Now then: does the risotto with thyme, prosciutto, pecorino and crumbled goat cheese get you all of a-tingle ‘down below’? Are you chewing the seat with anticipation? Then by all means scroll down, but first, part six of our Swiss tales – part seven is the final entry and that’ll be coming online soon, but I’ve got such a bad habit of not finishing our travel stories that I’m determined to see this one out. Remember, this is holiday zero of twelve this year: this is a bonus one! Oops.
You last left us as we fell off the train in Bern, completing a ridiculously scenic yet slightly tiring eight hour trip around Switzerland by train. You need to understand that this was easily the most beautiful train journey we’ve ever done (though that’s not an especially high benchmark – I can’t imagine the Metro journey from South Shields to Shiremoor making many bucket lists) but even in the face of such beauty, you find yourself dozing off. My eyebrows were aching from raising in delight. The last entry dealt with our first night in Bern and a couple of day trips, but I did say I’d revisit this to tell you a little more about Bern itself. But before we begin, here’s Paul as a biscuit:
Firstly, did you know it’s the capital of Switzerland? I have to admit, I thought the capital was Geneva, but no – little Bern holds the title. On the edge of your seat yet? You ought to be: clamp down whatever pair of lips you’ve got available and hold on because here’s another riproaring fact for you: it’s also known as the City of Fountains due to the many ornate fountains dotted around. By extension, Newcastle should be called the City of Broken Teeth, or Southend the Land of the Split Hymen.
No, let’s be fair, there are an awful amount of fountains everywhere, to the point where you’re constantly needing a piss thanks to the incessant background noise of tinkling water. Hilariously, one of the fountains, the snazzily named Kindlifresserbrunnen, depicts an ogre eating little children. I assumed it must just be a metaphorical take on child cannibalism but nope, there it is, proud as punch, standing in the centre of the Kornhausplatz, with the body of a devoured child sticking out of his gob. It’s what I imagine Theresa May has in her front garden to keep the local peasants away from her gooseberries.
Like Geneva, it’s obligatory to smoke – I never left a building without feeling like I was the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, appearing from doorways in a flourish through the whirling cloud of fag smoke. The main area of Bern is called the Old City of Bern and it is this you’ll be familiar with – the Medieval buildings, the chocolate-box shops literally selling chocolate boxes and dozens of tiny shopping arcades and cobbled streets where the buildings above actually hang over the walkways. It’s all exceptionally twee and stunning to look at – so much history and culture in one glorious settings – and thus it was inevitable that the first shop Paul and I would enter was a seedy sex shop on the main arcade.
Well: gosh. It was dark around the back of the shop and the air heady with poppers – I put my hand out to steady myself on a bannister only to hear a loud groan of pleasure. We didn’t like to loiter because it looked like the type of place that was due a raid from the vice squad and so we made to leave. On our hasty exit out of there we spotted a fondue shop just over the road and made a mental note to return to it later.
I mean, look at this astrological clock on the Zytglogge..It’s beautiful. Paul stopped to use the pissour nearby and I shouted ‘I can see Uranus!’. The crowd went mild.
We spent the rest of the morning just casually walking around Bern – it’s a pleasantly compact place and the streets lend themselves to just exploring, though you can hop on the trams if you like. There’s a tram every half second, seemingly. We crossed the River Aare (presumably so called because you’re constantly going ‘Aare, that’s reet beautiful that is‘) via the Nydeggbrücke bridge (itself an absolute beauty, not least because it gave you a perfect view of Old Bern). Paul took a photo:
I spotted signs for the Bärengraben – a bear park.
Now come on – if there’s anywhere that’s going to pique my curiosity, it’s a heavily wooded area supposedly filled with bears roaming around looking for action. I’d already lubed up and adopted the ‘airport security check’ position when Paul pointed out that it wasn’t bears in the sense of hairy, older gay men, but rather the ursine variety. The ones that kill and steal honey. I tried to hide the disappointment as it cascaded across my face and we headed over. Also, we had a brief conversation there and then about at some point having to change the name of the blog when we’re no longer classed as cubs – I’m already in the grey area – we’ll be known as two burly bears. See, always thinking ahead.
There’s many varying accounts of why Bern has live bears frolicking about, but the most widely accepted idea is that Bern’s soldiers returned home from a wee skirmish in Italy with various spoils and er, a live bear. Christ, I thought I was doing well coming home from Rome with 200 Chesterfields smuggled down my trousers. Anyway, since then, they’ve always kept a few bears in the bear-pit. Don’t worry, they’re well looked after – lots of bedding, room to scratch about it and occasionally they’ll hurl a particularly noisy tourist in there for them to maul. Oh how excited I was to see them – I love bears!
Except, no, they’d been put away for the winter, like a set of Christmas decorations. We were told we could watch them via a webcam but frankly, I get enough action watching bears in bed on the internet at home, I didn’t need to see it. We still wandered about stroking our chins at the information boards and trying out the new lift for the disabled, then we made our way down to the banks of the river and had a walk along.
A quick mention of the weather: it was my absolute favourite: freezing cold but not biting, air so fresh it’d like you’ve sucked it out of Tom Hardy’s freshly Sminted lungs, sunlight bouncing merrily off every surface and the sky a deep blue. I love winter and this was just the place to experience it. Paul somewhat broke the moment by telling me to get my fat ankles walking a little quicker as he needed the toilet and had spotted a public lavatory on the horizon. Other people visit churches and cathedrals on holiday – Paul seems to class a holiday as a failure if he hasn’t evacuated his bowels in various ways four times a day.
