chicken cordon bleu burgers

Here for the chicken cordon bleu burgers, which are so-called because god-knows-why? I understand. Far too many Slimming World burger recipes out there that have all the texture of an old gym mat. This, however, does not, and you know why?  We use chicken breast minced up ourselves rather than that watery muck you get in the supermarket that they cheekily call turkey mince. But first, speaking of mincers, it’s part three of our trip around Newcastle. Don’t want to read it? Scroll down to the food pictures…

click here for part one | click here for part two

When Paul first invited me to explore a foisty, smelly, starved-of-oxygen tunnel that has welcomed thousands of men from the 1930s onwards and now exists cobwebbed, abandoned and occasionally leaking, my first thought was that he could have warned me his mother was visiting and the second was ‘Classic Peterborough’. However, once I’d finished dry-heaving into my eggs benedict and Paul had reassured me that we weren’t about to be visited by his Mother Inferior, I realised he meant the Victoria Tunnel. Thank the Lord. We dressed in suitable tunnel-exploring attire (i.e. my work shoes and a thin coat – we’re Geordies remember, we won’t put on a second layer until at least two layers of skin have died in the cold) and we were on our way – by happy coincidence the tour started a mere five minutes away from our hotel. Naturally, we were five minutes late.

What is the Victoria Tunnel then? It’ll cause no gasps at all if I tell you it’s a tunnel, because, well, it is – but it has an interesting history. It was originally built in the 19th century to transport coal from a coal mine at one end of Newcastle (Spital Tongues, which I’ve always thought was a glorious name because it sounds like one of the made-up diseases you’d get in Theme Hospital) (which was a far better game than Theme Park and I’ll kick the tits off anyone who disagrees) down to the Tyne, where waiting boats would take it away. I had desperately hoped that the tunnel was used to get rid of the after-effects of burning coal in a boiler because then I could have used the killer line ‘…not the first time filthy slag has been deposited on Newcastle’s Quayside’ but it wasn’t to be. When Hitler started getting a bit rumbustious in 1939 the tunnel was hastily converted into an air-raid shelter, capable of taking thousands of men at once at the drop of a hat. But aren’t we all?

After the war finished and victory was declared the tunnel was closed until 2008 when a load of lovely folks – most if not all in some form of knitwear, I imagine – applied for a grant from the lottery, carefully repaired the tunnel and opened it up to guided tours. It’s listed as the number one attraction for Newcastle on Tripadvisor and I find that absolutely charming: I think of the money that gets spent on massive multiplex cinemas or exciting galleries and then look at this wee little tunnel full of absolutely nothing and it seems to captivate everyone who enters. I reckon that’s down to the volunteers who run it, and so, I’ll pick up my story back at the beginning of the tour.

We were warmly welcomed by a chap whose name I’ve already forgotten (purely because these days it’s all I can do to remember to blink) who sat us down in the waiting area around a table seemingly filled with furious looking people. Admittedly we were late by a moment or two (we’d made up some time power-mincing down the bank) but each pair of eyes conveyed the strong message that if either of us collapsed with heart difficulties down in the tunnel, not a single soul would attempt resuscitation. A couple of the kids looked like those awful children who speak in elongated vowels and whose triple-barrelled surname would wreck every form they ever completed. With my beard smouldering from the sheer force of ill-will we were experiencing, we turned our attention to our tour guides who were explaining the health and safety rules – no smoking (sensible), no going off on your own (correct), no entombing folks you don’t like down there forever (Fenneeeeeer!) and no eating. Paul looked stricken – he had a packet of Polo Mints burning a hole in his pocket. I told him to keep schtum. The reason there’s no rats or spiders down in the tunnel is because there’s no food for them to feast on, something which caught me by surprise as I’ve never seen someone from Newcastle walk more than 300m without dropping Greggs crumbs around them like greasy dandruff. We set off.

The tour begins at their visitor centre out on Lime Street and involves a short walk around the Ouseburn Valley, taking in sights such as Seven Stories and the chimneys. I used to live down on Newcastle’s Quayside a decade ago and the gentrification of the Ouseburn Valley was in full swing – I like to think that the ruffians were so taken by my fetching Florence and Fred shirts and effortless style that they thought ‘we could do that’. The river Ouseburn runs down through the burn and trickles out into the Tyne. Way back when, the riparian businesses (long since gone) dotted around used to tip all manner of chemicals and literal shite into the river, where it would eventually flow out to sea to bother some far-off Scandinavian country. The glitz! It had previously been a pretty overgrown burn under the bridges with a couple of decent pubs about and any manner of drugs available. I’m told. Now it’s still a bit ramshackle, possibly by virtue of being in close proximity to the rougher parts of Byker (if Newcastle was a slender runner’s leg, Byker is its gravel-filled knee), but full of galleries and pubs and quirky (for quirky, read ‘mildly hipsterish’) places to eat.

That’s not me jogging, in case you’re wondering.

We don’t just have fancy bridges in Newcastle, y’knaa.

Your Majesty.

Newcastle Council spent £4.7m to install a set of gates at the end of the stream to, amongst other reasons, keep the water level high to make the place look more attractive. Naturally, this barrier worked for a few months, and then…didn’t. It remains permanently open now, allowing the water in the stream to disappear into the Tyne twice a day, which in turn leads to the attractive sight of a smelly, almost drained river-bed to enjoy as you walk to the entrance of the tunnel. I’ve done a bit of research into the barrage to see why it hasn’t been fixed and it turns out that it does still work, but they just keep it open otherwise silt builds up behind it and stinks the place out. Dammed if you do, dammed if you divvint.

I’m digressing again. Our companionable host talked us through an excellent potted history of the area and led us up to the entrance of the tunnel on Ouse Street. We were given a hard-hat and a torch and you need to believe me that I’ve never felt so butch. I was a hi-vis jacket away from drinking too much and striking the children. We both struggled with getting the hat on – Paul because he has silly sausage fingers and couldn’t get the strap to loosen and me because I have a colossal, elephantine head. You know that thing David Cameron has where his face looks as though he fell onto a high-pressure tyre-inflator? I have that, and subsequently every hat causes me difficulty. I finally managed to extend the strap far enough to balance the hat on my head (just) and into the tunnel we went.

The turtle couldn’t help us.

You’ll float too.

Can I just stress how unflattering the light is? Paul doesn’t normally look like he’s fashioned from Trex. I like the angry eyebrows my glasses shadow has given me though. Please send us a stamped addressed envelope if you want an A2 laminated version to practice your snail-trails on.

Now, I’ll say this. It’s very hard to make a tour of a tunnel interesting via the medium of text – we walked for about 90 minutes, stopping and starting to hear stories from our two tour guides. Historical tours have a tendency to be dry, I find, with too much focus on the ‘facts’ of the matter, but this one was smashing because it told you of the people involved and their stories. It makes all the difference. What paints the better picture: someone droning on about brick density or someone telling you how, when everyone was sheltered in the tunnel, an incendiary bomb hit one of the sugar tanks in a nearby factory and the resulting fire resulted in a load of caramel being made? Which was great for the rationed, starving kids – at least until the diseased rats started chewing on it. There was an especially ghoulish part towards the end where they told the tale of three chaps who were caught at one end of the tunnel whilst an out-of-control coal-wagon (itself almost the exact size of the tunnel) hurtled towards them from the other end. Our guides turned off the lights for thirty seconds so you were stood in absolute blackness contemplating how it would feel to hear the rumble of your own approaching, almost-guaranteed death.

I have to confess the dramatic moment was somewhat ruined for me by the sound of Paul crunching a Polo approximately 8mm from my ear. In the dark it sounded like a horse snacking on gravel and even though I couldn’t see them, the heat registering on my face told me we were the focal point of the group’s angry stares once more. Meh.

We walked up a steep slope (fear not, fellow fatties: the slope, though steep, is short and we managed it with hardly a problem, though the guy in front did have to put up with me shallow-breathing in his ear for the next ten minutes) to be told about further tunnels that lay ahead, sadly out-of-bounds, and how the toilets worked and illness spread. It was fantastic. We made to walk back out of the tunnel with Paul and I, usually the cow’s tail (always at the back), leading the way. Naturally, I banged my head on a particularly low part of the tunnel at the top of the slope, leading to the sight of my hard-hat bouncing merrily away into the darkness. It made such a cacophony of bangs and crashes that, for the third time that morning, the skin on my neck started crinkling from the ire of the crowd behind. It didn’t help that each ‘for goodness sake’ tut from behind sounded like someone firing a musket.

Thoroughly chagrined but pleasantly informed, we all made our way to the exit where, after tipping the guides and assuring everyone in the group that we’d never meet again, we all dispersed. I did plan on writing up the full day but, having spent 1700 words telling you how we went into a tunnel and back out again, I’ll not bore you further.

The Victoria Tunnel is open for guided tours only and tickets must be booked in advance. We took the two hour tour and the time flew by – the volunteers are incredibly knowledgeable and made the whole thing very interesting indeed. You can find more information by clicking here and I strongly encourage you to do so. Don’t be put off by the idea of a long walk, it’s not bad at all, though you may struggle if you’re claustrophobic, although one of the guides will whisk you straight back to the entrance if you start getting the heebie-jeebies. It thoroughly deserves its number one spot on Tripadvisor!

OK I know, gush much.


Let’s get straight to the food. This makes enough for four burgers, see.

