Curried pumpkin soup with toasted seeds – just in time for Hallowe’en. I wasn’t going to do a blog entry tonight, but see, Paul turned to me yesterday, in the seventh hour of our Stranger Things 2 binge (it’s brilliant, have no fear), and confessed that he’d never had a proper pumpkin. It then hit me – nor have I! My mother used to send us out the door in the most highly-flammable sheet she could find, carrying a sooty turnip in one hand and a Netto carrier bag in the other for trick or treating. We were told to hand back any Skittles or chocolate we were given and to ask for a twenty-deck of Lambert and Butler and a crate of Red Stripe. Good times.
Anyway, being a kind and merciful sort, I agreed that we ought to get a pumpkin and carve it – and here’s the final result. You’ll note that I’ve added a sensitivity filter for the easily offended:
Great, isn’t it? I love Scunthorpe so much I made a pumpkin in tribute. Cheers Will. And look guys, you mustn’t worry, we’re not going to put this on display when kids come to the door to terrorise us. We’ll be doing the very British thing of turning up Coronation Street and telling them to bugger off. I wouldn’t mind if they made an effort with the costumes, but when you’ve got someone turning up who looks as though he’s just finished a three year BTEC in bricklaying demanding chocolate, well, that crosses the line. Actually, who am I kidding, if that sort turned up, he’d definitely be allowed to put the willies up us.
Speaking of cheap thrills, we also went to see Jigsaw on Friday night. How was it? As good as you’d expect the eighth film in a gore franchise to be, and then a wee bit better. Perfect popcorn fodder. But you know what was the best bit? We had the entire cinema to ourselves – not another soul came in to watch people being eviscerated on a 60ft screen. Pussies. There’s lots of benefits to having the cinema to yourselves – no people using their phones on nuclear holocaust levels of brightness, no people rustling around in bags for the loudest possible sweets they can find, no having to theatrically sigh and huff when the people in front of you so much as move. When we’re millionaires we shall buy a cinema, install two seats and employ only two people: one to bring us drinks and another to wake Paul when he inevitably falls asleep. I’m sure if we were younger men we would have used the solitude for a bit of illicit hanky-panky but I mean, we’ve been together ten years now – our idea of adventure is cracking open the After Eight mints at half seven.
Being the only ones in the cinema does rather shed a spotlight on your companion’s foibles, mind. Paul was breathing so loudly through his noise that it was only the popcorn bucket staying still on his lap that assured me he wasn’t wanking. Plus, every scene was punctuated with him scratting about in the popcorn in the vain hope of finding anything edible, as opposed to the shavings of fire-retardant foam that they’d put in there. Seriously, I think they’d kept the popcorn aside from the first Saw movie. I’m sure if we flipped this he’d complain about me constantly farting (how often can you fart in a cinema without having to wait for a loud action part to mask the sound?) and nudging him to say ‘he’s the killer, it’s him, definitely him, no it’s her, no it’s him, no look it’s all taking place in the past, no look, it’s her again‘. Going to the cinema with me is like when you accidentally flip the Audio Description settings on when watching TV, only with more ‘Where do we know him from? Is it 24? Paul? Was he in 24? Remember?’. I imagine by the end of it we were both silently wondering whether we could get away with putting the other into a Saw style trap. I wouldn’t need to make much effort – Paul’s idea of torture is to be sat on the settee with the TV remote just out of reach. You’ve never seen such pained eyes, trust me. But shush, this was meant to be a quick entry, so let’s get back to the food.
So, once one has gutted a pumpkin, what do you do with the flesh? It’s very easy, you call Paul in to cut it up and make it into soup whilst you fart about on Mario Odyssey. I’m glad, I can’t bear wasting food – I get anxious when Paul throws out his toenails – and all that lovely pumpkin should be turned into something half decent. So here you have it, a bonus pumpkin soup recipe!
to make curried pumpkin soup you will need:
1 pumpkin, as big as you dare (cut in half and scoop out the seeds and the flesh – keep the seeds to toast (see below))
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…
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 “¡ayudame! Mis 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.
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…
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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:
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 SUPERfancy)
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!
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!
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.
Goodnight for now! Remember to hit the share buttons below if you’ve enjoyed the recipe!
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!
to make instant pot lentil and vegetable soup you will need:
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
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!
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Ready for the syn free split pea and ham soup? No worries. You can use an Instant Pot, slow cooker or a hob. But I need to moan first! If you want to go straight to the recipe and skip the writing, it’s simple: just click on the MISERABLE COW just below. Go on, why not.
It seems a little unfair and rash of me to wish to strike all children from the face of the Earth like a mincing King Herod, but see, I was stuck behind a car full of someone’s crotchgoblins this morning for 40 minutes whilst the traffic slugged down the A1, choking as it was with the massive load of extra cars on the road now that you and your lovely children are back on the road. 40 minutes is a long time to fake enthusiastic waves and wan smiles at snotty-nosed children for whom looking out of the back window and pulling faces is infinitely more fun than sitting still and being silent. I was already in a poor mood because:
it’s still Monday; and
thanks to the children of Earth collectively going back to school today, I had to leave the house at 7.30am instead of 8.30am and that meant getting out of bed early.
There’s only one reason gay, childless men get out of bed early and that’s to fetch the lube from the chiller. Our normal routine consists of a gentle alarm going off at 7 which we snooze for two ten minute period before my phone alarm goes off, announcing the time in a cold, robotic voice. That’s Paul’s cue to get out of bed, put the coffee on and go for his shower. I’ll deign to rise about 7.40am, once I’ve been assured that there’s a warm coffee and a hot shower waiting for me. Stay longer than that and I’ll get a cold reception and a frozen willy. I can then lounge about luxuriantly for an hour or so, cultivating my daily farts and working on my yawns, whilst Paul dashes about feeding the cats and dismantling the alarms like he’s on an automatic lock-in on the Crystal Maze. It’s marvellous.
But no, not anymore. Now I have to rise, shower, shave and shite (forever careful not to get my hands mixed up, I think work would disapprove if I turned up with a Dirty Sanchez and a bleeding arse) as though there’s a bomb strapped to my gunt and only getting onto the A1 before half seven will defuse it. It’s just awful. You know who is to blame? Your children. No it’s really that simple: I’m sure they’re lovely and all, with their moon eyes and higgedly-piggedly baby teeth, but you really ought to have just stopped at that seventh Campari and not given in to your carnal urges so many years ago. That way the roads would be clear, I’d be able to bask in my own bed-sweat until a reasonable hour and everyone would be happy.
Actually, let’s just build a lane on the side of each road for gays without children. I can use some of the pink pound that my pockets are so awash with. Perhaps call it the Marmite Motorway, or the Backseat Driver Lane. Pink Lane. We’re nearly there. We’d have hard shoulders every 100 yards with AA men built like hi-vis hot water tanks to tend to our exhaust pipes and steamy radiators. Ah, a boy can dream.
Anyway, I posted something along all of the above in our group this morning and got roundly supported by all those who could tell I was being facetious. I don’t actually hate children. How could I? They’re going to grow up and be the ones spooning cabbage soup into my mouth and putting me in front of Countdown. I received a terse riposte from a stern looking woman with eleven o’clock shadow telling me that perhaps my mother should have kept her legs shut.
Pfft: good luck with that. I’ve been telling her that for 31 years and it still hasn’t made a difference. They don’t call her Can-Can-Christine for nowt, you know.
Speaking of split peas, let’s rattle off this recipe. Can you tell we are trying to use our Instant Pot more? It’s because we will forget how good it is until we use it again, then we can’t get enough. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you we made this soup three nights in a row. It’s beautiful, and a cheap, easy soup to make. Admittedly it doesn’t photograph well: I’m more than aware it looks like I’ve already ate it all, passed it and photoed it, but please, trust me when I tell you it’s tasty. There’s an added bonus – if you leave it overnight to go cold it sets like gorgeous pease pudding, which you’d expect given it’s made from split peas. Don’t know what pease pudding is? Get out of my life.
