mediterranean meatloaf – perfect for dinner or day-after leftovers

Here for the mediterranean meatloaf? I’d expect nothing less from someone like you, if I’m honest. The good news is the recipe is typed up and ready for you to start running your fingers under the words in just a few paragraphs from now, but first: flimflam.

Firstly, glad today’s terrorist attack in London didn’t go as planned, even if some people were unlucky enough to receive injuries, it could have been much worse and we should be thankful for it. We live in uncertain times but don’t let it stop you from doing anything, life’s too short to worry. That said, imagine my distress when Facebook didn’t activate their ‘Safety Check-in’ function, leading to me fretting all day that my housebound Aunt in Oban had been caught up in the drama. She was good enough to check herself in as ‘safe’ during Hurricane Harvey, she must have been beside herself today that she couldn’t keep up updated!

Next – we’ve seen IT. We actually went to see it last Saturday night and it was excellent. Genuinely creepy – a couple of times I was left breathless and it wasn’t just from having to climb the stairs back to our seats in the back row after I’d been for a piss. People hold up the original TV series in high regard and I think it’s undeserving, no I do, Tim Curry played it campy and the book is far away from that. This take on IT, although it misses out huge chunks of the book, was just marvellous. Give it a go, even if you’re not a horror fan.

I was, however, reminded of why I hate going to the cinema: other people. You know in TV shows about ‘being the last person on Earth’ the lead character always has a dreadful time without anyone to talk to or socialise with? That’s my idea of heaven, though perhaps with keeping Paul around to act as a safety-valve for my balls. I spend so long fretting about having people in front of me looking at their phones, beside me smelling of wee, BO or Joop or worse, behind me with breath that could strip paint that I’m already an anxious mess before the movie starts.

Plus people have become so inconsiderate, no? I know that makes me sound like an old fart but I don’t care – there were three mouthbreathers who, when not sat looking at their phones set to nuclear-detonation levels of brightness,  kept screaming theatrically and running down the cinema stairs as though they were terrified. It was incredibly distracting and the fact that they didn’t trip on the stairs, fall, break their necks and die is proof to me that there is no God. It was all I could do to tut into my popcorn and sigh like an asthmatic climbing stairs. And here, before you send me letters, I say that as an asthmatic. So don’t hold your breath for an apology, because if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to.

Whilst we’re picking the scab of bad manners to see what bleeds out, another small annoyance. I walk into work across our local town moor most days. It’s a charming way to start the day – it clears my head, not least because my brain needs all the space it can get to reassure me the fact I can see my thundering heartbeat lifting up my fingernails isn’t a bad thing. However, it’s fraught with peril – cows, cow shit, dogs running around, cyclists bursting past like lycra-clad missiles of smugness (some, not all, naturally) and people running with the inevitable ‘I’m about to cum’ face that so befalls the casual jogger.

It’s OK, I know there’s a parallel blog somewhere where someone is kvetching about trying to get past some stumbling fat oaf sliding around on the cow shite in his cheap shoes. That’s fine.

Anyway, each day when I get to the gate I hold it open for three or so cyclists (in a vain attempt to hide my heavy breathing and spluttered gasps) to cycle through so they don’t need to stop and get off their bikes. I probably get thanked oooh….50% of the time, with the others cycling through as though I have nothing better to do then to stand there holding the gate open like the gayest fence-post you’ve ever seen. I’ve started theatrically calling ‘NO NO, IT WAS MY PLEASURE, YOU BUMBLING CLIT’ but I doubt they hear it over the hum of their own self-importance. You must understand that this isn’t a critique of cyclists but rather the ill-mannered who don’t say thank you. The urge to hold the gate open only to clang it shut at the very last second did enter my brain, but on the basis that I’m not a psychopath, it drifted back out.

Let’s see what next week brings, eh? Anyway, shush James, this was supposed to be a quick opening entry before we served up the mediterranean summer meatloaf, so shall we do that now?

This serves SIX!

TWO SYN MEDITERRANEAN MEATLOAF

TWO SYN MEDITERRANEAN MEATLOAF

to make mediterranean meatloaf you will need:

for the meatloaf

for the glaze

  • 3 tbsp Hellman’s Tomato Ketchup Sweetened with Honey (1½ syns)
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard (1½ syns)
  • ¼ tsp hot chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp honey (2½ syns)
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

to make mediterranean meatloaf you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200°c
  • in a large bowl mix together all of the meatloaf ingredients together by hand until well combined, and slop into a loaf tin
  • next, mix together all of the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and brush over the top of the meatloaf
  • bake in the oven for 45 minutes
  • let it rest for ten minutes (it helps to improve the flavour) then serve

 

These dinners are our favourite because they’re so easy! You know what else is easy? YOU. AND all of our other recipes – we’re nearly at 500! Click one of the buttons below to be magically transported to even more ideas!

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one-pot super simple beef stew

Right, quick recipe post for a super simple beef stew! Sometimes you need a plate of cat-food-esque stew to line your gunt and this is just the ticket. Plus, if you’re a haphazard fool like us in the kitchen, you can’t go too wrong with it – just need to cut everything up, hoy it all in a pan and allow to simmer, then thicken with gravy. Get it made!

Anyway, whilst I’ve got you here, we’re also running a competition this week to win a soupmaker! It’s not Paul, before you ask, but it’s a lovely Morphy Richards number. Click the image below and you’ll be taken straight to the competition entry page in a new window. Go for it – it’s an easy competition and all you have to do is find the queens’ Queen!

Right, straight to the recipe! See, I can do it occasionally…

super simple beef stew

super simple beef stew

to make one-pot super simple beef stew you will need:

  • 400g diced beef
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1″ pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tbsp flour (4 syns)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 litre water
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tsp gravy granules (4 syns)

Looking for a good deal on diced beef? Dead easy. A fair few of our exclusive Musclefood deals have diced beef included! Have a look – link will open in a new window!

to make one-pot super simple beef stew you should:

  • in a large pot, heat oil over a medium-high heat, add the beef and cook until browned
  • stir in everything else except for the gravy granules, cover with the lid and simmer for two hours
  • when finished, stir in the gravy granules until thick
  • serve

Love simple dinners? We’ve got loads more! Just click the buttons below:

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crispy chilli beef – well, sort of, because this is Slimming World after all

Crispy chilli beef! Yeah, kind of. Look you’re never going to replicate the chilli beef you get from the takeaway because they fry it in oil – like all delicious things – and obviously we can’t do that. But this is a good, tasty effort! Before we get to that, of course, Paul had the idea that he would like to bookend our Newcastle trip report with his views on the North East. I nearly died of shock – the poor sod never wants to write our posts – so who am I to complain? He’d love feedback and I hope his billet-doux leaves you satisfied and smiling. That said, if you’re not wanting to read, that’s fine – like I do for all the longer entries, I’m including a shortcut button for you. That’s right – this time just click on the GRUMPY NAG to go straight to the food.

