one-pot half-syn homemade bacon baked beans

Here for the homemade bacon baked beans? You should be, because they’re delicious. Absolutely one of the best side dishes we’ve made and served on good bread with a proper fresh egg, it’s just pure sex. Oh and it’s a one-pot recipe with no particularly awkward ingredients. What’s not to love? Look at this gif I’ve made for you and tell me that you haven’t just had a rush of blood somewhere moist.

But come on. You know there’s no chance of us going straight to a recipe, especially when I’ve got part two of the Newcastle holiday straining in my boxers just needing release. So, here we go…

click here for part one

So, where was the first stop on our Holiday at Home? An escape room! I know, we’re terribly predictable, but we love them so and had heard excellent things about Exit Newcastle on Westgate Road, so here we were. An escape room is where a group of you are placed in a ‘locked’ room and you have to solve mysteries in order to get out. It’s like Saw, only with a lot more props bought in from Wilkinsons.

We had actually planned on heading to the grandly named ‘Crystal Maze experience escape room’ that we’d seen floating about on facebook but the disclaimer that we’d need to be physically fit enough to squeeze through narrow spots and do some slight climbing put paid to that. We’re not that unfit but at the same time my life could do without someone livestreaming a group of firemen buttering my flanks to try and squeeze me into a tight hole. No, for that video, you’ll need to click incognito mode on your internet browser and do some serious searching. We were shown to our ‘cell’ by some lovely dapper chap with excellent hair who thankfully saw that we didn’t need anything explaining to us and left us to crack on with stopping Newcastle getting blown to bits by some mad scientist. Of course.

It was great. I shan’t ruin the fun for anyone by giving away the twists and turns but there were some really inventive puzzles and creative uses of props which we adored and I was complimented, for possibly the first time in my entire life, on my mad-sick sport skills. See, Paul had drained the batteries on one of the puzzles leading me to fix it with brute force by utilising a pipe to act as a hockey stick and swiping the ‘thing’ we needed to get at from underneath the cage it was held in. I’m not saying it was world-changing but I reckon they’ll still be watching the replays with gasps and astonishment as you read this. We solved the mystery with minutes to spare and Newcastle was saved. As Paul fannied on taking pictures I gazed down at the streets below and wondered if all those passing below had sensed how close they had come to utter destruction. My guess, as I watched one member of a hen party pretend to frig herself off with a giant inflatable cock whilst her friend took a steamy piss behind a large wheelie bin, was that they didn’t.

I can’t recommend Exit Newcastle enough – have a look, give it a go. We did it as a couple but they can handle large groups too. 

After saving the world we tottered down Pink Lane (given its name as it used to lead to the ‘Pink Tower’, one of the seventeen towers on the wall that used to circle Newcastle, and not because it’s where all the prostitutes used to hang about which is the well-known rumour) – and into The Bohemian, a vegetarian / vegan restaurant that had come up time and time again when we searched for ‘healthy evening meals’. I have to admit that I had reservations, namely for 8pm. But also, what to expect from a vegetarian restaurant? Would they have anything to satisfy this bloodthirsty monster? I can’t enjoy a meal unless it’s been salted in its own tears. I’m jesting, of course, you’ve seen how we cater to vegetarians on the blog, we’re big fans. Not ready to stop eating meat but certainly more and more open to the idea. Anyway, in my head, I was expecting meals that tasted of farts served to us by folks who looked like streams of milk, hissing at the bright lights of the city outside and handing us food with wrists bending like overcooked spaghetti.

Well, shut my hole. It was wonderful. The restaurant itself was small and eclectically decorated with all sorts of tut and nonsense, the staff were quick to serve but that level of discreet attention that’s hard to find and the food was delicious. We shared a quesadilla and some tempura vegetables for a starter. As usual, I’m always slightly deflated by the fact my starter isn’t the same size as a bus steering wheel like it is at home, but that’s certainly not the fault of the restaurant. For the mains, I went for a spinach and cream cheese pizza. I asked what the cheese was made from and when he replied ‘nut milk’, Paul kicked me hard under the table, knowing I was a split second away from going ‘OOOOOH YES PLEASE, MY FAVOURITE, GOBBLE GOBBLE’ with a bawdy leer. He’s like the filter I never knew I needed. Paul chose a pulled jackfruit kebab, lured in with the promise that this slow-cooked fruit tasted and had the same mouth-feel as pulled pork.

 They were bloody right! It was lovely. We had promised to share our mains 50/50 but I had to keep engineering more and more elaborate excuses to get Paul to turn around so I could steal more of his food: no easy feat when you consider Paul is a man who wouldn’t turn away from his dinner if someone set about his back with a flamethrower. He cracked onto my ruse when I accidentally hurled my fork to the floor for the third time and that was that. I’ve looked into getting some jackfruit for some recipes on the blog but frankly, it’s a ballache. If Waitrose don’t deliver it, I’m not having it.

We accompanied our meal with plenty of lurid cocktails, each one more fruity and decorated than the last. It’s been many a year since I had a drink with a tiny push-up umbrella in and let me tell you, I regret nothing. The sight of those tiny umbrellas gives me the willies ever since a good friend of mine told me that they use something similar to test men for “morning drip” down at the clap-clinic. In the umbrella goes, perfect, but ooh when it comes out…

For the record: they don’t do anything of the sort. So if you’re sitting fretting with a bad case of crotch-crickets, get yourself away and be tested. You dirty bastard.

The bill came to a reasonable £65 and we paid in good cheer, staggering gently out into the night. Have a wee look at the menu here, if you’re interested. We decided that, given we had an early start the next day, we’d walk back to the hotel via the Quayside, taking in a couple of drinks on the way. But first: The Eagle.

Newcastle has a pretty decent gay scene for a city of its size and, more interestingly, there’s a strong blurred line between what were originally ‘gay’ bars and what are now ‘anyone’ bars. I’m not talking about those gay bars which get invaded by gaggles of hens shrieking about cocks and telling everyone with a faintly debonair air about them that ‘THEY’RE WASTED ON MEN’, but rather just excellent places to go ‘be yourself’, regardless of what you like to bump your genitals against. To me, it’s how it should be and is absolutely where the world is going, and that’s just grand.

That said, I’m not one for the more flamboyant bars in our pink triangle simply because I struggle to hear myself speak over the sound of air being sucked over two hundred pairs of teeth as we struggle to fit through the door side-by-side. With that in mind, we elected to go to The Eagle, which is ostensibly a ‘bear’ bar catering for the more husky gentleman (i.e. we’re fat, so we grow a beard to hide the chins and dress like a lumberjack because Jacamo have a bit of a hard-on for checked shirts).

The Eagle is an interesting place – at first it looks like a little sinbox full of hairy blokes and brutish looking men, but then you hear most are as camp as everyone else and there’s a giant 55” TV showing naked men behind the bar. It’s hard to decide on a local ale when you’ve got a giant penis pulsing away behind the barman. We ordered drinks and sat down at a table to admire the view. Oh there’s another interesting layer, quite literally, to the Eagle – have a trip down the stairs and it’s a full-on sex floor, with people cheerfully bumming away merrily in dark corners. You don’t get that in a Wetherspoons, that’s for sure. I only went downstairs for a packet of roasted nuts and by the time we resurfaced it was Tuesday.

Come again? Yes.

We decided to move on after a couple of drinks and not a moment too soon – there was that much amyl nitrate floating about in the air that we were both two deep breaths away from making our bar stools disappear like a magic trick. We wandered down the hill onto the Quayside and just casually took the night air, stopping for a drink in the imaginatively named ‘The Quayside’ followed by another in the Pitcher & Piano.

I’ll say this now: I can’t bear the Pitcher & Piano. It is positively awash with the type of people who think they’re classy but who have ketchup with every single meal. The air was thick with laryngealisation and showing off. I used to think I was ever so sophisticated having a quiche and a cocktail in front of the Tyne, for goodness sake, but now I’d sooner take my chances drinking the river from the  riverbed now than go back. Bleurgh. It always comes highly-recommended – it needn’t bother. Watch Geordie Shore, add a few Malberri handbags and that shite half-shaved Millennial Combover that so many walking douche-bulbs have and you’re there.

However, something far more our scene loomed just over the Millennium Bridge – Jesterval. No, I don’t know what it is/was either, but there was a big pop-up tent with dry-ice and 2Unlimited blaring out of it. We practically floated over that bridge on a cloud of Lynx-Africa-scened nostalgia – though we did stop for this excellent photo:

Amazing, right? It’s like you’re right there! If you’re wondering what settings I used for such a snap, it was done with a Samsung S8+ and a slight falling over on the stairs.

Turns out Jesterval was lots of things but, more importantly, the pop-up tent was a ‘social club disco’. We paid our ten pounds and bustled in, completely ignored by the two doormen guarding the entrance. Just once I’d like to be roughly tackled to the floor and made to feel like a lady. He didn’t even comment on my sketchy knock-off trainers, but then see technically we were in Gateshead so he was probably surprised to see someone with their own teeth. The disco was great! We didn’t stop long because we’re old and our cankles were already hurting but we had a couple of drinks and attempted to dance, which is usually a no-no for us. We had to stop when a concerned bystander called an ambulance for us ‘to be on the safe side’. Luckily there was one of those trucks that look like big silver suppositories parked just outside offering more booze for a very respectable £8,799 a pint and we finished up the evening under an IKEA blanket watching everyone stagger home. I had hoped that if we sat under the blanket for long enough that someone could start throwing coins at us or press a cup of hot soup into our hands but no. We wandered back to the Hotel du Vin, ignored the plaintive mewling of the Room Service card, and drifted off to sleep. Next time: tunnels, holes, booze and hipsters. Sigh, I know.


Now, homemade smoky baked beans. A boring recipe you might think, but trust me – these are an absolute doddle to make, syn-free and delicious. You can add more speed in the form of peppers if you wish or leave them out. I don’t care. The reason I’m making these is because I bought a tin of Heinz Bacon Beans in the supermarket and was full of excitement to try them, only for it to be the most disappointing moment of the year (second only to Paul saying we’d better leave the Eagle else I’d have no lips left). They were Schrödinger’s Beans, managing to be entirely tasteless and ridiculously sweet at the same time. I hate it when you get your hopes up only for them to be cruelly dashed by people fakin’ bacon. So I set about finding a decent recipe to make my own and here we are. The recipe itself comes from Thomasina Miers’ cookbook which is full of fancy things to cook at home (click here for that, credit where it’s due), and I promise you now it’s an easy, one-pot dish of glory.

This makes enough for eight large portions – but it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, so have it for breakfast and lunch. Tastes better left overnight too!

to make homemade bacon baked beans, you’ll need:

  • 3 tins of haricot beans, washed of all that gloopy bean pre-cum you always get in tinned beans (you can use fresh, but it’s a ballache) (I ended up using 1.2kg all in all – remember, just scale our recipe back if you want to make less)
  • a big head of garlic (we used smoked black garlic from Morrisons, but you absolutely don’t need it for the recipe, normal garlic will do – though the smoked garlic made it super tasty and it’s only about 50p more)
  • two large red onions
  • two sticks of celery
  • 200g of bacon (smoked is better again)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika (now this is worth getting over and above paprika, but again, the sky won’t fall in if you don’t have it)
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of chilli flakes
  • 2 tins of chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tsp of worcestershire sauce
  • 250ml of beef stock
  • 2 tbsp of maple syrup (4 syns, between 8)
  • salt and pepper

Hey, if you can’t find bay leaves, oregano or smoked paprika, don’t worry, just improvise. You can buy loads, absolutely loads, of bacon in our Musclefood deals where, finally, you can choose what you want to make up your hamper! No more having to compromise! Do it your way.

