Sunday 30 October 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 44

Into our second week of school holidays and I must admit, I'm enjoying lazing around. I'm feeling better than last week but I still have very little energy so I'm hoping that picks up before I go back to work next week. Last week's menu plan was used but was cut back as leftovers made two meals out of every one that I posted. Also Sophie headed home on Sunday as the grandparents are up visiting on Monday so she took over cooking and went off plan. Some things are therefore reposts from last week that didn't get made. Here's this week's plan.


lunch- Chinese restaurant with Mike's mum and dad (and aunt and uncle)

dinner slow cooker potato soup 


lunch- sausages (and mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes) with pasta

dinnermici (Romanian kind of meatballs) with rice & cauliflower cheese


lunch- chicken tacos 

dinner- baked potatoes (with onions, mushrooms, bacon, beans & cheese)


lunch - couscous (with pork, red peppers, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, chickpeas)

dinner- sweet & sour chicken & noodles


lunch- beefburger, ratatouille & rice

dinner - spaghetti carbonara


lunch- let's throw a joker in here for using up the leftovers that are probably packing out the fridge

dinner- Korean BBQ chicken (a bottle of sauce from a recent Degustabox) with pasta


lunchtartiflette (stinky cheese bake with potatoes, bacon and onions)

dinner- leftovers or toast

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

Friday 28 October 2022

Book review : Christmas in Newfoundland 2 : Memories and Mysteries - Mike Martin

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

There's something about that song in particular that really brings out the essence of Christmas in my mind. It's not one specific memory. It's more like a layering of festive feelings and mental snapshots of Christmases past. I can remember singing it at primary school assemblies in the run up to the Christmas holidays. I can hear the delicate, seemingly fragile notes echoing around the old town church as the school choir sang during a carol service. I can remember it playing on a CD (or probably a cassette back then !) in the background as we giggled and squealed and ripped open our childhood presents that we'd been desperately trying to define by touching the packages under the tree for the past few weeks. I can picture it on the CD player in the kitchen as I rustled up another batch of mince pies, peppermint cremes and cinnamon cookies. Mike Martin's book is very similar in that it layers up stories and specific memories that give a real sense of Christmas through the years in the small town of Grand Bank.

Fans of the Windflower series will enjoy catching up with the main characters from the books. We watch Winston, Sheila and their two daughters in the run up to the big day, dealing with the girls' bad behaviour (as a parent, I couldn't help but smile, both at the overexcited little girls and their parents' clever way of dealing with it). Eddie Tizzard has to deal with the bad weather and try to make it home in time for Christmas with his wife and their new son. Herb Stoodley, all-round good guy and provider of multiple muffins and cheesecake at The Mug Up, has a bigger delivery on his hands in the middle of a snowstorm and comes out as a touching, sensitive hero.

But there is more to it than that. You will also get a general overview of Christmas past, with delicate hints of Newfoundland lore thrown into the mixture. The youngsters of Grand Bank back in the 1950's and 60's, dreaming of getting their hands on a new pair of ice skates so that they could go back down to the lake and play hockey with their friends ... the Mummers going round from house to house sharing a drink and a song and waiting to see if they would be recognised ... Tibb's Eve, marking the (for some very welcome !) start to Christmas drinking.

This is a heartwarming, nostalgic collection of festive-themed stories, perfect for getting into the Christmassy mood in the run up to the big day. Old-timers (like me and the generation before me) will enjoy a peek back into the family-focused festive memories of their own childhoods, but younger readers will do well to look back on times past, relive the uplifting feelings of spending time with your friends and neighbours and maybe put the technology away for a while to create some satisfying memories of their own for years to come.

RRP : $19.95 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ottawa Press and Publishing (26 Sept. 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 160 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1990896030
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1990896033
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.97 x 1.02 x 21.59 cm

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

Wednesday 26 October 2022

October 2022 Degustabox review : Movie Night

You might have noticed it's all gone a bit quiet here on the blog lately. I've spent the last couple of weeks running about between doctors, even spending a night in hospital. It turns out it was a lung infection so I'm on antibiotics and should be better soon. Sophie has stepped in, cooking and cleaning like a total star while I've been lying on the settee recovering ! Perfect timing for the latest Degustabox to arrive, offering some simple meals to prepare and some tasty snacks to fill our cupboards (and stomachs !).

