crunchy tomato feta dip

Crunchy tomato feta dip you say? I do, because frankly, it’s delicious. You may remember from yesterday that we’re having a break from the writing bit for a few days but this is another recipe for you to get your lips around. We made this tomato feta dip to try out a recipe we’ve found and actually ended up having it for our main meal. Worth every last syn, I can assure you.

That said, if you were stuck for something unique to take along to taster night, and for goodness sake why would you be when we have so many excellent taster night recipes, and it doesn’t cost an awful lot of time or money to make. I can’t bear taster nights because people seem to lose all dignity – I’ve seen someone actually pushed over by some leviathan in a Paul’s Boutique hoodie, so keen that she was to get her soiled sticky hands on a Ferrero Not-cher. Plus, frankly, I can’t bear not knowing what people’s kitchens look like. I’m happy to eat most things but not if it’s been prepared in something that looks like a trap from Saw. Brr.

To the recipe!

to make crunchy tomato feta dip you will need:

  • 260g reduced-fat feta, cut into rough cubes (4x HeA)
  • 5 big tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 4 big tbsp of jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • ½ tbsp oregano
  • 80g reduced-fat cheddar, grated (12 syns)
  • 4 wholemeal pitta breads (4x HeB)

to make crunchy tomato feta dip you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200°c
  • mix together everything except for the cheddar and the pita breads
  • spray a small casserole dish with oil and tip in the tomato and feta mixture
  • top with the grated cheddar and bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden
  • leave to cool for five minutes, then serve with the pitta breads

Get that down yer. And when you’re done, why not check out some more of our recipes? Just click below!

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J

pork fillet and cheesy mash gratin

Here for the pork fillet and cheesy mash gratin? Good choice, it’s a bloody marvel. But here’s the thing – I can’t buy a pork tenderloin without blushing like I’ve had my first kiss. There’s something attractive about a long length of pink meat, just saying. But I do wish Paul would exercise the same level of shame and control when it comes to shopping because god help him, our house is absolutely awash with things we don’t need. Yesterday’s purchase was a cracker. Not literally, I’d have swallowed that before Mags could shine the Fat-Symbol into the skies to summon the consultants. Let me explain. But first, if you’re getting yourself clammy because I’m not getting to the recipe, then please, don’t fret: I’ve added a twochubbycubs shortcut. Just click on dried up slag and you’ll be taken straight there!

Last night I thought I was going mad. We’d come home from our various activities, had our tea (posted below) and then Paul had to go into work and drop off some papers. Listen, it’s fine, I know that sounds like the classic ‘he’s having an affair’ line but it’s Paul, the laziest man alive – it takes all of his energy and willpower just to open his bumhole to fart. So imagine me sitting at our computer typing up a recipe, looking to all the world like Angela Lansbury with a shaved head and bigger tits, when I become aware of this very faint crackle. It sounded like when you put an electrical cable into a socket but it’s not quite in there. I turned down my Archers omnibus and set about trying to identify the mystery sound, thinking we were minutes away from the dishwasher bursting into flame or the walls of the house crashing down. To give you more of an idea, imagine a tiny Geiger counter clicking in a corridor, or a family of mice putting up shelves in the skirting board.

Well, I was bloody demented. I went from room to room, barely able to hear it but it being just loud enough to get right on my tits. Actually, speaking of tits, I did think it might be my sunburnt chest peeling and cracking like a dry ploughed field, but no, the rack was all in order, though perhaps a little red. I unplugged the TV, the computer, the router, the Nest, the fridge, the lot. You may remember that I have health anxiety? Well in that long drawn out HOUR I’d diagnosed myself with an inner ear infection, schizophrenia, vertigo and obviously, something had crawled in my ear and was making itself a nice home on my brain-stem – and listen, I grew up on cheap burgers and mystery mince, I know I’m long overdue CJD. You’ll doubtless see me stumbling around a sluice grate with a shitty arse in a decade’s time.

Anyway, in walks Paul, full of fat and good cheer, and when I inform him of my lapse into insanity, he leads me into the corner of the living room and points out his latest purchase – a bloody Woodwick candle which ‘crackles like a real fire’. Does it shite! It sounds like someone furiously tapping out a reply to an argument on a Blackberry in a locked toilet. I mean, of all the things you’d think to check for odd noises, a bloody candle is never going to be high on the list, is it? To top it off, he’d replaced the lovely Seychelles White Company candle with this abomination that smells of – wait for it now – Rhubarb and Radish. Why the fuck would anyone want a room that smells like Rhubarb and Radish? Who am I, Tatty Bogle? Haway man. I wouldn’t have minded so much if it was a lovely, subtle flavour – when I get frustrated, or irritated or… angry, I come up here and I just smell all my candles and it just…goes away – but it smells like the air-freshener in an unlicensed taxi.

Then, for good measure, it bloody crackles! Why? At what development meeting did they decide they needed to add volume to a candle? It’s like putting a handle on a cat or wallpaper that loudly announces when a bus goes past. It hisses and splutters and futters and spits but by god, it doesn’t crackle. As the cherry on the radish and rhubarb cake, to make it work, the wick is wooden and in the shape of a cross and as a result, it creates a ridiculously bouncy, jittery flame – so not only do you go slowly insane because of the noise but you’re also risking a bloody seizure having it lit. You’ll be glad to know that this £22 candle has been banished into the cupboard, only to be taken out if the world ends and we need illumination.

