droptober recipe #3: cheesy caramelised onion and bacon pasta bake

Here for the cheesy caramelised onion and bacon pasta bake? It’s a few paragraphs below, but I beg your attention for a couple of minutes whilst I witter on. Let’s get the exciting news out of the way…

christmas tree week 3

Canny! I’m more surprised than anyone, trust me. We’re going slow and steady but after the week of naughtiness I had last week, I thought I’d put on for sure. Just shows: you should still go to class even when you can barely catch a breath because your mouth is so full of pie crust. If you want to take part in this challenge, there’s 100 syn free recipes and some colouring charts available all in one place right here! Remember to share.

Yes, last week then. See, I was sent up to Glasgow on a sort-of business trip to learn some new skills and socialise – both of which I’m terrible at. Had I been single I would have been up there so fast my shadow would have only appeared an hour later – Paul and I both love a Scotsman and between you and me (because who reads this, honestly) the biggest willy I’ve ever seen belonged to a Glaswegian. I didn’t know what to do with it – I’m surprised he didn’t pass out from lack of blood on the brain when he got an erection. It looked like a sausage casing stuffed with two cans of Carling Black Label. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or smash a bottle of champagne off the side of it. But those days are behind me (though I still whistle like a keyhole in a haunted castle) and so I didn’t have that to look forward to.

It also meant a whole week without Paul – I know. Before you’re all sick in your mouth (although, think of the weight-loss) please understand that we haven’t been apart for more than a week in the totality of our almost ten year relationship. I was fretting at the thought of being unable to sleep without the smell of death being blown across my nostrils at five-minute intervals. I shivered at the thought of being able to occupy more than 10% of the bed without Paul’s wandering hands, feet and knob poking and prodding me. There are nights I feel like a stress-ball. But hey, it had to be done, and it was with an aching heart and a threatening arsehole (we’d had easy peasy beef curry the night before, and whilst delicious, it was making a dramatic reappearance throughout the morning) that we schlepped off to pick up my hire car on Sunday.

I could see I was in for an easy time when I got to the desk and was assigned a car-rental-spokesperson who I wasn’t entirely convinced wasn’t dead. I’ve made more responsive omelettes. He didn’t look up from his keyboard once – perhaps he was trying to find the ‘wake the fuck up’ key but if so, he failed miserably. He didn’t check my insurance details, didn’t check my payment details, didn’t check my lyrics, nothing. I’d have had a more fruitful chat if I’d turned and had a discussion with the leaflet stand. I was going to ask him about fuel but I rather thought I’d need to fetch a defibrillator to just bring him back into some form of sentience, and well, my ankles were already hurting from having to concertina myself into Paul’s tiny Smart car. He did perk up when he remembered he could sell me an upgrade, and, remembering the Ford Boredom we’d been given last time, I asked him what he could offer me. First a Skoda – no. Then a Fiat 500 – no. Then his trump card (honestly, his eyes nearly opened with the shock) – he had an Audi. Did I want an Audi? I leaned over the desk and tried to explain that I’d be unable to take an Audi because a) I know how to use indicators and b) I’m not a middle-aged, impotent, prematurely-balding twat, but he’d pretty much already signed the card for me and was back to looking like he was trying to remember to breathe in and out. Resigned (and a fair few pounds lighter) I went to pick up my car.

Well, I’m not going to lie. It was lovely. I wanted to hate it, really I did, but it drove well and was comfortable for a long drive. I still wouldn’t buy one on sheer principle and I still think every single Audi driver – bar you and any of your charming family and friends, I’m sure – is a minge, but I can definitely see the appeal. I thought I’d do my best to be a decent Audi driver so I spent the first sixty miles or so driving gently and letting people out at junctions before a transformation took place and I was flooring it. You know how the Incredible Hulk turns green when he gets angry? I turned violet. In my defence I was stuck behind a little old dear doing 40mph on a single carriageway designed for 70mph and because I’m a nice guy deep down, I couldn’t flash my lights, but by god was I raging. I had to stop at the next services just to have a McFlurry and calm myself down.

