the best damn pulled pork we’ve ever done

Pulled pork: one of those things that happen to the best of us when we’re locked down and not much to do. Seriously, mine is about to drop off. However, I picked up a shoulder of pork in the reduced bit in Morrisons for £1.60 and, after leaving it sweating in my car for about six hours, realised I had to save it. So, pulled pork burgers it was. The benefit of this recipe is that you get enough pulled pork to make a thousand other things with – wraps, pasta bakes, I even stuck some in a cheese toastie the other day. We’ve used an Instant Pot to speed up the pulled pork but you can make it in a slow cooker just as easily.

Quick mention: our planner has now been finalised and is being printed – if you want a diet planner with tonnes of room to record your thoughts, plenty of us pointing at you, 26 recipes…all sorts – you can order it here (it’ll open in a new window), and I heartily promise you’ll love it!

However, before you get to the pulled pork recipe, there’s a hell of a long entry to read and/or scroll past. See, I’m very conscious that I haven’t been writing much (well, I have, but nothing I can share with you, yet) and, god love you all, you guys do seem to enjoy my scribbles. So, rather like the writers of Doctor Who at the moment, I’m scrambling through my old writings to see what I am yet to publish. I’m not so arrogant to think you’ll all be chomping at the bit to read, but if you have ten minutes, what follows is part two of our trip to Niagara Falls. Which is a tiny, tiny part of our massive book on our trip, bits of which I have scattered around on the laptop. I always enjoy writing the trip reports, so I hope you like them.

As an aside, I recently pulled together a load of clips from Canada for Paul so we can look back and shake our heads and be thankful I got over the gastroenteritis I was suffering from at the time. You can find the video here:

I know, we’ve never looked better. To the next chapter then!

Click here to read part one! It’ll open in a new window. Probably.

Niagara Falls, then. We decided to have a stroll along to see it from the side. There’s an option to ‘cross the rainbow bridge’ and see it from the American side, but why bother? Plus the phrase rainbow bridge makes my teeth itchy, because I’ve seen it used in conjunction with dogs dying on Facebook and it’s nearly always accompanied by a trite quote and a Minion. We stopped for a moment to get the biggest ice-cream I’ve ever seen in my life from a place called Sweet Jesus. It was bigger than my head, and I had to apply for planning permission for my fivehead. Paul fibbed and told them it was his birthday so they gave him an extra scoop and stuck a candle in the top.

I’m glad, for a fleeting ten minutes, we were able to provide everyone with the stereotypical sight of two morbidly obese blokes eating enough ice-cream to feed a Christmas orphanage. I went at that ice-cream like a sex-starved sailor going at a portside snatch. It’s a bad job when someone who had been poured over a mobility scooter like hot wax gives you a withering look at your excesses.

The Falls, then. Here’s a revelation. Like so many things in life, including 90% of my Grindr dick appointments, it doesn’t look as big in real- life as they’ve made it look in photos. Presumably because they’re not pressing so hard into their pube fat-pad that they’ve got diamonds forming in their thumb-print. Don’t get me wrong, the main falls (i.e. the one you’ll know, the Horseshoe Falls) is 800m across, it’s not exactly an emptying bath, but I dunno – I expected bigger. Story of my life.

Favourite fact? In 1901, a 63 year old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor climbed into a barrel and set away, only to be washed over the falls. Oops. They found her barrel a few hundred meters downstream and out she popped, exclaiming that “no one ought ever to do that again”. Talk about an action nana! My nana, at least before we returned her to the Earth in a cloud of smouldering winceyette, used to get out of breath spreading butter on her toast in the morning. Best part is, Adventurous Annie didn’t get paid for her exciting adventure. I’d have been furious and sulked in my barrel for at least three days.

Oh, and 90% of fish that get swept over survive AND have some cracking Instagram shots afterwards.

Speaking of Instagram shots, some random ones to punctuate the words:

The waterfall was pretty. I wish I could do it justice with words but frankly, it’s a lot of water sloshing over a giant crack, and I covered that with my bubble-bath tale. But, because I’m an uncultured queen, I gazed at it for about five minutes, wondered how it would feel to be swept over the edge and then was ready to move on. Once you’ve got a picture (and trust me, that’s an adventure, given the sheer amount of tourists standing in front of it doing wistful looks into the distance) you’re kinda done. Worth the trip to say you’ve done it, but well. We stayed for another ten minutes watching the lights change and then went to find a pub.

A bar called Spyce came to the rescue (although I did wince at the weird Y in the name – love, Jaymes) and we were soon settled right behind a live singer with a flight of beer that extended to the sky. It was tremendous – lots of locally brewed beers and ales all with puns in the title. That’s my dream, right there, and we were having a great time until the singer started with his Tracy Chapman covers. Paul was dilating with pleasure and me? Well, if you have been a long-term reader you’d realise I’d sooner have extensive pulsatile tinnitus than listening to that warbling hellcat and so, we nicked off to the arcades. She absolutely infuriates: two chords on her guitar and no hope in her voice.

After a long night of pissing away the beer and altogether too much in the arcades, we went to bed. Our bathroom still looked like a pre-go-kart game in Fun House, only we didn’t have a walking mullet offering us the chance to win a ruler with a calculator in it. Gutted.

We awoke the next day, surprisingly refreshed for two lads with a surprise 2am Grindr visit from the floor below. My beard looked as though someone had spilled PVA glue on the floor of a barbershop but you know, a hot shower and a quick apology prayer to God soon put that right. We decided to do a few tours and so, after a keen breakfast buffet, we went out to find the information desk. We found it after a fashion which necessitated me having a strop, taking up smoking and a brief interlude where I considered going home, and joined the queue of about six groups.

We were there FOR NEARLY A WHOLE FUCKING HOUR. I’ve never known such unbelievably slow service. I don’t know whether the cashier was physically getting up and driving each customer to the various lookout points but it would have been quicker to wait for the waterfall to erode to the point where we just fell in. Christ almighty. Grim British Resolve meant we couldn’t move but we were entertained at least by the little Chinese lady in front who, after fifteen minutes of flapping her arms about, was smartly stung by a wasp right on the end of her nose. The first aider in me wanted to step in and help but the selfish, mean bastard in me overruled that and was glad to take her place when she had to step out crying. Pfft: amateur hour.

We arrived at the front after stopping to celebrate our 12th and 13th wedding anniversary in the queue (the Chinese lady had returned at this point, and I like to think the tears in her eyes wasn’t just venom leaking out) and were busy being served when some chap started proper kicking off in the queue because he thought a gaggle of Chinese ladies had pushed in. They hadn’t, they’d just done the entirely sensible thing of going off whilst another member of the family stayed put). He was giving it great classy guns, shouting in their face in loud Australian whilst they look confused and scared. I shouted oi but kept my face to the ticket lady, which gave her such a start that she sped her way through dispensing the tickets and drawing on our map and sent us on our way. I’d have stepped in but a) I wanted my tickets. There’s no b) – I’m horrendous.

Our first tour necessitated a bus-trip up the road, which I was eternally grateful for as up until that point I’d barely had a chance to sit down and send my eighty thousand texts and Instagram shots. Paul has so many photos of me taking photos of myself in his phone that we’ve almost reached Inception levels of vanity. The tour wasn’t even of the falls themselves but rather a wee bit down the river where the waters boil and swirl in a narrow gorge, and you’re taken over this water in a charming little cable car that the attendant took great care to tell us was ‘ancient’ and ‘rickety’ but ‘had never had an accident’. Hmm. I’m fine with heights but thundering water scares the bejesus out of me – Paul was happy as larry but it was all I could do not to rainbow-yawn over the side. I definitely drowned in a previous life – I get the willies when you take the plug out of a bath and the tiny whirlpool appears, for goodness sake.

It was beautiful, to be fair, and we got some cracking photos, but boy was I glad to be off. We spotted an iHop over the road and, buoyed up by excellent memories of Disney-times past, we made our way in, only to be curtly told that they shut at half two. It was half one. I reassured them that an hour was probably more than enough time for us to choke some dry pancakes down and then immediately resolved to order something I knew would need to be cooked fresh. Bastards.

We were shown to our seats by a man whose face betrayed the fact he’d had to battle for every erection he’d ever had and who then proceeded to serve us with all the enthusiasm of a prostitute’s eighth blowjob of the day. I mistook his grave attitude and dour face for an attempt at deadpan humour, and was badly mistaken: he was just a miserable fucker. He took our order without a please or a thank you, looked like he was about to cry when I asked for a refill and Christ, when Paul asked for some ketchup, you’d think he’d asked to borrow the waiter’s shoes. I’ve never seen such a downcast expression and, may I remind you, I used to have summer holidays in Darlington.

