Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Get More Kids vitamin water review

I had a little giggle when I reread the title of my blogpost because my first thought was that it sounded like a viagra-infused energy drink for tired couples who want a bigger family ! Who knows? Maybe there's a niche market there just waiting to be exploited, but Get More actually offer a range of tasty, fruity-flavoured drinks with added vitamins and minerals, for both children and adults. We've been trying out the kids' range and they were such a big hit that the Madhouse kids requested we "get more" next time we go shopping !

There are three flavours available, each of which offers a different combination of vitamins :

Mango, in the red bottle, with Vitamin D and calcium, to support growing bones

Apple, in the green bottle, with Multivitamins, to help growing bodies stay healthy

Orange, in the orange bottle, to support the immune system 

They were all a huge hit. The Madhouse kids loved the flavours, the handy sports cap and the fact that if they peeled off the (conveniently perforated) plastic sleeve, they could sneakily get round the "just plain water" rule at school (cheeky !). As a parent, I also love the fact that they are low calorie (less than 5 calories per bottle) and sugar-free, as well as fat-free and salt-free. They are made with spring water, added vitamins, natural flavours and sweetener (sucralose). All three of the kids' drinks are still, which is good news for Juliette who doesn't like fizzy drinks - the adult range offers both still and sparkling options. There is also a Get More vitamins chewing gum, which sounds intriguing.

Get More drinks are available in most supermarkets and some high street stores (WH Smiths, Nisa, Spar, ...). The kids' drinks can be bough in a four pack (£2.69 at Tesco) and the adult versions are included in the Tesco meal deal (sandwich/salad, snack & drink for £3).

for more information :

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

Giveaway #653 : Win a Milkshake! Brand New Besties dvd - closing date 2/11

Join a host of the biggest stars in pre-school television from Channel 5’s Milkshake! as they join forces in over two hours of fabulous fun, magical mischief and awesome adventure with the release of a brand new DVD collection by Abbey Home Media on Monday 23rd October.

Whether it’s keeping a secret, learning to compromise, solving a problem, searching for clues or planning the best sleepover ever, our heroes put their friends firmly first!

This very special compilation of the very best pre-school shows from the long-running Channel 5 pre-school brand Milkshake! features some of their best-loved characters, including PAW Patrol, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam, Poppy Cat, Noddy, Toyland Detective and Bob the Builder.

Featuring in this new collection are:-

PAW Patrol - In ‘Pups Save the Paw Patroller’, Mayor Humdinger has swiped the PAW Patroller! The pups need to get it back and save that meddling mayor too.

Digby Dragon – In ‘Disappearing Spell’, Digby’s friend Sprite comes to visit, and Fizzy casts a disappearing spell on her. When Grizel and Mungo take Spellbook, it seems impossible to magic Sprite back again.

Bob The Builder – In ‘Where’s Pilchard?’, when Muck has to shoo Pilchard out of his way, she suddenly vanishes. Leo and the machines run around trying to find her before Bob realises she’s disappeared.

Peppa Pig – In ‘Playing Pretend’, when Peppa’s bike gets a flat tyre and needs fixing, Peppa and her friends have fun riding their imaginary bikes and jumping in pretend muddy puddles.

Shimmer and Shine – In ‘Flying Flour’, the girls bake magical flying cookies, but Zeta and Nazboo sneak in to steal the flying flour.

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – In ‘Lucy’s Elf & Fairy Party’, Lucy celebrates her birthday with an Elf and Fairy party. Lucy’s Dad does a magic show but things get a bit out of hand when Princess Holly and her friends join in…

Fireman Sam – In ‘Best Sleepover Ever’, Norman, Mandy, Sarah and James are having
a sleepover at Mandy’s house. Norman is determined that it will be the ‘Best Sleepover Ever’.

Simon – In ‘The Secret’, it’s Gaspard’s birthday. Simon has found out where Mummy has
hidden his brother’s present. But Simon has sworn he’ll keep it a secret!

Poppy Cat – In ‘Underwater Picnic’, when Zuzu and Alma both arrive with plans for the
group, Poppy teaches them the art of compromise. They set off in the submarine for Seaweed Sea to look for the speedy turtle and have an underwater picnic.

Floogals – In ‘Project Caterpillar’, Boomer has become very fond of the 3 stripy caterpillars that the kids are keeping in the shed. When one vanishes, the Floogals stake out the container they are in to see if they can solve the mystery.