I drove on, loving every second of having the car to myself for a long drive. I could sing along to my music without any protestation from Paul and there was no Alanis Fucking Morrisette to contend with, which was lucky as I don’t think my Budget Special Povvo Insurance would cover deliberately driving into the back of a petrol tanker. As I drove past Lockerbie the tyre pressure warning light came on. Horror! I pulled over, walked around the car kicking the tyres because I’d seen someone do it on the TV, then spent twenty minutes reading up on how to change a tyre. I have no clue. I know that I should have acquired this skill by now but really, I’m very much a pay-someone-else-to-do-it sort of guy (i.e. lazy). I didn’t want some oily-handed mechanic to come and tut at me on the hard shoulder whilst I tried to make crass jokes about helping him with his tight nuts or jacking up. I waited a bit and kicked the tyres again and they seemed hard enough, so on I went.

You may recall I’m somewhat of a catastrophic thinker – well, this meant that I couldn’t relax for the rest of the journey. That tiny light with the deflated tyre haunted me like the Telltale Heart, burning away at my retinas as I tried to think about anything else than my tyre exploding and sending me ricocheting into oncoming traffic. Imagine that – being found buckled into a shoebox cube of metal with the Audi rings imprinted on my forehead, with some coroner declaring me dead due to my lack of manliness. The last sixty or so miles into Glasgow were tenser than the last round of The Cube – I reckon there’s still a fingernail wedged into the steering wheel. However, after navigating my way down to the Clyde (via the road system, as opposed to plummeting off the A74 in a fading shriek of ABBA Gold) I arrived at the hotel, the not-especially-salubrious Garden Inn Hilton.

Alas, Paul just minced in from the kitchen to inform me dinner will be ready in ten minutes, so I’m going to plough straight on with tonight’s recipe and finish this story another time! This makes enough for four massive portions, so we’re going for comfort food here folks, not grace…

cheesy caramelised onion and bacon pasta bake

cheesy caramelised onion and bacon pasta bake

to make cheesy caramelised onion and bacon pasta bake you will need:

  • 6 bacon medallions, chopped

We use some of the bacon from our fantastic freezer filler deal – 24/26 chicken breasts, a load of bacon medallions, 5 big portions of extra lean beef mince and two portions of beef chunks – get yourself stocked up for Autumn by clicking here – it’ll open in a new window!

to make cheesy caramelised onion and bacon pasta bake you should:

  • heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a splash of oil
  • slice the onions into 0.5cm slices and add to the pan, coating well
  • leave to cook in the pan for half an hour, stirring only when the edges start to brown, scraping up any bits sticking to the pan
  • when the onions are nicely browned (after about 15-20 minutes) add the balsamic vinegar, stir well to coat and continue to cook until it has evaporated off
  • meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°c
  • fry the bacon in another frying pan over a medium-high heat until crispy
  • bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions, minus a minute or two so it’s still firm to bite into
  • in a large bowl, mix together the quark, creme fraiche, garlic powder and a little salt and pepper to taste
  • stir in the cooked bacon, chopped red pepper and half the grated cheese
  • stir in the drained pasta and caramelised onions and mix well to combine
  • slop out into a large baking dish and top with the remaining cheese – yes that’s right, we use words like slop out in our recipes – some might say gently transfer, but we’re not that kind of blog, fuck no
  • bake in the oven for 20 minutes, and finish off under the grill for 2 minutes until golden and the cheese is bubbling – we were terrible and crunched a stray packet of BBQ kettle chips that we had lying around over the top (six syns, so that’s 1.5 syns extra per person – you don’t need to do it but man, was it good)
  • serve!

Easy! Looking for more pasta recipes? One-pot? All sorts? Have some buttons and you know what to do!

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J

one pot chinese braised beef

We’ve done many quick beef recipes before, but this one-pot Chinese braised beef really hits the spot. The G-Spot. Put down some plastic sheeting and let’s get cooking! Oh wait, no, no, we have to finish our Peterborough report, don’t we? It haunts me now like a Vietnam flashback. So many soiled mattresses. I’ll bust out the old graphic…

peterborough

…and kindly advise you that part one can be found here and part two can be found here. If you’re a fan of our travel tales and writing, you can find our previous trips to Corsica, Ireland, Iceland and Berlin, along with many other articles, in our big compendium book! It’s been a while since I mentioned it – you can find it on Amazon right here!