I thought she’d never leave, you know? Someone should tell her about her moustache. You could use it to strain soup. Right, shall we get on?


part one | part two | part three | part four | part five | part six | part seven

It’s well-known on this blog that when James and I first met, we had a couple of dates and I, completely on a whim, moved straight to Newcastle to be with him. At that time I was living in the living hell that is commonly known as Portsmouth, renting a room in a mansion from a pair of sadomasochistic dungeon masters. I’m not even joking with that one, I’m actually surprised that story hasn’t made it into a blogpost yet.

The strangest thing for me though was that I never heard of anything coming out of Newcastle. No news, no excitement, nothing at all. All I knew of it was from Byker Grove and even then I was only giving it half my attention because there was no doubt a tin of Campbell’s meatballs in the microwave on the go for me. I knew it had Geordies (obviously) and some sort of past industrial history but that was it. Until that point, I made a promise (and my good friend Glenn reminds me of this often) that I would never live ‘in the North’. Don’t get me wrong – I’m probably the most common person you’ll ever meet and absolutely not a snob, but I just had this vision in my mind of unrelenting grey skies, rusting machinery everywhere and misery.

How pleasantly surprised I was then when I actually visited the place. It absolutely astounded me. For my first journey up we got the train; I remember getting off and seeing this little scale model of the city on a plinth just outside the entrance. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was lit up and everything. I thought maybe it’d been dropped by the planning department and should probably keep off it, but no – it was art. It was public art! Just something small and insignificant and probably ignored by most people who walked past it but I was genuinely speechless. This might all sound very over-the-top and dramatic but I promise it’s true. See, I grew up in a place called Peterborough which, except for a big ass cathedral, pretty much just exploded forth in the 60’s and 70’s into a New Town haemorrhage. It’s totally devoid of any sort of culture. Utilitarian. Dull. Brown. Ring roads. You get the idea. Portsmouth was even worse.

So we came out the Central Station and saw this little plinth. We walked down to the Quayside and there was more. There was a vampire rabbit over a door. An archway that lit up like Tetris bricks. Another arch that would sing to you in a weird Geordie accent as you went through. A statue of a bloke floating in the air. It was amazing. And the place was absolutely immaculate.

We arrived down onto the Quayside, I saw the Tyne Bridge for the first time, and just in the distance, nestled against the big curve was the Sage (which looks like me on my side). I was absolutely mesmerised. This place was gorgeous. It was modern, it was clean, it was NICE! I knew then that I immediately wanted to move here. It was a place that I’d actually want to leave the house for and explore, rather than to just go to the supermarket. We stopped at the Pitcher and Piano (which gives a cracking view out onto a tilting bridge!), I actually scribbled out my resignation letter on a sheet of notepaper I scrounged off the barman there and then and he kindly faxed it off for me. I’d forgotten all about that until now. I mean, look at us way back when…

I really want you to know how taken in I was with the instant beauty of ‘The North’ (James here: I’m fairly sure he’s talking about me, but don’t be blue)

Look how young we were! Aaaah.

I still get it now. When I visit Peterborough I’m sad to say that I’m appalled by it. It’s dirty, dull, dreary. It’s like going back behind the Iron Curtain. There’s no ‘life’ to it. The last time we visited we had to go to Milton Keynes to find something to do. That just ain’t the case in Newcastle. As you’ll read in our posts, I’ve lived here for ten years (James for 32) and we’ve STILL only scratched the surface of things to do here. We’ll never get bored.

Even though we don’t really live in Newcastle anymore (but we’re only up the road) you can ‘feel’ the atmosphere. Even in the ‘rough’ parts you get it – I tell my friends that live in Ashington all the time that there’s just an energy to it all, as wank as that sounds, but there is! There’s something in the air. The people are nicer up North too, not just politer, but nicer. Their default setting is to be cheerful and helpful rather than dour and suspicious. I love it.

Newcastle has everything you need – it’s got the beautiful town centre, an ugly bit of town centre (sometimes I do miss concrete), the seaside is only a few miles away, the nice seaside is only a few miles more, a big-ass Angel, rolling countryside that goes on forever, and an airport if you want some proper sun. What more do you need?

If I had to recommend somewhere to visit around here other than Newcastle (of course) would be the bit around South East Northumberland – you’ve got Northumberlandia, a giant woman made out of rubble, the fantastic mining history over in Ashington (the Woodhorn museum is fascinating), a gorgeous beach over at Blyth (not a 99 in sight! Just watch out for doggers) and some wonderful countryside-villagey stuff up near Alnwick including a brilliant bookshop in an old train station, a dramatic castle and a fancy garden. Vindolanda’s also nearby for some fancy learnin’, and if you want to see a dishy 20-something studmuffin dress up as a Roman soldier.

Oh, and did I mention the accent? It’s brilliant. Jokes are funnier coming out of a Geordie. It’s a scientific fact (probably).

Come. You won’t be disappointed.

 


Full disclosure – we’ve copied this one from Auntie but have made it a bit more SW friendly!

crispy chilli beef

crispy chilli beef

to make crispy chilli beef you will need:

  • 350g of minute steak, cut into thin slices (you can get some in our new ‘build your own’ Musclefood hamper!)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (2 syns)
  • 2 tsp Chinese five-spice
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 4 spring onions, sliced (keep the green bits and the white bits separated)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (save the faff and get one of these)
  • thumb-sized bit of ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (2 syns)
  • 2 tbsp Hellman’s Tomato Ketchup sweetened with Honey (1 syn) (normal tomato sauce will do, just add on another syn)
  • 250g wholewheat noodles, cooked according to the instructions

to make crispy chilli beef you should:

  • put the beef in a bowl and toss with the cornflour and five-spice
  • heat a wok or a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add a really good spray of oil (don’ let Frylight wreck your pans, use this instead)
  • add the beef and fry until nice and crisp
  • scoop out the beef and add in the peppers, half the chilli, the white bits of the spring onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about 3 minutes
  • in a small jug, mix togehter the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and tomato sauce along with 2tbsp water and pour over the veg
  • stir well and let it bubble for about 2 minutes
  • add the beef back to the pan, stir well and serve over the noodles, and sprinkle over the green bits of the spring onions

Finally managed to scratch that fakeaway itch? To be fair, the itch was probably just yer cystitis playing up. We’ve got plenty more to tickle your fancy – just press one of the buttons below to find out more!

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this is nacho normal salad

I’m so sorry, but I can never resist a pun. I just can’t. I’m just glad I’m not a doctor. or I’d spend my days trying to work a gag into telling someone they had six months to live. But why nacho salad? Wait and see. But I have some business to attend to first…tonight’s travel entry, wrapping up Newcastle as it does, is a long one, and if you just want the food, then I’ve created a wee shortcut. Just click the LEATHERY OLD BOOT to go straight to the food…

I’m so glad she’s gone. Did you see what she was wearing? Sweet jesus…


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

Last Newcastle post! I know, I bet you’re so furious you could punch a toilet-attendant for handing you a lollipop, but try and hold your shit together. When you were last with us I’d just kicked Paul’s arse at Kerplunk and Connect 4 and he was crying into his gin. To sober him up and to add a touch of local culture to the weekend, we decided to visit our local museum dedicated to the North East – the Discovery Museum. It’s quite an apt name, as you’ll discover new levels of disappointment as you look at broken exhibit after broken exhibit.

