cheesy gnocchi bake: recipe reacharound

Afternoon folks – keeping well? Here for the cheesy gnocchi bake? Of course you are, it’s a scorcher, but…

Apologies for the lack of posts, but as reasons go, as previously mentioned, we’ve got a killer reason. Now, because I know our readers consist of two types:

  • learned folks who will offer me sage advice which I’ll promptly ignore in favour of spending my days trying to perfect every voice from ‘One Day More’; and
  • nosey gossips who demand every morsel and detail and will be fumin hun if we don’t tell…

I shan’t go into detail. Maha. But that’s also the last time I’ll allude to it because frankly, Mr Shankley, I’m sick of talking about it.

Before we get to the blog, just a reminder that our diet planner is coming out very soon! If you liked the cookbook you’ll love the planner, and if you buy it and hate it, at least you can scrawl rude words on my cartoon face. There’s 26 recipes, six months of challenges and places to write stuff, and well, in short, it’s tremendous. You can order it here and it’ll even open in a fancy new window to stop you getting distracted.

As we press on with all the exciting things that need attending to, we’re going to revisit some of the older blog recipes and give them a gussy-up. Actually, I believe the term to use is glow-up, where something that was once a wreck to look at is transformed into something beautiful simply by shaking out their hair and taking their glasses off. I’ve tried doing exactly that, but if I shake my face, my lips don’t stop moving until three days later and people assume I’ve developed an essential tremor. Also, if you look back at our old blog entries, our recipe style was something else: a paragraph of guff with ingredients missing and measurements all awry. Oh, and let’s not forget that St Margaret of the Church Hall Massive does like to change the syns occasionally just to be tricksy.

We, because we’re filthy, will be calling these revisitations our ‘recipe reacharound’. Because who doesn’t look a reacharound? I wouldn’t know. I’m so rotund these days that it would take a relay team and a safety car to give me one of those. We aren’t planning on doing all the old recipes again because Christ, some of the combinations we used to come up both sicken and disgust me, but over the next year we might find ourselves revisiting a few. But just the old favourites, eh?

So, first in our reacharound is the saucy cheeseburger gnocchi bake from 2015. It’s an amazing dish – quick to make, easy to pad out and has enough cheese on it to drown a horse, though why you’d want to do that is anyone’s guess. When we published it Uptown Funk was at number one, no-one had heard of the coronaVIRUS and one of the biggest news items was that someone had taken a picture of the sun and it looked angry. I mean, as memorable days go, it’s not a winner. But looking back at the blog entry is hilariously sweet: I was gushing over the fact we had 1,000 followers. Seems incredible now we’re well over 500,000 but let me say, without a slip of sarcasm, that we’re still thankful for each and every one of you. If you have been reading since day one, I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment!

For some reason I thought the best lead-in for a recipe was to talk about my cat vomiting, which I’d probably steer away from now. But one thing remains a comfort: even half a decade ago, my cat was a stone-cold bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I love her and her permanently angry human face, but she exudes anger and vitriol like you wouldn’t believe. If she came through the cat flap covered in blood and waving a flick-knife around in her paws, I wouldn’t question her. I long worry for the day when I wake to find the corpse of my husband, his throat clawed open and her merciless eyes fixed on me from across the bedroom. She’d probably teach herself to speak human if only so she could silkily whisper in my ear that I’ve always been a fat disappointment to her as I died. The other cat is fine, by the way – he’s far more mellow, which I put down to the fact he spends 22 hours a day licking at his willy. I wish I could, but he’d probably scratch my face if I tried it.

Good news though: we longer have that carpet. Every cloud…

To the cheesy gnocchi bake then!

cheesy gnocchi bake

Honestly, how’s that pan of cheesy gnocchi bake for a sight for sore eyes?

cheesy gnocchi bake

You want the top of the cheesy gnocchi bake to crisp and bubble. Don’t be afraid to add more cheese, we won’t ever tell.

cheesy gnocchi bake

Cheesy gnocchi bake is one of those dishes that tastes amazing but looks shite plated up – cover with hot sauce, it hides all sins. Syns. Shush.

cheesy gnocchi bake

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 large servings

We previously used Quark for this recipe, and you can do so too if you're not a fan of flavour and fun in your meals. We swapped it out for Philadelphia Lightest which adds a much nicer creaminess but does add 10 syns - so if you are trying to make this lighter, drop it. If you wanted to take it a step further, you could swap the gnocchi for small boiled potatoes, but honestly.

This cheesy gnocchi bake - like all of our recipes - is very easy to customise. Good additions would be sweetcorn, peas or different, strong mushrooms. Quorn mince does work well if you're that way inclined.

Ingredients

  • 100g of button mushrooms, sliced finely
  • two large peppers (one red, one green, or use whatever you have) diced fine
  • one large onion, diced fine
  • one garlic clove, minced fine
  • 500g chilled gnocchi (we use ASDA gnocchi because we've let ourselves go, and that's 6 syns for 500g)
  • 500g of lean mince
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 250g of Philadelphia Lightest (swap for Quark if saving syns) (10 syns)
  • 160g of light grated mozzarella (4 x HEA)
  • teaspoon of dijon mustard and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • one beef stock cube

This serves four big portions and comes in at 4 syns each.

