Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Ambu Tree Zingtiliating Chinese Five Spice Marinade review

You may remember I tried out The Ambu Tree Mild Tandoori Marinade recently and was majorly impressed with not just the taste but also the low fat and calorie content. I decided to try out the Zingtiliating Chinese Five Spice Marinade on a joint of roast pork at the weekend.

It's a runnier sauce so I poured it all over the top of the meat (the joint weighed about 1kg) then rolled it over and spooned the sauce that had pooled at the bottom back over the top.

Now I admit, this doesn't look very appetising but it tasted wonderful. The marinade is quite salty so you don't need to season the meat before marinating it. It gave a wonderful exotic flavour to the meat -  not hot and spicy but definitely Oriental, vaguely aniseedy and slightly sweet. The ingredients list is beautifully free of hidden nasties : gluten free soy sauce, balsamic vinegar (sulphites), ginger, spring onion, tomato puree, agave nectar, Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise, chilli. 

The whole 100g pot contains 93 calories and 1g of fat so it's great if you want to liven up a diet-friendly meal.

star rating : 5/5

RRP: £3.85 for 100g

for more information : http://www.ambutree.com/

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

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Madhouse diaries : A fab day out at Parc Galamé

Autumn is definitely on the way so before too long, the nights will be drawing in and it'll be getting cold and wet. I'm trying to make the most of these last vestiges of summer by getting out and about as much as possible. I asked Madhouse Daddy if he was up for a spot of geocaching and when he said he was, I decided to go to Parc Galamé, an amazing park about 15 minutes from our house.

I love this park because it combines everything you need for a great day out and it's totally free. The fact that someone had gone round hiding a whole series of geocaches was just the icing on the cake !

Unsurprisingly, the kids wanted to start off at the play area - they've had a revamp but still kept this really old fashioned-looking merry-go-round which is always hugely popular with kids of all ages.

Then we doubled back to the more wild part of the park because I'd seen that there was a big geocache lurking here somewhere. Pierre asked to be in charge of the GPS and proudly carried the treasure bag too !

We soon found the box, after a baby frog jumped out of the undergrowth and gave me a heart attack, much to the delight of everyone else !

I was excited to see that there was a travelbug lurking in the box. It's always great fun picking these up and seeing where they've been before helping them on their way. This one started in Germany before going to Portugal, England and France - I wonder where it will go next.

The kids had fun trying out the exercise equipment along the way !

We wandered through the little garden and spotted this enormous metallic ladybird.

Followed by this equally big rabbit, hopping around minding his own business !

Who's that trip-trapping over my bridge ?!

The park has a collection of animals that you can wander round and stroke. We saw sheep.

Madhouse Daddy got friendly with the geese. (Sophie avoided these ones - she has a bit of a goose-phobia after being pecked on the bum and chased by a goose when she was small - it still makes me laugh when I remember it !)

The goats are always very friendly.

As was the horse.

The donkey stayed over the far side eating the grass though.

We went hunting through the undergrowth for more geocaches - Pierre found one behind this tree stump.

Despite hanging off the bridge and scrambling down the slopes, Madhouse Daddy didn't find this one though !

Some were very well camouflaged.

We headed into the woodland.

Sophie needed a quick rest !

Juliette took control of the GPS !

And we found this ingenious cache hidden up a tree. You had to unwind the string to lower it down from the branches on a pulley !

Despite being a big one, there wasn't much in it apart from a logbook, so we filled it up with treasures from our own bag. (It's a great way of clearing out all the little bits at the bottom of the toyboxes and rehoming McDonald's happy meal toys still in their bags !)

Time for a last visit to the play area.

Where do they get all their energy from ?!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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Madhouse diaries : A Sunday adventure

Tesco Chocolate Spreads review

Tesco recently introduced some fabulous new chocolate spreads to their shelves and we were delighted to receive a couple to try out. We excitedly took possession of the Tesco Finest Salted Caramel Chocolate Spread and also their Cookie Spread but look out for the rest of the range, which also offers Bourbon Biscuit Spread, Custard Cream Spread and Cookies & Cream Spread - how utterly delicious do they sound ?! The Tesco Finest selection also includes 30% Dark Chocolate Spread, Smooth Chocolate Spread and Crunchy Hazelnut Chocolate Spread.

As you'd expect from the Tesco Finest range, it uses top quality ingredients and the lid proudly boasts that it is made with cocoa from the Dominican Republic.

The Madhouse kids were very impressed with the different colours swirling around in the pot and asked how they managed that without it all mixing together - a good question that I couldn't actually answer ! - and that was even before we'd tasted it. The sweet creaminess of the chocolate combined with the golden caramel flecked with crystals of sea salt are a match made in heaven. Tesco suggest warming this and pouring it over vanilla ice cream (it would also be great over pancakes or sliced bananas) but we just ate ours on toast (ok, I'll admit it, and on a spoon straight from the pot too !).

