Wednesday, 2 September 2015

#KitchenClearout August roundup and September linky

Many of us (including me) were off on our holidays and not cooking much last month, but there was some last minute pre-holiday winding down of the fridge and cupboards, so there's still a lovely slection of #KitchenClearout recipes to share with you this month. As the months go on, I still get a real kick out of seeing what's been lingering in your kitchens and I think we're a very resourceful bunch !

Starting us off was Elaine at Fun As A Gran with her round-up of ways to cut down on food waste - peeling, chopping and freezing carrots before they go mouldy is a great idea and definitely one that I should I adopt !

Jane at Onions and Paper had me at the words cheap and comforting so I love her recipe for Stuffed Jacket Potatoes.

Her Omeletttey Frittataey Thing ticks all the right boxes too ... including a name that makes me smile !

I turned some leftover cooked pasta and barbecued meat into the Ultimate Mac & Cheese - it's all in the mozzarella and crispy breadcrumbs !

My Honey Soy Pork & Veg Fried Rice was another unexpected delight and is great for clearing out the veg box in the fridge.

I finished off with a sweet offering, using up the end of a bag of mini Smarties in these Mini Smarties Oaty Cookies.

Alison at Dragons and Fairy Dust gets bonus points this month for combining #KitchenClearout and globe-cooking with her Hot and Spicy Chicken with Ackee Ratatouille.

Fabulous ! And I can't see what we all come up with this month. Feel free to link up as many posts as you like and if you could add my badge and link people back to this post, that would be fine and dandy ! :)

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Madhouse recipe : East meets West BBQ Rice has recently launched to promote the versatility, variety and health benefits of rice to a Europe-wide audience, offering delicious recipe ideas and dispelling some of the myths around cooking with rice. The site was created by The Federation of European Rice Millers (FERM), who help to promote and defend the interests of Europe’s rice milling industry. It is FERM’s mission to get everyone cooking more frequently with rice and its numerous varieties, so they sent me over a lovely selection of rice and asked me to see what I could come up with. You can see my first recipe below but they would love for you to be involved in this project too, by submitting your rice recipes to be featured on the site. (You will be credited for your recipe and can even get a link back to your blog if you're a blogger !)

This cheap and simple dish is a #KitchenClearout recipe, using up leftovers from the fridge, where East meets West - in this case, the Oriental inspiration is special fried rice and the Western influence is Tex-Mex/BBQ. It made a nice change, was a simple one-pot wonder and the whole family loved it.

East meets West Barbecue Rice

ingredients (serves 5) :

a drizzle of oil
3 medium onions
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
3 mushrooms
chopped up meat, bones removed, from the BBQ or a roast dinner (I used the meat from 2 chicken thighs, 3 slices of herby pork belly and a small piece of BBQ beef)
a generous squeeze of honey barbecue sauce (or your favourite BBQ sauce)
leftover cooked rice (long grain/basmati)

Chop all the veggies into large chunks and fry them in the oil over a moderate heat for 5 minutes until they start going soft.

Add all the diced cooked meat and cook, stirring, for a further 5-10 minutes.

Add a generous squeeze of BBQ sauce and mix. Add extra if needed, so that everything is nicely covered and moist.

Add the cooked rice and heat, stirring continuously, until it is piping hot all the way through.

As this used up leftover BBQ meat and cooked rice, I'm adding this to this month's #KitchenClearout linkie.

The Art of Smorging with Castello

Did you know that last week was National Smorging Week ? No, neither did I, and I suspect it is a pure of invention of specialty cheese brand Castello,but that's fine by me as it makes for a lovely relaxing, fuss-free Sunday night meal.

Based on the Scandinavian smörgåsbord, Castello have relaxed the rules (which were already pretty relaxed !) and introduced smorging. They explain : "Smorging means you don’t need to save your favourite cheeses for a special occasion or a traditional cheeseboard. Because we don't always want to cook from scratch, smorging allows you to dive into your fridge and store cupboards to pull together a smørgåsbord using essential favourites and leftovers."