You can't beat a bowl of soup as a quick and tasty meal when the temperatures start to fall, so I was pleased to discover Knorr Crofter's Thick Vegetable Soup and Knorr Super Chicken Noodle Soup (RRP 2 x 90p) in the box. With everyone worrying about fuel bills skyrocketing and looking for cheap ways to fill tummies, 90p for four bowls is a great price. Add a slice of bread on the side (or cheese on toast if you're feeling a bit decadent) if you're feeling extra hungry. It's quick to prepare - jut add water and bring to the boil in a pan - and the texture is better than I expected (we usually make our own soup or buy it in bottles or packs ready-made and it compared quite well). The kids loved adding a topping of spices, grated cheese and dried onions to the veggie soup and the chicken noodle soup was a big hit.

Ballymaloe Original Relish (RRP £2.20) is a lovely tomato relish that we've tasted before, maybe in a previous Degustabox ? Created by Myrtle Allen, Ireland's first female Michelin star chef in 1964, it is a tried-and-tested recipe made in small batches using only 100% natural ingredients. It adds a delicious hit of sweetness that goes well in ham sandwiches, cheese on toast or just on the side of the plate (or mixed into mash or rice, if you follow the kids !).

Nature's Heart Sea Salt & Pepper Crunch (RRP £2.25 - other Degustaboxers got Smoky BBQ or Chilli & Lemon Crunch) is a snack made of crunchy edamame, peas, broad beans and seeds. As well as providing one of your 5-a-day portions, it is high in protein (12g per 50g) and fibre (7g per 50g). It can be nibbled straight from the bag but is also good sprinkled over salad for some extra crunchy texture.

Nick's Peanuts n' Fudge (RRP £1.50) is, just as the name suggests, a peanut bar with creamy fudge, wrapped in milk chocolate. It tastes very sweet and "normal" so I was surprised to learn that it contains no added sugar. It is also gluten free and contains no palm oil.


Shaken Udder Milkshakes (RRP 2 x £1.59) are always a big hit with the Madhouse kids who love the rich flavours and the creaminess of the drinks. We got Vanillalicious (made with real vanilla beans) and Chocolush (made with Belgian chocolate) which were both declared delicious. They are a great source of protein and calcium, contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, are gluten free and suitable for vegetarians. Best of all - they taste great ! Close inspection of the flyers in the box revealed a voucher for another free bottle - bonus !

Dalston's Real Squeezed Cherry / Rhubarb Sparkling Water (RRP 2 x £1.25) are drinks born in an East London nightclub and made by chefs. They promise full flavour fizz made with real fruit that's better for people and the planet. They are low in calories, free of refined sugar and artificial ingredients, carbon neutral and farm friendly. The kids enjoyed the original and natural flavours. Available at Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Asda, Ocado and amazon.


Brixton Brewery Reliance Pale Ale (RRP £2) declares itself to be as bold and fresh as the South London neighbourhood it is proud to call home. It is described as a drink that is perfectly balanced, easy-going and full of flavour. I love the brightly coloured can but I'm not a fan of beers so I've passed this on to a friend.

Dorset Cereals Dark Choc & Hazelnut Muesli Crunch (RRP £3.69) is utterly delicious, both in a bowl with milk or grabbed by the handful as a snack straight from the box ! It is made from the brand's signature muesli grains, tumbled with light and crispy granola clusters, deluxe dark chocolate curls and cocoa caramelised hazelnuts. The tastes and textures work really well together and the whole box disappeared in record time !

Kit Kat Chunky Caramel (RRP 2 x 70p) is this month's Product of the Month and I had to chop them in half because everyone wanted a taste. The usual crispy wafer is topped with runny caramel before being covered in milk chocolate. It tastes just as good as it sounds and we had to say, going back to the traditional Kit Kat would be a step down. Delicious ! 

Starbucks Salted Caramel Signature Chocolate (RRP £4.25) had the kids going "oooh" as soon as they spotted the Starbucks logo ! Inspired by the drinks they sell instore, Starbucks have created a caramelly hot chocolate powder with a hint of salt to prepare at home. Simply stir with warm milk for the ultimate indulgent tasting experience. You get ten sticks of hot chocolate powder in the box so it works out more expensive than regular hot chocolate, but top with squirty cream and a biscuit on the side for a cheaper alternative to a trip to your local Starbucks ! The kids were very impressed.