Maybe I’m just sensitive to noise – misophonic, don’t you know – or perhaps my ears are just on high alert from going to the cinema on Friday and it feeling like they’d decided to put a live showing of the movie on my fucking eardrum. More on that later. The noise I especially hate is when common people scrape their knives and forks across the plate whilst they scrabble to get the last crumb. Just stop it. It cuts through me like a chilli-covered cock.

Honestly though, I can tolerate listening to my cat tonguing two layers of skin of its own arsehole in the night as I lay awake, I can listen to Joe Pasquale on the radio, hell, I can sit through two hours of people explaining they’ve put on weight because they’re either bunged up with faeces or sloughing. I’m tough. But there’s one sound I can’t stand, and, I’m sorry, but I’m now going to leave you with something that will change your life forever. It’s a sound that, once heard, you’ll hear over and over, in adverts, unimaginative TV, news reports, video games and soon, your nightmares. You’ll wake sweating at the birth of a new day with this ringing in your ears and murder on your mind. It is, I think, the most singularly annoying sound you can imagine:

Tell me I’m wrong, I dare you. I mean christ, even the video thumbnail looks like Pennywise the dancing clown. Now it’s all you’ll hear. Listen out for it on the TV and remember, it was the twochubbycubs who wrecked your ears for other men.

Now, one final bit of admin before we get to the pork fillet recipe – we’ve added sharing buttons back onto each recipe and page! You’ll see them – they look like this:

You can now pin, facebook like, share, message, all sorts of tut – just click the buttons! It helps us to spread, like a dose of the clap.



to make pork fillet and cheesy mash gratin you will need:

  • 800g potatoes
  • 400g pork fillet (all visible fat removed)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh sage (it’s worth it, trust me)
  • 40g reduced-at cheddar cheese, grated (1x HeA)
  • 4 slices of prosciutto (2 syns)
  • 1 egg

Couple of gadgets to make your life easier here:

Also: don’t forget we’re running a competition to win a soupmaker this week! Click here to enter – it’ll open in a new window.

to make pork fillet and cheesy mash gratin you should:

  • preheat the grill to high
  • chop the potatoes into 3cm chunks (you don’t need to peel them) and chuck into a pan of boiling water, cook with the lid on for about 12 minutes or until they’re tender
  • meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over a high heat and add a little oil
  • sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the pork and add to the hot pan
  • sear on each side for a total of about 4 minutes, but turn it regularly
  • remove the pork from the pan and set aside
  • add the sage to the same pan and stir about for no more than ten seconds, then remove from the pan
  • drain the potatoes and mash well – a potato ricer does all the hard work for you and will leave your mash super-smooth!
  • add half of the cheese to the mash and crack in the egg and stir quickly until it’s mixed in
  • next, tip the mash into a large frying pan (or grill-safe dish) and push all the way to the edges
  • sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and plop the pork on top
  • cook under the grill for 15-20 minutes
  • remove from the heat and drop the prosciutto slices around the pork, it doesn’t need to look fancy, and then sprinkle over the sage leaves
  • pop under the grill for another two minutes or until the pork is fully cooked
  • eat!

How nice does that look?! We’ve got plenty more just waiting for you to try, all you have to do is click one of the buttons below to go straight to ’em!

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J

proper cheesy crunchy chicken parmo

Chicken parmo! We’ve done something similar but really cracked it with this one. A parmo is a dish originating from Middlesbrough consisting of a chicken breast smothered in breadcrumbs and cheese sauce. Plus other things – knowing Middlesbrough there’s probably about 5g of Golden Virginia scattered over it – but this is a close approximation. Bloody tasty too. But first…

Sorry, sorry – you guessed it, we’ve been away again, and it’s not as though I can announce it on here before I go because we’d doubtless get some reprobate with teeth à l’orange nipping in to steal our silver and verbally abuse our Alexa. I mean honestly. Plus, I’m writing this against the odds because I have a cat sat in front of me blocking half the screen and severely burned shoulders from too much sun. Before I get angry letters, I know I know: normally I’m super careful, but the drink overtook me. You’ll find out more about that holiday later down the line but let’s rattle off the next part of the Newcastle entry without a moment more of hesitation. If you don’t want to hear our holiday shenanigans, click on the SOUR GRAPES to be taken straight to the recipe.

Otherwise…

Now when I last spoke to you we had been busy exploring the Victoria Tunnel and I had made a malicious, mean comment comparing this foisty cavern to Paul’s mother. I apologise for my humour:  it’s a bit stuck in the eighties, it rarely makes people laugh and god knows Paul’s sick of hearing it, but that’s Paul’s mother for you.

We emerged blinking into the sunlight and full of zim for the day ahead. But first: MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Paul had decided to wear a snappy new pair of ‘yes, I am part of a senior citizen tour group of Milton Keynes’ cargo shorts (in a very fetching chyme colour) and the two hours of walking and sweating had left his thighs looking like a child’s skinned knees. Whilst it explained why the tour guide had asked the group if someone was cooking bacon at the back, it also meant we couldn’t easily explore. Well, no, I could, but it meant having to listen to Paul’s plaintive mewing about the paaaaaaaain. Oh, the pain. We doubled back to the hotel, levered ourselves into the Smart car and cut a dash straight to Byker Morrisons.