I’ll be there!

No, that’s mean, and I’m being glib. It’s a perfectly fine way to kill an hour or two, even if everything interactive was either out of order or in the hands of a child. I shan’t open that particular wound up again. For the most part it’s about local history, so you get plenty of bits about the Tyne, about the ship-building areas, kids being sent down the mine with only a 20-deck of Capstan Full Strength and phlegm sandwiches for dinner, that sort of thing. There’s a ‘god bless them, they tried’ science lab where you can turn on lights and move handles and press buttons. It’s terrifically exciting, never quite knowing when the next yawn is coming along. We did have fun in the shadow room, mind:

I used to do my studies in here back when I was in the nearby college and I was keen to see if the little café upstairs was still the same – you used to be able to get a jacket potato the size of a sea-swollen foot with beans for £2. But of course not. No, it’s gone down the panini route like most other museum places, where you can get a panini that you could have a full shave together with eight crisps and a token bit of salad that looks like something scraped off the inside of a hamster’s cheek. Haway, shall we not. I had a sweet chilli chicken panini, Paul had coronation chicken, and I think it tells you everything you need to know that we didn’t realise until after we’d finished them that we had choken down each other’s order. That’s how fresh and flavourful they were. Harumph!

There was, at the very least, one saving grace – an exhibition devoted to our local annual funfair, The Hoppings. It promised to recreate the experience of being there, which alarmed me a bit as I didn’t fancy being ripped off by someone who owned eight caravans and seven wives, nor did I want to see Paul get shanked for successfully winning a rigged hook-a-duck game, but we went in regardless. What fun! They had a great collection of old games and creaking fruit machines and we spent a good half an hour wasting our time in there. All of the machines had been gifted to the museum for a few weeks by a group dedicated to restoring them and there was a friendly fella in there talking about them. I love anyone with proper enthusiasm and even my eyes didn’t glaze over whilst he told us about his push-a-penny machine. I was captivated! Paul had to drag me out as he’d spotted the rain that had been plaguing us all day had momentarily stopped, so we dashed out to find somewhere new.

Naturally, the heavens opened the split second those automatic days slid open and we had to dash like the two fat, breathless sods that we are to the nearby station for shelter. Gone are the days we would have cheerfully Ubered that 300 metre dash, and I can’t wait to tell you why…in time…anyway.

Paul took a moment to lead the station in a singalong around the old Joanna…

As we sat and steamed in the Central Station – a beautiful 19th century listed building ruined somewhat by 21st century bastards and the occasional spiced-up zombie – our phones buzzed and Tripadvisor recommended a nearby bar as being ‘right up our street’. It was, quite literally, so we squelched over, only pausing briefly whilst a chap I used to work with bumped into me and I spent a good two minutes trying desperately to remember who he was. Not because he was awful, you understand, but because he’d lost lots of weight and I’ve got a memory like a sieve. Is there a more awkward feeling than someone recognising you like an old chum and you not having the faintest clue? I was hoping for Paul to explosively shit himself as a distraction but his balloon-knot remained tightly clenched. Boo-shucks to him. Anyway, by the time I’d realised who he was it was time to leave, and I left feeling a right rotten bastard. Still, we had a science-themed bar to cheer me up…

…except it didn’t. I’ve genuinely never been served by someone so disinterested and with a contemptuous attitude in Newcastle. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect people to start doing the fucking can-can when we walk in but at least look up from your phone, you prissy column of hair-gel and unmerited superiority. We ordered drinks – as the only two people in there – and were served with all the interest you might give to a scab on your knee. Admittedly we ordered cocktails but we were told (lies!) that these would be fun, science based cocktails served in beakers. We got some syrupy-sweet sour nonsense mixed with tonic and a shitty look. We took our seats at the table, played with the chalk lovingly left for us:

and left before the atmosphere overcame us and we pitched ourselves through the glass windows in despair. Science? He was certainly a fucking alchemist when it came to turning joy into despair.

Luckily, Paul’s nose led us straight to the next meal, hidden away under the arches of the nearby railway. We seem to have a bit of a thing for eating under the arches of a bridge – The Herb Garden is another restaurant which has been stuffed neatly somewhere it shouldn’t, namely under the East Coast Main Line. We ate here on a whim – it was late in the afternoon and Paul was so entranced by the giant pizza oven in the window that it was a done deal before I could finish my ‘but Paul, your thighs’ sentence. We were the only ones in, but that’s purely down to the time of day – normally it’s packed solid, much like we both were afterwards. We were seated and served by a lovely friendly waitress and our food arrived in no time at all. We barely had time to work out who had the difficult job of dusting the lighting down…

We ordered the antipasti selection for two (we wanted to order it for four, but kept our dignity) and it certainly passed muster – tasty cured meats, olives far beyond the usual slop from the supermarkets and decent bread. We tried to eat slowly but it was gone before we could blink: may I stress, we’re greedy.

Given they’re famous for good pizza, we elected for a (deep breath) spinach, egg, pecorino, garlic, mozzarella, olives and basil pizza (£10) and, in a vain attempt to mitigate that cheese, we ordered a flower power chicken salad to share (£12).

They came within ten minutes of ordering and believe me when I say they were as tasty as they look. The pizza – clearly fresh and made to order – was cooked perfectly, with a big gooey egg in the middle. The salad, usually always the bridesmaid to the main meal’s bride, was a revelation to the point where we’ve tried to recreate it at home for the blog and failed miserably. The mix of textures, flavours and looks made this a dish more than capable of standing on its own. I didn’t want to share!

There’s the usual array of sides and appetizers to chomp your way through together with an extensive specials board with each dish inviting us to come back and to hell with the diet. There’s a breakfast pizza called The Fannie Farmer – who wouldn’t want to push their face into that on a weekend morning? Me. That’s who. Never been one for eating sushi off the barbershop floor. We waddled out, content, and wandered down to the High Level bridge to read the graffiti.

Read the graffiti? Why yes, and here’s some choice cuts…

       I can’t see PETA using this as a tag-line.

Brilliant stuff. There was also the usual array of rusty padlocks that people seem intent on leaving everywhere there’s a bridge. Why? I know it’s a love thing but if you feel like your love is only worthy of a view of the Ovoline Lubricants factory and the hearty stench of piss, perhaps it’s time to look again at your relationship. Anyway, we were off to hunt for a rabbit.

Hidden in a corner of Dean Street is the Vampire Rabbit – an odd little curiosity perched high above a door. Why is it odd? Because it’s a menacing looking stone rabbit with bloodied fangs. Because of course. Newcastle’s full of little eccentricities like this and I love it. The best part? It was supposed to be a cute adornment on a fancy door, but one of the owners of the building decided to make it a little more macabre by painting the sandstone. That’s my town.