Olly the Little White Van – In ‘Bad Luck Olly’, Olly is going through a run of terrible luck. The more he tries to help people the more things go wrong. Help comes from the most unlikely place as Bazza helps him relax and do what comes naturally….Helping!

Puffin Rock – In ‘Mossy Impossible’, Oona is in danger. She’s tangled up in fishing twine near Seagull Cliff and the seagulls will be back soon! Mossy and Bernie try to free her, but they need help from Mama and Papa Puffin.

Noddy, Toyland Detective – In ‘Broken Crystal Memory Game’, Noddy needs to find out
who broke the Crystal Memory Game before the start of the Daredale Challenge Obstacle Race!

Thomas & Friends TM – In ‘Toby’s New Friend’,  Philip spots Toby and assumes that he is a diesel boxcab just like him. Convinced that they will become best friends, Philip rushes up to introduce himself, but Toby finds him rather overwhelming.

It's a lovely collection of episodes with fun stories and important life lessons for young viewers - perfect for keeping the kids entertained during half term and with over two hours of content, it's a total bargain ! (It's already available for pre-order at amazon for £5.99)

  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Abbey Home Media Group
  • DVD Release Date: 23 Oct. 2017
  • Run Time: 150 minutes

I have a copy of the dvd to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 2/11/17

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 !

Giveaway #651 : Master Builder Roller Coaster Marble Run book - closing date 23/10

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Book review : With Malice - Eileen Cook

Jill Charron, an 18-year-old American high school student who is super-excited about going to Italy on a once-in-a-lifetime school trip, dreams that the experience will change her life and give her memories to last forever. When she wakes up in a hospital bed with severe injuries from a car accident and amnesia that has wiped out her recent memories, her first thoughts are that she has to get better so that she can still go to Italy and she needs her best friend Simone, for moral support and to fill in the gaps in her memory. Her parents eventually have to break the bad news to her : the accident took place in Italy and Simone, who was in the car that Jill was driving, died in the accident.

Things go from bad to worse as she discovers that everyone, including the Italian police, her school friends and the press, are convinced that it wasn't an accident and Jill is to blame. As she has no memory of even being in Italy, let alone the accident, Jill tries to make sense of the facts and suppositions that the police investigation throws up : a fight with Simone, an Italian boyfriend who cheated on her with Simone, ... As the blurb says on the back of the book : "If you can't remember what happened, how can you be sure you're not to blame?"

I was totally gripped and raced through the book in a couple of days. I found the story believable and could empathise with Jill (right up until the very end, which was the only part I found slightly disappointing). Discovering new nuggets of information and police statements, then trying to fit them into the story along with Jill, added suspense and seeing how the press and facebook groups could twist things to corroborate whichever viewpoint they wanted was a pretty damning but realistic representation of society.

Since the novel has teenaged protagonists, it is classed as young adult fiction but it would appeal to a much wider audience so don't be put off by the label.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £7.99

Disclosure : I won a copy of the book.

Globecooking recipe : Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken (USA)

Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken Tenders was one of the recipes from last month's USA-themed Kitchen Trotter box. It's a quick and simple dish that was a huge hit with the whole family and used up lots of odds and ends of condiments from the fridge - win-win !

My version tasted divine but wasn't pretty. Here's the picture from the recipe card and as you can see, it's much easier-on-the-eye. The recipe card said that you could crush the pretzels by hand or with a food processor, so I went for the former, but they were actually really hard so I couldn't manage to get the fine, even breadcrumbs texture from the official picture.

The recipe required one ingredient from the box - a pack of Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Pieces. They had a lovely tangy, sweet flavour but you would risk breaking a tooth if you ate the whole pack because they are really hard ! I had a rummage through the fridge and found lots of odds and ends of mild, sweet mustards, as well as some individual packs of honey that came back home with us from the breakfast bar in our hotel in Turkey this summer ! In the picture, I spot Canadian, Norwegian and American mustards, all from different Kitchen Trotter boxes - this is part of the reason that I'm not renewing my subscription, because I have too many spices and condiments to use up from previous boxes. I'll still be checking out the recipes and seeing what I can recreate with what I have though.

 Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken

ingredients :

500g chicken
salt & pepper
a bag of honey-mustard pretzel pieces (or similar - dried breadcrumbs would do)
4tbsp honey
4tbsp mayonnaise
4tbsp mustard (I used American yellow mustard and a bit of honey mustard)
a pinch of Cayenne pepper (optional)

Chop the chicken into chunks. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix together the honey, mayonnaise and mustard (along with the Cayenne pepper, if using) until you have a smooth sauce. Taste and adjust the balance of flavours, adding extra honey or mustard to suit your personal tastes. Pour half of the sauce into the bowl of chicken, stir and pop in the fridge to marinate for an hour (or however long you've got)

Crush the pretzel bites, using a small child and a rolling pin or, for a better consistency, a food processor.