You must understand that I avoid Morrisons at the best of times – something about their lurid yellow signage and cluttered font makes my nipples ache – but the one in Byker is especially bad. You’ve never seen so much red flesh pressed into mixed polyester. We took a moment to peruse the medicine aisle for something that would cool Paul’s thighs – my suggestion of a Muller yoghurt was ignored (BUT IT’S SYN FREE) – and after much stumbling around the haemmorhoid creams and the clotstoppers, he found some lanacaine. We nipped into the gents (you know a supermarket is classy when they have that lovely lighting that makes it impossible to find a vein to shoot up with) and smeared it on Paul’s thighs like butter on a cellulite crumpet. They say you can still hear his satisfied groan bouncing around the arches of Glasshouse Bridge.

The day was ours once more. We parked the car back at the hotel and decided to try and find The Kiln, a restaurant hidden up in the Ouseburn. After a few arresting detours via a gym, a scrapyard and this particularly great bit of graffiti:

we found it. Bearing in mind it was hot and we’d spent all morning traipsing through a tunnel, we were starving and ready for our thirst to be slaked and so the sight of lots of bottles of beer all lined-up ready was enough to bring on a stiffy. However, that sharp went away when we were faced with incredibly dismissive and half-hearted service – we stood at the (quiet) bar for a good couple of minutes before we were served, weren’t offered the food menu, weren’t told where we could sit, weren’t advised on anything other than “£11” when we ordered two beers. Here, we’re the least demanding customers you’ll ever have and because we get anxious about causing a fuss we tip extravangantly, but even we have limits, and being treated like an inconvenience is high up that list.

Also, £11 for two beers? Local yes, but haway hinny, it’s Newcastle, not St. Moritz – if I buckled my ears enough I’d be able to hear the sound of a live Jeremy Kyle show rattling in the Byker Wall. Nevermind…

We paid and, sensing that we couldn’t have been less welcome had I shat on the bar, we made our way outdoors, taking the only free seats (after moving the previous occupants dishes out of the way) next to a particularly loathsome set of students. Listen, I’ve made it my thing this year to stop judging folk, I am trying, I promise. But Jesus Christ Almighty. These weren’t decent students, fun students or you know, normal students, but rather the rah-rah-raaaah set. Some walking shitshower was loudly describing his poster project as ‘mere organic foreplay for the main thrust of the movie’ – Paul had to hold me back from drowning myself in the half inch of hipster-hops I had left. Someone else was going on and on about her periods in that inexcusable ‘look at me, saying something controversial so you have to look at me, but oh my god don’t look at me’ way. Here’s a thing, pet: no-one cares what sloughs out of you, no-one is impressed by your edginess, and your glasses look like you’ve rushed out of an eye-exam halfway through. Fuck off.

We supped up and left – I took my time though as I wanted to make sure I had a fart queued as I stood up. I left them to chew that over. In the interest of balance, the online reviews of the Kiln are exceptionally positive, so maybe we’d crashed a wake or something.

Luckily, the next two places were infinitely better. First, the Free Trade Inn. I love this place – it used to be our local when we lived on the Quayside and is just a great pub – dirt cheap, no fussiness, the occasional local who looks as though he’d punch your nose through the back of your head if you sneezed and blew the head off his pint from across the room – spectacular. Nothing better than a room full of malcontent and meanness, though I tend to switch to pints instead of campari when ordering. Up until recently they had adopted a pub cat called Craig David. You’ll notice a past tense there. Life’s cruel. It also have a terrific view, see?

We had a couple of gins and tonics there and stumbled down the stairs, a bit squiffy at this point, to The Tyne, a pub under the arches of the bridge above it. We were starving by now, so I sent Paul in with strict instructions to order something a) bountiful and b) healthy. He ordered us nachos for two that almost filled the table and the vietnamese loaded fries that we ripped off a week or so ago.

There was also some sort of citrus beer involved, and things start getting a little hazy at this point, like a badly-tuned TV. I heartily recommend both pubs though – The Tyne also a free jukebox which Paul had to hold me back from. I’ve had two bad experiences with free jukeboxes, would you believe:

  • my friend and I got into a proper physical (one-sided mind, I’m a gentleman) scrap with two busty lesbians in a gay bar when we ‘accidentally’ switched the machine off and on again when we couldn’t bear to hear sapphic-superanthem ‘Left Outside Alone’ by Anastasia for the eighth time in a row; and
  • different friend, similar situation, only this time I queued up Abba song after Abba song in a bar where the inhabitants had one full set of teeth between all twenty of them – it was very much a Meat Loaf, Foreigner and Whitesnake bar – not a drunken rendition of Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) sort of place. We escaped into the night, drowned out by shouting and Anni-Frid caterwauling her lips around Knowing Me, Knowing You.

Probably for the best that Paul kept me back.

 

We ended up sharing our outside table with a few other pleasant, decent young people with an adorable dog, though I could have done without them vaping away next to me as I ploughed my way through the nachos. Difficult trying to get the guacamole to chilli ratio just right in a cloud of custard-flavoured steam, I find.

Now, let’s leave it there – we’re already nearing 1500 words again and we need to get the recipe out!