As always with our recipes, you don’t need to buy an expensive bit of kit to make them. An Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker) will make this recipe quick and easy, but you can do it in a slow cooker or even on the hob. We cover all possibilities below. We do recommend an Instant Pot simply because they’re a doddle to use and we’re finding more and more uses for it – you can buy the one we use here. Or at least have a look, and start leaving clues around the house or office for loved ones that you need to let off steam, or some such other shite.
to make instant pot split pea and ham soup you will need:
for the stock:
800g-1kg ham joint (if using gammon remember to soak it overnight to remove some of the saltiness)
to make instant pot split pea and ham soup you should:
this needs to be done in two stages – don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it looks, I promise!
chuck all of the stock ingredients into the instant pot along with 2.5 litres of cold water. Cook under high pressure for one hour, and then use the natural release method
Lift the ham out of the pot and strain the rest so you’re left with the liquid – this is the stock you’ll need for the next bit…
next, add all of the soup ingredients into the instant pot along with 1.5 litres of the stock that you’ve just drained off
use a couple of forks to pull apart the ham, this won’t take much doing. chuck that in the pot too
cook for twenty minutes at high pressure, then use the quick-release method to get to it quicker
you can make this without a pressure cooker if you want to:
place all of the stock ingredients into a large stockpot with two litres of water and simmer for two hours
lift out the ham joint and strain out all of the solids so you’re left with just the liquid stock
next, heat a frying pan over a medium high heat with a little oil and cook the carrot, celery and onion from the soup ingredients until softened (which’ll take about five minutes), add the garlic in the last 30 seconds or so
slow cooker: put the veg into a slow cooker along with the bay leaf, peas and stock and cook on high for 3-4 hours (or low for 6-8). Add the shredded ham about half-way through
hob: just let everything bubble gently away together, keep an eye on it, until thickened!
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Spicy carrot coconut soup – done in the Instant Pot in a matter of moments but can also be done old-school on the hob or in the slow cooker – awaits you, if only you bear with me for a few minutes. Good news: it’ll be a short entry tonight as Fat-tits has wheeled out the BBQ and we’re going to do our best to pretend that summer didn’t fuck off back in May and enjoy a nice pink-in-the-middle-see-you-again-in-thirty-minutes beefburger. It’s the British way.
We can only get to our BBQ because we’ve spent the good part of four hours clearing out the shed and ferrying various bits back and forth to the tip. Long-time readers know that I love going to the tip – not just because of all the hi-vis-clad blokes wandering around sweating in the sun and bellowing obscenities on the wind, but also because I love seeing what people are chucking out. It’s why I couldn’t work there – I’d spend so much time tutting at people’s questionable tastes that they’d think a woodpecker had taken up residence in the staff shelter. For example, I saw someone manhandling out of the boot of her Picasso a giant piece of pink, glittering wall-art that simply said ‘DREAMZ’. I don’t know what made me wince more – the mistaken ‘Z’, the mistral font or that awful pink colour that is solely reserved for cheap plastic vibrators, limousines “slagwagons” and those awful velour tracksuits that not a single body in all of existence has ever looked anything approaching decent in. 99% of the time they look like a saveloy sausage with legs. Just sayin’.
Anyway, because it was literally the first thing I put my hands on in our wardrobe, I was also wearing a hi-vis shirt, which led to an awkward moment when someone asked me where best to put an office chair and I had to explain that I didn’t work there. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have played along save for the fact I was getting eyeballed at the time by one of the proper workers who was checking I wasn’t throwing my cardboard box (containing onion peelings, I’m so sorry) into the general waste. I’m glad he didn’t ask why I was wearing hi-vis – my reply that it’s purely for role-play between me and Paul (I’m the road worker, he’s the pothole) would have likely offended.
Now it’s all cleaned out, take a look at my shed:
See? I will have order. All the beans stacked in order, facing the right way. Even that tower of shit-tickets is tidy. I have absolutely no idea what that skidmark is but it’s terribly frustrating – it looked like someone crawled in and died on the carpet. Our cats are prone to killing all manner of things and depositing them somewhere where they’ll know we will be super grateful to find them, like in a shoe or underneath the settee. I’m not even kidding on that one, I dropped my phone between the sofa cushions the other day and when I reached in to get it, I pulled half a rat out by the tail. Why? Was my cat keeping it for winter? Does he think he’s a squirrel? You can be assured that he was chased out of the cat-flap with the threat of my Dr Martens up his bumhole for that trick.
Oh, and apropos of nothing, you can see on the top there the see-through toaster, Instant Pot and the Optigrill XL – see, we do own the stuff we peddle!
Now, I didn’t want to come on here just to talk you through my visit to the tip, but the story does link somewhat organically into what I actually wanted to discuss by virtue of both venues being awash with bright, unwanted rubbish. See, I went to Sports Direct on Friday. I’m not being snobby, it’s just generally not a shop I’d ever have reason to go in – it’s not like we need specialised clothing for sitting watching TV and occasional dogging. Perhaps some knee-pads, but I can buy them at the garden centre when I pick up our shirts. However, a friend of mine needed to exchange one highly-flammable and very rustly sports outfit for another highly-flammable and very rustly sports outfit, only this one in red. This, inexplicably, took her a good twenty minutes of cooing and picking things on and off the rails, looking around for sizes unknown to man and generally taking an age to do anything. I was there that long I could feel my teeth furring up through the miasma of Mugler Angel in the air. I can’t stand shopping at the best of times but god knows I hate shopping somewhere where I’m clearly unwanted – I could see staff looking at my straining belt and 27XL shirt and trying to decide whether to cone me off or call security.
Eventually El Ehma decided on a slightly lighter shade and we traipsed over to the exchange desk, only for some sweaty-necked oik to barge past us and slap down a pair of trainers on the desk. To her credit, the lady behind the counter didn’t do much as wince, though it would have been tricky to register such a facial movement as she’d taken the highly-inefficient step of wearing all the make-up she owned at once. He wanted a refund because “the tag cut into his foot”. I had two instant rejoinders to that one:
it’ll distract from the tag cutting into your ankle, ho-ho; or
are you sure it isn’t diabetes?
but see Emma is slight and whilst I reckon I could get a few seconds head-start by throwing her in front of someone’s fist, he’d be able to catch up with me on the stairs, what with my game ankle. So I kept schtum. The assistant looked at the trainers and within the passing of a second, declared that she wasn’t going to take them back because a) they were fine and b) they’d clearly be worn. Worn? It looked like the fucker had water-skiied behind a tractor to get to the shop. They weren’t so much ‘worn-in’ as ‘fit for the fire’. You’d have second thoughts putting them in the charity bin in the supermarket car-parks, put it that way. What followed was a good ten minute shouting match between the customer and the manager who had clearly hurried up from the smoking shelter outside, judging by the blue-smoke drifting lazily from his man-bun. We heard all the usual cliches – ‘hardly worn them’, ‘not fit for purpose’ and then my personal favourite, ‘what about my human rights?’. Because good men laid down their lives so someone had the right to blow spittle all over an exchange desk and return their favourite Nick trainers whenever they fancied.
Sensing that the manager wasn’t going to acquiesce and/or his ankles weren’t going to last, the man scooped up the trainers and stalked off, ranting and raving about rip-off this and fuck-off that. I’ve genuinely never seen someone go so red – if I’d had one of those weight-watcher wraps I could have made a Slimming World pasty* from the heat alone – I was all set for some cardiac action, but no. We exchanged our items with minimal fuss and made for the exit, only to see him stood outside warning folk not to go in, like some sweaty, tracksuited Cerberus. We left him getting shouted out by a street-performer angry that all of the fuss was distracting the crowds from watching him hammer nails up his nose. I’m not even kidding.