The only things you’ll need for this recipe is a good, thick-bottomed casserole pot (this is the beast we use) that you can use on the hob and oven (though you can just transfer the beans into a normal dish to hoy in the oven if you haven’t got one) and a microplane grater for all that stinky garlic.

to make homemade bacon baked beans, you should:

  • wash your bean, wipe your hands down and then get in the kitchen to start on dinner
  • 😂
  • cut your celery, bacon and onion into small chunks, though don’t stress about being neat – you want small pieces, not a work of art and then gently saute in your pan with a few sprays of oil
  • grate five cloves of garlic (dial back on this if you’re not so keen) of the garlic in with the onions
  • let everything gently sweat and mingle then add the chilli flakes and herbs and sweat for a few minutes more
  • add everything else, stir, season to taste
  • add 250ml of beef stock, give everything a good stir, then lid on and into the oven
  • keep an eye on it, you might need to add a bit more stock, but really you want it to dry out like the picture
  • eat it however you want, but this really is amazing on good bread with a fresh egg in the morning after

Enjoy!

Recommend this to your friends but with a FAIR WARNING: this makes you fart like an absolute trooper. Want more recipes? Natch. Click the buttons!

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J

spicy carrot coconut soup – instant-pot or hob!

Spicy carrot coconut soup – done in the Instant Pot in a matter of moments but can also be done old-school on the hob or in the slow cooker – awaits you, if only you bear with me for a few minutes. Good news: it’ll be a short entry tonight as Fat-tits has wheeled out the BBQ and we’re going to do our best to pretend that summer didn’t fuck off back in May and enjoy a nice pink-in-the-middle-see-you-again-in-thirty-minutes beefburger. It’s the British way.

We can only get to our BBQ because we’ve spent the good part of four hours clearing out the shed and ferrying various bits back and forth to the tip. Long-time readers know that I love going to the tip – not just because of all the hi-vis-clad blokes wandering around sweating in the sun and bellowing obscenities on the wind, but also because I love seeing what people are chucking out. It’s why I couldn’t work there – I’d spend so much time tutting at people’s questionable tastes that they’d think a woodpecker had taken up residence in the staff shelter. For example, I saw someone manhandling out of the boot of her Picasso a giant piece of pink, glittering wall-art that simply said ‘DREAMZ’. I don’t know what made me wince more – the mistaken ‘Z’, the mistral font or that awful pink colour that is solely reserved for cheap plastic vibrators, limousines “slagwagons” and those awful velour tracksuits that not a single body in all of existence has ever looked anything approaching decent in. 99% of the time they look like a saveloy sausage with legs. Just sayin’.

Anyway, because it was literally the first thing I put my hands on in our wardrobe, I was also wearing a hi-vis shirt, which led to an awkward moment when someone asked me where best to put an office chair and I had to explain that I didn’t work there. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have played along save for the fact I was getting eyeballed at the time by one of the proper workers who was checking I wasn’t throwing my cardboard box (containing onion peelings, I’m so sorry) into the general waste. I’m glad he didn’t ask why I was wearing hi-vis – my reply that it’s purely for role-play between me and Paul (I’m the road worker, he’s the pothole) would have likely offended.

Now it’s all cleaned out, take a look at my shed:

See? I will have order. All the beans stacked in order, facing the right way. Even that tower of shit-tickets is tidy. I have absolutely no idea what that skidmark is but it’s terribly frustrating – it looked like someone crawled in and died on the carpet.  Our cats are prone to killing all manner of things and depositing them somewhere where they’ll know we will be super grateful to find them, like in a shoe or underneath the settee. I’m not even kidding on that one, I dropped my phone between the sofa cushions the other day and when I reached in to get it, I pulled half a rat out by the tail. Why? Was my cat keeping it for winter? Does he think he’s a squirrel? You can be assured that he was chased out of the cat-flap with the threat of my Dr Martens up his bumhole for that trick.

Oh, and apropos of nothing, you can see on the top there the see-through toaster, Instant Pot and the Optigrill XL – see, we do own the stuff we peddle!

Now, I didn’t want to come on here just to talk you through my visit to the tip, but the story does link somewhat organically into what I actually wanted to discuss by virtue of both venues being awash with bright, unwanted rubbish. See, I went to Sports Direct on Friday. I’m not being snobby, it’s just generally not a shop I’d ever have reason to go in – it’s not like we need specialised clothing for sitting watching TV and occasional dogging. Perhaps some knee-pads, but I can buy them at the garden centre when I pick up our shirts. However, a friend of mine needed to exchange one highly-flammable and very rustly sports outfit for another highly-flammable and very rustly sports outfit, only this one in red. This, inexplicably, took her a good twenty minutes of cooing and picking things on and off the rails, looking around for sizes unknown to man and generally taking an age to do anything. I was there that long I could feel my teeth furring up through the miasma of Mugler Angel in the air. I can’t stand shopping at the best of times but god knows I hate shopping somewhere where I’m clearly unwanted – I could see staff looking at my straining belt and 27XL shirt and trying to decide whether to cone me off or call security.

Eventually El Ehma decided on a slightly lighter shade and we traipsed over to the exchange desk, only for some sweaty-necked oik to barge past us and slap down a pair of trainers on the desk. To her credit, the lady behind the counter didn’t do much as wince, though it would have been tricky to register such a facial movement as she’d taken the highly-inefficient step of wearing all the make-up she owned at once. He wanted a refund because “the tag cut into his foot”. I had two instant rejoinders to that one:

  • it’ll distract from the tag cutting into your ankle, ho-ho; or
  • are you sure it isn’t diabetes?

but see Emma is slight and whilst I reckon I could get a few seconds head-start by throwing her in front of someone’s fist, he’d be able to catch up with me on the stairs, what with my game ankle. So I kept schtum. The assistant looked at the trainers and within the passing of a second, declared that she wasn’t going to take them back because a) they were fine and b) they’d clearly be worn. Worn? It looked like the fucker had water-skiied behind a tractor to get to the shop. They weren’t so much ‘worn-in’ as ‘fit for the fire’. You’d have second thoughts putting them in the charity bin in the supermarket car-parks, put it that way. What followed was a good ten minute shouting match between the customer and the manager who had clearly hurried up from the smoking shelter outside, judging by the blue-smoke drifting lazily from his man-bun. We heard all the usual cliches – ‘hardly worn them’, ‘not fit for purpose’ and then my personal favourite, ‘what about my human rights?’. Because good men laid down their lives so someone had the right to blow spittle all over an exchange desk and return their favourite Nick trainers whenever they fancied.

Sensing that the manager wasn’t going to acquiesce and/or his ankles weren’t going to last, the man scooped up the trainers and stalked off, ranting and raving about rip-off this and fuck-off that. I’ve genuinely never seen someone go so red – if I’d had one of those weight-watcher wraps I could have made a Slimming World pasty* from the heat alone – I was all set for some cardiac action, but no. We exchanged our items with minimal fuss and made for the exit, only to see him stood outside warning folk not to go in, like some sweaty, tracksuited Cerberus. We left him getting shouted out by a street-performer angry that all of the fuss was distracting the crowds from watching him hammer nails up his nose. I’m not even kidding.

* sorry, but corned-beef wrapped in a wrap isn’t a pasty. A pasty is made from delicious shortcrust pasty and gravy. Whilst I’m sure these are delicious, they’re hot sandwiches.

Christ, I said this would be a short entry – I’m sorry. It was longer than either of us expected, wasn’t it? I hope I didn’t bruise your kidneys, ma’am. If I can sum up my ramblings it’s this: be nice to customer service folks. It isn’t their fault, they have to follow company procedure, and you catch more flies with honey than vinegar anyway. I can’t bear people being rude, especially when they’re in the wrong.

Anyway, come on, that’ll do. Shall we get to the spicy carrot and coconut soup? Yes, we should. This is an Instant-Pot recipe but I’ll provide two methods for cooking it, so if you don’t have an Instant-Pot, don’t fret a jot. You don’t need one. It makes things quicker and easier, but honestly, this recipe is a doddle either way. To give you an idea of how delicious it is – I dislike both carrots and coconut, but I loved this! I wanted to try a carrot take on our pea and coconut soup (also amazing) and we found this on a blog called platedcravings and have adjusted it for Slimming World. It serves four.

spicy carrot coconut soup

to make spicy carrot coconut soup, you’ll need:

  • a few sprays of olive oil (up to you if you syn it, it’s 0.5 syns for seven sprays)
  • one large onion, chopped neatly
  • one clove of garlic, minced
  • a little knob (half a thumb) of ginger, minced
  • about 500g of carrots, peeled and chopped into pound-coin size discs
  • good pinch of salt and pepper
  • 200ml of blue dragon coconut milk light (7ish syns)
  • 500ml of good chicken stock (or veg)
  • two tablespoons of hot sauce (1 syn) – any hot sauce is fine, or Sriracha

Few things to make life easier, but you don’t need these to cook with:

  • a microplane grater – it’ll make short work of mincing garlic and ginger – with garlic you don’t need to peel it and ditto ginger, which you can keep in the freezer until the next time you need it;
  • an Instant Pot – we love ours, but only because it’s so quick to do everything, and I’m finally over my fear of them; and
  • a stick blender – you really don’t need anything fancy – this £5 little blender will do the same as any expensive blender!

to make spicy carrot coconut soup in an Instant Pot, you should:

  • press the saute button, spray the cooking pot with a bit of oil and saute the onions for a few minutes until soft – add the ginger and garlic and keep going for a minute more
  • tip in the carrots, a pinch of salt and pepper, and saute for a couple more minutes
  • stir in the stock, coconut milk and hot sauce
  • cook on high pressure for six minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for five to ten minutes, then quick release
  • use a stick blender in the pot until it’s smooth as silk – season with salt and pepper

To cook it on the hob, saute everything off in the pan and gently simmer until the carrots are softened – then blend away! It’ll take longer but it’s still a doddle!

Want more ideas for soup and lunches and veggie goodness? Click the buttons below!

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Enjoy!

J

chicken and mushroom one-pot paella

I’m saying our chicken and mushroom one-pot paella is a paella even though it doesn’t have seafood in because for goodness sake, seafood ruins everything and I don’t care who knows it. Next part of our New York entry for you today, with the finish line in sight…then how about a few new entries that aren’t holiday related? We did receive a snotty comment that someone comes here to read the recipes, not the holidays of two gay men – pfft. People shouldn’t forget – this is a personal blog and the food is a mere afterthought. If you don’t like sodomy and sass with your slimming slop, then bugger off to 💓 💓 Cutezy Mom & Her Moonlight Children 💓 💓 or some other asinine shite and don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out. Eeee what a thing to say. Let’s go travelling! Remember I love feedback on our travel entries!

click here for part one | click here for part two | click here for part three | click here for part four | click here for part five

At SOME point during this holiday we visited the Empire State Building – but can I balls remember what day it was. As a result, I’m just going to squeeze it in right here, on the last day we were there.

We woke with a start at around 6am – it’s true, you know, New York is truly the city that never sleeps. We know this because there was a mad person shouting obscenities down on the streets below. Nothing rouses me from slumber quicker than someone with spittle on his lips shouting about the coming apocalypse and the risen Jesus. It was the last day so we showered glumly, packed our things sadly and exchanged blowjobs with a downturned mouth. It’s difficult to be enthusiastic on the last day. We left our luggage with the charming staff in the lobby and made our way out.

Well, it was certainly bright. Turned out that the city had received a fair dumping of snow overnight and the streets were white and pretty. I fretted momentarily that we would be trapped in New York (oh no, imagine my devastation) but found that this thought was giving me far too much joy for so early in the morning. We could see the Empire State Building way off in the distance so decided to head there, walking the three miles or so slowly to prevent any accidental slips or falls. We were in the most litigious country in the world, after all. We stopped for a quick breakfast in a tiny corner deli – I had a sandwich the size of a church draught excluder, Paul had a slice of cheesecake. Of course!