Chicken parmo, then. Dead easy.



to make proper cheesy crunchy chicken parmo you will need:

I put this down as 1ish syns as well, I’m not synning that errant quarter. Up to you how you want to do it. And yes, I’m wheeling this out again:

WHASS PANKO PLZ HUN. I beg of you, if you have that question, click this mysterious link… Panko is not this:

to make proper cheesy crunchy chicken parma you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200°c
  • spray the chicken breasts with a little oil and plop onto a baking sheet
  • cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove
  • butterfly the chicken breasts by cutting through the side until nearly all the way through, then spread open like a book (they might be pink in the middle – that’s fine)
  • in a bowl, mix together the Philadelphia and garlic, and a good grind of both salt and pepper
  • spoon the mixture onto chicken breasts and spread about
  • in another bowl, mix together the panko and parmesan, and sprinkle evenly over each of the chicken breasts
  • return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden

Given it’s normally served with chips, red sauce and a fingering, we had to dial it back to make it more friendly for dieting, so we’ve served ours with a portion of our amazing roasties and some beans. Champion.

Gut still rumbling? Click one of the buttons below to get even more ideas!

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Cheers!

J

cranberry and cheese stuffed chicken – twochubbycubs

Looking for the recipe for cranberry and cheese stuffed chicken? Well who wouldn’t be, it’s bloody marvellous, but in the meantime we’ve got some housekeeping and some more Swiss nonsense to chat about! Housekeeping is simple: we’ve updated our recipe page to include every single recipe we’ve ever done (we hadn’t updated since September, oops) so if you’re planning for a new you in the new year, what better place to start? You can find them all by clicking here (don’t worry, it’ll open in a new window). Now…

swissfour

part one | part two | part three

Christ, we’re never going to get to the end of our Switzerland nonsense if I don’t speed it up a bit – so here on out, I’m just going to recount events rather than a chronological timeline. Of course, I said that on the last entry, so…let’s at least try to get to Bern in this entry, shall we?

The first thing we did on the second morning was one of those Live Escape rooms that we love so much. You may have heard of them? You get sealed into a room and you have an hour to escape, solving clues and puzzles in order to find your way out. This particular room received excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and even better, it was literally next door to the hotel, thus meaning minimum locomotion on our behalf. We were greeted by Lisa Stansfield herself, fresh from going around the world to try and find her baby, who led us down to the ‘serial killer’ room. Conscious that Switzerland isn’t too far from Austria I kept my eyes open for Josef Fritzl (well we were being sealed in an underground room, we’d have been daft not to be cautious) but all was well. Lisa Stansfield switched characters from welcoming host to scary police-chief in a matter of seconds, bellowing at Paul for ‘not reading the evidence file’ and shouting that we ‘have to catch the killer NOW’. She was terrifying – an excellent actress – and Paul told me afterwards that he’d only soiled his trousers to add to the atmosphere.

The room itself was fantastic. Really good fun, not least because the room opened up to reveal another four rooms, involving traps with magnets, hidden buttons, a fishing game, guns and one of those dentist chairs where you get strapped down. We managed to ‘solve the case’ with two minutes to go – wahey – and the killer was apprehended. Lisa Stansfield was astonished we’d finished so quickly (I’m still young) and I tried to explain to her in broken French that I’m from the part of the world where legendary policewoman Vera Stanhope does her rounds, pet. Flower. I’m going to write to Northumbria Police now and offer them my services. Get me a battered Land Rover and a shite Geordie accent, I can be Vera’s son! Lisa took a picture of us to put on facebook, and I’m sure if anyone was so inclined they could easily find it. I’ll give you a clue – most of the photos are of groups of stylish, Swiss people. The photo of Paul and I look like a band reunion no-one wants to see happen. (We ate the) Pet Shop Boys.

Buoyed with the success of making Lisa Stansfield’s day, we decided to tackle something that we’d been putting off thinking it would be an awful chore – sorting out our train tickets for travelling to Bern. We caught a tram back down to the Genève-Cornavin station and found our way into their well-appointed help centre. You know how our railway help centres seem to consist of ladies with a five-o-clock shadow and a face that could stop a clock? Couldn’t have been more different in Geneva. Firstly, there were sixteen helpful, cheery folk peering out from their desks, all of whom looked keen to assist in any possible way. We took a ticket, Argos-style, and sat down next to someone who had clearly shit himself. We sat down somewhere else instead and awaited our turn. I caught the eye of a handsome young thing who had clearly been trying to grow a moustache for seven years and failed miserably. It looked like an eyebrow on his top lip. I knew then that we couldn’t possibly get him to deal with us as it was all I’d be able to focus on, but of course, number 714 led us straight to his desk.

Now, listen, I don’t know if it was my fabulous beard or startling good looks, but he simply couldn’t have been better. He answered all my inane questions about transfers and classes and timetables in perfect, crisp English, and did so with a smile. Paul was so swept up in the moment that he leaned on the little ‘how am I doing’ board with those smiling/frowning faces you press to register your feedback. Luckily, his elbow was planted on the ‘very happy’ face and it wasn’t until it started beeping furiously that we realised what had happened. The poor lad probably thought we were coming onto him in some haphazard, clumsy style. Anyway, he booked all of our tickets, assuaged all of our fears about connections and then, once he had taken £500 off my American Express card, gave us our first class tickets AND a Toblerone each. Not a shitty British Toblerone mind you (where it now looks like a broken fence) but a good honest Swiss one. I had to pull Paul away – he was on the cusp of vaulting the desk and fellating the poor bloke. I adore good customer service, I truly do.

