Thursday, 30 January 2014

Stanley Street Sweeper from Wow Toys (Giveaway c/d 1 March NOW CLOSED)

My younger son Eddie loves Wow Toys. He spends hours, playing with them (see my recent review of Wow Toys Emergency Rescue Bundle). I am delighted to offer a splendid Stanley Street Sweeper from Wow Toys as a prize for one of my lucky blog readers.

Just imagine how delighted your little people will be with such a toy, which is great for role-play.
"Stanley’s the name and street sweepings the game! The streets of WOW Town have been spotless since my introduction a few years back, and they always will be! As you push me along my rubber brushes rotate to sweep up everything in my path! My brilliant driver, Jason, keeps me company on those wet and windy days around town with his great sense of humour and entertaining anecdotes.
My roof shows the rubbish being sorted into its individual compartments so you can spin it round to sort it to where it’s meant to be. Sweeping and collection rubbish has never been so much fun!"


1x Street sweeper called Stanley
1x Boy driver figure called Jason
If you would like to win this prize, please fill in the Rafflecopter form.
Only the first step is mandatory: all you need is to answer the question by leaving a comment (there is no right or wrong answer)

If you login as Anonymous, please leave your Twitter name or FB name, so that I could identify you, I do not suggest leaving the email address in the comment. I will do my best to notify the winner, but if you don't leave me any means of getting in touch with me, it might be tricky.

All the other steps are optional, you don't have to do them all. All it takes to win is just one entry.

Only one entry per person is allowed (however, you can tweet daily to increase your chances).

The giveaway is open worldwide. 

Once the Rafflecopter picks the winner, I will contact them, if they do not reply within a week, the prize will be allocated to another person. I will pass the address details of the winner to Wow Toys, and they will dispatch the prize.

If you haven't used the Rafflecopter before, you might want to watch this simple video.
The giveaway will close on 1 March at midnight (the night from 28th of February)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information on the range please visit Wow Toys on Facebook and Wow Toys on Twitter.

Thank you to all entrants! The giveaway is now closed, and the winner is announced on the widget. Big well done to Jennifer R!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Wow Toys Emergency Rescue Bundle

"Mama, are you trying to win that school bus for me?", ever hopeful, Eddie has been asking me, when I was entering a giveaway to win Sidney the school bus from Wow toys on one of the parenting blogs. I kept telling him that I was trying very hard indeed, tweeting daily. Alas, another Mummy won it for her little boy or girl, and Eddie was very disappointed with my winning skills. He shouldn't complain though, as I recently bought a Wow toys Emergency Rescue Bundle (a set of 4 vehicles) for him. I had some vouchers for amazon, and though I coveted some new fancy cake tins, I gave up under the onslaught of daily requests and bought a set, especially that it was at half price. Wow Toys know how to appeal to their young audience, as each toy comes with a spreadsheet which features all the toys in their collection along with the colouring page. Eddie studies it very seriously and makes a wistful face, saying how much he wants a bus/safari truck/lunar van/fireboat etc etc

My lucky boy already had a couple of Wow toys from before Christmas, and watching him play with his toys is a pure delight. He is happily engrossed in his imaginary world of little people and vehicles. What I love about this range is the great attention to detail. We mix and match vehicles and figures. It's all about creative play. So Santa Claus might end up driving a police car with a reindeer on a top of the car.

Wow Toys Emergency Rescue bundle

The Emergency Rescue bundle consists of four Wow Toys: Ernie Fire Engine, Police Plane Pete, Robin's Medical Rescue, Police Chase Charlie plus two small packets of figurines.
What is it with boys and their love of fire engines and trucks? Eddie cannot have enough of Fireman Sam's stories on TV and in books, and he loves playing with his Ernie Fire Engine. It comes with a firefighter Jack, sorry, he is Sam now. The ladder goes up and round to help the little firefighter fight the flames.

Police Plane Pete (see above) is a motorised police plane with rotating propellers. It comes with a policeman and police dog. If you rotate the tail, you will discover 3 secret compartments.
Eddie was particularly thrilled that Officer Foley has a sandwich and a chocolate bar in his compartment, while Buddy the dog has its own doggie snacks and water.

Police Chase Charlie is another policeman-dog team. Officer Cash and dog Whiskey are on the beat. They are great friends with Officer Foley and Buddy, of course, and by now I'm not sure who is who, where is Buddy and where is Whiskey.