Got a bit of a wide-on for our chips? Of course you have. They’re Actifry chips. Not Actifaux from Aldi, not the Airtower or the Hairdryer or whatever you’ve managed to hide in the pram dashing out of Wilkinsons, but a good old fashioned Actifry. Get decent potatoes, use a teaspoon of oil and a teaspoon of worcestershire sauce, and you’re sorted. Life’s too short for shit chips man, buy an Actifry whilst they’re cheap.

to make chicken cordon bleu burgers you will need:

  • 4 wholemeal buns (HeB), sliced (yes, we’ve used a brioche bun for the photo because, well let’s face it – they taste nicer. If you do the same, remember to syn it!)
  • 400g chicken breast (you can use chicken mince if you want, but chicken breast is better – the ones in our Musclefood deal are excellent!)
  • 12g panko (2 syns) (normal breadcrumbs will do)
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • good grind of salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp seasoning of your choice (we used a steak seasoning mix, but use whatever you like – cajun, fajita, garlic – whatever you want!)
  • 4 slices of ham
  • 4 slices leerdammer light cheese (2x HeA, so half a HeA each)
  • 2 little gem lettuce

Oh god I can hear it now. I can. WHASS PANKO PLZ HUN. I beg of you, if you have that question, click this mysterious link… Panko is not this:

to make chicken cordon bleu burgers you should:

  • if you’re using chicken breast (which you should, because it tastes better!) chuck it into a food processor and pulse until it has a mince-ish consistency. This won’t take much doing – be careful not to over do it
  • mix together the chicken, panko, paprika, salt, pepper and seasoning into a bowl and mix well
  • divide the mixture into four and squash into burger shapes
  • next – cook the burgers. we used our Tefal Optigrill for this and it worked a treat but you can do them under the grill too
    • for the Optigrill, press the ‘Burger’ button, wait for it to heat up and cook until the light is Red
    • otherwise, preheat the grill to medium-high and cook the burgers until they’re done, turning halfway through
  • add the lettuce to the bun, and top with the burger, then the cheese and then the ham

If you can’t get enough of our recipes, just click the buttons below to find even more!

poultrysmallfakeawayssmall     tastersmallsoupsmallnaughtyfooddrinkssmallbbqsmallonepot

J

one-pot half-syn homemade bacon baked beans

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

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

click here for part one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come again? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

to make homemade bacon baked beans, you should:

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

Enjoy!

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

porksmallfakeawayssmall lunchsmall   breakfastsmall

J

the best Slimming World carbonara bar none

You want a perfect Slimming World carbonara? Of course you do. You’re a person of excellent taste. But first…

Expecting Copenhagen, were you? Please. I’ve got something much better lined up this week – I’m interrupting the Copenhagen posts to slide in a few girthy entries straight from my home town, Newcastle.

Yes, we’re having a holiday in our own city. A huuurm away from huuurm, if you prefer. Let me explain why. At the start of the year we were trying to come up with ideas for different sorts of holidays and Paul had the bright idea of not going ‘away’ but instead, seeing our city through the eyes of a tourist. I thought that was magical – how often do we ignore what is on our doorstep in the pursuit to get away to foreign climes? Plus, any holiday where I can speak the language is always a plus, even if Paul struggles with the finer points of the Geordie tongue.

I’m resisting the urge to make a rim-job joke within the opening paragraphs, though fair warning that such resolve will crumble like a wet Rich Tea by the end of all of this.

The original plan was to stay at the worst rated hotel in Newcastle followed by the best – but we couldn’t do it. We’re not snobs, no no, but I do rather like having teeth and I think that this would preclude us entry into the lowest-ranked hotel. Have a look at the reviews and tell me I’m wrong. I draw the line in sleeping in someone else’s blood, especially when I haven’t caused it myself. The flipside of this was that we almost booked into Jesmond Dene House but sadly, they had no availability. We flipped a coin and decided on the Hotel du Vin, which was decent enough middle-ground and far away from the Quayside to rule out having to listen to chavs fighting in the Travelodge.

I’ll also say how timely this trip was – a couple of weeks ago we got a horrendously rude message from someone having a proper go at us for ‘showing off our holidays’ when ‘she couldn’t afford to even leave the house’. Honestly, this is unfair – we work bloody hard for our little holidays and you better believe we’re as tight as a camel’s arse in a sandstorm between them. But even so – you don’t need to go anywhere ‘far’ to have a holiday. Stay at home and make a weekend of going into town and doing all the tourist things and I guarantee your eyes will be opened. However, if you’re reading this seething because we have the temerity to write about our personal lives on our personal blog, tough titty!

The night before – actually, at roughly 11pm the night before – Paul told me that we had no clean clothes for the weekend as all our washing was hanging on the washing line outside in the pouring rain. Ah great. He then went to bed with a headache meaning I had to throw all our clothes in the wash and then arrange for the afternoon off the next day so I could come home and iron. Honestly, you’ve never known glamour like my life. I rushed home, rushed around ironing, rushed around cleaning, rushed around making sure we’ve packed the eight hundred chargers that come with us, and then, after a quick check to make sure I’d forgotten absolutely everything, I was away.

The Hotel du Vin is one of those hotels that is charming, comfortable and pleasant, but a little too try-hard. If you’ve ever stayed in the Malmaison – where they pour on the ‘sexy weekend away’ schtick with such vim that I’m surprised they don’t have someone installed in the lift to suck you off as you select your floor – you’ll know what I mean. Everything is ever-so-slightly tacky, both in sound and feel, and always puts me in mind of somewhere an ageing accountant would take his impressionable secretary for a steamy, 10-minute affair. Perhaps I overthink things. The Hotel du Vin dials the sluttishness back a bit and replaces it with ‘hey, we’re cool, we’re hip’, because nothing is cooler than a verruca-covered bath mat to stop you tumbling out of the shower and signing a damage waiver form for the car-park, and is slightly better for it.

The last time we stayed in a Hotel du Vin was the night before we got married. The good thing about being a gay couple is that there’s no angst about seeing each other the night before the wedding, which was great as it meant I could get one last bout of unbridled, unmarried sex in, though I did have to make it quick as Paul had only gone out for a few minutes to get some ice. I attempted to joke about this with the lady on reception as she checked me in but all my ‘jokes’ were met with the strained smile of someone for whom I was nothing more than a mere obstacle between her desk and her car. I enquired about an upgrade only to be told that such a thing was ‘inconceivable’ and that we really ought to get a move on. She showed me across the courtyard to my room and I settled in, for once able to enjoy a holiday hotel room without having to hear Paul talk me through his bowel movements as he ‘tests out the facilities’. Watching Tipping Point without my eyes watering like I’d been chopping onions filled with mustard gas was a revelation.

The room itself was pleasant enough save for the fact it faced out onto a courtyard full of braying hoorays all guffawing and spluttering about their latest stock conquests and other such flimflam. I’d spotted online that the hotel has a ‘cigar shack’ and it was sat there in the courtyard – it sounds like a lovely way to spend a couple of hours until you realise it’s a wicker ball full of people with blue-grey lips and orange-tinted fringes choking on their Lambert and Butlers. Between the braying and the sounds of people bringing up their hockle, the window had to remain firmly shut, which in turn meant the room was far too hot for comfort. Can’t knock any points off for this though, we’re perpetually too hot in hotel rooms – I like the bedroom chilled to the point where my balls freeze like clock-weights. Never managed to find that setting on a hotel air-conditioning unit and indeed, this one was no exception – it whirred and gasped but made barely any difference to the room temperature. It was quicker and more efficient to crunch a few Polos and breathe out.

Paul joined me moments before I Alex Mack-ed my way through the floor through heat exhaustion and, after a shower and a good, unashamed poo, off we went into the night. The beauty of Newcastle is that it’s quite a compact city – most places can be reached within a generous fifteen minute waddle, although I’d exercise caution if the thought of steep gradients leaves you pre-emptively clutching at your heart. Don’t let it put you off – you can jump onto the bright yellow electric buses that whirr about serving the Quayside, or an Uber from the hotel to the centre of town is about £4. You can use a local taxi firm if you desire, though I find that you have about a 1/5 chance of getting a load of spittle-flecked rhetoric about immigrants to go with your taxi ride. That said, I had a lovely taxi driver take me to the hotel who wanted to set up his own blog writing taxi stories – if you’re reading this, please do! You were funny and it made a pleasant change for me not to have to nod my way through a conversation about tits and football like I care, understand or could possibly relate.

Off we went – and we’ve got some bloody good blog entries coming up over the next few days to cover this…


Right, shall we do the perfect carbonara recipe? Yes. Why is it perfect? Because it’s not made with bloody Quark, bloody natural bloody yoghurt or some other random ingredient that adds nothing to the taste other than make the dish look as though it’s already been eaten. Remember we’re trying to move towards ‘proper’ food and this is a perfect example of that – syn-free and delicious and made properly. This makes enough for four normal portions or two big fat bowls of deliciousness. Remember to share!

to make perfect Slimming World carbonara you will need:

  • 350g spaghetti
  • 140g bacon medallions, diced
  • 60g parmesan, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (a microplane grater is the perfect tool for the garlic AND the parmesan in this one – if you haven’t got one yet you’re missing out)
  • 1 egg, plus 4 yolks

We used the medallions from our fabulous Musclefood deal in this and they were a corker – you can see all of our excellent deals, including a new pick ‘n’ mix one right here

to make perfect Slimming World carbonara you should:

  • cook the pasta according to the instructions, keeping aside a cup of cooking water and drain
  • meanwhile, cook the bacon bits until they’re nice and crispy
  • add the garlic and cook for another minute, then remove from the heat
  • in a bowl, whisk to together the eggs with 50g of the parmesan to make a nice yellow thickish paste
  • pour the egg mix into the spagetti and stir well, add a tablespoon of the cooking water to loosen it a bit, and add a bit more if you need to – the heat of the pasta will help to cook the sauce
  • add the bacon and give it another good toss to mix it in
  • serve, and sprinkle over the remaining parmesan

Still wanting to stuff your hole? Just click one of the buttons below to be transported to even more recipe ideas!

porksmall lunchsmallpastasmall    slowcookersmallovernight-oatstastersmall

Part two coming soon! Enjoy!

