Monday, 26 June 2017

Globecooking recipe : Seadas (Sardinia) #readcookeat

I recently finished reading Under A Sardinian Sky by Sara Alexander, which is halfway between chicklit and historical fiction. (Click through to read my review.) It is set in post World War II Sardinia and is packed with evocative descriptions of the island's food, all of which I've bookmarked, so I'm sure I'll be trying some more of them in the not too distant future. The first one that I recreated was something that I knew would definitely appeal to the Madhouse family :

p33 The afternoon trickled through another bottle of each digestif, alongside plentiful servings of Maria's seadas, thin pastry-encased slices of cheese, pan-fried till crispy on the outside and oozing on the inside, topped with a drizzle of the neighbour's acacia honey.

These days, seadas are commonly eaten as a dessert, but originally they were served as a main meal. I couldn't convince the kids to dowse their cheesy parcels in honey, so I served them for lunch with mashed potatoes and cherry tomatoes. The gooey cheese filling was a unanimous hit and frying pastry actually works better than I expected, but I think I'd oven bake them next time, just to make them slightly healthier (or less unhealthy, at least !).


ingredients :

1 sheet of ready-made shortcrust pastry 
cheese - traditionally pecorino, made with sheep's milk
olive oil for frying

You can, of course, make your own pastry from scratch, but it was the middle of a heatwave and any shortcuts that got me out of the kitchen were more than welcome ! Use a large cookie cutter to cut out discs of pastry.

I couldn't find pecorino, which would be the authentic Sardinian option, so I went for a mixture of tomme, which is a French cheese made with sheep's milk, and asiago, which is an Italian cheese made with cow's milk. Looking online, I saw several websites saying that parmesan can be substituted for pecorino too.

Hold a disc of pastry in the palm of your hand, lay several chunks of cheese on one half, flip over the other side of the pastry and crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork to seal.

Heat some olive oil in a large pan and fry on both sides in batches until golden brown. 

Drain on kitchen paper and serve, as a savoury meal or drizzled in honey for dessert.

The gooey, salty cheese perfectly complements the crispy, flaky pastry and they only take minutes to prepare.

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

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Summertime thirst-quenchers to survive the heatwave (review)

Baby, it's hot outside ! I like bright sunny days, especially at the weekend or when I'm on holiday, but it's been absolutely sweltering lately, so keeping everyone's liquid levels topped up has been of the utmost importance. Luckily, I've received several new drinks lately to help encourage everyone at the Madhouse to keep drinking, starting with English Tea Shop's new iced tea teabags.

The range is made with the finest organic teas, herbs, fruits and flowers, to create an array of tantalising flavours to be enjoyed chilled. From zingy blends to fabulously fruity concoctions, there is a cool brew to satisfy every taste. We received Cool Breeze (Peppermint & Strawberry with a hint of Hibiscus - RRP £9) and Indian Summer (Green Tea, Lemongrass & Citrus - RRP £8.43), but there are also Summer Haze (Lemon and Hibiscus with subtle notes of Rosehip, Orange and Lemongrass - RRP £9) and Berry Boost (Pomegranate and Blueberry, complemented by Hibiscus, Rosehip and Apple - RRP £8.79).

You need to be slightly organised and plan ahead because the iced tea starts like normal tea, with boiling water. After letting one of the large tea bags steep in boiling water to release the flavours, you can top up with cool water but it will need to be chilled for a few hours or even overnight to reach optimum temperature. You can add sugar to taste and garnish with ice cubes and slices of fruit or fresh mint leaves for a healthier alternative to most of the sugar-packed ready-made iced teas on the supermarket shelves. I wasn't sure what the kids would think as it has a more sophisticated, natural and less sweet flavour, but they loved it. It appeals to adults with a more discerning palate too. 

The next one surprised me because it was flavour that I wouldn't have associated with a drink - Cinnamora, with a cinnamon flavour. Cinnamon is bang on trend at the moment, but it also offers a number of possible health benefits - it is a strong antioxidant, can help with indigestion and potentially promotes better cholesterol and diabetic control, although this has yet to be proven. The drink contains Cinnamomum Zeylanicum (which is a type of cinnamon) Extract, Citric Acid, Sucralose and water. There is no sugar, artificial flavouring or colours.