Instructions

  • preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  • cook your gnocchi according to instructions, but if it's anything other than throwing them in boiling water, waiting for them to float and setting aside, you're doing it wrong
  • pop your onion and peppers into a heavy-bottomed pan (and one that can go in the oven and under the grill, mind you) with a little bit of oil and sweat it down until softened
  • add the garlic and mince and fry it off - you can this to be quite 'dry'
  • we crumble in a stock cube here but you can skip it if you're watching your salt intake
  • in a bowl, combine the Philadelphia, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper together
  • mix it into your beef and add the gnocchi
  • top with the grated cheese
  • pop into the oven for about fifteen minutes, then under the grill to crisp up for about another five minutes (keep an eye on it)
  • we serve in a bowl with a lake of hot sauce, but your experience may vary

Notes

Books

  • our slimming cookbook can be ordered online now - full of 100+ slimming recipes, and bloody amazing, with over 2400 5* reviews - even if we do say so ourselves: click here to order
  • our new diet planner is launching soon and is utterly brilliant - you can order it here (it’ll open in a new window)

Food

  • we buy our flavoured oils from Yorkshire Drizzle and we used their chilli oil to cook off the mince and vegetables - you can take a look at their range here: it'll open in a new window
  • we have started using Musclefood again for meat - until we're happy that their quality is back to what it was, we will not be referring people there - but it's all under review. The mince we used here was superb however!

Tools

  • a decent sized frying pan that you can make this entire dish in will keep it as a one-pot dinner
  • we were asked where we got our silicone oven-mitts from that someone spotted in a video - they're from Amazon and are dirt cheap (£6) - you can buy them here and the good news is, once you've got your hot pan from the oven, you can grip your boob with the hot mitts and it feels lovely...so I'm told

Courses dinner

Cuisine easy dinner

I hope you all enjoy it! Please do let us know if you have cooked this by tagging us on Instagram or Twitter (@twochubbycubs for both) or via our Facebook channels. If there’s a particular recipe you want us to revisit, drop us a line!

Whilst we’re on a roll with one-pot dinners, you’ll find a lot to like here:

Enjoy!

J

black lives matter

Good afternoon all!

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts recently – for once we have a tremendously decent excuse and we will come to that in the next post, where we will be starting a series of revisited recipes – I’m excited for that because we have a new logo and everything. It’s the little things that keep you going through life. It’s been a really, really rough couple of weeks, quite possibly the most challenging we’ve had to deal with as a couple since the time Paul ate more than his allocated 1/6th of the crisps, but we’ll get through together, as we always have.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, our problems pale in significance to the wider issues going on in the world at the moment. I have wanted to write a blog-post addressing our thoughts on this for a while but finding the time to do it justice, rather than dashing off some pat sentiment, has proven difficult. Now, with Paul in his temporary bed snoring like a stuck pig having his ‘afternoon nap’ and me with my ‘bedtime’ (3.30pm) gin and tonic (served in a pint glass, as that’s all we have) to soothe me, now is a good time. I’ll open with a strong caveat – I might be a decent writer, but some of this is hard to articulate and when your schtick is making crass cock jokes and typing out gnocchi recipes, it can be hard to switch gears. But let’s give it a go.

At the time of writing, we currently have protests on the streets of the United Kingdom in support of Black Lives Matter, part of the increasing movement to acknowledge and rectify the years and years of discrimination and prejudice felt and experienced by black people. It comes on the back of the murder – because that is what it was – of George Floyd, an American killed by a policeman who thought a proportionate response to someone allegedly using a counterfeit note to buy cigarettes was to kneel on his throat for nine minutes. Can you actually imagine that? His death proved to be the spark that has seen mass protests sweep across America and now, the UK.

I live in Newcastle and saw it for myself yesterday: a peaceful protest by those in support of Black Lives Matter and the wider issues, and the counter-protest by the knuckle-dragging idiots who were there to protect Grey’s Monument. Part of the recent protests has seen statues of slave traders torn down and as a result, our local rent-a-gobs were anxious the same fate might befall Grey’s Monument, one of the centre-points in our lovely city. Let me touch on why that alone is so stupid because boy, there’s two juicy reasons. Firstly, the statue is 135 foot in the air, and each and all of these counter-protestors looked as though they’d get out of breath blowing out a match, let alone scaling a monument. I’m presuming that based on the colour of their mottled, beetroot-red faces, and I’m more than aware of the irony. Secondly, the statue is there to commemorate Charles Grey, the Prime Minister whose government oversaw the abolition of slave labour across the empire. I mean, as statues at risk, that has to be one of the lowest, no? Doesn’t matter. I’m still itching for someone to push the statue of Cilla Black into the Mersey, but I appreciate that’s a personal vendetta and it’s quite a trek.

Anyway. The police who were there in case things kicked off had bottles and smoke grenades thrown at them, along with the arresting sight of these idiots doing Nazi salutes. You know, to honour our country and its freedoms. The mind-cracking sight of eighty Ben Sherman shirts straining as their owners performed Nazi salutes in front of a statue of a person who they were trying to defend because of his rich history of er, stopping the Nazis – well, it was quite something. Imagine the mental gymnastics needed to make that rationalisation work. The depressing thing is that the news is full of this nonsense rhetoric (and I’m guilty of it myself in this post) rather than the actual message that matters: #blacklivesmatter.