J

roast peach, parma ham and Gruyère salad

Don’t worry yer boobs: the roast peach, parma ham and Gruyère salad will follow shortly, so try and keep your girdle on. But first, it’s part two of our trip to Copenhagen, land of swearing children and amazing sandwiches. But even before we get to that know that this might all be cut short again by my new office chair collapsing under me – we finally caved and bought a new one after almost a year of crippling back-ache and slowly sinking into the carpet as we typed/wanked/twanked. However, in our haste to get out of Costco before spending our annual wage on bulk-buying baked beans and Pepsi Max Cherry, we bought a cheap office chair without looking at the instructions. How foolish: there’s a weight limit of 15 stone. I’m closer to being a straight black lady than I am under 15 stone. The whole thing is creaking ominously under my arse. It’s like the time we went to Disney and took a Segway – the weight limit was a good four stone under my weight. Did it anyway. You’ve never felt guilt until you’ve made an autonomous self-balancing scooter shriek with pain.

click here for part one

When you last left us I was barrelling down the plane stairs on my arse like a low-budget Indiana Jones skit and Paul was looking disdainfully at me. No concern, ever. I could have been sucked straight into the engine and he would have merely tutted and wiped the resulting James-jam off his face.

Let me tell you, that certainly wouldn’t have been the first time.

Oh, and I forgot to post our typical photo from the aeroplane, so here we are. I know it’s a pretty pat photo but hey.

After our recent experience of waiting approximately four years to clear security at Charles de Gaulle airport, we were naturally concerned about clearing security, not least because my bladder was at full ‘strain’. I couldn’t go on the plane – it was an old easyJet plane with the packed in seats and once I’m sat down, that’s me for the entire flight come hell or controlled descent into high water. However, thankfully, the wait was minimal indeed and, rather unlike our visit to France, the customs people were cheerful and didn’t look at us visitors to their fine country as though we’d swam up through the sewer. Oh and the best bit about Copenhagen Airport? You have to walk past all the people waiting to board the flight back home after their holiday. Don’t you lie to me, you love it as well: getting to grin and wink and do the ‘WAHEY I’M ON HOLIDAY’ walk whilst they stand there looking as though they’ve been told they’ll be sat in the cargo hold for their flight. It doesn’t work the other way – when I’m stuck in the queue for my flight back home I’m silently wishing everyone traipsing in with their bright sunglasses and cheap suitcase an awful holiday. I know, I’m a sod.

That said, Copenhagen Airport does have a down-side (at the moment, at least) – they seem to land the plane in Belarus, given how long the bloody trek was to get our suitcases. I swear halfway to the luggage hall I had my passport stamped and my pockets searched. I’d made the fatal error of not wearing a belt ‘for comfort’ meaning I had to do the hike in that awkward ‘trying not to let my trousers fall down’ gait that all of us men know. I desperately tried to get an erection just to hold my trousers up but all the blood was rushing to keep my heart pumping, for shame. I had to beg Paul to go on ahead without me whilst I decamped to the toilet to dispense of what felt like Kielder Water from my bladder. I’ve never felt relief like it, I swear – the entire English rugby team could have rushed into that cubicle and tugged me off and it would have still paled in euphoria to that piss, I can tell you.

Seven stone lighter and considerably less sloshy, I resumed the hike through Lithuania, caught a ferry and undertook a seven hour taxi ride to arrive at the luggage hall where OF COURSE, Paul was nowhere to be found. He’s a hard man to miss, given he looks like a pillbox in Jacamo slacks. I searched high (in that I looked up) and I searched low (in that I sat down) and waited fifteen minutes. I had his phone in my fag-bag so I couldn’t call him, so waiting it was. He appeared twenty minutes later, flustered and beetroot red, to tell me he’d gone back to look for me, like I was a cat in a house fire. How the hell we missed each other I don’t know, but I can only presume that the gravitational effect of two large, planet-esque bodies approaching each other at equal speed on opposing travelators caused a fat-rift in space and time. I pushed him a little further and it turned out that whilst he had been looking for me, he’d also decided to get himself a hot-dog on the way. Did he get me one? Did he balls. It’s OK, we’re starting divorce proceedings soon.

Having located our luggage we made for the exit, jumped on the local train to Ørestad station and then switched to their wonderful, driverless Metro system to take us a few stops to Bella Center St station, where our hotel loomed large in the distance. Their metro system is amazing – driverless, reliable and cheap. We bought a three day Copenhagen Card allowing us unlimited use of their transport systems for about £80 each – seems expensive until you realise that it includes entry to all sorts of tourist places around the city, including Tivoli Gardens, which would normally cost £15. I’m telling you this because we completely bloody forgot about the pass and paid full price everywhere. I had to put Paul on the game for a night just to fund our shenanigans, but he came back in desperate need of lip-balm and owing £240.

It amazes me that other cities get transport so perfectly right. The metros (and trains) were spotless, they turned up exactly when they were supposed to and you didn’t need to sell a kidney just to get into town. Compare that to Newcastle’s Metro System – it costs a bomb, the trains always smell like a cheesy cock and the only perk you get is that you might not be punched in the teeth by some smackrat off his tits on spice. Oh, and that’s only when the bloody system is working. I follow our local paper on Facebook and I swear I read at least two stories a week where the rail infrastructure has failed because it’s too hot, too cold, too windy, too icy, too busy, too quiet, 2Unlimited or Tupac Shakur. I’d no sooner rely on that to get me to work than I would a bicycle made of steam.

Anyway, I digress. As ever.

Paul had picked the hotel and, as usual, I had no say in the matter. It’s the only way these things work – he has to pick the hotel otherwise I spend so long dithering and umming and aahing that we’re desperately trying to secure a booking somewhere as the plane taxies down the runway. I worry about picking the wrong place, see – it only takes one bad review on Tripadvisor and I’m comparing the place to Beirut and stroppily demanding somewhere else. Which, on reflection, is daft: I couldn’t care less where I eventually end up, but see, there’s always some new hotel, some better hotel,  just waiting around the corner. That’s why I keep checking out…forty points if you get the reference. The only input I have now is for Paul to call out the price, the star rating and then, once he has the nod from me, he books it. No fussing about! It works for both of us.

For our few days in Copenhagen Paul had picked the  AC Hotel Bella Sky and I swear he’d only picked it because, well, look at it (apologies for the quality, Paul took it on his Nokia 3310):

It looks like two cornflake boxes squaring up to one another for a scrap, doesn’t it? Even more confusing is, as you walk towards it, the perspective shifts and the walkway that joins the building at the top looks as though it’s at a forty-five degree angle. It hurt my eyes looking at it, although the bountiful clouds of weed smoke drifting over from a nearby bus-shelter took the edge off somewhat. Fair play to Paul – once we were inside the hotel it was gorgeous – very modern and stylish, which is exactly what I like from a hotel. I don’t want ‘home comforts’, I want to spend twenty minutes trying to figure out how to turn the light on and what all the little switches next to the bed do. I was especially taken with the plug socket, who seemed positively delighted to see us:

The chap who had checked us in – Lego haircut, charming smile, come-to-bed-and-destroy-my-hole eyes – had followed up our request for a high floor and gave us a room on what used to be the ladies-only floor. Tsk, honestly, you offer one blowjob in exchange for a better room and you’re pegged for life. There was an awful amount of pastel pink in the corridors but the room was swish and fancy and just look at the view:

I know, right? I’ve never seen such an extensive cruising ground. As ever, Paul tested out the facilities, I grimaced for a good twenty minutes and then we had a wee sleep, tuckered out from our luggage-hall shenanigans. We’ll pick this up next week – I apologise that once more I’ve eked out 1500 words and we’ve only just arrived at the hotel. What are we like? The next holiday entry will be a bit of a change of pace – instead of detailing our adventures chronologically, I’m going to write about key places we visited. Hopefully that’ll plug my verbal diarrhoea, but who knows? Until then, I welcome feedback always.

Finally, did you know we have three books out, all of which contain our travel stories from times gone by? Why yes! In proper paper form and Kindle, no less. Have a look and take us on holiday – we’ve got over 170 5* reviews between them!


Shall we do the roast peach, parma ham and Gruyère salad, then? You know we should. Here’s the thing: if your idea of a salad is a bit of lettuce, half a tomato and a cucumber with a splash of vinegar, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Dinners like that leave me wanting. But if you make a proper fuss from your salad and use interesting ingredients, then they’ll become a proper meal. This, would you believe, is a Heston Blumenthal recipe. I’m not his biggest fan – he looks like a thumb with glasses on – but this turned out tip-top. We’ve tinkered with it to make it SW friendly. This makes enough for one, but double, triple or quadruple it accordingly. Fatty.

roast peach, parma ham and Gruyère salad

to make roast peach, parma ham and Gruyère salad, you’ll need:

  • a decent handful of rocket
  • 30g of good Gruyère cheese (HEA)
  • 3 slices of decent parma ham (1.5 syns)
  • 25g of balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • one large peach
  • one tablespoon of Tesco Honey and Mustard Light dressing (1 syn)

to make roast peach, parma ham and Gruyère salad, you should:

  • pop your parma ham in the freezer whilst you do the initial bits of this recipe – it’ll be easier to slice when you get to it
  • dress your rocket leaves in that dressing – obviously – don’t go mad though, it’s meant to be very light
  • just lightly boil your vinegar (said that before) until it goes thick and fairly stiff (said that before) – you don’t need to do this if you want
  • take your peach and slice it in half, removing the stone, and spray it once or twice on the flesh side with good olive oil
  • get a decent non-stick pan and get it up to medium heat, placing the peaches flesh-down so they lightly caramelise, then remove; OR
  • use the grill on your Optigrill to grill them – press temp control until it is red – but don’t close the lid – just ‘sear’ the bottom of the peaches
  • either way, once they’re cooked, slice the peach thinly
  • thinly slice your Gruyère – I recommend using a potato peeler for this, saves the faff
  • slice up your parma ham
  • assemble on the plate as shown above
  • drizzle with your balsamic glaze if you want

If you have leftover Gruyère, you could always make our bloody amazing cheesy rosti!