Paul disappeared into the gents and I stationed myself nearby, loitering in a way that I hoped didn’t make me look like a pervert hanging around the bogs but wanting to be near enough in case of any emergencies. Paul managed to snap the lock off a toilet door once and as a result I’m always on edge. Fifteen minutes – I kid you not – passed before he came hurtling out, telling me to come and have a look at something. I protested, naturally – I mean, we’re a close couple, but I do have limits, and anyway what did he want me to do, stick a first prize rosette in it? He pulled at my shoulder and dragged me in.
I have to admit, I’ve never seen one quite like this. I took a video of it to send to my work colleagues, and Paul was so excited. He loves anything unusual! I’m glad he did call me into the toilet because frankly, I didn’t want to miss this! I mean, just watch:
How fun is that? OK look, to anyone else, it’ll probably be nothing, but we love anything gadgety and this way, you’re not having to sit on someone else’s arse-sweat to do your business. A miracle! And in a public loo! In the UK you count yourself lucky if you’re not sitting on a filthy syringe. You can tell they are well off!
After we’d finished shrieking and gasping we emerged from the toilet together, and after only a forty minute interview with the police, we were free to get on with the morning. We spent the morning visiting the cathedrals (stunning) and churches dotted about, making sure we signed the visitors book with ‘Too much body of Christ this winter? Try www.twochubbycubs.com’ before we left. Oh I know, I’m a tinker, but hell, if God is going to strike me down for anything, it’ll be the rampant sodomy, not a bit of advertising.
We eventually made our way back to the tiny restaurant back in the main square to finally try out the Swiss delicacy of fondue. The place was packed full of couples having intense conversations and speaking every language but English. I could barely make my way to the table past all of the glottal stops. I love this type of restaurant – unfussy, homely and a bit ramshackle. All it needed was Paul sitting there without his shirt on spilling his dinner over his tits for me to feel completely at home.
For those that div-not-knaa, fondue is (normally) Gruyère cheese mixed with alcohol and melted slowly over a naked flame – the entire pot is then brought to the table and you’re given cubed things to dip into it. Frankly, it took all of my self-control not to push my entire face into the pot and die a happy man, but I knew easyJet wouldn’t let me through if my face looked like the top of a lasagne.
We ordered Fondue Pesto Rosso – they added sundried tomato pesto and basil, bringing me to full stiffness – with a side of Kalte Gemüsebeilage (bless you) (cold vegetables) and (Kartoffelbeilage) (no no, after you) boiled potatoes for dipping. I don’t need to tell you how delicious it was. There’s lots of etiquette around enjoying fondue – always stir clockwise, do twirl your fork to keep the table tidy, do make some noise. Pfft. They were lucky I didn’t ask for the entire thing to be delivered intravenously.
We spent a happy half hour dipping our bread and scraping every last bit of crusty brown cheese from the bottom of the dish (we weren’t being common, you’re supposed to do it – it’s called ‘la religieuse’ and is a delicacy, promise) and settled back with a loud groan and bellies full of cheese. With the sure and certain knowledge that we’d be pooing Cheesestrings for a good two weeks, we decided not to risk dessert and simply to get the bill.
Well, that sounds easy in print, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine what we had done to our waitress – we’d been unfailingly polite and ho-ho-British – but could we balls get her attention. By this point lunch hour had clearly finished and the place was nearly empty bar us and an elderly lady shaking her way through her seventh kirsch of the day, but help was nowhere to be seen.
We waited politely for almost twenty minutes – our waitress very occasionally popped her head out and stole a glance at us, only to disappear again – and then we started getting distressed. Paul had to google whether there was some unspoken way of showing we had finished and had enough but nothing came up. I did offer to pitch face-first into the pot clutching my heart but he didn’t want to make a scene.
She appeared a good ten minutes later, finally, looking terribly flushed in the face. My working theory: she was letting the chef dip more than a cornichon in her cheese pot. Her bajingo was giving off so much heat that she nearly relit the fondue candle. After paying Paul’s entire annual wage for our meal, we headed back out to explore Bern.
That was the idea, anyway: we actually, oh the shame, had to waddle back to the hotel room and have a nap. We were having the cheese-sweats and Christ we knew about it. That seems like a good point to leave it!
Speaking of cheese, shall we get to this delicious risotto with thyme, prosciutto, pecorino and crumbled goat cheese? Shall we? Then let’s not delay a moment more.
to make risotto with thyme, prosciutto, pecorino and crumbled goat cheese you will need:
- 2 pints chicken stock
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- ½ head celery, finely chopped
- 400g arborio rice
- 2 handfuls of thyme leaves, chopped (or 3 tsp of dried thyme will do)
- 50g soft goat’s cheese (8 syns)
- 105g extra light soft cheese (this is one HEA, by the way)
- 25g pecorino (5 syns) (if you don’t have pecorino, parmesan, parigiano reggiano or grana padano will do just as well)
- 6 slices prosciutto, torn up (3 syns)
I’m not a huge fan of celery but it actually adds something to this dish, so leave it in. This comes in at 4 syns each, so it does Elizabeth.
to make risotto with thyme, prosciutto, pecorino and crumbled goat cheese you should:
- in a bowl, mix together the goats cheese and soft cheese until well combined, then put in the freezer to firm up whilst you do the rest
- heat a little oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat
- add the onions, garlic and celery and fry slowly for about 4 minutes
- add the rice to the pan, stir well and knock the heat up – keep stirring for about a minute
- add the thyme
- add a ladleful of stock and stir until it’s absorbed – stir the rice gently
- keep adding stock, a ladle at a time, until it’s all gone
- remove from the heat and stir in the pecorino
- serve, then drape over the prosciutto and dollops of goaty soft cheese over the top
Doesn’t that feel like a proper cheat day dinner? And yet, still within your syns! Get it made.
Need more ideas? Well gosh, click a button below and get on with it.