And yet, you say #blacklivesmatter, and one of the immediate rejoinders is that #alllivesmatter. I mean, of course they do. Does anyone genuinely doubt that? But it speaks to an incredibly fragile ego if you can’t see that for decades, all lives haven’t mattered and people have been treated differently, appallingly – whether through aggressions of being passed over for interviews to the extremes of George Floyd above. Skin colour is as inalterable as blinking or breathing but still, even in our ‘learned’ times, is used as a benchmark to measure people by. I’ve had the discouraging sight of people I thought were decent, clever folks all frothing at the bit on Facebook, Twitter et al, all trying to justify why the protests shouldn’t be happening, why they’re not needed, why they’re inappropriate. It’s disheartening yes, but all it does is underscore how important the protests are. People are so wedded to the idea that racism doesn’t exist anymore, that we’re living in some tolerant Arcadia, but that’s an easy position to take when you don’t need to bear witness to it – when it’s not happening to you. People puff up their feathers and get indignant about this – they say you’re not allowed to ‘say anything these days‘ because ‘people will get offended‘ and ‘snowflakes yadda yadda‘. It’s funny, you know: I’ve been writing for six years now, and I can count on one hand the number of complaints we’ve received about our content. Given my writing style is fairly near the knuckle, that’s fairly impressive – you’d think with things as ‘bad’ as they supposedly are, my inbox would be awash with people complaining. It isn’t. It’s almost as if by simply not being a dick, you’ll get by unscathed. Anyway, this got me thinking about my own experiences with discrimination.

I can, with my calloused hand over my barely beating heart, say that I have never really faced discrimination beyond the odd gasp of terror as I walk into an H&M and set about trying to find anything above an XL. Sheer bulk and strength (and sucking off the Head Bully) saw me sail through school with ne’ry a negative remark, despite my proclivities towards camp exclamations and a refusal to take part in team sports unless it was rugby and I had a decent chance of ending up with my face in someone’s sweaty bum. I had parents who were supportive but never intrusive, friends who put up with my nonsense and for the most part, employers who were never too prying. I sat and looked inwards about whether I’ve ever faced discrimination, or felt like I’ve missed out because of something I couldn’t change, and came up with nothing of note. Oh! I did once have someone suggest that a chair I had sat on should be burned in case the next person who sat in it got AIDS, but I took no offence: I knew it was a waiting game with him, and hey: he’s dead now, choked on his bile in more ways than one. But thirty five years I’ve been on the Earth and that’s the best example of discrimination that I can come up with, and if that’s not an example of privilege, I don’t know what it is.

I asked Paul what his experience was with discrimination and he’s much of the same, though pointed out something which I hadn’t considered – he feels that he’s experienced positive discrimination in the past, having applied for jobs which would (in the past) be seen as more female-centred: secretary, assistants and the like. Clearly this is a nonsense, but he was once told it would be ‘novel’ to have a male secretary. This in turn made me look at my own employment: up until a few years ago I was a P.A (personal assistant, not something cheap hanging off a bellend, though I confess that both work) in a law firm and honestly, people would start explaining their legal problems to me before acting utterly bewildered that I wasn’t a solicitor many times over. In the end, I used to joke that I could never afford the shoes to be a lawyer. Paul also mentioned that he thought people were nicer to him when he was skinny, but thought that may be more of a confidence thing rather than anything else. I know he experienced prejudice when he went to Cambridge, with people assuming he was there as the token council-estate kid rather than someone who earned his place. We talked about this way back in 2016, as it happens.

But that’s it. Neither of us has ever been held back by something we can’t change, not really. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a voice and show support. It may be that some of you – and I genuinely hope it isn’t many – decide that a cooking blog has no place to be making to be making grandiose political statements on life. But see, I disagree. It feels like the world is at a tipping point, where real positive change could and should be about to happen. Whilst twochubbycubs is only one tiny voice (two if I ever let Paul get a word in edgeways), if everyone who supported the current movement for change spoke up, the roar would become deafening and impossible to ignore. But perhaps you aren’t one for speaking up and protesting in the street – and some people simply aren’t, and there should be no shame in that. I’m not a fan of people being called out for not protesting loud enough or to the tune of the vocal. There’s a quote by the novelist Edith Wharton which said there are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. It’s a great way of looking at things: you don’t need to be someone who goes out and loudly protests to make a difference – if you uphold the same values in how you go about your life, calling out discrimination, supporting those who need it, you’ll make as much of a difference. Whatever you do, do it right.

So, it goes almost without saying, we stand alongside the Black Lives Matter movement. And, just saying, we’re not terrible people to have standing by you simply because of the heat our jiggling bodies generate.

J&P

As an aside, twochubbycubs will be making a donation to the Black Lives Matter gofundme on the back of this post, as it doesn’t seem correct to collect the ad-revenue from this post.

