lentil shepherd’s pie with cheesy mash

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Just a boring bit of admin to get out of the way first before we get started. Apologies, I know some of you will have already seen this message, but just to make sure – we’re not an official Slimming World blog and we’re not consultants. We couldn’t be – I’d spend about five minutes asking people how much they’d lost and then fifty five minutes trying to crack jokes and farting. No, we’re just two members following the Slimming World plan the best we can – we work out the syns via the online calculator on Slimming World’s own website, but if you’re ever unsure, you should check them yourself.

Also, just a bit of clarification (partly because I got a snotty email yesterday from someone saying I didn’t need to write an essay before every recipe) – this is a personal blog, not a food recipe blog. I don’t itch during the day to rush home and type out a bloody roulade recipe, let me tell you. We’re just here as an excuse for me to write and to hopefully provide help for those who want it. Yes, we’re coarse and yes, we’re a bit blue and near-the-knuckle, but if you’re after a frilly fancypants fartyarse blog where someone spends two hours agonisingly describing every last boring step of their wonderful soup recipe, there’s plenty out there. We’re humans, not robots.

Remember, and this rather applies for all the Professionally Offended out there, you don’t need to read. That’s the joy of the internet!

So, that’s the admin out of the way. Being butch doesn’t really suit me, I’d look shit in a chest harness. Actually that’s a fib, I look great in leather. Like the last settee in the DFS sale.


twochubbycubs go to Iceland: part four

I wish I could tell you that we spent the day doing all sorts of thrilling things, but instead, we just mooched around the city, taking our time with food and nonsense. Listen, people who say they go on holiday and proceed to tell you they spent every waking moment doing activities, undertaking the local customs and enjoying the national food is an outright fibber. Sometimes you need to take it slowly, like a fibre-packed jobbie.

Having enjoyed ‘Escaping the Room’ once, we went back and tried the other two scenarios available – curing cancer and escaping a creepy haunted bedroom. I’ve never cured cancer, so of course we failed on that one, but we did manage to escape the bedroom, after somewhat embarrassing ourselves…

We walked from the hotel up to Reykjavik’s main shopping centre, Kringlan, partly because it was within stumbling distance and also because I needed to buy the most vile sweets I could find for the office. Not because I hate the people I work with, you understand, but simply because nothing says ‘GLAD TO BE BACK, LOL’ like salted liquorice balls that look, taste and smell like something you’d shovel out of a hamster cage.

Perhaps I’m spoiled by having the Metrocentre so near by (where retail goes to die), but it really wasn’t worth the trip. Perhaps due to the fact it’s an island, the ‘stock’ of stuff to buy seems to be very similar wherever you go. Once you’ve smiled politely at a stack of neon pigs or a collection of ashtrays, you’ve done your bit. We did find a shop called Minja which tickled us pink, though neither of us really fancied going in. We looked at it hard, but despite the many people entering it, we sloped off.

More interesting was the fact that Florence and Fred from Tesco seems to be rather big, where it is sold as a high-end range in a department store rather than the shameful secret in amongst the crisps and the beetroot faces as is the case over here. They even had shirts in our sizes, which was surprising given we normally have to buy our shirts from garden centres, but the fact they wanted the equivalent of £55 for a shirt I can buy (and hide under my groceries) for a tenner at home was too much to bear #tightarsegeordie (ah my former gaydar name).

After a bite to eat where they gave me a sandwich and took half of my salary as payment, we were on our way back to the hotel and onto grander things – a Northern Lights bus-tour. The sky didn’t look promising – thick cloud and low visibility. I was reminded of the air directly above Paul’s mother’s chair when she starts on her knockoff Rothmans. The bus driver said we should give a try anyway, so on we went to a very comfortable coach accompanied by around fifteen or so other folks.

We had chosen the deluxe tour, meaning we were to receive snacks, hot chocolate, a footrub and a personal apology from Jesus if the Northern Lights didn’t appear.  Sadly, we hit an immediate problem. See, on our tour a couple of days earlier, there had been a somewhat overbearing woman – the double of that wailing banshee from Everything But The Girl – who sat near us with her mother, and every time we stopped anywhere she’d drift over and attempt to make conversation.

Listen, I’ve got time for anyone, I really have, but deep down, I’m incredibly antisocial. My face screams talk to me, my mind is saying please die. Perhaps I exaggerate. Anyway, every single sentence she said was a really poor joke – it was like making polite conversation with a box of crackers – and then she did this really weird, far too familiar ‘lean’ into our personal space, perhaps to check the volume of our forced laughter.

And, of course, here she was again. Luckily, we had had the wherewithal to dump our bags on the seat in front of us, so she sat in front of those – champion, no talking needed. No, but every single quip, gag, remark or gasp that the chap commentating the tour made was met with her turning around and pushing her face inbetween the two seats to see if we were laughing. We started off with the polite smile and a ‘can he say that’ shake of the head, but we weren’t even out of Reykjavik before that had downgraded into a ‘stare straight ahead, don’t even acknowledge her’, the type of stance you might take if you’d stumbled across a man wanking in a phonebox.