* sorry, but corned-beef wrapped in a wrap isn’t a pasty. A pasty is made from delicious shortcrust pasty and gravy. Whilst I’m sure these are delicious, they’re hot sandwiches.
Christ, I said this would be a short entry – I’m sorry. It was longer than either of us expected, wasn’t it? I hope I didn’t bruise your kidneys, ma’am. If I can sum up my ramblings it’s this: be nice to customer service folks. It isn’t their fault, they have to follow company procedure, and you catch more flies with honey than vinegar anyway. I can’t bear people being rude, especially when they’re in the wrong.
Anyway, come on, that’ll do. Shall we get to the spicy carrot and coconut soup? Yes, we should. This is an Instant-Pot recipe but I’ll provide two methods for cooking it, so if you don’t have an Instant-Pot, don’t fret a jot. You don’t need one. It makes things quicker and easier, but honestly, this recipe is a doddle either way. To give you an idea of how delicious it is – I dislike both carrots and coconut, but I loved this! I wanted to try a carrot take on our pea and coconut soup (also amazing) and we found this on a blog called platedcravings and have adjusted it for Slimming World. It serves four.
to make spicy carrot coconut soup, you’ll need:
a few sprays of olive oil (up to you if you syn it, it’s 0.5 syns for seven sprays)
one large onion, chopped neatly
one clove of garlic, minced
a little knob (half a thumb) of ginger, minced
about 500g of carrots, peeled and chopped into pound-coin size discs
good pinch of salt and pepper
200ml of blue dragon coconut milk light (7ish syns)
500ml of good chicken stock (or veg)
two tablespoons of hot sauce (1 syn) – any hot sauce is fine, or Sriracha
Few things to make life easier, but you don’t need these to cook with:
a microplane grater – it’ll make short work of mincing garlic and ginger – with garlic you don’t need to peel it and ditto ginger, which you can keep in the freezer until the next time you need it;
an Instant Pot – we love ours, but only because it’s so quick to do everything, and I’m finally over my fear of them; and
a stick blender – you really don’t need anything fancy – this £5 little blender will do the same as any expensive blender!
to make spicy carrot coconut soup in an Instant Pot, you should:
press the saute button, spray the cooking pot with a bit of oil and saute the onions for a few minutes until soft – add the ginger and garlic and keep going for a minute more
tip in the carrots, a pinch of salt and pepper, and saute for a couple more minutes
stir in the stock, coconut milk and hot sauce
cook on high pressure for six minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for five to ten minutes, then quick release
use a stick blender in the pot until it’s smooth as silk – season with salt and pepper
To cook it on the hob, saute everything off in the pan and gently simmer until the carrots are softened – then blend away! It’ll take longer but it’s still a doddle!
Want more ideas for soup and lunches and veggie goodness? Click the buttons below!
Here for the gazpacho? I have bad news – it’s right at the bottom of tonight’s blog entry, and, for the first time in ages, it’s a new holiday story! You may remember we’re doing 12 holidays this year? If not, we are, and whilst we have a few already under our sleeve waiting to be typed up, you can join us in Paris, having a wet weekend in a seaside caravan and er…on a coach trip. That didn’t end well…
Does it feel like forever since we whisked you away with us, seeing the world and tripping the light fantastic? Weeks since we popped you in our suitcase like the optimistic bottle of lube that all married couples bring along? Pfft. Listen, we can’t bring you – I’m a tightarse Geordie: I need the lube but I don’t need the extra luggage charges for being overweight. We travel the world with one Amazon Basics trolley-bag between us. We’re light-packers, which is halfway to what we were always called at school. Well you know what they say, if the cap fits, bend over…OH AND REMEMBER, I really LOVE feedback on the holiday entries. It makes me happy!
So where are we off to? Unless you’re especially slow-witted, you’ll have spotted Copenhagen on the banner there. Copenhagen – Denmark’s capital and only a mere two or so hour flight from Edinburgh. We chose it for one reason: Rick Stein went there for a ‘long weekend’ and sold it so well that we had the tickets booked an hour later. We’re shallow, but at least we’re honest.
No need to fuss about with the pre-holiday details – we were flying from Edinburgh (again), we argued over who should drive (again) and I won, meaning a nice steady drive up into Scotland in the evening after work. As a treat I had finished work early and created a wee little picnic (in a proper hamper, no less: remember, I am gay) full of exciting treats from Lidl. Paul’s partial to a bit of brie so I went overboard with the brie and grape sandwiches, packing four a-piece. We could have been dashed from the road into a ditch en-route and still had enough food to see us through the cold months. Be prepared – that’s the Scouts motto, isn’t it? I wouldn’t know, I never went. Frankly, unless they gave out badges for tossing off the local farmhands, I’d have been wasted.
Paul finished work late meaning it was getting dark as we set off and, unbeknownest to him, the cheese sandwiches had been sweating merrily away in the back of my car for a good few hours. Please, you mustn’t worry – I have an iron stomach, and Paul needs to lose some weight so a bout of the shits would be just the ticket. We drove for a good ninety minutes or so before deciding to find somewhere nice to sit and eat our nicely-warmed-through picnic. Paul spotted a layby that looked out over the sea on the other side of the road and I dramatically swung the car across the A1 and parked up. The view was marred by a lorry that was parked facing us (to be fair, he was on the right side of the road) but we thought nothing of it.
Until he started wanking merrily away. Not subtly, not with the little curtain drawn, but rather standing crouched over in his cab, pumping merrily away. He knew we were there and could see – I can only assume he was an exhibitionist – but that takes some balls, doesn’t it? Taking a gamble that the two lads in front of you are homosexual and might have a passing fancy in what you’re busy choking. I wonder what gave the game away? I removed my ‘BEEP IF YOU’RE A FELCHER‘ bumper sticker ages ago, but I can only assume it was the sight of Paul daintily spreading Boursin on the water-biscuits that set him away.
Look: I’m no prude. Nor is Paul. We’re both very open about our predilections and normally the sight of a lorry driver putting on a show like the world’s sauciest Punch and Judy act would at least give us significant pause. Had it been a decent looking fittie in a hi-viz jacket then the lights of our car would have been flashing away like we’d accidentally lit a box of fireworks in the glove-box. But, no, this guy looked like the type of man you just know puts his hard-drive in the microwave every time the police drive up his street. We primly packed away our sandwiches and the rest of the picnic into the boot and drove on.
We spent the night at the Dakota Edinburgh, with me having decided to upgrade us into a nicer hotel than the Soviet-Bloc experience we had endured at the little ibis back in February. That’s not fair, it was perfectly pleasant. I was over-the-moon to arrive there at 10.30pm – thus not getting the benefit of the nice room at all – but we had a good sleep and were through Edinburgh Airport in no time at all the next morning. No-one sat next to us on the plane meaning we could spread out, the take-off was smooth and the drinks were being served in record time. All good.
The flight takes a couple of hours so, whilst you’re here, let me regale you of a few facts that I learned about Denmark and Copenhagen. It’s OK, you can have a light nap, I’ll give you a prod when I’m done. Oh and if my notes are wrong, please don’t think ill of me, I’m not putting myself out there as an alternative to Lonely Planet. Firstly, there’s no real substitute for ‘please’ – it’s just not said. This horrifies me, I pride myself on good manners – someone could set my lips on fire and I’d still compliment them on their choice of matches. Remember when I got locked into a thank you war with my neighbour? I bought them a framed photo of where they got engaged, so they bought us some wine, so we bought them flowers, so they bought us chocolates? It’s still going on, albeit with ever diminishing returns: yesterday they pushed 5p through our letterbox, tomorrow I’ll nip over and smile disinterestedly through their window.