As a further aside, I’m open to discussion on this – if anyone wants to tell me why I’m wrong, you’re more than welcome. I mean, I’ll utterly ignore you, because you’re clearly simple, but do have a try.

a very special announcement

Hello! What follows is a very special announcement to any of our readers who attend Slimming World groups. We have to think that’s a great number of you because when we look at the Google Analytics to see what brought you here, we’re still seeing every possible known variation on the word ‘syns’ you can imagine. Suns. Sins. Sinz. Recipes. Recepeas. Rice’n’peas. Seriously, if we’re going to use lockdown for any good, let’s work on our spelling, shall we?

Now, you know Slimming World have always been good to us – allowing us to build our own wee blog full of recipes with only the occasional letter tutting at us for swearing too much or Paul looking too sexy in his swimming knickers. So, in the spirit of giving back, we’re letting you know what they are currently offering in the absence of their normal groups, which are, of course, out-of-bounds at the moment.

To be clear, we’re not being paid to promote this, nor have we been asked to do so, but we know plenty of consultants who are struggling. So, least we can do, and the below is entirely our own thoughts. Naturally we’re taken their very-posh press releases and spun it into our fruity way with words, but if you need the official line, you can find them here:

In the absence of group meetings, Slimming World have launched virtual groups – the same sessions as before in terms of inspiration and support, only you don’t need to sit in a draughty church hall for the privilege. Using Zoom (which trust me, is easy enough to get your head around), you will be video-calling (or just audio, if you’re shy, or like us don’t want people to see you rolling your eyes) the rest of your group at a set time.

Then, it’s much the same as before: a group discussion to swap recipes, weigh-in (if you want to – you don’t have to weight at home), support and encouragement.

If you’re someone who relishes going to group then this will be a good substitute and means you have the continued support of your fellow members.

However, we think the best part of this is that for £2.50 a week, you get the above meeting and continued support, but you also have access to all the weight-loss tools on the website, including their syns checker, shopping planner, stories and meal-planning ideas.

Also! If you’re an frontline NHS/HSE worker, you can attend these meetings free of charge as a thank you for everything you do – speak to your consultant for more details.

There’s lots of detail about what happens if you’re on a countdown or have paid your fees – they’re all explained here, but it’s genuinely straightforward.

We no longer go to classes because we struggle to make the time every week to sit for two hours, but at the same time, we remember how important they are to folks. We say without exaggeration that we’ve seen the feverish excitement some people have for their weekly weigh-in and chance to talk about their bowels / weight-loss / weight-loss and bowel problems. You don’t have to forgo that – this is a genuinely good compromise between the support and friendship found in class and trying to strike out and do it on your own.

And, you know, if I may speak on a more personal note: as mentioned above, we’re good friends with a fair few consultants. These consultants are self-employed (Slimming World is a franchise which you buy into) and are suddenly facing quite a bleak time. If this move – and we know it won’t be to everyone’s taste – helps keep their lights on for a bit longer, then that’s no bad thing. The majority of the £2.50 goes to the consultant – not the organisation – which I really like. I’m yet to meet a consultant who hasn’t had their heart 100% in this – sometimes to almost scary levels of positivity – and maybe, just maybe and only if you can, it’s time to support them too.

Long-time readers and listeners will know that we poke fun at the ways of Slimming World, with our references to cat-hair quiche and Sandra (always Sandra) and her constant rambling. But they are the only weight loss organisation we’ve ever used because they’re consistently decent in the way they go about things. There’s a lot of love there, always has been, and will be going forward. If you’re feeling cut adrift and uncertain and need the support, you know where to find it.

Good luck everyone! We’re off round Mags’ gaff now for a Campari and Soda served up in mismatched Stella glasses.

stand two metres away, we’re coming over

Newsflash for those who can’t be arsed to read all the pretty words below: we’re stumbling through a TV appearance on the James Martin’s Saturday Morning show tomorrow on ITV. You’ll gasp, wince and flutter as we cock up a salad and flirt outrageously with a man we’d both happily chuck each other under the bus for. Anyway.

Good evening all, your Fearless Leader James here. Apologies for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks, but in my defence, we’ve been super busy: recording stuff for telly, writing the new planner and of course, touching our faces as much as possible in this time of coronavirus. Not a recipe post today but rather one where I want to relay my thoughts, and not just to pilfer those eighty packets of pasta you’ve squirrelled away in your knickers. Tuna bake anyone? Oh you’re nasty.

Someone sent me a message on Facebook asking how I am coping with all the worrying news and scary stats in the media, as someone with previously terrible health anxiety. To give you an idea of what living with health anxiety is like – every headache is a brain tumour. Every shake of the hands is Parkinsons. Stubbing a toe isn’t just an excuse to swear like a sailor but rather a thrilling two day adventure of wondering whether it’ll form a clot in my blood that will then speed its way to my brain stem to sizzle gently and turn me into stupefied mush. It’s not fun. At the worst, I spent more time in an MRI scanner than my own bed – it’s a bad job when the radiologist has to tell you to stop wanking because you’ve forgotten where you are. Apparently it was making the images blurry and they’d never be able to spot the brain-eating amoeba sunbathing on my meninges if I kept on.

