Tuesday 31 May 2016

Globecooking recipe : Humitas (Argentina)

The first recipe that I tried from this month's Argentinian-themed Kitchen Trotter box (click through to see the contents) was Humitas with a twist - although I'm not really sure what the twist is because it was a dish I was totally unfamiliar with ! It's a lovely vegetarian puree of sweetcorn and other vegetables (I decided to leave mine a bit chunky) that is traditionally served inside corn husks that look like tamales. I added some chorizo to liven it up a bit. It's like a thick soup and is really tasty, simple to prepare and packed full of veggies.


ingredients :

a knob of butter
2 onions
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
large tin of sweetcorn
1/2 a butternut squash
4 tomatoes
1tbsp Aji molido spices (groud chillies)
a splash of milk
thyme, basil, salt, pepper
150g grated cheese
1/2 a chorizo (optional)

Chop the red/yellow pepper and onions into chunks. Melt the butter in a large pan and cook the vegetables over a low heat until the onion is translucent but not browned.

Add the chopped tomatoes and the herbs.

Toss in between 1-2 tbsp ground chillies, depending on how hot you want it.

I decided to chop the butternut squash into small pieces to keep some texture, but the original recipe says to grate it so that you end up with a thick puree.

Put the butternut squash and sweetcorn into the pan and simmer for half an hour, stirring from time to time so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, and adding a splash of milk if it needs a bit of liquid.

Throw in some chorizo if you want a more substantial dish.

When the vegetables are all cooked through and soft, add the grated cheese and stir until melted, putting back on the heat for a couple of minutes if necessary for it to melt.

Sprinkle with basil and serve.

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

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky because it used up some squishy tomatoes that would have ended up in the bin otherwise.

Link up your recipe of the week

Monday 30 May 2016

Madhouse recipe : Curried Mince & Veg Pie

Last week, after the Sunday roast, I had lots of roast veggies (potatoes, onions, carrots) and gravy left over but no meat. I decided to add a pack of mince from the freezer and use up a sheet of ready made puff pastry from the fridge to make a pie. I had a quick rummage through my spice rack and threw in some Kingston curry powder to jazz things up a bit.

Curried Mince & Veg Pie

ingredients :

a sheet of ready made puff pastry
a drizzle of olive oil
500g minced beef
salt, pepper, garlic granules
2 onions
leftover cooked veg (roast carrots, roast potatoes, roast onions)
a handful of mushrooms, quartered
leftover gravy (or add some gravy granules and water to the pot)
2tsp Kingston curry powder (or mild curry powder) (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions for a couple of minutes then add the mince and brown until there are no pink bits left.

Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring.

Pour in the leftover gravy and heat, stirring, until it has gone liquid again.

Season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic granules. Add extra liquid/gravy granules if necessary. Stir in the curry powder if using.

Chop the carrots and potatoes into large chunks and add to the pot. Give it all a good stir to cover everything in gravy. Transfer to a pie dish and lay the puff pastry on top.

Bake at 180° for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is piping hot. This is a complete meal so you don't need to serve it with anything really, but you could always add an extra side serving of veg such as broccoli and/or mashed potatoes, if you so desire.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up the leftover veg, potatoes and gravy from the Suday roast.

Move over Superman - make way for Supermeerkat !

Whenever we go to the Madhouse grandparents' house, it always makes me smile when I spot their cherished collection of meerkats. I was therefore intrigued when an email landed in my inbox with news of a new partnership with DC, following their recent collaboration with Warner Bros on the latest blockbuster Batman V Superman film.

They offered to send a special limited edition gift through the post and when the postie dropped it off, I couldn't help but laugh. Sergei and Aleksandr have been transformed into furry versions of their favourite superheroes Batman and Superman, to feature in a 16-page comic book called Meerkat Movies : A Heroic Journey.

The duo find themselves in hot water as they make their way to see the blockbuster film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Their journey is far from smooth as they get caught between rival street gangs and snarling dogs as they try to make it to the cinema on time.

The comic is illustrated by artistic master Neal Adams, known for his previous work with iconic Super Heroes including Superman, Batman, and Green Arrow, and written by DC staple Tony Bedard.

Fans were left on a cliff hanger at the end of part 1 but the the concluding part is also now available to download at comparethemarket.com (for a limited time only, so get in quick to avoid disappointment). Super fans can also be in with a chance to win one of a limited number of hardbound copies of the comic online over the coming weeks.

Disclosure : We received a copy of the comic.