Now, you might be reading this thinking he was having a bad day, perhaps he didn’t want to deal with two jolly Englishmen wanting sustenance, and that’s possibly true: but fake it, mate. I don’t need a half-hour rimjob when I come into a restaurant but a degree of civility and a look that doesn’t suggest I trod dog-shit into the carpet will suffice. Things came to a head when I very gently pointed out that my steak philly sandwich had clearly been served straight from Alexander Fleming’s lunchbox, given the amount of mould growing on it, and he took the baguette, rubbed it on his pinny to check I hadn’t just painted the mould on myself, and took it away without a word of an apology.

Well, fuck that for a game of soldiers. It’s not like I have high food standards: I just prefer my sandwiches to be cold and emotionless, not sentient and able to move of their own volition. We slapped ten dollars on the table to pay for our drinks and walked straight out. I imagine he’s probably still there, looking at our empty seats with those big watery eyes and wondering where it all went wrong. We jumped on the bus and made our way to the next tour, a walk behind the falls.

Of course, before we could do that, Paul let me know that he needed a waterfall of his very own: from his anus. Smooth bit of writing, that. We nipped into the gift shop so that he could strangle a brownie and I was left to mince around looking at the tat on show whilst he took care of business.

I love a gift shop, especially a naff one, and I can spend a lot of time fingering lumps of wood with Niagara on and the exact same shirts and jerseys we’d seen literally everywhere else but with Niagara stencilled across them in Lucinda Handwriting. I was cooing to myself and wondering just how they sell enough china replicas of waterfalls to make it worthwhile giving them their own stand when I heard the thunder of a pair of George trainers rushing towards me. Paul skidded to a halt with a face that said ‘deportation imminent’ before clutching my sleeve and pulling me out of the shop as though it was about to blow up.

I cast a stricken glance over my shoulder as we rushed for the exit only to see about twelve Orthodox Jewish women waving their arms and shouting at us. It was only once we’d hyper-minced to the relative safety of a Baskin Robbins stand that Paul, breathlessly, clued me in as to the cause of all the tumult. He’d seen the queue for the gents stretching well into the bank of ‘I wish my husband got me as wet as Niagara’ XXXXL shirts and decided to instead nip into the ‘accessible toilet’, which was open for all. Not the disabled toilet, mind you: the genderfluid shitter.

In he had dashed, unbuckling his kegs as he jostled towards the trap, only for the door to burst open in his face to reveal a woman crimping off a hot turd and, inexplicably, another eleven or so ladies all bent around her watching what she was doing. Mortified, Paul starts putting his cock away, they all start shrieking and screaming, and out he dashed with a bright red face and a turtle’s head poking out. I’ve never seen him move so fast, and this is a chap who appears like the Tardis if he so much as hears a Toblerone being snapped. We never found out why they were all in there, why they didn’t lock the door or whether the Shitting Lady felt better after dropping the kids off, and we’ll never know. One of life’s little mysteries. We took the opportunity to join our tour ‘Behind the Falls’.

Now, admittedly, I could have guessed from the name, but a tour ‘behind the waterfalls’ wasn’t exactly much to write home about. You can look at a waterfall from many interesting perspectives: from the air to appreciate the scope, from a boat to take in the noise, from the edge to gain a new found love of life. What isn’t interesting is viewing a waterfall from behind. Think about it: you’re led down a couple of dank tunnels only to experience the ‘fascinating’ sight of water thundering down in front of you in a window sized hole. I felt like a Toilet Duck on curry night. You could have held up a badly-tuned television for the same effect.

Inexplicably, hundreds of tourists were snapping pictures of this astonishing vista as though it was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and as a consequence, we couldn’t move because of all the mouth-breathers getting their photos just-so. It was awful, and I do not recommend. Half an hour we were down there and the only respite from the misery was me suffocating myself with the poncho, initially for a joke but then with a certain sincerity in my eyes as my lips turned blue. I took a picture and sent it to a friend who is well into suffocation play: fair took his breath away.

We hustled to the next tour – the famous one, mind, the Maid of the Mist. You know it: get on a boat with nine thousand other tourists, bob towards the bottom of the falls and get wet. I’m not doing it justice – it was fantastic and awe-inspiring and terrifying and wonderful – but again, it’s still just a waterfall. We’d seen this friggin’ waterfall from the air, from the side, from behind and now from the bottom. At this point I felt so close to the falls that I almost unlocked my private Growlr pics for him.

Oh: memory unlocked! When I was at school, a friend of mine appeared on 999: International when the boat he was on at the top of the falls broke down and started drifting towards the edge. That’s frightful luck, isn’t it? We all put it down to the fact his family and indeed, himself, were so astonishingly fat, and it led to all manner of ‘he’s fat, he’s round, he bounces on the ground’ songs for a good few months, until he kicked a window out on the school bus on the way home and ran away. Honestly, kids can be so cruel. Me especially. I was driving the bus, and this was only last year. His drifting boat was rescued by the hydroelectric workers just up the river, as it happens.

We docked up, and went for another beer. See, there’s a problem with Niagara: once you’ve got cooing at the waterfall out of the way, you’re stuck in a town that doesn’t have an awful lot going on for it. Cultured folk might drive on and visit one of the myriad beautiful villages nearby but well, we aren’t cultured, unless you count what’s growing on Paul’s taint. Which we ought to have looked at but hey, free Brie. So, to give all the people who buy Chat to sit on their coffee table something to do, they’ve built a strip of the most magnificent shite imaginable. It’s like Blackpool, only you don’t get given a cocktail of naloxone and Imperial Leather upon entry as a precautionary matter. Look it up: that joke works so much better than you imagine.

Here in Newcastle we have a seaside town called Whitley Bay. It’s just the ticket if you’re a stag party wanting to work on your STD catalogue and the beaches are terrific if you enjoy basking in a fetid mix of dimps and dog turds. To compensate for the lack of sunlight, vitamins and wholesome fun they tried many things: carnival rides which collapsed, arcades which take your money either through rigged machines or getting mugged by someone in a tracksuit with teeth installed by the council, summer festivals consisting of a stand selling knock-off Ella-with-Mumps dolls and tiny fried doughnuts – but nothing has ever worked. There’s always an air of gloom and poverty hanging over the place and hell, that’s Niagara for you, only with a giant overflowing bath in the middle.

Of course, we absolutely fucking loved it. There’s nothing more attractive to me than shite attractions with ridiculously high entrance prices: it’s why I married Paul, and gave away my soul. What follows in the next post will be a mince through some of Niagara’s premier entertainment choices. Strap in, give yourself a quick spray of your B&M David Beckham aftershave, and enjoy…once we come back. Which given my posting history, will be sometime in 2022.


To the pulled pork then. You can throw anything in with this, in all honesty, but we found this works well.

pulled pork

I mean just look at that. Perfect for Slimming World, given it’s only half a syn.

pulled pork

This stage is important – don’t be tempted to skip it.

pulled pork

We have our own mushroom ketchup courtesy of the good folks at Geo Watkins!

pulled pork

75 minutes in the Instant Pot and this Slimming World friendly pulled pork is yours!

pulled pork

That glass in the background – three parts lager, one part Fanta. Gorgeous!

amazing BBQ (ish) pulled pork

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 8 massive servings

This is a dead easy pulled pork recipe, which pretty much makes itself. The Instant Pot makes this a one pot, quick dinner but you can do it in the slow cooker if you prefer.

Ingredients

Again, use this as a rough guide, but there's really no exact science here. We used treacle because we like the taste, but you can swap it out for brown sugar. Up to you, but the syns are negligible when split between the easily eight portions this makes.

  • 1.5kg of pork shoulder, fat removed and cut into chunks about the size of your fist
    • well not your fists, a normal person's fists
  • two tablespoons of treacle (4 syns)
  • two teaspoons of salt
  • few good grinds of black pepper
  • one teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • one teaspoon of garlic powder
  • one teaspoon of onion powder
  • one teaspoon of ground mustard
  • a good pinch of chilli flakes (leave out if you don't want your arse troubled)
  • 300ml of chicken stock
  • more than a fair few shakes of mushroom ketchup (we use Geo Watkins' ketchup here, but if you can't find it, add Worcestershire Sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Speaking of Geo Watkins, they were excellent enough to send us a personalised bottle to try - we use it all the time, but shamefully, it hasn't come up in recent recipes! We do recommend it - it's like a more savoury Worcestershire sauce. Paul hates mushrooms but loves it! 

Instructions

  • place your pork chunks into a massive bowl and tip over the dry ingredients
  • add the treacle - if you do it from a spoon, try and cover the pork all over as it slowly, slowly, slowly drips
  • get your fingers in - you want to rub the ingredients in as much as possible - I take five minutes or so here, and then have a cigarette after to calm down and feel ashamed of myself
  • then, depending on whether you're doing this in an Instant Pot or not...