The Empire State Building was astonishing, though. The lady dishing out the tickets warned us that we would be unable to see anything much due to the heavy cloud but we waved her worries aside – we at least had to tick it off the list. I’m so glad we did. It’s an absolutely gorgeous building, both inside and out, done out as it is in the fabulous art-deco style of the time. We had the tourist part of the building to ourselves, most likely due to the early morning and the winter weather, and we were able to wander about and take our time.

Proof that we enjoyed the tour was the fact we took on board two facts about the Empire State Building: two separate people have attempted to commit suicide by jumping from the observation deck only to be blown back into the building on the way down. I’d certainly feel like I was born again in that situation: imagine expecting to be a thin red jam on the pavement only to find yourself safe and sound with only ruffled hair to account for your troubles. Along similar lines, the world record for the longest survived elevator fall took place here, when rescuers saving poor Betty Lou Oliver from a plane hitting the building managed to miss the fact that the elevator carriage she was riding in had weakened considerably. Just as they reached for her the cables holding the lift snapped and she, and the lift, fell 79 stories.  She survived with serious injuries but fuck me ragged, I had my heart in my mouth on the Tower of Terror ride at Disneyworld, I can’t imagine doing that for 79 floors! Blimey.

The kiosk lady was right, by the way – we couldn’t see very much. But the feeling of standing on the 102nd floor in the middle of a snowstorm was incredible. I felt like I was in a chewing gum advert. However, a minute standing outside had sent my bollocks retreating somewhere behind my lungs so we sharp made our way back in and into the gift shop, where we bought all manner of tat and nonsense.

See, brisk.

Knowing our flight wasn’t until the evening we decided to spend the rest of the day just walking about to see where we ended up. Oddly enough, after much random mincing and stopping for coffee, we found ourselves down on Pier 86 at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a museum devoted to well, air, sea and space. We had time to kill and ankles like jelly, so why not? They have a decommissioned aircraft carrier to nose about, and well, I haven’t had a chance to visit an old wreck full of seamen since the last time I visited Paul’s mother. Ouch.

As seems to be the way with attractions in New York, there was a bewildering array of entrance tickets to be had – some with simulations included, some with access to the space shuttle, some with a frisky handjob by a passing sailor. We chose the standard admission and were immediately told to decide which simulator we fancied. We elected to have a trip on the exciting G-Force Encounter, half-thinking it might be one of those centrifuge things where they spin you around and you’re left with the arresting sight of your own double chin snaking its merry way up over your eyes.

Well, it certainly wasn’t that. We were ‘boarded’ by an indifferent Kenan and Kel and told to strap ourselves in. Sounds exciting! Well, let me tell you this: I’ve felt more G-Force getting out of my computer chair when the takeaway man knocks on the door. The perils of war-time flight were bought to life via the medium of Windows 95’s very best graphics. The simulator creaked this way and that and there was an awful lot of hissing – we probably broke a hydraulics pipe somewhere – but that was it. Thrill ride? I had more excitement reading the opening hours.

That was the only downside, though. The rest of the exhibition was great. We spent a good hour or so wandering around the aircraft carrier, getting a taste of what it must be like spending all that time locked away with nothing but other men to keep you company. We both signed up for the US Navy as we left.

Not just content with letting us explore the poop deck, the museum also had all manner of aeroplanes and helicopters to look at. I have to confess: this struggled to hold my attention. I mean, they looked great and all, but a plane sitting on the ground is still a plane sitting on the ground, you know? We did spot that they had a Concorde parked down by the water so we bustled over to it. I’ve been in Concorde before, though not for a flight (sadly) and the bloody thing is tiny. You’re fair jammed in with the rich and famous and I imagine it’s like crossing the ocean in a cigar tube. Of course, you get no sense of this lack of space as you’re not allowed to board the Concorde at the Intrepid, which is a pretty poor show.

I do wish they’d bring back Concorde, however. Imagine flying from London to New York in three and a half hours, as opposed to double that with BA’s current fleet. I’d barely have enough time for the blood around my swollen ankles to clot before we landed. Paul’s dad has been on Concorde, and, having met Paul’s mother, I can absolutely understand the need for supersonic flight. That’s two jibes in one article, I am awful.

Next on the list was a trip into a submarine – one which was hilariously named ‘Growler’.

This meant that Paul had to endure about twenty minutes of me saying ‘I’ve never seen a Growler this big’ and ‘do you reckon I’ll be able to fit in the Growler, it looks tight’ and ‘I hope the Growler doesn’t smell of fish and damp from being underwater’. I only stopped when blood started trickling from his ears. We joined an orderly queue of prim, exceptionally thin people who were all shepherded aboard before us. This meant that we were now at the front of the queue with people behind us which immediately gave me the heebie-jeebies. Why? Because what if we didn’t fit through the absolutely tiny doors onboard?

Look at them!

There were warning signs everywhere. All I could imagine is my arse acting like a giant plug and everyone behind being slowly starved of oxygen. As it happens it was an incredibly tight fit but I managed fine – it was actually Paul, with his tiny coffee-table legs, that struggled, given you had to lift your legs really quite high to climb through. At one point I nearly cried ‘abandon ship’ and made for the exit but it all came good in the end. I bet though – in fact, I absolutely guarantee – that our denim-clad arses are on at least eight Japanese iCloud accounts as we speak.

To be fair, my rack has indeed been a welcome sight for many seamen.

We wrapped up our visit with a trip around their space centre, which held the space shuttle Enterprise and lots of bright and interesting information boards. I’ve been to NASA in Orlando so seeing the shuttle wasn’t so amazing, but I’ll say this: when you see it up close you realise exactly how much fun it must be being in space. Honestly, I’d never get tired of shooting various liquids around in zero gravity – after twenty-four hours the live feed to the inside of my space-shuttle would look like a badly tuned TV channel.

I tried to buy a helmet from the gift shop but yet again, my elephantine head defeated me.

See? Look at my sad face.

Seeing that we’d need to get a move on and head back to the hotel, we wandered up the streets, retracing our steps from the morning. We were side-tracked for another hour or so by a stop at a beer bar (The House of Brews, firmly recommended) where we managed to put away several pints of various beers together with a plate of nachos that was positively indecent. I love American nachos – they do it properly, with loads of chilli, cheese, sauces and spice. What do we get? A microwaved packet of Doritos with a Cheesestring melted over the top. Bah. We spotted a dartboard and, perhaps fuelled by that rare beast testosterone, had ourselves a little tournament. Naturally, I won, but then I’ve always been accomplished at finishing myself off with a double-top.

So manly, even if it looks like I’m wanking off a tiny pint of Guinness.

We made it back to our hotel, had a very strong coffee to stop our eyes swimming, and picked up our luggage. With a heavy, cheese-stuffed heart, we were bidding goodbye to New York.

Nah, I’m good thanks…


Did you enjoy that? If not, tough titty, but the end is in sight – one more entry to go and then we’re back on track. Actually that’s a fib, we’ve got Copenhagen coming down the line. And London. Oh god it never ends! But before we get to all of that, let’s do the recipe. This is adapted from Macheeshmo’s website so full credit to him, but we’ve taken out the seafood because that shit is nasty. This made enough for four big portions!

to make chicken and mushroom one-pot paella, you’ll need:

  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 150g shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 100g button mushrooms (or whatever type you like), chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced (get one of these!)
  • 300g paella rice
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 litre chicken stock (dissolve two chicken stock cubes in a litre of boiling water)
  • pinch of salt and pepper

All of our hampers have massive amounts of chicken in – but actually, here’s a switch: you can now choose what you want to go in your hamper – so if you’re not a fan of chicken, say (unlike me), hoy some more beef in there. Up to you. To help you, we’ve updated our Musclefood page so it has all of the syn values on there – click here for that – it’ll open in a new window.

to make chicken and mushroom one-pot paella, you should:

  • prepare the onion, chicken and mushroom and place into bowls – it makes it much easier!
  • preheat the oven to 200°c
  • in a large ovenproof casserole pot, add a little oil over a high heat
  • add the chicken in two batches until seared in each side (this will take about five minutes)
  • remove the chicken the pan into a large bowl and set aside
  • add the mushrooms and cook for another few minutes, then add the onions, chopped garlic and some salt and pepper
  • tip the mushrooms and onion in with the chicken
  • add a little more oil to the now-empty pan, and then add the paella rice and spread out well int he bottom of the pan
  • add the chicken stock and give a good stir, and then add the tomatoes, chilli powder and paprika
  • stir in the chicken, mushrooms and onions and give another good stir, then bring the lot to a simmer
  • place the pot in the oven uncovered for about 40 minutes
  • serve!

Canny right?

Hungry for more? You know what to do:

poultrysmall lunchsmallpastasmall   snackssmall soupsmalldrinkssmallonepot

Enjoy!

J

quick and simple tomato and rice soup

Tomato and rice soup: yes, it might not make you open up like a freshly steamed mussel through excitement, but by god it’ll serve you well if you’re after a quick and easy dinner. Plus this recipe makes enough for six bowls. So don’t be disappointed by a soup recipe and instead give it a go!

You know what is disappointing? We had plans this morning to get up early and switch all the branding on the site away from SW and over to Herbalife. We planned to have photos of us looking flabbergasted by their miracle products and a wee video introducing ourselves as Herbalife’s Number ONE Sellers. But then, with all the dilatoriness you’ve come to expect from your favourite Northern fat bastards, we slept in. I like to think you lot know there’s more chance of me eschewing cock for life and becoming a full vagitarian than there is us becoming MLM salesfuckers, so it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.

Anyway, life played a little April fool trick on me – I thought I’d published the next blog entry in the middle of the week and have been sulking because I received no comments on it, only to find this morning that it hasn’t appeared and for good measure, has completely disappeared. Great! Imagine my pleasure! I’ll rattle it out again – I’ve got two hours before Paul finally stops snoring like a shot elephant and gets himself up and out of bed to have a pop at me for not waking him up. Wiring him to the mains wouldn’t wake him up, but that’s entirely beside the point. Let’s slip back to France then, and, because I’ve got a stack of holidays to write up, it’s the penultimate part…

click here for part one  | click here for part two | click here for part three | click here for part four

Now, when you last joined us, we were retiring to bed full of liquor and the French night air. We’d enjoyed a full day of gallivanting and drinking and our heads were a little tender in the morning. I showered, somewhat gingerly, barely keeping down yesterday’s Castrol cocktail. I was doing well until I dropped the sponge and bent over to pick it up. Honestly, you’ve never lived until you’ve caught a haunting glimpse of your own bumhole reflected back at you from all conceivable angles thanks to an entirely mirrored bathroom – it felt like I’d fallen into the Sarlacc pit from Return of the Jedi. I stumbled out, gagging, only to be met with Paul’s beaming face.

What activity had he managed to find for us whilst I was being Crying-Gaming in the shower? What would really invigorate my dulled senses and quell that nauseous feeling in my belly? Ah yes: a trip into the sewers of Paris. Don’t get me wrong – I love learning about infrastructure and finding out how a city runs, but goodness me: my hanging head combined with my submechanophobia did not make me especially keen. Paul pressed the issue though and I just can’t say no to his eager moon face. (Could you? If it was me, could you do it?)

Submechanophobia? Yes: it’s a real thing! I’m creeped out by machinery underwater, anything man-made. I’m not one of these roaring idiots who scream and shout, I can crack on with it, but the idea of submerged pipes and drains and dams just give me the willies, and not in the conventional excellent way. Blame my dad: we grew up surrounded by wells and culverts and reservoirs and weirs and to keep us away from them he would tell lurid tales of people being sucked into pipes and drowned in weirs. Worked for me, though I was brave enough to approach a well when I threw my sister’s Culture Club CDs down there because she wouldn’t stop playing Karma Chameleon. Perhaps I need to convince you why underwater pipes are scary…take a look at this:

See? Not just me being a drama queen!