That’s it! A gorgeous salad with lots of different textures and tastes. Some SW hardnuts will probably tell you, between blowing flakes of eggy brownie at you, that you should syn the peach because you’ve heated it up. Up to you – personally, I think it’s bollocks. If it makes you feel better, put it in the fridge to cool down and that’ll cancel out any hot syns, making it fine. See how silly it gets? 300g of cooked peach is 5 syns, and you use nothing close to that here, plus it isn’t cooked through. Frankly, I wouldn’t syn it for all the tea in China.

Happy? Want more ideas? Something fancy? Click the random buttons below!

porksmallfakeawayssmall lunchsmall sausagessmall

Cheers all. Remember to please leave me feedback if possible on the holiday stuff! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

J

cooling summer gazpacho – full of goodness

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
  • one glove of garlic (minced: using a microplane grater – that way you don’t need to peel – but any grater will do!)
  • one tablespoon of olive oil (6 syns)
  • 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.

lunchsmallvegetariansmall    slowcookersmalltastersmallsoupsmall

J

the perfect Slimming World Big Mac

Big Mac in a bowl? Big Mac tater tots? What happened to a plain old Big Mac stuffed firmly into your mush until the grayus runs down yer chin? Well, on Slimming World, that dirty Big Mac will cost you 25.5 syns and a threatening midnight call from Commandant Bramwell. Something needs to pay for her timeshare in Magaluf and the second-hand, nicotine-tainted Subaru Impreza (private reg: MMB 4EVA), let me tell you.

So, us being generous Cubs, decided to finish our American holiday entries with a Slimming World Big Mac which weighs in at an altogether less unseemly 6.5 syns. You could have four! But don’t, you greedy bugger. Before we get to the recipe, indulge me for another few minutes as I give you a happy ending to be proud of, as it’s part seven of our New York trip!

slimming world big mac

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

We decided that it was imperative we be at the airport in good time lest we be late and miss our flight – I mean, can you imagine being stranded in New York? I’d feel like little Kevin McAllister, only without the shenanigans and inappropriate touching. As such, rather than clart about with the trains, we hailed a taxi. Our taxi driver was colourful with his language, going to great lengths to tell us what’s wrong with most Brits (we don’t tip, we’re too hoity-toity, Paul’s too fat, that sort of thing) and speeding through the streets like he’d stole the car. When it came to paying the fare I made a gag about asking Paul if he had twenty cents so we could give the exact fare and I swear to God, I thought the driver was going to shoot my face through the back of my head. I don’t like to exaggerate but I’ve never seen such ire in a man’s eyes – and I’ve gone in dry on more than one occasion. Just saying.

Naturally, with Speedy McMoodytits at the wheel, we arrived at the airport thirty minutes before check-in even opened, meaning we had to sit around forlornly by the front doors with our suitcases. It’s about the only time I miss smoking, at airports – it gives you something to do between getting fingered by some terse security attendant and spending the rest of your ‘foreign money’ on expensive tat for work colleagues. Do you know, I don’t think I’ve successfully managed to pass through an airport without buying a giant Toblerone since I was eighteen and got my first job? There’s always sarky remarks about originality but hey, at least it wasn’t a giant bag of wax fruit sweets that every other fucker brings back from their holiday.

I remember the first time Paul and I flew long-haul together (to Orlando, the tales of which you can find in our honeymoon book, which I’ve told is attractively priced on Amazon and available at the touch of a button on the very device you’re reading this on now). We were committed smokers at that point and the thought of nine hours in the air filled us with terror and dread.  We spent almost an hour mainlining fags outside of Manchester Airport then, once we had landed, it was literally the only thing we could think of. Fuck Mickey Mouse I cried, we’ve got emphysema to nurture. Naturally, Paul had lost the lighter and we spent a tense fifteen minutes trying to buy matches before some kind soul wheezed to our aid. It’s embarrassing, looking back.

Anyway, without smoking to pass the minutes, we occupied ourselves by streamlining our hand luggage and eating the bags of sweets I’d bought for my parents. It’s what they would have wanted. Finally time moved forward just enough for us to be granted permission to check in. The guy behind the counter was another grumpy sort who spent more time than I thought was decent fannying about with my passport. I resisted the urge to touch his hands and say ‘I’m sorry, I’m married, but I can send a signed photo by Fedex’ but he looked as though he’d snap my fingers.

What followed was the longest three hours of my life. Is there a more surprisingly awful, boring airport than JFK? I assumed that, being an exit hub, it would be full of vibrant shops and classy eateries for the carefree tourist to spend their money in. Nope. We had a Starbucks and watched the planes for a bit. Then we had a McDonalds and watched the planes for a bit. I enjoyed twenty-five minutes of furiously looking at my iPad whilst it failed to connect to the public Wi-Fi. We both went for a shite just to pass the time but found ourselves unable to commit the dirty deed because yet again the toilets only had a metal postage stamp for a door. I hate making eye-contact with anyone, let alone when I’m trying to birth an otter. Bah!

After looking around the duty free shop for the fourth time (why? Perhaps we thought there was an undiscovered wing to explore just behind the Smirnoff stand? Or that they rotated the stock on an hourly basis?) we succumbed and bought some aftershave: Paul some cloying Issey Miyake stuff, me some classy Tom Ford. I’ve come a long way since spraying my Mum’s bottle of Mum under my boobs before PE, I can tell you.

Finally, it was time to board. As usual, four hundred people leapt up at once as though fearful the plane might accidentally nip away before they’d had a chance to fuss about with the safety cards and put their duty free in the overhead bins. We hung back – we’re too fat to move safely in crowds – one of us trips and we’re taking people out on the way down. When we eventually made it to the final beep-beep check of the tickets and passport, a very stern lady with ice-blonde hair and a face that had never seen sunlight told us to stand to one side.

They then took our passports and tickets away from us whilst people walked past tutting at us as though we were terrorists. I mean, fair enough I hadn’t shaved, but I wasn’t a complete disaster.  For almost five minutes we waited whilst they let other people past. My arsehole was nipping so much I was surprised the two kilos of coke stuck up there didn’t fall out. Paul remained calm – as usual – I could hurl a burning pan of hot oil into his ear and he’d still yawn and look impassive, though he might feel a bit sad that he wasn’t getting chips.

Finally, we were given new tickets and told we had been moved from our original seats. We’re not fussy so didn’t say much and rejoined the queue. It was only on boarding that we were told we’d been upgraded. Hooray! Premium Economy is the lowest class we’ll fly because we’re fat and snotty (just kidding: it really is just because we’re fat) so anything higher was always going to be great. A genuinely lovely end to a fantastic holiday.

Quick thoughts? It was great being able to lie down properly on an overnight flight, although I didn’t like not being right next to Paul – I find it hard to sleep unless some of his fat isn’t rolling over me and the sound of him choking on his own neck is lullabying me to the land of nod. Having my own ‘pod’ was a novelty though – I spent a good forty minutes pressing every switch, turning on every light, opening every little drawer (a drawer to put my shoes in: how clever!) and carefully secreting every freebie into my bag. It was only when the Captain announced that someone was draining the power from the engines that I stopped whirring my chair, charging my iPod and frying myself some chips.

slimming world big mac

BYEEEEEEE LOL MISSING U HUN

The stewardesses came around shortly after take-off and asked everyone if they would like anything to eat. Paul, much to my horror, said he was full and only wanted a vodka. I was foaming. Everyone knows you need to make the most of this type of situation, even if it makes you look like a grasping harlot. I ordered a gin and tonic and a full meal (despite having already had a three course meal in the airport – ah well, I had plenty of time to sleep it off).

Here’s the thing – this is why I can’t have nice things. I was served a wonderful array of dishes but to me, they were nothing special and the portion sizes were tiny. I appreciate this is just me being a big fat pig but it seems the more you pay for food, the less you get. Don’t get me wrong, I put it all away in record time and did a discreet celebratory burp into my pillow for good measure, but I don’t like being served a big white plate with a shaving of radish on it and a flea-bite of cheese. I could have breathed my dinner into my lungs. I did make Paul watch me eat a delicious chocolate melting pudding, though – I stared right in his eyes and smacked my lips. That’ll teach him.

The night flight passed smoothly, soothed as I was by the sounds of my fellow fliers sleeping soundly and farting long into the night. Paul woke up at one point thinking the landing gear was coming down until I explained it was merely the mechanics of my chair straining under my bulk.

I was disappointed by the toilets – I wasn’t expecting someone to come in and wipe my taint but really, it’s not very upper class to be standing in someone else’s piss whilst you slap on the Elemis eye-cream. I know that on Emirates’ A380 you can actually have a hot shower whilst you fly. I can’t conceive of something I’d rather do less at 38,000ft – I know that as soon as I undressed and climbed into the shower we’d hit extreme turbulence and I’d end up shooting out of the bathroom with suds in my hair and my cock a-flapping whilst everyone screamed around me. It’s what happens when I get changed at the gym, why should it be any different in the sky?

We landed in good time and, unusually, were through security in no time at all. We did the usual things – updated Facebook to show off our fancy flying, texted my mother to tell her that I hadn’t made an unscheduled stop into the sea and that she could cancel the hearse, then made our way through grey London for our Virgin train back home. As you’d expect with a train journey, it was entirely uneventful, and we were home in no time for a good sleep.

That’s that! New York – done. It’s somewhere we’ve always wanted to go and it was made all the sweeter by Paul not knowing about it in advance. Normally I can’t keep a secret for toffee but somehow I managed to pull off a full holiday without giving the game away. The people, for the most part, were friendly, and everything we visited was absolutely worth it. I can see why people go back – we’ve only scratched the surface of what the city has to offer.