We got even more excited when we discovered the Cookie Spread though - it really does taste of biscuits so eating this on toast seemed very novel and decadent. Half of the pot disappeared in one sitting and, while I had grand designs of using this as icing on cupcakes or inside a sponge cake, I don't think it will hang around long enough !

If your kids never fancy eating much for breakfast, grab a couple of pots of this - it works wonders for waking up their appetites !

I've had to promise that we'll work our way through the entire range, starting with Custard Cream and Cookies & Cream next !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.99 for 400g for the biscuits range, £1.99 for 200g for the Tesco Finest range

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

The Little Crackers Juice Drinks review

Book review : Trust In Me - Sophie McKenzie

Probably as a result of watching the evil python Kaa singing "trusssst in me" in The Jungle Book as a child, hearing someone utter the immortal words "trust in me" will immediately have the opposite effect and send me running off in the other direction. Livy, the central character in Sophie McKenzie's latest book, Trust In Me, has pretty much the same reaction, feeling as if she can't trust anyone any more, even those closest to her. Given her situation, that's probably a wise conclusion though.

Her sister Kara was brutally murdered when they were students and her killer has never been found. Her husband Will had a 6-month affair with a work colleague six years ago. Her best friend, the sassy confident Julia, is found dead after apparently taking her own life. Her options for people to turn to are getting seriously reduced.

Livy can't accept that Julia killed herself as it seems so out of character, but everyone thinks she's wrong. In fact, the only person who supports her is Julia's mystery boyfriend who turned up at her funeral, but should Livy put her trust in a random stranger or stick with those closest to her? The more she digs, the more she realises how little she knows about those closest to her.

I won't say any more and spoil the surprise but it's a fast-paced, exciting read, full of twists and turns and red herrings, although I must admit, I did have my doubts about the ending way before I got there. It's also a poignant look at trying to rebuild trust after betrayal within a marriage and realising what the important things in life are.

If you liked Sophie McKenzie's previous novel, Close My Eyes, (click through to read my review) you'll love Trust In Me because it keeps the same winning formula of chilling, sinister plot twists and poignant inner turmoil, with the central character not knowing whether her nearest and dearest are genuinely on her side or actually wolves in sheeps' clothing.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (11 Sep 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471111768
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471111761
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : Savage Magic - Lloyd Shepherd

Monday, 29 September 2014

PG Tips = Pampered Girl Tips ?!

A couple of months ago, PG tips launched a fun quiz to determine your PG personali-tea. (You can find it on their Facebook page here.) As they explained, "With so many different varieties available, it’s all about providing teas for every taste and finding the perfect tasting cuppa for your personality." I took the quiz and, as you may have seen on my twitter feed, I came out as Mellow - sounds about right ! 

I was very excited when this fabulous PG Tips tea chest arrived, along with two boxes of tea - The Mellow One and The Fresh One. (You can see what we thought when we reviewed them last year.)

But inside was even more exciting - it was stuffed full of goodies for a lovely relaxing girls' night in : two fabulous mugs (I particularly love the one with a woolly jumper on !), some gorgeous Molton Brown body wash, a wonderfully soft and snuggly dressing gown and a nail varnish with the matching deep purple colour. Perfect for putting my feet up with a cuppa for some well-deserved mellow me-time !

Thanks PG Tips - all that time and I never knew it stood for Pampered Girl !

I'm not the only one with a funky new dressing gown though - the PG Tips monkey will be available from late October in special limited edition 160 packs showing off his personalised gown. By joining the Cuppa Club online, you can get your hands on Monkey's other looks (including the festive Santa one !) too.

for more information : cuppaclub.pgtips.co.uk

Disclosure : I received a box of goodies through the post as a thank you for taking the quiz.

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Impulse Rock & Love review

Book review : Savage Magic - Lloyd Shepherd

I finished reading Savage Magic over a week ago and still haven't written the review, because I'm still turning over the story in my mind, trying to decide quite what I made of it. This is a good representation of the novel itself - it's a tale that needs to be savoured, pondered over and looked at from every angle to discover quite what you're dealing with.

The front cover of the book promises "Unsolvable murders. Inexplicable events. Madness. Magic. Maleficium." The (different) cover of my advanced reading copy promises "a concoction of witches, madness and murder". Unlike most novels, where the omniscient narrator - and therefore the reader- has all encompassing knowledge, Savage Magic throws you in at the deep end, leaving you to make up your own mind and work things out along with the protagonists. As it takes them a while to make head or tail of the strange events surrounding Thorpe Lee House, you're left in the dark, not knowing if it's supposed to be a fantastical supernatural tale of witches, a perplexing meander through the fanciful hallucinations of the madhouse residents or a more grounded and straightforward case of malice and criminal design.