As I mentioned creative play already, Eddie is inventing games with all his vehicles, for example, he says the elephant Elvis is not feeling well because he ate too much, so Sam is taking him in his Rock'n'Ride quad bike (which is not part of the rescue set) to the ambulance to be seen by Nina. He loves the name Elvis and thinks the elephant is named after Elvis in Fireman Sam.

Rock'nRide Ralph (a quad bike with Sam and elephant Elvis)

Robin's Medical rescue was the main reason behind buying the whole set of four, as it alone cost over £20. It is a clever set, which consists of an ambulance and a few figures: Nina the paramedic, Sandy who is the boy on a stretcher, and a girl in a wheelchair, who my son insists on calling Ellie after a girl he knows well and who is a wheelchair user. Click on the side door, and the stretcher can be taken out. There is a back door with the ramp, which is released automatically when you push the button. There is also an X-ray machine inside. Isn't it just great?!

Robin's Medical Rescue from Wow Toys

When we looked together at the spreadsheet of vehicles, admiring all their bright colours and funny names, Eddie wanted to find out if there was a vehicle called Eddie or Edgar. Sadly, none are called Eddie. I told him maybe one of their new releases will be called after him.

We love Wow Toys. My only criticism is the amount of wires in packaging. It is not easy to undo all the wires, they are tangled so hard, that only an adult would be able to unscramble them. Other than that I cannot find any fault with the toys.
I already know what I am going to buy for Eddie's birthday.

For more information visit Wow Toys.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Burns night dinner (minus the pipers)

If you think Burns Night is only celebrated in English-speaking countries, you will be wrong. Robert Burns' poetry is well known and much loved in Russia. There are numerous Robert Burns' societies, and many Russians are happy to host a Burns supper. Saying that, I doubt many of them serve a genuine haggis.
I have never tried this famous dish before, that is until the last night. Blame it on my blogging inspirational foodie friends, Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews.
I have been admiring numerous recipes and photos of the traditional Scottish food on their blogs, and finally took the plunge and bought a haggis. Traditionally the menu includes "haggis wi' bashit neeps an' champit tatties". My husband is not a big fan of any mash, and I just knew he would avoid eating swedes in whatever disguise they were presented.

I bought the Macsween's haggis, as from all reports this was the real thing to try. According to their site, "A Macseeen haggis contains lamb and beef that is cooked before being combined with a unique mix of oatmeal, onions, pepper and spices. This is then packed into a traditional or clear casing, after which the whole thing is cooked once again, before being vacuum packed"

I cooked the haggis, following the instructions on the packet. Ta da! I brought in a big plate with haggis and veggies. Lacking a piper, it was still a Scottish-themed dinner, or at least it appeared so to us, Russian-Italian family.

In texture and consistency the haggis reminds me of the Russian dish called kendyukh, which is basically a stomach filled with buckwheat groats, spices, onions and offal. My Mum told me that when she was a kid, her grandma used to cook it for hours, and that the aroma was fabulous. I don't think I have ever tried it either.
I loved the sight of roasted "tartan" vegetables on Karen's blog, and totally nicked her idea. To see her recipe, just follow the link. I didn't have any Scottish heather honey, and though I grow thyme in the garden, it was raining so hard that I didn't dare to venture out to pick some for my veggies. Instead of the smoked sea salt, I used the sea salt with dried rose petals (well, I thought, that wild roses do grow in those parts of the world, so it will be Scottish enough).

For my veggie dish I cubed 3 potatoes, 2 carrots and 2 parnsips, tossed them in the olive oil and seasoned with sea salt with wild rose petals, and a bit of black pepper. I roasted the cubed beetroot separately in a small dish, so as not to turn the other veggies pink, and mixed all the veg together once they were well cooked.

This is a great side dish, and I will be definitely doing it again.

What did we think of the haggis? It is an acquired taste. Quite spicy, I thought. It also reminded me of the Ferrarese speciality, salama for Christmas, which is also a big ball of spicy meat (though the recipe for salama is different). My husband and I agreed that it was nice. I am actually quite curious now to try the vegetarian variety.

And to round off the Burns night we had some Cranachan, made with defrosted raspberries, crunchy oats, cream and quark,whisky and honey as well as the delectable Raspberry and Redcurrant syrup from Selsley Foods.