Instant Pot

  • click 'Saute', add a fair glug of oil to the bottom and when hot, sear the chunks of pork on all sides - you'll probably need to do it in two batches
  • once done, add the trivet, then the stock, then the pork
  • seal the Instant Pot and set the pressure to high for 75 minutes
  • go play with your ha'penny and come back once it's done, letting it vent naturally 
  • once safe to do so, open the Instant Pot, drain the liquid (but keeping about 100ml aside), shred the pork with two forks, tip the passata and the leftover liquid back in
  • hit saute and let everything bubble away until the sauce has reduced right down - make sure you keep stirring
  • serve however you want - we put ours in burgers with a brioche bun, cheese, lettuce and pickled red onion - but we're fat

Slow cooker

  • as above, but you're gonna wanna add the passata right at the start, and leave it to burble away for eight hours
  • shred the meat and if there is still too much sauce, throw it all in a big pan and cook it right down

Notes

Courses pork

Cuisine dunno, whatever

Hope you all enjoyed! Want more pork ideas? Filthy cow. Try these!

Enjoy!

J

bacon and butternut squash dahl

Here for the bacon and butternut squash dahl? Of course: because the bacon and butternut squash dahl is amazing. You’ll find the recipe for bacon and butternut squash dahl down below, but before we get to the bacon and butternut squash dahl, you’ll have to endure a few words from your fearless leader. And Lisa, you may be saying bacon and butternut squash dahl an awful lot, but that’s because I can’t be arsed to scatter the references to bacon and butternut squash dahl throughout the article properly to hit the SEO target. What am I like!

Morning all! Having been woken up at 8am by my other half grabbing my morning thickness in his sleep and loudly going ‘Oooooh MY‘ like an especially somnambulant Kenneth Williams – and then having the poor grace to turn over and ignore it – I’ve decided to wake early. And not just so I could ‘realise my full potential’ all over his pillow out of frustrated spite. Good luck prying your face off that when you wake up, you jolly little butterball, it’ll be like pulling a cheese toastie out of a car-boot Breville.

There’s the classy writing you’ve all been missing during these times of uncertainty and woe. And what truly preternatural times these are – normally the biggest decision I have at the corner shop is whether I can eat four Kinder Buenos on the short drive home so I don’t have to share with Paul (readers: I can, and a pack of knock-off Wine Gums), now I have to worry about picking up a deadly virus with my bits and bobs. Fun!

In my last blog post I spoke of being hopeful and being kind, and all that applies ever more so now, but I won’t lie and say everything has been just peachy for me. I’ve always been entirely open and honest about my mental health – for there is no shame in it – but long days without the usual focuses of work or the familiar anchors have meant that there’s been times when I’ve been inside my own head too much. And listen: I have a giant fucking head, there’s room for us all in there as long as you like endless Doctor Who music and creaking Simpsons jokes. Curiously, I’ve managed to keep a lid on my health anxiety, taking the somewhat fatalistic view that I’ll probably get it and might die, but that does take some effort.

Anyway. I’m feeling much better now. Why worry about what you can’t change during a pandemic – going out, getting the bits you need, Paul – and concentrate on the good things. Little victories, my Good Friend Paul calls them, and so it is I will share with you my tips for getting through when you’ve got a face like a slapped arse and a head full of apathy.

Get a hammock or go outside

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love our hammock. Now I appreciate this will alienate those without a garden so I’m caveating it by saying, go outside. But, having finally assembled the bastard with Paul ‘helping’, I can’t recommend it enough. I lie outside and get a full dose of Vitamin D (sadly not euphemistically, and boy, am I missing that) and feel like a new man. I do feel for the neighbours though: I’m not shy about my body and so I tip myself into that hammock in just my boxer shorts and it must look to all the world like someone left two tonnes of bread mix out to prove in the sun.

There’s also the small matter of getting into it. Again, I am a man of heft and very little grace, and I essentially have to tip myself in. This is quite the acrobatic feat for someone for whom getting into a sex-sling requires two strong men to hold the frame and an army instructor bellowing encouragement. It would be easier to air-lift me in but I feel inappropriate ringing the air ambulance. More than twice I have thrown myself in and rolled straight back out the other side onto hard concrete, but I still persevere.

And honestly, I feel so much better for it, despite the sun bleaching my eyebrows blonde to the point where they disappear and remove my ability to look surprised.

Oh: added bonus. Being secreted into my hammock gives me the opportunity to eavesdrop on some of the conversations my neighbours have. So far, I’ve heard them slag off Paul, his car (fair game), our broken fence (broken by their tree) and us in general. Mind, I’ve also heard one of them describe the virus as ‘nothing more than a common cold, so this is all over the top’. She’s in her seventies, exactly the type who people are staying in to protect, and that’s her attitude. I’m not saying I get excited when I see an ambulance pull into the street but…

Stop reading the news

I mean, within reason – still keep the occasional eye for the bigger headlines: is Trump dead yet, when can we get back to shenanigans and firkytoodling, when can I get 5G in my local area and has the price gone up due to lockdown? But otherwise, what is there to say? At the start of this I was feverishly (poor choice of words, granted) reading the news for updates and all you see is woe and misery, plus Priti Patel, a sneer given sentience and an expenses account at Jigsaw. Nobody needs that negativity in their life. Stop reading it, and this just becomes a fancy stay-at-home holiday. You can’t complain about getting wet if you keep going out in the rain, after all.

Do something you’ve been unable to do before

With most of us having the obligation of going into work not looking like Worzel Gummidge halfway through the 12-step programme, we’re now afforded an amazing opportunity to experiment with our looks without judgement from those we shouldn’t care about. For example, a good friend of mine is letting her roots come in so she can turn her hair grey, something I’ve been badgering her about for ages. For my part, I’m growing out my beard, and have successfully navigated the difficult period of looking like someone you’d throw pennies at to keep me away, into the luxurious Saul from Homeland beard that I’ve been craving.

I’ve even got quite a bit of grey in there, which makes me look terribly distinguished, albeit it’s probably only spilt Activia. I’m longing for the days when art galleries reopen and I can walk around stroking my beard and saying hmm, quite, but what of the human nature?

Write a list of all the shite you’ve been putting off

Not saying you should actually do anything on there, but there’s a grim satisfaction of seeing all the chores and tut you’ve been putting off. However, if you’re feeling as keen as mustard, break each chore down even further into smaller targets, and work on them. For example, I’ve been wanting to learn a new language for years. Years! So I’ve paid for a course of lessons. Don’t get me wrong, that’s as far as I’ve got (and indeed, am going to get) but it did make me feel better just ticking off a tiny bit of progress.

Speaking of progress…

Meet your new diet assistants – order a new twochubbycubs planner!

The time to ourselves has given us plenty of time to finalise our diet planner – which is available to order now! The planner has 26 slimming recipes, all of our nonsense, inspirational quotes (written by me, so you can really guess how they go), weekly challenges, 10 pages per week to complete AND, best of all, colouring in pages to keep you distracted featuring us! And look how bloody adorable they are. Even I went ‘aww’ and my heart is made of granite.

You can order it here (it’ll open in a new window), and I heartily promise you’ll love it!

OK, there’s probably more I can write, but frankly, I need the loo so let’s barrel out this bacon and butternut squash dahl and be done.

bacon and butternut squash dahl

The ingredients for bacon and butternut squash dahl, with Paul guest-starring.

bacon and butternut squash dahl

Serve your bacon and butternut squash dahl with warmed pittas

bacon and butternut squash dahl

Finally, an easy dish of bacon and butternut squash dahl you can get down pat!

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bacon and butternut squash dahl

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 8 servings

This bacon and butternut squash dahl is a dirt-cheap meal to make - we use our Instant Pot Duo because honestly, it's easy just to chuck everything in and let it do the hard work, but a dahl is equally as happy burbling away on the hob on the lowest possible heat. You can swap the coconut milk for stock if you like, but this serves eight so I wouldn't worry about the syns.

For the base recipe, we adapted a red lentil dahl from A Virtual Vegan, and you can find her excellent recipe right here

If you don't want to fart about with all the spices, just use a tablespoon of curry powder. I won't tell yer ma.

Between eight, this is around 141 calories a portion. And that's including the coconut milk! Shut the front door.

Ingredients

  • one large leek or one large onion, chopped finely
  • six rashers of bacon, chopped finely
    • if you're omitting the bacon, add a pinch more salt
  • one butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1cm chunks
  • 400g red lentils
  • 400ml of light Blue Dragon coconut milk (14 syns, but worth it)
  • two tablespoons of freshly chopped garlic
  • two tablespoons of freshly chopped ginger
  • two teaspoons of garam masala
  • half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • one tablespoon of turmeric
  • one tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a tablespoon of chilli flakes (I like it spicy)
  • good pinch of salt and a lot of pinches of black pepper
  • 750ml of water

Instructions

Instant Pot method

  • press saute, add a bit of oil (not too much, as the bacon will provide plenty) and gently saute the onion and bacon until the bacon is just cooked through
  • add the garlic and ginger and cook for another couple of minutes
  • add the chunks of butternut squash and all of the spices / chilli flakes and cook for a couple of minutes - add a splash of water if it's catching
  • add all the water and have a bloody good root around with a wooden spoon - you want to make sure there's nothing stuck on the bottom of the pan here
  • add the coconut milk, lentils, tomatoes, stir once and pop the lid on
  • seal the vent, select PRESSURE COOK and then programme it to cook for 10 minutes on high pressure
  • once it's done, allow it to vent, give it a stir and allow it to cool

On the hob

  • I mean, you can work it out - saute the bacon and leeks/onion, add the ingredients as above, leave to burble

Notes

Courses cheap dinners

Cuisine instant pot

Yum! Honestly, what a simple recipe. Want more Instant Pot ideas? Sure thing sugar-tits:

Keep going, folks!