Available in both sparkling and still varieties, it is a refreshing, natural-tasting drink that reminded me somewhat of coconut water. (In fact, I checked the ingredients, convinced it was made with coconut water but no, it's regular water !) The cinnamon flavour is there and it's recognisable but it's subtle so it won't overpower your tastebuds if you're not a huge cinnamon fan. Sophie didn't like it (but she doesn't like the taste of cinnamon), I thought it was slightly bland but would happily drink it because I love the fact that it contains almost zero calories and was created by two doctors who want to encourage healthy living, and Pierre absolutely loves it and would happily guzzle it all day long ! I checked on the website - Cinnamora uses only Cinnamon Zeylanicum which has insignificant quantities of coumarin and Cinnamon has been given Generally Recognized As Safe status by the FDA at dosages of up to 6 g/day, which is equivalent to 12 bottles of 330ml Cinnamora a day. It's available on amazon, in selected retailers and on their website with an RRP of £1 a can with £2.90 postage, or £7 for 7 cans with free postage.

Another healthy option is the Naked Pressed range of juices, made with fruit, vegetables and spices. To achieve a fresh taste that's bursting with flavour, Naked select only the best produce and then cold press the juice with chilled pressure, squashing the ingredients, whilst preserving the natural flavours. There are three varieties : Bright Greens is a mix of seven juices, including apple, cucumber, spinach and wheatgrass, masterfully blended to be slightly sweet and invigorating. Lively Carrot, a five juice blend, includes carrot, cucumber, orange, lemon and apple, combined with vanilla bean and turmeric for a sweet and spicy flavour. Bold Beet is a blend of five juices, as vivid in colour as it is in flavour, containing beetroot, cucumber, carrot and apple, with a hint of ginger. The Madhouse kids love fruit juices but I knew they would be put off by the colours and the mention of vegetables, so we had a blindfolded tasting game. (The girls were instantly on their guard but Pierre thought it was great fun !) They liked the green one (until they saw it !), but they weren't keen on the other two. As a healthy, refreshing choice for discerning adults, they are a great way to start the day though, especially as they count as one of your 5-a-day, and they contain less sugar than many fruit juices. RRP £3.79 for 600ml (Bold Beet, Bright Greens & Lively Carrot) or £2.29 for 250ml (Bright Greens & Lively Carrot)

And finally Rocks Drinks Sparkling Elderflower, which I cheekily told the Madhouse Kids they wouldn't like so that I didn't have to share it ! It's a refreshing, delicate, sophisticated flavour that is perfect for sipping over ice on a hot summer's day. It can be enjoyed on its own or mixed with prosecco or martini, enhanced with sprigs of fresh mint and slices of lemon, lime or cucumber or even used in summery desserts, such as granita or jelly. It's available in independent retailers, farm shop, delis, restaurants, pubs and online priced at £1.99 per 250ml bottle.

What about you? Have you discovered any exciting new drinks lately? What's your favourite summery tipple?

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

Book review : The Brazilian - Rosie Millard

If you're heading off to sunny climes this summer and are getting into holiday preparation mode, make sure you put "Don't Forget The Brazilian" on your to-do list. Don't head to the beauty salon though - get down to your local bookstore and grab a copy of Rosie Millard's perfect poolside read !

When I first saw the title, I idly wondered if it related to the bikini line or the nationality - it turns out that it's both, and if that sounds surprising, it will all make sense once you tune into the irreverent, light-hearted prose, peopled with characters who are so pompous, pretentious and narcissistic that you'll want to scream at them.

The plot centres around stuck-up yummy mummy Jane who decides to take herself, her family and - all importantly - her nanny, off for a relaxing break in Ibiza. When she finds out that a reality show is being filmed just up the road, she is determined to grab her five minutes of fame, particularly when she discovers that some of her neighbours are contestants.