I had to buy a bottle of whisky for the recipe. I know almost nothing about whisky, and got the smaller bottle of The Famous Grouse. It will last me a year or so, if I use a couple of tablespoons at a time in cooking. It will probably be lovely in roast fruit dishes like figs or quinces.

For more haggis inspiration, read the posts by my friends
Veggie Haggis with baked onions & tomatoes

Haggis and cheese pastry parcels
Hot baked tatties

The next day we had the leftover haggis in roast sweet pepper shells, mixed with grated carrot and topped with quark.

Did you celebrate the Burns Night? 

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Garden re-awakening

It's been raining for weeks and months. It is raining now, as I write. We haven't been doing anything outdoorsy, apart from walking from home to school or city centre for grocery shopping or going to Cafe Nero, which kids love for the tasty Palmini biccies and Giandujotti chocolate.
A few days ago, when there was a short break in the sky business and the sun has shyly looked out of the fluffy clouds, Eddie and I ventured into the garden.
We haven't looked at it properly for weeks, and I was curious to see what is happening in the garden. I had some wild garlic delivered earlier last week, and they needed to be planted.

We also wanted to hang a little bird feeder that we made recently with Eddie.

There is a lot of work to be done soon. Lots of leaves will need to be swept from the paths, the lawn has to be cleared from all the rotting apples, which we left for the birds.
The sandpit has survived, though the lid will need a replacement, it looks battered and torn, and we don't want the neighbours' cats to feel welcome in our sand. Eddie was happily digging and trying to build a sandcastle from the very wet sand. We've had this sandpit from Big Game Hunters since November 2012 (see my original post Hurrah, we've got a sandpit), and it has been much used and much loved. When it's raining, Eddie talks about it, wishing for the rain to go away so he can play outside. The wooden frame withstands the cold and rainy weather, but as I said, we'll need to buy a new plastic cover.

Eddie grabbed a watering can, and despite me telling him it was wet as it was, he insisted on watering some plants.

To my surprise I found quite a few flowers already. The snowdrops are coming out, so far in very modest little groups, but soon there will be a carpet-full of these beautiful little fighters which are not afraid of the frost or snow.

There were a couple of purple spears of crocuses, and even a few yellow spots of primroses.
And to my total amazement, the black hellebore decided it was the right time for it to show its Royal Highness. I haven't seen it in bloom for the last couple of years, and was wondering if it would ever reappear.

Our garden is slowly awakening, and I cannot wait to start working there, with Eddie running around, playing  with the sand and "helping" me.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Skinny Dragon Pu'er Tea from Dragonfly Tea

I have known about Pu'er tea and its health benefits, read how it was praised by the celebs for its slimming properties, but as I am never swayed by anything endorsed by the celebs, I didn't buy it until recently. I have also bookmarked The Observer's recipe for the eggs pickled in Pu-er tea. It was a funny story told by my Mum that inspired me to get a box of Organic Skinny Dragon Pu-er Tea from Dragonfly Tea and a box of Pu'er from Whittards.

My older niece is learning the basics of the Chinese wushu sport, and sometimes my Mum accompanies her to the class. During one of the recent visits, the coach offered my Mum a cup of Pu'er and told her how amazing this tea was for the digestive system. My Mum and niece sniffed their cups suspiciously, as the tea was very smelly. In fact it smelt just like shrimps. Mum has politely finished her cup, and when the coach was offering a cup to another grandma, my niece, changed her cup with Mum's, so Mum had to drink the 2nd cup without actually enjoying it at all. Then the coach returned, saw her empty cup, asked her "So did you enjoy it?" and before she even replied, had refilled her cup. Poor Mum had to drink her 3rd cup. We talked on the phone the next day after this story happened, and Mum confessed that though she didn't like the flavour at all, she felt really well afterwards, and she decided that she would buy this tea for its medicinal properties.

As I am on a 5:2 diet this month, I decided it would be nice to combine my fasting with the slimming tea on non-fasting days.
What did I think?
The very first cup? I found it quite peculiar, with a very strong whiff of fishy or shrimpy odour. I didn't think I'd be able to finish the box of tea. This is really the case of the acquired taste.
But I persevered. Next day I added a slice of lemon to disguise the smell, and having it for a week or so, I actually started to enjoy it, and it does help with digestion.
I have almost finished my first box, and plan to buy another one.