The entrance to the sewers was a mere 30 minute walk away, and, needing some fresh air and a good crêpe (thanks to the surprisingly hairy guys at Iolando at the Quai Branly for their ham and cheese special) (why does everything I write sound like a sexy Craigslist advert?) we ambled out.

 

I took a picture of the Statue of Liberty and sent it over to El Ehma, a friend from work, and told her we’d been diverted to New York. Naturally, she believed us, although there’s very little sport in getting her to believe anything, because she’s so sweet and trusting. I could tell her they’ve outlawed breathing and her lips would turn blue before her mind turned over. Although, mind, she still wins on the pranks stakes for getting me to call the Mr Kipling factory and ask to speak to the boss himself. Pfft.

We arrived at the Musée des Égouts de Paris in good time, despite having to stop for another fifteen minutes whilst Paul availed himself of the nearby automatic toilet facilities again. He at least had the humour to come out and cry that he had ‘sent a fresh one into the sewers’ and that we ought to keep an eye out for it. If only I’d known, I would have told him to stick a flag in it like they do with fancy burgers. I took the opportunity to find a geocache whilst Paul left his mark and I had no trouble at all locating geocache GC2MJDY.

I signed the log just as Paul bid goodbye to his own, and we were on our way.

We paid a very modest fee to the chap sitting in the booth in the middle of the street and descended the stairs into the sewers.

Well, fuck me. I know this is going to be blindingly obvious because it’s a sewer but the smell. I, having not done any research beforehand, expected a sanitised little museum with lots of charming photos and info boards. None of that. It’s literally the sewer with a river of Paris’ finest stools, piss, toilet roll and condoms floating by like the world’s worst episode of The Generation Game. You know that feeling when you go for a poo and someone’s used the cubicle before you and you walk into a mist of shitgas, knocking you back? Imagine that, but multiplied by 10.

You can almost smell it.

That said, it only took five minutes for the tissue inside my nose to necrotise and then we were good to go. And, do you know, it was really bloody interesting! We walked away from the tour guide, not least because he was bellowing in French and I couldn’t understand what he was going on about – lots of murder, apparently – and we explored for ourselves. This isn’t somewhere to take the kids – lots of creepy machinery, open running water, shit all over the place (though you were never touching it). I felt like Thénardier and almost burst into song, although the effect would have been lost over the sound of effluence farting and sloshing about.

Mind, it was good to see Enya doing her bit for faecal disposal.

Two interesting facts for you, though. The sewers of Paris all have charming little street signs on that mirror the roads above so, in theory, you could cheerfully make your way from one side of the city to the other underground, dealing with logs and detritus rather than tourists and looky-looky-men. I’m genuinely not sure which I’d prefer. Secondly, they have a surprisingly old-fashioned way of cleaning their sewers – they use a big black ball almost exactly the same width as the tunnel and send it on its merry way, pushed along by the water building up behind it and sloughing all the stank from the walls of the sewer. They ought to call the ball ‘Scan Bran’, given they do exactly the same thing. I posed for a comedy photo bending over in front of the giant black ball and was roundly tutted at by the tour group which had caught up with us. Ah well.

I’ve hidden the quote for this photo in white text because honestly, I’m ashamed to put it. The caption is: “The view from 10″ into my rectum, if I’m lucky”

I know I’m awful.

Fancy a wander?

We made our way to the exit and Paul looked at his watch with concern. Zut alors! We had a lunch reservation over the other side of the river and we’d never be able to make it, so into another Uber we went. Here’s the thing: we hadn’t quite thought out our day, because going straight to lunch in a nice restaurant after spending an hour floating about in an active sewer probably doesn’t make a nice experience for anyone near us. You know what makes it worse? We were eating here:

Yep – a restaurant entirely in the dark. What happens when you can’t see? Your other senses increase in power. I’m not sure what the French is for ‘goodness, has someone just shat in the bread basket‘ and I don’t want to know. We did try to hurriedly daub ourselves in Tom Ford but meh, there’s only so much you can do, right?

Let me explain how this works – you go in and you’re not given a menu, but rather, you have a chat with the hostess about the types of food you like (meat), what you dislike (fish), what you’re allergic to (pineapple) and what drinks you want. The chef then builds your meals to suit your tastes but you do not know what you’re going to get. It’s then time to eat – your waiter (who is completely blind) comes to get you, you form a human conga chain and into the pitch black you go. You are led to your table and told where your glass is, where your plate is, your cutlery, all at times on a clock – so the wine is at your ten o’clock, forks at 4, and so on. It is an amazingly bewildering experience – at once disorientating and exciting. There’s not a speck of light to be seen – no fire exit signs, no mobiles lighting up (you have to leave those in a locker) – all you have to look at is the colourful swirls that your eyes mark as they try and adjust.

It’s amazing how quick you get used to it though. I was drinking a cocktail and buttering bread like an old hand and everything was going smashing until a voice seemingly inside my ear told me my starter had arrived. I was a moment away from an especially ladylike shriek. Our starters were placed in front of us – an apple, goat cheese and beetroot salad – and we gamely set about trying to eat. Paul gave up trying to use his cutlery after about a minute and just used his fingers like the Peterborian sloth that he is. I pressed on, although it took me four minutes before I realised I was holding my fork the wrong way and all the food was simply tumbling away from me.

As we stumbled our way through our starter the restuarant began to fill up – a relief if only to provide some background noise. When you can’t see and there’s hardly any sound, you start to wonder if you’re simply on a prank TV show and the walls are going to fall down, revealing yourself with beetroot all over your face to a clapping audience. Two lovely Irish ladies joined our corner table and were kind enough not to mention the stench. We don’t normally like to talk whilst we eat because we’re fat and frightened we’ll miss something but actually, the lack of lighting removed any social anxieties and we chatted away like old friends. It was brilliant fun! The dessert was gingerbread pudding and ice cream, although by the time I’d managed to chase my ice-cream around the plate and onto the fork it was merely warm cream.

I took a picture of our dinner so you can see what you get:

The time came to leave, with our waiter gently touching us on the shoulder and unusually not adding, ‘please, Sir, leave some for the others’. I’m not used to such hospitality! We stood up to leave and I became acutely aware of a problem – we’d been put into a corner which was fine when the restuarant was empty, but leaving required squeezing past people in the dark and moving furniture. How embarrassing. Simply leaving the place became a dramatic affair – I shunted someone into their starter, the waiter collided with a table edge that he wasn’t expecting to ‘be there’ and I think Paul might have accidentally impregnated someone. There was a lot of grunting, dissatisfied sighing and profuse apologising, rather like my college years.

Before we left we were shown what we had actually been given and it was genuinely surprising – I was so sure, for example, that I’d had apple pie, but no, it was gingerbread. Paul thought he’d had steak but it had been lamb. I thought I’d received a handjob but it turned out it was just the waiter straightening out the napkin on my lap.

We would heartily recommend.

Now, I’m faced with a bit of a dilemma here. I could prattle on for another 1000 words or so about what we did next, or I could get to the tomato and rice soup and wrap up Paris with one last entry. You know, because I envisage you sat at home yawning your way through the posts, I’ll do exactly that. I know you ladies like length but what’s length without something tasty at the end of it? Let’s get to the soup.

to make tomato and rice soup, you’ll need:

  • one lovely large white onion, roughly chopped
  • three celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 small carrots, chopped (try and cut everything the same size – nice small chunks)
  • good salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes (leave it out if you’ve got a sensitive nipsy)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1.5 litres (yes, that’s right) of good chicken or vegetable stock
  • 150g of brown rice (white is fine if you only have that, we used arborio rice)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 100g of spinach leaves

Optional: if you’ve got a proper Parmesan with a hard rind, feel free to cut off the rind and chuck it in whilst everything simmers. You’ll fish it out after, but it just imparts a nice creaminess to the soup. Also, if you can’t be arsed chopping veg, you can make this so much quicker by buying a bag of soffritto from Waitrose – it’s a quid and consists of perfectly chopped onion, celery and carrots. Lifesaver! Also good if you’re a clumsy bugger like me when it comes to chopping.

to make tomato and rice soup, you should:

  • with a few sprays of oil (half a syn, divide between six if you’re that arse) slowly sweat off your carrot, onion and celery until they soften
  • season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes
  • add the stock, puree, Worcestershire sauce, chopped tomatoes, bay leaves and rice
  • leave to simmer for about 30 minutes – you want the rice softened and some of the liquid bubbled off
  • chuck in your rind if you’re using it whilst it simmers
  • you can leave it to bubble for longer if you like a thicker soup
  • when ready to serve, remove the rind and bay leaves, stir in the spinach and enjoy!

You might be thinking you ought to stop there and not bother with the breadcrumbs, but please: spend a syn or two and make them. It takes no time at all, they keep well in the fridge and they just add a little extra into the soup. Why not make your dinners the very best they can be?

to make basil, garlic and cheese breadcrumbs, you’ll need:

to make basil, garlic and cheese breadcrumbs, you should:

  • blitz together everything above into a fine sand
  • put on an oven tray and cook in the oven on a medium heat until they’re nice and toasty
  • sprinkle onto your soup!

If you don’t want to dick about getting your food processor out, and who would, you could just use the tiny wee chopper that we occasionally dig out for this purpose! You don’t need to spend money on anything expensive, this will do the job nicely!

Phew!

Want more recipes? Vegetarian? Soup? Click and enjoy!

vegetariansmall    slowcookersmalltastersmallsoupsmall

J

instant pot pork and sweet potato chilli con carne

Here for the pork and sweet potato chilli? Then read on!

We have a new gadget! We have bought ourselves an Instant Pot, which is simply a fancy pressure cooker that also does slow cooking, rice and yoghurt, amongst other things. Pressure cooking allows you to cook things a lot quicker whilst retaining the moisture and is perfect for chillis. Currently, if you were looking at one, they’re reduced to £95 on Amazon.

Good news: just because we’ve bought one (and highly recommend) doesn’t mean you’ll need to buy one. We’ll always give you a non pressure-cooker method too. I can’t stand it when blogs start doing recipes just to shill products and frankly, we ain’t that type of blog. We don’t accept bungs for bollocks, unless they’re the sort slapping off our chin.

We are, however, a travel and food blog, and because we’re gearing up for our many holidays this year, I’m taking the opportunity to tie off a few loose ends from last year – posting the bits we forgot to post and so on. Newcomers to the blog – we often post these massive entries detailing where we’ve been and we’re told that they are hilarious. So blog entries aren’t normally quite this long…to that end, here’s part five of our trip to Cornwall last year.

twochubbycubs go to Cornwall – part five

part one | part two | part three: Land’s End | part four

I wish I could pretend things improved with Cornwall, but they didn’t. Disappointment, rudeness and expense lurked around every corner. Don’t get me wrong, there were some charming people and pleasant vistas, absolutely, but it didn’t compensate for my growing sense of rage. This is evidenced by the fact that my notebook, where I usually write down my thoughts of the day and which in turn gets turned into these blog entries, consists of page after page of angry faces and lots of instances of the word ‘bah’. Because of this, I’m going to break with tradition and just do a summary post of all the other scraps of our Cornwall trip that I can’t bring myself to put into flowing narrative.

Padstow

We love Rick Stein – he’s a cheeky-faced cooking wonder and we watch everything he’s in whenever he’s on the telly. I could listen to him describing Russian phone-box repair and still feel a quiver of excitement. It’s not some weird daddy-fetish, he’s just wonderful. With that in mind, Padstow seemed like an obvious place to spend a fresh Spring morning.