They were the first country to legalise pornography (in 1969, which seems fitting), which makes perfect sense when you look at some of the blue-eyed, blonde visions of perfection wandering around. Porn is so much more elegant with the Danish – with the British I end up focussing on their awful B&M wall-art and spotty bottoms. Plus there’s a definite lack of sexiness in the sound someone from Birmingham makes when having an orgasm – it sounds like two cats fighting to the death in a lift-shaft. I’m sorry Birmingham but it’s true: I’ve been there, done that and stained my t-shirt.
Of course, the downside of this sexy boom is that they’re also the country with the highest recorded rate of sexually transmitted diseases. They don’t mention that in the inflight magazine, do they? All them seraphic smiles but they’re all baking bread in their knickers.
Now this one I like: children are encouraged to swear in English. There’s plenty of swearwords in Danish from the unimaginative pis af to the slightly more colourful sut røv, pikhoved which means suck ass, dickhead, which frankly sounds like a step-by-step guide to staying the night at Chubby Towers. However, children are naturally told not to swear in Danish in public and to swear in English instead. I find this absolutely hilarious: I was itching to hear some wee dolly-dimple drop her toy and call it a fucking useless c*nt but it never happened, alas. We did see one lad fall over in the street and exclaim ‘SHIT’ very loudly, but Paul and I assumed he was British and immediately set about tutting and shaking our heads.
Finally, I read that they have a concept of ‘kvajebajer‘ – eating humble pie. The idea is that you don’t take yourself too seriously, you laugh at yourself, and accept you are there for the merriment of others when you go tits-up. Make a mistake? You ought to buy everyone a beer and get over it. I love this. Everywhere Paul and I go there’s calamity, we’ve birthed a blog from the very idea, and you know, if you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point?
Anyway, that’s quite enough about Denmark. Come back to us, we’re still on the plane. Flicking through the inflight magazine – it gives me something to do between elbowing Paul to stop him snoring and brushing the skin flakes off my knees that were slowly drifting down from the scalp of the gentleman in front – Copenhagen seems like the place to be. It looked absolutely chøc-a-bløc of hip places to eat and fun places to drink. Photos show achingly-cool young folk having a whale of the time, looking effortlessly stylish perched on upturned beer crates or lying on the deck of a floating home. You could almost hear their collective shriek when we stepped off the plane in our ASDA trainers and shirts with all manner of plane food dripped down them.
The landing at Copenhagen Airport is a slightly unusual one in that there doesn’t appear to any airport at all and the pilot has decided, somewhat rashly, to set us down in the North Sea. This leads to the arresting sight of water looming closer and closer until you’re quite sure you could pop the window open and grab a 99 from the ice-cream seller on the beach as you hurtled past at 500mph. Naturally, I stayed stoic, merely plucking erratically at Paul’s sleeve as I prepared for an entire Airbus A320 to be crumpled through my soft tissue. Luckily, at the last second, a runway appeared and we glided elegantly to a smooth stop. I, somewhat forlornly, removed my armbands and we left the plane.
Naturally, nothing is that simple – I actually made a spectacular entrance by tripping halfway down the plane stairs and crashing all the way down to the tarmac on my arse. Thank god it’s so well-upholstered. We saw a fleet of fire engines go burring past, presumably mistaking the crash-bang-wallop of my bulk cascading down the stairs for the sounds of a fully-fuelled aeroplane crash. Velkommen!
There we go – we’re off! Do you enjoy our holiday entries? I know they’re long and quite a bit to get your lips around, but you can manage, because you’re filthy! Shall we get to the gazpacho? But of course! I found this recipe via a chef called José Andrés and it’s the perfect summer soup. Yes, it doesn’t look great, but if you’re a fan of fresh tastes you’ll bloody love it. This serves four and I heartily recommend it!
to make gazpacho, you’ll need:
one large cucumber
one large green pepper
700g of ripe tomatoes (if you’re buying them in the supermarket, spend a bit extra – or at the very least, leave them on your windowsill for a few days to ripen
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar – you can buy it in most supermarkets and it’s just as cheap as normal vinegar
to adorn the top:
150g of cherry tomatoes, ripe and tasty, halved
two radishes cut into matchsticks
two spring onions finely sliced
a good chunk of cucumber, cubed
a load of cress
lots of black pepper
to make gazpacho, you should:
chop up the veg of the main soup and mix it all together with your hands, together with a good few twists of salt and pepper
seal it in a zip-bag and leave to marinate for ages – I waited overnight
in the morning, blend everything together until nice and smooth – we’ve got a Nutribullet for this kind of thing and it works an absolute charm – but you can do the same thing with a £5 blending stick, so don’t fret – add a few ice-cubes if you’re serving right away
adorn the top with the chopped veg above, or whatever you fancy
the key is to serve it as ice-cold as possible
Very, very good for you! If you’re on the fence, get down and try it. Nothing ventured nothing gained!
You want more veggie recipes? But of course. We’ll look after you. Take our hand. We won’t even shiver at your papery skin and clammy hands.
You wanted summer recipes, so here’s two: summer salad with fried feta and a tomato and nasturtium consommé. But first, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The searing hot, radioactive, giant ball of gassy matter that pumps out offensive levels of heat and that could kill us all. That’s right, my husband – he’s currently in bed, so I’m going to discuss the sun. For those in Scotland:
this is the sun – it’s the thing that turns you from that milky white colour to freshly butchered mince in 8 seconds.
I hate it. I’ve discussed at length the many things I hate about the great British summer but, because I’m a) tetchy and b) fat and c) sweaty, I’m going to moan about it again.
Literally everywhere you turn. Now I’m not daft, I know bees are important and without them we wouldn’t have pollination and food and existence and, perhaps more importantly, this gif of a bee giving a high-five:
but even so. Just once I’d like to spend more than eight minutes outside without something biting me, swarming at me, worrying me or just giving me shitty looks. I took this salad outside yesterday to take a decent photo in the light and I swear I’ve come back without at least one full layer of skin thanks to all the bites. I know I’m irresistible but I’d love to enjoy a meal outside without the both of us swearing and screaming like the table is on fire and we’re eating petrol sandwiches. The situation escalated surprisingly quickly when Paul knocked over a bottle of limoncello syrup – you can imagine how the wasps and bees reacted to that. Hopefully they’ve got smashed off their tits and are comatose in a hedge somewhere, the vespine equivalent of a teenager celebrating getting his fingers wet. I know of a friend who foolishly went camping in summer at Kielder Forest and was sent back to Newcastle by a roaming gang of midges. And we’re Geordies, you understand, we’re geet hard as ‘owt. Pfft.
Dogs die in hot cars. True, and you always get a satisfying story in the papers of some idiotic clot who dashed into a clinic to get her vag steamed only to leave poor Fido sizzling away on the parcel shelf, who then came out to find some hero has smashed all the windows in the car and called her a c*nt on national TV. I’d be tempted to let the dog out and do a big steaming shit all over her steering wheel, claiming the dog did it out of distress. But that’s not all – getting into my car at the moment is like trying to make yourself comfortable in an active volcano. I climbed in yesterday, peeling layers of skin off my hands as I did so, and found that the car was registering 34 degrees. 34! I turned the engine on expecting the car to blow up and leave me smeared across the street like fat jam. Paul’s car is even worse thanks to his asthmatic air-conditioning – I had to check whether he’d bought a new air-freshener yesterday but the smell of cooking bacon turned out to be the seatbelt clip sinking into my tit like a hot knife through butter.