Luckily (not least because I was racking up quite the considerable bill at Spire Healthcare) my health anxiety seemed to disappear a couple of years ago. I can’t quite tell you how I did it other than to offer the incredibly blasé ‘I just stopped worrying’, but that’s all I can really say. I distracted myself with pretty things and forced myself to do all the ‘trigger’ activities that I was putting off in case my heart stopped. Said before – busy hands distract a busy mind. So, aside from little wobbles of angst when I remember my mother fed me entirely on cheap Netto beefburgers as a kid (CJD) and I grew up in the combined fug of 40 Lambert & Butler (lung cancer), a roaring coal fire and surrounded by pesticide-soaked fields (emphysema), I’m fine.

So, in answer to the original question: how do I feel? I’m honestly quite laid back about the whole thing. I’m not really an at-risk category, years of sleeping with Paul and pushing his drool off my face in the morning has numbed me to bodily secretions and well, if it is only as bad as the flu for most, it’ll be unpleasant, but doable. If not, something has to kill me, and if it isn’t my current rollercoaster of injudicious living, than why not some fancy pathogens?

However, if I’m absolutely and utterly honest, the health anxiety – though a constant electrical hum – isn’t the issue, but isolation isn’t great. I’m a surprisingly private person for someone who’ll cheerfully describe the last forty knobs he’s seen, and more than happy in my own company, but there’s something about being told you can’t socialise that puts the brakes on things. I’m getting lonely. Paul works in the NHS and so he’s away to work all days which makes for a long day at home for me. I like to chat – people who know me will testify to my ability to fill five seconds of inky silence with ten seconds of burble – and although we can pick up the phone or use video conference, there’s a lot to be said for a face to face chat where you can see people’s reactions and wince as they spray spittle on your corneas. Now, I’m lucky: I have a good circle of close friends, a strong family and a husband who knows when to shut his mouth, rub my feet and make me laugh, but there’s plenty of others out there who don’t have that. If that’s you, see the stuff I post below.

It doesn’t help that it’s my birthday at the weekend, and I’ve finally reached a point where I have to move into the next bracket on the age demographic form, 35-49. I’m not one for worrying about age – from the moment your sperm meets your egg you join the queue for death (nicked that from Private Eye, because I fucking love it) – but I’d have loved to be able to go out and get hammered and celebrate it. Similarly, we’ve had to cancel Berlin (a weekend of filth that I was so, so looking forward to) and our 10-year-anniversary holiday to Disney. Yep, in the grand scheme of things it’s fuck all and I know it’s indulgent to be sad about these things (but sadnesses and joys are individual, not homogenous across mankind), but you know when you are really, really excited for something and the rug gets pulled away? That. Still. Come on, James. There’s people dying in the streets, I know.

Anyway, shush, no navel-gazing, I’ll crack on, and I’ll be reet, but it’s important to be honest about stuff like this at times of crisis, no?

Hell, if you found all that mush hard to swallow, here’s a video version:

View this post on Instagram

For all those suffering with anxiety. ♥️

A post shared by twochubbycubs (@twochubbycubs) on

I know, you’ve got chills. Who knew I spoke so posh?

One thing that does stand out like a shit in a doorway right now is how unbelievably stupid and selfish the tiny minority can be. At the time of writing we’re in a soft lockdown where people have been told they have to stay in their homes and only go out if absolutely necessary. Going to the shops for a full shop is one thing, but going to have a browse around Lidl with your bingo buddies is fucking moronic. We are lucky here at Chubby Towers: my keen eye for a bargain and our staggering obesity means that we had a well-stocked shed and two full freezers before this all kicked off, so we aren’t fretting about running out of food. If that does happen, I fully intend to pop one of Paul’s bingo wings over his gaping maw when he sleeps and then start eating him as winter sets in. That should see me through to about 2034, though I imagine I’ll tire of the taste of Trex and Cerutti 1881 long before then. On the rare occasion that I’ve gone to the shops for essentials I’ve seen the same sights, as indeed we all have, of people greedily filling their trolleys with shite that’ll end up in the rubbish bin when it doesn’t get consumed. Don’t be those people. If you need to stock up then by all means do, but just remember that there are people working tireless, thankless hours who’ll get to the supermarket and have fuck all to reward themselves with. Also, if you’re dealing with someone who is there to help you – be bloody decent and appreciative. Not just checkout staff, but the folks cleaning the store. Driving your buses. Bringing your delivery and handling your post. Bin-men. The police. Call-centre staff on the phone, every last person at the NHS. These people are as scared as we are and they’re dealing with that and trying to help you, and honestly, if I had my way, the second someone spoke out of turn to anyone in a position to help, I’d have their heads staved in and them zipped thrashing into a bodybag before you could say ‘reasonable cause’.

That’s enough negativity, though. One excellent thing to come out of this enforced isolation and distancing is the way the majority of folk have shown their absolute decency. People providing classes for free, parents creating teaching plans for the kids, Pornhub offering free online filth to all those stuck at home with nothing to look at other than the haggard faces of their brow-beaten partners. Honestly, I’m going to have a right arm like a sausage skin full of basketballs if this lockdown continues. It really cheers me to see people setting up community funds and volunteer groups to help the elderly and the infirm. I’ve been over to slip a ‘we will go get your shopping’ note through our elderly neighbour’s door – but only the one we like, mind you. We shouldn’t have to plug the gaps in society, but it’s not a bad thing that we’re willing to do so. Doubtless that we’re all about to see the biggest storm the country has had to weather in decades, but we’ll get through by helping each other and not being dicks. We always do.