 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 means you'll get the first box for just £9.99 - enter code PKUFE at the checkout. 

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

Saturday 22 October 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 43

I'm back ! Did you miss me ?! Last time I blogged, the Norwegian group was about to go home, Sophie was back home from England and Juliette was on a school trip to Ireland. Things were busy on all fronts, which was why I assumed I wasn't feeling great. Then I kept feeling like my lungs were closing up overnight so I headed to the doctor's, who gave me a couple of inhalers and sent me for a lung x-ray. I didn't even have the time to go back with my test results before I was carted off to hospital in an ambulance when my lungs got so tight, I could hardly breathe. After a day in hospital, a week off work and a dose of antibiotics (and paracetamol three times a day - I thought paracetamol was just pain relief ?!), I'm starting to feel a bit better (but still coughing and short of breath) so I guess their diagnosis of lung infection was right. After two days back at school (tough going but I survived !), I'm just starting two weeks off on holiday - phew ! Time to recover ! Today we got a new fridge delivered (the old one flaked out) and dashed about sorting out Sophie's new flat - she's off to live in Lille in a few days. What did I say about relaxing ?! While I've been chilling out at home, I've bookmarked lots of new recipes to try out, depending on how I feel.


lunch- chickpea & roasted cauliflower stew with couscous (beefburger & couscous for Pierre and Juliette)

dinner - cauliflower cheese (pasta carbonara for Pierre/Sophie - probably half and half for Juliette !)


lunch- mici (Romanian kind of meatballs) with mash & salad/tomatoes

dinner- chicken cacciatore with rice



lunch - Sophie's moving day so we'll probably all head to Lille for the day

dinner- final family dinner for a while in a restaurant?


lunch- battered fish, ebly & peas

dinner - chilli con carne & rice


lunch- chicken tacos

dinner- pizza & garlic bread

lunch- tartiflette

dinner- spaghetti bolognese

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

Wednesday 5 October 2022

September 2022 Degustabox review : Family Sharing

 With September rolling around, everybody has gone back to work and school, which means I've been scouring the supermarket shelves, looking for lunchbox fillers, quick and simple lunches and snack options to keep the Madhouse kids' tummies filled while I'm at work. This month's Degustabox had loads of new products for us to try out that fit the bill perfectly. With the Family Sharing theme, there was even enough for me to try out most of them too !

We started off with Yogi Tea Bedtime Organic (RRP £2.59 - other Degustabox subscribers received Classic Organic or Throat Comfort Organic). Sophie has already tried some other products from this company, who use unique herb and spice blends to create organic and ayurvedic teas. This one contains fennel, chamomile flowers and valerian root to provide a relaxing, calming and warming blend, perfect for soothing stressed minds and helping you wind down for a good night's sleep. Each tea-tag offers yogic wisdom and the back of the pack shows a yoga exercise to treat you to a moment of mindfulness.

Very Lazy Chopped Garlic (RRP £1.60) is perfect as a shortcut for everyday cooking. I usually buy fresh garlic but always end up throwing at least half a bulb away as the final cloves go either mouldy or rock hard before I get a chance to use them. This is a great way of cutting down on food waste. One teaspoon is equal to a clove of garlic. Plus it avoids having the stinky garlic-infused fingers that you always end up with after chopping fresh garlic !


Weetabix On The Go (RRP £3) is a smooth breakfast drink that the whole family can enjoy, providing energy from iron, fibre and protein. The Madhouse kids loved the chocolate flavour but I'd also be interested to try out the Strawberry one too now. A great way of getting something into the stomachs of those who can't face food first thing in the morning.

Robinsons Real Fruit Jelly Orange (RRP £2.49) is a fun new take on a dessert for a lunchbox or an afternoon snack. As it is sucked straight out of the pouch, it is mess-free, making it perfect for younger kids but the Madhouse kids proved that it is a winner for bigger kids too. Not only does it contain real fruit juice, it also contains no added sugar and the kids loved the classic Robinsons flavours.