Increased neighbour interaction
Most – though not all – of my neighbours are decent folks now, especially since they’ve had five years to come around to the fact that two gay men living on their street doesn’t mean we’re going to have all-night orgies and an amyl-nitrate fountain put in the front garden. About half of them actually stop to talk to us now, would you believe. That’s acceptable, but it means we also see the other half a lot more. Take this morning. I was awoken at 8am by the sound of my neighbour yanking and swearing at his shitty Lidl lawnmower to try and get it started. You need to understand that there’s only two reasons I ever want to be woken up on a Sunday before 11am: either I’m sleepshopping naked in ASDA and I’ve got my cock resting in the bananas or Paul has managed to convince the entire first team squad of the Newcastle Falcons that I’m their pre-game warm-up.
He eventually managed to get his £7.99 lawnmower going (and bearing in mind he’s one of these type of folks who’ll spend £35,000 on a car then never take it out of third gear) and I was left trying to dose whilst he whirred and spluttered and farted around his postage-stamp lawn. At 8am. On a Sunday. When he is fully retired and could do this at any time during the week. You can imagine my good humour, can’t you? I did a terribly British thing of getting up and slamming the window shut, but that in turn made the room boiling hot so I had to get up. Paul slept on. You know when they detonate those giant cooling towers and they crumble to the ground in a cloud of dust and excitement? You could stick Paul on a camp-bed right in the epicentre of the blast and he’d still only fart, turn over and start grizzling about his lumpy pillows. The fat bastard.
Go out and enjoy yourself
Oh fuck off. I can enjoy the oppressive heat when I’m lying baking on a beach in Corsica, somewhere where I can dash into the sea to wipe away my sweaty boob rash and to peel my scrotum away from the sides of my ankle if it gets too much, but what can we do here? As I said, we can’t sit in the garden because we’re like cocaine for insects and we can’t go out in the car because it’s like driving a convection oven down the motorway, so what is left? Standing outside trying to surreptitiously peel clothing out of fat rolls and going ‘ooooh this is nice, bet it won’t last‘ like every other Brit? I don’t want to go outside. I want to stay inside where it is cold and air-conditioned and lovely and yeah I might get rickets but so fucking what, I’ll look bloody hilarious running for a bus. Beer gardens are full of boorish hooray-henries vaping and existing, public parks are awash with children screaming and laughing and even the cold, dark of the cinema is ruined by the kids being ‘on holiday’. Bah.
We need a decent plague and for him upstairs to turn the air-conditioning back on. By him upstairs I mean Paul, and, as we live in a bungalow, even that tortuous analogy doesn’t work. Let’s blame it on the heat.
Recipes then – summer salad with fried feta and a bonus recipe for a tomato consommé. I realised there was no point in sticking the tomato consommé on as an individual recipe because no bugger will make it, but hey, let’s roll the dice.
to make summer salad with fried feta you will need:
250g reduced-fat feta cheese (4x HeA)
2 tbsp plain flour (4 syns)
4 tbsp panko (or any other type of breadcrumb, but panko works best) (4.5 syns)
1 egg, beaten
any sort of salad stuff you want to throw together
You will need a fair few sprays of oil on this one – for each portion I’m going to say 10 sprays of a decent spray oil – so unusually, I’m counting the oil as an extra syn (5 sprays for 0.5 syns). It’s up to you, though. We use a spray oil dispenser from Amazon and top it up with decent quality olive oil – you can see the one we use right here (it’s dirt cheap). You could use Frylight but why would you – it’s shite. Plastic, nasty shite, plus it’ll mess your pans up. God knows why it is constantly recommended.
Those lovely looking pink onions? I’ve posted the recipe for them before right here (it’ll open in a new window) – they’re amazing. Soaked in vinegar, the sharpness melts away and they look amazing in a salad. Any time you have a red onion approaching the end of its life, follow this recipe!
Our salad consisted of a yellow pepper sliced and turned into matchsticks, moonblush tomatoes (made from our recipe here – we’re really using up the old favourites), a few black olives which I don’t syn so shoot me, peeled and sliced cucumber, rocket, sliced red onion and sliced pickled red onion. Make your salads interesting – it’ll serve you so much better – lots of flavour and textures.
to make summer salad with fried feta you should:
prepare the salad
cut the feta block into four equal pieces
dredge each block into the flour, then coat in the egg, and finally roll about in the breadcrumbs so it sticks (roll the feta, not yourself)
next, heat a small frying pan over a medium-high heat and spray some oil (save your pans and get yourself one of these)
whilst the feta is frying, gently spray a little more oil over the top so they brown when you flip them, which you’ll need to do do after about five minutes
when golden, serve on top of the salad so it’s just slightly soft in the middle
Delicious! Now onto the consommé – this is delicious but only if you’re a big tomato fan. I didn’t syn the drop of olive oil I used but up to you whether you include that! This is a clear(ish), pure tomato soup served cold. Very refreshing!
to make tomato and nasturtium consommé, you’ll need:
2kg of tomatoes – red and ripe – soft is fine, we bought a giant box for a couple of quid from our local garden centre
2 shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce (or tamari) and 1/2tsp of tabasco
either a big handful of nasturtium flowers or, if you can’t get them (and you should bloody grow them because they’re amazing for you AND for the bees – they add pepperiness and you can eat both the flowers and the leaves), a big handful of basil
some decent salt flakes
a squirt of decent olive oil (optional)
a couple of pretty little tomatoes or nasturtiums and chopped chive
This will serve four people a bloody big bowl of soup. It’s a faff timewise to make but worth it if you’re a fan of tomatoes and you want to try doing something different.
If you’re a vegetarian, remember to swap out the Worcestershire sauce for a veggie equivalent.
to make tomato and nasturtium consommé, you should:
chop the tomatoes into quarters, removing any particularly beefy stalks
tip the lot, together with the shallots, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and basil/nasturtium into a food processor and blitz it – you might need to do it in stages – season with salt and then blitz again – you do not want a smooth paste, you want it lumpy
now the tricky part – I found it so much easier to do this over the sink – put a large pan into the sink and then you’re going to want to take a large piece of muslin cloth and tip the tomato mixture in – tie the cloth up so the mixture can’t pour out of the sides and then find a way to suspend it over the pan so that the juices can drip through overnight (oh you flirt!) – I just tied my cloth to my tap which hangs over the sink
if you don’t have muslin cloth, use a very clean tea-towel – we’re not talking about the Congratulations Charles and Diana tea-towel that you wipe your minnie with when no-one is looking but a good fresh tea-towel – maybe use two – try not to get one that you’ve washed with fabric conditioner though eh, because the smell of Lenor is going to be off-putting
Tomato and rice soup: yes, it might not make you open up like a freshly steamed mussel through excitement, but by god it’ll serve you well if you’re after a quick and easy dinner. Plus this recipe makes enough for six bowls. So don’t be disappointed by a soup recipe and instead give it a go!
You know what is disappointing? We had plans this morning to get up early and switch all the branding on the site away from SW and over to Herbalife. We planned to have photos of us looking flabbergasted by their miracle products and a wee video introducing ourselves as Herbalife’s Number ONE Sellers. But then, with all the dilatoriness you’ve come to expect from your favourite Northern fat bastards, we slept in. I like to think you lot know there’s more chance of me eschewing cock for life and becoming a full vagitarian than there is us becoming MLM salesfuckers, so it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.