Sunday 29 May 2016

The May Degustabox (review)

There's always something exciting about receiving a new Degustabox in the mail because it's like a grown-up lucky dip. You know it's going to contain foodie items from unknown brands that are new to the market or new releases from well-established brands but apart from that, it's always a total mystery. This month, our first sneak peek as we opened the box revealed several products that we've already tried and enjoyed. But what would be lurking beneath ?

After unpacking everything (and fighting the kids off certain things, telling them that no, they couldn't eat anything before I'd taken a photo !), here's what we had :

Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey BBQ Glaze (£1.99) - Infused with Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Liqueur, this glaze can be used as a sweet, sticky, smoky coating for barbecued meats or a dip for veggie sticks or potato wedges. I was worried it would have a whisky flavour but it's actually very nice.

Garofalo Fusilli Bucati Corti (£1.99) - We have already tried and loved several of the authentic, high quality pasta products in the Garofalo range - you may remember our reviews of their spaghetti and La Giostra Dei Bambini children's pasta. The corkscrew shape of the fusilli and the fact that it has a rougher texture than cheaper supermarket brands make it ideal for sticking to cream or tomato-based sauces.

Cranes Cider (2 x £1.90) - I love fruity ciders so I'm always delighted to discover the drinks that regularly pop up in Degustaboxes. I'd never tried or even heard of Cranes before, so I was intrigued to see what I'd think of their Original Cranberry and Strawberry & Kiwi ciders. (It's also available in Raspberry & Pomegranate.) Well, the answer is, I loved them both - they're fruity, sweet but tart and deliciously refreshing on a Friday evening to wind down after work. They're 4% alcohol, 100% natural, 99 calories, 16.5% juice and low in added sugar - I wonder if that means I can count them towards my five-a-day !

Kallo Yoghurt Coated Rice Cakes (£1.69) / Belgian Milk Chocolate Coated Corn cakes (£1.29) - We've tried a few Kallo products in previous Degustaboxes (chocolate rice cakes, rice cakes with chocolate & caramel pieces, salt & vinegar corn & rice snacks) and I've always been pleasantly surprised by just how enthusiastic the Madhouse kids got about them, as they're a healthier option than many similar snacks. These two products both got their seal of approval too, as they're just the right side of naughty but healthy.

Brioche Pasquier Croissants Au Beurre (£1.80) - How could we not love a brand that uses our own surname? The kids have even convinced half of their schoolfriends that their great-grandad founded the company at one point or another ! The all butter croissants don't taste as good as the freshly baked ones fresh from French boulangeries first thing in the morning because that utter flakiness seems impossible to recreate in a product with a long shelf-life, but they're very tasty nevertheless and got a thumbs up from the whole family. They're wrapped by two which is perfect for a romantic breakfast in bed (or a naughty pig out for one !). I suggest warming them in the oven for a couple of minutes then adding butter and raspberry jam or going continental and ripping off bits to dip in your morning coffee.

Pomegreat Pomegranate Juice (£1.49) - I always love pomegranate juice because it reminds me of being on holiday in Turkey. Pomegreat uses Californian pomegranate juice enhanced with aronia juice from concentrate that is refreshing, bursting with flavour and popular with both the kids and adults in the family.

Beloved Dates Date Nectar (£3.50) - Not something I'd have bought but I was intrigued to see how it would work in baking. It can be used in similar ways to honey but has a richer, more caramel-like flavour. It's wheat, gluten and dairy free and, unlike honey, is suitable for vegans.

Pechkeks Misfortune Cookies (2 x £1) - These appealed to my sense of humour. Black cookies and black humour inside, for a cynical alternative to the ever positive and philosophical messages in regular fortune cookies. You'll get verbal left hooks such as "life is a symphony - and you're playing the kazoo" !

Get Fruity fruit & oats bar (£1) - We'd already tried (and reviewed) the Moist Mixed Berry and Juicy Apricot, Orange & Ginger ones so I was pleased to see that we had a strawberry one to sample in the box. The kids preferred this one to the other two because it had a sweeter taste, but it appeals to grown-up palates too. It is made with gluten-free oats, virgin coconut oil and no added refined sugars for a 100% natural bar.

Mrs Crimbles gluten free madeleines - This month's DB Discoveries - click through to read our complete review of Mrs Crimble's Madeleines. In short, they're delicious.

The Wonderful Co Pistachios and Almonds (2 x 90p) - These Californian pistachios and almonds are great for both snacking and cooking. They're larger than average, crunchy and full of flavour.

This month's recipe card is for Jack Daniels BBQ Glaze, which is a nice serving idea.

A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which gives you a whopping £6 off the price of your first box - just enter code BLDEG15 at the checkout - making it great value and a fab way to discover new products.