They sent us over a mini hamper containing some individual porions of Castello, some crisp bread and an ingredient of my choice to start us off - I went for sun dried tomatoes. A quick rummage through the fridge provided some cured meats, apple wedges, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, olives and a platter of honeydew melon served with Black Forest ham. After this photo was taken, I also pulled a lovely Parmesan & Sundried Tomato Loaf out of the bread machine, shelled some boiled eggs and added some Ritz Crisp & Thin (posh crisps!) for some extra crunch.

Not only was it delicious and satisfying, it also took zero effort and cleared out all the odds and ends from the fridge. That makes it totally smorgasmic in my book !

For more recipe ideas and to learn more about the art of smorging, head over to the Castello website.

Disclosure : I received a mini hamper in order to set my inner smorger free !

Book review : Gossip - Clara Grace Walker

Gossip by Clara Grace Walker is a bit of a one-size-fits-all novel with something for everyone - a gripping murder mystery, some raunchy sex scenes, an awww-inspiring romance and the usual glitzy A-lister adventures and misadventures often encountered in summery chicklit.

The book starts with a darker side. Newshound Nick Beck chases off to a murder scene at the local golf club, hoping for an exciting new story to cover, only to discover that the victim is his wife. There is some poetic justice here but I felt some empathy for him because, while he is happy to dish the dirt on the rich and famous in his celeb-filled tabloid, he does also have a more highbrow news publication so he seems slightly less ruthless and opportunistic than his purely scandal-seeking rival, Peter Arnold.

With a seedy porn studio and its lowlife employees, a string of used and abused starlets and endless acrimonious divorces and extra-marital affairs popping up in the story, there are more suspects than you could shake a stick at ! 

It's a fun read with an engaging storyline and characters that you either love to love or love to hate. It reminded me of the atmosphere of Desperate Housewives and was perfect for devouring by the pool in Turkey. Gossip is one book from the Desire Never Dies trilogy, but it works perfectly as a stand-alone novel.

We even had fun with the front cover taking selfies !

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (20 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1499286120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1499286120
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm

Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.

Beat the back to school bugs with Emergen-C iced lollies !

When Emergen-C got in touch with news of a fun summer blogger challenge, I had a real eureka moment.

Dissolving a sachet of orange-flavoured vitamins into fruit juice and making them into iced lollies is a stroke of utter genius and I can't believe I hadn't thought of it before !

They suggested using a mixture of water, pineapple juice and chopped strawberries but we used orange juice, water and chopped grapes - the possibilities are endless though.

As we had some left over after filling our iced lolly moulds and putting them in the freezer, all three of the Madhouse kids had a glass and thought it tasted great.

The iced lollies made a perfect guilt-free, healthy and above all tasty dessert and the kids asked if we could make some more before they had even finished eating them !

From reading on the label, Emergen-C Immune Support and Energy Release  contains 15 nutrients including 1,000mg of Vitamin C for immune support, plus Vitamin B12 and B6 that contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue and antioxidants, manganese, zinc and a whole host of other nutrients that will be perfect to help fight the back to school bugs and tiredness ... for me as well as the kids !

Disclosure : We received a kit to take part in the Beat the Heat iced lolly challenge.

Monday, 31 August 2015

A Madhouse Family Meal at The Treacle Mine, Polegate (review)

 One of the things we had planned with the Madhouse grandparents on our recent visit was going out for a meal, so when we were invited along to the newly-refurbished Treacle Mine Whitbread Inn in Polegate near Eastbourne, we decided to bring them along too. 

The Treacle Mine is located on the Polegate roundabout, just next to a Premier Inn and a McDonald's so there is plenty of free parking. Even before we'd got through the door, we were giggling at the cheeky sign that set the laid-back, family-friendly tone for the evening.

Everything, from the friendly staff and cosy bar area to the smile-inducing quotes painted on the walls, had us feeling at ease as soon as we stepped through the door. As we'd arrived early - it was only 5.30 and we were booked in for 6.30 but the rain had cut short our shopping trip to nearby Eastbourne - we decided to have a drink in the bar area first, although we could have gone straight to our table if we'd wanted. The kids were delighted to discover that they could have a Fruit Shoots or bottle of milkshake if they wanted, as well as the usual pub soft drinks.

Once we moved over to the restaurant, we were shown to our table - a lovely big round table that seated eight easily - and our bubbly, super-friendly waitress called Sophie explained the daily specials to us.