Anyway, life played a little April fool trick on me – I thought I’d published the next blog entry in the middle of the week and have been sulking because I received no comments on it, only to find this morning that it hasn’t appeared and for good measure, has completely disappeared. Great! Imagine my pleasure! I’ll rattle it out again – I’ve got two hours before Paul finally stops snoring like a shot elephant and gets himself up and out of bed to have a pop at me for not waking him up. Wiring him to the mains wouldn’t wake him up, but that’s entirely beside the point. Let’s slip back to France then, and, because I’ve got a stack of holidays to write up, it’s the penultimate part…
Now, when you last joined us, we were retiring to bed full of liquor and the French night air. We’d enjoyed a full day of gallivanting and drinking and our heads were a little tender in the morning. I showered, somewhat gingerly, barely keeping down yesterday’s Castrol cocktail. I was doing well until I dropped the sponge and bent over to pick it up. Honestly, you’ve never lived until you’ve caught a haunting glimpse of your own bumhole reflected back at you from all conceivable angles thanks to an entirely mirrored bathroom – it felt like I’d fallen into the Sarlacc pit from Return of the Jedi. I stumbled out, gagging, only to be met with Paul’s beaming face.
What activity had he managed to find for us whilst I was being Crying-Gaming in the shower? What would really invigorate my dulled senses and quell that nauseous feeling in my belly? Ah yes: a trip into the sewers of Paris. Don’t get me wrong – I love learning about infrastructure and finding out how a city runs, but goodness me: my hanging head combined with my submechanophobia did not make me especially keen. Paul pressed the issue though and I just can’t say no to his eager moon face. (Could you? If it was me, could you do it?)
Submechanophobia? Yes: it’s a real thing! I’m creeped out by machinery underwater, anything man-made. I’m not one of these roaring idiots who scream and shout, I can crack on with it, but the idea of submerged pipes and drains and dams just give me the willies, and not in the conventional excellent way. Blame my dad: we grew up surrounded by wells and culverts and reservoirs and weirs and to keep us away from them he would tell lurid tales of people being sucked into pipes and drowned in weirs. Worked for me, though I was brave enough to approach a well when I threw my sister’s Culture Club CDs down there because she wouldn’t stop playing Karma Chameleon. Perhaps I need to convince you why underwater pipes are scary…take a look at this:
See? Not just me being a drama queen!
The entrance to the sewers was a mere 30 minute walk away, and, needing some fresh air and a good crêpe (thanks to the surprisingly hairy guys at Iolando at the Quai Branly for their ham and cheese special) (why does everything I write sound like a sexy Craigslist advert?) we ambled out.
I took a picture of the Statue of Liberty and sent it over to El Ehma, a friend from work, and told her we’d been diverted to New York. Naturally, she believed us, although there’s very little sport in getting her to believe anything, because she’s so sweet and trusting. I could tell her they’ve outlawed breathing and her lips would turn blue before her mind turned over. Although, mind, she still wins on the pranks stakes for getting me to call the Mr Kipling factory and ask to speak to the boss himself. Pfft.
We arrived at the Musée des Égouts de Paris in good time, despite having to stop for another fifteen minutes whilst Paul availed himself of the nearby automatic toilet facilities again. He at least had the humour to come out and cry that he had ‘sent a fresh one into the sewers’ and that we ought to keep an eye out for it. If only I’d known, I would have told him to stick a flag in it like they do with fancy burgers. I took the opportunity to find a geocache whilst Paul left his mark and I had no trouble at all locating geocache GC2MJDY.
I signed the log just as Paul bid goodbye to his own, and we were on our way.
We paid a very modest fee to the chap sitting in the booth in the middle of the street and descended the stairs into the sewers.
Well, fuck me. I know this is going to be blindingly obvious because it’s a sewer but the smell. I, having not done any research beforehand, expected a sanitised little museum with lots of charming photos and info boards. None of that. It’s literally the sewer with a river of Paris’ finest stools, piss, toilet roll and condoms floating by like the world’s worst episode of The Generation Game. You know that feeling when you go for a poo and someone’s used the cubicle before you and you walk into a mist of shitgas, knocking you back? Imagine that, but multiplied by 10.
You can almost smell it.
That said, it only took five minutes for the tissue inside my nose to necrotise and then we were good to go. And, do you know, it was really bloody interesting! We walked away from the tour guide, not least because he was bellowing in French and I couldn’t understand what he was going on about – lots of murder, apparently – and we explored for ourselves. This isn’t somewhere to take the kids – lots of creepy machinery, open running water, shit all over the place (though you were never touching it). I felt like Thénardier and almost burst into song, although the effect would have been lost over the sound of effluence farting and sloshing about.
Mind, it was good to see Enya doing her bit for faecal disposal.
Two interesting facts for you, though. The sewers of Paris all have charming little street signs on that mirror the roads above so, in theory, you could cheerfully make your way from one side of the city to the other underground, dealing with logs and detritus rather than tourists and looky-looky-men. I’m genuinely not sure which I’d prefer. Secondly, they have a surprisingly old-fashioned way of cleaning their sewers – they use a big black ball almost exactly the same width as the tunnel and send it on its merry way, pushed along by the water building up behind it and sloughing all the stank from the walls of the sewer. They ought to call the ball ‘Scan Bran’, given they do exactly the same thing. I posed for a comedy photo bending over in front of the giant black ball and was roundly tutted at by the tour group which had caught up with us. Ah well.
I’ve hidden the quote for this photo in white text because honestly, I’m ashamed to put it. The caption is: “The view from 10″ into my rectum, if I’m lucky”
I know I’m awful.
Fancy a wander?
We made our way to the exit and Paul looked at his watch with concern. Zut alors! We had a lunch reservation over the other side of the river and we’d never be able to make it, so into another Uber we went. Here’s the thing: we hadn’t quite thought out our day, because going straight to lunch in a nice restaurant after spending an hour floating about in an active sewer probably doesn’t make a nice experience for anyone near us. You know what makes it worse? We were eating here:
Yep – a restaurant entirely in the dark. What happens when you can’t see? Your other senses increase in power. I’m not sure what the French is for ‘goodness, has someone just shat in the bread basket‘ and I don’t want to know. We did try to hurriedly daub ourselves in Tom Ford but meh, there’s only so much you can do, right?
Let me explain how this works – you go in and you’re not given a menu, but rather, you have a chat with the hostess about the types of food you like (meat), what you dislike (fish), what you’re allergic to (pineapple) and what drinks you want. The chef then builds your meals to suit your tastes but you do not know what you’re going to get. It’s then time to eat – your waiter (who is completely blind) comes to get you, you form a human conga chain and into the pitch black you go. You are led to your table and told where your glass is, where your plate is, your cutlery, all at times on a clock – so the wine is at your ten o’clock, forks at 4, and so on. It is an amazingly bewildering experience – at once disorientating and exciting. There’s not a speck of light to be seen – no fire exit signs, no mobiles lighting up (you have to leave those in a locker) – all you have to look at is the colourful swirls that your eyes mark as they try and adjust.
It’s amazing how quick you get used to it though. I was drinking a cocktail and buttering bread like an old hand and everything was going smashing until a voice seemingly inside my ear told me my starter had arrived. I was a moment away from an especially ladylike shriek. Our starters were placed in front of us – an apple, goat cheese and beetroot salad – and we gamely set about trying to eat. Paul gave up trying to use his cutlery after about a minute and just used his fingers like the Peterborian sloth that he is. I pressed on, although it took me four minutes before I realised I was holding my fork the wrong way and all the food was simply tumbling away from me.
As we stumbled our way through our starter the restuarant began to fill up – a relief if only to provide some background noise. When you can’t see and there’s hardly any sound, you start to wonder if you’re simply on a prank TV show and the walls are going to fall down, revealing yourself with beetroot all over your face to a clapping audience. Two lovely Irish ladies joined our corner table and were kind enough not to mention the stench. We don’t normally like to talk whilst we eat because we’re fat and frightened we’ll miss something but actually, the lack of lighting removed any social anxieties and we chatted away like old friends. It was brilliant fun! The dessert was gingerbread pudding and ice cream, although by the time I’d managed to chase my ice-cream around the plate and onto the fork it was merely warm cream.
