Saturday 31 March 2018

#readcookeat recipe : Piquillos rellenos, Spanish stuffed peppers (Court of Lions)

Jane Johnson Court of Lions

Jane Johnson's Court of Lions (click through for my review) is set in both modern day and 15th century Granada. It's a finely crafted novel, interweaving narratives in the different time periods, and bringing to life the tumultuous period of history which saw the last Muslim sultans battling against each other and also the fanatical Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. There are several foodie mentions, inspired by both Spanish and North African cuisine, so I was spoilt for choice. I decided to go with the former, but I may well come back to the latter in another blogpost.

Very early on in the novel, the main character in the modern day part of the story, Kate, is writing out the menu in the restaurant she works in :

p5 Kate looked up with a start from the chalkboard on which she was writing - in Spanish on one side, English on the other - that night's specials : patatas a lo pobre, poor man's potatoes; piquillos rellenos, stuffed peppers; boquerones, Spanish white anchovies.

Patatas a lo pobre, or Poor Man's Potatoes, is a simple but tasty dish of spicy potatoes with peppers, onions and garlic that I have made before. (Click through for the recipe.) Spanish white anchovies would be hard to source, so I opted for piquillos rellenos, stuffed peppers. I've often cooked peppers stuffed with rice and minced beef, but this time, I decided to go with a spicy tomato and tuna stuffing, as it seemed more in-keeping with Spanish influences. Piquillos rellenos traditionally uses long, thin red peppers which can be bought in jars ready to stuff, but as I had a couple of green peppers in the fridge, I used those instead.

Piquillos rellenos, Spanish stuffed peppers 

ingredients :

a jar of piquillos red peppers (or I used 2 green peppers)
drizzle of olive oil
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
a tin of tuna, drained
1tbsp tomato puree
3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1tbsp olives, chopped
salt, pepper, smoked paprika

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and gently fry the finely chopped onion and garlic, until translucent but not brown.

Turn off the heat and stir through the drained tuna.

Add the tomato puree, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, salt, pepper and paprika and give it all a good stir.

You could add some cooked or microwaveable rice at this point but I already had plenty of stuffing.

Cut the tops off the peppers (reserve the lids) and remove the seeds and white parts from the inside.

Stuff with the tuna filling and pop the lids back on. Place on a baking tray and put in the oven at 180° for about half an hour. 

The lids help prevent the filling from drying out during cooking. Serve with rice or you could opt for patatas a lo pobre for a truly Spanish feast.

Adding to the #readcookeat linky over at Chez Maximka.

Also adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as I used up odds and ends from the fridge (olives, sun-dried tomatoes, green peppers ...).

If you want some more Spanish-inspired meals, I have plenty to choose from :

Friday 30 March 2018

The Tale Of The Great Easter Bunny by Frankie Bridge & Cadbury

Singer-songwriter Frankie Bridge is famous for being a member of S Club 8 and The Saturdays, but away from the bright lights and recording studios, she is also a mum of two. She now has another feather in her cap after launching her debut storybook, ‘The Tale of The Great Easter Bunny,’ in partnership with Cadbury this Easter.

The story, available to download free from the Cadbury website, follows siblings Jack and Molly as they discover a series of mysterious clues and embark on an enchanting Easter Egg Hunt alongside their parents, Tom and Sarah. 

The tale takes place within the family home but what the family don’t know, is that there is a secret, hidden rabbit-hole at the bottom of their garden… where The Easter Bunny lives.

Speaking on the launch of The Tale of the Great Easter Bunny, Frankie said: “It’s actually a little bit of a secret but Easter is my favourite holiday! We used to have Easter Egg Hunts every year and now I love to do the same for my own children. Creating a book is also something I have always wanted to do and in many ways, it’s not so different to writing songs. I really do hope families will love the book and it will inspire them to go on their very own magical Easter Egg Hunts.”

If you don't fancy organising your own Easter Egg Hunt, the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts National Trust are back for 2018 and there are over 300 hunts to choose from across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, guaranteeing a fun-filled Easter for everyone. To discover the nearest hunt to you, visit

Along with a printed copy of Frankie's book, Cadbury provided us with a selection of scrummy eggs from their Easter 2018 range. We've been salivating over the Ultimate Daim Egg with Sharing Bar, the Ultimate Fruit & Nut Egg with Sharing Bar, a Boost Egg and a gorgeous Dairy Milk Peter Rabbit Egg with a flopsy rabbit toy and an Easter egg. The Creme Eggs have been stashed in a secret place to be hidden around the house on the big day !