J

chernobyl soup: cheap, cheerful and full of flavour

Chernobyl soup: it cooks itself! No, stop it, we won’t have any jokes about Chernobyl in here, this is a tasteful blog. However let me tell you this: the soup looks like something you’d find in a layby nappy, hurriedly thrown from a moving car by some frazzled parents, but it tastes bloody good. If you’re looking for something very quick, cheap and easy, then nip over and I’ll sort you out, and we can have the soup after. It’s a simple enough combination of stock, veg and sausage with paprika. It uses an Instant Pot but fret not – you can make it on the hob just as easy.

Why are we calling it Chernobyl soup anyway? Because it was part of the meal we had at the Chernobyl Power Plant Workers’ Canteen, and so, with the confident ease of someone who has played the up-a-bit-down-a-bit-push game all too often, let’s segue straight to part two of our Ukraine holiday report. Look! A fancy banner approaches – click it to whisk straight to the recipe – and this is a VERY long entry, so I won’t even hold it against you. 

Chernobyl, then. Our holiday package came with a twelve hour tour, which at 5.30am in the morning, pulling on sodden Dr Martens and wishing for death, felt like an awfully long time to stand around looking at dusty, toxic relics from a bygone era – we can do that easily enough by Skypeing Paul’s mother, and she’s only slightly less radioactive. We were up early as we had to be at a random hotel by 7am and we had no idea of the Metro schedule. After spending forty minutes feeling each individual drop of water hit me from the shower, we bustled out, asking the hotel concierge to call us a taxi. He gave us an earnest smile, coughed into his beard and pushed us outside to wait. Perhaps we were cluttering up the lobby or detracting from the entrance to the ‘Gentleman’s Club’, I don’t know. Anyway, we waited for a while until what would turn out to be a recurring theme of this holiday turned up: a car that looked like it was put together by my nephew in a fever dream. Rusted? I could see the petrol flowing through the door. No way were we getting in that, so the next ten minutes were spent stealthily hiding from both the very angry looking taxi driver and the concierge, who seemed bemused that we had disappeared into fat air. We stayed around the corner until the taxi driver drove off in a cloud of toxic blue smoke and the concierge went back to extracting new flavours of phlegm from his lungs. Paul called an Uber Exec in a fit of excitement and thankfully, a car that hadn’t been witness to seventy years of history rolled in, accompanied by yet another beautiful Ukrainian man whose name I’d never learn but whose eyes I’d always remember.

Honestly, long term readers of this blog will know that I have a real thing for taxi drivers – I think it’s simply any lust that allows me to sit down and rest my legs, to be honest – but it’s getting to a point where Paul’s having to pop a meter on and hang a Magic Tree off his knob if he wants to get his leg over.

The driver was cold and efficient and dropped us where we needed to be with a grunt. We gave him a tip of 5, 667,344,667 Ukrainian hryvnia (about £2.10) and sent him on his way. There were several white minibuses all boarding tour groups and of course, the anxiety of having to get on the right bus was overwhelming. Imagine my distress if I’d hopped on the wrong bus only to be taken to a gulag and passed around like life-raft chocolate. After I’d double-checked that this wasn’t happening, and hidden my disappointment from Paul, we climbed aboard. There’s always a worry about shared tour groups that you’re going to get onto a bus and find yourself sandwiched between folks who want to talk to you about Jesus and others who snack with their mouths wide open. Luckily – for the most part, ssh – this was a decent group – and once our tour guide (Cynthia, the doll beloved by Angelica from The Rugrats, electrified, made human and given an action-jackson gilet) jumped on, we were away.

She explained a few things: we were to buy snacks en-route because, obviously, nowhere to buy them in the Exclusion Zone. We had to try for a tom-tit at the petrol station because you really don’t want to be flaring your bumhole in the wild open air (she phrased it better, admittedly) and the toilet facilities were ropey. Don’t pick anything up. Don’t eat the berries. Buy some wet-wipes for your hands and dog treats for all the wild dogs that have set up home. We then had to sign a very official looking document (well sort of – the Ukrainian flag still had ‘shutterstock’ printed across it where they’d lifted it from google images, but top marks for theatre) to say we understood the risks of entering the Exclusion Zone and that we would be subject to punishment if we broke any of the rules. One of those rules? Don’t enter any abandoned structure. Just remember that. After twenty minutes, we pulled into the petrol station. I wish I could tell you the name because it was hilarious but I’d get wrong. So I can’t.

Whilst Paul busied himself trying to work out the coffee machine I took the role of class swot and went for a shite, bought my snacks and wet-wipes and then went outside to stand by the bus. Well no, I wanted to smoke, and as nonchalant as the Ukraine seemed to be about health and safety, I didn’t fancy sparking up in a petrol station. Oh and I know I shouldn’t smoke, but something has to take the bitterness of my words away. Luckily, my COPD-Club of One became three with the addition of two other Northerners, Vicky and Natalie. It took me a while to understand they were from the UK because with their strangled vowels and hissing sibilants I’d just assumed they were local engineers here to fix the bus. We bonded immediately over the sight of a dog and Paul’s ashen face at trying to drink a takeaway coffee consisting entirely of milk foam and cherry syrup, and then we were on our way. It was a good hour drive and I could tell Paul was itching to chat excitedly, so I shut my eyes and listened to my Billie Eilish tapes.

I can’t get enough of her, by the way. Imagine being eighteen and having a Bond theme out? The only thing I was responsible for at eighteen was an especially virulent outbreak for gonorrhoea. Well, it was the noughties after all.

An hour or two passed with very little to look at outside of the window save for the oncoming traffic, which the bus driver seemed to be taking a personal affront against given he was driving on both sides of the road at once. After twenty minutes of wincing, I nodded off, only for Paul to shake me from my slumber when we reached the first control point, where we told not to take pictures under any circumstances. There were a few burly mean-looking blokes hanging around so I’d cracked the emergency exit and slithered off like Tooms before our guide had finished telling everyone to behave. Our passports were checked, some tat was bought (I bought a gas mask, for reasons, not realising it was to fit a child – I look like one of those videos on Youtube where people put elastic bands around a watermelon when I wear it) and we were cleared to go exploring.

I should say at this point: we were given little Geiger counters to clip on, but at no time are you really in any major danger as long as you’re sensible. I did start clicking like the girl from The Grudge at one point but that was deliberate to shit Paul up.

This video, from the recent Chernobyl docudrama, explains what happened – and honestly if you’ve got ten minutes, watch it – amazing acting and you’ll never feel more like you could run a nuclear powerplant. Alternatively, cut to the ten minute mark, absolutely terrifying:

Now, since the reactor went boom, there were two exclusion zones set up – one 10km around the plant and another 30km. Both are safe for a day as long as you’re not snorting lines of dust, but you do have to be careful. You can’t explore yourself and must stay with a tour guide. Our tour started in a little village in the 30km zone, with us all tramping off the bus to walk around. Of course, it is eerie – a whole village lost to the forest – and we took some shots, walked around respectfully and went back to the bus. That was just a taster. Someone on the bus asked whether or not the dogs you see roaming around were the same dogs from thirty years ago and we all had to politely ball our fists in our mouth to stop laughing. Bless her, though I do like the idea of an irradiated Cujo wandering around looking for some glowing Bonio. That was a whistle-stop tour and the bus drove us to the next destination: the plant itself.

Perhaps you might not think it interesting to spend an hour looking at a power-plant, but in all honesty, the tour was captivating – we stood just outside the Containment Chamber which houses the incredibly radioactive remains of Reactor 4 and it’s mind-blowingly huge – an incredible piece of engineering when you consider it’s the largest man-made moveable object in the world. After Paul. Our tour guide showed us pictures of how it used to look and how it looked after the explosion and usually I zone out at stuff like that but she was terrific – and standing in front of something so destructive was genuinely terrifying. Brrr.

We drove on, with the next stop being Pripyat, the town built for the families of the workers of the powerplant. 50,000 people lived here in what looked to be a gorgeous town – then in the two days following the explosion, those who didn’t die were evacuated. This number rose as the Exclusion Zone grew to over 300,000. The bus turned a corner and we were on the Bridge of Death, where residents of the town gathered to watch the fire in the distance, all of them not knowing that they were watching their lives burn out in front of them. Everyone on the bridge died within days, captivated by the electric blue smoke pushed out by the reactor burning. The bus didn’t stop, which was entirely the right decision, and we parked up in the centre.

