Here for the cheesy leek and bacon pasta bake? WITH NO BLOODY QUARK? But of course you are, my love – the recipe awaits you at the bottom of this page. But before we get to the cheesy leek and bacon pasta bake, we have part one of our holiday entry for our Christmas trip to Sweden and Norway! Newcomers to the blog may not know this, but we’re also a ‘travel’ blog in that when we go away, we like to post the stories of what we get up to. Admittedly, this can lead to a long post, so to help you – if you’re here solely for the food, click the button below to go straight to it! I promise not to cry too much.
The rest of you settle back – this is a long one! And look, to celebrate, I’ve even tidied up the banners – I was sick of that awful messy looking banner template I had. This looks altogether more…Swedish, ja? Let’s go!
I’ve been looking forward to typing up this holiday entry ever since we came back – why? Simple: it was amazing! It’s not as though we did anything out of the ordinary or unique – just our usual pottering about in cities getting lost and having a good time – but there was just something terrific about the whole experience. Every day was a happy memory – I haven’t been able to say that about any holiday since we went on that coach trip. I jest, that was Hell in a 57-seater. But before you join us on our Scandinavian adventure, we need to dip back in time a bit further to a wet October afternoon, where you would have found me slumped over my keyboard at the end of a very, very long email exchange with the other half. Here’s how every single holiday of ours gets planned: I suggest somewhere, Paul sucks air in over his teeth and say ‘oooh’ with that look a roofer gives you when he’s going to need to take your tiles off, I suggest somewhere else, he grimaces like he’s shitting an acorn. He then suggests somewhere wildly expensive and extravagant and pouts when I point out he’s trying to live a Waitrose lifestyle on a shoplifted-from-Lidl budget. We both then give up and stop talking until one of us cracks and we’re friends again, holiday completely forgotten about. Hence, on this October afternoon, conscious of the fact we’d need to book somewhere before all the parents and (shudder) their snotty-nosed litter booked up all the fun places, I sent a plaintive little email asking if we dare broach ‘booking the big holiday’. Paul, to his credit, was very agreeable, but then we immediately started arguing about where to go.
So, I did something I would never normally do because it’s altogether too much effort: I acted unilaterally. Straight onto hotels.com to book four nights in Stockholm, flights to Oslo, four nights in Oslo, a train journey to Bergen, three nights in Bergen and then the flights back to London then to Newcastle. For good measure, I booked the train to take us up to Edinburgh Airport for our Stockholm flight and a hotel for the night before. I parcelled all the reservations in one big PDF and sent them to Paul, triumphant. His reply? ‘Ah good, sounds nice‘
It’s lucky he works twenty miles away and I’m so fat and lazy that I couldn’t be arsed to get in the car to go and tan his arse because damn, was my excitement punctured. He only won me around later by explaining he was in a meeting and actually he was very much looking forward to our lovely holiday and indeed I was the best husband in the world and no, he’d never sin again. I can’t say his agreement was purely because I was pulling on his balls like a farmer milking a cow at the time. Who can say…
To day one, then. Our journey begins as so many of them often do: a taxi ride to the train station by a man so Geordie and hardcore that he explained he’d recently suffered a heart attack at the wheel of his car, chalked it down to indigestion and carried on driving passengers around. It was only after a whole day of chest pains and breathlessness that he went to A&E. Great! I imagine he took my endless staring into his rear-view mirror as rapt attention to his mildly-racist stories but actually, I was just making sure his lips hadn’t turned blue and he wasn’t going to career us into a lamp-post. We made it safely to the station and I left him a generous tip. Well, something had to pay for the funeral buffet. We were due to take the 14.30 Virgin Train to Edinburgh, but, to add a frisson of excitement to the start of our holiday, they elected to jumble all the trains around and delay our train by a full hour. Super, but have no fear, we’re Rockafella Skanks – we had first class advance tickets and thus the utopia that is the first class lounge awaited us – what a treat!
No. You may know this yourself but the first class lounge at Newcastle is fitted out like the waiting room of an NHS dentist – all pastel colours on the wall, hotel biscuits and furniture that looks as though it’s blown in from a storm. It really is dreadful. We comforted ourselves with the fact we could eat as many biscuits as humanely possible and entertain ourselves with our phones, able as we were to take full advantage of the charging points. Only the charging points didn’t work, they had run out of biscuits and the toilet was blocked and overflowing. We’d have had more luxury fighting the rats on the train-tracks for some discarded Greggs and somewhere to shit. To compound my misery I spotted my old HR director from a previous job who I absolutely despised. She was to fun what I am to a chaste heterosexual lifestyle. She was very much one of those type of people who would click ‘skip straight to recipe’ on this blog and then email me to tell me she was allergic to food and how insensitive I was being by posting a recipe. She hated me especially because I burst out laughing when she fell over in the middle of the office, having stumbled into an open floor socket, falling down like one of those cooling towers you sometimes see getting blown up on the telly. I couldn’t help it: I have a nervous laugh, and anyway, she deserved it. She was Miss Trunchbull in a Jigsaw-outlet suit. We clashed many, many times – she upheld a complaint that I laughed too much, for example, and that I didn’t take the job seriously because I wore trainers to work. Pfft. I never said anything about her homage-to-Robert-Winston moustache.