Ideally, you should take a piece of marinated chicken and roll it in the pretzel crumbs until it is evenly coated. I still had fairly large chunks of pretzel so I just emptied the crushed pretzels in the bowl of chicken and stirred it all around with my hands until it was as evenly coated as possible. As you can see, I laid it all out on a baking tray ready to go in the oven at 180° for 25 minutes, as per the recipe. Then I looked at the time, realised I had 5 minutes until everyone arrived home for lunch and decided I need the faster plan B, transferred it all to a frying pan and 10 minutes later, we were ready to eat !

Serve the chicken with rice and salad or coleslaw, and use the remaining marinade as a sauce/dip for the chicken.

Even without the honey mustard pretzels this would be delicious, so I'll definitely be making this again, using crushed regular pretzels, died breadcrumbs or maybe crushed crisps or crispbread.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up lots of odds and ends of condiments from the fridge.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Good Egg Card Challenge: Social Kindness Game review

Did you know that 17th February is the annual Random Acts of Kindness Day? That doesn't mean you can't be nice to friends, family and even complete strangers on every other day of the year though, and The Good Egg Card Challenge is a great way to help inspire yourself, your children or, if you're a teacher, your pupils to see how they can do simple things to brighten up the lives of the people they encounter.

There is no need for instructions - the introduction cards explain that "this pack of cards is a portable adventure to discover if you are truly a 'good egg' ", which they define as "a kind person with great standards and qualities such as being helpful and good to other people". There is even a quotation from Sophocles to motivate you : "To be doing good deeds is man's most glorious task". 

There are 50 cards that are split into five categories : Giving, Caring, Thanking, Amusing and Surprising. Some are genuinely useful deeds, some will provide little unexpected awww-moments in someone's day, while some are just plain silly to put a smile on someone's face - probably including your own, whichever category you have drawn.

Some are very simple and won't take you out of your comfort zone, however shy or introverted you are - for example, "send a postcard/greetings card to an old friend to say hi" or "smiling is contagious - make 8 people smile in one day and give this card to one of them", while others (such as drawing a fake moustache on your face and walking down the street to make people laugh) require slightly more confidence !

There may be random acts of kindness that you already do or some that you had never thought of doing - taking your old books to a charity shop or paying for the coffee or bus fare of the person behind you in the queue can both be done on a regular basis, for example.

Other cards make you think about different ways of seeing the world and how you react to and interact with it. Rather than getting annoyed and impatient when you're in a queue, "swap places with the person behind you in the queue" - this will be particularly appreciated by a parent of a fraught toddler on the verge of a tantrum - or "help a spider out of your house/building without squashing it".

There are no rules - you can select a random card or go through the pack to choose one that appeals to you, you can play by yourself, with friends or family or even in a group such as a class or scout group. You could even buy packs for your friends and challenge yourself to a battle of kindness to see who can complete the most challenges in a set time. With Christmas on the way, it would be ideal as a Secret Santa gift or a stocking filler too. 

As an added bonus, performing acts of kindness has been scientifically proven to make people happier, slow ageing and improve relationships. In the current climate of doom and gloom, with everyone worried about everything from Brexit and terrorism to world politics and a potential new world war looming on the horizon, anything that can put a smile on people's faces and restore their faith in human kindness even for just a moment has to be a good thing. 

for more information :

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

DVD review : Rock Dog

Today sees the release on dvd of Rock Dog, a fun family film that frequently reminded us of a cross between Scooby Doo and Happy Feet (the story of the kid who doesn't fit in, has to find his own unique personality which goes against his father's wishes and, against all odds, ends up saving the community).

The film takes place on Snow Mountain where the resident Tibetan Mastiffs live a peaceful but boring life, guarding sheep from a group of big bad wolves led by Linnux. Music has been banned from the mountainside by Mastiff leader Khampa but things are about to change - his son Bodi discovers a radio dropped by a passing aeroplane and instantly decides he wants to become a rock’n’roll star. Defying his father's wishes to follow his dream, he heads to the city to find the legendary - and reclusive - musician Angus Scattergood, who needs to write a new song and fast. If Bodi can put a band together, help Angus with his song and defeat the wolves' plot to take Snow Mountain, his life will be in tune and he will become what he’s always dreamed of being: more than a dog … more than a rock god … he’ll be a ROCK DOG!