Our tour guide made a very stern face and told us we weren’t, by law, allowed to explore the buildings – partly out of respect, partly out of the fact they are unsafe structures, partly because they’re radioactive. If we were seen by the police who patrol the area we would be tossed back out with a flea in our ear. So, very clearly, if she saw us exploring inside the buildings, the tour would stop. Lucky, then, that she followed up this strict message by saying she would stay outside and do her paperwork, and if we wandered off…

So we explored five main points: the swimming pool, the school, a block of high rise apartments, the fairground and a nursery. I won’t go into all of them bar to tell you the common theme – imagine if someone pressed pause on an entire city. Everyone had to leave everything behind, soaked in radiation, and despite promises about returning, never could. You’re walking through a ghost city and it’s one of the must vaguely unsettling feelings I’ve ever felt. For example, in the high-rise buildings, you can walk up all twenty floors (and we did, with Paul gasping the entire way) and walk into people’s flats to see snapshots of their lives left to the dust: board games halfway played, pots left on the cooker, beds half-made and photos of loved ones cracked and fallen. It’s safe – so far as walking around buildings that haven’t been maintained for thirty years can be – but it’s absolutely haunting. When I’m uneasy or anxious I get an ache at the bottom of my back like someone is pressing on my spine and that feeling never left me. The faint taste of metal was a distraction though.

There’s so many photos out there of the various places you can visit so I won’t put my own up here, but have a look at our Instagram shots for a selection:

The floor full of children’s gas-masks was what got me though – tears actually welled up in my eyes when I realised that I shouldn’t have paid £20 for one from the gift shop and instead, just lifted one from here. Quick going over with a wet-wipe, job done.

One thing slightly irritated me – in quite a few places, you could tell things had been set up to make it ‘creepy’ – dolls with gas-masks on, faces half-buried in the soil. Chernobyl is dark tourism in its purist form – you don’t need to make a spectacle of it. Says the two lads who paid to tour it. That’s a fine looking high horse, fella.

We spent about two hours touring Pripyat and then it was back to the power-plant where we would join the current workers on site for lunch. We had another radiation check before going in – climb inside a little scanner, press your hands and wait for the beep – and then took a place in the queue (after I managed to fall up the stairs in my haste to get fed – they probably thought the reactor was having another wobbly when they felt the tables shake). We were warned that the ladies serving were miserable and christ, were they right – I’ve never been served lunch with such malice. I wanted to ask if I could swap my rye bread for a brown bun but it wouldn’t have surprised me if the bewhiskered babushka had pulled me over the counter and held me face down in the soup until my legs stopped kicking.

Lunch wasn’t bad mind – a little salad which I left because I’m not vegetarian, a soup which looked like someone had already digested it for me but tasted wonderful (see recipe below), a breaded (I think) piece of pork (I think) served on sticky rice (I think) and a lovely little muffin that I keep under my tongue even now so I can have a few more stabs at chewing it. This sounds like I’m being mean for the sake of it, and I am being facetious, certainly, but it honestly wasn’t bad at all. I made the mistake of scooping some mustard up off and putting it in my soup, not realising that this wasn’t mustard but something that must have been scrapped off the side of the blown reactor. Hot? I didn’t want to lose face, though ironically I did lose face as it burnt through my cheek. We made our way back to the bus, stopping (the group) to pet all the dogs milling around the plant and stopping (me) to smoke with all the workers in the vain hope I’d be squirrelled away as the office entertainment.

Next stop was something I hadn’t expected – a stop at the DUGA radar installation and the accompanying secret Soviet base. I adore stuff like this – incredible feats of engineering built for menace. I tried to take a photo to try and encapsulate the sheer size and freakery of this place and failed – it’s 500ft tall and half a mile long of tarnished metal, long-silent wires and rusting joints. At some points, you can stand under it and look up and it is all you can see. I’ve mentioned my phobia of dams before – part of that phobia is that dams look so unnatural and man-made set in usually beautiful countryside. This was the same with the DUGA station – so unnatural, so weird. That phobia of large structures is called megalophobia and I can’t deny that as excited as I was to see it, that little knot of anxiety was back in my spine. You can hear it creaking in the wind which is unsettling enough, and knowing it needs to come down soon but has to be taken apart by hand due to the radiation…nope. It was used to listen out for ballistic missile launches – I can’t help but think if Comrade Paul Anderson had his hands on it, he’d be using it to check my WhatsApp. Brrr.

The rest of the tour involved lots of little stops at various points – the working town where the current workers live (had to check we hadn’t turned off and ended up in Gateshead for a hot second), the memorial to the fallen, the little robots they attempted to use to shift the burning, highly radioactive graphite off the roof. The radiation was so intense that the robots only worked for moments before cutting out – they had to send humans up onto the roof to do what the robots couldn’t. Think on that for a second: so radioactive it fries a robot, so they sent these ‘bio-robots’ onto the roof instead. One minute to chuck as much rubble over the side as you can, and that’s you done, never to serve again. Fall over onto the graphite and you’re dead. Brush against it, and you’re dying. The thought of having to do something so intense made my spine hurt again: you’re talking to the man who fell up the stairs on his way to get soup, remember.

Though I have a confession: throughout the tour the guide kept telling us we would get a chance to meet the Roberts who helped with the clean-up exercise. I thought it was going to be a meet and greet of two blokes called Robert and spent a while on Wikipedia trying to work out who she could mean. Nope. Robots. I was a trifle disappointed.

Throughout the tour we spoke with the various folks on the bus with us – some were more engaging than others – and we made friends with the previously mentioned Natalie and Vicky, and then later Reiss and Sharlette (which made for an awkward moment when they both said that’s not how you spell my name when I was trying to find them on Facebook), a lovely couple who had come along on the same flight, with the same company, having watched the same documentary as us. I’ll circle back to these lovely four in the next blog entry but haven’t we come a long way since Paul and I pretended to be Armenian so that we didn’t have to make small-talk on a previous tour?

And that’s it – the driver got us all back on board, we cleared the checkpoint and then he cranked up the heating so we all fell asleep. I woke myself up with a fart so noxious (and I pray, silent) you’d be forgiven for thinking I was smuggling rubble back with me. It’s OK, I shut my eyes and went back to sleep with the lullaby of dry-heaving behind me to whoosh me to sleep.

So: would I recommend it? Absolutely. I knew Paul would enjoy it because he’s always been a fan of desolation, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Your experience will depend entirely on the skill of your tour guide – ours was incredible, the right balance of humour, knowledge and pathos – and we tipped her well. The bus – awash with jokes and jibes about radiation on the way there – was silent coming back. They played a video of what the town was like on the drive back, which was an especially timely touch. It’s fascinating to see an entire town held in a time bubble and utterly incomprehensible to realise what an evacuation on that scale would actually mean. It was almost so much worse, too – had the core hit the water pooled underneath the reactor, almost all of Europe would have been rendered uninhabitable by the subsequent nuclear explosion.

As a footnote: the official Soviet death-count for Chernobyl, as of today: 31. Official studies actually put the numbers up near 90,000.

And there’s me grumbling about my weak shower.


To the Chernobyl soup, then. If you have an Instant Pot this is truly the work of minutes, but if not, fear not: you can make it on the hob just as easy. This makes enough for four servings of Chernobyl soup, which I really ought to call veg and sausage soup, but hell. To the recipe!

chernobyl soup

Yeah I should have cleaned that bowl first. But I was too busy playing with my gas-mask.

chernobyl soup chernobyl soup

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Chernobyl soup: veg, sausage and paprika

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 massive bowls

I love recipes like this - get a load of stuff from the supermarket, tip it in and set it away. Done in half an hour, just like your partner.

We apologise to the good folk in the Ukraine for this bastardisation of what is probably a staple recipe, but heck it's good.

You can make this syn free by omitting the smoked sausage but don't - it's worth those couple of syns, trust me.

By the way, do you hear the people sing? 

Ingredients

  • one packet of vegetable soup mix (the fresh chopped swede, potato, onion and carrot, already chopped - or feel free to chop your own) (600g)
  • 100g of Mattessons Reduced Fat smoked sausage, chopped into tiny chunks (8 syns)
  • fat-free bacon, as much as you like, cut into chunks
  • a teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • one litre of good vegetable stock or bouillon
  • one tablespoon of wholegrain mustard (1/2 syn, but you can shove that up your pumper if you think we're counting it)

Calorie wise, based on 100g of fat-free bacon, this kicks in at about 175 calories. And it's dead filling as owt divvent ya knaa.