Most of the characters are very one dimensional and pretty odious and the few who are a bit more balanced and realistic are very bland and fade into the background. The plot is flimsy but frequently made me smile, although I thought it ended not with a bang but a whimper (my apologies to TS Eliot). I couldn't really see the point of the final get-together because nothing actually happened - I was hoping for a final showdown or last minute attempt at grabbing the limelight.

For a frivolous summertime easy-read, it's perfect. Having endured some of the vacuous reality shows that my kids tend to love watching on TV, it's a pretty accurate representation of most of the candidates too !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (14 Jun. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1787199878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1787199873
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.4 x 13 cm

Check out the rest of the bloggers taking part in the blog tour !

Disclosure : I received a review copy, in order to write an honest review.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Globecooking recipe : Solomillos de cerdo con Pedro Ximénez, filet mignon with vegetable rice (Spain)

This was one of the recipes from my Spanish-themed Kitchen Trotter box and, despite a complicated name, it's actually a very quick and simple dish. The saffron-infused rice studded with vegetables was very similar to the base of paella. I don't often use filet mignon but it's simple to prepare, quick to cook and results in beautifully juicy meat - definitely something I'll be buying again.

The recipe used two ingredients from the box - some saffron and a jar of Salsa de Pedro Ximénez con Pasas, a reduction of wine with raisins which can be used to accompany both sweet and savoury dishes and tastes of sherry.

Solomillos de cerdo con Pedro Ximénez 

ingredients :

500g pork filet mignon
4tbsp Salsa de Pedro Ximénez con Pasas
a pinch of saffron
250g rice
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic
60cl chicken stock
a drizzle of olive oil
salt, pepper

Start by dicing all the veggies (garlic, onion, red and green peppers, tomatoes).

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the vegetables (minus the tomatoes) for a few minutes until they go soft.

Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for a few minutes.

Add the rice, the chicken stock, the saffron and the salt and pepper.

Cook for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the liquid is absorbed (add extra water if necessary) and the rice is al dente.

Chop the filet mignon into medallions.

Cook in a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan on both sides for a few minutes until cooked through but not overcooked. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the Pedro Ximénez reduction and shake the pan to coat the pork.

Serve the rice, put some pork slices around the edge and drizzle over the remaining cooking juices from the pan. Buen provecho !

Fancy trying some more Spanish cuisine? How about : 

Fab freebies of the week 24/6

Morning all, and welcome to this week's bumper roundup of the best new UK freebies. I hope you find something that takes your fancy :)


Super Savvy Me have 500 packs of Ariel Pods up for grabs

Sign up for a free sample pack of Mixa skincare

For you and for someone special, claim your free Emporio Armani his and her sample!

The Collective Big Tubs are here to make brekkie and snack times fun and healthy for your little ones! Created especially for kids with whole milk yoghurt and fruit, and absolutely no nasties - you’ll find these creamy yoghurts with no bits are perfect to enjoy all week long! Try one for FREE today from CheckoutSmart

Introducing the NEW Self Tan Express Face Sheet Mask, our latest beauty innovation that allows you to control your depth of tan in 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Sign up now for your chance to try this beauty breakthrough, and see for yourself how easy it is to get a flawless facial glow.

Simply fill in your email address to download the voucher and receive one of our FREE Lip Effects service at your nearest Estée Lauder counter.

Babease baby food pouch FREE sample voucher - Complete the form and they will email you instructions on how to get a one-time only free sample voucher (that you print at home) to use in store at Tesco.

Don't forget you can get exclusive news, purr-fect offers and furry fun by joining our Pet Parents Club! Sign up by 31.07.17 to claim your free treats, UK Only.

To take part in the Lotus Biscoff Try Me Free promotion, purchase a promotionally stickered packet of Lotus Biscuits within the promotional period 24th April 2017 – 30th September 2017, and then enter your details below to claim your money back.

On the Queen Fit facebook page : Give us a like and we send you a free sample of our products
👉For priv please give your name, address, email address
👉You have time until July 16th
Visit us at

3,000 savvy circlers will be trying out Oral-B Gum & Enamel Repair, the best clicnically-proven toothpaste from Oral-B that helps rejuvenate gums and repair enamel in 2 weeks

Can you go the extra mile this summer? By running or cycling to work you can be a part of Red Bull’s UK-wide Million Mile Commute. Join the club in Strava to be eligible for a Red Bull sample kit to set you on your way, and many more rewards.