The final stop on our Holiday at Home was our pre-arranged appointment at Dog and Scone, Newcastle’s first puppy restaurant. Controversial yes, but once you’ve had a puppy pizza you’ll never look back. So much meat on those little legs! Oh I’m kidding, clearly, just before anyone accosts me outside of work and throws red paint all over my best Jacamo coat. Newcastle has had a couple of cat cafes for a while now – somewhere where you can go and stroke cats with a cup of tea. I blogged about one of them and can cheerfully recommend them as a lovely way to waste an hour. But how do you upstage cats? You can’t, to be clear, but someone has opened a puppy café as an attempt to do so. Same principle – have a cup of tea and coo at the gorgeous puppies that frolic about. What next? Perhaps they’ll open a horse café. Ah that wouldn’t work – there would be nowt on the menu, but hay.

So proud of that one.

We washed our hands, took our seats and spent a lovely hour watching the dogs gambol around, chasing each other and hopefully having fun. They did look tired though, and I’ll come back to that later. There was a pug there called Laughing which I fell in love with – there’s something about saggy-jowled, snuffling, wide-eyed bags of barely-breathing flesh that I like, as my marriage to Paul demonstrates. They wrapped the pug in a towel and he fell asleep in my arms which was just lovely. Paul was given a corgi called Coffee which kept raucously farting and then looking at its own anus as if in absolute shock that such a thing could happen. If we ever get a dog Paul wants a corgi but I think that’s ridiculous – if you’re going to get a dog, get a bloody dog, not some silly bugger that looks like a roided-up cat. Oh, there was one little bitch that we didn’t like and who wasn’t on the menu – some foppish waste of skin and spunk who, upon being told the place was shutting imminently, made a fuss about getting a fresh pot of Darjeeling and that really it isn’t any bother at all for the staff to wait around whilst he finished it because he was the customer. Never before have I wanted a dog to bite someone on the bollocks so much. We left at closing time, he was still there being a bellend.

  

It did get me thinking how much money is in just buying a few dogs and a catering box of teabags from Costco and setting up a dog café of my own. Two Chubby Pups. Wags ‘n’ Fags. Puffs and Ruffs? I mean, the list is endless even if your enthusiasm isn’t. We did agree that we didn’t enjoy the puppy café as much as the cat café and let me tell you why – cats can get up on high and hide when they don’t want to be touched or handled, whereas the puppies kept going to their bed only to be picked up again and I genuinely can’t say I’m alright with that. I stress that I have no doubt that they are looked after amazingly well, but if you’re having to wake up a sleeping dog just to parade him about for photos…it left a sore taste in our mouths. Plus about half a dog’s worth of hair. We made our way home and, as usual, were greeted on the path by both cats looking nonchalant. That changed once they realised we’d been petting other animals and it was straight back to indifference and shunning and passively-aggressively licking their arseholes in front of the telly so their paws blocked the sensor on the front. Pfft.

And that’s that! Our holiday in Newcastle, done. Paul’s got some thoughts he wants to share with you all – god help us – and they’ll come next, but let me say one thing – explore your own city! We had such a fun weekend being tourists in our own city, doing things that have passed us by or that we would never normally be arsed to do because they’re on our doorstep – but here’s the thing, unless you open the door, you’ll never see them. Newcastle is an amazing city full of wonderful people – some of us have unwebbed feet, you know –  and I implore you to give our city a go. Paul will touch on it, but we’re so much more than Brown Ale, men punching police horses and Sherrul Curl, thank God. You can get a cheap hotel right in the city centre if you’re willing to go down the Premier Inn route, and then the weekend will be as expensive or as cheap as you want to make it. We’re a big city that feels compact thanks to easy walking routes and a decent Metro system and if you’re feeling adventurous, you could even step out into Northumberland to try our amazing beaches, cracking local food and rolling hills. There’s a pretty famous wall to walk along, you know, and you might even bump into Vera as she solves her crimes in that wee little hat.

If you do, try and tell her that every single sentence doesn’t need to end in ‘pet’, ‘sweetheart’ and ‘love’ and that ‘Mordor’ isn’t a crime but rather where those little hobbits destroyed a ring.

We’d love your feedback guys!


Right, let’s do this not your nacho salad, shouldn’t I? Worth the syns, trust me! Makes enough for four bowls.

to make a nacho normal salad, you’ll need:

  • 400g of extra lean beef mince – 5% or less
  • one chopped romaine lettuce mixed with rocket
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • a cucumber cut into chunks
  • a mixture of gherkins, sliced olives (25g – 2 syns)
  • one onion
  • tin of black eyed beans
  • 160g of grated extra mature lighter cheese (4 x HEA)
  • one packet of doritos (30g – 7.5 syns)
  • one carton of passata (preferably with chilli)

You can buy loads, absolutely loads, of perfect mince 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.

to make a nacho normal salad, you should:

  • chop up all your veg (bar the onion) and crush up your nachos and keep to one side, like this

  • meanwhile, chop the onion, fry it off lightly in a bit of oil until softened (or Fryshite), then add the mince and cook it off until brown
  • meanwhile again, bubble off your passata to thicken it nicely into a sauce
  • put everything into one bowl (bar the sauce) and mix it all up – then add cheese, crushed doritos and a drizzle of sauce
  • done!

Want some more inspiration? Fine! You know what to do!

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J

bacon cheeseburger sloppy cubs

Is there a more unattractive name than sloppy cubs? I’m worried that if you type that into google you’ll end up with our other blog, where we discuss things to do with willymilk that’ll really put hairs on your chest. But hey, I like a bit of clickbait title, so bacon cheeseburger sloppy cubs it is!

I’m going to talk seriously about something that’ll make you panic. Wheeze. Clutch at your chest. Possibly even cry.

Exercise.

Now before I do, let me explain that I know there’s nothing worse than the fervent zeal someone who has just started doing something (like going to the gym, or not smoking, or wiping their arse the proper way) (front to back) and feels the need to tell everyone else why they should do it. I’m not going to be that person. But here me out.

If you’re wanting to go to the gym, and you’re scared of what people will think of you, put your trainers on and go. Don’t waste another second worrying about the looks you’ll get as a fat person exercising, or the snide remarks people might make as you struggle on the machines, because honestly, it just doesn’t happen. If it does, people hide it well. I’ve had support from blokes built like they could compress me into a cube the size of a fluffy dice, women who could run further in an hour than I have in my entire life, but for the most part, thankfully, wonderfully, I’ve been totally ignored. Don’t let a pointless fear hold you back.

And I love my gym. I won’t tell you which one it is, partly for the paragraph following this one but also because I don’t want anyone joining and interrupting my treadmill with ‘HOW MANI SYNS HUN’ whilst waving a bottle of Lölt from the Aldi next door. You know someone would. But I enjoy the fact I can turn up any time I want, sweat a bit on the treadmill and then leer lasciviously at the chaps doing the boxing. Everyone just gets on with what they’re doing, and, unlike that time we signed up at David Lloyd, it isn’t full of peacocking men grunting in front of the mirror like the bellends they are.

That said…

I have a real problem with the exercise bikes. You’ll laugh, but it’s incredibly awkward. I can sit and merrily pedal away for a good thirty minutes now, working up a sweat, but I must be pressing on a nerve or something because it always gives me a solid, diamond-cutting, hammer-a-nail-into-a-brick-wall level erection. I genuinely have to sit for a good few minutes ‘cooling down’ before I can dismount and sweat somewhere else. I stress that I don’t get a sexual kick out of watching a blurry More4 on the bike monitor, it must be a purely physiological reaction, but god help me if the fire alarm ever goes off and I’ve got to jump down fully torqued and ready for action.