Instructions

Using an Instant Pot? But of course you are, you're a very sensible sort and you know it's the best pressure cooker out there. So:

  • hit the saute button, add a little oil, tip your bacon and sausage in first followed by the paprika and vegetables, and saute for about five minutes, giving everything a good stir
  • once done, add the stock and mustard, seal it up and set it away on manual for about ten minutes 
  • vent, serve, applause, tears

Don't have an Instant Pot? Shame on you. But the same as above - stick it in a big old pot, saute for a little bit, add stock and cook.

Notes

Courses soup

Cuisine twochubbycubs like how

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving

Calories 175

% Daily Value

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Canny! Of course, as with all our soups, you can chuck any old shite in, but the core recipe is as above. Enjoy!

Want more ideas for soup and using your Instant Pot? Oh my sweet hairy child, we’ve got you covered in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. Click either button to crack on.

soupsmall 

Ta,

Jasmine and Pauline

announcement: it’s TV time for the cubs!

God I hate writing about ‘us’ in the third person, but I couldn’t get the title to work. I promised you an update, a salacious one, and then merrily forgot to update because a) we’re unspeakably lazy and b) we’re surprisingly busy and c) my tonsils have decided they want out and are rebelling against me. Lots of people are suggesting going to the doctors but I don’t want to explain why each tonsil has a perfect imprint of a bellend pushed into it like wet clay. So I’m riding it out, but you best believe I’ve lived on nothing but fags and ice-cream for the last three days. I’m looking after me.

SO OUR ANNOUNCEMENT.

We’re on the telly! For a change, it’s not some blurry footage of me getting bummed in a lorry park either, which at least my mother is thankful for (though no-one forces her to hold the camera, just sayin’). Nope, we’re on THIS TIME NEXT YEAR, Tuesday 5th, 8pm on ITV. See if you can spot us in the trailer below (I’ll give you a clue, we’re the ones who look like Jeremy Spake’s stunt doubles wandering in from the cold).

There’s blog stories a-plenty coming about this, but the basic conceit is that you go on the show, pledge to do something significant and challenging and then you have a year to do exactly that. You go see Davina for a wee chat, film yourselves throughout the year and then come back a year later to reveal all. It’s a lovely programme and, how could we not? We applied and they turned down my original pledge to taste-test a chap from each town in the UK with a population over 5,000, but we got talking about weight loss and this snowballed into ‘THIS TIME NEXT YEAR, DAVINA, WE WILL LOSE TWENTY STONE BETWEEN US’.

Well, we had to:

Crikey. No spoilers, of course. You’ll have seen we have lost a little weight, but did we do it? Did we make a big change? Did we do the right thing by our readers and follow our own recipes and lose weight? Are we proof that not synning avocado, not drowning everything in Frylight and not making apple turnovers and cream horns from Quark and wraps will help you lose weight?

Wait and see! Wish us luck!

J

sticky sesame chicken (pressure cooker/hob)

A rare beast tonight! With The Governess still unwell and me struggling away at the helm, we’re going to go straight to the recipe without a moment of delay. Enjoy!


This makes enough sticky sesame chicken for four people. This is known as General Tso’s chicken in America, if you’re curious. You can leave off the sesame seeds at the end if you absolutely must but they add a nice crunch!

sticky sesame chicken

to make instant pot sticky sesame chicken you will need:

  • 4 big chicken breasts
  • 6 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce (3 syns)
  • 1 tbsp honey (2½ syns)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour (1 syn)
  • ¼ tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (3 syns)
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced

top tips for instant pot sticky sesame chicken:

to make instant pot sticky sesame chicken you should:

  • cut the chicken into bitesized chunks
  • spray the bottom of the instant pot bowl with a little oil and press ‘Saute’
  • add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is white all over (don’t worry if it isn’t cooked all the way through)
  • in a jug mix together the rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, chilli flakes, hoisin sauce and honey
  • pour the sauce over the chicken, put the lid on and switch to ‘Manual’ mode
  • programme the machine for ‘high pressure’ for ten minutes and leave to cook
  • once finished, use the quick release method
  • in a bowl mix together the cornflour with one tbsp cold water to get a thick sauce
  • switch the instant pot back to ‘saute’ mode and pour in the cornflour
  • stir gently until the mixture thickens, and serve
  • sprinkle over the spring onion and sesame seeds

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t fret – you can make this on the hob by cooking off the chicken, adding the sauce and letting it bubble and take its time!

Want more Instant Pot or pressure cooker recipes? Natch!

J

simple but perfect beef mince biryani

Beef mince biryani – I’m sure there’s a billion ways of doing this recipe and this is probably the common as muck version but hey, sometimes you just fancy something spicy. Our takeaway has stopped taking our calls since Paul used to stand by the letterbox on all fours whenever the hunky deliveryman, with his baleful brown eyes and arms that promised the world, came to the door. Think that’s bad? He once put ‘Will nosh for extra dough balls‘ on our Dominos order when he was drunk and then made me answer the door. Don’t get me wrong, it’s factually correct – if anything it’s a slight understatement – but still. I wouldn’t mind but I opened the door to a lovely wee lady who looked like Sandi Toksvig trying to solve a particularly tough crossword.

Anyway, as promised, we’re going to go straight into the recipe, no messing about. We all know foreplay is a waste of time anyway, surely? Hello? Is this thing on?

Just so you know, we served this with our perfect chicken korma recipe – you know why it’s perfect? Because we don’t stir a friggin’ Muller Light into it. Why? Because we’re not simple. For scooping we used Broghies – they’re one syn crackers that can be found in most Icelands around the country by now. If they’re not in yours, run into the shop, bundle whatever old lady is in your way into a chest freezer and demand that the manager stocks them immediately. They’re perfect for dips! And no: we’re not on commission.

We found this recipe at mytamarindkitchen and I 100% a look at their blog because the food is absolutely amazing. Tweaked this for Slimming World. Let’s go.

mince biryani

mince biryani

to make the perfect beef mince biryani, you’ll need:

  • five ripe tomatoes chopped up – can’t be arsed, use tinned tomatoes, but come on now
  • a teaspoon of coriander, cumin and chilli powder – now, if you don’t have spices, go to your world foods bit in your supermarket and buy them in bulk – so much cheaper – keep them sealed in a good tin though
  • I cheated here and used a garam masala grinder rather than making my own – was only a quid in Tesco – used about 10 good grinds
  • a bay leaf or two (don’t stress if you don’t have them)
  • one big fat onion, chopped nice and fine
  • 500g of extra lean beef mince – or use turkey mince for even lower calories (though it’ll not change the syn value)
  • 350g of basmati rise
  • half a tin of cooked green lentils
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • a good couple of handfuls of peas
  • 1 inch of ginger, minced
  • half a teaspoon of turmeric
  • 100ml of beef stock
  • one green chilli

optional extras for your mince biryani:

  • one lemon and one lime
  • a pinch of (shiver) saffron
  • chopped mint and coriander

top tips for your mince biryani:

  • we cook our rice in our Instant Pot – you absolutely don’t need one, you can cook rice just fine in a pan – but if you have a pressure cooker have a look into it – rice is a doddle! Instant Pots are quite hard to come by at the moment due to a stock shortage and, whilst we love ours, we’ve heard good things about the Pressure King Pro – only £70 on Amazon at the moment
  • if you’re mincing your garlic and ginger, use a microplane grater – you don’t need to peel the garlic or ginger and it’ll save your poor wee fingers
  • oh and whilst we’re on about ginger, buy a big knob of it and put it in the freezer when you’re done with it – it grates just fine frozen and it’ll save you buying it fresh every time
  • and listen, if even that’s too much for you, you can buy ginger and garlic paste in most major supermarkets now – in the same jar – for a quid or two – just use a tablespoon for half a syn!

to make the perfect beef mince biryani, you should:

  • soak your rice in cold water for a good half hour, and then cook it through until it is almost cooked(I like to add the turmeric to the rice as it cooks, to give it a yellow sheen) – you want a bit of bite left
  • heat your oven up to about 175 degrees and get a good heavy pan out of the cupboard – you’ll need one that has a lid and can go in the oven
  • spritz with a few sprays of oil, grind the masala into it and heat until it smells amazing
  • add the garlic and ginger and the chopped onion – cook the onions until they take on some colour, but don’t burn them
  • then add a pinch of salt, the chilli, cumin and coriander and cook off – add the stock here so it doesn’t catch and to to get all the good stuff off the bottom of the pan
  • add the tomatoes and fry until they’ve softened down – then add the mince and peas and cook until that’s cooked through and has absorbed most of the moisture in the pan
  • the easy bit now – layer the lentils over the top followed by the rice
  • optional: add chopped mint, slices of lemon and lime and if you’re super fancy, you could dissolve the saffron in hot water (about 25ml) and pour that one
  • cook in the oven for about twenty minutes with the lid on so it can steam
  • once you’re happy with it, clap your hands and eat your dinner!

There. I hope that leaves you satisfied and smiling!

What? You want more curry and spicy ideas? Of course you do. You love having a bumhole that looks like a shocked mouth. Here we go then:

Enjoy. Do let me know your thoughts, won’t you?