I made sure to give her the sickliest, fakest, cheesiest smile I could muster up – a smile that said ‘Damn, I honestly thought you’d be dead by now, but here’s to the good times, you vile husk of a woman’ and walked past her, making sure she saw I still wore the trainers that used to irk her so. It did mean, however, that I couldn’t relax, because every time I stood up for a fresh coffee or a newspaper she would give me 100% pure stink-eye. So, all in all, a rubbish experience. Luckily, the train journey made up for it, though I wish they’d do away with the pretence of unlimited tea and coffee – we had one member of staff come around with the hot drinks, leave us a gin and gave us a sandwich, and that was it, no more, goodnight nurse. We’d polished off our ‘dinner’ by the time the train was whooshing past the house we’d left only 90 minutes before. No matter – we arrived in Edinburgh in the pissing rain, jumped straight into a taxi (why oh why oh why do people stand and wait for taxis these days? Just use bloody Lyft or Uber for goodness sake – embrace technology!) who whisked us straight to the hotel, but not before regaling us for forty minutes about why electric cars were the future. Forty minutes is a long time to nod politely: my poor neck sounded like popcorn by the end of it. Paul and I have an agreed arrangement: I deal with taxi drivers, he deals with the people who bring room service to our hotel room whilst I hide in the bathroom. It works very well indeed simply because I’m good at making small talk and he’s very believable as a fat bastard who has ordered enough food to feed two people. He’s seen many a hotel worker cast him a pitying look as they put down the laden trays of food in front of him.
Don’t worry, that bedspread soon looked as though someone had spilled Marmite everywhere
Our night at the Dakota was very pleasant indeed, even if the room service left a lot to be desired. It’s all a bit frou-frou – I like to see people buckle under the weight of my plate, not be able to frisbee it across the room because there’s a bit of cress and a hair of cheese on the plate. In fact, we were so unsatisfied by the volume of our food that we waited a discreet twenty minutes and ordered another round. Well, when you’re on holiday, these things don’t matter, though I could have done without the judgemental ‘oh, TWO rounds of room service, my mistake’ remark from the receptionist when we checked out. I don’t think she had warmed to me because, upon seeing that the reception was full of blokes all in black kilts, full Scottish regalia and beards you could lose a dog in, I remarked ‘but I didn’t order breakfast!‘ to her with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink leer. That’ll be us on the blacklist.
I won’t bore you with the 150 minutes we spent at Edinburgh Airport only to make two remarks:
- can someone please persuade my husband that we absolutely do not need to be at the airport so far in advance of a flight, especially when the only thing we’re taking on board the aircraft is hand luggage and chewing gum – I swear that unless Paul’s at the airport the day before he’s an unbearable nervous wreck; and
- massive thank you to the Scottish toilet cleaner who, having not realised I was sitting in the cubicle next to the one she’d just gone in to clean, exclaimed ‘now which fuckin’ dirty c*nt has gone and done that’ in a loud Scottish burr. Thank God I was sitting on the toilet at the time because I would have pissed myself outright – it was so loud and so disgusted that I almost wanted to climb on my toilet to peer over and take a look.
Now here’s a new thing: we weren’t flying easyJet! I know! I want some reassurance from you all though – am I the only one who likes to fly with an airline they’ve flown with before? I think I rationalise it in my mind that they didn’t crash before, so it must be safe. Nevertheless, the lure of a cheaper flight won me over and so it was that we boarded an SAS flight to Stockholm. Well: what a revelation! Lovely new plane, free tea and coffee, USB sockets in the back of the seats – even the bog didn’t smell like a foot and mouth crisis in an open sewer like they normally do. I was very impressed, and even more so when they landed us safely in Stockholm without ditching us into the North Sea. Don’t get me wrong, my heart will always be with the tangerine-trolleys of easyJet, but I might use SAS on the side like the plane-hopping slag that I am.
Before we continue, I want to give praise where it’s due: to Paul. We’ve flown twenty times this year and each time he lets me sit by the window because he knows I like to be able to look at the engine and the wing to make sure everything is OK. I mean, I know the captain has a fair idea, but I’m sure it’s a comfort to him (or her) to know that I’m keeping an eye on the flaps from the back. Story of my life, that. Anyway, I always offer to sit in the aisle but Paul always gives me the window seat and for that he gets a gold star, or a go on my brown star, whichever he prefers. It makes the flight better for me so I want to say a big thank you to my gorgeous and lovely Shitty McGee.