We’d move there in a heartbeat save for the fact that a decent flat in a nice area is over a million quid and well, we don’t have that sort of money hidden down the sofa (feel free to buy more copies of this book though, it might pay for a lamp or something). I think my favourite day, of all of them, was walking around Central Park – nothing much happened but it was so beautiful and so New York.

We travelled with Virgin Trains (reasonable), British Airways (excellent) and stayed at the Wyndham New Yorker (lovely, but ask for a newer room – our room was a bit old-fashioned and stuffy. We liked it, but you might not).

Onto the next holiday…


Right! Yes. THIS MAKES FOUR! If you want fewer, just reduce the amount as you need to.

slimming world big mac

to make a Slimming World Big Mac, you’re going to need:

  • (this makes enough for four, mind you)
  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 6 wholemeal rolls (use 4x as a HeB each, and then syn the remaining two at 12 syns to make the middle bun)
  • half an iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • sliced gherkins
  • 4 slices of reduced-fat processed cheese (12 syns)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced

for the special sauce

  • 4 tbsp extra-light mayonnaise (2 syns)
  • 2 tbsp reduced-fat thousand island dressing (1 syn)
  • 4 tsp chopped gherkins
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt

We used a proper bun for the pictures and don’t even care – if you’re using white buns with sesame seeds, you’re looking at about 12 syns, and even then it’s half the syn cost of a proper one. AND you can reduce the syns further still by swapping out the cheese for some of your proper HEA cheese, but if you’re going to do this, you’ve got to do it properly, see?

Two things we used to help with this recipe, neither of which are critical to the recipe but they do help: our Optigrill and our canny little burger maker (dirt cheap)!

to make a Slimming World Big Mac, you should:

  • bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and add the chopped onion – simmer for 30 seconds, then drain and set aside
  • next, mix together the sauce ingredients in a bowl, including 2 tbsp of diced onion, and set aside
  • add salt and pepper to the mince and then divide into 8 balls (just over 60g each) and flatten into burger shapes – they don’t need to be perfect, and remember, McDonalds burgers are normally thin!
  • if you’re using the OptiGrill: fire it up and select the ‘burger’ option – when the light goes blue simply whack the burgers on, close the lid and cook until the light is orange
  • otherwise – preheat the grill to high and cook the burgers until done – remembering to flip over
  • whilst they’re cooking, toast the buns
  • next – assemble the burger – you want it in this order:
    • bottom bun
    • tbsp special sauce
    • tbsp diced onion
    • chopped lettuce
    • slice of cheese
    • burger
    • bun half
    • tbsp special sauce
    • tbsp onion
    • lettuce
    • gherkins
    • burger
    • top bun
  • forget you’re on a diet
  • turn into poo

How nice is that? For the full McDonalds experience, try and eat your burger whilst eighteen kids off their tits on e-numbers and sugar run screaming around your ankles whilst neck-tattooed dads stare glumly at you with their dead, soulless eyes.

Big thanks to @TEFALUK and @Foodies100!

Fancy more to fill your pie hole? Just click one of the buttons below!

beefsmallfakeawayssmall  sausagessmall  snackssmall dessertsmallnaughtyfooddrinkssmallbbqsmallonepot

J

chicken and mushroom one-pot paella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See, brisk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at them!

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

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

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

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

See? Look at my sad face.

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

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

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

Nah, I’m good thanks…


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

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

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

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

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

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

Canny right?

Hungry for more? You know what to do:

poultrysmall lunchsmallpastasmall   snackssmall soupsmalldrinkssmallonepot

Enjoy!

J

super quick and easy chicken saag aloo

Chicken saag aloo – we’re talking about a dish that takes about ten minutes to make from beginning to end, as long as you’ve got a hot pan and a filthy mouth. God knows that’s you lot covered. No time for shenanigans so let’s go straight to part five of our New York entry. Buckle up. I’d really welcome feedback on the holiday entries!

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

We decided to break with looking around the busy city and to take a nice walk along what is known as The High Line – a disused railway line that runs for a mile or so around Manhattan and affords lovely views of the Hudson and various arty-farty establishments to poke about it. We didn’t really have much of an excuse, it was only a ten-minute walk away from the hotel and boy did we need some ‘fresh air’. New York is amazing but you don’t realise how built-up it is until you look at your partner and he’s milk-white from lack of sunlight.

It was charming. I hate to use that word because it’s what pretentious knobheads use to describe tiny coffee places where they serve the coffee in a flat cap but I mean it. We went early enough so that it wasn’t completely awash with hipsters and pretty much had the place to ourselves, save for a few joggers. I was pleased to see that the ‘I’m about to cum’ face that British folk adopt when they run seems to have made it over the pond. Seriously, why pull that face? Running isn’t that exciting. At least, I can’t remember it being so – admittedly the last time I ran was back in 1997.

The High Line is full of little activities and things to do. We happened across a tiny park with stepping stones and tunnels to climb through, which then allowed you to pop your head up through the path to frighten passer-by’s. Great fun, until you realise that the tunnels probably weren’t designed to accommodate some twenty-stone Geordie with a fat arse and cheap jeans trying to turn around in there – it was like trying to turn a sofa around in a lift. I managed to get in alright but every time I moved backwards my coat scrunched up on top of me, stopping progress. It was only after my plaintive cries reached my dear husband – and in turn, once he had stopped laughing and taking pictures of my jammed arse – that he reached into the tunnel and pulled my coat free, allowing me to scuttle back out.

Later, Paul spotted a statue with the instruction ‘kiss to receive water’. Naturally, being Paul, he bent down and mimed performing cunnilingus on it so that I had a classy photo to put in the album. He was tutted at by someone who was more beard than man but hey, we have fun. We stopped at the end for a bagel and coffee and discussed where to go next, before deciding on the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Because we’re fat, we got a taxi. I’ve never heard my own feet say ‘phew’.

We arrived at the 9/11 Memorial Museum and were glad that the snaking queues we had witnessed a day or two before had dissipated and that actually, it wasn’t too busy.

It’s funny. We’ve all seen the footage on the TV or in print but until you’re there, it’s truly impossible to put it into perspective. To imagine the size of the buildings, the sheer amount of people caught up in it, the absolute terror that must have ensued. The museum itself was surprisingly sombre and tasteful – I admit I’d expect a certain amount of ‘America is Great’ bombast, but there was none. Just recollections, pieces of the building, subdued reconstructions and hushed tones.

One beautiful piece is a wall of almost 3,000 pieces of fabric paper painted in different shades of blue – it’s a tremendous sight with a sobering quote in the middle: ‘No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory Of Time’. Very true. Behind the wall is a room full of the unidentified remains of people caught up in the attacks, where they will lie forever until they are positively identified and taken by families, something which made even granite-faced me dab at my eyes. I’d encourage anyone visiting New York to have a look – it makes for a depressing hour but some things should never be forgotten. We moved on, and, because I want to change back to our normal tone of writing, let me draw a line under this.


Fancy! Next on our list was the Grand Central train station. You’ll have seen it before in so many movies – it’s a fabulous, colossal train station full of period detail and busy people. You may remember seeing it in such famous Lindsay Lohan movies such as ‘Just My Luck’, or infamous Lindsay Lohan movies such as ‘Yes, I’ll Let You Eight Guys Ride Me Like A Train for some meth’.

We decided to take a headphones audio tour of the station and do you know, it was one of the best things we did in New York. I know that sounds ridiculous but it was just the right mix of getting in people’s way, hearing interesting facts and having sights that you would never have known to look at pointed out to you. Case in point: the ceiling of the main concourse. Who ever looks up when they enter a train station? You should here – it’s a gorgeous astronomy map with glowing stars. That’s fascinating in and of itself, but see the ceiling was almost hidden from view by years of tobacco smoke and pollution. It took twelve years to clean it and restore it to its natural beauty, with one tiny square left to show the difference.

I made a mental note to contact Paul’s mother on my return to see if she wanted to hire the same cleaners to try and get the fifty-eight years of Samson roll-up smoke peeled from her ceiling (it’d be like using a spatula to clean the grill pan), but then promptly forgot about it when our audio tour guided us to the whispering walls.

Seriously, what fun. Under the main concourse is a dining area and part of that, near the Oyster bar, is the Whispering Wall. Due to the way the tunnel is built, sound whispered in one corner of the giant room travels all along the arch and can be heard a good ten metres away across the room. It’s a bloody weird effect.

Naturally, I stood in one corner and sent Paul to where I thought the whisper could be heard across the tunnel. Well, look, I can only apologise to the little Chinese lady who was very startled to have the ghost of a Geordie whisper the word c*nt in her ear from apparently nowhere. Turns out Paul was standing in the wrong place. In my defence, it was hilarious. We sharp moved on.

By some amazing coincidence our audio tour ended with us being taken into the gift-shop. Fancy! We were taken by all the lovely cartographic items and ended up buying six metal subway signs to sit above the doors of our house. Which, yes, sounds shit, but trust me when I say it looks good. It adds that New York sophistication to stumbling to the shitter to drop the kids off at night, trust me.

Next on the list of things to do was lunch, and, I’m ashamed to say this, we ate in a TGI Fridays. All those wonderful places and we ended up somewhere where a chav takes a hot-date in the hope of getting his fingers dipped. In our defence, it was the one in Times Square and we only went there because at this point, our feet were more blood than shoe, but it was grim. Because they don’t have to try, they absolutely didn’t. The food was bland, the drinks were sickly sweet and the waiter so full of false bonhomie that I could have asked for a blowjob instead of a dessert menu and he’d have sunk to his knees just to see me smile. His name tag was ‘Will!’, which I imagine took immense willpower (pun intended) not to put eight exclamations after.

