beef bourguignon

For week two, we’re going to…FRANCE!

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But before we get started, I come bearing good news. I’m sorry, that never normally happens, I’ve been under pressure, it’s that time of the month, I’m just keen etc. No, remember our bathroom problem where Paul and I were down to one tiny bulb in our bathroom, turning every trip to brush our teeth or wipe our bum into a perilous adventure fraught with tension that we’d be plunged into absolute darkness mid-pinch? Well worry no more! Our wonderful, marvellous and above all else hella-manly plumber/electrician has saved the day! But mind it took something else breaking before we called him in. Our extractor fan has clearly become so affronted and overworked trying to waft away the smell of so many rich Slimming World infused motions that it went into overdrive and refused to turn off – not even using the switch would stop it – we had to take out the fuse for the lights throughout the house before it finally shut off. Which wasn’t ideal. A plea was made to the chap who originally did our bathroom and he has been this morning and not only replaced the fan, he’s only gone and replaced all the lightbulbs! Best part is, I wasn’t even there when he did it so I didn’t need to feel all emasculated and embarrassed that we had let ourselves down so badly.

One thing I’m a smidge alarmed about is that we’ve gone from one 30w bulb in the bathroom to six 50w beauties – if I happen to find an interesting magazine article whilst I’m on the netty I’ll probably come out with a tan. It’ll make brushing my teeth like being on a mediocre game-show – I’ll just need Dale Winton mincing around behind me explaining my brushing technique to an imagined audience. Perhaps I’ve thought too much about this. Let’s move on.

It was only a short post yesterday as I was at the cinema seeing Kingsman: The Secret Service, with Phillipa who you may know from the poorly-spelled insults she occasionally leaves on the blog. Great film and heartily recommended – we laughed, we cried, she spilt her popcorn – the usual, and that was before we’d even sat down. Colin Firth plays an absolute blinder, really branching out from his upper-class-English-fop role that was all I associated him with. I admit to being distracted nearly all the way through by the girl in front of me and her shovel-faced boyfriend. She’d clearly come dressed for a bet but that’s by the by – it was her haircut which was distressing me. She’d tried to fashion it into a bun but instead ended up with this weird bowl, where, if I had been feeling bitchy enough, I could have easily have parked my 35-gallon-Diet Pepsi there to prove a point. It was upsetting purely because of my OCD – I hate things being messy. If I didn’t think I would have been either stabbed by a needle hidden in her hair or glassed by her dead-eyed lamp-post of a mate I would have reached over and tidied it up. To make things worse, the popcorn was disgusting – it tasted like they’d washed it alternately in Charlie Red and the North Sea. Didn’t stop either of us eating it though, though I had to stop once my lips started turning inside out like a slug. Luckily, Phillipa had her hunger satisfied by the ice-cream, pick and mix and salty popcorn and I wasn’t sent out to get a pig on a spit for afterwards. I do love going to the cinema and now that I can’t have my usual settee-cushion of popcorn and binbag of pick-and-mix, I don’t even need to fret about taking out a mortgage to cover it.

So: where are we on the Two Chubby Cubs European Tour, eh? Somewhere exotic, warm and unusual? No. We’re in France. I half-toyed with taking a picture of a crepe with a Gauloise stubbed out in the middle of it, but that’s not embracing our trip. It’s not like I don’t care for France, I’ve been many times and always enjoyed myself, but I once got ripped off outside the Eiffel Tower by a caricaturist and I’ve never quite forgiven the country for that. It wasn’t so much that I paid a ridiculous amount for the drawing, it was the fact that the drawing made me look like John Prescott examining his pores in a Christmas bauble. Nevertheless, here we go…

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This apparently serves four, but I’m not convinced. Admittedly we’re greedy fuckers, but there was barely enough to have seconds! Maybe factor that in when you cook…

to make beef bourguignon you will need:

100g of bacon medallions cut into strips, 400g small shallots, 700g stewing beef with all fat removed (although I used proper scrag-end beef that I found in the back of the freezer – beef you can pumice your feet with), three garlic cloves sliced thin and chopped finely, 150ml of red wine, 425ml beef stock, tomato puree, fresh rosemary and fresh thyme (use your herb garden or use dried, I’m not judging), 1 bay leaf, 50ml of vegetable stock, bit of nutmeg. I cooked this overnight in a slow cooker but you could easily do this in a casserole pot. Cook low and slow. I chucked in a few whole shallots and some pepper too because I’m just that random.

to make beef bourguignon you should:

fry off the shallots and bacon until they start going brown – chuck in the beef and get a bit of a seal on the meat. Add everything else bar the swede. Bring to the boil, then either tip it into a slow cooker and cook low and slow for eight hours or in a casserole pot in the oven for two hours. Really, the longer you leave it cooking, the more the flavours will develop and, especially if you use cheap meat, the more tender the meat will become. Mmm. Remove the bayleaf and serve with swede mash – use my singing swede method for that.

extra-easy: yes, if you serve it with the swede mash. Superfree and all that shite. Delicious!

beef and butterbean stew

Tonight, for our evening meal, we have:

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This diet is definitely working- I tried a new shirt on (well an old one, actually, with super bright multi-coloured stripes – I look like an ice-cream seller) and it fits! I resisted the urge to come mincing out the bedroom singing ‘I look handsome I look smart I’m a walking work of art’ and jazzhanding at Paul, but only just.