I have three kids so it was lovely to see that there were three bars of this next product in the box ! Ritter Sport Don Choco (RRP £1.50) is a new limited edition bar from Ritter, featuring the slo-operations director and all round super sloth on their cocoa plantation - the plantation that provides the cocoa for making the dark milk chocolate in the bars. The chocolate is rich and creamy and uses 100% certified sustainable cocoa.

Kelloggs Cookies & Cream Flavour Krave (RRP £2.99) is a new cereal option that I'd never heard of but the kids were all really excited about, especially as they'd seen it mentioned online several times. Judging by the speed at which they worked their way through the pack, I would say they love it as much as they hoped ! It's apparently great for breakfast, an evening snack or by the handful whenever they pass by the box ! At least I can feel a bit better knowing that it contains B vitamins and no artificial colours or flavours.

Another big hit with the kids that disappeared in record time, Pitch Pasquier Chocolate Filled Brioche (RRP £1.50) are much loved. Individually wrapped, they are great for snacks on-the-go or shoved into a coat pocket as a last attempt to get something into reluctant breakfast eaters' stomachs on the way to school. They are free from artificial colours, preservatives and hydrogenated fats but the new plus point is the move away from plastic packaging on to the new cardboard packaging (currently found at Tesco Express).

Knorr Gravy Pot Onion Gravy (RRP £1.79) is a quick and simple way to create a rich gravy in seconds. Just add hot water and stir, adding cooking juices from the roast meat if you wish, for a delicious gravy that tastes as good as home made. They are also lovely added to the slow cooker for the last half hour, thickening up watery sauces if necessary. Another great way to save time and effort when you're in a rush.

Kaisen Seafood Cup Noodles (RRP £1.79 - other subscribers got Chicken Teriyaki, which I must admit appeals to me more) promises a sensational and well-seasoned creamy chowder with a rich flavour in just 3 minutes. Loved by the Japanese for over 30 years, who knows? Maybe it will be a big hit with the kids ? A quick lunch or snack option that couldn't be simpler to prepare.

Dr Will's Miso Tahini Dressing (RRP £3.50) claims to be "for any thing". Hmm ... maybe not for cereal or chocolate chip cookies, but it could be great drizzled over salads, rice bowls and veggies. A full fusion dressing that will take your cooking up a notch. Perfect for jazzing up leftover rice or noodles, amongst other things.

Finishing off with this month's Product of the Month, McVities Coconut Macaroon Hobnobs (RRP £1.75) were guaranteed to be a big hit.Hobnobs always get a good reception as we love their sweet, crunchy, crumbly texture. Add the flavour of coconut macaroons which reminded me of my afternoon cooking lessons at primary school and you get an even bigger flavour hit. Delicious !

 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 means you'll get the first box for just £9.99 - enter code PKUFE at the checkout. 

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

Sunday 2 October 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 40

We're heading into a busy week for me, as the Norwegian and Spanish teachers are coming to Dunkirk for the end of our big "critical thinking" joint project. That's the end of a 6-year partnership and to be honest, I'm feeling quite relieved - one less thing to worry about, although it has been fun. Sophie is back though and will be able to help out with getting food on the table - she decided against going back to England at the last minute so will now be heading off to Lille, either to get a job or pick up her studies. Time will tell. Juliette is off in Ireland all week on a school exchange. I can't keep up with it all ! I'll plan simple meals as Sophie will probably go off piste and work out what she wants to cook all by herself !


lunch- school canteen for me, leftovers for the kids

dinner - BBQ chicken & pasta


lunch- school canteen for me, leftovers for whoever eats at home 

dinner- meal with the Norwegian/Spanish teachers for me, Sophie can rustle something up for her and Pierre


lunch- meal with the Norwegian/Spanish teachers for me, Sophie can rustle something up for her and Pierre

dinner- baked potatoes (stuffed with bacon, cheese, onions & peppers)


lunchmeal with the Norwegian/Spanish teachers for me, Sophie can rustle something up for her and Pierre

dinner- Sophie can cook for everyone


lunch- canteen for me, leftovers for the kids

dinner - pasta carbonara


lunch- chicken, veg & noodles (I have a bottle of Korean sauce from a Degustabox which may be good)

dinner- cottage pie

lunch- roast chicken & creamy potato bake

dinner- bacon sandwiches

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

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