Nope. First of all, I’ve never seen so many Audis, BMWs and Mercedes cars in one place. Secondly, same sentence again but replace cars with braying Jigsaw-wearing idiots. We parked up – eventually – took a stroll around the quaint ten-a-penny tea-shops, the lovely seen-it-all-before craft shops and the ‘oh I get it, it’s Seahouses but for people with a buy-to-let portfolio’ restaurants. It left me cold. I don’t think I have an inferiority complex – I’m not worthy of one – but the sense of snootiness and unbridled tra-la-laing wasn’t for me.

We decided that, as we didn’t stand a chance of a walk-in appointment at any of his fabulous restaurants, we’d treat ourselves to fish and chips from Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop. Naturally, it was all very to-do, but fair play, it was delicious. We ate them on the harbour and it was only their deliciousness that saved me from pitching forward into the sea to end my misery. Though, just saying, I can get a pizza, kebab wrap, large chips, can of pop (oh how I hate that), salad, curry sauce AND pot of pink up here for the same price I paid for one fish and chips down there. That said, Rick’s chips didn’t come with a side hockle of phlegm like the ones round here do.

We left, disappointed.

Newquay

…and I thought Padstow has bad. Sweet Jesus. I’m sure Newquay is fabulous in the summer when you can get a tan to go with your stab wounds but in the pissing rain on a cold afternoon, good heavens no. I’ve seen grim working towns – I went through Sunderland once on the train – but this takes the biscuit. If you’re from Newquay and someone is reading this to you please don’t get yourself in a fuss (think of your invariably high blood pressure); I’m sure the bit where you live is lovely and I’m just being a horrendous snob.

We should have known not to trouble ourselves with Newquay at all when we parked up only to have someone offer to look after our car ‘for a reasonable fee’. I was tempted to enquire what this service would get me and what the possible repercussions of failing to take it up where but his yellow tooth frightened me and so we moved on. We found another car park a little further down and set out for adventure.

We found none. We walked to the beach only to be met with sea fret and the smell of fish. I can absolutely see why it would be just so in the summer, however, so please don’t think it’s all bad. We climbed to what I assumed was the main street only to be met with what is increasingly becoming a sad, common sight in the United Kingdom – a row of bookmakers, discount stores and charity shops. I would have been made up if I had wanted to bet on a horse and buy myself a cardigan someone had died in back in 1977. There was a shop nestled at the end called Fat Willy’s which did tickle me (they often do), but it sold surf supplies and there isn’t enough lycra in the world to make me look good on a surfboard.

We decided to try our luck in the bright lights and glitz of the amusement arcade next door. I’ve looked it up on Google Street View and it doesn’t seem to have a name. I presume that’s because they don’t want people on the internet revealing what a massive bloody swizz it is. My nana had more grip in her arthritic fingers than the bloody claw machines in here. I spent four pounds trying to win a Luigi plushie only to give up when I realised I’d have more chance winning the fucking thing if the machine wasn’t switched on. I’m all for a competitive edge but Christ, give us the faintest glimmer of hope, eh?

Things turned nastier still when two girls, both seemingly sharing the same set of teeth, started following us around making eyes at our pocketful of jingling change. You know when you get that feeling that something isn’t right and you’re either about to end up on The Real Hustle or Silent Witness? That was one of those moments. Paul nudged in a set of cherries and I could see sheer avariciousness in their eyes. I clutched my murse theatrically to my side and we made a quick escape.

I know it’s a weird thing to get vexed about but these places are for children, surely? Why not let them have some fun and win a toy without prising £20 out of their parents’ wallet? Why must every other coin be glued down on the coin-pusher or fruit machine rigged to pay out on the twelfth of never? Another tiny example of grasping UK. Pfft.

We spent another forty minutes looking around the shops before both deciding that we’d given it a chance and were justified in going home, despite paying for four hours of parking. Oh, and as a final point, if you were the woman serving us in the little pasty shop on the corner, a bloody smile goes a long way. I felt as though I’d made a mortal enemy for having the check to order two lamb and mint pasties. You know when someone gives you a look of hatred that chills you to the core? That’s what we got as thanks for our custom (and before anyone says it, I’m always unfailingly polite when I order, no matter how poor my afternoon is going). Brilliant. I wouldn’t have minded so much but even the bloody pasties were awful – I’ve had morning farts with more taste to them.

We left, disappointed.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

We kept seeing signs for this place as we beetled about and knew nothing about it. We didn’t bother to research and when, on the fourth day, I loudly exclaimed that we should go to Heligan, Paul simply replied ‘What, Newquay?’ – kaboomtish.

Once we’ve stitched up our sides and located the Lost Gardens of Heligan in the Sat-Nav (so they’re not that lost, just saying) we were on our way, and it felt like no time at all until we were pulling up aside a Saga coach tour. It was fortunate that these elderly day-trippers were so slight as it made pushing them out of the way of the entrance all the more easier.

Oh I’m kidding, before anyone rings Age UK. They were still stumbling off the bus by the time Paul and I had completed a full lap of the grounds and got back in the car.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are, according to the sweaty nerds at Wikipedia, one of the most popular botanical gardens in the UK. They were bought by a fancy sort back in the 16th century and immediately divided into lots of lovely sections, such as a ‘jungle’ and a rhododendron garden. The moment I spotted that on a sign I burst into ‘I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden’ until Paul saw fit to stick twigs in his ears to stop me. Poor sport. Anyway, the gardens fell into disrepair until they were restored in the early twentieth centuries, and now, here in modern times, they’re only a reasonable entrance charge away.

Now let me tell you this: I have been miserable throughout these Cornish entries. Nothing has managed to make my heart soar or my eyes sparkle. There’s barely been a moment where I haven’t been thinking longingly about the five holiday days I’d used up at work to take this trip. But these gardens were amazing.

I’m not exactly sure what pleased me so much – it was just a garden, after all, albeit a massive one split over many acres – but it was terrific. For a start, it didn’t cost the Earth. I’d become so accustomed to handing over wads of notes that it was a pleasant surprise to be told it was a very reasonable £13.50. Then there was so much to see and do – everything clearly laid out and mapped in the little handbook they give you. We spent hours just drifting from scene to scene – we had literally stopped to smell the roses and it worked a treat with cheering us up.

It helped that we had the place mostly to ourselves, save for the odd walking group and gaggle of tourists trampling in the flowers. This meant we had time to read the excellent information boards and talk to the staff, who I’m sure would have rather we left them be so they could crack on with the gardening. I can prove that we at least absorbed one fact: Heligan remains the only place in the UK that grows pineapples – albeit very small ones – in horse poo. Fascinating stuff! Along similar lines, Lands’ End in Cornwall is the only place in the UK where you can spend over £20 and get absolutely fuck all back for your money. What a time to be alive!

We took ourselves down to the animal area and sat for a good half hour watching birds from the little lookout they’ve installed then wandered gingerly down the very steep slope to the ponds. We spotted that somewhere amidst all the flowers and trees there was a rope bridge and so we spent a good twenty minutes hunting that out, managing to miss it twice despite it being signposted.

Well, goodness me. Didn’t we look a sight. I’m sure folks far more light-footed than me could trip over this bridge with dainty steps but when we both lumbered on the metal shrieked and the rope audibly stretched. I couldn’t relax, waiting as I was for a loud TWAAAANG sending us plummeting to the pond below. I say plummeting, we were six foot in the air, but come on, dramatic licence. As the bridge had sagged quite considerably under us it became quite a chore to pull ourselves up to the other side, a situation not helped by some red-faced little urchin crying out that he wanted a go. This was tough. Luckily, Cornwall Fire and Rescue came to our aid only forty minutes later.

Nah I’m kidding, we made it across, but we were bloody knackered. Of course, we’d also forgotten that the steep slopes coming down which once seemed to fun and hilarious to slide down would become an awful slog going back up. We took our time but it was with a shameful amount of huffing and puffing that we had to stop twice on the way up. To cap off our embarrassment, we were overtaken by a woman pushing herself along in an off-road wheelchair up the hill. I felt so ashamed.

We finished our afternoon by having a mince around the forest, where lots of giant curiosities were hidden. I came across a large hand deep in the undergrowth, which wouldn’t be the first time. Paul was taken by surprise by an erection poking out of the bush, which wouldn’t be the first time either. It really was wonderful and it was with a big genuine smile that I declined the offer of annual membership as we left. Perhaps if you dug it up and put it somewhere south of Hexham, I’d consider it.

We did stop by the farm shop with an eye to buying a range of meats and cheeses but the prices of everything in there sharp put paid to that idea. Listen, I’m not averse to slapping down the cash for good food, but these prices were little more than a tourist trap. I asked for the price of a small wedge of Little Stinky only to be told it was more than a tenner. I leant over and whispered confidentially that ‘I only want to buy the cheese, not rent the cow’ but her stern, weathered face was having none of my japery.

We left, disappointed.

But only at the farm shop – the actual gardens themselves were an absolute treat and I can wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend a trip.

Honourable mentions:

Mevagissey Model Railway – we loved this. It was like falling into Roy Cropper’s wet dream. There was more than a hint of foist about the place but the owner was knowledgeable and welcoming and it was very much a ‘British’ piece of entertainment. Well worth a visit, although I wouldn’t pencil out a whole afternoon for it.

Lappa Valley Railway – we turned up, decreed it far too expensive (although looking right now on the website it seems a lot cheaper, so best not write it off in case I was just having a mild aneurysm or something) and cleared off. I do still get a tickle from the fact they have an event called a ‘Steam and Cream’ for the over sixties. I thought most trainspotters just jizzed straight into the same quilt they’ve had since they were 14?

The Chapel Porth Hedgehog – I can forgive the National Trust for charging me to visit a beach when I’m presented with an ice-cream like the Chapel Forth Hedgehog. For those wot div not knaa this is Cornish ice-cream which is then smothered in clotted cream and them dipped in honey-roasted hazelnuts. It’s served with a warm smile and fifteen minutes of CPR. Bloody amazing. Beach was nice too.

Overall

If you’re reading this entry and feeling apocalyptic that I’ve dismissed Cornwall as an awful place full of chintz and nonsense and bloody rude people, please, take a moment. There’s no need to be so quick to anger. Holidays are unique to everyone and I just didn’t ‘feel’ Cornwall. I can see its many merits mind – I like the fact that the air feels crisp, for one. The views are wonderful but as I’ve previously touched upon, I live in what I believe to be the most beautiful county in all of the United Kingdom – Northumberland. I have beauty on my doorstep.

Remember, opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one. It’s just unfortunate that I’ve made a hobby out of talking out of mine.


Gosh – that was a long one, wasn’t it? Did you enjoy it? Please do give me feedback on these holiday entries – I know they’re lengthy but it’s the thing I enjoy writing the most! Let’s get to the pork and sweet potato chilli though without another moment of hesitation.

to make pork and sweet potato chilli you will need:

  • 500g pork mince
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • ½ tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 400g pinto beans
  • 300g sweet potato, cut into small chunks

to make pork and sweet potato chilli you should:

Instant Pot method

  • press the ‘saute’ button, add a bit of oil and then add the onion and red pepper
  • cook for about three minutes until softened
  • next, add the pork mince and stir to break it up and ensure it cooks evenly
  • after a minute add the chilii powder, cumin, oregano and garlic and stir
  • add the tomatoes, pinto beans (with water) and the sweet potato and stir until well combined
  • ensure the vent is set to ‘sealing’ and cook on high pressure for ten minutes

Bog standard in the oven job method:

  • saute off the onion and pepper in a deep heavy pan until soft and lovely
  • add the pork mince and stir to make sure it is broken up and cooked evenly
  • after a minute add the chilii powder, cumin, oregano and garlic and stir
  • add the tomatoes, pinto beans (with water) and the sweet potato and stir until well combined
  • cook in the oven for a good hour or two – low and slow – or bubble away on the hob for 40 minutes, making sure it doesn’t catch

Serve with rice! Simple, honest dinner! Can’t get vexed.

