madhouse march (it’s another GIVEAWAY!!)

I’m the first to admit that this blog is not a very useful one. I don’t teach you how to braid Afro hair, give you numerous recipes for gluten-free vegans, explain some complicated piece of computing, or provide numerous rainy-day activities for hyperactive preschoolers.

If you’re new to the blog and haven’t yet sussed the vibe, it is this: I witter on about something or other for around 800 words and people read it and sometimes comment and then get on with their lives regardless. This blog does not change lives.

But, dear friends, now I want to repay you for your loyalty and commitment to my various rants. This blog is about to change your life. Get ready for it: I am about to share with you my one biggest secret to organising your family’s meals forever. Some of you may remember that way back in the distant past of January 2015, I made a resolution to cook from a different cookbook each month. Hands-down, the best and most practical family cookbook I have ever come across is the one I was lucky enough to cook from throughout March.

Madhouse Cookbook

Madhouse Cookbook, by Jo Pratt, is a pretty apt book for me – the fact that I’m writing up what I did in March when it’s nearly May should be evidence enough that we qualify under the ‘madhouse’ moniker. I have two kids to feed, as well as a husband with an odd working schedule and a lodger with an aversion to lamb, fish and meat-on-the-bone – not to mention sundry others who pop in, sometimes planned and invited, sometimes unplanned, sometimes uninvited, but always welcome. There has to be food on the table by 6pm (or else our kids will flip) and there has to be enough to feed whoever God may bring to our door that day. Jo Pratt’s recipes are flexible, child-friendly, quick, easy and yummy. I’m telling you: buy this book. It will change your life. (Get to know Jesus first though – He will change your life more. But, after that, buy this book.)

What makes this book stand out? First, nearly every recipe is pure gold in terms of flavour. Quite outstanding. From Chinese to Mexican to Italian to Indonesian, Jo Pratt has produced a stellar selection of meals which will give your kids a hugely varied diet without them even realising, whilst the grown-ups enjoy food that is in no way ‘dumbed down’. Second, there are virtually none of those recipes that you might just throw together yourself with no need for guidance. (I always get so disheartened flicking through a recipe book and seeing titles such as ‘tomato and courgette pasta’ or ‘roast chicken with garlic’ – why pay good money for recipes you don’t need?) Those few recipes which do fit this category are briefly summarised in categories, e.g. ‘Very, Very, Very Quick Pasta Dishes’ or ‘Stir Crazy’, a collection of stir-fry sauces.

Third, the book is just so comprehensive. Section one is ‘Monday to Friday survival: the need for speed’ – and it does what it says on the tin. Quick recipes, yummy flavours, great for kids and adults alike. We loved the Very Special Fried Rice, the Chicken, Cheese and Corn Quesa-d-easies and the Mediterranean Baked Chicken and Rice – all great, none of them time-consuming. We regularly use Jo’s Risotto Primavera recipe – sometimes following to the letter, sometimes varying with whatever veg we have to hand, always scrummy. Section two is ‘The Busy Weekend’ – great (but still quick) recipes to improve your weekend, from lazy brunch ideas, to baking-with-kids projects, to relaxed family meals. The Sticky Sausages with Sweet Potatoes and Peppers is a work of genius – 15min prep, then bang in the oven for an hour. Rich Vegetable Lasagne was a winner too. (And did I mention that we found plenty of new vegetarian recipes to suit our half-vegetarian diet?) Section three is ‘Cling on to your social life’ – a selection of slightly smarter recipes for when friends come round. But of course nothing takes ages to make because Jo realises you have Kids Who Are Not Tired to put to bed and All The Chaos to clear away and Unidentifiable Hardened Food to scratch off the dining table – in addition to cooking for your guests. The Beef Rendang and South Indian Chicken Curry were amazing, and the Chocolate and Ginger Brownies were so good I made them three times in one week. (Beach-ready body? Er…)

Add to all this the accurate preparation and cooking times, guidance on how many adults/kids the meal will feed, ingredients lists which don’t require a trip to a specialist deli, and plenty of tips for leftovers or how to vary the meals for fussy eaters – and you’re left with an incredible resource, not only for family life but for anyone who likes to cook. Honestly, if you want decent recipes which don’t take long to prepare, buy this book, whether or not you have kids, a spouse, a lodger, or a dog – and prepare to weep over its sheer ease and yum factor.