Dragonfly Tea site is very enthusiastic about its Skinny Dragon tea:
"Hardly known outside Asia until now, Pu'er has been greatly prized since the Tang Dynasty, over a thousand years ago." Well, that sounds enticing to me.
"It is valued for its intriguing, full bodied, earthy, slightly sweet flavour, as well as its reputed health benefits"
Now that I have been drinking it for a couple of weeks, I can read "intriguing" as a euphemism for weird.
"Pu'er is particularly appreciated in China after a heavy meal and has been revealed by Victoria Beckham as one of her Slimming Secrets." That piece of information would have actually discouraged me if I read about it before buying my tea, as Mrs Beckham is by no means my health or style guru.

I like the colour of Skinny Dragon, a very rich dark tea, and it has a very earthy taste indeed. I'm glad I have overcome my first impressions and learnt to appreciate it being different from my usual teas.
As for the slimming results, that is yet to be seen, but even if it does nothing to my waistline, it certainly improves my digestion.

Have you tried this tea? What did you think?

June 2014 update: Since then I have been drinking this tea quite regularly, almost every day.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Polish food at Tesco: hit and miss

I have mentioned in the past some of the Polish products I have been buying at Tesco, like kefir and soft cheese (which I talked about in the recipe post on syrniki, Russian cheese scones). Bakoma kefir is sadly not available anymore, but there is another good kefir - Mlekovita Naturalny Polski kefir, which has a good level of acidity and is very creamy as well. I buy a bottle weekly, and it is a very enjoyable drink, which I can recommend if you're looking for a dairy drink different from yogurts. It has a lot of health benefits for bones and teeth as well as digestive system. It is 127 kcal per serving (a glass), and I much prefer it to any diet milkshakes in the morning.

While doing my grocery shopping online, I followed the link to the Polish food section and was amazed to discover that Tesco sells over 110 food products imported from Poland. Clearly this is the situation of demand and supply. I would love to know how many authentic Italian products they sell (if you search for the word Italian, most of the products are actually not the Italian produce but British foods imitating the Italian cuisine).
As I am very curious when it comes to new foods, I decided to try a selection of Polish food.
Some were old favourites which I remembered from my childhood in Russia, some are totally new to me. I am by no means claiming to have done a thorough research of the selection, but just thought you might like to know which products we tested. I wish I read some reviews before I made some of my decisions.

Lubella Kasza Gryczana or Roasted buckwheat groats is another great product. As a kid growing in Russia, I have eaten the buckwheat kasha very often. It is a healthy food, and you can serve it either with milk (typical meal for children) or as a side dish with fried meat or vegetables. Buckwheat from Lubella comes in a box which contains 4 portions (very generous, if you ask me). You cook them in sachets, like rice in bags for about 6-8 minutes. Convenient and easy. Excellent quality product which I would score as 5/5.

Dawtona Ogorki kwaszone or Cucumbers in brine
If you are used to the British style of pickled cucumbers/gherkins which are more often than not are reeking of vinegar, you might find these cucumbers different. They are preserved in salted water with spices. Though this is the Polish product, it is very similar to the type of canning/pickling which is widespread in Russia. The cucumbers are bigger in size than gherkins. They are lovely with meat or cheese, or in salads like Vinegret or Salad Olivier (Russian salad). They are not very crunchy, and I would have liked to see garlic cloves and dill inside for the extra flavour, but they are not bad at all. And the brine is considered to be a good cure for hangover. Score: 3+/5.

Miod Wielokwiatowy or Multiflower Honey is produced by a beekeeping farm Sadecki Bartnik, and is a blend of EU honeys. I would so love to see honey from small producers, which is not a blend of some unknown EU and non-EU entities. Pick a jar of honey in any supermarket, and in most cases they are a blend of EU and non-EU honeys, which in my eyes makes it more of a syrup than honey and also diminishes its health benefits. Nowadays I prefer to buy either a local honey at the farmers' market or one-country honey, like New Zealand or Greece, but it's getting more difficult to get unblended honeys. My favourite Italian honey that I used to buy in Waitrose isn't available anymore, and even those brands which are very British sell a mix of honeys from all over the world, God knows what is mixed there.
Anyway, going back to the Multiflower Honey, it is a clear runny honey, very pleasant and flavourful. Tastewise, I have no complaints. It is lovely with pancakes and in Greek yogurt.
If it were produced at the specific farm in Poland and not mixed there, I would give it a very good score. As it is mixed, it loses points, hence is my score of 3+/5.