To do our bit, as much as we can, we’re ramping up our social media output, including yours truly trying to do a daily video of nonsense. Not saying it’s entertaining, because modesty prevents me, but if you’re stuck for ideas:

You can always send us a message too, though we don’t guarantee we will reply, but we do try. We’ve also got some decent ideas for stuff to help over the next few weeks.

twochubbycubs will be back properly very soon, with new recipes and more chatter. Stay safe, stay warm and above all else, stay kind, for no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.

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

We’re both CHEAP and AVAILABLE

Just a flash blog post – just to let you know that our cookbook is available for only £9.99 from Amazon! If you’ve been sitting on the fence or if you want to sort something for Mother’s Day, birthdays and all that jazz – why not treat yourself?! We’ll promise it’ll be totally worth it! We’ve got over 1,900 5* ratings so you know it’s all the good stuff. Just click the image below to be transported right there!

…and as always, a massive thanks from us to all of you – whether you’re a reader of the blog, bought the book or considering it – we couldn’t do it without you!

P & J

chicken kiev and a trip to Kiev – sparkling originality

Howdo! Told you we’d be back with a bang, and this cheesy chicken kiev is something to behold. Might look a bit like a diseased foof but hey. We’ve been having a chitter-chatter amongst our various holidays about whether or not we should be aiming for low-syn / no-syn dinners in light of the blossoming success of the book and blog and you know what, nope: we are going to continue exactly as we are! Our food has always been about spending a few points / syns / calories and enjoying it – so here we go! A chicken kiev recipe and a load of sass!

First, a bit of admin!

Our cookbook continues to soar and sell and we couldn’t be happier – remember you can pick it up in most major supermarkets and bookshops and there’s always Amazon if you get stuck – if you have been so kind as to buy it, please consider leaving us a review on Amazon – we want to get to 2,000! You don’t need to have bought it on Amazon to review it either!

Next, we’re down in Southampton filming something secret at the end of the month and there’s two book signings lined up – please do come along and get your book signed, we promise to be filthy!

Right – before we get to the recipe, a long holiday entry to endure! If you’re in a rush for the chicken kiev, click the banner and be whisked straight there!

Gosh, it’s been a while since I typed out a holiday entry (and I’m more than aware that I have Hamburg to finish, ssh) but in the spirit of efficiency, I’m going to barrel this one nice and fresh. I’m actually typing a good chunk of this out on the aeroplane home, trying desperately not to incur the wrath of the poor bloke sat between us who has been trying to complete a level on his motorbike game for the last hour or so. Oh Bohuslav, love, if you’re reading this over my shoulder, let me have a stab. Like so many of my men, you’re pulling out a fraction early. Anyway, let’s start with the detail.

See, Paul and I have been together almost thirteen years now, and Valentine’s Day is always a bloody nightmare – it falls six weeks after Christmas and four weeks after Paul’s birthday, and trying to come up with something unique and special is an absolute pain in the arse. Paul, however, has been ‘good’ (for good, read ‘endlessly forgiving of my indiscretions and nonsense’) to me this last year, and I wanted to get him something decent. It was only after finishing Sky Atlantic’s recent Chernobyl docudrama that I remembered he had always wanted to visit Chernobyl and so, after a cursory moment of trying to find a cheap deal, I had us booked onto a package with travelcenter.uk which included flights, hotel and a twelve hour tour for a very reasonable £360 or so. I presented him with the detail and he was over-the-moon – I was seeing his face light up in a way that no amount of low-level radiation could ever do. He explained that Chernobyl had always been on his bucket list and wasn’t I a brilliant husband for arranging it. Naturally, I accepted this high praise with full modesty and grace and elected not to tell him I’d only really booked it because I wanted my back doors smashed in by any of the number of muscly Adidas-clad sentient frowns that appeared on google when doing my research into the Ukraine. He didn’t need to know that bit.

With his Valentines present sorted, I eagerly awaited mine. I got nowt. Not even a card. I smiled through the tears, increasingly used as I am to the disparity of effort.

Now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room, and I don’t (for once) mean my bouncy beloved. We’ve been asked two questions on our social media channels which demand an answer, namely why would we choose to visit a country not exactly known for its gay rights and then, why visit Chernobyl? The first is a tricky one – we don’t normally go places where we aren’t welcome – and the Ukraine political situation is genuinely horrifying to us as gay men – but unlike countries like Jamaica (where we’d love to go, but would never be welcome), there’s only one Chernobyl – and to get there, unfortunately, you do need to go via Kiev. We choose our holidays sensitively but our hand was forced on this one, and I’ll circle back to this point a little later. As to why visit Chernobyl? Far easier. I married a massively polluting, noxious pile of slag – when do you ever get a chance to visit its twin? To the holiday, then.