I took a picture of our dinner so you can see what you get:
The time came to leave, with our waiter gently touching us on the shoulder and unusually not adding, ‘please, Sir, leave some for the others’. I’m not used to such hospitality! We stood up to leave and I became acutely aware of a problem – we’d been put into a corner which was fine when the restuarant was empty, but leaving required squeezing past people in the dark and moving furniture. How embarrassing. Simply leaving the place became a dramatic affair – I shunted someone into their starter, the waiter collided with a table edge that he wasn’t expecting to ‘be there’ and I think Paul might have accidentally impregnated someone. There was a lot of grunting, dissatisfied sighing and profuse apologising, rather like my college years.
Before we left we were shown what we had actually been given and it was genuinely surprising – I was so sure, for example, that I’d had apple pie, but no, it was gingerbread. Paul thought he’d had steak but it had been lamb. I thought I’d received a handjob but it turned out it was just the waiter straightening out the napkin on my lap.
We would heartily recommend.
Now, I’m faced with a bit of a dilemma here. I could prattle on for another 1000 words or so about what we did next, or I could get to the tomato and rice soup and wrap up Paris with one last entry. You know, because I envisage you sat at home yawning your way through the posts, I’ll do exactly that. I know you ladies like length but what’s length without something tasty at the end of it? Let’s get to the soup.
to make tomato and rice soup, you’ll need:
one lovely large white onion, roughly chopped
three celery stalks, chopped
3 small carrots, chopped (try and cut everything the same size – nice small chunks)
good salt and pepper
1/2 tsp of chilli flakes (leave it out if you’ve got a sensitive nipsy)
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
1.5 litres (yes, that’s right) of good chicken or vegetable stock
150g of brown rice (white is fine if you only have that, we used arborio rice)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
100g of spinach leaves
Optional: if you’ve got a proper Parmesan with a hard rind, feel free to cut off the rind and chuck it in whilst everything simmers. You’ll fish it out after, but it just imparts a nice creaminess to the soup. Also, if you can’t be arsed chopping veg, you can make this so much quicker by buying a bag of soffritto from Waitrose – it’s a quid and consists of perfectly chopped onion, celery and carrots. Lifesaver! Also good if you’re a clumsy bugger like me when it comes to chopping.
to make tomato and rice soup, you should:
with a few sprays of oil (half a syn, divide between six if you’re that arse) slowly sweat off your carrot, onion and celery until they soften
season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes
add the stock, puree, Worcestershire sauce, chopped tomatoes, bay leaves and rice
leave to simmer for about 30 minutes – you want the rice softened and some of the liquid bubbled off
chuck in your rind if you’re using it whilst it simmers
you can leave it to bubble for longer if you like a thicker soup
when ready to serve, remove the rind and bay leaves, stir in the spinach and enjoy!
You might be thinking you ought to stop there and not bother with the breadcrumbs, but please: spend a syn or two and make them. It takes no time at all, they keep well in the fridge and they just add a little extra into the soup. Why not make your dinners the very best they can be?
to make basil, garlic and cheese breadcrumbs, you’ll need:
Here for the pea and coconut soup? At least you’re not going to have to battle through paragraphs of my tut tonight, because it’s a quick post! Well, fairly quick. If the thought of pea and coconut soup makes you feel a bit unsettled, don’t worry: I felt the same, but this was one of the best soups I’ve ever tasted. But first…
Funny how a smell can take you back, isn’t it?
I only mention it because Paul bought some Citrus Fresh Head and Shoulders at Costco (so we’ve got enough shampoo now to see us through three nuclear winters – and I remind you, neither of us have hair) and the smell alone transported me back to a summer fifteen years ago. I was holidaying in Montreuil-sur-Mer with a good friend. It was boiling hot and I was having to shower in a shower block that looked like the origin site for whatever plague happened in The Walking Dead. You had to chew your way through the flies to get to the showers. Anyway, I happened across a shampoo in a Carrefour somewhere and never looked back.
You need to remember this was in the days when I had long, flowing black hair all the way down to the small of my back – it used to smell of farts, no-one understanding me and shit weed, though I always kept it in remarkable condition. This stuff was a bloody revelation – I came waltzing out of that shower block a new man. You know in the Herbal Essences advert when some liver-lipped strumpet fair creams her knickers when she washes her locks? Imagine that, but with Meat Loaf’s stunt double instead.
Anyway, having just washed my beard with it, it’s like I’d been transported back fifteen years back to that shower block. I could feel the verrucas forming on my feet like barnacles, my bowels rumbling with mild gastroenteritis. Ah, to be young again. I have the same smell-trip experience with Calvin Klein’s Crave, which reminds me of time spent in London with an ex, trying not to bring my Iceland ready meal up as his unwashed mother talked dirty down the phone to a punter. She was a sex-chat operator: thank God they were phoning, because if they’d seen her sitting there with a litre of Iceland Choc-Chip wedged in between her boobs clipping her toenails and talking about her fanny being ‘hot’, they’d sharp have lost their lob-on.
Ah, memories. Aside from that, it’s been a terribly uneventful weekend: we’ve had a joiner around building things, we’ve had the gardener around to trim the bushes and we’ve had an electrician in to fit another kitchen light. It’s been exhausting watching people work.
That said, I did manage to embarrass myself at Costco. See, we’re a big fan of Avex water bottles – they’re the only ones we’ve had that don’t leak – but we’ve managed to lose six of them. So, of course, we went to Costco to bulk-buy a new set. However: disaster!
When we got there we discovered that they’ve changed the design to include a weird rubber nipple to drink from. Awful. How did I embarrass myself? Because I loudly told Paul that ‘I didn’t want those ones, they’ve got a nip on’ just as the two Asian ladies who were handling and admiring them turned to look at me with complete disgust. I tried to explain what I meant but in the absence of the original bottles to show as comparison, what could I do? I dug myself a hole trying to apologise despite there being absolutely no racist intent behind my comment before Paul dragged me away and into the freezer section to cool down. Good lord.
Oh, as a final note, we managed to spend £270 in Costco. We went to buy water bottles. As a tight-arse Geordie this upsets me to no end, although we do now have 192 tins of Branston Beans, enough dishwasher tablets to dissolve a body on eco-boost mood, more tea than the SS Agamemnon and, inexplicably, an entire collection of Thomas the Tank Engine books. We can’t help it, it’s Costco, they have a way of making you think that actually you DO need to buy 96 toilet rolls at once, and it gets us every time.