Pamapol Bigos (home made hunters' stew) contains sauerkraut, white cabbage, sausage meat, pork etc and an alarming amount of E-numbers (E250, E452, E451, E450, E331, E407, E1422). If I picked it up in the store, I would have put it back.
Taste-wise it is quite forgettable. And I only tried it myself, I would definitely not offer my kids this chemical cocktail.
I have tried a proper Polish bigos many years ago, when we lived in the States. My older son was a newborn, and our friend Margo brought several jars of homemade bigos for me. It was very tasty.
Pamapol bigos doesn't have the right cabbage/sauerkraut ratio, there's more cabbage than sauerkraut here. The meat tastes very processed, not chunky enough.
1/5, it's a definite No-No for the future.

I was very excited to see Ptasie Melczko waniliowe (lit. bird's milk) or vanilla marshmallows in chocolate on the list of Polish products. Bird's Milk used to be my favourite Russian chocolates, when I was a kid. I haven't tried them for almost twenty years, and was delighted to discover that they taste exactly as I remember them.

Very light fluffy inside and chocolatey on the outside. I'm not sure if marshmallows would be the exact translation, as the texture is different, they are less chewy than marshmallowy, but that's what they are sold as in Tesco. They are delightful, and I absolutely loved them. It is also possible that I am swayed by my childhood memories, as I also offered them to a couple of friends to try. One wasn't enthusiastic at all, the other liked them and asked me to get her a box next time I do grocery shopping online. I will be buying them again as a treat for myself.
For the pure sentimental reason I will give them a top score (though beware there are a couple of hidden E-numbers. How did we survive before without them? (meant ironically)). 5/5

Ptasie Mleczko or Bird's milk

I have bought more Polish foods from Tesco, which I haven't tried yet, once I have, I will be adding to this post.

My suggestions to Tesco: to give more detailed information on each foreign product, after all, not all of us can speak/read Polish. For example, there is a Lubella Maka Puszysta Tortowa Flour 1kg. And no more information, on what kind of flour it is, self-raising, plain, wholemeal? On seeing the image of the cake on the packet, you might think it is a cake mix of some sort. Surely if you list and sell the product, you could add more information like a proper list of ingredients (I noticed some products have it already).

Are there any products from the Polish food range that you have tried and would recommend?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Golden Rod & Knotgrass cleansing herb tea blend (A.Vogel)

I have successfully finished my 14Day Detox plan, and can pat myself on the head for sticking to it. It wasn't difficult, as I didn't have any impossible targets. I have cut down my coffee and black tea intake, and was drinking a lot of herbal infusions and tea blends instead. Golden Rod & Knotgrass cleansing tea blend (A.Vogel) was one of my little helpers, which kept me hydrated and refreshed.

I have also been taking Molkosan Vitality which I reviewed recently. I liked the effect so much that I visited our local health shop and bought a bottle of Molkosan Original (they didn't have Vitality). Taste-wise, the Original flavour is just like drinking whey, so not everyone's cuppa tea, and once this bottle is finished, I will order Molkosan Vitality as I prefer its flavour. But both of these products work really well to prevent from feeling bloated and sluggish.
These products from A.Vogel helped me with my Detox plan.

What is Golden Rod & Knotgrass cleansing herb tea blend?
"A gentle blend of five herbs, known for their positive effect in kidney and bladder function, will relieve fluid retention and contribute to an overall cleansing of the system, without strong detoxification reactions.  It is an ideal adjunct to other detox treatments.
How to take: 1 cup twice daily"

It is a pleasant tea blend of amber colour, very refreshing. Unlike some cleansing herbal teas, it is very easy to drink (you know what I mean, some teas do taste like a bitter medicine and it takes an effort to consume them).

This tea blend contains golden rod, birch leaves, knotgrass, horsetail and wild pansies.
I can easily see this tea becoming a part of my daily routine.

