“Madhouse Cookbook” – Our Verdict

Maureen: It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. It was just sort of “blah.”  I wasn’t inspired.

Kirstin: I was! We ventured into the grown up section last week and enjoyed lots of curries. I loved the variety in this book; Asian, English, cakes, all sorts.

Maureen: There wasn’t anything in there that I hadn’t seen somewhere else.

Kirstin: Whereas I liked the beauty that it was all in one book! This is a book I could take on holiday and know that I could cook for any occasion and with lots of possibilities to choose from.

Maureen: I didn’t like the way she split the book into grown ups and children. There’s no way I’m returning to the bad old days of having to make two different dinners every night.

Kirstin: Maybe that’s because our children our older now and we all eat together.

Maureen: I did make some of the grown up recipes and the kids loved them too.

Kirstin: Mind did too!

Overall Grade (A- F): A (Kirstin): C (Maureen)
Best recipes: I loved the roast chicken and the curries were great. We make her miso salmon every week now; it’s a huge hit. And I’ve enjoyed the leftovers too. (Kirstin) The spicy halloumi salad was good, but then again, I love anything with halloumi. (Maureen)
Grade for Photography (A-F): B from both of us. It was OK.
Any disasters? Kirstin: No. Maureen: Yes. The “Very Special Fried Rice” was a disaster the first time I made it, and the second time less so, but still not great..
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf. For sure. Maureen: Charity Shop, unfortunately.

“Madhouse Cookbook” – Our Verdict

“Pantry Pasta Puttanesca” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

Kirstin: I do love an everyday pasta recipe!

Miles: I don’t like olives.

Kirstin: Well, I took them out for you. See?

Tom: The anchovies really add something special to a puttanesca sauce, don’t they?

Kirstin: I’m struggling to find decent chillies at the moment. You know, the sort that are actually hot!

Ella: I like this pasta sauce.

Kirstin: Good! Because we will be having this one again!


“Pantry Pasta Puttanesca” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

“Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

Maureen: Although you would think we could have this on Meat Free Monday, we can’t, because it’s got bacon.

Nicholas (9): Yum. Bacon!


Maureen: Agreed. Bacon makes everything better. What do you think?

Andrew (13): It’s nice.

Nicholas: It’s good.

Maureen: Do you like it better than the other carbonara I made from Lisa Faulkner’s cookbook?

Andrew: Both are good, but to be honest, I don’t remember the other one all that well. I just remember that it was fine.

Maureen: This one is different in that you add some grated courgette to it. I like that it’s adding more vegetables, but it seems to me that it’s no longer a carbonara if you’ve got courgette swimming in the sauce.

Andrew: I see what you mean. This is fine. It’s not fantastic, but it’s not a disaster.

Nicholas: I agree with Andrew.

Maureen: I’m not sure I would make this again. I’d probably make the Lisa Faulkner one, or maybe even a different recipe altogether, when I make carbonara again.

“Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

“Spicy Halloumi with Tomato and Coriander Salad” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

Oh halloumi, how I love thee.

It is an odd cheese, to be sure. If you’ve never eaten it before, whatever you do, don’t eat it cold. When cold, it has the consistency (not to mention the slight taste) of rubber. This might also explain that when you buy it, it has a use-by date about a year into the future. It’s made from a combination of sheep and goat milk.

Once you heat it up, you can leave any worries about the cheese behind. Upon heating, either over a grill (preferable) or fried, the once rubbery cheese becomes something else altogether. Unlike almost all other cheeses, it has a very high melting point, which means you can grill or fry without worrying that you’re going to inadvertently make some fondue.

Amid the recent economic troubles of Cyprus, I didn’t worry about how the troubles might hurt the rest of the European economy, but how it might affect my supply of halloumi cheese. Priorities.


So it was with great glee that I found the recipe for spicy halloumi with tomato and coriander salad in the Madhouse Cookbook. Sign me up.

The recipe is from the “Cling On to Your Social Life” chapter and is intended to be a starter for four adults. I halved the recipe and turned it into a lunch for one adult (me).

For this dish, Jo Pratt tells you to marinade the halloumi cheese in olive oil, lemon juice, garam masala and chilli powder. In all my delicious previous encounters with the cheese, I never marinated it, but I was willing to give it a try. The end result was interesting, but I think wholly unnecessary. Halloumi is just as good on its own, though I did appreciate that it was a somewhat different approach than what I normally do with halloumi, which is just throw it on the closest heat source while my mouth waters.

The tomato salad that went with it was simple, but very good. It was a combination of cherry tomatoes, coriander leaves and red onion dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Will I have this again for lunch? You bet, especially as I am currently attempting to eat vegetarian for all lunches. Will I go to the trouble of marinating the halloumi? Probably not, but it was a good idea.