Anyway, this was only supposed to be a quick post because I wanted to get this recipe up here – it’s absolutely bloody amazing. Considering it takes no time at all to make, it tastes divine and is very good for you. We got the recipe from Anna Jones’ new book, A Modern Way To Cook, which has been a bit of a revelation – veggie recipes you’d actually want to eat. Paul almost made me put it on the bonfire outside when he saw how insufferably smug a lot of the writing is, but the recipes themselves? Tip-top. I’d recommend: buy it here. This soup really does take no time at all. Let’s do this. This makes enough for four big bowls of soup. Oh: and it freezes, so perfect for portioning up.
to make pea and coconut soup, you’ll need:
a bunch of spring onions
1kg of frozen peas
one decent veggie stock cube, or if you’re fancy like us, you’ll use bouillon powder – made into 850ml of stock
a good bunch of basil, coriander or both – and we used dry because we didn’t have fresh basil in – 1tsp of each
200ml of Blue Dragon coconut milk (7 syns)
to make pea and coconut soup, you should:
get a good heavy-bottomed pan (heavy-bottomed pans will spread the heat better but won’t allow things to catch) (and fat bottomed girls you make the rocking world go round!)
slice up your spring onions nice and fine
put the coconut (every fucking time I type coconut I type cocknut – god, that would be interesting as a soup ingredient, no?) milk into the pan on a medium heat and then tip the spring onion in
cook for a couple of minutes until the onion has softened a bit
tip in the 1kg of peas, add the stock and bring to the boil – then allow it to simmer for three minutes or so then remove from the heat
chuck in all your herbs and the juice of your lemon and then blend the bugger with a stick blender
serve up, adding a few fresh leaves on top, some black pepper and if you’re super fancy like us, a drop or two of basil oil, but that’s just being decadent
Enjoy! This falls between 1.5 syns and 2 syns – it’s seven syns overall and I’m not going to count that extra quarter syn per serving. If you want to, do it, but haway. Also, if you haven’t got a stick blender, don’t worry – get one, but don’t spend a lot of money on it. We’ve got a cheapy stick blender and it does the job perfectly. Only a tenner on Amazon, see?
I hope someone makes this and enjoys it – it’s a bloody revelation in our house! Paul made a joke about The Exorcist as I brought it in (it’s famously barfed up by little Linda Blair as she’s possessed by the Devil) and I think it’s worth mentioning, we can’t be held responsible if you summon the Devil in and/or start playing ‘Hide the Crucifix’. Fair warning.
Hot and sour slimming soup? But of course! However, I demand your attention for a minute more.
I mentioned previously about a family situation that was taking up our time – my uncle died yesterday after a long, brave fight with various issues. Now, I’m not mentioning that because I want people to send me messages wishing me well or that they’re thinking of me, which is sweet, but death is death, it comes to us all, and I’m dealing with it in my own way.
It’s been on the cards for a couple of years – we’ve had that many premature dashes to the hospital as ‘he won’t last an hour’ that I’ve actually been half-tempted to throw a blue light on top of the Smart Car and pick up patients on the way. Actually, the Smart Car would make for a shit ambulance, wouldn’t it? Unless it was a dwarf needing a corn plaster we’d be buggered.
No, the reason I mention it is because, like I’ve said so many times before, I wanted to praise the NHS. Every single person – with no exceptions – that I have dealt with (and I know the same goes for my mother) at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary has been an absolute delight. Cleaners full of smiles and chatter at 2am in the morning, nurses rushed off their feet but never too busy for a smile, doctors making sure that the terminally ill shuffle off with comfort and compassion. For the last two weeks my uncle has been in the Critical Care or High Dependency Unit fighting for his life and not once has anyone shown us anything less than courtesy and good humour as we visited. Even my black-as-pitch jokes about nipping shut his oxygen tube to save the NHS’s strained budget were met with laughter, rather than cold looks and being asked to step outside by a stern consultant.
We are so, so, so lucky to have an NHS, and we’re luckier still that the folks serving the public – from the very top of the ladder to the very bottom – have their hearts open and pure dedication running through. They were tremendous when my nana died and they’ve been wonderful this time around as well. More praise is needed. And more money. Lots more money. To the folks that make the difference.
One day last week Paul and I were in that hospital on ‘dead alert’ (as it were) from 10am to 4am the next day. Let me tell you, that’s more than enough time to think about things. Hell, we spent long enough in the little room where they sit the relatives in case of ‘bad news’ that I can recreate it wholly in my head. You know when Sherlock Holmes (modern) visits his mind palace? I’m like that now, only with more leaflets about pressure sores and Alzheimers fluttering across my vision. That’s perhaps one thing they could improve – the waiting room has those awful pleather sofas that invariably make a big sucking farting noise when you hoist yourself up and everything is painted that slightly diseased yellow so favoured of the old NHS – weirdly, it’s the colour of the white ceiling immediately above Paul’s mother’s favourite chair. The ‘nicotine lacquer’ effect, I believe.
It was a very sad room made worse by the fact that we were joined, for what was the longest hour of my entire life, by a chap who just wouldn’t shut the fuck up. He entered the room just as I had laid down on the sofa to try and fall asleep on Paul’s lap (what can I say: I find the smell of chaffed thighs and knobs soporific). He exclaimed loudly and backed out the door, clearly thinking he’d interrupted me mid-blowjob. Because, yes, who doesn’t get aroused in the ‘is he dead yet’ room? Nothing gets me more rigid than posters urging me to think F-A-S-T in case of stroke. Anyway, once he was sure that we weren’t indulging in some grief-based fellatio, he took a seat. And that was very much that: no further chance of sleep.
I heard about his maladies, I heard about his travel to the hospital, I heard what was wrong with the NHS, I heard about his taxi driver friend who had just had a heart attack, I heard about the price of fuel and I can faithfully recount details of the last seventeen passengers he had picked up in his taxi. He didn’t pick up on my social cues – my polite but firm nodding, my glazed eyes, the fact that I’d stuffed my ears with pages from a 1997 copy of Take a Break from the reading rack. I did have a titter at someone’s answer to the arrow-word – (NAUTICAL TRANSPORT (9) was answered as M-O-T-E-R-B-I-K-E) – I rather thought it had to be one of my nana’s old issues where instead of thinking things through she’d just jam any old word in as long as it had roughly the right amount of letters. Even, sometimes, when it didn’t: MURDERERER was a favourite of mine. Anyway, sensing this chap was one of those dear fellows who could talk underweater if he had to, we moved downstairs.
A&E at 1am in the morning is an interesting place, isn’t it? A waiting time of four hours and I reckon 70% of the people waiting were smashed out of their face. Lots of bloodied noses, black eyes, bust lips. How I pity folk having to deal with all that dross. I can’t bear being around drunk people when I’m sober, I’d be Harold Shipman-ing the lot of them before anyone could say ‘check for an air bubble’. We spent the rest of the evening drinking piss-poor tea and staring moodily at our phones. I played Super Mario Run until my already boss-eyes went awry. A very long night.
Ah well, it’s all over now. Like I said, no need for sympathy, we’re fine, it’s very sad but nowt that can be done. Life goes on. Well, mostly.
Right, let’s get to the hot and sour slimming soup. Why slimming? Dunno. Something to do with the vinegar! Can I make a plea with you? Don’t be put off by the appearance of this dish – give it a go, it’s a really tasty, quick soup full of nutrients and taste. This makes enough for four full bowls so although technically it should be 0.75 syns, you can bugger off if you think I’m including the quarter syn. Half syn per portion!
to make hot and sour slimming soup, you need:
6 shittake mushrooms, sliced
2 chicken stock cubes
1 tbsp soy sauce
60g bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks (that’s half of a small tuna-sized tin, drained)
2 pork chops, all visible fat removed
100g firm tofu, cut into matchsticks
¼ tsp white pepper
4 tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp cornflour, mixed with 4 tbsp water (3 syns)
1 egg, beaten
1 spring onion, chopped
to make hot and sour slimming soup, you simply must:
chop the pork chops into small strips about half an inch long, and quarter of an inch thick, and set aside
in a large saucepan, bring 1.2 litres of water to the boil, crumble in the stock cube and stir until dissolved, and then add the soy sauce
add the bamboo shoots, mushrooms and pork to the pan, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about three minutes
add the tofu, pepper and vinegar to the pan and bring to the boil again
stir in the cornflour mixture and keep stirring until the soup has thickened a bit
turn off the heat and pour in the beaten egg, stirring gently but continuously so it doesn’t scramble into one big manky lump
pour into bowls, sprinkle on some spring onions and eat!
Looking for more soup ideas? More ideas on meat? Things to do with tofu – well, you’re shit out of luck, it’s the first time we’ve used it. Even so, click the buttons below!