Disclosure: I received a box of Golden rod tea for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Monday, 20 January 2014

SeaFood Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

"Mama, it's so beautiful!" (Eddie)

As my kids are big fans of "fishy" animation (Finding Nemo, Shark Tale etc), I was curious to see how SeaFood (Lionsgate UK) compares in the oceania adventures department. We missed SeaFood when it came out on DVD last year, but on the 3rd of February 2014 Lionsgate UK releases SeaFood ( as well as Daddy, I'm a Zombie which I reviewed a while ago) on Blu-ray.

children's animation

SeaFood starts with a dramatic chase, which we later learn is only a pretend game between two friends. Later Pup the bamboo shark, who is the smaller of two friends, witnesses the cruel human divers stealing a whole lot of shark egg sacks from his reef.
He goes on a mission to rescue his family. To do that he must venture on the dry land.
His friend Julius is afraid for Pup's safety and goes in search of him with the help of a scientist octopus Octo who builds a mechanical suit for Julius.
This film has been produced with the financial support of Ministry of Science,Technology and Innovation (Malaysia) and addresses some serious issues like the pollution of the ocean and consumption of the sharks.
The scene where the sea turtle Myrtle is being suffocated by the plastic bag is harrowing. The pollution breeds the aggressive and sinister sea bottom dwellers.
The main message is that it's the human beings who are the main predators. Sharks are actually good guys in this film.
My younger son was a bit worried, seeing the evil creatures, and while safely sitting on my lap, kept commenting "This is not a very good movie, Mama, shall we switch it off?". I know this means he was a bit scared but didn't want to admit it.
We watched it together, and cheered Julius escaping from the cruel chef who tried to capture the shark for its fins. We both screamed "Faster, Julius, faster!" and were biting our knuckles during the chase, will they reach the ocean safely?!

It never stops to amaze me what kids find strange or believable in animation. Eddie wasn't surprised that the sharks and other sea creatures talk, but when he watched the scene where the woman driver with her daughter were waiting for the traffic lights to change, he commented: "Mama, why is the girl not buckled in?"

Image credits: Lionsgate

It might be a bit predictable but if the weather is grey and miserable, you could still have a fun afternoon, watching a film together as a family and having sweet'n'salty popcorn. We loved cute little Pup and his true friend Julius, and enjoyed the fabulous fighting chickens.

Disclosure: I received SeaFood Blu-Ray for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Student's fish pie

Today I'm offering you a slightly glamorized version of a budget recipe for a fish pie which I used to cook often as a student. You can use any oily canned fish, like sardines or tuna, even the tomato sauce variety if you prefer. I had a tin of Princes pink salmon that I've seen on offer in Tesco, and used it for our yesterday's dinner. Of course, when I was a student, I'd have chosen a cheap tin. All the other ingredients were also easily available and cheap, and it makes a very tasty and easy-peasy pie.

Fish pie (serves 6+)
1 tin of salmon (200g)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1tbsp vegetable oil+
1 mug of cooked rice (I used Tilda basmati)
Schwartz fish seasoning (optional)
250g low fat soured cream
250g low fat mayo
3 eggs
150g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder

First cook the rice in the boiling water, once done, rinse with the cold water and drain well. Then finely chop the onion and fry it with 1tbsp vegetable oil (or oil from the tinned fish), cook on low for about 10 minutes until the onion becomes translucent. Set aside and let it cool. Chop the spring onion and add to the onion. Mash the tinned fish and mix well with the onions, season with the fish seasoning if using.
Add the cooked rice, mix.
In a big mixing bowl beat together the eggs with the mayo and soured cream, add the flour and baking powder and mix again. The batter shouldn't be too thick, so that you can easily spoon it. If it is too thick, add a dash of milk and mix. The Russian mayo we used to cook with was of a runny variety, and worked very well in this recipe.
Take a cake tin or a deep pie dish and oil the inside of the tin a bit (you can also use the cake release oil, works a treat for this dish). Spoon in half of the batter. Put all the fish/rice mix on top. Spoon the remaining batter over the fish and rice.
Place the tin in the oven preheated to 180C and cook for about 45-50 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Take the tin out, let it rest for 5 minutes before carefully placing it on a plate.

Serve sliced. Great with pickles.

This recipe brings back memories of many a chat over a plate of the fish pie and numerous cups of tea with my friends. I had an old battered frying pan without a handle, which was blackened with age but worked really well, when I made my cakes and pies.

If using this recipe, buy the supermarket own mayo and soured cream rather than branded, so it will work as even less expensive.
I cooked this pie with Tilda basmati rice but again if you're counting the pennies, the supermarket varieties will be as fine.