You have 500 chances to win a radiance serum from Trilogy

If you’d like to receive 5 FREE 1 wash samples of Surcare’s super concentrated laundry liquid, simply fill in the form below and we’ll post them to you! If you have a friend who you think would like this offer too, just click the ‘share with a friend’ button at the top of the page and they’ll receive an email with a link to this form. We hope you enjoy your FREE samples - don’t forget to Tweet us once it arrives!

4,000 lucky trndsters will have the chance to try out Batiste's new 2in1 Dry Shampoo & Conditioner and experience how it refreshes roots and targets dryness, for gorgeously soft, conditioned hair. Keep an eye on the website as they have a new project going live on Tuesday for a "tropical brand".

@angelrevive Hi fit friends 🙋🏼 want some #free samples? #RT & follow us & we will sort you right out (UK only) 😇💧 #giveaway #fitness #fitfam #gym #sport

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 :

Friday, 23 June 2017

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 23/6

All those things that have had me running around like a headless chicken for the last few weeks are now behind me - three school trips, after-school meetings, end of term and end of year reports, the visit from the Norwegian teacher exchange group, ... That means that I can start winding down into holiday mood and start working through my bookmarked recipes again ! I've got lots of dessert and sweet treat recipes to make from old Kitchen Trotter boxes so I'm going to add a list at the end of my menu plan so that I have inspiration when I want to make something. That's more of an ongoing project over the coming months though, so I won't make them all this week !


lunch - it's that time of week again ... McDonald's ! Actually we've defected to Burger King lately and went to KFC last week but it's the same idea.

dinner - lentil & bacon stew


lunch - probably BBQ, if not, it'll be roast dinner.

dinner - leftovers from lunch


dinner - Bokkeumbap, a Korean stir fry


dinner - rice filled spinach rolls, a Serbian recipe


lunch - veggie pakoras, meatballs (for the kids who probably won't eat the pakoras !), raita and rice

dinner - I have a recipe for homemade deep pan pizza, cooked in a frying pan (not sure it will work but I'll give it a try !)


dinner - homemade gravlax, with fresh bread (time to dig out the bread machine !)


dinner - I think there will be a fridge full of leftovers, but if not pasta with a bacon/tomato sauce

Baking projects :

tiricche - Sardinian pastry, filled with fig jam and rolled into horseshoes
formagelle, small Sardinian cheese tarts sweetened with honey, candied orange and raisins
papassini - moist raisin-dotted cookies, from Sardinia again
on to Spain - turron nougat cream dessert
oblande - Serbian wafer dessert
Pan Masala Paneer
Piparkakku - gingerbread type biscuits from Finland - and a cream dessert to go with them

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 22 June 2017

#GoGadgetFree for National Unplugging Day this Sunday

This year’s National Unplugging Day is being held on Sunday 25th June 2017 and parents around the UK and beyond are being asked to pledge to #GoGadgetFree and spend the day from sun-up to sun-down without any technology. That means no screens at all, except for sunscreen, which will be essential in this heatwave if you're planning on spending time outdoors !

 To celebrate the day, Ravensburger offered to send us one of their board games to play with, and as I looked through the list, I realised just how many of their games we already play and love. (You might like to click through to check out our reviews.)

Bugs In The Kitchen is always good for a giggle, especially as I find the Hex bug a bit creepy so theMadhouse kids love making it scuttle across the worktop when I'm busy making dinner, once they've finished playing !

Labyrinth is also a great family favourite that appeals to players of all ages, because you can try playing strategically or just move random pieces about and laugh in delight when it ruins everyone's carefully laid out plans (which is Pierre's usual way of playing !). This picture highlights several of our tech-free pastimes in fact - not just board games but also a pyjama day combined with an indoor den.

Asara is another game of strategy, better suited to older players who want a longer, more challenging game

Despite its 8+ suggested age range, Indigo is slightly easier for younger siblings to join in with because it's involves creating pathways, which is more visual and less abstract.