Toblerone in hand, we wandered over the road to the nearby Notre Dame Basilica, a smart little church just over the road. Crossing the road is always a treat in Geneva given everyone seems hellbent in crashing everything they have into your legs. You think you’re safe and then eight trams come whistling around the corner just waiting to spread you across the road. I felt like Rita Sullivan in Blackpool just trying to get to the church. We sat on the steps for a bit before remembering all churches are open, so we let ourselves inside.

Boy, was it beautiful. I’m not a huge fan of churches – I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously that I only went to our village church at Easter and Christmas for the free sweets (it was worth getting fingered just for the Smarties Easter Egg with free cup alone) but a tiny part of me is always hopeful that I’ll walk into church and be flooded with the love of the lord. I’ve had something similar happen in my adult life but that’s not one for the blog, save to say that was one man of the cloth who hadn’t taken a vow of celibacy. It wasn’t just Jesus getting nailed that Easter, I can assure you.

God forgive me.

Anyway, there were no sudden revelations and nor did I fall to my knees screaming as the sin of sodomy left me. It was, however, stunning. They had the most intricate, detailed stained glass windows I’d ever seen, and whether it was the winter light or the late morning sun I don’t know, but they seemed to absolutely glow. So many colours. I felt like a toffee penny in a Quality Street tin. We sat in the pews, doing our best to look sombre and respectful whilst quietly trying to unwrap our Toblerone (have you ever heard the noise a large Toblerone makes when you snap it in an echoey church? It sounded like the vicar was self-flagellating round the back). I lit a candle for my nana (it’s what she would have wanted, though I could have set fire to the entire church and she’d still have complained she was too cold) and did a wee curtsy in front of Jesus. There was a lady wailing on the floor in front of him who I took to be quite demented. This is a church my love, not a One Direction concert. I popped a triangle of Toblerone down next to her and moved on. Oh of course I didn’t, like I’d spare the chocolate.

We drifted around the shops for a bit, looking at very expensive things being bought by very expensive people. It must be nice to shop without having to think, but then, do you ever truly appreciate it? Pfft, if anyone wants to hand me a few million to try it out, they can. We saw a sign for lunch in a rooftop restaurant and although it was atop the equivalent of our John Lewis, it was great – we sat outside and gazed down at all the people bustling past with presents and christmas stuff. I had a slice of quiche bigger than an aeroplane chock and Paul had something fishy followed by something chocolatey. Eee, it’s like reading Jay Rayner himself, isn’t it? Sorry, but writing about food bores me, not least because it automatically makes me hungry too.

We attempted to do some shopping but thanks to our rash decision to only bring hand luggage, we were a bit stuck. I spotted a giant glass pair of cherries which I immediately fell in love with, but Paul held me back, explaining that we couldn’t justify spending 400 Swiss Francs on a massive inconvenience. Poor sport. I had my revenge by forbidding him from buying a Swiss Christmas card. I think that’s fair. There were shops full of luxurious, high-end watches which begged to be bought. There were cigar shops every other street which I could lose myself in. A spirits shop that I’d have cheerfully died in. Sigh. The sum total of our shopping was a small bottle of kirsch and, inexplicably, a Professor Layton plushie. Of course!

We decided that as we were so close, it would be remiss of us not to visit CERN. so that’s exactly what we did. We had hoped to visit the Large Hadron Collider (I had a load of file notes from work that I wanted to throw in) but sadly, they were closed. CERN was interesting, though I’m sure it’ll be more interest to someone who, unlike me, hadn’t spent physics lessons looking moonily at their bearded and very fit teacher. Damn it. I still can’t hear someone explaining the theory of heliocentrism without getting a stiffy. CERN consisted of a large auditorium filled with facts about antimatter and particles and there were plenty of comfortable pod-chairs to sit in. However, I no sooner fell into one of these chairs before Paul stood right in front of me and farted, leaving me spluttering and dry-heaving well into the flashy presentation. The fucker. We wandered around all of the other presentations, joining all the other tourists who were pretending to understand what it was all about, and then made for the exit. It was all very well done, if not a little dry.

We finished our day by wandering back through Geneva, heading down to the lake and climbing on board the passenger boat that skims you across the water back to the other side of the lake. It was just us in the boat so we sat at the back, cuddling and cooing as all the christmas lights came on across the bay. With our combined weight the boat was canted at a 60 degree angle but hey, romance. We spent the evening drinking gin in the fancy hotel bar – eight gins costing us nearly £170, I might add – then went to bed to prepare for our switch to Bern the next morning.