Looking for more recipe ideas? But of course!

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Enjoy!

J

risotto with thyme, prosciutto, pecorino and crumbled goat cheese

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.

part one | part two | part three | part four | part five

Bern, then.

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
  • enjoy!

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.

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Enjoy!

J

low syn cheesy nacho mince and rice

Right look, no bullshit. This cheesy nacho mince and rice is one of the best recipes we’ve made – not sure why, the ingredients aren’t anything flash and there’s no magic ingredient (THIS RECIPE CONTAINS 4 SURPRISES – NUMBER 3 WILL SHOCK YOU! – no, it won’t). It’s simple to make, full of flavour and cooks well. I’m starting to sound like one of those awful food blogs where everything is amazing and wonderful and guaranteed to give you a wide-on. But it really is worth giving a go.

Tonight’s entry was going to be another part of our Swiss trip but I spent forty minutes writing about toilets and my fingers are aching. So, by the miracle of copy and paste, I’m going to share with you a tale from our newest book instead. Paul and I attended a wedding last year that never made it onto the blog, but hey, weddings are always fun. Especially our take on them. If you’re just here for the recipe and you’re not in the mood for any of my nonsense, you go ahead and click this lovely button below.

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Oh I know, I’m a sod.


twochubbycubs on: a nice day for a white wedding

Long-time readers may recollect a particularly disastrous trip to a wedding in the last book where, in no particular order, I forgot my tie, our suit hiring folks forgot to remove the massive security tag on my suit jacket and, after a particularly bouncy bit of drunken sex, Paul and I fell asleep and missed the entire reception.

Since then, we have managed to avoid weddings, which is probably for the best given our ability to embarrass ourselves at any given notice, but we were invited to a New Year’s Eve wedding at the start of the year before and given it was someone who I a) like and b) strongly suspect would cut my face if I had turned her down (I mean, she’s from Worksop, they use a headbutt like one might use a comma), we had no choice but to go.

A bit about the bride: I’ve been her PA at various points in my life. I follow her around like a persistent dose of thrush. I joined her team as a fresh-faced young man full of innocence – she then systemically ruined me over the course of the next few years. I’d seen her blossom from a cantankerous, foul-mouthed, cock-hungry hussy to a slightly older cantankerous, foul-mouthed, cock-hungry hussy. It was with a great sense of pride that I was to see her down the aisle, her flaming Rebekah Brooks hair trailing behind her.

A bit about the groom: Paul and I both would.

Paul hates weddings so it was a case of promising him that it was going to be a fun event, there would be delicious food AND it was to be held up in Otterburn so there was a slim-to-maybe chance the night could end with one or both of us being tumbled around a field by a gang of rough-handed, drunken squaddies. It’s exactly the same way I get him to go to family BBQs.

Usual pre-wedding promises were made: lose plenty of weight, get a decent suit, pick a decent present. Usual pre-wedding promises were then completely ignored: we put more weight over Christmas, our suits came from Marks and Spencer’s ‘GOOD GOD MAN YOU’RE OBSCENE’ range and the bride wanted cold hard cash, which was something I could immediately get behind. The cash that is, not the bride. I feel that may have been a tad inappropriate during the service and anyway, the groom looked like he could take us both in a fight.

Paul drove us the 50 miles there. You all know how I feel about his driving – there’s still three fingernails lodged in the passenger side door from my grip.

We’d booked ourselves a fancy suite in a gorgeous old country hotel – just the thing to pick our arses in, clip our toenails into the carpet and watch The Chase in. We know our place. The receptionist was a delight – he looked exactly like a tiny version of Paul, and well, Paul’s pretty miniature anyway. I wanted to reach over and pick him up, half expecting there to be an even smaller version of Paul inside, played by Hervé Villechaize in a fat-suit. The receptionist was definitely one of us and there was more than a hint of ‘anything else you need; you just ask’. I told him that we were good for now but if I woke up at 3am fancying a Mexican Pancake, I’d ring down.

I had a quick bath, mainly to rid myself of the fear-sweat that soaked me through following Paul’s ‘driving’, then, after a change into our court outfits, we were ready.

The wedding was a mile or so away at an absolutely beautiful hall (Woodhill Hall, if you please) and so we piled into a people’s carriers lest I got my shoes muddy. There was just time enough for a quick drink and a look at everyone’s pretty clothes and Sunday best shoes before we were directed to take a seat in the sunroom. The service was terrific – not all fussy and old-fashioned but some custom lyrics and a fair bit of crying. I begged Paul to let me hurtle down the aisle screaming “It Should Have Been Me” like that bit in Vicar of Dibley but he told me to behave myself. Boo. You have no idea how difficult it is for me not to cause a scene.

Rings fingered and kisses given, we were all put in another room to enjoy a gorgeous meal of local delicacies and whatnots before listening to the speeches which, for once, were actually funny. There’s nowt worse than people thinking they’re funny (although to be fair I’ve created quite a sideline from it) but these got more than a few titters from me.

Bellies full and hearts singing / straining, we nipped back to the hotel room to get changed into slightly less strained shirts – there’s only so long I can sit fretting that my collar is about to burst open and blind someone with a stray button – and the excellent news is that we managed not to fall asleep like we did at the last wedding. I’d hate to get a reputation as someone who just turned up at weddings for the sandwiches and free drinks and then buggered off away to bed before my wallet came out. I mean, that IS exactly who I am, but I’d hate to have a reputation.

Anyway, back at the hotel we bumped into El Ehma (who the book is dedicated to) and, after dressing, we headed down to the bar for a quick drink before nipping back to the venue. Emma’s idea of a ‘quick drink’ turned out to be a triple Tanqueray and tonic, which seemed to cause the barman great consternation. She had to explain several times over that a triple was three shots, and it was with a very shaky hand that he set about the optics for the third time. I didn’t care, I was already fairly tipsy at this point. After more gin we set off back to the wedding venue, with El Ehma promising hand-on-heart that we’d meet again at 1am to get the car back to the hotel, with the offer of a ‘chocolate Baileys’ as a nightcap.

I write as a hobby and like to think I have a good handle on most euphemisms but even I wasn’t sure what a chocolate Baileys entailed. Would I ever find out?

The rest of the evening’s festivities were held in a giant tent in the gardens of the hall. There was a roaring fire in the middle and thankfully, I was too drunk to entertain my catastrophic thinking that the whole place would go up like the school in Carrie. At some point in the evening the DJ started playing the songs that each guest had requested months prior to the wedding – because this was a more alternative wedding there was a lot of rock music and loud noise, but the atmosphere was great. I had completely forgotten what I had put down on my reply.

Anyway, seeking some “fresh air” and “time to ourselves” (seriously though, there’s something about weddings that gets us both hilariously frisky – I’ve only got to hear the first few seconds of the Wedding March and the old cock-clock jumps straight to midnight), we ventured outside behind the venue, eventually finding a little shed that we could “rest our feet” without fear of interruption.

Let me tell you this – naughty outdoors wedding sex is great fun, it really is, especially when the air is crisp and cold and there’s the distant sound of people having an amazing night, but it doesn’t have put you off your stroke when you’re near the point of climax and you hear the DJ shout your name over the crowd followed by the words “…specially requested this all-time classic – OOOH AAAH (Just A Little Bit) by Giiiiiiiiiiina G”.

Listen, I’ve had sex under pressure, I’ve had sex in dangerous places, but there was no possible way I was going to be able to paint the town white under these circumstances. Having a barely successful Eurovision singer annotating your thrusts is a recipe for disaster. We zipped up and headed back inside, putting our flushed faces down to musical embarrassment. Sort of true, I suppose.

The rest of the evening passed in a blur of food, liqueur, dubious dancing and actually, everyone just having a bloody lovely time. I’ve never been to a wedding before where everyone who mattered was smiling and laughing and do you know, it was grand. When people are there not out of obligation but out of friendship, well, you know you’re on the right track. The evening finished with a midnight fireworks display set to Pour Some Sugar On Me (some Canestan might have beenb better) and sparklers and then everyone slowly made their way to bed.

Not us, though. No, despite El Ehma’s promises of keeping the car ready for us, piloted by her lovely sober husband, and us turning up at dot on the time we said, she was away, leaving us stranded. Bah! We could see her brake lights snaking away down the road. Clearly she was in a rush for that chocolate Baileys / anal.

There was no chance of us walking back because by this point I was seeing six legs when I looked down, so we threw ourselves on the mercy of the lovely lady behind the bar. She was probably struck with the frightening idea of seeing our swimmy eyes and moon faces leering at her gin collection all through the night and so it was that we found ourselves packed into the back of her Fiat Uno, being driven all the way back to our hotel. I could have kissed her. Hell, I was that pleased (and blue-balled from earlier) that I would have fathered her children had she given me a bit of keen-eye.

We tumbled into bed (just Paul and I) and were straight off to sleep. Things came to a lively head at about 4am when Paul tumbled drunkenly out of bed, setting the very posh and old bedside table crashing over, which in turn knocked a chest of drawers asunder, which then set a lamp crashing to the floor. It was like Total Wipeout, only with more gin fumes and Paul trapped in sheets on the floor. We inspected the antiques with all the care and concentration you’d expect from two burly men who at that point were more gin than human, and hastened back to bed.

The cold light of day revealed that, somewhat surprisingly, there had been no damage done, save for a mobile-phone shaped bruise on Paul’s arse where he had landed on his phone. If only he’d been charging his electric toothbrush then at least one of us would have seen some action round the back. We quite literally staggered to the breakfast room where we were met with El Ehma’s fresh face (“eee we waited! We did! We did!”) and a fry-up that came on two plates. Across the way from us were a couple visiting from down South and who had ordered a tiny bowl of muesli and a cup of smugness and by God were they repulsed by my alcohol fumes and unshaven face. I’m just glad I don’t smoke anymore – if I had lit a match at that point I would have gone up like a dry forest fire.

We couldn’t leave at this point because we were still tipsy so we had to walk around Otterburn until we were safe to drive. You know when people say the best thing to do for a hangover is to get some fresh air? Balls to them. I’ve never felt rougher than I did when I had my face lashed by the cold Northumberland air and soaked by the type of rain that gets in every single gap in flesh, clothing and soul. When we could eventually drive home, we did so silently, green-faced and gingerly. What a truly amazing wedding, though.