Perhaps this comes across as mean, it really wasn’t meant to, but I stopped babysitting in my teens, I didn’t need it on my holiday.  She eventually got the message and stopped turning around, and we were able to concentrate on the fact the coach was busy barreling down a twisty, turny road in the snow and a very dramatic snow-storm. Excellent driving, absolutely, but I’m not going to claim my arse wasn’t busy unstitching the seat fabric through fear.

After an hour, we stopped off at this little restaurant in the middle of nowhere and were told that we’d be the first people to experience their new attraction, a quick movie about the aurora borealis. Bemused, we were shepherded into the arena where they usually put a live-action horse stunt show on and asked to take our seats – all twenty of us, in this little area that probably held 1,000.

The movie started, projected onto the back wall. And just didn’t finish. I love the Northern Lights as much as anyone, honestly, but it’s hard to maintain a rictus throughout half an hour of stolen footage from Youtube accompanied by Icelandic Enya caterwauling away in the background like she’s shitting out a pine-cone. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it was almost twenty minutes too long, and every time the screen went black and we thought it was finished, up it would start again, leading to a few more taxing minutes of footage of a wispy green cloud. It wouldn’t have been too bad if we had been sitting in proper seats instead of on long wooden boards, at least then we would have been comfortable, but no. It’s a bad job when someone has to turn you to prevent pressure sores halfway through.

We eventually stumbled back to the coach and were on our way into the night. The commentator mentioned that there had been a sighting of the lights on the other coastline, so we were to head there. Absolute fair play to the tour company, they weren’t going to give up – and I had free WiFi and a fully charged phone to keep me occupied. Paul had gone to sleep almost the second his seatbelt clicked on. There wasn’t much to see out of the window – a black cloudy sky above a bleak desolate landscape outside, much like driving through Southend during the day.

After another hour or two, the bus slid into a tiny village and attempted to reverse down a very steep, ice-covered gradient to our restaurant. That was soon stopped, and we were told we had to walk / slide down ourselves. We had been promised a meal to fill our bellies so naturally Paul and I were the first ones off the bus, sliding down the hill to certain satisfaction. Sadly, our weird friend was immediately behind us, and of course, naturally, without any doubt, sat at our table with her mother.

What followed was two things – almost an hour of unbearably awkward, strained conversation, and something that was definitely not a filling meal. The waiter came down to take our order, insofar as he drifted down, put some bread on our table and told us we were having soup. No choice. Meh, I don’t mind soup, and well, it was a restaurant, so how wrong could it go?

Very wrong. The vegetable soup looked like something our cat sicked up when we had her fanny butchered by the vet. It had the consistency (and taste) of one instant tomato soup sachet, divided between twenty. I poked around with a spoon to see if I could find anything to tax my teeth with and happened across one tiny cube of swede. Naturally, Bus-Friend piped up to express her jealousy that I’d at least found some vegetables HA-HA-HA and how I’d need ROLLING BACK UP THE HILL I’M THAT FULL HO-HO-HO. Being the gentleman, I resisted the urge to put her and her Connie Clickit haircut into her tomato water, and grimaced on. I expected dessert, a mint, hell, they could have spread some jam on the tablecloth and I would have gobbled it up, but no, that was it.

I will admit to something terrible, though. And this is terrible, mind, so please don’t think any worse of me after reading. Before we all decamped to the bus, we all got a chance to use the restaurant’s facilities. Naturally, there was only one tiny cubicle, and Paul and I were 9th and 10th in the queue respectively. There was an exceptionally posh lady behind me. Everyone went in and did their business and by the time I went in, there was piddle all over the seat and floor, and, putting paid to my plan for a quick poo, no loo roll to be seen.

Again, ever the gentleman, I didn’t want the lady behind me to think I’d pissed on the floor and seat, so I grabbed a little tiny grey towel that was sitting near the sink to mop it all up with. I hadn’t factored in that the water on the floor wasn’t piss but rather, piss mixed with the melted snow from so many shoes, and as soon as I used the cloth, it was covered in brown streaks and yellow stains on one side. Was there a bin? Of COURSE not. 

So, I did the only thing I could do, finished my piss and very gingerly folded the towel back up in such a way to hide the heavily streaked and piss-soaked side. And popped it back on the little radiator. There was literally nowhere else to put it other than down the toilet and well, I’m not a bastard, I didn’t want to block their toilet, not least because they’d have nothing to serve for dinner to the next unfortunate bastards who rocked up on the coach. I pity the poor madam who went to dab her lipstick or wash her face with that towel and got a load of pissy flannel in her face. I’m sorry, I really am. I’m not a monster.

I did cackle a tiny bit, I’m not going to lie.

With our hunger unsatisfied and our tummies rumbling, we headed back to the coach, drove on a bit and stopped in the middle of nowhere in a deserted carpark. Listen, I’ve been here enough times to know what was happening, but before I’d even had a chance to flash the reading light off and on and put my lip-balm on, we were off again, the driver sadly telling us there would be no chance of seeing the lights at this location. No, we needed to get higher.