It's a fun, action-packed movie with funny characters and some good life lessons for both parents and kids.

Running Time: 90 minutes
Cert: PG

Disclosure : We received a review copy of the dvd.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Cadbury Dairy Milk Tiffin review

I thought I'd tried pretty much all of the different Cadbury Dairy Milk varieties at least once, but when I was given the chance to review a bar of Tiffin, I realised that this one had passed me by. It debuted in the UK over a decade ago, enjoyed a limited edition run as a 95g bar last summer and has now been brought back as a permanent fixture after an impassioned social media campaign by fans for its revival.

I remember making tiffin in a home economics class at school many years ago, mixing up broken digestive biscuits and raisins, covering them in chocolate and pressing them into a tin to set. These days, nobody talks about tiffin any more - it's fridge cake all the way - so I love the trip down memory lane that the name gives me. The Dairy Milk bar basically follows the same recipe, combining crunchy biscuit and dried grapes smothered in Cadbury Dairy Milk. This gives it a great mixture of flavours and textures and it was a hit with the whole family.

A 25g serving, equal to five chunks, contains 126 calories, 6.4g of fat (of which 3.8g saturates) and 15g of carbs (of which 13g sugar).

Cadbury Dairy Milk Tiffin is available in 200g bars, for a RRP of £2.49 at all major supermarkets.

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

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 15/10/17

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Madhouse recipe : Meatballs Cottage Pie

I always think of this dish as a Turkish version of Cottage Pie because meatballs in gravy topped with mashed potato was a dish I first discovered in our hotel in Fethiye this summer. Adding vegetables was my own addition but it worked really well, making it into a complete meal and getting the kids guzzling veg with gusto. In the hotel version, they used bigger meatballs and less potato (more of a potato hat than a complete covering of mash), making it easier to serve than my version.

Meatballs Cottage Pie

ingredients :

a pack of frozen meatballs (or make your own)
a pack of frozen veg
salt, pepper

First of all, get the potatoes on to boil in a pan of salted water.

For speed, I used a bag of mixed frozen veg but you could use fresh. This would also be a great recipe for using up leftover cooked veg.

Transfer to an ovenproof dish and pour over some gravy. I just used instant gravy made with granules and boiling water.

Cook the meatballs. You've guessed it - for speed, I used frozen shop bought meatballs but you could make your own using mince or even sausage meat.

Arrange the meatballs on top of the veg and gravy.

Drain and mash the potatoes, using butter, milk and anything else you might want to add for extra flavour (mustard, garlic salt or parmesan, for example). Carefully place a spoonful of mash on top of each meatball. 

Pop in the oven until you're ready to eat. Juliette thought it would have been nice to add some grated cheese on top but I'm not sure about the combination of cheese and gravy - let me know if you try it !

This is fabulous as a quick midweek meal - in half an hour, it was on the table (and ten minutes later, there was nothing left but a smear of gravy in the pan !)

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky because this is a great recipe for using up leftover cooked vegetables and/or mash.

Fab freebies of the week 14/10

Spare a thought for me, at school on a Saturday morning as you read these lines, for parent-teacher meetings. Ah well, this time next week, I'll be on holiday so I can't complain - bring it on ! In the meantime, time to bring on this week's freebies ! :)


We've got 1,000 Eyeko Fat Liquid Eyeliners to giveaway! Fill out the form below to be entered into our prize draw. Share our social posts and it'll count as another entry!

There’s still time to apply Trend's our latest project with Olay. As part of a team of 5,000 savvy circlers you’ll be matched with the perfect Olay skincare cream for you. As well as receiving your tailored skincare cream, you’ll receive exclusive brand info as well as samples and coupons to share with those around you.

Purhase a Marigold cloth or scourer with promotional sticker and get your money back when you tell them what you think.

Active Iron 10 Pack Promo - use code BOUNTY2017

Sign up your cat for the Purina One 3-week challenge

NEW Ryvita Rye Cakes are naturally high in fibre, low in fat, a source of zinc AND a source of magnesium (take that rice cakes!) Rye Cakes are available in two flavours - Lightly Salted and Multigrain and we are giving you the chance to WIN one of 1000 packs of Lighty Salted Rye Cakes.

Have you had a free stock pouch sample pack? If not simply request a pack and see which one suit you! #Packaging
(Take note that it's the packaging not the contents !)