Enjoy that? There’s all that in more in our fantastic new book The Second Coming, which at the moment is rising up the Kindle charts like a foul burp – JK Rowling must be absolutely shitting herself. Click here for that – don’t worry, it’ll open in a new window. Right, to the recipe then…

cheesy nacho mince and rice cheesy nacho mince and rice

to make cheesy nacho mince and rice you will need:

  • 400g lean minced beef (stop wasting money on ghastly gristly supermarket mince – try one of our fabulous Musclefood deals instead!)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (you know it: this’ll help!)
  • 1 red pepper, diced finely
  • 400g orzo pasta (or rice)
  • 400ml passata
  • 350ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (0.5 syns) (sriracha is hot sauce – any spicy sauce will do, or, if you don’t like your arse all a-tingle, leave it out!)
  • 160g reduced fat cheddar (4x HeA)
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • pinch of paprika
  • pinch of onion granules
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 olives, halved (1.5 syns)
  • 30g bag Doritos (7.5 syns)
  • bunch of chives or spring onions

Ah I want to clarify something, by the way. We’ve had a couple of Clever Dicks (who aren’t that clever) sending us snide messages about ‘wen u uze oyul u hv 2 sin it‘. Well, yes, indeed. When we say a bit of oil we mean a few sprays of Filippo Berio spray oil, or indeed, any oil decanted into one of these. That’s half a syn. Between four. If you want to get your titties in a tangle over 1/8 of a syn, be my guest. I’m not proposing people pour a gallon drum of Castrol into their frying pan, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to suckle the Frylight teat – it’s a nonsense, plastic product and why use it when you can use decent stuff and – if you feel you must – syn accordingly? BAH!

to make cheesy nacho mince and rice you should:

  • add a little oil to a large frying pan and put on a medium-high heat
  • add the mince and onions and cook until the mince has browned
  • add the garlic and pepper and continue cooking for about 3 more minutes
  • reduce the heat to medium-low and add the orzo to the pan, along with the passata, chicken stock, sriracha, chilli flakes, paprika and onion granules and stir well
  • cook for about 12-15 minutes until the orzo has absorbed the liquid, stirring occasionally
  • remove from the heat – take three quarters of the cheese and stir it through the dinner, and then sprinkle over the top the remainder of the cheese, chopped tomatoes, olives, chopped chives/spring onions and crushed doritos (and anything else you’re using)
  • heat the grill to high and pop the frying pan underneath – you want it under for just a few minutes to melt the cheese (keep an eye on if it has a plastic handle)
  • serve!

if you too can’t be arsed to wash up, why not try some of these recipes?

or if something else tickles your fancy, have a look through some of our other recipes by clicking the buttons below – we’ve got over 400!

fakeawayssmallpastasmall   snackssmallsoupsmallonepot

I know, we’re wonderful.

J

golden lentil and barley soup – look, I tried, OK?

I don’t think I’ve ever put a less appetising picture up on this blog (actually, that’s a fib, remember the time we accidentally uploaded a giant pulsing sphincter? No? Click here for that, it’ll open in a new window) than this golden lentil and barley soup. It looks like someone has already taken a stab and eating it and then chucked it back up for someone else to have a go with. But see, we do like to support our vegan members, with their milk-white skin and gunshot eyes, and this looked so appetising on the blog where I took the recipe from. Usually I take a recipe and adopt it for Slimming World myself but this required no changes so full credit and awe go to yupitsvegan. I’m sorry that I turned your delicious looking golden lentil and barley soup into a pile of tramp’s truffles.

Anyway, just a short entry tonight because it’s our anniversary. We’ve now been married six years. We both thought it was five as it happens and were shocked when Facebook’s lookback feature showed us both relaxing in the double bath six years ago. I mean, where does the time go? In May it’ll be our proper anniversary from when we started, how can I put this delicately…fucking, and that’ll be ten years. Ten years and we’re still dead romantic – only the other morning Paul murmured lightly, as I cuddled him, that I was ‘like a George Foreman grill’ – I keep him lovely and warm. D’aww. I recounted this whimsical tale of love into our facebook group only for someone to say ‘Is it not because you drip when he puts his meat in?’. Brrrr. Although it made me laugh, it does show a lack of understanding of the general mechanics of our shenanigans. Mind the romance doesn’t just flow one way, you know, look at the heartwarming notes I leave in his lunchbox (and I apologise for the naughty word, it’s rarely used on here):

15800214_10155862434106509_8151582915147000597_o

If that offends you, it shouldn’t, it definitely says fat aunt. Promise. *cough*

Now, rather than leave you unsatisfied and wanting more, I’m going to put the very first entry from our honeymoon book on here – it deals with our wedding day! The glitz. My writing style has changed somewhat since then but hopefully you’ll still get a taste of us…


Way back in 2009, also at Disney, I proposed to my stout little barrel of a man and he gleefully accepted. I think it was the fact we were in the middle of a lake and I’d be watching an awful lot of Dead Calm recently that hastened his positive reply. We got honked at by a passing Disney ferry whose inhabitants thought I was down on my knees doing something other than proposing. The nerve. I mean, it wasn’t Christmas! Zip forward to 3 January 2011 and the day before our wedding. Well, the glamour started right from the off with one of the cats deciding to do a dirty protest in the car whilst we ferried him over to my sister to look after. You’ve never seen someone wind a window down quicker than us that day, and because the cat is fearless and would have jumped, he stayed in his messy box all the way to my sisters. It was with tears in our eyes (and Vicks under our nose) to see our pooey little furball depart, but there you have it.

We spent the evening before the wedding in our first treat, a room at the Hotel du Vin in Newcastle. You may think Newcastle is purely the land of bust noses, bare flesh and broken hymens, but we’re more than capable of bringing the class, and this is one of the nicest hotels in the area. I mean, it has a cigar bar attached, for heaven’s sake. Our very first surprise of the honeymoon? We were upgraded to the best suite in the hotel, the Dom Pérignon suite. It was bloody beautiful. It’s the honeymoon suite and I was overjoyed, especially as I had only paid £68 for the room through my shrewd discount plans. A massive thank you to the staff of the beautiful Hotel du Vin, that’s for sure. The room had two bathtubs in the living room, and I think we were in the room for a grand total of two minutes before they were full of bubbles and we were laid in them watching Deal or no Deal on the giant TV and feeling like kings. The bed was wonderful too – it felt like it was 9ft wide – I could lie in it, stretch myself out and STILL not touch the sides. Sometimes I wonder why Paul married me.

There was NO late-night prodding awake with a bed this big.

After a meal on the Quayside and a romantic stroll back to our room, we settled down to sleep – our last night as bachelors! Here’s a sweet fact for you – in all the time we’ve been together, we’ve never had a night apart. A good start to the marriage methinks! And so…to the wedding!

We had decided a couple of months previously not to have a big do at all, and just a small registry office affair followed by a good dinner. I wish I could say it was for any other reason than the fact we’re both terribly selfish and Northern and thus the idea of spending money to facilitate other people having a good time appals us. Plus, I wanted to avoid the horrid old clichés of a civil partnership. Bah! I’m not casting aspersions on anyone else’s wedding but it suited us to have a small, tidy, manly do. So we did. Well, we did toy with the idea of dressing up like the sisters from Shakespear’s Sister’ Stay video but we were talked out of it. We became Husband and Husband in Newcastle Registry Office, presided over by an official who was the spit of Annie Lennox, and watched over by our immediate family and good friends.

The deed is done! Don’t you think the Argos CD player really sets off the room? 

As an aside, my gran was there, and she’s brilliant – despite being 87, she’s thoroughly accepting of our relationship and is always asking after Paul when I call up. I mean, there are limits to her acceptance – I didn’t dare explain what fisting was when she asked me one day after seeing the word on my phone (I might add, someone had texted it in a joke to me, I’m not that FILTHY). It still felt a little bit too formal for me, as I’m not used to someone addressing a suit-clad Paul without adding ‘the defendant’ afterwards. We decamped to SIX, the faffy little restaurant on top of the Baltic. It’s very posh. NOW, we’re not a posh lot, and class McCains as a ‘fancy potato style’ but you have to let your hair down once and a while, even if (as is the case in all the males at the table) you don’t have any.

So, a suitably lovely meal was had, only enhanced by the snotty waiter looking down his nose at us and rolling his eyes when I ordered a couple of bottles of reasonably-priced champagne. Well, reasonably priced for them – paying £65 for a bottle of fizzy cat pee gave me such a cold sweat that I had to excuse myself to the bathroom to calm my shakes. My nana, bless her, didn’t really fancy anything on the menu (I can’t blame her, I’ve never heard two bits of chard, a sliced tomato and a bloody drizzle of balsamic vinegar described as a French Salad before) but they were very good and cooked her up her own individual meal. I stopped short of asking them to put a glass of Banana Complan on ice, though.

After the meal, we went to the pub for an hour, then everyone dearly departed, and our honeymoon officially started. Yes! Back to the flat to really put the bed through its paces by er…putting the suitcases on it and tipping our wardrobe into them. I have to say, it wasn’t the first type of packing that I had planned for the wedding night. We slept, butterflies in our stomach (SIX would call them an amuse bouché) and in no time at all, we were in a taxi being bellowed at by a rather brusque taxi driver who wanted to know the far end of a fart and when it came from. Honestly. I spent the entire trip to the train station trying surreptiously to take a photo of his face on my phone so I would be able to identify who had burgled our house when we were away. Thankfully, that didn’t arise.

Straight onto the train, into the first class carriage (where you too can travel in style with an extra doily and a few crappy biscuits) and we were disappearing over the Queen Elizabeth bridge, saying goodbye to Newcastle from the bridge. Now here’s a tip for you. If you’re coming into Newcastle (or indeed leaving) from the South on the train, don’t look slackjawed to the right and admire all the bridges, but instead, look on the other side of the river, up the Tyne. As you cross the bridge, there’s a little wasteground, and it’s always full of men out ‘badger-hunting’. Yep – whereas most people are taken by the beauty of the moment, Paul and I spent the first minute of our honeymoon journey playing ‘Count the Cruiser’. What larks!

In no time at all, we were in London, our seedy capital. Kings Cross is lovely, yes, but in no time at all we had tubed our way to Victoria and onto the Gatwick Express, heading for the giddy heights of the Gatwick Hilton. What a place! After spending seven years navigating to the hotel from the train station (seriously, we spent so much time walking there that I almost gave up and set up base for the night), we were checked in by a clearly-couldn’t-care-less-customer-divvy and in our room. Grim. I’m not a hotel snob but after spending the night in the Hotel du Vin only two nights ago, the Hilton’s tired brown sheets and tiny bathroom didn’t exactly enamour the soul. After spending only a moment admiring the view (car-parks are just SO fantastic to gaze at), we trekked back to the airport and checked in super-early (is it still Twilight Check-in if it is during the day?) with Virgin Atlantic. We had pre-booked our seats in the bubble but no sooner had we dumped our bags than the lady behind the counter told us we had been moved. Argh! I was too busy trying to work out the best way to hide her body to take in what she was saying, but – hooray for thedibb – when I was back at the hotel I checked online and we were RIGHT at the front of the bubble. Get in! Not only do I get to look down at the cattle-class, but I was going to be on first-name terms with the pilot. OK, maybe not THAT close. And we don’t look down our noses at anyone…well…not much.

We spent the evening in the hotel, watching a home movie entitled ‘Britain’s Fattest Man’ starring Timothy Spall. It was very good, even if we didn’t feel a shred of shame stuffing a pork-pie into our gob the very moment he had his fat chopped off. A good nights sleep was had, and we were ready for day 1.


God, I’m absolutely itching to rewrite that, you know. Not least because it refers to my nana in the present tense instead of the past and I’m fairly sure she’s still Voldermort-ed. However, if you’re a glutton for punishment and you like sentences that never end and punctuation used like confetti, you can buy the rest of the honeymoon book right here.