Normally I spend ages waffling on about our trip to the airport, but this time, I’ll keep it short. As we weren’t flying to Magaluf, Bristol or Ibiza, we couldn’t fly from Newcastle, and so our journey necessitated flights from Manchester and a car journey. I was still ‘tired and emotional’ from a week of excess before so it was up to Paul – in his new black Smart car, no less – to drive us to Manchester. The arse-end of Storm Ciara made it an arresting car ride, with Paul barely needing to touch the accelerator, instead allowing us to be blown all the way there. Wouldn’t be the first time. I was a quiet, considerate passenger, keeping my shrieking and fitful crashing of phantom passenger-side brake pedals to a minimum. I’ll say this, though: Mancurians – you’re lovely, but you absolutely can’t drive. Here’s a clue: when you’re changing lanes, try flicking the indicators on. I appreciate it’ll mean you looking up from your Love Island repeats on ITV Player, but go on, give it a go. Four separate times I came within a whisker of cheating on Paul simply by virtue of having the Smart rammed so far into the back of someone’s car that I could have whispered ‘it only hurts for a bit’ into the driver’s ear. Arses.

We arrived at the fabulously appointed (cough) Holiday Inn Express at around 11pm and Paul immediately set about shaving his head with the clippers he had brought from home. Halfway through I hear the bzz-bzz-bzzz of a set of dying clippers and a plaintive mew from the bathroom. He had cut about a third of his hair before the clippers had run out of juice. That’s fine, get the charger, but wait no – Paul had left the charger at home on account that the clippers ‘looked fully charged’. I silkily enquired as to when he had acquired the impressive ability to ascertain electrical charge of an object just by glancing at it, and what this meant for the Terminator franchise going forward, but was met with a volley of indignant ranting. Faced with the horrific thought of cutting about the Ukraine with someone who’s head looked like a wet egg rolled disinterestedly in pubic hair, I leant him my Mach 3 and gave him a skinhead. To be fair, he looked pretty fit with it, but it then meant I couldn’t sort my own hair out – something that wouldn’t have been so critical if I hadn’t still been sporting a mohawk that my best mate had clumsily cut into my hair in an act of alcohol-soaked mischief. I can make a mohawk work when everything else on my face is neat and tidy, but for the remainder of the holiday I looked like I’d stumbled early out of rehab. Ah well.

We woke bright and wheezy the next morning and made our way to the airport, way ahead of schedule. For once, it was the right decision – the security halls at Manchester Airport were absolutely rammed thanks to couples disappearing off for romantic breaks. You couldn’t move for people making moony faces at their beloved or kissing in that ‘look everyone, we have sex’ way that is for everyone else’s benefit. My boots, coat and suitcase all raised alarms and I was selected for a grope, so can’t complain, though I was hoping (as it was Valentines) he might have given me his number after effectively giving me a handy in the search for illicit substances. As it was, no idea why my boots and suitcase set off the alarms – presumably fashion related – but my coat contained four separate lighters. I tried to style it out by saying I was a one-man-tribute to Cirque du Soleil but he was having none of it.

Flight was with Ryanair and I can’t fault it – Paul had forgotten his headphones and was looking to me to keep him entertained, and I genuinely hope he liked the sight of me face-down in Star Trek: Picard for the journey. He cheered himself up by ordering a coffee and setting away with the task of spilling the tubes of milk all over his legs, and then dozed on my shoulder. Can’t recall any particularly exciting turbulence.

Unusually for Ryanair, they landed us at an airport in the same country as our destination, although things were complicated by the lack of a metro straight to the city centre. I’d read about tourist taxi scams on the flight over and, now officially part of The Real Hustle team, I spent a good ten minutes handwaving and no-no-noing at all the offers of taxis that came over. Normally I’m not so fussy but these cars looked as though they’d been parked outside the reactor when it went kaboom, and I’m sorry, but I do like living. Luckily, Uber has made it to the Ukraine, and a driver was promptly dispatched.

And, oh my word. Fit? This bloke, with his name like an explosion at the Boggle factory, was stunning. Bright blue eyes that had seen, caused and relished in death, black hair I’d be picking from my teeth for weeks after. He spoke no English – and quite right too – and we all squeezed into his Honda Menace in a thick sea of sexual tension. He kept looking in his rear-view mirror, presumably to work out why my mouth was hanging open and spittle was pooling on my moobs, and it was all I could do not to reach over, open Paul’s door and tumble him out, then beg a long life with a man who would never show me intimacy. By the time we arrived at the hotel I’d learned the Ukranian for ‘I’m on PrEP mate, it’s fine’ and started arranging the tablecloths for our wedding, but he simply gave us a curt nod and was on his way, ready to break more hearts. Sigh. I blame Paul.

Our hotel – ‘Tourist Hotel Complex’ – looked fairly swish from the outside and we were checked in with lovely smiles and warm wishes. We had chosen a twin room in a fit of worry and panic and so were given a room on the ninth floor. My god. It was…basic. I’m not one for fancy hotel rooms, given we mainly just spend our time in there sleeping off booze or entertaining the locals, but this looked like a hostel you’d see a messy murder taking part in. No, that’s mean – imagine your nana’s spare room that she keeps for best. Lots of rickety pine, magic-eye wallpaper and fussy bits. The bathroom was tiny with the lavatory tucked neatly into a corner in such a way that to have a tom-tit meant folding your legs up like an accordian. You may remember, I’m 6ft 2″ tall and not that far off wide.

