Thursday 31 May 2018

#readcookeat recipe : Flamiche aux poireaux (A Family Recipe)

You may remember that last week, we ate nachos, and the next day made Leftover Nacho Salad, both of which were inspired by a mention of a family farewell feast at the beginning of Veronica Henry's aptly-named novel, A Family Recipe. (Click through for my review.) As I was reading the book, I kept turning over corners of pages to highlight recipes that I might like to try out for the #readcookeat challenge. There are lots of family-friendly dishes that I knew would appeal to the kids, so it wasn't long before I recreated another.

p223 Her mouth watering, Laura bought a flamiche aux poireaux - leeks set in golden wobbly cream in a rectangular tart - a loaf of bread thick with seeds and nuts, a bag of bitter salad leaves and a punnet of pale-gold apricots.

A flamiche is a kind of savoury tart that originates in the North of France - mainly Picardie but also the Nord-Pas de Calais and into Belgium. It's basically a leek tart but there are various versions, some of which are open and resemble a quiche and others of which are closed and look more like a pie. I went slightly freestyle, using up what was in the fridge, and basically made a softer, creamier version of my usual quiche, upping the quantity of cream and reducing the number of eggs. I added some bacon, which isn't a traditional part of the recipe, but it worked very well. It was very tasty and is perfect for a lighter summer meal with salad.

Flamiche aux poireaux

ingredients :

3 leeks
2tbs butter + a little water
a sheet of ready-made puff pastry (or shortcrust pastry)
200g bacon
200ml thick crème fraîche
2 eggs

Chop the white part of the leeks into slices, avoiding the grit and mud-filled green leaves. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and gently fry the leeks, stirring every now and then. If they start to stick or burn, add a few tablespoons of water until they are staring to soften.

Use the pastry to line a pie dish and prick the base with a fork. Put in the oven while it preheats to 180° and while you get on with cooking the filling.

Once the water has evaporated, add the bacon to the leeks and fry, stirring, for about 10 minutes until it is cooked through.

Turn off the heat and dollop on the cream.

Stir it through the leeks and bacon.

Whisk up two eggs and add to the mixture, stirring to combine.

 It shouldn't scramble as the cream will have cooled things down,but it's not the end of the world if it does.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case and pop it back in the oven until it is set, about half an hour later.

I love the way it came out looking all rustic and uneven because I didn't bother trying to get a perfectly smooth finish when putting the pastry in the dish. It has a lovely soft, creamy texture and the bacon/leek flavours work really well together. I was tempted to add a handful of grated cheese too, but I thought I was already taking enough liberties with the recipe by adding bacon to what should usually be a vegetarian dish !

Linking up with the #readcookeat linky over at Chez Maximka.

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Getting Creative for Customisation Month with Gel-a-Peel #GAPCustomisation

For the merry month of May, Gel-A-Peel have decided to inspire the nation to get their creative juices flowing, sharing ideas for crafty fun with the #GAPCustomisation hashtag. You just have to type Gel-A-Peel in the search bar on my sidebar to find all our Gel-A-Peel posts and see how much of a fan Juliette is, so she was over the moon to receive two packs of Gel-A-Peel and a tote bag and tumbler to customise. 

In the parcel, she discovered Colour Change Peach-2-Maroon and Pearly Plum Gel-A-Peel but she also got out some of her other tubes from her collection, including Neon, Pastel and Fuzzy (which comes with a furry powder to add to the top of the Gel-A-Peel before it sets).

So where to begin? Gel-A-Peel can be used on a multitude of materials, including wood, fabric, paper, plastic and glass, but it can also be used to make little 3d embellishments to further enhance your customisation.

They do take a while to set though - it's best to leave them overnight for best results - so Juliette started off with filling up the little moulds with the colours of her choice.

Next, she moved on to the tumbler and, with a remarkably steady hand, started decorating the top with horizontal stripes in various colours.

Halfway down, she switched to vertical stripes, using the two tubes from the latest packages. We're always impressed with how vibrant the colours are and, the great thing is, if you happen to mess a bit up, you just need to wait for it to dry, then you can peel it off and start again.

After the tumbler, she started on the bag and drew a heart with an arrow through it freestyle, although there are also templates that you can use in the box. She played around with the various nozzles to create different sized and textured dots, and also stuck on some of the little teddy bears (that look like Gummy Bear sweets !) from the moulds.