J

christmas clear out: lazy cabbage bowls – instant pot or hob

‘ey up! Cabbage bowls time!

We’re having to take a bit of a break from the blog to concentrate on an exciting personal project – but rather than leave you sitting there with a sulk on with no new recipes, we’re going to use it as an excuse to pump out some recipes with no guff. Trust me: some of the recipes coming up will leave you dripping like a St Bernard’s chin.

Can I ask a favour, though? If you’ve got someone who is doing this infernal diet alongside you, share our stuff! The buttons at the bottom will instantly share to Facebook and Twitter. Help us to help them – god knows they need it.

You can make this recipe in the Instant Pot or on the hob – if you’re using the hob, you’ll need a good non-stick casserole pot. Let’s go! This makes enough for four.


to make lazy cabbage bowls you will need

  • 1 savoy cabbage, chopped roughly
  • 250g beef mince
  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 750ml passata
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (4 syns) (you could also use honey, brown sugar or even sweetener, but just make sure to check the syns)
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder

Looking for an Instant Pot? Still on the fence? Don’t be, you’ll give yourself piles. They’re having stock problems at the moment but stop fretting – the Pressure King Pro is a decent replacement. Cheap on Amazon at the moment, too!

Oh and if you need pork or beef mince, don’t forget that you can build your own meat hamper with our Musclefood deals!

to make lazy cabbage bowls you should:

  • on the Instant Pot, press the ‘saute’ button and adjust to ‘Normal’
  • add a bit of oil and then the mince, and brown off until just a little bit of pink remains
  • add the diced onion and stir frequently until it’s starting to go translucent
  • add the rest of the ingredients except the cabbage and give a really good stir
  • sit the cabbage on top (don’t stir!) and put the lid on
  • cook on High pressure for 8 minutes, and use the quick release method when done
  • give a good stir and serve – we had ours with rice – it was lovely!

Using a hob? Same kind of idea – cook everything off first, then leave to simmer and sweat for maybe forty minutes until everything comes together like a Roman orgy.

Looking for more ideas? Naturally.

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J

six slimming world sandwich fillings

Now, it’s been a while since we did a load of recipes on one post, and, although you might think that this is a holiday blog dotted with the odd moan about Mullers, we’re a recipe blog first of all! So, here’s a helpful wee post of Slimming World sandwich fillings that frankly wouldn’t justify a post of their own. Sandwiches are the one thing I truly miss on Slimming World – that and not measuring my worth by mass-produced shiny weight-loss stickers.

These fillings, with the addition of chopped lettuce, veg or whatever the hell you want, make for great fillings for wraps and bread. But, as you know, we’re huge fans of the broghie here – 1 syn each, they’re like giant crackers which act as the perfect platform for whatever nonsense you want to top them with. I’d rather have four of these buggers for four syns than blow it all on a sandwich. You can buy them in Iceland across the country, so no excuses! But, no time for flim-flam, let’s go to the recipes…

egg and cress – syn free

  • pretty simple, this one – boil an egg for ten minutes, peel, mash with a fork and mix with 2 tablespoon of natural yoghurt, with plenty of salt and pepper and, if you’re feeling sexy, add a dash of mustard

chinese chicken – 1.5 syns for the lot

  • make the pulled chicken by sticking four chicken breasts in a slow cooker overnight with 250ml of stock, or even better, put them in an Instant Pot with 250ml of water, cook on high pressure for 12 minutes and then shred – easy!
  • once cool, mix with 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce and 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt and a tiny bit of five-spice, together with cubed cucumber (not the seeds, use the flesh) and sliced spring onion – easy!

ham and pease pudding – syn free

  • spread pease pudding onto your bread, broghie or wrap and layer with slices of wafer thin ham and tomato – yeah, not much to this one, but I just want to put a special plea out there that if you haven’t tried pease pudding, give it a go. Yeah, it looks like baby poo, but it tastes damn fine

cheese savoury – syn free

  • to make enough for two, mix together your HEA of Red Leicester (30g) with their HEA of 40g extra mature lighter cheddar, add thinly sliced red onion, cubed pepper with enough fat-free natural yoghurt to bind it together

beef with red onion and mustard – barely a syn

  • layer slices of beef (or you could use leftover pulled beef from our amazing bloody mary beef) with thinly sliced red onions, mini gherkins and 1 tsp American style mustard (1 tbsp, if you bother synning it)

houmous and crunchy veg – syn free

use one of our delicious syn-free houmous recipes and top with chopped onion and chopped peppers

How easy was all that? If you’re wondering, they’re Le Creuset plates, from Amazon. Hope you enjoyed. One other bit of housekeeping – see that row of buttons below? They’re share buttons – share all over!

J

velvety leek, potato and cheddar soup – instant pot or hob

Velvety leek, potato and cheddar soup – because frankly, it’s Autumn, and clitting about with consommés and gazpachos can fuck right off. You want a soup that’ll put hairs on that big old chest of yours and get stuck when you strain it through your Kevin Webster moustache. So here we are. Sorry for the lack of posts but well, you can probably guess that we’ve been away. Anyway, before we get to the fabulous leek, potato and cheddar soup, you’ve got the next part of our trip to Benidorm to smile politely through. If you can’t be arsed with reading all them big words, don’t fret, just click on the handy shortcut button below to be whisked straight to the pictures. Yes: just click on the mirror below.

Phew. We’d all had enough of her cockadoodie attitude, am I right? Let’s go back to a sunnier time…

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

You know, rather than prattle on about the last two days of the holiday, and bore you to tears with a 300 word monologue about the different types of toast we have, I’m going to do what we did with the Cornwall entries (good God the horror) and recount the memorable bits rather than go at it chronologically. I know what you’re thinking: James, you’re fabulous. Assume that the bits in between were taken up with us swimming in the pool, crisping in the sun or dozing.

Whenever we mentioned online that we were going to Facebook we were met with two things: aghast responses and ‘GO TO THE OLD TOWN’. I harboured a strong hope that the Old Town was actually Barcelona but no, apparently it’s the ‘nice part’ of Benidorm, in much the same way that the Isle of Arran is the nice part of Glasgow. Ah I jest, Glasgow, we love you and would move there in a barely-detectable heartbeat. So, hunger thoroughly satiated by way of the breakfast buffet (room 2002, two-thousand-and-two, dos-mil-y-dos, aaaah for fucks sake) and our hackles risen by the sight of our doubles mincing about the yoghurt station, we set off with the faint aim of walking to the Old Town, taking in what we could during the day.

Oh! Before I get there, can I quickly discuss this?

A lift that judges you.

The lift had a bastard ‘FAT PERSON’ monitor on it. When the two of us got in it went straight to cock-level, which sounds about right for us, until you realise the lift was built for ten people. I mean, we’re fat, but not quite that bad. I think if we had risked it after a particularly bountiful breakfast it may have started shrieking “¡ayudameMis cables!” in hysterical robotic tones. Anyway, the day was young.

It began with a crushing disappointment. We had seen no end of elderly couples whizzing around on double-seater mobility scooters, looking to all the world like particularly gelatinous takes on the future humans from Wall-E (only with far more fag-scorched winceyette). We wanted in on the action, if only because it would have made for an hilarious video of the two of us careering through the streets like the tank chase from Goldeneye. Completely unashamed we wandered into the first mobility scooter hire place and started trying out the various models. All good fun until some harried little Spanish lady came hurtling from out the back and started shouting at us in Spanish. I tried to placate her that, even though I’m hilariously obese, I’m not the easily forty stone or more that I’d seen the mobility scooters having to shuttle around outside. She has having none of it – apparently you need to be registered disabled (fair enough) or old (see previous comment) to hire a scooter. I caught a glance of Paul’s haggard face in the rear-view mirror of the Leviathan-shuttle nearest to me and wondered whether we could pass him off as over 55. Gloria Estefan wouldn’t have accepted it though, so we slunk away.

We carried on walking, dropping into the odd shop on the way. One thing I can’t understand is how all of the tatty shops selling cheap towels, tatty ornaments and fridge magnets and t-shirts with ‘I LOVE COK’ and ‘YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE CRAZY TO ENJOY BENIDORM BUT IT HELPS’ and other shite manage to keep going. There are hundreds of the buggers – probably one for each family that landed. Surely there can’t be a demand for it? I’d like to live in a world where there wasn’t demand for one of these shops, let alone a whole neighbourhood of them. But nevermind. We nipped into the cheap cigarettes store just to see how much baccy costs now – nothing confirms your decision not to smoke like seeing the fact that you’re spending more on tobacco than you do for a good dinner. Plus catching the yellowing eyes of the walking dead shuffling around buying their Lambert and Butlers, coughing out lung mist all the while. This was clearly ground zero for the coughing plague that would accompany us on the plane home. We did have a titter at the fact that the 200 Lambert and Butlers came with a free bottle of Jägermeister sellotaped to the front. Hey, know your market. Listen, we’re not being snobby about smoking – we once had a drawer in the kitchen that was full of tobacco and Rizlas, that’s how dedicated we were – but if you’re going to smoke, try something with a bit of taste. You never know, the Marlboro Reds probably came with a well-aged Châteauneuf-du-Pape attached. I tried taking a picture of the fags but got roundly reprimanded (again!) by the lady behind the till, who shouted ‘NO PHOTOS’ with such ferocity you’d think she was guarding the nuclear codes as opposed to a cancer factory. Pfft. We left empty-handed, but at least able to move more than twenty yards without our lips turning blue.