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK 

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

Stork’s Sunday Bakes for baking inspiration and advice from GBBO winner John Whaite

Do you have a specific baking day? Like most busy working mums, I would imagine, my usual baking day is Sunday because Saturday generally ends up being errands day, leaving Sunday for baking cakes, biscuits and other sweet treats to see us through the week ahead.

Having determined that Sunday is the nation's favourite baking day, Stork have teamed up with Great British Bake off winner John Whaite to launch Sunday Bakes, a social media service designed to help the nation avoid baking blunders and maybe cook up some showstoppers in preparation for the Patron’s Lunch street parties coming up on 12th June. Every Sunday, John will be sharing tips and recipe inspiration on Stork’s social media channels that you can try out in your own kitchens.

Here's a taster of what he's been sharing but keep your eyes (on the pies ?!) because there's plenty more to come. (I suggest clicking through to see the videos on youtube because the recipes are there in print form too, making it easier if you want to print them out.)

I love the different combinations of flavours that go into this recipe for Spiced Lamb Pasties - I haven't had time to make it yet (I still haven't packed my case for the school trip to London tomorrow and we're leaving at 5am - eek !) but I definitely will be when I get back because I have everything I need already. In the meantime, Galina has made them over at Chez Maximka and they look delicious.

If you want a crowdpleaser, this amazing Peanut Drip Cake serves 14-16 people and it looks fit for a queen so would be ideal for the street parties in her honour.

If you haven't got a specific recipe in mind but you want to brush up on your baking skills, you might also like to check out John's top tips :

Disclosure : I received a shopping voucher for ingredients.

Haymax to the rescue at the Villa Marguerite Yourcenar ! (review)

One of the perks of being a teacher towards the end of the school year is getting to take part in a variety of class trips. After visiting a dairy farm a few weeks ago then having a day out in Canterbury with a different class last week, on Friday I was counting heads on and off the coach again with another class trip to the Villa Marguerite Yourcenar, on the Mont Noir near Bailleul. It's a protected area with beautiful views, teeming with wildlife, where writers in need of inspiration can go on retreat for some peace and quiet and (hopefully) literary creation.

As well as meeting some of the authors and taking part in a poetry workshop, we got a guided tour of the woodland walks with a nature guide. There are some beautiful trees, including a 200 year old giant sequoia.

We spotted foxgloves and examined tree roots, went insect hunting (the kids were delighted to discover grasshoppers and stripy red and black stink bugs) and looked out for signs of animals (mainly rabbit poo !).

We had a picnic in a meadow of wild flowers and the kids had fun running around and playing hide and seek. It was all pretty perfect, ... except that it made my hayfever kick in big time. It hasn't been too bad this year so far so I haven't bothered stocking up with antihistamines, but luckily I did have a secret ally in my pocket which eased the symptoms.

I first reviewed Haymax all the way back in 2010 (head over here to see my original review) and I instantly loved the concept. It's a little pot of balm that you rub round your nose (and I also put some above and below my eyes) to act as a barrier to allergens such as pollen or dust. It's totally drug free and is also organic - it's made from beeswax and sunflower oil with no added nasties - so everyone can use it, including children of any age, pregnant women or breastfeeding mums, which is great news as antihistamines are usually off limits for them.

The great thing about Haymax is that you can put a tub in your child's pocket and let him/her get on with it. There's no problem if they use too much, unlike medicated treatments and tablets. I also appreciated this aspect on our class trip because one girl had itchy red eyes and a streaming nose and I had no qualms about passing her the Haymax, which I wouldn't have been allowed to do if I had had other prescription or even over-the-counter remedies.

Haymax sent me through a fab Summer Survival kit which included some pots of the new Haymax Kids (the regular Haymax is also fine for kids to use - it's just been given a new superhero-themed look to make it more appealing to kids), along with Bioskin Junior Bath Milk, a 98% natural product with extracts of lavender, chamomile and calendula to help protect and soothe eczema-prone skin, and incognito, a 100% natural mosquito and insect repellent. 

If you're a hayfever sufferer and you like the idea of going drug free this summer, or if you're a parent of a child with allergies, it's definitely worth keeping a tub in your pocket or handbag just in case. Unlike antihistamines which can take a few days to kick in, Haymax has an almost instant effect so it's reassuring to know that a sudden onset of hayfever with all the misery of itchy eyes, sore throat and constantly running nose won't be spoiling any trips to the park, summer barbecues or walks in the countryside this year. As well as the new Haymax Kids, it's available in lavender, frankincense, aloe vera or pure. 

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £6.99

for more information : http://haymax.biz/

Disclosure : I received a Summer Survival Kit in order to write an honest review.