We awoke the next day a little rough from all that gin and hastily packed everything away, dashing to the train station for our 7am train with only a few minutes to spare. I was all for calling it a day and just staying in Geneva but Paul cajoled me along. Good man. The first train to Montreux was a commuter train full of chattering businessmen in steaming coats and we both dozed for the hour or so it took to get us to Montreux. Here, we were to join the Golden Pass Panoramic Tour Train which would take us up into the mountains and onto Interlaken, a lovely two hours or so. The first class carriage was made up of massive glass windows affording us the most beautiful views of first the mountains then the lakes and the fields of Switzerland. It truly was something else and I’d recommend in a heartbeat to anyone who fancied it.

cranberry and cheese stuffed chicken

cranberry and cheese stuffed chicken

The best part? We were almost alone in the carriage save for a little old lady who spent all of her time chin down in a crossword book. I wanted to dash it out of her hands and tell her to admire the view then I realised this was ‘normal’ to her – wow! Our conductor, Javert from Les Mis, stamped our tickets, brought us a coffee and let us crack on the journey. I know it’s an easy thing to moan about but if the Swiss can have a train climb a mountain in the ice and snow, and still run exactly to timetable, why can’t we cope with a cold snap? It’s truly embarrassing. At some point we had to swap onto a smaller train where we had our own little compartment with a lockable door. No sooner had I hung my coat up and started admiring the lake as we pulled away then Paul had his knob out with the romantic ‘do you want to nosh me off, we never get a chance on a train’. After ten years the formalities are gone. Who says romance is dead?

At Interlaken we switched trains for another that would take us to Lucern, with this journey winding around so many Swiss villages and chocolate-box scenes that we were captivated the whole way. Now on this train there was the facility to order food from your table using a mobile app and so it was that we ordered a cheese and meat platter (we hadn’t eaten all day, don’t judge us). Twenty minutes later the most furious man to ever wear a pinny came storming up to the front of the train with our tray and crashed it down on the table. I’m not sure what we had done wrong – perhaps he was cross that he had to walk all the way along the train – but that’s hardly our fault. He was acting as though I’d shit in his hat. The only negative point to the whole journey, and that was sharp forgotten when we were both lost in the reverie of buttering the bread and dividing up the cheese.

At Lucern we switched to the express train to Bern, joined again by a bustling group of businessmen, and within an hour we were speeding towards Bern. There was an exciting moment in one of the many tunnels when the train came to a very sudden and abrupt stop, as though someone had pulled the emergency brake cord. The stench of burning brakes filled the train and it was all I could do to carry on eating my Opal Fruits with a face full of concern. A conductor came running through with a first aid box and then we were back on our way. It kills me, simply kills me, that I don’t know what happened. I think it should be mandatory for the driver to come over the intercom and say something like ‘for the benefit of the nosy bastard in first class, I spilled my hot chocolate on the controls and hence the stop’. It’s just the decent thing to do.

We had arrived in Bern, and good god, let’s stop this entry right here. Two more to go! No wonder people’s eyes glaze over when I tell them a story, it takes me forever to get there and we end us taking eight diversions and a sex-story along the way. Apologies! This recipe for cranberry and cheese stuffed chicken is a piece of piss to make but it looks fancy, just like Paul does in his training bra. WE had this with some broccoli and roast potatoes, hence the gravy. If you’re having something completely different, feel free to leave off the gravy.

cranberry and cheese stuffed chicken

to make cranberry and cheese stuffed chicken you will need:

for the gravy:

  • 2 oxo chicken stock pots
  • 25g flour (4 syns)
  • 600ml water (if you’re having veg, use the water from that!)

Hey, added bonus with this dinner: cranberries are good if your minnie-moo is aflame with something other than desire! Beats spreading a Muller yoghurt on it, anyway.

to make cranberry and cheese stuffed chicken you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200°c
  • slice all four chicken breasts from the side, but don’t cut all the way through – you want to be able to open it up like a book later on
  • place all four opened-up chicken breasts on a chopping board and cover with clingfilm
  • bash with the bottom of a saucepan (or a rolling pin) until they’re about ½cm thick
  • mix together the philadelphia and cranberries in a bowl and spread a quarter of the mixture onto one-half of each chicken breast
  • roll the chicken up from the long-end and roll – it doesn’t need to be dead neat (all comes out the same way, eh)
  • head a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a splash of oil
  • once hot, place each rolled-up breast in the pan, seal-side down and cook four about a minute, then turn over and cook for another minute
  • remove from the pan and onto a baking tray – keep any juices or cheese that might’ve dribbled out!
  • place the chicken int eh oven and bake for 25 minutes
  • when the chicken is nearly done, add the flour to the frying pan and stir until it’s mixed into a thick paste – add a bit of water if you need to
  • heat the pan to medium-high, add the chicken stock pots and then gradually stir in 600ml of hot water, stirring until thick and smooth, simmer for a few more minutes if it’s too thick

that’s it! easy eh? if you’re after some more inspiration, just click one of the buttons below to find all the recipes you need!

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Cheers!

J

chilli beefy macaroni cheese

Now, before we get to the chilli beefy macaroni cheese, just a couple of opening thoughts before Christmas Day lands. A neighbour, albeit a distant one from the street next to ours, stopped me this morning as I was going to the car to find my wallet (in my “paint” splattered dressing gown, the shame) (at least I wasn’t wearing my Club World slippers that I nicked from BA mind). You know why he stopped me? Because he felt he had to tell me why we weren’t getting a Christmas card from him this year – because we hadn’t given him one last year. I’m glad he let me know, the evenings I’ve spent sighing dramatically into my pillow and turning my back towards the sun through the sheer anguish of not knowing. For fucks sake. I bet he’s been fizzing about it all year. I tried to hide my upset as he broke the news but I’m sure my face crumpling into my chest and my wailing as I shuffled back to the house gave the game away.

Along those lines, another big thank you for the Christmas cards which are still arriving – the fact that so many of you took the time to send a card with a wee note in it has warmed my heart and touched me in a way that hasn’t happened since I was in the school choir. It really has been lovely reading everyone’s stories and well wishes and I promise that we’ll continue on for a bit longer yet!