I love this woman’s face. It’s like she’s being asked to blow into a smeggy knob.
We landed on time and were ushered through immigration in a wonderful Swedish efficient manner. I was pleased to see that the lady looked the spit of Agnetha from ABBA – exactly as I expected. We sloshed our way to the train station, took the airport express straight into Stockholm Central and then made our way on foot to our base of operations for the next few days: the Hobo Hotel on Brunkebergstorg. I chose the hotel simply because of the name and the fact it looked so cool and hip on the website. I wanted to see how they’d deal with two fat blokes whose idea of high fashion is a Cotton Traders. To their absolute credit, the staff – though they all looked like they were part of a really shit/unknown yah-yah electrosynth band – were unfailingly lovely and helpful.
Our room – we could watch the office workers over the road. No doubt my fat hairy arse has appeared in their company newsletter.
Our room was gorgeous too – massive bed, good steamy shower, television with Discovery on it (thank heavens – Paul was almost at 24 full hours without watching a How It’s Made) and lots of neat little touches. For example, there was a water pistol – imagine Paul’s delight when he’d just settled down for his ‘Welcome to Stockholm’ crap and I opened the door and squirted him right in the ear. How we laughed as he almost wrenched the toilet away from the wall in sheer fright. Ah, we’d arrived.
All I wanted was one nice picture.
Now, I’ve done the classic twochubbycubs holiday report opening and spent 2000 words getting us to the hotel. I did it with Copenhagen, Paris, Geneva…at this point, it would be rude not to. But let’s close part one here and get to the recipe.
Remember, folks – if you enjoy our holiday entries, please do let us know. I know they’re a longer read but we like to make it interesting. Feedback always welcomed!
Gosh, I’m spent – and now I need to do a full recipe for the cheesy leek and bacon pasta bake that you’re all actually here for! This makes a giant dish of pasta – easily enough for six – but it freezes well and tastes bloody amazing. Let’s go! This uses six HEAs but makes enough for six – so I count it as one HEA per portion as you’re using a sixth of each. Yes, we’re splitting HEAs, but hey, let’s live a little. This is a heavy, rich dish so you’ll not be eating loads in one go. YEAH RIGHT. You could knock down the HEAs by using Quark instead of Philadelphia, but it won’t be nearly as nice.
to make a cheesy leek and bacon pasta bake, you’ll need:
- 500g of pasta – any type will do, I promise
- two fat leeks (use onion if you prefer)
- a pack of bacon medallions
- optional: 200g button mushrooms, chopped
- two cloves of garlic
- 120g of extra mature lighter cheese (3 x HEA)
- 220g of Philadelphia Lightest (2 x HEA)
- 250ml of semi-skimmed milk (1 x HEA)
- any pasta will do, but we farfalle as it has a good surface area
- add a tsp of wholegrain mustard to the sauce if you’re feeling decadent (1/2 syn, but really)
- get a mincer for the garlic – so much easier
- we don’t have a fancy overproof dish – just bog-standard Pyrex dishes, like these!
to make a cheesy leek and bacon pasta bake, you should:
- preheat your oven to 200 degrees
- cook your pasta – boiling water, salty as Paul in the morning, remove when there’s still a bit of give in the pasta
- thinly slice your leek and chop your bacon (and add the mushrooms, if using) and gently fry it off in a pan with a few squirts of oil from your sprayer – as they soften, add the minced garlic
- meanwhile, make the sauce by tipping your Philadelphia and milk into a pan, put it on a low heat and gently whisk until it’s all mixed together – it’ll be quite runny – at this point, add 100g of the cheese and keep whisking – you’ll end up with a nice thick cheesy sauce – season it with plenty of salt and pepper
- tip everything together in the pasta pan, give everything a bloody good mix, slop it into an ovenproof dish, top with the remainder of the cheese, some chopped spring onion or leek if you’re feeling fancy, and pop it in the oven for about thirty minutes until the cheese is golden and everything is delicious
- serve with a side salad which you studiously ignore
Gorgeous! Of course, if you’re looking for more delicious pasta ideas, we’ve got you covered:
- slow cooker lasagne (syn free)
- brussell sprouts and bacon risnotto (syn free)
- garlic, chicken and bacon pasta (syn free)
- slimming world carbonara (syn free)
- baked spaghetti pie (syn free)
- chicken and pea lasagne
- butternut squash spaghetti sauce (syn free)
- chicken and bacon pasta (syn free)
- rainbow bulgur wheat salad with bacon and feta (syn free)