This time, we discovered Penguin Pile Up, a fun game for children aged 5+. which is quick and simple to explain with absolutely no complicated rules or lengthy setting up required - always a bonus when you want to enjoy some quality time with the kids but are short on time.

The first job was clipping together the white and black plastic pieces to form penguins - Pierre found this simple and also great fun so he happily set everything up. The only other thing to do before you can start playing is share them out amongst the players.

Players take it in turns to gently place a penguin on the ice bank without making it tip up or wobble too much. If you're too heavy handed, you'll make them all slide off and you lose the game. You can see in the photo how hard Pierre is concentrating !

Board games are a great way of avoiding cries of "I'm bored" during screen-free time, but Ravensburger have another range that is perfect as a fun family challenge to while away an afternoon - their puzzles, including the 3d puzzles that we always love putting together as a team. (Click through to see some of the 3d puzzles that we have reviewed.)

If you fancy getting out and about in the fresh air, I highly recommend giving geocaching a go too - it's a great way of finding little known local areas and will have the kids walking miles with no complaints !

What do you have planned as fun family #GoGadgetFree activities for National Unplugging Day?

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

Giveaway #632 : Win 1 of 2 L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls - closing date 6/7

L.O.L Surprise! is the newest collectable craze in the UK - as the ultimate unboxing toy is combined with the anticipation of surprise, it’s no surprise it has sold out across the UK!

Much like unwrapping a gift, watch the excitement build as each of the 7 layers reveals a different surprise, including an emoji sticker, accessory, and finally their hero - a L.O.L Surprise! Doll. Never a dull outfit day for these fierce dolls, mix and match accessories with each character to work out who wears it best.

Not your average dolls, these fashion-forward characters are packed with personality. From Rockers to Merbabies, each L.O.L Surprise! comes complete with bathtub, doll stand and hangout, all doubling up as a purse.

But the surprise doesn’t end there, once the final layer has been unwrapped, feed the adorable tot water with its baby bottle accessory and reveal its feature – with special dolls changing colour when placed in cold water! With over 45 to collect, there has never been a more exciting time to start collecting the ultimate unboxing experience that offers a different surprise with each layer.

To find out more, check out our L.O.L. Surprise! review or head over to the L.O.L. Surprise! website.

This is also your chance to win one of the L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls. I have two to send to two lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers (one each) - just fill in your entries via the rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 6/7/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook 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 !

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Globecooking recipe : Gazpacho manchego de mera (Spain)

When I saw a recipe in my Spanish-themed Kitchen Trotter box for a gazpacho, I was expecting to discover a cold soup. This fishy version from Valencia, however, is to be eaten hot and it's more like a stew than a soup. We ate ours lukewarm as it was such a hot day and it was perfect as a summer meal.

It required two products from the box - some saffron and a pack of Tortas Cenceñas, which are like mini crackers. I thought they'd go soggy and horrible but you can't even detect them in the finished dish - they just bulk it out and thicken it.

Gazpacho manchego de mera

ingredients :

300g white fish
3 very ripe tomatoes
1/2 a red pepper
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
a good pinch of saffron
1/2 a bag of tortas cenceñas or crackers
2 bay leaves
500ml water 
1tbsp tomato concentrate
2tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper

Cook the fish in a drizzle of olive oil for 5 minutes on each side and set aside. Season with salt and pepper. I chopped mine into chunks to save time as it will be broken up in the gazpacho anyway.

In a separate pan (or, to save washing up, put the fish into a large soup pan and reuse the frying pan), heat a drizzle of olive oil and cook the onions, garlic and red pepper for 5 minutes, along with the bay leaves.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Put the fish in a large soup pot and mash it up with a fork. Remove any visible bones.

Stir the tomato mixture into the fish and crumble the crackers over the top. Toss in the saffron and gradually stir in 500ml of boiling water. 

Cook for 15 minutes, adding extra water if necessary so that it doesn't dry out. I added a squeeze of tomato concentrate too but this wasn't in the original recipe.

Serve warm.

Fancy trying some more Spanish cuisine? How about :