Right, let’s deal with this delicious looking dinner, shall we? Mmmm! Get ready to gag! No I’m kidding, it looks like slop, but honestly, it tastes bloody lovely! Please don’t be put off!

golden lentil and barley soup

Look, to make up for that picture, here’s some similarly coloured cats:

d8pcbgk

Why can’t we have a cat like that one in the middle? Why must we have one that licks his knob all day and another who scrapes her minnie-moo on the floor? For fucks sake.

to make golden lentil and barley soup, you’ll need:

  • a few sprays of olive oil – frylight if you must, but just don’t do it to yourself
  • one large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic or a reet good sprinkling of the powdered stuff
  • a fiddler’s thumb of fresh ginger (about an inch) (or powdered, about half a teaspoonful)
  • as above, but with fresh turmeric – can’t get fresh turmeric? Don’t shit the bed – just use about 1/2 teaspoon of the powdered stuff, I’ll never tell)
  • one large carrot – thinly sliced
  • pinch of cumin and the same again of coriander – don’t like your meals with cumin? Then don’t get so excited! Hello? Is this thing on? Hello? Nah, leave it out if you’re not a fan
  • 1200ml of decent vegetable stock / bouillon
  • 150g of red lentils
  • 100g or so of dry pearl barley
  • two tablespoons of tomato puree
  • salt and pepper to taste

You know what’s coming don’t you? You just know it! Buy a mincer to take care of your garlic, ginger and turmeric in no time at all. Also, chop your carrots quickly and uniform with a mandolin slicer, but for crying out loud, be careful. I’ve got fingers like snapped Matchmakers thanks to mine.

to make golden lentil and barley soup, you should:

  • chop up your onion nice and fine and then cook off in a bit of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan
  • once the onions have softened, add the minced garlic, turmeric and ginger and stir on a medium heat until everything smells lovely
  • add the coriander and cumin together with the chopped carrot and continue to cook gently until everything has softened a bit
  • add the pearl barley, lentils and stock – bring to the boil then drop it to a simmer

A quick note: take the time to wash the pearl barley more than a few times. Stick it in a sieve, get the hot water running, and rinse rinse rinse. Stops it going gloopy. Right, where were we…

  • cook uncovered for about 25 minutes until the lentils and pearl barley are cooked through – longer is fine, but you might need to top the liquid off with more stock
  • add the tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste, stir through and cook for another minute or two
  • serve – oh we added a drop of chilli sauce on the top but that’s up to you, see

If anyone asks, just reassure them that it’s hearty and delicious and syn free!

Looking for more soups? Try these!

Looking for more recipes overall? Click some buttons!

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Enjoy!

J

apple, mushroom and sage risotto

Paul’s had a difficult day dealing with 185 million emails and I’ve shouted myself hoarse at some twat in a BMW who seemed to think the 70mph limit was 40mph too fast and thus trundled along in front of me reading his phone, so it’s straight to the recipe (as promised). We love risottos here at Cubs Towers, and this unusual flavour combination couldn’t be more autumnal. Why the fuck have I started sounding like Mary Berry when describing my recipes? Good grief. RECIPE NOW. This makes enough for two big bowl fulls, and later, two big bowel fulls.

apple, mushroom and sage risotto

to make apple, mushroom and sage risotto you will need:

  • 4 bacon medallions
  • 2 shallot, sliced
  • 100g shittake mushrooms, chopped
  • 200g arborio rice
  • 125ml apple juice (about 3 syns)
  • 1 litre chicken stock (make by dissolving three chicken stock cubes in a litre of boiling water
  • ½ cooking apple (peeled, cored and chopped)
  • ⅛ tsp sage
  • cooked chicken breast (optional)

Here’s the thing. Technically, if you’re following Slimming World to the letter, you should syn your quarter of a cooking apple. However, that, to me, is nonsense. If I was saying you should put a pack of butter in and not syn it, that would be wrong, but a nice healthy apple – and a tiny bit of it at that? Nope! Always your decision to make though!

You could easily use the chicken and bacon from our new Musclefood box, which has lots of those, and others, inside – click here for that.

to make apple, mushroom and sage risotto you should:

  • heat a large frying pan over a high heat and add the bacon, cook until crispy and put aside on a plate. when cooled, chop it up into crispy bits
  • wipe out the pan and add a little oil, reduce the heat to medium-high
  • fry the shallot and mushroom for about 4 minutes, until softened and add the rice
  • stir well until the rice is coated
  • add the apple juice to the pan and cook until it’s mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes or so
  • add 1 ladle of chicken stock and stir frequently until it’s mostly absorbed
  • add the next ladle and stir again until absorbed
  • add the chopped apple to the pan along with another ladle of chicken stock until absorbed, and keep adding stock by the ladleful until it’s all absorbed
  • remove from the heat and stir in the sage
  • serve into bowls, top with the chicken, bacon and apple slices

Need more inspiration? Just click one of the buttons below!

 

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Enjoy!

J

beef, bean and chorizo chilli

Yes, another slow cooker recipe if you please, but you can always just make this beef, bean and chorizo chilli on the hob if you prefer. Apologies that we’re a bit slow-cooker heavy at the moment, but we’re batch-cooking see and the slow cooker lends itself so well to having food portioned off into foil containers, ready to disappear into the freezer until they’re thrown out fourteen months later. Batch-cooking: it only works if you don’t have a freezer that looks like an Iceland lorry crashed down an embankment. We must be the only couple in Britain whose freezer is 50% Häagen-Dazs, 50% good intentions.

The other reason for this chilli was so that we’d have something warm and comforting to come back to after nipping out last night to watch the fireworks at Hexham. I know I’ve waffled previously at length about firework displays – in short, I thoroughly enjoy the spectacle but not the a) crowds b) thought of wasting so much money and c) did I mention the crowds? And of course, the main problem with Hexham fireworks is that the whoooooosh and squeeeeeeeee of the fireworks is almost drowned out by the braying and neighing of all the posh, chinless lot scrabbling around in their Hunter wellies and desperately unhappy marriages. I’ve never seen so many children dressed like accountants and stable-hands squealing and yelling. Still, the fireworks were really very good, and the hour or so we spent trying to get out of the overflow carpark in a sea of BMWs, Range Rovers and other shitcarriages gave me plenty of time to practice my swearing and make adamantly clear to Paul that we’ll never have a child. To be fair, I think that’s rather a moot point, I can’t envision Paul ever telling me ashen-faced that he’s managed to get someone pregnant. I mean, we’ve been trying for ten years…

Oddly, it’s not the first time this month that I’ve been sliding around in a muddy field. No, for whatever god-knows-reason, we decided to go along to the local car boot sale a week or so ago. I didn’t take much persuasion, but then I never do when it comes to being in a dimly-lit field surrounded by men with their car doors open flashing their wares. My DS3 is possibly the only model out there whose interior lights don’t so much blink on and off as actually strobe. Ah well. We are what we are. No, I rather relished the chance to revisit a bit of my youth, spending many Sundays way-back-when as a boy at the Corbridge car boots. I remember it fondly – lots of colourful board games, piles of NES cartridges, stopping at the mobile hot-dog van for a small saveloy and severe gastroenteritis. I did once find a set of James Herriot books which came in useful 20 years later propping up my broken bed, so that was useful.

We piled into the car at ungodly’o’clock on the Sunday morning (by ungodly, I mean before dusk) and beetled up the dual carriageway, giving my nana’s old house a friendly wave as we chugged past. She was always such a big part of our Sundays that, even now, it feels odd driving through the village where she used to be. Any soft feelings of nostalgia were eventually swapped with mild anger as, upon getting to the general area of the car boot sale, we joined a queue of waiting traffic. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were the odds ones for going but here we were, part of an eager mass of beige coloured cars, cardigans and fingernails. I touched Paul’s hand and asked if they were giving out free blowjobs and chocolate but nope, these were just folk wanting a ratch about. What had we become?

We were shown to an overflow car-park by an officious looking tit with a poor attitude and dandruff – the exact type of person who you know came a bit when he was given a hi-ves jacket and a clipboard. He told me off for going around the overflow car park in the wrong direction as though I’d killed the second coming of Princess Diana and then scuttled off to harass some poor old biddy in her Fiat Pubis. With heavy hearts, we trooped in.

What’s to say? It was awful as I expected. Look, I know that so many of you will get a lot out of a car boot sale, I really do, but it definitely wasn’t for us. For a start, the absolute fucking tut on display was second to none. I wanted to see if I could find any decent N64 games and, whilst I managed to locate a small cache of them, the owner wanted way more than I’d pay for them on eBay. I tried haggling – I’m not shy – but I would have had more success arguing with the decorating table he had spread his wares on. Someone else seemed to have brought everything from her home that wasn’t fastened down – books (fine), dirty cups (dubious) and various magazines, including last week’s What’s On TV? Why? Who needs that? I’d cheerfully bet my house that there hasn’t been a single instance of someone sitting bolt upright in bed in the dead of night clamouring to read the synopsis of what’s happening in Eastenders a week ago.

The same bewhiskered dolt was also selling a selection of used ashtrays. We’re not, as you might expect, talking tasteful art-deco pieces here, no no, just those awful pub style ashtrays with XXXX on the side, with lots of burns and ash-marks on them. Here’s the thing. If you smoke, you’re going to already have an ashtray, unless you’re a common slattern who puts her ash on the carpet and hey, you laugh, but I know of at least two blood relatives who do this. I fell over in their living room once and came up with my hair looking like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. Returning back to the point, who did she think was going to buy these ashtrays? It’s not like they could be roughly distressed by some twat in a lumberjack shirt who has set about it with a power sander. I find it all very odd. We moved on.

I wish I could say we had at least some success, but nah. Stalls full of unwanted nonsense, committed (at least, they fucking should be) car-booters all scrabbling around and being rude, rubbish fast-food options – we won’t be going back. We did make a purchase, though, in the vain hope that they could at least look good in our games room – a battered box with some Super Mario rollerskates. Great! No, sorry, not great – shit. When we got back to the sealed box that was our car, we realised that they’d clearly come from a house where it was obligatory to smoke forty Capstan Full Strength tabs before dinner, meaning they’re now in our shed gathering dust and wheezing gently. We should have returned them – I was half-tempted to nip back to the old lady’s stall and buy the Rollerskates Family a few ashtrays as a pointed joke – but the clipboard man was looking furiously at us again so we drove away. All in all – a failure. Nothing of interest and a new bit of shite that will clutter up our lovely shed.

Of course, where there’s muck there’s money – perhaps next week Paul and I should load our car with all of our tat (my car, not his: it would be a bit of a shit display if we used his car, given we could only fit a tie-pin and a sachet of coffee into his car) and go and sell it. I couldn’t, though. For a start, I wouldn’t be able to deal with hagglers – I’d take it as the purest insult if someone tried to suggest my slightly-wrong-colour-Le-Creuset cups weren’t worth full price, for example. Then, if we didn’t sell, I’d fall into a deep self-doubt – thought the giant lava lamp was tasteful – why didn’t Elsie and Eric want it for their caravan? The soft light would really diffuse the harsh blue veins of a swinging party, for example. Ah well.

Right, come on now, let’s do this recipe, eh? Remember, you can make this in the slow cooker (after browning off the meat and veg) (and trust me, I’m not usually a fan of browning my meat) (too far?) or on the hob. Do as you wish, my love. If you’re trying to save syns you could perhaps leave out the chorizo, but why? It adds a lot of taste and warmth. This splits out between four and you can freeze it.

beef, bean and chorizo chilli

to make beef, bean and chorizo chilli, you’ll need:

Now, you can any old extra shite into this chilli, that’s the joy of these things, but if you eat it as it is above, it’ll be less than 2 syns a portion. Nice! For the photo, we served ours with rice (underneath), a few Doritos (7.5 syns per bag, we shared one, so 3.5 syns each) and a dollop of black pepper soft cheese (2 syns for 25g, we used less than that – so 1 syn) – so all in all, if you have it with the toppings, maybe syn the lot at 7 syns. Not bad if you want a treat! Alone, with rice, the chill is wonderful in itself. Anyway, enough guff.

to make beef, bean and chorizo chilli, you should:

  • phew, deep breath now
  • get yourself a good pan and give it a few squirts of oil
  • slice your onion, dice your chorizo, cut up your peppers, mush up your mushroom – put them all into the pan on a medium heat and let the onions soften and the chorizo sweat a bit
  • chuck in the mince and the garlic, spices, pepper and leave to cook right through – no pink!
  • add the tomato puree, beans and chilli beans and then give everything a good stir with the beef stock
  • either leave to simmer nicely for an hour or two, or, much better, decant everything into your slow cooker and leave to cook on low for six hours (we actually went for about ten hours, it did no harm)
  • easy!

Remember, this freezes well, or, kept in the fridge, makes for a lovely topping for a jacket tatty the day after. Enjoy!

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J