To download the book and find out about all things Easter over at Cadbury, head over to

Disclosure : We received the book and some Easter goodies from Cadbury.

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #14

I'm still dealing with all the paperwork and appointments following Madhouse Daddy's death, and it doesn't seem to be easing up, so I'm dealing with things one day at a time. This meant that I had a sudden realisation that it's Easter this weekend - oops ! I knew it was on the way but hadn't checked the dates. Luckily, our friends are looking out for us and we were invited to not one but two friends' houses for Easter Sunday dinner. We've put one off until next week.


lunch - The traditional fast food visit - Sophie's choice this week, I seem to remember (I bet she says McDonald's)

dinner - chicken & veg with couscous


lunch - Easter Sunday lunch at a friend's house

dinner - leftovers or fridge grazing


lunch - chipolatas, mash & ratatouille

dinner - lasagne


lunch - leftovers

dinner - maple smoked steak with rice & peas


lunch - meatballs & ebly

dinner - boiled baby potatoes, salmon burgers/beefburgers (probably salmon for me and beef for the kids - both are in the freezer) & green beans


lunch - chicken cordon bleu & spaghetti

dinner - I have a pouch of Brazilian cooking sauce so I'll do half and half spicy chicken (for me & maybe Sophie) and creamy chicken for the kids, with rice/quinoa (I'm not keen on quinoa but it's a mix of wholemeal basmati & quinoa mixed up which is not bad)


lunch - tacos

 dinner - leftovers or cheese & ketchup toasties

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

The Organised Life Project

Linking up with The Meal Planing Linky with The Organised Life Project and

Thursday 29 March 2018

Easter gifts for happy little bunnies (review roundup)

Easter has snuck up on us once again, which means that you just have to buy at least one egg of the chocolate variety for your kids and/or grandkids. The problem is, they never seem to last for long, so it's a nice idea to combine a chocolatey gift with a non-edible keepsake.

 The Teletubbies Milk Chocolate Egg with Fun 3D Stackable Puzzle gives you the best of both worlds. It retails at £4.99 and is available from Asda. Happy Eh-ohster !

Easter isn't just about eggs though, it's also the celebration of springtime and that means chicks and bunnies. TOMY have a gorgeous collection of super soft bunny rabbits and cute plush chicks based on the smash hit series Mölang, which features Mölang the rabbit and best friend Piu Piu the chick, as they celebrate the importance of happiness, friendship, solidarity and mutual respect.

Our absolute favourite is the Super Soft Mölang (RRP £16.99), a premium plush made from elastic Softboa, making a great cuddle buddy that you can squeeze and stretch and he will return to his original shape. He is incredibly soft and Pierre can't stop cuddling him and using him as a cushion.  The basic plush assortment features cuddly rabbits Mölang, Brown and White Mölang, Fluffy Mölang and chick Piu Piu and each soft toy is 6 inches tall (RRP £10.99).

Juliette also loves the small collectible soft toys because they remind her of Tsum Tsums (which she collects). Available in characters Mölang, Piu Piu, Circus Mölang, Ninja Mölang and Brown Mölang’s Friend and Cow, the soft toys are 3 inches tall and can be stacked and displayed in a variety of ways. (RRP £5.99.) The whole Mölang range would appeal to a wide audience, from 4 year olds, to tweens and teens, right up-to women in their twenties who are fans of the Japanese “kawaii” culture.

Hey Duggee, based around a big loveable and huggable dog called Duggee who runs 'The Squirrel Club', where children take part in all kinds of activities, have adventures and earn activity badges along the way, has a brand new DVD out. Duggee teaches the Squirrels about being responsible, working as a team, taking acceptable risks and most importantly having fun! Critically acclaimed comedian Alexander Armstrong narrates the series, alongside an outstanding cast of children who play the Squirrels. Hey Duggee The Stick Badge & Other Stories (RRP £10.20), released on 26th March, is filled with laughter, learning and exciting activities at the adventure club that every family will want to join in with. 