I asked Paul whether he suffered the same thing and he advised me to put the saddle back on the bike before I sit on it. Because ha-de-ha-ha. He’s not the one inadvertently pressing the emergency stop button without moving his hands. You’re thinking I’m boasting? It’s not like I told you I used it to open the window with and wipe my face.

Whilst we were having a gym conversation, I also asked Paul what the funniest sight he’s even seen in a gym was. Turns out there used to be a gym in deepest darkest Peterborough where people smoked as they exercised. I don’t know what tickles me more – the thought of the ashtray on a treadmill or the fact that people could be so contradictory. That said, you may recall the time I witnessed a lady outside of Tesco with her fag in one hand and an inhaler in the other: now that’s commitment.

Anyway, yes, just a short entry tonight if you please as we have things to do, but by God it’s a good one. You know sometimes you just need something sloppy, cheesy and packed full of meat – but you don’t have Katie Price’s number to hand? Well this will hit the spot, I promise.

bacon cheeseburger sloppy cubs

to make bacon cheeseburger sloppy cubs you will need:

  • 4x HeB buns (we used brioche buns in ours, because it makes the photo nicer, but you get the drift)
  • 400g lean beef mince
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp passata
  • 1 tbsp american-style mustard (1/2 syn, between four, I mean haway)
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 4 slices bacon medallions
  • 125ml beef stock
  • 1 tbsp cornflour (mixed with 2 tbsp COLD water) (1 syn, between four, so again up to you…)
  • 160g reduced-fat cheddar cheese (4 x HEA)

We’ve got loads of good Musclefood hampers at the moment but, SHOCK, you can build your own hamper! Pick which slimming items you want and go go go! Fill yer boots with mince and bacon until the cows never come home again. Click HERE to build your own hamper!

Whilst we’re here, Musclefood are also selling Frylight – three bottles for three quid! We don’t use it ourselves but if you fancy it, it’s right here!

to make  bacon cheeseburger sloppy cubs you should:

  • first of all, get the bacon cooking to however you like it – we put it in our OptiGrill but you can do yours however you like. When it’s cooked, remove to a plate until you need it
  • meanwhile, heat a large pan over a medium-high heat, add a little oil and chuck in the mince
  • cook until a nice crust forms on the bottom, then begin to break up
  • when the mince is nearly fully cooked, remove from the pan and add the onion
  • let the onion cook for 2-3 minutes, THEN stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes
  • add the mince back into the pan
  • stir in the beef stock, cornflour, worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and mustard
  • cook the mixture until it’s nice and sticky and not as watery – you want it to be a bit wet, but not too wet (fnar)
  • remove then pan from the heat, add the cheese and stir until it is all melted
  • add a slice of bacon to each of the buns, and top with the mince mixture.
  • eat!

Serve it with chips and chest pains.

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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!

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J

rich and tasty guinness BBQ meatballs

Guinness BBQ meatballs – yes, Guinness. This is a nice, hearty, manly meal which is sure to put hairs on your chest, which at least will be a pleasant distraction from whatever sauce you’ve managed to slop down there. I love a Guinness, although ordering one in a pub round here normally means deafening tuts and COPD-esque sighs as people are delayed getting to their fizzy piss pint.

As an aside, before we get to the recipe, I want to hear from anyone out there who works for canal boat holiday sorts – we’re looking to get something booked in but goodness me, is it expensive. Some help appreciated!

Right, the recipe…

to make guinness bbq meatballs you will need:

for the meatballs

Now, this is where I’d traditionally link to our Musclefood deal which has lots of mince 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 pork, 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.

for the sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ tsp sriracha (or any hot chilli sauce will do)
  • 250ml guinness (4.5 syns)
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp honey (5 syns)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour (1 syn)
  • 80g tomato puree

to make guinness bbq meatballs you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200°c and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
  • mix together all of the meatball ingredients until well combined
  • roll out the mixture into about 20 meatballs and place on the greaseproof paper
  • bake in the oven for about thirty minutes
  • meanwhile, mix together the cornflour with 2 tbsp water until dissolved and set aside
  • place a saucepan over a medium high heat and add a little oil
  • add the garlic cloves and stir for about thirty seconds
  • add the rest of the ingredients and the cornflour mixture into the pan and whisk to mix
  • bring to the boil, and keep whisking, then reduce the heat to a simmer
  • cook for another fifteen minutes, whisking regularly until the mixture has thickened and reduced
  • when the meatballs are cooked, remove from the paper and stir gently into the sauce to coat
  • serve

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J

half a syn black pepper steak stir fry

Here for the black pepper steak stir fry? Well hold your water.

Porky Light anyone? Mahaha. My facebook is awash – nay, alight – with posts about the fact that it looks like those delicious Slimming World half syn sausages called Porky Lights might be 4.5 syns as opposed to 0.5 syns. You know what? GOOD. It’ll serve all those folks right who went out to ASDA and bought pallets of the bloody things as though each sausage came with £100 and half an hour of cunnilingus from a man with three tongues. That isn’t forward planning, that isn’t taking advantage, it’s sheer bloody greed, and the way they paraded their hauls like it was something to be proud of just made my teeth itch. Of course there’s the odd reason to legitimately bulk-buy (perhaps you live far from a supermarket) but doing it just because you saw some other immoderate slattern stockpiling makes you an absolute arse. So yeah: boo bloody hoo. I just hope the next revelation is that Fibre One bars give folks a Tom Selleck moustache and tits like two fighting ferrets. I can’t stand bloody greed.

Anyway, hiiiiiiiiii. How the hell are you? You’ve literally never looked better. Have you been away? No? Well, given we have more holidays per Thomas Cook, we have been away on our second holiday of the year. Remember this?

Our first holiday was a few weeks ago but I didn’t take my iPad with me, so I’ve got long handwritten notes to type up. I know, I’m so old school. I feel like Angela Lansbury tip-tapping my way at the keyboard! So let’s pretend this holiday is the first one and the first holiday will be the second holiday, and so on. I know, I don’t understand it either. So: take a seat and enjoy the first entry of our holiday in gay Paris.

Well, it certainly fucking was when we minced off the plane, anyway…

Paris, then. Why Paris? Because, like Billie Piper, we want to. Actually, that’s a lie right from the off – when I first suggested a lovely romantic weekend in Paris Paul shot me down with protestations of how rude everyone is and how we’re simply not cultured enough to get by, as though my idea of sophistication is being fingered in a bus-shelter by the sea. Which is a cheek, because I know some lovely shelters with some beautiful views. Tsk. I talked him round by reminding him that there’s delicious pastry everywhere and good food is the law.

I’ve been to Paris several times over with mates and have done the usual suspects – Arc de Triumphe, Eiffel Tower, four million art galleries, being tutted at by all and sundry, and so we were keen to avoid going over old ground, though we’d revisit a couple of the classics because why not.