Fags.

Just round the corner from the cheap fag shops was a cheery little minigolf course. Five euros for eighteen holes – you can’t get vexed at those prices, can you? I confess we only went in because it looked as though there was a gay bears convention behind us in the queue, and hell, if there’s one thing we both enjoy it’s having several bearded men lining up behind us all desperate to sink their balls into an easy hole.

Oh I know, we’re so nasty. But seriously, they looked like they’d all just finished lumberjacking and fighting oil-rig fires. I could barely bend to pick up my ball without poking out my own eye.

As usual, things between Paul and I became immediately competitive – whereas I’ll always beat him at pool, Monopoly and growing a beard (he doesn’t so much grow a beard as frighten it away), he nearly always wins at minigolf. I just don’t have the patience, I hate golf. It’s so tedious and arbitrary and pointless. At least with rugby you run the risk of being accidentally penetrated in an especially violent scrum. With golf what’s the most exciting thing that can happen? Someone with pipe-cleaner legs, clad in whatever shite was heavily discounted at the garden centre, comes and primly tells you off for not wearing the right shoes? Pfft. I’m yet to meet anyone who has been seriously into golf who I haven’t suspected of being on some sort of register. Maybe I’m jaundiced because we have a golf course at the end of our street and I’m forever having to dodge Audis and BMWs piloted by triple-chinned moonface fuckheads not concentrating on their driving because they’re too busy thinking about their stroke / hypnotised by the rancid pattern on their trousers.

Action shot! I can’t recall the balls being quite so ovoid, though.

Anyway, I digress (if I ever become rich and famous and in need of an autobiography, that’ll be the title – and the book will open with me being born and then 1000 pages of bitchy comments about the hospital canteen and Paul’s mother). The mini-golf course was actually good fun – very much a file under ‘god bless, they tried’ sort of affair, but good fun none the less. Paul struggled with a tricky shot through a windmill which almost gave me a victory but I was distracted on the eighteenth hole by the sight of one of the bearded gentlemen bent over to tie his shoes and that was it for the day. Paul cruised to an easy victory and made sure I knew it. Personally, I thought it was a little churlish of him to gloat – it’s hard to concentrate on your stroke when you’re desperately trying to engineer a situation where you could feasibly fall over and expose your rear like a cat on heat. As we left Paul noticed a mechanical bull and asked if we should have a go. Fearful of the hydraulics wheezing asthmatically and then enveloping us in thick blue smoke, I declined. I bought us both a knock-off Spanish Magnum instead and we moved on.

Someone has to do it, I suppose.

We stopped briefly at an Ale-Hop shop (very much like a Tiger, if not a Tiger under a different name) where I desperately tried to find a hat to find my giant head. It’s my eternal struggle and one I’m yet to beat. I’m a reasonable looking bloke, I think, but I have a head like the Bloaty Head patients from Theme Hospital. Every hat I try on is always about four inches too small, sitting on top my balding expanse like a fey little affectation rather than the sun protection I so desperately need. When I was much younger I found a natty little Kangol bucket hat in a hedge that fitted perfectly – no idea where it came from (although it did have J. Merrick scrawled on the inside) but by god it saw me through so many summers, until one fateful day when it blew off my head into the English Channel. I like to think it served its purpose and moved on to rescue some other elephantine-bonced poor bastard. Mind you, for as much as I struggled to find a hat…

…Paul was suffering more trying to find a bra to protect his poor heaving busoms.

Poor guy. He’s a busty double-D, if anyone has one spare they can pass to him.

Right, here’s the thing. As usual, I started out with good intentions about keeping it succinct but I’ve actually managed to hit the 3000 word mark. I’ve cut that out for the next two posts but hey, let’s get to the recipe. I appreciate I can’t keep your attention for too long, what with all the shiny things in the world to look at. Until next time…

REMEMBER, leave us some feedback on the holiday entries!


This soup, then. You don’t need an Instant Pot to make it, you absolutely don’t, but it’ll make it so much quicker if you have one. Before you ask, yes, you probably could do it in a soupmaker too, though I’d have reservations about adding cheddar in case it sticks to the bottom. Your choice. The Instant Pot is currently pretty cheap on Amazon, mind you. This makes easily enough for six people.



to make leek, potato and cheddar soup you will need:

  • 3 leeks
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1½ tsp dried thyme (or two sprigs of fresh if you’re fancy)
  • 1½ tsp oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 125ml light white wine (4½ syns)
  • 3 vegetable stock cubes
  • 4 medium-sized potatoes, diced into 2″ chunks
  • 110g Philadelphia Lightest (1x HeA)
  • 40g reduced-fat cheddar cheese (1x HeA)
  • 2 bacon medallions (optional, just if you’re feeling SUPER fancy)

Look, if you can’t find light white wine, just use any old slop you have kicking about. Use mouthwash for all I care. I’m not your boss!

Broghie

Wondering what on Earth that broghie thing is? Hard to describe! But it’s just the thing for dipping and adding crunch – like a prawn cracker in consistency only without the oil and fat and fishiness that comes with it. We’re using them a lot for satisfying the crunch that we miss from bread – and they’re only a syn each. You’ll see them in a few of our recipes because we’re well stocked up – bigger Iceland stores sell them, and they’re popular in Ireland – just like I wish we were! We’re not getting paid to promote them, just something that I saw on Facebook and wanted!

to make leek, potato and cheddar soup you should:

  • wash and finely slice the leeks – if you’re not too clumsy, get one of these and do it in seconds!
  • press the ‘saute’ button on the instant pot and add a bit of oil
  • add the leeks to the pan and stir regularly until softened
  • add the garlic, stir and cook for another 30 seconds
  • turn off the instant pot and add the thyme, oregano, bay, wine and potatoes to the pan
  • dissolve the stock cubes in 1.25l of boiling water and add to the pan
  • give a really good stir, then cook on high pressure for 10 minutes
  • meanwhile, cook the bacon until it’s super crispy and chop up into little bits
  • when it’s finished, use quick release and stir in the philadelphia and cheese
  • use a stick blender to blend the mix until it’s smooth
  • serve in bowls and sprinkle over some of the bacon bits

If you haven’t got an instant pot don’t fret – you can do this on the hob just as easily. Chuck the leeks into a giant pan until soft, add everything else (except the cheese), bring to the boil and them simmer until tender, add the cheese then blend with a stick blender. Simple!

Enjoy that? Of course you did, you saucy bugger. Want more? Click.

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Goodnight for now! Remember to hit the share buttons below if you’ve enjoyed the recipe!

J

lentil and vegetable soup – instant pot, hob or slow cooker

This lentil and vegetable soup looks like vomit. It does. I know that, you know that. But it was so tasty! I urge you to give it a go! We’re going straight to the recipe tonight as we’re out and about, so here we go!

lentil and vegetable soup

to make instant pot lentil and vegetable soup you will need:

  • 1 large onion, finely diced (if you can’t be arsed with all this dicing, and who could blame you, you could chuck it all in a food processor. We use this one because it looks cute!)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 100g dried lentils (any type)
  • ½ tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 40g spring greens

If you haven’t got an instant pot yet then what is wrong with you? Save time and effort for more important stuff. Get yours from Amazon right here and help sling a few pence commission our way. WE’RE VERY LOW ON GIN.

to make instant pot lentil and vegetable soup you should:

  • add a little oil to the instant pot and press the ‘saute‘ button
  • add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot, give it a good stir and cook for about 6-7 minutes, stirring every now and again
  • add the garlic and cook for another minute or two
  • throw everything else into the pan except for the spring greens and give a really good stir
  • press ‘manual‘ cook on high pressure for ten minutes, and then use the quick release to get to it quicker
  • stir in the spring greens and leave for a couple of minutes
  • serve!

You don’t need to use an instant pot for this, it’s just easier and quicker. You could do it in a slow cooker too, just throw everything in at once (except for the spring greens) and cook on high for 4-5 hours on high, or 8-10 hours on low.

Don’t expect this one to look amazing because frankly it won’t, BUT it does taste really nice. Even Paul loved it and he hates pretty much everything that’s in it. Plus, it’s crammed full of good stuff!

Feeling angelic? Don’t worry, we’ve got tonnes more recipes for you to help shift that gut. Just click one of the buttons below to be transported to even more ideas!

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J