In the episode ‘Hey Duggee: The Stick Badge’, which is one of the most popular episodes ever,  Duggee and the Squirrels are preparing to have a campfire when Roly discovers a talking stick insect instead of a wooden stick. The insect starts repeatedly saying “stick”, some music starts playing and before you know it the entire episode has descended into a hilarious rave that has become a zeitgeist moment among parents and children alike. The Stick Song has been viewed over 5 million times on Hey Duggee’s social channels since the episode first premiered on CBeebies in December 2017. I was busy doing the washing up when Pierre was watching this episode, and I couldn't resist coming in to see what was going in - we all ended up having a mini stick rave which gave us a much-appreciated giggle !

Finally, if you want to keep the sweet (or savoury) Easter treat concept minus the calories, Num Noms Snackables Dippers (£5.99) are perfect for fans of the scrummy-scented collectibles.

Inside the pack, you get a little empty pot which invites you to add cold water and dunk the dippers for a surprise. You need to use very cold water and the pot changes colour, as well as some of the details on the Num Noms dippers.

Juliette was perplexed at first because she'd seen numerous reviews on Youtube where the dippers come with little pots of slime - looking around online, she's not the only one to be confused and there are a fair few disgruntled buyers leaving negative reviews on amazon. It would appear that in the US, they come with slime but in the UK, you just need to add water for the magic to happen.

There are all sorts of foods for you to collect, from tomatoes and pretzels to fries and chips, with over 35 characters available in series 1. They made a lovely addition to Juliette's ever growing collection.

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

Wednesday 28 March 2018

L.O.L Surprise! Pearl Surprise review

We've already reviewed several products from the L.O.L Surprise! range - L.O.L. Surprise! Series 1,  L.O.L. Surprise! Series 2,  L.O.L. Surprise Series 2 Lil Sisters and most recently the L.O.L. Surprise! Confetti Pop - but nothing compares to the latest limited edition addition : L.O.L Surprise! Pearl Surprise.

You may not be able to tell from the first picture, so here's another one with Juliette's hand to give you an idea of scale - it's a whopper !

Juliette soon found the "zipper" strip of plastic and the unwrapping began.

As the name suggests, the outer plastic case is a beautiful shimmery, pearlescent turquoise colour.

The bottom flat part is imprinted with the L.O.L. Surprise! logo.

Once you break it open, there are six spheres ready and waiting to be cracked open to reveal their surprises.

Juliette tipped them all out and started popping them open.

Here's what we discovered : two complete outfits, made up of skirts, tops and shoes. Very cute and we loved the shell bikini design on the pink top, recalling the sea theme of the Pearl Surprise name.

There is also a big sticker, showing two dolls : a big and lil sister. Would these be the ones inside? And what's with the bubbles on the pink and yellow background?

Aha - that's what it was referring to ! The biggest surprise in the Pearl Surprise - and I have to say, even I was impressed. A humungous shell-shaped bath bomb !

The two pieces of the outer case can be set up as a bowl and stand for you to dissolve the bath bomb in. Juliette started pouring over some water and it instantly started fizzing like a mad thing !

I've never seen such a fizzy bath bomb, and that's coming from someone who was a total Lush addict in my younger days !

Ooh hang on - what's this? Blue plastic starting to peek through the bath bomb ...

The kids couldn't resist dipping their fingers into the hubbly, bubbly, fizzy liquid and helping peel off the final parts of the bath bomb to reveal the secret treasure inside.

The instructions do warn that it can stain clothes and skin and you shouldn't put your L.O.L. Surprise! dolls in the bath bomb water to avoid colour transfer. Juliette did end up with pink and yellow hands but it came off later when she had a bath.

So here is what was hiding inside ... a plastic shell. And what would be hiding inside that? We love the way you still get the layer-by-layer surprises of the original L.O.L. Surprise! but with a twist.

Here they are - the belles of the (big pearly) ball ! A matching pair of big and lil sisters, plus the classic water bottle.

We rinsed out the bowl and used fresh water to discover the final surprise. Would she change colour, cry, wee or spit? Juliette squished her underwater and discovered that she's a spitter !

After dressing her up in her cute little outfit, we used the outer shell to pack away the contents of this  L.O.L Surprise!, as well as the rest of Juliette's collection. It's a great way of keeping them all in one place.

The bath bomb surprise adds great wow-factor, so any  L.O.L Surprise! fan would be over the moon to receive one. Juliette loved it and I'm sure this would get a very warm reception as an alternative to Easter eggs. Prices apparently vary hugely online - the cheapest place I've seen is the The Entertainer which respects the RRP of £29.99 and is actually quite a good price but some on amazon are retailing at £70 ! - so compare prices before you buy. 

RRP : £29.99

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