We drove up to Edinburgh Airport, stayed overnight in the Ibis Budget Hotel by the airport and took the early morning easyJet (7.00am) flight down to Charles de Gaulle. We stayed for three nights in a deluxe room at the 5* rated Hotel Square, a ten minute theatrical flounce from the Eiffel Tower and pretty much almost in the Seine.

The days before our trip were filled with weather angst, as the news became increasingly full of grim warnings of massive storms and the ridiculously hyperbolic weatherbomb. Weatherbomb for goodness sake. That sounds like a crap movie you’d get on the SyFy channel. The Daily Mail took a break from demonising the poor, gays, ethnic minorities and Jeremy Corbyn to froth at the gash about travel disruption, impassable roads and widespread mayhem.

Naturally I managed to work myself in such a tizzy that I was allowed to leave work early (they were probably sick of me standing looking mournfully out of the window like a sailor’s widow gazing at the sea) in the hope of being able to leave Newcastle before dark, imagining some frozen tundra we’d need to navigate like Nanook of the fucking North just to get to Edinburgh Airport, where we’d doubtless find planes dropping from the skies like snow.

Well. Does it surprise you to know that the most eventful incident to hit our travels was Paul spilling an entire bag of Poppets over the floor of my car? The roads were clear, the wind mild, snow nowhere to be seen. Dolly was literally a storm in a teacup and I was furious to be swept up in the hysteria.

We arrived at the Ibis Budget Hotel in good time after a brief but exhilariting accidental turn onto the Edinburgh Tramline – Paul had to wrest controls from my hand as I was too busy doing Alan Bradley jokes to realise what had happened. In my defence they really ought to make the big red light a bit bigger. I mean, honestly. We were checked in by a scarily efficient and pleasant chap who pressed the room card into my hand with slightly more touching that I’d expect and then we were off to the room, a vending machine Toblerone clutched in our sweaty hands.

It turned out that Paul, for reasons entirely unbeknownst to either of us, had booked us into a hotel room with a tiny main bed and a bunkbed over the top. I was terrified, not least because he hurled his not insignificant frame into it like one would leap from a burning building. I’ve made the joke about metal screaming before but honestly, it sounded like when the Titanic snapped.

The glamour!

Once we’d had holiday shenanigans (normal anal but you use Piz Buin rather than lube) Paul retired to the bed above. Well. That was it. No chance of a good  sleep when I have the sure and certain knowledge that at any second Paul’s ample gut would prove too much for the fixtures sending him, and the metal bed, cascading down onto my head.

As it happens, we did survive the night (obviously: imagine if this was part of my last will and testament), though by the time Paul climbed back down the screws of the bed had been pressed into diamonds. We tidied up, took as many small towels as we could fit under my coat and stole away into the clear, crisp morning. Storm Dolly my big, windswept arse.

For once we were experimenting with not turning up at the airport eight years before we were due to fly, and what a difference. There was no sitting around in a Wetherspoons smiling wanly at stag do knobheads, nor did we need eight toilet visits just to pass the time. I did get stopped at security for a pat-down by a big, burly, bearded Scottish brute. He rubbed my legs, my thighs, my arms and my shoulders. Once he was satisfied I wasn’t smuggling anything but a throbbing erection, he let me go. I promised to call but you know how holiday romances are. Paul, meanwhile, was struggling with our carry-on, the passports, my iPad, his belt and shoes and my giant coat. He’s a dear.

Due to Doris causing havoc the day before, our flight was full and we were encouraged to check our carry-on into the hood in exchange for speedy boarding, which we duly did. I like to think we have a nice gold star for being “helpful, polite” on our easyjet profile. It’ll be next to the cholesterol soaked heart for “fat bastards, ensure sitting next to skinny woman”. Speedy boarding was smashing though, I couldn’t believe the speed and efficiency that we descended fifteen steps and then stood packed into the boarding stairs for twenty minutes.

Nothing to say about our easyjet flight, you know how much we love them and this flight was no different. I’ve never met a member of easyjet staff who haven’t been wonderfully polite and helpful. As a bonus, I went for a wee mid flight only to stand next to the pilot – outside the loo I mean, he wasn’t letting me shake his drips off for him (this isn’t Emirates, you know). The guy looked about sixteen, I almost went over the tannoy to ask if someone had lost a child. I’ve never felt so old. He must have been a boy racer though because we landed in Paris twenty minutes ahead of schedule with a landing as smooth as the pilot’s face.

Our good spirits at successfully surviving another plane journey were soon dashed by the snaking queue at immigration. Almost four hundred people waiting to dash into France and put sticky fingers all over their shiny art and culture and what do they have? One very bored, very angry young man checking each passport individually. One person. One. A queue to enter a house fire would have moved quicker. After eighteen years we finally reached the front and the cheerless arse made a big point of looking at my passport photo, then at me, then back to my passport, then to my face again, then to a watercolour approximation that was being painted of me whilst I stood there, then back at my face. I tried to explain that since joining the queue I’d celebrated two birthdays and grown a ZZ-Top beard but that was hardly my fault, but my French failed me. Paul had a similar experience – I wanted to apologise for bringing such beauty to his world but the security guard had a gun and I like my lungs unperforated.


Now, that seems like a good enough place as any to leave it, I think. I’m prone to waffle for too long on our holiday entries so I’m trying to be a bit more concise. You’ll notice, of course, that I’ve spent 1,600 words and we’re not even through security yet. Ah well. Do you have somewhere you need to be? This black pepper steak stir fry makes enough for four, served with rice! Yum.

to make black pepper steak stir fry you will need:

  • 400g beef strips (beef chunks will do – just slice in half)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced

for the marinade

  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (cider vinegar will do!)
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce

for the sauce

  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey (1 syn)
  • 2 tsp cornflour (1 syn)
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt

for the stir fry

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

Don’t like your fingers smelling like a shoe? Then mince your ginger and garlic using a fine microplane grater and live like a queen – remember you don’t need to peel your garlic or ginger when you’ve got one of these, and it’s so cheap too!

to make black pepper beef stir fry you should:

  • mix together the marinade ingredients, pour over the beef, mix and marinade in the fridge for fifteen minutes
  • meanwhile, mix together all of the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl
  • in another bowl, mix together the onion, yellow and green peppers
  • heat a large frying pan over a medium high heat and add a few sprays of oil
  • add the beef and let it sear for 1 minute, then start to stir until both sides are browned but it’s still pink in the middle
  • reduce the heat to medium and transfer the beef to a plate – set aside
  • add a bit more oil to the pan and chuck in the onions and peppers and stir, cook for a couple of minutes
  • tip the vegetables onto a plate and set aside
  • add a bit more oil to the pan and add the ginger and garlic, give a quick stir and then add the sauce mixture and stir continuously, allow it to come to the boil and keep stirring to make sure there aren’t any lumps
  • add the beef and vegetables and give a good stir
  • serve – rice is good, noodles would work well too
  • sprinkle over the spring onions

Done! How easy was that eh? Remember you get beef strips in our Musclefood deal which you can use here – have a look, it’s a great set of deals and you get chicken and beef and sausages and oh my to go with it.