For a very limited time, we are offering 3 days worth of the amazing RevitalU Brew Smart Coffee totally FREE……No Catch, No Postage Charge, No Risk and No Obligation.
Just head over to then click on the Contact info (top right).
Fill in your details and make sure you select the “Request – A sample option”. In no time at all you will receive three days supply of the Smart Coffee for you to try. All we ask is that you let us know how you get on. Just drop us an email to to confirm you have received them and any feedback, good or bad.

We have an exciting opportunity, exclusive to our 7th Heaven Angel VIP Club, whereby you have the chance to try and review one of four NEW 7th Heaven masks not available in stores yet. How exciting right!? Select from Acai Peel-Off, Coconut Gentle Scrub, Watermelon Mud and Cucumber Mud.

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, 13 October 2017

Giveaway #652 : Win a Teletubbies Big Hugs CD - closing date 28/10

Twenty years on from their million-selling No. UK 1 smash Teletubbies Say Eh-oh!, the fab four are once more eyeing the charts with an irresistibly catchy new album, Big Hugs. Featuring a mix of new songs from the current series of the iconic show, alongside a selection of children’s classics with a Tubby twist, the record will be available both digitally and on CD from 13 October, 2017.

Music and dance are integral to Teletubbies, so what better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking preschool show than with a brand new album for youngsters to sing and dance along with.

With distribution handled by The Children’s Group, Big Hugs will be available from HMV,, iTunes, & select FOPP locations in the U.K. It will also be released in the US, Canada, Australia and throughout Europe. Tracks will also be available to download individually, with the title track “Big Hugs” available digitally on September 29th and can be streamed on Spotify.

Narrator Daniel Rigby lends his vocals to many of the songs, including the title track Big Hugs, the popular Bottom Bump Song and Tiddlytubbies Songtime, which introduces the world to the delightful Tiddlytubbies. In addition to music from the first two series of the revamped Teletubbies, the 19-song soundtrack features timeless favourites that kids know and love performed by the voice of the Tiddlytubbies and Voice Trumpet, Teresa Gallagher. Preschoolers will be moving and grooving to children’s classics such as Wheels on the Bus, Four in a Bed and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Daniel said: “It’s amazing to sing the Teletubbies theme tune. Highly surreal, but wonderful, as well, and any one of my friends, or my family, who I say, 'I am now singing the theme tune of the Teletubbies,' it's like I'm saying, 'I've been knighted,' or, yeah, 'I've won £1 million’.”

The full track listing is: Teletubbies Theme; Big Hugs; Tubby Car Song; Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes; Tubby Packing Dance; Tiddlytubbies Songtime; Bottom Bump Song; Tubby Phone Dance; Tiddlytubbies Playtime; Four Little Monkeys; Puddle Dance; If You're Happy and You Know It; Party Dance; The Custard Ride; Stomp Dance; Wheels on the Bus; Old MacDonald Had a Farm; Five in the Bed; and Tiddlytubbies Sleepybyes.

I have a copy of the CD to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 28/10/17

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 !

Giveaway #651 : Master Builder Roller Coaster Marble Run book - closing date 23/10

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 13/10

One week left until the holidays and phew, what a week ! The Norwegian delegation of teachers and researchers are coming over for the week so, as well as having them sit in on our classes and interview us about how we planned our lessons for the project, we'll be involved in socialising with them, so I'm not sure how much time I'll have for cooking next week. There's a meal planned on Thursday and drinks on Monday but with a bit of luck, I can load up the slow cooker and still have a meal on the table. If not, it'll be a frozen pizza in my absence !


lunch - Time for the traditional KFC/Burger King/McDonald's option - but before that it's parent-teacher meetings on a Saturday morning *groan*

dinner - bacon & split pea soup


lunch - roast dinner, probably chicken

dinner - leftovers from lunch or fridge grazing - or possibly chicken & veg soup if we had a roast chicken


 lunch - school canteen with the Norwegians

dinner - chicken curry with cheesy naan bread


packed lunch - tuna salad or canteen with the Norwegians

dinner - Chinese 5 Spice Duck with noodles & stir fried veg


lunch - chicken fajitas

dinner - cheesy pasta bake with prawns


packed  lunch - smoked salmon bagel or school canteen with Norwegians

dinner - meal with the Norwegians - hopefully leftovers for Madhouse Daddy and the kids, if not a frozen pizza


packed lunch - school canteen with the Norwegians

dinner - potato & bacon hash with a fried egg on top

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Book review : Dance By The Canal - Kerstin Hensel

Pereine Press have made a name for themselves for publishing foreign literature, translated into English, for a discerning audience who want to discover quirky, little known and often surprising novellas that frequently transport the reader to another place, time or culture. The Times Literary Supplement defined them as "two-hour books to be devoured in a single sitting : literary cinema for those fatigued by film", which is actually a very apt description.