Whatever the whys and wherefores, a series of brutal murders are carried out, targetting a group of aristocratic young men, all embroiled in a depraved secret society. All of the murders take place behind locked doors with no sign of forced entry and despite a policeman standing guard outside the door. The investigation leads to the sordid streets around Covent Garden where prostitutes ply their trade, offering a fascinating glimpse into early 19th century London and the plight of women at the time. Meanwhile, Constable Charles Horton is despatched to investigate the strange incidents happening at Thorpe Lee House, where the cook has been accused of witchcraft and the whole village is baying for her blood. .

Horton's own wife, Abigail, is seeking refuge from her disordered mind in an asylum, where she often seems to be the most mentally and morally sound person, doctors included ! Are the inmates entrapped in their own deluded minds or is there really foul play going on?

The novel gives an intriguing overview of the different classes of people in England in the early 1800's - aristocrats, witches, gypsies, prostitutes, doctors, servants - as well as the melting pot of ideas, blending "old" folklore and "new" science, throwing up a maelstrom of conflicting viewpoints and feelings. It's a cleverly woven Whodunnit plot, taking the reader into a fog of confusion and incomprehension, before finally taking him by the hand and leading him out the other side where clues start to fit into place and the whole sordid story can be understood in all its glory (and gore !).

star rating : 4/5

RRP : 12.99

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (28 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 147113606X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471136061
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 3.4 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : The Good Father - Noah Hawley

The Little Crackers Juice Drinks review

As we're always gadding about on adventures, geocaching, visiting local parks or just heading out to see what exciting things we can find, I always have kiddie snacks and drinks in my bag. The Madhouse kids will walk miles (literally) without complaining but they do need refuelling every now and again ! We were therefore delighted to receive some 100% natural juice drinks from The Little Crackers Drink Co to review.

We received the two newest flavours and the cartons feature fun fruity characters, so you can choose between Ollie Orange and Lilly Lemon or Adam Apple and Ruby Raspberry. Pierre in particular found the packaging very appealing. They also come in Pear & Vanilla or Blackcurrant & Cherry varieties.

The drinks contain 75% pure fruit juice with just a splash of water added (and no artificial flavours, added sugar, colours or preservatives) so they count as one of your child's 5-a-day. They are very refreshing and taste great, so they're perfect as lunchbox-friendly options. In fact, they taste so good that Juliette just wanted to drink it and not pose for a photo. She's mastered the eye-roll ... those teenage years are inching ever closer !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.99 for a 3 pack

for more information : http://www.littlecrackerdrinks.com/

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

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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Globecooking recipe : Sfeha (Jordan)

Yesterday, I tried out the first of the recipes from my Jordan-themed Kitchen Trotter box. These little squares of meat-filled pizza looked like something the kids would enjoy making AND eating and I wasn't wrong ! I think I may have to try this again, using different fillings - cheese, leek and ham or maybe Mediterranean veg and goat's cheese next time. They'd be nice with sweet filling like spiced apple or jam too.


ingredients :

250g minced beef
2 small onions
2 small tomatoes
1/2tsp black pepper
1tbsp tahini
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp dried coriander
3 rolls of pizza base
1 egg yolk

for the sauce :

1 small pot of Greek yogurt (unsweetened)
1/2 lemon
2-3tbsp tahini
pomegranate molasses (optional)

First oops-moment - I was out of tomatoes, but luckily I found these two red ones on the plants on the patio.

Chop the tomatoes and onions and mix into the meat in a bowl. Add the spices.

I had a jar of tahini in the Kitchen Trotter kit - but I also had half a jar left over from a previous foodie box. I'm really not too sure about the taste of tahini so if anyone has any great recipes for using it up, let me know !

The kids got involved in the next bit - using a large cookie cutter to cut out circles of pizza base (although Madhouse Daddy messed up when he did the shopping and brought back puff pastry instead - it worked just as well though !).

Place a dollop of meat mixture in the centre then push up the sides and pinch the corners together.

Place on baking trays lined with baking parchment, brush with egg yolk and cook in a preheated oven (200°) until the meat is cooked and the pastry is golden.

Mix together all the ingredients for the accompanying sauce - I also added in some lime pepper for added zing but we really didn't like the taste of the sauce.

These would be great as party finger food (they're just as nice hot as cold) or on their own as a starter but I served them as a main meal with rice and ratatouille.

Everybody thought they were delicious and asked for seconds - but the sauce was rejected as yucky !

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Globecooking recipe (Canada) : Newfoundland Raisin Molasses Bread
Globecooking recipe (Ecuador) : Baked Cheese Empanadas
Globecooking recipe : Sha Shogok (Tibetan Beef & Potato Stew)
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