Do you know, I’ve never heard anything back from The Chase about my recent application. I’m secretly a bit gutted. All I want is for my star to shine on TV – first I narrowly missed getting on the bus with Coach Trip, now even Bradley Walsh is turning me down. I’d quite like a stab at Gogglebox too, if I’m honest, although I don’t think Channel 4 could cope with Paul and I sitting on our pleather settee in our knickers with pastry crumbs cascading down our chests whilst we slag off all and sundry. Plus I do spend an impressive amount of time scratching my feet with a Ped-Egg and I can imagine that would look especially unsavoury in HD, with my cheesy foot snow billowing about every time we fart. I’ve been trying to persuade Paul to play with me on New Super Mario World on the Wii U but because he’s got eyes that can see both ends of a wedding buffet at the same time (he never looks forward to anything), he can’t handle 3D games. But then I can’t handle discussing the political implications of the North Korea situation like he can, so we balance each other out. UNLIKE HIS EYES.

Eee what a cow. Here’s the recipe.

to make beef and butterbean stew:

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ingredients: three red onions, cut nice and small, light jus-rol pastry, chopped tomatoes, 400ml of beef stock, cornflour, smoked paprika, garlic, lean beef casserole, butter beans and an egg

recipe: pop the hob onto a medium-high heat and get your casserole pot out (preferably one you can bung in the oven). A splash of olive oil on the bottom or frylight if you’re syn-free. Roll your meat around in a teaspoon of cornflour and smoked paprika. You can skip this bit if you like – I didn’t, because the flour helps it not to stick, but as this serves four, I didn’t syn it – if you want to be super-careful it’ll be 1 syn at most. Fry the meat for three minutes to get a good seal on it. Take the meat out, put the onion in to saute, and then add everything into the pot.

Now your choice is simple. Hob for two hours on medium or oven for three. I prefer the oven, because it takes longer and the flavours develop. The meat I got from Sainsbury’s was as tough as old boots – I actually went onto their facebook and left a message:

‘By ‘eck Sainsburys. I’ve had some tasteless, flabby portions of meat in my mouth in my time but never have I had the displeasure I’ve just felt trying to chew my way through your ‘diced lean casserole beaf steak’ pack that you recommend for your beef and butter bean pie. Tasteless, tough meat that I could probably bounce on the floor as it was so rubbery. Felt like I was eating calamari. I feel I’d have enjoyed more flavour, and certainly more succulence, if I’d ripped up a floor tile from your Cramlington store and made that into a casserole. Even my cat, who isn’t picky, turned her nose up at it, and she licks her own bottom all day long.’

I actually salvaged the dinner by cooking it for three hours – I think two hours on the hob won’t cut it if you use cheaper meat. Your call!

If you want the stars, syn them at 4 syns (and again, that’s being generous). Easy enough, unroll the pastry and cut them out with a cutter. I’ve actually got a penis-shaped cutter, but I thought that would look ungainly. Brush with egg and put them in a hot oven for fifteen minutes, or until they’re golden brown.

We had the usual sweet potato mash – chop potatoes, rice them, add a drop of horseradish and the remainder of the egg you’ll use to glaze the stars. Mix, and serve. Broccoli on the side.

extra-easy: yes, 0 syns if you omit the pastry stars and the cornflour, but again, remember you’re eating to be happy, not punishing yourself. Get out of the mindset of being scared to use your syns and spend them on making your food that little bit better. THAT said, if you didn’t have pastry, you could throw the mash on top and have a sort of shepherds pie. If you’re INSANE. To work out the syns, well here’s a copy of the post I made explaining it!

I used a teaspoon of cornflour, most of which was left in the bottom of the bowl – so split between four, is almost nothing (I did say this in the blog to make sure mind!). I’ve never synned the garlic – but looking at it, if you use the paste, it’s a syn per tablespoon – so I generally use the powdered stuff. As for the pastry – 100g which made enough stars for four servings, it’s 53 syns (!) for 320 – so I worked it out as 4 syns for the stars!

top tips: The scraps of the Jus-Rol could easily be made into those cinnamon swirl things you see dotted around various groups. But that’s just pastry, cinnamon and sweetener – and we’re talking a LOT of sweetener, and it isn’t very good for the body. Your call mind, I’m not lecturing! If you wanted, just cut out strips, sprinkle sweetener and cinnamon, and roll them up into a wheel shape. Mmm! 2 syns each. Just have a bloody Freddo and get on with it!

J