As a finishing touch, she sprinkled on a little bit of the flocking powder from the Fuzzy kit to give it a nice texture. She was most impressed with her efforts - she loves the colours and, above all, the fact that she knows nobody else will ever have designs the same as hers. She's now wandering around the house wondering what else she can personalise - she's earmarked some plain white plimsolls, some flip-flops and some notebooks at the moment !

We had great fun taking part in the #GAPCustomisation challenge and it's lovely to have useful as well as decorative items once the kids have finished being crafty.

 Disclosure : We received the products in order to take part in the challenge.

Monday 28 May 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #22

The next few weeks will be ultra busy at work, and this week is no exception. An after school meeting on Tuesday means I won't be home until about 8pm so the kids will probably have ransacked the fridge and cobbled together a meal before then (or I may have been organised and sorted out leftovers). And Friday is slightly manic - I'm off to London for the day with a school trip, Pierre is on a class trip to the woods and Juliette is on a class trip to a museum. It's all go !


lunch - chicken & mushroom vol au vents with mash & veg

dinner - macaroni cheese


lunch - school canteen

dinner - hopefully leftover macaroni cheese


lunch - sausage, egg, Actifry chips and beans (I might even fling a grilled tomato on mine too)

dinner - Chinese orange chicken with rice


lunch - school canteen

dinner - beef stew in the slow cooker with ebly


lunch - school canteen

 dinner - ham and cured meats, coleslaw, carrot salad, potato salad, leek quiche - if I fill up the fridge, they'll manage to find something they want to eat ! There should also be leftovers from the stew


lunch - kids' choice - I think they want French tacos this week

dinner - leftovers from last night


lunch - Sunday roast - probably chicken again

dinner - homemade spring rolls with salad

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

Sunday 27 May 2018

Madhouse recipe : Leftover Nacho Salad

As you may have noticed earlier in the week, my latest foray into the delights of the #readcookeat challenge over at Chez Maximka resulted into a hugely popular family feast of nachos. As I was pondering what to do with the leftovers, I idly browsed through some recipes on google and stumbled across an intriguing mention of Mom’s Frito Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing over on the Scattered Thoughts of A Crafty Mom blog. That appealed to me on a number of levels - globecooking, #KitchenClearout and a salad recipe that kids love. What's not to like? Catalina Dressing is apparently something that you can buy ready made, but google came to the rescue again with a Homemade Catalina Dressing recipe over on Epicurious. Using these two recipes as my inspiration and tweaking it all to suit my leftovers, the resulting dish was just as popular as the nachos the night before, even with the salad ! Definitely one that I'll be using again.

 Leftover Nacho Salad

ingredients :

a couple of handfuls of shredded iceberg lettuce
a good handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
a handful of grated cheese
leftover chilli (see recipe for nachos above)
sweetcorn, cucumber, olives, spring onions, any other veggies you want to sneak in there !
a handful of Doritos/tortillas

for the dressing :

2tbsp ketchup
2tbsp sugar
2tbsp red wine vinegar
a shake of garlic powder
a shake of paprika

Chop the lettuce and tomatoes and put them in a big bowl.

Add the cheese.

Add the leftover chilli - I wasn't sure whether to warm it up or use it cold. I opted for cold and it worked very well, so this would be great for taking to work for lunch, but I'm sure it would work hot too. Add any extra salad ingredients you want.

Crush the tortilla chips in your hands and add them to the bowl. Give it all a good mix.

Mix the salad dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. This is sweet but very tart so use sparingly. The kids didn't like it but I loved it because it really perked up the salad.

Tuck in ! This is such a great way of clearing out the veg compartment of the fridge and using up leftovers.

*** Fancy trying out some more US cuisine? Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Saturday 26 May 2018

Fab freebies of the week 26/5

Well, it seems longer than a week ago that all eyes were on Harry and Meghan, but that's probably just a sign of how busy my week was, what with fitting in fighting with a flat-pack desk for Pierre (just getting it home without a car was an adventure, involving borrowing a trolley from Lidl and fits of giggles with Sophie !) on top of my usual working week. Well, whatever you're up to this weekend, have fun and enjoy the best of the bunch of this week's freebies. I managed to get one of the packs of glitter pens that I featured in a recent roundup - anyone else?