Finally, I just wanted to say to everyone: have an amazing Christmas. Eat, drink and be merry. You can slim in the New Year. Enjoy the day and remember, it’s the people around the tree rather than the gifts underneath that matter most of all. You’re all the best!

Of course, before we get to the chilli beefy macaroni cheese, we’ve got part three of our trip to Switzerland to discuss!

swissthree

part one | part two

You know what I like best about that banner? I’m already planning the next banner for the next holiday and I’ve just had a do a search for an icon for diarrhoea. Hey, it’s non-stop glamour writing this blog, I don’t know how I don’t come each time the Mac start-up sound chimes.

When you last left us we were sleeping solidly in our warm, Geneva beds, ready for the day ahead. Rather than bore you with by-the-minute details of what we did, I’m just going to pick out the rough highlights and write about them instead. In the ‘missing gaps’ just assume we were either drinking tiny coffees or spending money, for that pretty much covers all bases.

We awoke then and decided to check Tripadvisor for ‘things to do in Geneva’. I’ll save you the effort of doing it yourself – there’s frightfully little. Clearly this was a city for business and not so much for pleasure – the first activity cited is Lake Geneva (the second is a small mountain outside the city), which, whilst undoubtedly beautiful, provides very little diversion on a cold, December morning. We could see the lake from our hotel room, anyway, if we squinted hard and the lady across the lane had taken in her bloomers from the washing line. I like lakes, I do, but we have such a bonny one nearby in the form of Kielder that perhaps I am spoilt. Nevertheless, we decided to walk down to the lake and then to totter about on our own steam, finding what interests us along the way.

There was, as is so often the case with empty days filled with no plans at all, plenty of things of interest. We walked along the lakeside around the many parks that litter the way, smiling cheerily at joggers as they ran past, pulling that odd cum-face that joggers do whilst they run. The parks were full of shuttered shops and stalls and buildings that looked welcoming from afar but firmly fermé when up close. My new walking shoes were busy turning the back of my feet into little more than hanging strips of skin so we found a nearby pharmacy to try and get a box of Compeed blister plasters – you know the ones that swell and then root right into the blister so when you take it off, you’ve got something gross to throw at your husband if he doesn’t make the tea? No? Just me?

Anyway, this box of plasters came with a price tag of over £14 and I was served by the most unsympathetic, rude bumhole I’ve met in a long time. For one, he didn’t look up from his Prendre une Pause (Oh non! C’est horrible! Mon mari serveur a des rapports sexuels avec ma soeur et mon Alsacien!) when we came in, nor when we approached the counter, nor when he scanned the item in. He could have put through a box of Lillets for all he knew. A brief, cursory glance at the till was followed by him spitting out the price and holding out his hand like I was going to high-five the twat. I would deposited my chewing gum in his hand and ran for it if my feet hadn’t resembled used Christmas crackers at this point. Instead, I paid with my contactless card, spun on my heel and left, saying ‘merci beaucoup, how do you say…chatte géante’ under my breath.

We spotted that the United Nations building was nearby and so hustled in that general direction. We were greeted by a couple of armed but very friendly men at the entrance who told us the museum was closed (but of course) and alas, we couldn’t come in even to take pictures of the flags. I tried to explain that, as a Geordie, I merely wanted to extend the pastry-flecked hand of solidarity to our Swiss brothers, but he was having none of it. He encouraged us to turn around and take some pictures of the giant broken chair that stands across the way, designed by the artist Daniel Berset to remind the politicians streaming in and out of the UN that land-mines were a very bad thing indeed (because one of the legs of the chair has been blown off, see? Give me an art degree right now!). I don’t know why they didn’t just put a picture of Princess Diana smiling wanly at them instead.

Paul attempted to pose in front of the chair for a photo but then realised we were selfishly in the way of the 12,000 Chinese tourists who were snapping at the chair from every single one of the 360 degrees available to us all. So much shrieking. The chair was quite something, admittedly, but it is difficult to be sombre and reflective when you’re being jostled and pushed by a high-pitched collection of cameras with limbs attached. We pressed on, electing to take the tram down into the centre of the city.

Oh, that’s something worth mentioning – all tourists to Geneva (and later, Bern) are given a free ticket to travel around on their public transportation system. It’s excellent, reliable and frequent and a perfect way to see the city. We’d paid lip-service to walking around and now it was time to let the train take the strain. Paul told me to sit next to him but I wanted to spread my legs a bit, only to immediately have a child plunked down in front of me who spent the rest of the journey staring at me with a slug of snot hanging out of his crusty nose, which he took great delight in sniffing back up his nose and letting it fall back out. I would have taken great delight in opening the window and flinging him into the Rhône but luckily, our stop came before I snapped. Brr.

At this point we both needed two things: some breakfast and a good poo. We wandered for a bit before finding somewhere with a board outside that promised a coffee and croissant for less than the owner’s mortgage payment. A miracle. However, once we’d sat down, I realised my mistake. Almond milk. Wan-faced, 90% there, slightly ethereal customers, shimmering in the half-light. Everyone talking with that affected, Pecksniffian air of the better-than-you set. We were in a…vegan cafe. We ordered a pastry and coffee and were curtly told to sit down. I wanted to cry out that my leather belt was actually pleather and all of my meat-box pushing on this blog was merely a front for Save The Soya Beans of Sudan or something but I didn’t get a chance. We ate our breakfast hurriedly, trying not to gag as the milk curdled on top of the coffee like the results of a particularly rumbustious sexually transmitted disease, paid up and left. I think I stepped on a beetle on the way out of the shop, leading to a plaintive cry from the owner. Either that or she had realised I’d accidentally spilled the sugar bowl on the floor.