We did leave a substantial tip though – the place was awash with British families taking a break between smacking their children and complaining to eat something similar to the Iceland muck they have at home. Past experience tells me that they won’t leave a tip because ‘it’s not right, we don’t have to do it, blah blah’ and frankly, that’s just shitty. Our lunch might have been shite but see, that wasn’t the fault of Smilin’ Will.

After lunch we waddled over to the Rockefeller Centre. You’ll know this place, too – it’s where they put the massive Christmas tree and ice-rink every year. We had paid for a day and night pass, which allows you to see the views during the day and then return later to see the same view but in inky blackness.

It was wonderful – there’s only so many times I can write about going up a tall building and making it faintly interesting for you, dear reader, so just let me say that being able to sit on a bench 70 floors in the air in the winter, looking out over New York, was just lovely. We had a romantic moment (which makes it sound like I noshed Paul off, but no, we just had a cuddle) and stayed up there a while.

As we left we were shepherded through a room of interactive lights – if you stood on the floor, certain ceiling lights would come on and your movement would be tracked. I suppose this is modern art. Paul exclaimed that it was ‘just like I’m in a video game’ and my reply of ‘Yes: FATRIS’ was a little louder than I had anticipated, leading to lots of shared guffaws amongst everyone. I do worry that I come across as such an arse to poor, put-upon Paul, but listen, he gives as good as he gets, don’t you worry.

Having satisfied ourselves of the view and done about as much marvelling as one can do before your face caves in through smiling, we made our way back through the building and back out onto the streets. After a little idle wandering we spotted a nearby church, and, never missing the opportunity to sit down and let my chafing thighs cool, we went in. If memory serves me right, it was St Mary the Virgin’s church and it was utterly beautiful.

Unusually, we didn’t burst into flames the second we stepped over the threshold and nor were we cast out for being sodomites. Religion, am I right? The church was gorgeous – beautiful stained glass windows, comfortable pews, perfectly ornate detailing, just lovely. It was heart-warming to know that the donations and money raised was going straight into keeping this prime piece of real-estate looking pretty so that all the homeless folk outside could at least have somewhere charming to rest their heads between starving and freezing to death. Hmm.

We sat in the pews for more time than is entirely decent, trying to discreetly rub our throbbing feet and not shallow-breathe on the necks of the people in front, who were bowed in prayer. I’m not a religious person but even I said a quick prayer for one of those feet-spas that all mums had in the Nineties that bubbled a bit of Radoxy-water around their hairy toes.

The serenity of the moment was shattered somewhat by the sound of a clearly mentally-ill woman bursting through the doors, running down the aisle screaming and then falling on the floor.  She was treated with all the compassion and understanding you might expect from the Church – pinned to the floor by the security guard’s knee, shouted at by some hurly-burly prick clutching a bible and then unceremoniously picked up and thrown back out into the street like a piece of rubbish. It was all very inelegant, though it did cause enough of a distraction for me to break wind, which, with my cheeks firmly pressed against the wood of the pew, sounded like a little helicopter landing. Sweet relief! Air befouled, we moved on.

Unfortunately, my notes for the day end here, which leads me to think we just went and got progressively more drunk during the rest of the day and then stumbled back to the hotel at some indecent hour. I have a faint recollection of being in a late-night pharmacy buying Doritos and spinach dip. Hey, we know how to party! We definitely ticked off the ‘buy a slice of New York pizza’ activity though, and I know this because there’s a photo on my phone of Paul fast asleep with a chunk of crust sticking out of his gob. We’re a classy pair, you know.


Right, let’s do the chicken saag aloo! You can cheerfully leave out the chicken and make this into a veggie dish. Why not? You’re the boss! This makes enough for two big bowls. Why chicken saag aloo? Simple. You may remember dear El Ehma from my work? She’s never cooked a meal that didn’t have freezer burn, but she’s really taken to saag aloo. I promised to make a version that she can follow and well, Joe Wicks has a recipe ready! You remember me mentioning Joe Wicks and the fact that we’ve found a whole load of recipes in his book that are perfect for Slimming World? Well we did, and you can buy it here. You can buy his book here and it is one I genuinely recommend.

chicken saag aloo

to make super quick and easy chicken saag aloo, you’ll need:

  • 700g new potatoes
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • two cloves of garlic
  • a little knob of ginger, haha
  • 2 tbsp of garam masala
  • two large chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 big handfuls of spinach leaves
  • squeeze of lemon juice

For the ginger and garlic, grate them finely using a microplane grater. It’s the one gadget we use all the time – you can use it for parmesan, peppers, garlic, ginger, lemon…all sorts! Click here and save!

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

to make super quick and easy chicken saag aloo, you should:

  • cut the potatoes in half, pop them in a microwave dish and cook them for three minutes – then let them rest – and cook again for three minutes – drain and set aside
  • thinly slice your spring onions and cook them off gently in a few spritzes of olive oil
  • once they’re softened, add the ginger and garlic until golden
  • add the potatoes
  • add the garam masala
  • stir everything then add the thinly sliced chicken breasts with a few splashes of water and cook everything through, with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • cook hard and quickly until the chicken is cooked through then add the spinach and allow to wilt down
  • serve with a squeeze of lemon

Easy!

Want more recipes? Natch. Click the buttons!

poultrysmallbeefsmallporksmalllambsmallfakeawayssmall

J

garlic puy lentils with roasted tomatoes and horseradish cottage cheese

I know: garlic puy lentils with roasted tomatoes and horseradish cottage cheese – what a mouthful! Plus there’s lemon breadcrumbs as a topping too. We’re fancy here at twochubbycubs. It does make me sad, though – whenever I post a decent vegetarian recipe it’s like I’ve posted announcing myself as a dog-fiddler or something – tumbleweeds all round. I just feel like the vegetarian side of Slimming World is sorely lacking and it doesn’t need to be. I’m a huge meat-eater: not only literally, but euphemistically and sexually as well. However, swapping out one meat-packed meal for a veggie recipe saves a canny bit of money and is probably better for your shitpipe in the long run. Oh hey, what does a vegan zombie eat?

GGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINS

I’ll be here all night.

I’ve been doing all sorts of behind the scenes stuff on the blog this weekend – all terribly boring – but I notice that I’ve never finished off posting our New York stories! We have a few hanging threads like this so the next few posts are going to be the remaining holiday posts from last year with the aim of getting everything nice and lined up for the holidays ahead! Does that make sense? Of course not. But just put a smile on and bear with me. We went to New York in February 2016.


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

One of the things you apparently must do when in Central Park is a trip on a horse-pulled carriage. A quick look on tripadvisor would tell you that it’s simply a quick way to have your wallet emptied by toothless crones running scams but hell, we like to live life on the edge and anyway, any activity that meant we were moving without having to use our feet was good enough for me because at this point in our holiday the bottom of my feet looked like something unpleasant that had been run over. Pouring blood out of your shoe isn’t a great look.

We wandered around a bit trying to catch the eye of one of the swarthy looking gentleman in charge of the horses but to no avail, meaning we eventually had to go up and ask for a romantic half hour trip. Well, Paul did, I didn’t want to be witness to seeing how much money had to change hands. No, I was busy watching the horse who, upon seeing me and Paul shuffling towards it, looked absolutely terrified by the thought of having to pull us two lardarses. I suppose it’s the equivalent of me nipping outside and pulling a bus with the hairs on my arse. We climbed aboard. The horse immediately filled his nappy which I think was possibly a protest, but it really did set the scene.

Luckily, our driver’s grasp on the English language didn’t extend further than telling us the price and shouting at his horse meaning we were free to enjoy ourselves without making painful small-talk but actually, the whole thing felt awful. He kept yelling at the horse, seemingly for going too slow, which felt rather cruel given the poor bugger was pulling the equivalent of a Skoda Octavia behind it, then when he wasn’t shouting at the horse he was bellowing incoherently into his mobile. Perhaps he had another horse on the line. Either way, between the dirty carriage, world’s angriest jockey and poor, frightened horse, it was awful. About as relaxing as trying to solve a Rubik’s cube whilst someone sets your trousers on fire.

After about ten minutes of this we motioned that we would like to disembark and cut our 45-minute trip short. Of course, he was furious, but hey, at least it gave him a chance to shout at us rather than the horse. I like to think that made us equal, my equine friend. He stuck his hand out for a tip after arguing with us for five minutes and I had to really resist the urge to give him a high-five and tell him to fuck off. It was a tempting thought but I didn’t fancy Paul having to scrape half of my face from the tarmac path afterwards. We bustled away and he shot off with the horse, shouting and ranting until he was nothing more than a speck on the horizon. Even now, when I shut my eyes, I can hear “estúpido caballo de mierda” over and over…

Well, that left us in rather a pickle. We’d planned a nice easy jaunt around Central Park, letting the mane take the strain (boom boom), but now we were in the middle of nowhere somewhere near the top of the park with the horrifying thought that we’d need to explore under our own locomotion. But, you know what, that’s exactly what we did – and it was terrific.

We spent a good few hours just walking slowly through the park – taking little side paths, exploring nooks and crannies, unusually, not dogging – it was lovely. We saw some lovely things:

This was my favourite. Not just because they’re fellow Back-Door-Deirdres, but what a sentiment to live a life by. How rare we stop to sit and enjoy the good times, instead we wait until it is too late and mourn them instead. Hohum. Hey, I’m absolutely itching to get a plaque made for a bench in our local park that says ‘JAMES AND PAUL’S BENCH: because doubtless you’ll need a rest, you big fat fucker’ – I can’t see the council signing off on it, though.

We also spotted what Paul’s mother would look like if she was a sheep:

yer yer ‘ere ‘ow do I get that fackin’ Flash player werkin’ I mean he don’t faaackin’ listen

Spotted Ed Sheeran! Actually that’s a fib, got no clue who it is. Just wanted a picture of a couple because every picture of Paul and I one of us is staring moonily at the camera and the other is squinting.