Now some calculations:
Waitrose half fat mayo - £0.60
Waitrose soured cream h/f £1.10 (for 300ml) which is equivalent of £0.91 per 250ml
Princes pink salmon £1.50 (offer from tesco)
Tilda basmati - £4.49 per 1kg (also bought on offer a couple of weeks ago, when it was £3)
onion? about 10p?
essential Waitrose free range eggs 9 for £1.99 (22p each)
salad onions (about 8 in a bunch) for £0.95 (or 0.12 each)
with rice I'm not quite sure about the weight, as I didn't check, let's say I used less than 100g of dried rice so it would have been less than 30p.
I have a huge bag of flour, again not quite sure about the exact cost of 150g, but I didn't buy it specially for this dish.
The total cost would be about £4.30 for a big fish pie, which makes about 6 portions. If you use sardines, supermarket own rice and flour etc, it will be even less expensive.

Adding my budget recipe to £1 Recipe Challenge on Utterly Scrummy Food For Families Blog

and to January's Crunch Munch linky hosted by Fab Food for All blog and Fuss Free Flavours.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Basmati and butternut squash layer cake (recipe for Tilda Mums Helping Mums campaign)

If you read my blog regularly, you know how often I mention Tilda rice. Tilda basmati is one of my kitchen staples, and I use it very often in numerous dishes, from soups to salads, from fish pies to jambalaya.

"Tilda rice is supporting the World Food Programme for the third year, with its Mums Helping Mums initiative. As you know, Tilda Mums Helping Mums campaign donates meals to mothers in Bangladesh, helping them give their unborn children the best start in life. Low birth weight can seriously affect babies’ physical and cognitive development, so vital nutrition is essential from the start.  So far, Tilda has donated over one million meals and with your help would like to continue to grow this number.
Following the success of Tilda's Mums Helping Mums Cookbook app last year, Tilda is updating it with even more exciting recipes from our favourite celebrities and mummy bloggers to help launch this year's campaign."

The recipe for Basmati and butternut squash layer cake I am sharing with you today is my submission for the cookbook app (ever so hopeful, me).

I have been inspired by the risotto layer cake I tried years ago in Italy. It definitely used the risotto rice, and I believe mascarpone cheese (I think it was mascarpone but it might have been ricotta) among many other ingredients. 

Basmati and butternut squash layer cake
600g cooked Tilda basmati rice
1 big leek
2  cloves of garlic
3tbsp olive oil+
80ml white wine
1tsp wild rose el hanout spice mix
350g butternut squash, ready peeled and sliced
200g chestnuts, peeled (Merchant Gourmet, for example)
30g raisins
about 12 leaves of cabbage (big size)
200g lighter soft cheese
100g Cornish yarg
50g Stilton

Slice the leek finely and fry with 2tbsp of olive oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped gralic and finely chopped chestnuts, spices and cubed butternut squash, raisins and wine. Cover with the lid and cook for 20 minutes until the squash is cooked. You might want to add a bit of water as well.
Set aside to cool a bit.
In the meantime cook the basmati rice, and again set aside, once done.
In a big pan of boiling salted water cook the cabbage leaves two at a time, remove them after 3 minutes carefully from the pan, and let them drain. You will need about 12 biggish cabbage leaves. I used the pointed variety, and actually bought two cabbages so that I had the leaves of about the same size.
Take a deep Pyrex dish or pie dish, oil it a bit, and line the cabbage leaves, overlapping, so that the whole dish is covered and the tips of leaves are over the edge.
Grate the Yarg cheese and crumble Stilton (you can use any other cheese, this is what I had in the fridge as leftovers which I wanted to use).
Add the soft cheese to the chestnut/squash mixture. Mix well. 
Put half of the cooked rice in the dish with cabbage leaves. Crumble the Stilton. Add half of grated Yarg. Spoon the chestnuts/squash/soft cheese over the rice. That's the second layer. Third layer - rice again topped with the remaining grated Yarg. Place a couple of cabbage leaves over the top and then fold over the cabbage leaves that were hanging over the dish (see the image above).
Cover the dish with the foil or lid (if you have one, mine has gone awol). Place the oven in the oven preheated to 180C and cook for half an hour.
Place a plate over the top and carefully turn the dish, so that the cabbage covered rice cake stays on the plate.

 Slice and serve hot.