I know, I’m a horror. Vegans, you know I’m joking, please don’t write to me. Save your strength, I don’t want your wrists shattering like a dropped piano from the weight of an HB pencil. We spotted that the Jet d’Eau, Geneva’s colossal landmark water fountain, was a twenty minute away. However, before we got to that, I had to go and relieve a high-pressure blockage of my own, and it was with a euphoric cry that I spotted one of those shiny automatic toilets near the Plainpalais tram stop. Phew! I’m a huge fan of these individual toilets because they’re always spotlessly clean and you can have a shite in the safe knowledge that you’re not going to have a man standing next to you wanking away whilst you strain.

I hurried in, assumed that the stupid thing had locked because there was no button to lock the door and sat down to say goodbye to yesterday, my jeans and boxers round my ankles. Sweet relief. No, sweet relief cut immediately short because no sooner had I opened the release valve than the door swooshed open, revealing me to Paul and the busy street like the worst episode of Blind Date you’ll have ever seen. I bellowed like a stabbed bull, jumped to my feet, tripped over my jeans and fell over hard, creating an impressively loud clang (imagine a church bell falling onto the top of a bus) and drawing even more attention to me. Thankfully my Scottish Widow cloak hid most of my shame but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever gone from semi-nude to clothed and composed (and slightly pee-soaked) so quickly. I didn’t even get to finish my crap but actually, the shock of the stumble made everything tense and my urgent need to go had disappeared.

I exited that toilet coolly and confidently, meeting the gaze of anyone who had the temerity to look at me. Paul was doubled-over with laughter, the insensitive sod. I walked off, leaving him to breathlessly catch up with me a few minutes later, at which point he just promised that he hadn’t pressed the ‘open button’ on the door ‘to see what happened’. He was definitely lying – I’d have been more convinced if he’d ran up and told me he was turning straight – but I had to forgive him because, away from the staring eyes of the folk in the street, it was bloody hilarious.

We tottered down to the Jet D’Eau. What can I say about this? It is a giant fountain originally built to release the pressure from a hydroelectric plant – thank Christ it wasn’t a sewage processing facility, though I reckon my arse could do a fair impression after two bowls of “delicious” speed soup. Anyway, the Swiss thought this burst of water so delightful that they recreated it by the lakeside and indeed, it does look pretty spurting into the air. We walked up, took a few photos, I pretended like I was douching using the fountain and all of Geneva fell about laughing and slapping their knees. Honestly, how they laughed!

Now, I could go on, but let’s cut it short here and get to the recipe. It’s chilli beefy macaroni cheese – crunchy, spicy, cheesy – just bloody amazing. Yeah it’s a few more syns but fuck it. Spending your syns might scare you but remember – this is ooey-gooeyness that doesn’t skimp on flavour, AND it serves SIX! Plus, it’s Christmas for goodness sake. If that isn’t the time to let your gunt flap over your knees and fill yourself with calories then I don’t know when is.

chilli beefy macaroni cheese

to make chilli beefy macaroni cheese you will need:

  • 500g pasta (we used spirali because we’re decadent bitches)
  • 400g lean beef mince (you know, like the sort of stuff you might find in say, our fabulous Musclefood deal? See? Have a look!)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 240g reduced-fat cheddar cheese (6x HeA)
  • 200ml skimmed milk (4 syns)
  • 1½ tins of chopped tomatoes
  • handful of chopped jalapeños
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp olive oil (4 syns)
  • 1 tbsp flour (3½ syns)
  • 75g panko (10½ syns)

Right: final time this year. Treat yourself to a microplane grater. It’ll do for ginger, it’ll do for garlic, it’ll do for getting those callouses off those trotters of yours. The one we use is lovely and cheap – see?

to make chilli beefy macaroni cheese you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  • heat a large pan over a medium high heat, add a slosh of oil and add the onions and garlic – cook until the onions have softened a bit
  • add the mince to the pan and cook until no pink meat remains
  • add the tomatoes, jalapeños, chili powder and chili flakes to the pan, stir and cook for another 4 minutes
  • scoop the meat out of the pan and into a bowl and set aside
  • quickly rinse out the pan, fill it with water, add some salt and bring to the boil
  • cook the pasta according to the instructions, reserving half a mug of pasta water for later
  • drain and set aside
  • put the same pan back on the hob, add the oil and flour and mix into a paste using a whisk, and slowly pour in the milk a bit at a time, until the mixture has thickened
  • chuck in the cheese, remove from the heat and stir until melted
  • add the mustard powder, oregano and black pepper and stir
  • mix the drained pasta into the cheese, using the reserved pasta water to loosen it if necessary
  • stir in the mince, mix well and tip into a big baking dish
  • sprinkle over the panko and bake in the oven for 15 minutes
  • serve!

Want more pasta, beef or just bloody amazing food? Here!

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Have an amazing Christmas, all!

J