meals and the other is giving away free day out tickets - either way, I'll have a chicken salad  so it makes no difference to me !

dinner - maybe soup, maybe a big salad, depending on the weather ! I have an intriguing recipe for chicken & almond milk soup, which I might try.


lunch - absolutely no idea because we have friends over for dinner - we contemplated a bbq before we headed back into winter so we'll have to check the weather !

dinner - nothing, we'll still be stuffed from lunch (which ends up an all day affair in France !)


dinner - chicken curry and rice


dinner - spicy sesame beef with stir fried veggies (broccoli, red peppers, onions, mushrooms, carrots, ...)


lunch - smothered pork chops with spaghetti

dinner - cottage pie


lunch - chicken & veg noodles, with a pouch of laksa sauce

dinner - spaghetti carbonara or bolognese


lunch - I think I'll have a fridge full of leftovers to use up - if not toad in the hole with mash and beans

dinner - Hairy Bikers' citrus crusted chicken breast with rice & salad

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

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 29/4

Meal Planning Monday

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

Thursday 28 April 2016

Globecooking recipe : Sabzi polo mahi (Iran)

This herby rice dish, served with fish, is a traditional food served for New Year in Iran. I thought the rice was going to come out horribly overcooked, because it is basically cooked twice, but it was perfectly al dente and packed with flavour.

This recipe used the big bag of Sabzi Polo herbs from this month's Iranian-themed Kitchen Trotter box, which is a blend of chives, parsley, dill, coriander and fenugreek.

 Sabzi polo mahi

ingredients :

300g basmati rice
25g sabzi polo herbs
4 white fish fillets
300g potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
2 cloves of garlic
4tbsp flour
1tbsp curcuma
1tbsp cinnamon
a couple of large knobs of  butter
salt, pepper
a squeeze of lime juice

Rinse the rice then leave to soak in cold water for half an hour. Rinse again (to be honest, I'm not sure all this rinsing and soaking served any purpose whatsoever !) then put on to cook in boiling salted water until slightly undercooked. Drain, rinse in cold water and reserve.

Melt the butter in a large pan. Turn off the heat so you don't burn your fingers. Cover the bottom of the pan in thin slices of potato. Chop the cloves of garlic into large pieces and scatter over the potatoes.

Mix the cold rice with the herbs and season with salt and pepper. 

Tip the rice onto the potatoes and cover with a lid. Cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes then lower and continue cooking for 30 minutes.

Mix the flour, cinnamon and curcuma (I used cumin instead) on a plate. Add salt and pepper and thoroughly mix.

Use the flour mixture to coat the fish fillets on all sides.

Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the fish for 3-4 minutes on each side on a medium heat until beautifully golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside.

Serve the fish with the rice and some of the golden brown slices of potato from underneath. I'm not sure you're actually supposed to eat the potato, but it was too lovely to discard ! It's a nice dish but we felt that it could do with a bit of oomph - maybe some lime juice/zest on the fish or a sprinkle of chilli in the rice. I was a bit scared of the vast quantity of herbs that went into the rice but it wasn't overpowering and had an almost spinach-like taste in the end.

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

If you want to try some more Iranian recipes, how about Mâst O Khiar or Gheymeh Bademjan?

More fairy magic with The Fairy Force #Fairytaler

You may remember that last month, I showed you the extra special, magical fairy corner in Pierre's room where the Irish Fairy Door has pride of place, surrounded by the wall stickers, accessories and play equipment that we received as Fairytalers.

There's still one item that I haven't told you about yet though - the Irish Fairy Door story book called The Fairy Force.

It's a lovely story about Henry the fairy, who is worried about his human friend, a little boy called Ben who keeps having nightmares.

As he really cares about Ben, he decides to call in The Fairy Force, an elite squad of specially trained fairies who know how to keep the bad dream breezes at bay. Pierre loved the page where we see a handwritten note to Ben from his fairy becaise Pierre is always delighted when he receives a note from his own fairy too.

 The Fairy Force spend four nights in Ben's bedroom, plugging up the invisible holes in the walls that let in the bad dream breezes, then leaving a tiny FF on the window pane that only shows up when a human breathes on it, to show that they've worked their magic.

Well, Pierre immediately went and knocked on his fairy door and called on his fairy friend to bring in the Fairy Force so that they can stop him having nightmares too. I know that every night at bedtime this week, he'll be breathing all over his windows to find out when they've paid him a visit. I'm not sure who's more excited - me or him !

If you'd like to get involved with the fairy magic, I have a special #Fairytaler code to share with you which offers 15% off everything in the Irish Fairy Door Company shop - just enter code madhousefamily15 at the checkout.

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

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Children's book review : Mission Cookpossible !

Pierre loves helping me cook and he also loves me reading him stories, so when we were introduced to Mission Cookpossible !, a children's story book that incorporates numerous recipes, I knew that we were on to a winner.

The book tells the story of Lady Gertrude who is having a party at Belchings Castle and decides to kidnap a master chef to help get everything ready for afternoon tea and dinner.

The great thing about the story is that it's personalised so, in our book, the master chef who has been kidnapped is ... Pierre ! You also get to select which recipes will feature in your book, so you can make sure that they are things that your family will like to eat.

The first recipe that Pierre came across and wanted to make was Dobbin's Fabulous Flapjacks. The recipes are written out simply and use mainly ingredients that you are likely to have ready and waiting in the kitchen.

Having read that Dobbin likes to throw a hoof-ful of chopped hazelnuts over the top of his flapjacks to make them crunchy and that they are useful on knightly quests for distracting dragons from eating princesses, Pierre was extremely enthusiastic.

As he was the master chef in the story, he declared that he could do the weighing out all by himself this time. He managed too, without even dropping oats all over the floor, which I was expecting !

The result was some very lovely gooey and chewy flapjacks that I'm sure Dobbin and the knight would have been very pleased with.

The next time I asked Pierre if he wanted to do some baking, he ran off and picked up his Mission Cookpossible! book again, flicking through the pages to choose which recipe he wanted to recreate. He opted for Griselda's Rainbow Jam Tarts, which was a great way of using up various half empty jars of jam and lemon curd that were cluttering up the fridge.

Pierre had a great time and thought it was hilarious when I pointed out that he had as much flour on his face as in the bowl !

It's not all baking sweet treats though - there are some savoury recipes too, such as Tomato Soup à la façon de Clorabella Swish, Dr Socks's Pizza Performance and Apollo's One Pan Lemon Roast Chicken. It's very special for a child to be able to put dinner on the table for the whole family so Pierre can't wait to try out one of the supper recipes next.

Here at The Madhouse, we always love stories that can be taken off the pages into real life through follow-on activities or research, so Mission Cookpossible! gets a big thumbs up from us. Personalised stories are always hugely popular as gifts, so if you have a keen mini-chef in your midst, it would definitely be a much-loved and well-used book to offer for a special occasion.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £19.99

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