Worse though – the shower. The one thing I really do need is a powerful shower to blast away the snail-trails and harsh living, but this, this was dire. I had enough time between the drops of water hitting me to dry off and cut my toenails. I’ve never had a shower where I’ve had to move to stay wet. To add insult to injury, there was about two minutes of tepid water before it started sputtering and went cold. I was foaming, but mainly because there wasn’t enough water to get rid of the body-wash nestled in my chest hair. Harrumph.

Now, this is getting a trifle long, and for that I apologise. We will revisit this next week! But now, time for a chicken kiev! I know that is an incredibly obvious first choice for a Ukraine recipe but I can’t see that we’ve done one before – so let’s try and make a decent slimming chicken kiev! Let’s go!



chicken kiev chicken kiev

a good old slimming chicken kiev

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 2 kievs

Look, we're fat, we can't be arsed trying to make it look pretty. It's a baked chicken breast, we're not miracle workers. You can serve it with chips, salad or glitter from your bum. Up to you. The recipe makes enough for two kievs.

Ingredients

  • two large chicken breasts
  • 50g of Philadelphia Garlic and Herb (4 syns)
  • 25g of golden breadcrumbs (4.5 syns)
  • if you like it super garlicky, add a teaspoon of garlic paste (syn free)
  • an egg

Instructions

  • I mean, can you take a guess here, poppet?
  • preheat the oven to 200 degrees and get yourself a good non-stick tray
  • cut a big fancy gash in the side of your chicken and stuff it with half of the Philadelphia (you're making two, remember) and smidge a bit of garlic in there if you're using it
  • fold the gash lips over themselves a bit
  • beat the egg and dip the chicken in
  • roll it around in the breadcrumbs
  • bake in the oven until cooked through

Notes

  • you COULD save syns and calories by using your own breadcrumbs from your healthy extra, but don't, just don't - this is as close to a proper kiev as you can get
  • you COULD also use Quark and garlic but for goodness sake, get a grip

If you want more recipes like this, buy our cookbook! You can order it now and it’ll be with you soon – click here! There’s also a Kindle version for immediate reading!

Courses dinner

Cuisine Ukranian

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving

Calories 415

% 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.

Enjoy! More chicken recipes? Have a look at our huge chicken index right here!

poultry

J&P

well blow me, it’s finally here – the twochubbycubs cookbook has launched!

Everyone! Our cookbook has finally launched – after what feels like months of writing, planning, photographing and plotting. it’s here! Launched on 2 January 2020 and already a best-seller, to the point where we exhausted Amazon’s stockpile many times over.

I just wanted to write a little bit about what this means to me. I know I speak for Paul too when I say this, but damn it, I’m the writer, these are my words. All of my life I have loved to write: I’ve kept (and keep) diaries, I rattle off short stories when I’m bored, I’ve kept this beast of a blog going for almost six years. I never, ever thought the blog would swell to become what it is today – a clumsily edited, lo-tech, no bells and whistles lumbering collection of nonsense tales and excellent food. There’s just the two of us, both with full time jobs, but we’ve kept this going because the social side of things has been endlessly brilliant. Then, last year, we were approached to make a cookbook and, after much consideration (we looked at Disney holidays, saw the prices and then agreed we must write a cookbook) set about pulling it together. I thought we might sell a thousand copies or so, mainly to my mam (who actually hasn’t bought a copy at all because she wants a free one, the tight mare), but nope. It has soared. The fact that it is published, out and we’re getting so many good reviews and positive comments absolutely melts my heart. I have achieved a genuine, concrete life goal and whatever happens next, I can turn around and say we’re published, best-selling authors – and it means the absolute fucking world to me.

So – seriously now – we might be about the knob jokes, coarse language and cooking – but you have made two very chubby cubs very, very happy indeed. Thank you!

Now – because there was such a colossal spike in sales last week, Amazon are struggling getting so many copies out in one go! We’ve literally depleted their stocks – and so a few of you may be getting an email saying there’s been a delay. WORRY NOT. Our publishers have sent Challenge Anneka down with her lorry and a whole load of new books and these will be hitting in the next few days. As soon as there’s new stock, the delays will be updated and books will be on the way. We had no idea there would be such a surge and this came out of the blue – so please, if this is you and you’ve been told a delay of a few weeks, panic not! Yours will be coming as soon as possible, promise! THANK YOU!

If you’re keen to buy it from Amazon, you can order it now and it’ll be with you soon – click here! There’s also a Kindle version for immediate reading!

If you are struggling with waiting, then please, fret not! You can also order from:

We know Sainsbury’s have them at the moment but they are flying off the shelves so be quick!

Comments from people will follow but we’re hearing good things about the fact they’re family friendly, easy meals and the book looks bloody gorgeous!

So: if you have the book, please do leave us a review, tell people about it, get things made and join in on our social media channels – @twochubbycubs on IG and Twitter and we’re all over Facebook! We really want to hear from you and we REALLY want some reviews!

That’s me for now. But one more time: thank you to each and every single person who reads this, recommends us, kindly leaves us comments and being part of this fucking amazing show in whatever way you have been. You’re amazing!

With love from James (the bearded, handsome, shaved head one with excellent clothes) and Paul (pictured)