I was all for that, though it’s been a while since I’ve skinned up anything more exciting than a social cigarette for a co-worker, but no, he meant going higher into the mountains. Bearing in mind it was pitch black, icy and knocking on past 10pm at this point, everyone reacted in quite a subdued manner. Bus-friend let out such a huge sigh that Paul and I deliberately voiced loudly our desire to go on. Hell, you’re only on holiday once. Or four times a year, in our case. On we went.

The next stop, knocking on at around midnight, was another carpark in the middle of nowhere. We got out, braced ourselves against the absolutely bitter and very strong wind, looked hopefully at the sky, but sadly, the clouds never quite parted. I did see a faint green ethereal glow in the distance, but it turned out to be the driver’s e-cigarette. The commentator opened up the side of the bus and, god bless him, pulled out the world’s flimsiest trestle table and a giant urn of hot water, announcing hot drinks were now available.

Crikey, what a comedy of errors. The wind was so strong that whatever he picked up, be it a paper cup, a sachet of whatever the Icelandic for Options is or the sugar, it either blew out of his hands or he spilt it. We watched from a distance before approaching. For giggles, I asked for a grande mocha frappucino with no cream, mint syrup and could he use soya, I’m lacto-tolerant. He looked like he was about to stick me in the tea-urn so I immediately gave him a gracious ‘BRITS ABROAD EH’ face and got back on the bus. Hmm. Paul eventually brought me a coffee and tutted at me.

Once everyone was on board and had been treated for their second-degree burns, it seemed inevitable that they’d call it a night…but no – one more roll of the dice. He knew a church with excellent viewing possibilities…on a clear night. I looked out of the window into the abyss and dozed for an hour, having drained my battery streaming fail videos on Youtube.

This is the bit where I tell you the bus pulled up, we got out and saw the best god-damn Northern Lights we’d ever seen.

Nope.

But we DID see them, for almost five minutes, albeit through the faint wisps of clouds barreling all over. It was like God, noticing our bus parked outside of the church (and er, if he existed), parted the clouds as best he could to make our almost seven hour journey worth it. It was. Not much can be said about the lights that you can’t imagine yourself, other than what will be obvious to you but didn’t occur to me until I saw them myself. They’re huge, and they’re silent. I was expecting a whoosh or a flutter, but nothing, although the wind would have covered anything. You can’t just look at them because they’re all around you, above you, and they’re magical. Worth seven hours on the bus with a cup of watery coffee and some instant soup? Yep. Worth dealing with a socially awkward lady? Yep. Recommended? Wholeheartedly. It’s something to tick off the list, for sure.

Once the clouds covered them up again, I went for a quick piss around the side of the bus. Sadly, thanks to the wind, it was like that moment in Apollo 13 where he vents his piss into outer space in a giant cloud. I’m a classy guy, what can I say.

The bus took us back to the hotel, with both Paul and I succumbing to the sweet caress of sleep on the journey home, which in turn meant no-one else would get a moment of rest thanks to the cacophonous snoring coming from the back. I’m surprised the driver didn’t pull over to see if he had a reindeer stuck under his tyres. We were back at the hotel for around 2.30am and straight to bed.

Listen – this might have come across as an awful experience, but it wasn’t, it was hilarious, and nothing but top marks to the tour company for so much effort in getting us to see the lights. Yes, the food was pap and the movie abysmal, but we’d do it all over again. There’s something genuinely romantic and exciting about chugging through the darkness in the hope of seeing something so wonderful!

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That’s enough for tonight. That really was a long one, I’m sorry! If you’re here for the recipe, welcome back! We adapted and made SW friendly a recipe from an old cookbook for this – Rose Elliot. We noticed we don’t have many vegetarian recipes on here, so this is a nice easy one that actually tastes really bloody good. It’s heavy-going to eat, so you don’t need a great lot. The recipe serves four.

lentil shepherd's pie

to make lentil shepherd’s pie you will need: 

  • 1kg potatoes, cut into even sized chunks
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 410g tin of green lentils, drained
  • 50g moon-blush tomatoes (we’ve made them before on a previous recipe, or, just use some dried sundried tomatoes brought back to life in hot water)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 160g mature or smoked reduced fat cheese, grated (that’s four HEAs – these make enough for four, easily, so one HEA each)
  • salt and pepper
  • if you’re after the individual Pyrex dishes, we bought them from Amazon, right here

to make lentil shepherd’s pie you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  • cook the potato in a large pan of boiling water until tender, keep aside a mug of the water, drain and set aside
  • heat a large pan over a medium heat and add a little oil
  • add the onions to the pan, stir and cover – cook for fifteen minutes and then remove from the heat
  • add the garlic, tomatoes, lentils, moon-blush tomatoes, tomato puree and salt and pepper to taste and stir well
  • mash the potatoes to your preferred consistency, loosening with a little of the reserved water and add most of the grated cheese, saving enough to scatter on the top
  • pour the lentil mixture into a shallow casserole dish and spread the mashed potato on top 
  • scatter the remaining cheese over the top and bake in the oven for 40 minutes

We served it with kale, Satan’s bumhair.

J