She dropped off the menus - a mixture of classic pub food like burgers, steaks and sausage and mash, along with some more original options including salads, quiche and curries - and we all perused the different choices. The kids' menu is brilliant - you can choose one main course and a dessert for £3.99 and there are loads of choices. The Mighty Mains include everything from burgers, sausages (even Quorn sausages), pasta, cottage pie and chargrilled chicken breast (it's nice to see it's not restricted to all the usual burgers and nuggets that most kids' menus offer) and you choose the two sides of your choice from mash, rice, beans, corn on the cob, veg sticks, salad, garlic bread, tortilla chips, jacket potato, peas , ... Even the fussiest eater is bound to find something that takes their fancy.

A few minutes later, Sophie was back with the Horrible Histories-themed activity booklets and wax crayons for the kids.

This kept them busy while the grown-ups ummed and aahed over what to eat and while we waited for the meal to arrive.

We'd told the Madhouse kids that they could choose whatever they wanted from the menu and they came up with some surprising combinations ! Pierre opted for hamburger, chips and tortilla chips - hmm a slight carb overload there ! One nice thing about the burger was that it came without ketchup - this was served separately which is great news if you're not a fan.

Juliette went for the pizza with mash and peas - not things I'd have put together either ! The Build Your Own Pizza is a great idea - you get a cheese and tomato pizza with two toppings of your choice from mushrooms, red pepper, bacon or pineapple. Juliette loves Hawaiian pizza so she went for pineapple and bacon without a second's hesitation.

The grown-ups were equally impressed with the choices and we weren't disappointed when our plates arrived (on an enormous tray complete with stand that our poor waitress had to manhandle over to our table !). I went for the Paprika Chicken & BBQ Ribs combo, served with chips, coleslaw and BBQ sauce (£11.49 for half a rack of ribs, which was plenty, but you can upgrade to a whole rack for a couple of pounds extra if you have a huge appetite).

Sophie (our Sophie, not the waitress !) went for Smithfield Sausage & Mash, served with green beans, fried red onions and gravy. (£8.99) (With a rogue pea that made us laugh - "oh look, Sophie had a pee on her plate", and it wasn't even the kids !)

The Hunter's Chicken was a popular choice at our table - freshly grilled chicken breast, topped with smoked streaky bacon and Cheddar cheese. With chips, or a jacket potato, smoky BBQ sauce and garden peas - £10.29

The Gourmet Burgers were lovely too, served with skinny chips and relish. Madhouse Nanny opted for the  Double Stack Steak Burger - two 4oz steak burgers layered with melted Cheddar cheese and smoked streaky bacon, £10.99.

Everything was cooked to perfection, the portion sizes were generous and Sophie popped back to check everything was OK and ask if we needed extra ketchup or anything. Despite my sister being the world's fussiest eater, there were clean plates all round. After I took this photo, Pierre went back to nibbling on his burger and the only one to leave anything was Juliette, who had no room left in her tummy to finish off her pizza (but she scraped all the topping off to eat because it was too nice to leave !)

We decided to have a little wander around to make a bit of room before contemplating desserts ! After a quick toilet stop where the Madhouse kids were utterly fascinated by the vending machine selling chewable toothbrushes (and luckily not the condom one !), we popped our heads outside to see the outdoor seating area. It would be lovely on a sunny evening, but was a definite no-go with the torrential rain. There is a covered seating area where a couple of people were having drinks and enjoying a sneaky cigarette though.

So, to have dessert or not to have dessert ? That was the question ! Well, we all (except Madhouse Daddy who was far more reasonable) decided that, despite being full, it would be rude not to, so we all chose  what we wanted - rocky road sundaes, banoffee pie, strawberry sensation sundae ... all priced about £4-5.

The grown-up sundaes were quite spectacular.

But even the scaled down kids' version was too much for Juliette who said she'd explode if she ate any more !

Pierre managed to scoff his way through his Scary Face Sundae though (with mini Smarties and strawberry bootlaces to get artistic). If I'd been eating from the kids' menu, I think I'd have gone for the Graveyard Horror - a deliciously ghoulish wafer coffin filled with chocolate mousse and chocolate flake "soil" complete with jelly body parts !