Dance By The Canal by Kerstin Hensel is n° 24 in the series, the third title in the theme "East and West : Looking Both Ways". It focuses on Gabriela von Haslau, daughter of a talented surgeon and a respected society hostess. She could have had a great life, but she lives in communist East Germany and she has no desire to conform to the patriarchal structures of a society she doesn't believe in. It's a dangerous place for square pegs who can't (or won't) fit into round holes - friends and family members mysteriously disappear, Gabriela is mocked at school for her bourgeois name and forced into manual labour as a mechanical engineer (which she immediately proves that she is definitely not suited to) and she ultimately finds that becoming homeless is her only way to find a new beginning. Writing her past on scraps of paper, she starts to forge a new identity (or at least come to terms with her old one) amongst the down-and-outs under the bridges of Leibnitz. Then The Wall comes tumbling down, potentially opening up a whole new world and a whole new life.

Sometimes, translated fiction flows so smoothly that you totally forget that it wasn't in English to begin with. Other times, as here, it seems slightly more stilted and retains a certain foreign quality. Possibly that is the way the original text was written in its native German or perhaps the slightly clumsy prose is designed to evoke a greater sense of disarray and awkwardness in the repressive communist society.

Gabriela is an interesting character but I didn't really feel that I completely understood her. The book is told in a series of anecdotes from the past and present but I would have liked to have delved further into her psyche, examining her feelings and sense of who she was, is and wants to be. As always with Pereine, it's a book to make you think : it's an interesting idea that all those nameless, almost faceless, homeless people that you walk past in the street could have such a fascinating and elaborate personal history to share.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Peirene Press Ltd (3 July 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190867038X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908670380

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

#readcookeat recipe : Tüffel un Plum (Orange Blossom Days)

Last week, I recreated a recipe from Patricia Scanlan's Orange Blossom Days (click through for the review) called Cocido Madrileño. It was a hearty Spanish stew made with chickpeas, smoked sausage, pork belly and vegetables (amongst other things) and was cooked, in the book, by a Spanish character called Consuela. As the book is set in an Andalucian holiday complex with characters from America, the UK and Germany, as well as Spain, it was a great novel for #readcookeat recipes. Even better, they mainly tie in with my passion for globecooking. Here's another foodie mention, this time from Anka, a German character.

p222 In fairness, Anka had the log fire burning and their father's house was warm when the weary travellers finally put the key in the door. The fridge was full, and a big casserole of Tüffel un Plum, his favourite stew of smoked ham, prunes and potatoes, was simmering in the oven. The familiar scent of cloves and bay leaves made Jutta's mouth water and she realized she was starving after all the travelling.

I barely even needed to look up a recipe - which was just as well as I had a hard time tracking one down online. I used some pork that was in the freezer and the result was delicious.

Tüffel un Plum

ingredients :

2 large onions
drizzle of olive oil
600g pork
400g potatoes
a handful of prunes
1tbsp mustard seeds
1tsp ground cloves
1tsp ground horseradish
3 bay leaves
salt, pepper
1 litre beef stock

I started off by frying the onions in a drizzle of olive oil to give them some colour and extra flavour but they can go straight in the casserole dish/slow cooker raw if you're short on time.

Transfer to a casserole dish and add some chunks of potatoes. I used red potatoes for a change and didn't peel them.

As with the onions, I browned off the meat on all sides to give it some colour and flavour, before adding it to the casserole dish.

Scatter over the prunes.

Heat the mustard seeds until the start popping, then deglaze the pan with some water - this gets all the stuck-on bits of meat off which adds extra flavour and also makes washing-up easier so it's win-win ! 

Toss in the salt, pepper, bay leaves and spices - cloves, bay leaves and horseradish are all traditional flavours in the recipe but you could leave them out if you don't have them to hand.

I used up some more of the concentrated beef stock from the latest Degustabox.

I added it to the deglazed pan juices and gave it all a good stir before pouring it into the casserole dish.

Pop on a lid and leave it to bubble away in the oven for a couple of hours at 180°.

The pork is so tender you can break it apart with your fork and the prunes are soft enough to just slip off the stones. It's the perfect winter warmer for the colder weather.

Linking up with the #readcookeat challenge at Chez Maximka.