One for the kids today - Smyths Toy Superstores are having an instore party with free face painting, DJ and goody bag for the kids

Big Peat whisky have hundreds of prizes up for grabs - it's an instant win and I just won a Big Peat's torch pen :)

Marstons Brewery also have hundreds of prizes up for grabs

Win a packet of David Domoney's Lettuce Lollo during RHS Chelsea Flower Show - 100 packets to Win!

Naturalista is a recently launched programme designed by Noughty to get some of our newest products into your hands in exchange for your honest reviews. As a programme member, you'll be periodically invited to choose products to sample at completely no cost to you.All reviews collected through this programme will be labeled as such on or our affiliated sites.

I'm sure I'm not the only one sick to death of GDPR emails this week, but at least there was a freebie hiding in some of them - you can get a free pack of Active B Complex+ worth £9.99 using code GDPROffer at the checkout (Make sure you pick the single pack on the left and not the subscription on the right)

Order a free Classic Italian Cooking recipe booklet from Filippo Berio (with free shipping)

The Insiders have a new campaign for Bakers Dry dog food

Sign up to review a sample of Planative Natural Care products (looks American but does give you a choice of country)

On the Top Collar facebook page :  Inbox us your doggy photo to get a FREE trial box! Send us a photo message !

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

coming soon !

Friday 25 May 2018

Book review : Missing In Shanghai - Jean Harrod

When I reviewed the first novel in Jean Harrod's Diplomatic Crime Series, Deadly Diplomacy, I described the main protagonist, British consul Jess Turner, as "a magnet for trouble, danger and excitement". After the first book, set in Canberra, came the sequel, Deadly Deceit, this time based in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, and Missing In Shanghai, the newly released third installment, follows Jess back to London, working on the China desk in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. My opinion of the feisty leading lady hasn't changed, but it does seem that she attracts trouble unwittingly, rather than going out looking for it.

As if preparing a highly important State visit from the Chinese premier isn't stressful enough, Jess uncovers a scandalous cover-up in Shanghai in the 1980's, involving the supposed suicide of the British ambassador and the disappearance of a young British diplomat at the same time. As she starts digging deeper, the bigwigs in the British embassy start looking flustered and she is warned to let sleeping dogs lie. This being Jess, this obviously has the opposite effect and, seconded by her friend and ally from the other books, Aussie cop Tom Sangster, who just happens to be in London on secondment to Scotland Yard, Jess sets out to uncover the truth, even when her own safety is put in danger.

As with the previous novels in the series, it's a fast-paced, explosive and mainly believable story (even if Jess does seem as indestructible as most Hollywood heroes and heroines) and I was gripped from beginning to end. The villains are slightly one dimensional - I would have liked to delve deeper into their psyches and gain deeper understanding of their motivations and hidden agendas - but Jess is a very likeable character, and I was very pleased to watch her personal story developing, alongside her professional one. The ending left me feeling slightly ambivalent - although it is undoubtedly realistic for the bad guys to come out on top, I like my fiction to tie up all the loose ends - but Jess is a very determined young woman so I'm sure they'll get their comeuppance in a future instalment !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 425 pages
  • Publisher: York Authors Coffee Shop (17 May 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0992997178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0992997175

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Thursday 24 May 2018

#readcookeat recipe : Nachos (A Family Recipe)

I was very excited to read Veronica Henry's latest book, A Family Recipe (click through for my review), because with a title like that, I knew it would have at least a few potential candidates for a #readcookeat post. Well, it turns out that it provided most of my inspiration for this week's menu plan and the kids have been gobbling everything up ! The first thing that I spotted was sure to be a crowd-pleaser : nachos.

p21 Willow had asked for nachos for her farewell supper.
Laura was pathologically incapable of doing what most normal people would have done : plonked a saucepan of chilli on the table with a packet of tortilla chips and got everyone to help themselves.
Instead, by five o' clock the evening before Willow was due to go to university for the first time, a huge cauldron on the hot-pink Aga belted out a cloud of steam scented with cumin and cinnamon and chilli. On the worktop were bowls filled with grated cheese, soured cream, guacamole, jalapeños, spicy beans, finely chopped coriander and chargrilled sweetcorn salsa. Wedges of lime were waiting to be stuffed into bottles of beer - 'cerveza', Laura teased herself with a Spanish lisp.