The whole meal for 8 (6 adults and 2 kids) came to just a tad over £100, which we thought was very reasonable, especially as we all came out feeling happily stuffed. We hadn't felt rushed but hadn't had to sit around for ages waiting either, and when we looked at our watches, it was 8.30 so the meal ended up lasting about 2 hours.

As I sat contemplating what to write for my review, I asked how many points out of 5 everyone at the table thought I should give it and what were the good and bad points. Well, the only bad thing is, we couldn't think of a bad point and I always like to give a balanced review, including things that could have been better, so that it doesn't just sound like an advert ! After really thinking hard, the only very slight niggle that we could think of is that they came and asked us three times if we wanted drinks, which felt a bit like they were pushing us into ordering some, but that was only becase we'd confused them by ordering in the bar area before heading over to our table to eat.

If you want to read another review for The Treacle Mine, Mummy From The Heart went there just a week before us (it would have been funny if we'd bumped into each other !) and I think they might have even been at the same table as us !

Dragons and Fairy Dust

Disclosure : Part of our meal was paid for, in order to write an honest review.

Children's book review : Jesper Jinx - Marko Kitti

Jesper Jinx is the eleven-year-old protagonist of a series of books by Finnish-born author Marko Kitti and, right from the first chapter, he reminded me of a (slightly) more realistic and modern version of Dennis The Menace. Even as a grown-up, his antics frequently had me sniggering - although I wouldn't find them the slightest bit funny if it was the Madhouse kids doing them ! The squabbles and pranks between Jesper and his sister do sound like the sort of things they'd be capable of though. In particular, the episode where Jesper swaps over the contents of the can of his sister's beloved energy drink for a hideous concoction because she has been winding him up about him not being allowed them, only for his poor unsuspecting dad to take a big swig out of the can, had me perfectly imagining the scene, probably with me as the dad !

I received all three Jesper Jinx books to review and I read them all back to back on our 8 hour drive down to the in laws' in Brittany, before passing them on to the kids.

In book one, we are introduced to Jesper and his family, including Snowy the Cat (who even gets to narrate a chapter) and a strange new Spanish classmate with a moustache !

In book two, Jesper Jinx and the Sneezing Season, Jesper sets off to hunt down a rare purple buzzard in order to win a nature photgraphy competition (with hilarious consequences, as always). As in book one, the animals get to talk again and the second story is narrated by a very cheesed-off squirrel ! The Diary Wars story gives us a further instalment of the high jinks and bickering between Jesper and his sister.

Book three continues in the same vein with a hilariously catastrophic camping trip, a chapter narrated by Frank Fox, the Turkish Pepper story of the title (I bet Turkish Pepper isn't what you thought it would be !) and, as a bonus, an interview with Snowy the Cat.

Each book is divided into short stories and each story is broken up with numerous illustrations, making it much less daunting and more appealing to reluctant or beginner readers. The author also gets the reader involved in the story, making him promise not to let on that he is revealing Jesper's secrets and even making him (the reader) sign a contract. The eccentric characters, hilarious pranks and outrageous stories make the books a joy to read. I would say that the target audience is tween boys, but the stories will appeal to children of both sexes and all ages - I even enjoyed them myself, especially the chapters narrated by the long-suffering animals !

Book four is on the way in September and will be called Jesper Jinx Goes Fishing - I can only imagine the scrapes he'll get into !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £4.99

More information about the book series and the author can be found at

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

A Despicably (Harry) Potty T-shirt from Tostadora ! (review)

What do you get if you cross two of the most popular and iconic film releases from the past couple of decades? Minion Potter of course !

When Tostadora asked if we'd like to review one of their TV/movie-themed T-shirts, I asked Sophie to have a look through and as soon as she saw this design, she knew it was the one she wanted.

 As you can tell, she wasn't disappointed when it arrived - it looks just as good in real life as it does on the screen. For this T-shirt, she wanted a baggy fit so she went for a large men's size. You may remember, she opted for a large women's size for her Tomlinson T-shirt last time, if you want to compare the sizes. She chose grey but there are several other colours available - black, white, army, green, orange, pink, purple, yellow, navy ...

I love quirky and original T-shirts like this one that are sure to be a talking point and raise a smile or two ! It's lovely quality with thick, soft cotton and vibrant colours on the design.

There's a back-to-school discount this week too - get 15% off with code UNI2015.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £15.40

for more information :

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