Looking for even more recipe ideas? Click the buttons – especially the Fakeaways button – below!

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Enjoy!

J

taster night tiny tropical towers – twochubbycubs

Taster night looming? Can’t face another quiche that tastes like a discarded shoe? Then this post of taster night tiny tropical towers is for you! But first…

In what world, in what grey, dystopian, horrendously bleak outlook, does a fucking breadbun rolled in sweetener and stuffed with a hotel breakfast portion of jam become a doughnut? Well? It’s no more a bloody doughnut than I am a red-blooded heterosexual who could confidently annotate a diagram of the vagina. It’s a friggin’ jam sandwich at best only with the added advantage of making your teeth retract so far into your body through the sweetness that you’ll be eating out of your own arsehole.

Gah! Christ, if there is one thing that really boils up my piss about this diet, it’s stuff like this. That isn’t healthy. It isn’t going to be a ‘sweet treat’, it isn’t going to ‘taste just like a doughnut’ and you really WILL be able to ‘taste the difference’. A proper doughnut tastes so good because it’s a) full of butter b) full of sugar c) full of flour d) fried in enough oil to make a Deepwater Horizon sequel and e) because you can actually feel your heart strain and protest as you eat it. A bloody breadbun with a period of seedless Hartleys isn’t going to do the same thing! I understand people are desperate to find recipes that allow them to eat how they used to eat but you’re already on one – Slimming World! Just use your syns, have a proper bit of what you fancy and jog the fuck on.

I should totally write the opening guff for Slimming World magazine, shouldn’t I? I’d be the first person in history whose asterisk key on his keyboard crumbled to dust through overuse.

Anyway, what a diversion. I wasn’t even going to post a recipe tonight because Paul’s had an awful day but to hell with him, I’ve put him to bed already and now I have an hour to myself. Don’t worry, I’l wake him up later with a Dominos delivery, so he’s really not doing too bad. To be fair, I’ve actually had the whole day to myself because I now work from home on a Friday – the excitement! No but it is exciting for me, not least because it is one less day that I have to spend screaming myself hoarse at some shovel-faced cacafuego in an Audi who inevitably cuts me up because he’s such a big deal. I love my job but the seventy minute commute (which takes twenty minutes during half-term) does my nut in. I’ve had to fit a roof-rack just to hold my fucking blood pressure, it’s that high.

I did have anxiety about whether I’d be able to focus on work, being by myself, but what a joy it’s been. Again, I love my job and I like the cut and thrust of working in a modern office, but there’s something to be said about doing the same work in your worst underwear whilst Jeremy Kyle plays quietly in the background. My writing desk looks out onto the street and I’ve been able to watch the comings and goings of various folk. Weirdly, for a cul-de-sac holding twenty or so houses, we’ve had two ambulance visits. We nearly had another visit when I strained my neck from being too nosy but I put one of those heat cushions on and we’re tickety-boo.

Another positive about working from home is that I was able to have visitors – today, a sparkie and a delivery man. Not in an Irina Palm way, you understand, but simple honest reasons – we need a quote for moving a light switch six inches along the wall and some new lighting for the food photos. Our previous electrician seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth – there’s literally no record of him or his business anywhere on the Internet now and I’m beginning to think we had all of our lights installed by a particularly industrious ghost. Actually, I remember the last time he was here he did such a rotten fart climbing up the loft ladder that there’s no way he could have been fiction – we still get a whiff of burnt eggs every time I flick that loft light on. Anyway, the new chap came highly recommended, turned up on time and didn’t so much as flinch when he saw the awful Venture Photography special photo of me and Paul perched on the bookcase. It’s awful – a nasty studio photo with the cheesiest pose you can imagine because they made us tickle each other in front of the camera so we had natural smiles. Pfft. It doesn’t help that I’m dressed like an office worker from a 1980’s fire safety video and Paul’s sweating like a whore on Sunday under the studio lamps.

We only bought it out of courtesy for the poor lass who had tried to touch the photo up the best she could. We use it now to keep our nephew away from our drawer of sin.

The other chap was delivering a new kitchen gadget from Amazon – a pressure cooker. This is how easily I’m persuaded by advertising – I had seen a link to some pressure cooker recipes on Facebook and without even opening the page I’d ordered one from Amazon. I’m the worst. It’s the size of Sputnik II and has more buttons on it than a 7XL shirt. Of course, having a delivery means you have to be on high alert all day because you don’t want to miss it and have to fart about with redelivery, which in turn meant I was scared to leave my computer. Naturally, he didn’t turn up to 4.45pm, at which point I’d given up and gone for a shower. No sooner had I squirted a blob of Molton Brown on my boobs when I hear a knock at the door. He was lucky, I hadn’t started singing yet. I hurtle out, throw a dressing gown on and then promptly manage to wrest one of our internal doors clean off its hinges by virtue of my dressing gown cord snagging on the door handle, resulting in me bellowing ‘OH YOU FUCKING C*NT’ at the stricken door, which I’m sure the poor delivery bloke heard. As if the sight of me answering the door, beetroot-faced, barely holding my dressing gown together whilst dragging a door behind me wasn’t entertaining enough.

Still, pressure cooker, eh – recipes coming soon for that, I’m sure. But first, a new taster night idea, if you’re feeling generous and kind. If not, make them for yourself like we did and you get the added bonus of not being shouldered in the tit by someone desperate to scoop every last ‘JAM DOUGHNUT’ into their gob.

taster night tiny tropical towers

taster night tiny tropical towers

to make taster night tiny tropical towers you will need:

  • 8 small wholemeal buns (Sainsbury’s sell them – they’re really tiny!)
  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 4 bacon medallions (or 4 rashers of bacon, all fat removed)
  • 2 fresh pineapple rings (watch the syns if using tinned)
  • 8 tsp of any sauce that tickles your fancy (we used our own syn-free tomato ketchup, recipe here, or you could syn the tiniest wee blob if you want)
  • 1 mini-gem lettuce, chopped
  • 160g reduced fat cheddar, cut into small squares
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

This makes 16 wee little towers – the bread on each is roughly 20g or so and 10g of cheese – a tiny portion of your HEA and HEB. You could have three for no syns!

Looking for good, decent, less than 5% mince? Then let Musclefood help you. We’ve got a banging deal – you’ll wonder if you can take all the meat but if you just relax, you’ll be fine. Have a look at our deals, don’t worry, it’ll open in a new window.

to make taster night tiny tropical towers, you should:

  • preheat the oven to 240 degrees celsius
  • heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and spray in a little oil
  • pat dry the pineapple slices and place in the pan, and leave to caramelise for about 5-6 minutes
  • flip over and do again for the other side
  • when the pineapple is cooked, remove from the pan then cut into eighths
  • in the same pan, add the bacon and cook until crispy, and then remove and cut into quarters
  • meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together the minced beef, salt and pepper
  • divide the mince mixture into 16 and roll into small balls, and flatten into a mini burger shape
  • plop all of the burgers onto a wire rack over a baking tray and pop in the oven to cook for 3-4 minutes
  • turn over and cook for another 3 minutes
  • top the burgers with the cheese squares and cook for another minute until melted
  • remove from the oven
  • spread a little sauce over each of the bun halves, add a bit of lettuce, then top with a mini-burger, slice of bacon and a pineapple wedge
  • if you’re after our fancy moustache spikes, they’re from Tiger but also available on Amazon, see here

These are lovely cold so fine to take to class!