At one point we decided to cut out of the park to grab a coffee from Starbucks (don’t worry, there’s one every four buildings so you’re generally OK). We sat and read the papers and people-watched. I declared, as I always do on holiday no matter where we are, that we should really sell our house in England and move here. I could be a writer with a tiny balcony on which to type my stories and Paul could go and serve beer somewhere where his fatness would be appreciated and welcomed, like a leather fetish bar. We could tell fabulous tales of our metropolitan life, start a food blog, eschew Slimming World and all the pointless rules about not eating avocados…basically, live the dream. We’d get to 55 years old and, having made a pretty penny selling stories and blowjobs, we could jack it all in, mortgage our property and open a little cigar bar in the gay district and call it ‘Big Brown Butts’. We’d laugh uproariously and drink beer and develop a decent salt-and-pepper beard before one of us died from emphysema and the other was reduced to giving handjobs on the subway to make money. Oh my.

Paul immediately burst my bubble by waving the property section of the free paper in front of me where an apartment about the size of our bathroom cost more than our entire house. I might add: we own the most expensive house on our street – it’s no wonder all the other neighbours look furiously at us as we skip mortgage-free to our cars in the morning. That put paid to our dreams and, a little deflated (I mean come on, Big Brown Butts is an amazing name for a gay cigar bar, yes?), we made our way back to Central Park, giant waste-paper-bin-sized coffees in our hands.

As we re-entered the park we noticed a terrific fuss at one of the entrances and a lot of shrieking. Turns out it was a gay wedding and they were pulling up at the gate to have some pictures taken. Aww. We’ve come a long way, baby. The gay man in me (Paul, usually) felt a bit of pride that it was all so accepted and lovely, but then also, the gay man in me winced a little at their completely white suits. We’re talking Gareth Gates in the video for Unchained Melody, here, only without his Jordan-torn foreskin* dripping down his leg. Listen, that wouldn’t have been so bad (and I’m far from a dedicated follower of fashion in my ASDA shoes and Bet Lynch coat) but they’d overdone the fake-fan to an especially luminous degree. Their long white bodies topped with a bright orange face gave them the odd appearance of looking like cigarettes from a distance. Now, there’s an obvious joke there, but I’ll be the better man and not make it.

* Can anyone else remember that? Jordan claimed to have fucked him so hard that his tight foreskin ripped in two. How the fuck have I remembered that? No wonder the poor bugger had a stutter – it was probably fear of round two with that tangerine tart.

We stayed back for a bit whilst they fussed about posing before we both got bored and, realising that there was no way of getting past without interrupting their photo, we walked back up a bit to another entrance so that we could walk back down behind them. See, we can be considerate, especially when fellow chutney-ferrets are involved. We did rather think that once we got back to where they were they’d be finished and we could walk on by, but no, when we got there they were releasing doves. I wanted to stick about in case they wheeled out Elton bloody John (although, given his predilection for olive oil, they could have just slid him down the street) but the day was drawing to a close and we really had to get going. As a result, we should probably apologise to our orange friends who have a set of wedding photos with Paul and I bustling away behind them in our discount coats and me with Frappuccino froth in my ‘tache.

We wandered for ages more – just taking our time, enjoying the crisp, Winter air and the magic of being in Central Park when it was a bit snowy and cold, looking desperately around for the bird lady from Home Alone 2 (though on reflection that was fruitless, as she was at home in Peterborough dropping cigarette ash into Paul’s brother’s dinner) and just having a nice time together. It was all very romantic. Paul was clearly swept up in the romance as he allowed me to buy some food from a street vendor – I wish I hadn’t bothered. They were selling those giant doughy pretzels that I loved so much in Orlando – the ones where when you bite into them you’re rewarded with cheesy goodness and warmth. Pfft. I could have given myself a full body shave with this one it was that dry and tough. I almost went back and bought another so that I could fashion a pair of snow shoes out of them but didn’t want to hand over any more to the grasping charlatan behind the cart.

Mind, we did walk with some style.

Eventually, as dusk gave way to night, we found ourselves at the giant ice-rink. We had no intention of strapping blades to our already swollen, sore feet – that would just be ridiculous. Naturally, we ended up doing exactly that ten minutes later after a lot of ‘it would be silly not to’ and ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine’. It was, for me – I can ice-skate, despite it looking like a wardrobe is thundering around the rink – but Paul has all the co-ordination you’d expect from someone who is twice the weight he should be and has eyes that move entirely independently of each other. It was like that poor horse from earlier had strapped on a pair of blades. Like Bambi, but with something terrifying pressing on his brain stem. We couldn’t skate for long – our ankles were bending as though made from playdoh – but it was a good laugh. Paul did almost take some poor child’s fingertips off when he skated perilously close to her fallen body but luckily, all was well. We decided to stop before we injured someone irreversibly and, after spending about fifteen minutes trying to take off the skates without everyone hearing our rasping, heavy, exhausted breathing, we were back on our way.

Thankfully, without realising it, we’d walked almost to where we started and were able to get an Uber straight back to the hotel. I say straight back but the journey took almost fifty minutes thanks to traffic and tourists. Tchoh. Tourists. Our Uber driver, unusually, wasn’t a frightening ranting racist but instead a perfectly erudite young man who displayed excellent taste by telling us he wanted to move to Scotland and live on an island. We traded stories and the time flew by. We tipped generously, staggered to our room and put our heads down for a quick nap before going back out.

Nope, in what is becoming a running theme for our holidays, we knacker ourselves out so much during the day that we fall asleep early evening and sleep right through. I woke up at about 11 and tried to shake Paul awake so we could go out and get some scran in the city that never sleeps, but he just grumbled something uncouth at me, farted heartily, then went straight back to sleep. After a moment’s furious sulking, I did exactly the same.


Right, let’s get to the lentils! A veggie recipe, yes. But you know, it’s cheap to make and it tastes delicious. In fact, this was a triumph! I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction. This makes enough for two hearty bowls and I’ve adapted it from an Anna Jones recipe from her book A Modern Way To Cook, which you can pick up here. It’s the first vegetarian book I’ve bought with decent recipes in, so fair play.

garlic puy lentils

to make garlic lentils with roasted tomatoes and horseradish cottage cheese, you’ll need:

  • 250g of cooked puy lentils (we buy Merchant Gourmet ones from the shop – 2 syns for 250g)
  • five cloves of garlic
  • a few sprigs of thyme (if you don’t have fresh, don’t shit the bed, just use dried)
  • a veggie stock cube
  • 400g of decent cherry tomatoes – there’s some amazing cherry tomatoes out in the shops right now – don’t buy cheap and don’t put them in the bloody fridge, keep them in the sun
  • a teaspoon of lemon juice
  • a wholemeal bun (60g) (HEB)
  • 100ml of fat free cottage cheese
  • 2tbsp of horseradish – we use Colmans and it comes in at 1 syn per tbsp

Now, the original recipe calls for you to cook your own lentils in stock, with four cloves of garlic and a tomato, plus the thyme, until they’re soft. If you like, you can do that. But we’re all about express today.

to make garlic lentils with roasted tomatoes and horseradish cottage cheese, you should:

  • mix your horseradish into your cottage cheese and set aside
  • cut your tomatoes in half and squirt them with a spritz or two of olive oil – but don’t go mad, the tomato flavour is more than enough
  • take your cloves of garlic, don’t worry about peeling them, and put them on the same tray as the tomatoes
  • roast them in the oven for maybe 30 minutes
  • once they’re done, prepare your breadcrumbs – whizz the bun into crumbs and then, in a bowl, pour the lemon juice over the crumbs and shake them about – you want just a flavour of the juice, not to soak them, then pop them in the oven to crisp
  • peel your garlic cloves and mush them up
  • reheat your cooked lentils by pouring them into a pan, adding 2ooml of stock, the mushed garlic, a few sprigs of thyme, salt, pepper and then cook it right down – nice and quick
  • assemble on the plate – lentils, then tomatoes, then cottage cheese, then the crumbs!

Delicious! I know no-one will make this but hey, worth putting it out there! Want more veggie recipes? Click the buttons below!

vegetariansmall sausagessmall  seafoodsmallbreakfastsmallsnackssmall dessertsmallslowcookersmallovernight-oatstastersmall

Enjoy!

J

spicy szechuan beef, and the coach trip continues, god help us

Spicy szechuan beef? Delicious. Coach trip holidays? Awful. If you just want the recipe for spicy szechuan beef, scroll on down to the picture. If you want part two of our awful holiday story, then you’re in luck because look – part two, right away!

click here for part one, god-help-you

When you last left us we were just sliding off a sweaty bus like how corned beef slides straight out of the tin, with an oozing plop. My shirt had been ruined by the blood and brain matter leaking from my ears and Paul was about one sassy remark away from stabbing someone in the eye with a Snickers bar. I’ve never been happier to leave a bus – we could have been touring a fat rendering factory and I’d have skipped off that bus with less relief.

Cadbury World, then. You’d think that as two confirmed fat bastards we’d be walking around a chocolate factory with tented trousers and a quickening heartbeat, but it was crap. It was your typical British experience – far too expensive, far too many people, duff displays, every opportunity to shake some more money from your pockets gladly taken. Our bus arrived for the 1.30pm entrance in good time but we still had to wait for over an hour in a queue full of fractious children and beetroot-necked adults. I asked how long we’d have to wait but realised it looked unseemly pressing for quick entrance to a chocolate factory.