Well, I'll be the first to admit that I'm much less of a domestic goddess than Laura, so I went for a compromise between her gourmet version and the "most normal people" option. I made chilli and guacamole from scratch but pared back the accompaniments and threw a couple of bags of tortilla chips on the table for everyone to dig into.

As I've mentioned before, since Madhouse Daddy died earlier in the year and we've been reduced to shopping without a car in the local shops, I've been pleasantly surprised by the choice (and the prices) at Lidl. They did let me down this week though, as they apparently don't sell red kidney beans, and you can't make a decent chilli without beans. I added carrots and sweetcorn instead and it was surprisingly tasty - I would have preferred some beans in there though.


ingredients :

for the chilli :

1 onion
1/2 a yellow pepper
2 carrots
450g minced beef
tin of sweetcorn
sachet of tacos seasoning
2tbsp water
squeeze of tomato puree

for the guacamole :

2 ripe avocados
generous squeeze of mayonnaise
squirt of lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/2tsp chilli powder
1/2tsp garlic powder

accompaniments :

tortilla chips
diced cherry tomatoes
grated cheese
sour cream
mini Boursin

Gently fry the onions, peppers and carrots in a drizzle of olive oil until soft.

Add the mince and cook, chopping with a wooden spoon to break it up, until it is completely brown.

Add the sweetcorn (plus red kidney beans, if you are lucky enough to have them) and the taco seasoning. (You could also just use cumin, paprika and chilli powder, if you prefer but I had a seasoning sachet in the cupboard.) Add the water and tomato puree, stir and leave to simmer while you get on with the rest.

Scoop the flesh of two ripe avocados into a bowl and blitz with a hand blender. Stir through mayonnaise, salt, garlic pepper, chilli and lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Lay everything on the table and let everyone serve themselves for a fun, midweek, family feast. 

Alternatively, scatter some tortilla chips on a plate, scoop some chilli on top and add some tomatoes, cheese and, if you like, cream on top, as well as a dollop of guacamole on the side.

 The kids thought it was great fun having a meal based on crisps and have asked for this to be added to our regular Sunday evening meal slot.

Adding to the #readcookeat linky over at Chez Maximka.

Also adding to #KitchenClearout as it used up some cherry tomatoes and avocadoes that were getting over-ripe in the fridge.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Our Num Noms inspired snack for National Sandwich Week !

This week (20 - 26 May) is National Sandwich Week - a week long celebration of the ultimate portable food - and Num Noms sent us through a fun package of goodies to get involved. Along with a funky pink lunchbox and a chef's hat, we received a Num Noms magazine, with lots of lovely free gifts, and, best of all, some more Num Noms to add to Juliette's already rather impressive collection.

Juliette excitedly unpacked all the new squishy stackables from the series 4 Dessert Tray, enthusing about the cute faces, foodie fragrances and lip glosses. 

They are all very appealing but some of our favourites are Goldie Cake, Orange Swirl Gloss Up and Sugar Wafer.

 There were also some fun accessories in the parcel to make our sandwiches extra-special - some cookie cutters and Candy Eyeballs which I thought looked great - but the kids were less impressed, with Pierre saying he didn't want to eat something that was looking at him. (I think he must have been put off for life by a whole fish, served complete with its head, when we were in Turkey a couple of years ago !) I couldn't even tempt them to use the cookie cutters because they complained that they'd lose out on half of their sandwich (I couldn't fault their logic on this one !) and Juliette pointed out that some of the Num Noms are square anyway so they could eat a whole slice. Fair enough then !

I gave them free reign of the kitchen and said they could choose ingredients to match some of the Num Noms. They went for a sweet option, combining chocolate spread, reminiscent of Cocoa Mallow, I. C. Sandwich and Wintergreen Creme, and banana à la Nana Pop. They also opted for a double decker sandwich with three slices of bread because Num Noms are all about the stacking. I like the way they think !

We did try making a bread-based Num Nom character of our own too, but it came out looking more evil than cute, especially as the fruit kept sliding off ! The idea was a red, white and blue combination in honour of the royal wedding, made of a marshmallow fluff sandwich topped with blueberries and strawberries. Juliette decided to call it Meghan Sparkle - I'm not sure Buckingham Palace would agree - and it tasted better than it looked apparently !

Disclosure : We received some goodies to take part in National Sandwich Week.

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