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 29/5/16


Or Clowns? 

Or Dancing Clowns?

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls

Saturday 28 May 2016

Giveaway #563 : Win a Mega Model Airplane book - closed - winner Jules Eley

You may remember earlier this month, we reviewed the fabulous Mega Model Airplane book from Carlton Kids. (Click through to read my review.)

It ended up being a multi-generational project with Pierre, Madhouse Daddy and Madhouse Grandad all getting involved !

The thick laminated press-out sheets are fairly easy to slot together to create an enormous Beechcraft Staggerwing measuring 58cm in length with a whopping 70cm wingspan. You also get a guidebook with information about the plane and the history of aviation, as well as the instructions for putting the model together.

Carlton Kids have kindly offered to send one copy of the book, worth £14.99, to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Just fill in your entries in the Raffecopter widget below to go in the draw.

UK only. Closing date : 11/6/16

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 28 days, 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 !

Friday 27 May 2016

Book review : Deadly Deceit - Jean Harrod

Deadly Deceit is the second book in Jean Harrod's Diplomatic Crime Series, but don't let that put you off - it's still a cracking read as a stand-alone novel, although the numerous references to past events have made me want to go back and read the first one to find out what I've missed.

When British diplomat Jess Turner arrives in the Turks and Caicos Islands of the Caribbean on a temporary assignment, she soon discovers that there is a darker side lurking beneath the paradisiacal beaches and lagoon that the tourists see. The opening scenes of migrants drowning on the nearby reefs and, even more horrifying, one mum having her baby ripped from her arms when she makes it to the shoreline, have already hinted that the locals may not be as friendly as they would appear to outsiders, but when the island's officials start meeting tragic and suspicious ends, Jess starts to fear for her own life. The inner circle of the Governor's friends and colleagues, who she needs to liaise with in her official capacity as his replacement, appear to be an eccentric and possibly untrustworthy bunch. On top of that, there are disquieting rumblings about voodoo practices in the camp of the illegal immigrants from Haiti and, if that wasn't enough to be dealing with, even the natural elements conspire against Jess, sending a potentially deadly tropical storm her way. With her partner back in England going AWOL so she hasn't even got a shoulder to cry on on the phone, it's just as well a friendly face from the past (and the previous tome) puts in an appearance in the form of Aussie cop and all-round good guy, DI Tom Sangster. The two have an obvious attraction for each other but it's left smouldering on the backburner, presumably waiting to be developed in a future novel.

I loved the exotic location of the Caribbean and its picture postcard views of perfection, contrasting with the less desirable parts of island life that the tourists don't usually encounter, such as the migrants, voodoo and tropical storms. Jean Harrod's personal experience as a diplomat adds realism to the plot, even if some of the characters did seem a bit too good (or bad) to be true, as totally ruthless villains or angelic heroes, whereas I like my literary heroes and antiheroes to be a more convincing mixture of both. Sangster in particular appears to be one of those Hollywoodian heroes who can be shot at fifty times and fall down a cliff without receiving as much as a scratch ! The plot is fast paced and the constant mood of tension and menace had me gripped, so I couldn't wait to race through to the end and find out how it would all unravel.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: York Authors Coffee Shop (16 Jun. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0992997143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0992997144
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.2 x 21 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book in order to share my honest and objective opinion.

Madhouse recipe : Black Pudding Stuffed Potatoes

A few months ago, I won a selection of MacSween haggis products, including this pack of Chocolate & Chilli Black Pudding. I'm a bit squeamish about black pudding - it is made with blood after all ! - so it's been sitting in the freezer ever since. I finally decided to get brave but I knew that the kids wouldn't want to try it, so I made a black pudding-free version for them (the Mexican stuffed potatoes that I shared yesterday) then added black pudding to the grown-up version.

Now, there's just no way of making black pudding look appetising when it's cooking. It looked like coal and I thought I'd turned it into charcoal but it was just the colour of the blood sausage coming through. This one has a slightly sweet topnote coming through from the chocolate and a slight chilli kick but the main flavour is the earthiness of the black pudding.

I chopped it into pieces and added it to the Mexican stuffed potatoes filling, along with the red, green and yellow peppers, kidney beans, bacon, onions and potatoes.

I used this filling to restuff the potatoes before popping them back under the grill for ten minutes to fully reheat.

Well, I'm still far from the world's biggest black pudding fan but mixing it in with the other ingredients made it a lot more palatable. Black pudding is starting to be hailed as a superfood, because it contains lots of iron, but also zinc, protein, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Do you like black pudding? If so, how do you eat yours?

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky because it was about time I found a recipe to use the black pudding !
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