After more fakeaway recipes or taster night ideas? Then look no further, my friends. Look no further. Buttons will lead the way.

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J

big mac tater tots

I did something this morning that I’m ashamed of. Normally guilt and having a conscience are two conjectural instincts that I absolutely lack – I’ll cheerfully take the last Rolo from the tube even if you don’t love me, I’ll gaily laugh as I push children out of the way so I can play in the ballpark at IKEA and I’d have no compunction at all about aggressively smothering to death the masses of elderly folk who get between me and my Marks and Spencer’s beetroot wrap of a lunchtime. I’m kidding I’m kidding – I’d tumble them into the deep freezers instead, much more humane. But, nevertheless, I’m ashamed.

See, I had to get a bus. I know, I’m not proud. What have I become? It’s not like my last attempt at taking the bus was anything to write home about (so I wrote a big old blog entry instead, see?) so what possessed me to try again?

The bloody weather. Or, perhaps more precisely, all the bloody reports about the ‘thundersnow’ and ‘Arctic blasts’ and ‘dangerous weather’. It all sounded terribly exciting and cataclysmic and it was with baited breath that I threw back the curtains this morning only to be greeted with a lovely winter scene of snow and frost. Remembering last year’s morning of tramping into Newcastle on foot because I was stuck behind an entire city of dickheads unable to grasp that if you try to pull away in first gear on a slope on your summer tyres you’ll get nowhere fast, I chose to get the bus in.

Well fuck me, it hasn’t improved a jot. I boarded at 7.20am, expecting the bus to be quiet and full of slumbering worker-bees like me who would spend the short twenty minute journey bobbing their heads in half-sleep and drooling extravagantly on my shoulder. That would have been welcome; cosy almost. What actually happened was that the entire journey took exactly two hours and I was stuck between two very Greggnant folks – presumably man and wife – who talked across and over me for having the temerity to sit between them. Mind, at least I was warm – I felt like a strawberry in a giant trifle, only this trifle smelled of fags and foist. I made to open a window but was met with such a harsh, unforgiving stare from that I went back to staring right ahead with furious, twitching eyes. The two hours was punctuated by the boom-tissh-boom-tissh of shit music played through shit headphones into a shit man’s ears, what joy. The only melody that gets played in my car is when the indicators match-up with the the little ‘ding ding’ I get when the diesel is low. That and Radio 4, and I’m even going to knock that on the head if Helen Archer doesn’t stop giving into Rob. Tsk.

I can’t blame the bus driver – he did his best, but, despite the roads being clear of snow and ice, every person and his dog had decided to come for a drive early ‘just in case’. This meant absolute bumper-to-bumper gridlock. Of course, everyone starts beeping, as though everyone ahead of them is only sitting there because they’ve dozed off and will subsequently be able to miraculously drive through the traffic now they’ve been awoken by your beep signal like the fucking Manchurian Candidate. You see cars on the news pitched into ditches and crashed through living room walls as though we’re crossing the Arctic as opposed to doing 10mph pulling out of a cul-de-sac and I just DON’T BLOODY UNDERSTAND IT. It’s snow! Half an inch of frigging snow! Why can’t people cope? Why must we fall to our knees and cry and wail because the paths are a bit slippy for all of ten minutes and the gritter hasn’t been round? For fucks sake.

I don’t want to bring it back to other countries but take Iceland – when we visited it was -1,000,000 degrees (near enough) and yet everything ran like clockwork. Our coach hurtled along roads that were literally ice with all the gay abandon of a man who only sees four hours of daylight a day. Public transport turned up, people walked along well-gritted paths and everything looked lovely. Switzerland was exactly the same – cold enough to not only take your breath away but also to make a Mr Slushy with, but ne’ry a problem at all. And us? If we do eventually get to work we spend all day starting every conversation with ‘it isn’t going to lie’ or ‘it’ll be gone by lunchtime’.

Oh, and how true that is – I swear a friend of mine lit a cigarette at lunch and the flame from her lighter cleared the snow right across Newcastle, it was that much of a bloody non-event.

I do sympathise with the folks experiencing proper disastrous weather elsewhere in the UK, though. Best of luck to you all.

There was some good news today, though – The Crystal Maze is returning! Properly, mind, with a full set (so we don’t have to watch people pretending that the smoke detectors and building alarm panels are part of the Aztec zone) and with non-celebrities playing. I know it’s the dram of many to watch Bianca Gascoigne mouth-breathe her way around solving a basic word riddle in three minutes but that’s just not happening. Hooray! However: the new presenter is Richard Ayoade. I can’t put into words how desperately unfunny I find him. I can see why people like him, and I’m sure he’s a charming bloke in real-life, but I think I’d genuinely prefer to watch the zip of a body-bag being pulled across my face than witness his shenanigans. Bah.

However look, there’s a cracking recipe to be had underneath – big mac tater tots. It combines the various bits and bobs from SW favourite Big Mac in a Bowl (which, if you give it a couple of hours, becomes Big Mass in a Bowel) and mixes it with our most favourite recipe, the tater tots! Give it a go. It’s easy to make.

big mac tater tots big mac tater tots

to make big mac tater tots you will need:

for the special sauce:

  • 3 level tbsp extra-light mayo (3 syns)
  • 5 tbsp fat free fromage frais
  • 1 level tbsp of American style mustard (1½ syns)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2tsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp of garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp onion granules
  • pinch of smoked paprika

It’s worth noting that you can douse the entire recipe in hot sauce, although you should syn this. We get asked a lot what hot sauce is and which we use. It’s just a spicy red sauce you can buy in most big supermarkets, and it adds a lovely heat. To help, this is the sauce we use.

big mac tater tots

¡Válgame Dios!

to make big mac tater tots you should:

  • if you have an actifry this is great – chuck the potato in, add a bit of oil and cook until golden
  • if you don’t have an actifry, spread the potato cubes out onto a baking sheet and bake at 190°c until golden – turn them regularly!
  • preheat the oven to 230°c
  • meanwhile, over a medium-high heat sling the mince into the pan and cook until done, then remove from the heat
  • in a large bowl mix together the tater tots and the mince together and tip back into an oven-proof dish or pan
  • sprinkle over the grated cheese and pop in the oven for about five minutes, or until the cheese has melted
  • next, mix together the special sauce ingredients along with 5tbsp of water (add more if you need to)
  • when the cheese has melted, remove from the oven and sprinkle over the lettuce, onion, then tomatoes and then add the gherkins
  • splodge over the sauce
  • destroy it – turn it into poo!

Our Tater Tots recipes are by far our most popular! If you want to find out why, give them a go!

or if you want more fakeaway ideas, just click the button below! And while you’re at it why not explore our other recipes! they’re all waiting for you!

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Eee, canny.

J