We decided to nip over to the gift shop – I’d heard such wonderful things about this place – that the chocolate was super-cheap, that they practically force-feed you chocolate and other sweets, that you get tugged off using a handful of Crunchies, but no, it was entirely meh. Don’t get me wrong, things were cheap, but I’ve got a Cadbury’s outlet within stroke distance of where I live and it’s cheaper there and I get to look disdainfully at all of the reprobates buying their court suits from the Burtons outlet. We bought a tiny Bertie Bassett doll and a painted plastic duck, handed over altogether too much money to a cashier who didn’t so much look bored as pig sick of her life, and rejoined the throng.

I should make it clear – one good thing – we didn’t have to troop around the factory with the rest of the coach trip. We successfully managed to distance ourselves, although not by the 300 or so miles I would have liked. We could still hear a lot of them quarrelling and snarling in the distance, like chavvy Langoliers.

The queue finally moved forward and we were given four chocolate bars each to be getting on with, with an extra one to apologise for a ‘closed exhibit’. More on that a bit later. I did ask whether we could have a bag only to be met with a look that would stop a clock. Apparently such a thing was beyond the wit of man unless I paid something silly for a fancy tote bag. I don’t want a tote bag, I don’t do yoga. We were left to stuff the chocolate into our pockets (along with the gifts we bought earlier) which meant, given we’d been superheated on the coach, everything immediately melted and made putting my hands in my pockets a terrifyingly shitty experience.

We wandered around the jungle bit which explained where the cocoa came from, we enjoyed the god-bless-them-they’re-trying acting parts and hell, we were both glad of a sit down in the little theatre. Again, though, because we were packed in there like level 999 tetris pieces, it was hard to relax. There’s a bit with big scary signs saying ‘people with heart, back or neck problems should stand up’ which got us both quivering with excitement and hypertension but it amounted to nothing more than the ‘pews’ shaking a bit and making our tits jiggle. You just know there’s hidden camera footage somewhere on xtube of this.

Then…that was it, really. There’s a whole section where you can see the factory and machinery which makes and packages the chocolate but er, it was all closed down. So you’re left squinting at some dusty machines trying to figure out if they splurted the yellow bits into creme eggs or packaged up the Love Hearts. It’s about as exciting as I’m making it sound. Both Paul and I are massive geeks when it comes to production lines and factories, we find them endlessly fascinating, which is lucky as our TV is seemingly permanently tuned to How It’s Made. Nuclear war could be declared and we’d be oblivious, though if you needed to know how they mix paint we’d be cooking on gas.

We kept walking in the vain hope we’d find something to do. There’s an outdoors bit with a big 4D cinema, which I’m sure would have been just amazing only there was a massive queue (gasp) and we needed to be back on the Boat of Charon by 4pm. So, that was that. We queued up to experience the Cadabra (a little too close to cadaver if you ask me, although that seems fitting given we were bored to death) ride where you sit on a little guided car and experience the thrills of 90s animatronics whirring by. It was like being at Disney, only not at all. We deliberately pulled the most miserable faces we could when the camera went off which at least gave us a chuckle when we bought our photo at the end of it (£10, which I was overjoyed to pay).

Now, here’s the thing. I’m kvetching about the cost of stuff here because it’s a blog post and we have to try and be faintly entertaining, and the moaning about money is part of our schtick. But we hide it very well when talking to staff or other people because christ, no-one likes a proper moaning minnie. The reason I mention this is because we ‘made a friend’ –  the very second we gave up and sat outside to wait for the bus, another traveller made a beeline for us with his face full of woe. He then spent the next five minutes moaning at us about what a waste of money the trip was, how ripped off he felt, how it was the worst thing he’s ever experienced in his life. You know when someone looks as though their face hasn’t seen a smile for a good few years? This was him. The type of guy to complain if you hung him with a new rope.

Oh and I just couldn’t be arsed. Let me put this in perspective – if he paid anything like us, the whole journey – bus travel, hotel stay, dinner, breakfast, a trip to Cadbury World and a trip to a safari park would have cost less than £80 for the whole weekend. The way he was going on you’d think the driver had co-signed him on a fucking mortgage and made him buy the bus. I feigned explosive diarrhoea and we left him to his sobs. I can’t abide it. I know I’m a negative nancy but by god I put a good fake face on when needed. The fact that we had to hide from him meant that we had to hide in the toilets for a good twenty minutes and then, when 4pm rocked around, we sprinted onto the bus before he had a chance to give us the old watery-eyed gaze.

The hour long trip to the hotel was as bad as the six hours that preceded it. Kids screaming, this time sugared off their tits. Parents arguing. The couple in front continuing to give me enough reason to contemplate running screaming to the front of the bus, grabbing the steering wheel and driving us straight into the Gas Street Basin. Thankfully, we pulled into our hotel before I completely lost control. There was more awed oohing that I can ever imagine has happened before as our eyes fell upon the Birmingham Airport Holiday Inn.

We all checked in, moving like cattle at the slaughterhouse. I asked about dinner, expecting a couple of hours window forus to drift downstairs and get something to eat, only to be told that all of the coach party would be eating in the same place – a meeting room away from the main restaurant at 6pm sharp. I retorted whether they expected us to wear an orange jumpsuit to complete the prison feel but it fell on uninterested ears. We slinked to our room – perfectly pleasant – and had a lie down until 6pm. We decided to brave it.

We lasted less than a minute. We opened the door to the meeting room, saw everyone sitting in rows like Hogwarts: The Borstal Years, was pushed out of the way by someone with more make-up than sense carrying four blue WKDs, then we turned on our heel and fucked off. No way was I going to top the day by listening to people smacking their lips and clacking their teeth as they snaffled from the trough.

Stuck with nothing to do and no change of clothes for a decent night on the town, we decided to spend the rest of the night in the room watching Eurovision on the tiny television, which was shite. We ordered room service: a burger, a pizza, some dips, a bottle of Coke and a bottle of house white wine. £75. I hadn’t realised that I was paying someone to press the fucking grapes. Our room grew steadily hotter thanks in no small part to the air-conditioner which couldn’t have blown the froth off a cappuccino and at 11, we called down for a fan. Nineteen years later a small fan was brought to the room.

Naturally, the fan had a fucking blade missing, meaning it was unbalanced and when turned on it clattered and scattered all over the table. It would have been quieter to build a wind turbine. I asked for another fan, another was brought – this one didn’t work. Didn’t switch on. I called down for a third fan and finally a working fan arrived. Pfft.

We spent the night tossing and turning in the sticky heat and, at around 4am, we both kicked off the duvet, sat upright in bed and decided we were going to go home. We would hire a car in the morning and drive back in air-conditioned comfort. Soothed by this thought, we fell into a fitful sleep.

In the morning we went down and told the driver that we had been called urgently back to work – he was really quite lovely – but even seeing the coach sent Paul into violent tremors. Once we knew that we were free the morning became all the more sweeter. We went for all-you-can-breakfast in the hotel restaurant which was very tasty and marred only slightly by the fact there was a bodybuilding competition on at the hotel and thus it was full of preening peacocking men strutting around in vests and mooing on about egg-white omelettes.

Paul and I enjoyed a bit of mischief when this very well-to-do fart sat down on the table next to us and started harrumphing about our giant stack of food. He was, but of course, a Daily Mail reader, so we sat and exaggerated our liberal viewpoints – going on about how wonderful immigration is, how terrific Corbyn will be as a leader, how they should fund the NHS until money pours from the drip stands – and he went more and more red in the face as we continued. Paul kicked me under the table when I started waxing lyrical about how fantastic Europe is lest it proved too much for the poor chap and he pitched forward angrily into his beans.

Full, we Ubered our way to Birmingham Airport, made our way to the Hertz exchange and picked up a Qashqai. The lovely lady (and I’m not being sarcastic, she was charm personified, especially when faced with our dour faces) wouldn’t let me haggle though, even when I worked in a ‘family death’ and ‘having to cut our holiday short’. Bah. We drove back in no rush, enjoying a good singalong, and realised that our holidays will only ever work when it’s just us vs the world.

Coach trip, done. Now let’s never talk about it again. Common decency prevents me mentioning the company we used but actually, they were the only part of the holiday that worked well, so fair play.


Right, shall we get to some spicy szechuan beef, then? A doddle to make, low in syns and you can add all sorts of other veg in. The recipe makes enough for four. Let’s do this.

to make spicy szechuan beef you will need:

  • 400g beef (steak, diced or strips will do you just fine)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornflour (1 syn)
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 large carrot
  • 500g rice noodles
  • 3 spring onions, sliced

for the sauce

  • 1 tbsp sriracha (½ syn) (it’s hot sauce_)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp honey (2½ syns)
  • 2 tsp cornflour (2 syns)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (2 syns)

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

to make spicy szechuan beef you should:

  • make sure the beef is sliced into thin strips – if you’re already using stir fry strips they’re fine as they are. diced beef will be best cut in half (it also makes it go further!)
  • place the beef in a large bowl
  • mix together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chilli flakes and cornflour in a bowl and pour over the beef – allow to marinade while you prepare the rest of the ingredients
  • thinly slice the red and green pepper and garlic (or just use the chopped stuff if you can’t be arsed) and pop into a bowl
  • peel and grate the carrot and place in the bowl with the peppers and garlic
  • next, mix together all of the sauce ingredients together in a jug
  • cook the noodles according to the instructions, drain and then rinse with cold water to stop them cooking – keep aside until you need them later
  • next, heat a large frying pan over a medium high head and add a little oil
  • add the beef and cook for a few minutes until only a little pink remains
  • add the peppers, garlic and carrots to the pan and cook for a few more minutes
  • add the sauce to the pan and cook until thickened slightly and everything is well coated
  • add the noodles to the pan and stir to mix (bit of a faff-on, mind – use a couple of forks to pull the noodles apart and get it well mixed)
  • serve and sprinkle over the spring onions

Done and done! Looking for more fakeaway recipes or stuff to do with your meat? Aren’t we all. Click the buttons!

fakeawayssmallpoultrysmallbeefsmallporksmalllambsmall

J