But don’t buy the book just yet. Because I think it’s such an invaluable aid to anyone’s cooking repertoire, I’m going to give away a copy to a commenter picked at random this Saturday at 7pm (OK, you know that this means sometime during Sunday or Monday…). This time I’d like you to comment on the most mad thing you’ve ever cooked. I once made a Marmite, sweetcorn and squid sandwich. Fire away.


13 Replies to “madhouse march (it’s another GIVEAWAY!!)”

  1. I opened the oven door and lobbed in a banana- it came out completely black but beautifully baked underneath the skin- a no prep desert!

  2. I once made a cheese, Nutella and Dolmio toastie when working the toastie shift in our college shop at Durham. Disclaimer: it was the request of a paying customer! I was merely obeying orders. X

  3. I always read your blog when it pops into my inbox, and I enjoy the wittering! Don’t worry about the life-changing challenge part of blogging. (“Beach-ready body?…Err” made me guffaw out loud!)
    I made garlic soup to supposedly help me recover from a cold. Twenty cloves of garlic, plus some onions and leeks. Young son and I thought it was delicious but when my husband arrived home he was repelled at the door by the smell and was almost unable to enter the house. Made me promise never to make it again..

  4. There have been a lot of weird things with weetabix…mainly liquidised with orange juice and bananas when recovering from jaw surgery…. I also remember a very strange phase at uni when I craved pasta, broccoli and ketchup for several days, I assume my body was telling me something!

  5. I love your blog too Lucy. When you say mad cooking I have either unsuccessful or ridiculously over ambitious to offer. Most unsuccessful was trying to cook cottage cheese with tomatoes in a pot. The cheese separated into small hard bits and yellow liquid. It was *so disgusting* I actually let it go to waste. One of my particularly over ambitious times (although actually very successful really in the end) was when I did tempura vegetables and a vegetarian chilli. It was mad because I filled a very large pot to very near the top with very hot oil. No one got burned and I think now that is actually pretty amazing. I would not reproduce those conditions! X ps The garlic soup sounds good Rachel!

  6. Where do I start….not sure I can choose just one! The most mad was probably liver, bacon and onions cooked on the edge of Loch Ness in Scotland – we were running short of cash on a long camping trip – we literally pulled over, got the camping stove out and threw on some liver we’d got free from a butcher when we’d purchased some bacon. In fact on the same trip I remember cooking in a wok on a camping stove in a service station car park (again saving cash) – my fella nipped in to the loo, I said I’d whip up some lunch from our supplies and wearing a skirt and heels I squatted on a grass verge and rustled up some lunch! Got a pic somewhere, I look ridiculous. Although to top all that my niece (aged 4) asked me for a princess castle cake with turrets for her birthday and at that age you can’t explain that your good at making cakes which taste nice but not so good at the presentation part. So I embarked on a week long after-work project swapping sleep for cake making and with the aid of my husband and to everyone’s complete disbelief including mine….created a two tier princess castle with brick stencilling, 4 turrets and pretty pink vines climbing up the sides!! Think I’d actually gone mad by the end of that process, then carried it on my knee in the car on the hottest September day you’ve ever seen, 76 miles across the country where my careful cocktail stick and jam construction was tested to the limits! All to please a 4 yr old….tasted good though! 😉

  7. OK. So when in year 7 for a home economics lesson I made a very kitsch toadstall dish. Basically boiled eggs, with halved tomatoes on top, spotted with mayonnaise.. Very kitsch but it gets worse…my mum had told me it takes 7 minutes to boil an egg. So in my naievety I popped the eggs in cold water on the hob for 7 minutes and then removed them and assembled the dish. Needless to say they were rather runny toadstalls! My poor teacher wouldn’t go anywhere near them! 😉

  8. Most things I eat on crumpets I put plain yogurt on top, ie peanut butter and yogurt, marmite marmalade and yogurt, hummus and yogurt etc. I love it but others look at me funny when I do it,

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