Finally, on behalf of all halloumi lovers worldwide, can I just say to the economy of Cyprus: Get better soon.

“Spicy Halloumi with Tomato and Coriander Salad” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

“South Indian Chicken Curry” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

Tom: Ooooo. A curry!

Kirstin: Yes! Indeed, this is the first of two we are trying out this week. They’re from the grown-up section of the book but I know our two little people enjoy spicy food.

Miles: We have this at school! And I love it!


Kirstin: Really? Well then you should like this too!

Miles: I do! I do!

Kirstin: It was a bit of a faff. But then again all good curries require time and patience. And my goodness, the smell of the black mustard seeds when they were roasting was phenomenal. I managed to get some of the sauce on my top, as expected. I just can’t be trusted when turmeric is in any recipe!

“South Indian Chicken Curry” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

“Moist Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

Kirstin: Thank you for helping me with this cake, Miles.

Miles: I love baking with you, mummy.


Kirstin: I love baking with you too, Miles. You are such a good helper. Did you like this cake?

Miles: I don’t really like jam.

Kirstin: You are a funny boy. But everyone else devoured their slices, didn’t they? And it was perfectly moist too. Shall we bake this again?

Miles: Yes please!

Kirstin: You are on! And Louis liked it too, didn’t he? Well the icing anyway….

photo copy

“Moist Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

“Very Special Fried Rice” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

I really wanted to like this recipe. I wanted to like this recipe so much that even after its disastrous first round that I tried it again. Alas, while it wasn’t as big a disaster the second time, it still wasn’t very good. Life is too short to be making bad food.

This recipe was like a date that was good on paper, but once you met him, it just didn’t work.


It should have worked because it has all the things we like to eat. Loads of vegetables? Check. Rice? Check. Chicken? Check. Asian influences? Check. And yet, it still didn’t work.

This recipe presents several problems. First, you need 250 grams of leftover basmati rice. Who ever has leftover rice in their refrigerator? I mean, we do, sometimes, but that’s only when we order a takeaway curry and ordered too much, but then we have leftover curry to go with it. But the “leftover” is key. I discovered that if you make the rice fresh, as it did the first time, the resulting dish is a big gloopy mess and not at all fried-rice like.

For the second go around, when I STILL didn’t have any leftover basmati rice, nor could find any in the ready made section of the supermarket, I decided I would try to the microwaveable express rice that they have. That seemed to work better, because it was a drier rice, which is probably what she was looking for. In any case, I didn’t have a gloopy mess, so that was progress.

The second big problem is the question of how many people it actually feeds. It says that it makes enough for “2 adults or 4 kid-sized portions”. That’s annoying for someone like me, who needs to make enough for two adults, one teenage boy and one 9 (nearly 10) year-old. The first time I made it, I doubled the recipe, figuring that would feed us all with some leftovers. How wrong I was. I had enough to feed any army. When I made it again, I only had to feed one adult, one teenage boy and one 9-year-old, so I followed the recipe and didn’t increase it. We had just enough for the three of us.

The third problem was the inclusion of PINEAPPLE– yes, you read that right– in the fried rice. I’ve never had pineapple in fried rice, and I don’t intend to start. I know Kirstin would agree with me, because she cannot abide any savoury dishes with fruit in them. Fair enough. A quick Internet search showed that some Thai fried rice dishes use pineapple, but still, it didn’t seem right to me.

So what’s the verdict on Very Special Fried Rice? Not so special in this house, I’m afraid.

“Very Special Fried Rice” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

“Honey Miso Salmon with Warm Green Salad” from “Madhouse Cookbook”.

Kirstin: Here’s a different version of our usual salmon recipe.

Ella: Ooo. What’s in the sauce?

Kirstin: Miso. I had to go to a Chinese supermarket to find it. Was it worth the trip?

Tom: Definitely! It really makes the sauce balanced.

Kirstin: Ella and Miles, you have both eaten all your fish! Well, I will definitely be making this one again then! I liked the green salad too.


“Honey Miso Salmon with Warm Green Salad” from “Madhouse Cookbook”.

“Simple Slow-roast Chicken Dinner” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

Kirstin: I wasn’t sure how this was going to work. Three hours to roast a chicken!

Tom: The meat just fell off the bone.

Kirstin: And the gravy is sensational.

Tom: What are these vegetables here?

Kirstin: Roast butternut squash and carrots. Don’t they taste delicious?

Tom: They do!

Kirstin: I will be making this again. And again. And again! Absolutely delicious. Every single mouthful. I’ve also been practising shooting manual with my camera, so these pictures are all dark and moody and are taken with my macro lens because it’s finally light enough in the evenings to use it!


“Simple Slow-roast Chicken Dinner” from “Madhouse Cookbook”