When you left us we were just finishing up Bletchley Park and steeling ourselves for the journey back to the hotel. Despite the sat-nav’s attempts to make our head explode scanner style by repeating roundabout over and over, it was a pleasant enough journey and we were back at the hotel in no time at all. True to their word, they had switched our rooms to an altogether more charming one (although Paul’s face was ashen when he realised it was up a flight of stairs, the poor lamb). They told us to nip back to the old room and pack our things, which we promptly did.

On our thigh-chaffing walk to the old room, Paul pushed me out of the way and hurtled ahead. Turns out that his ashen-face was more down to the immediate and pressing need to dispose of the World’s Shittiest Italian Meal from the day before. I, being a thoughtful chap, told him that he’d need to hold it in because the housekeepers would be waiting for us to leave so they could clean the room and there was no way I was adding ‘walking into a deathcloud of barely digested pancetta’ onto their list of reasons to hate life. So began the quickest debate you’ve ever seen, with Paul dancing back and forth on his feet and me being firm and telling him he had to hold it. I only relented when he said it was either the toilet of the old room or the hood on my hoodie in the corridor.

Well, you can’t argue with that. I stepped aside. There was a lot of noise and motion.

Of course, it smelt like someone had died, meaning we had to stay in the room for twenty minutes frantically wafting the curtains and flapping the duvet to try and get the stench to dissipate. I don’t want a mark on my Premier Inn record that states we leave the room smelling like someone has burnt a tyre full of human hair. Having done the best we could, with me liberally sprinkling Rive D’Ambre everywhere (and that stuff is £170 a bottle, just saying: we’re fat, it’s the only designer thing we can wear), we switched rooms.

Why is it, no matter what time of the day or night it is, you can turn E4 or More4 or 4Skin or 4goodnesssakepickaname on, there’s always a Come Dine with Me quintet to watch? At the very last there’s a Four in the Bed chain to work through. Having realised that there was absolutely bot-all-else to do on a Sunday in fair Peterborough, we settled down with vending machine snacks and a tiny cup of Barely Grey and made the best of it. Naturally, we fell asleep. Say what you want about Premier Inn, they do make a damn comfy bed. I should know, we’ve got one installed.

We woke up at 7, full of piss and vinegar for falling asleep and wasting our evening, only to realise that there was nowhere in Peterborough that caught our eye. Paul did suggest a visit to a floating boat which served Chinese food but then we bought realised we didn’t fancy stopping every ten minutes on the way home to revisit our dinner. Casting our net a little wider we eventually spotted somewhere that did take our fancy – Stilton, just over the roundabout. Lovely. I made to make a reservation at a lovely looking place that I can’t remember the name of (Bell Inn?) but Paul reminded me of something.

See, my lovely, confident husband frets something chronic about going to ‘nice places’ to eat. He has an inferiority complex – he absolutely shouldn’t, he’s wonderful, but he thinks he is going to make an arse of himself. I reassured him that he amazing in every way and so we made a reservation and set off.

Well, honestly. It was a gorgeous little pub and the menu sounded great. We were given a seat on a tiny table by the fire (not a criticism mind) and ordered our food. Paul was a little on edge but we got through the starters without any difficulties. The mains arrived and we got stuck in. Everything was going just so until Paul illustrated a particularly bold point with an expansive sweep of his arm, which pushed his pint of Pepsi off the table and down the wall. Nobody noticed, thankfully, despite the pool of Pepsi around my feet. Fair enough, everyone’s allowed one. I went to take a bite of my burger – one of those overly stuffed, towering piles of meat that are the style these days – only to have the cheese covered meat slide out and cascade down my pink shirt. Great! All equal.

Naturally, Paul had to one-up me. He’d ordered pork belly which came with a smashing bit of crackling which, try as he might, Paul couldn’t crack into small enough bits of eat. He couldn’t very well pick it up and eat it with his hands so he tried many different ways to get into it. No joy. I suggested using the knife as a chisel and to tap it from the top with his hands, like hammering a nail. I thought he’d be careful. Of course not. The ham-fisted dolt hit his knife so hard that it not only shot through the crackling but also cleaved his dinner plate in two. He very much won that round. We finished our meal, polished off a cheese-board, paid the bill and left a hearty tip before we were asked to leave. It was a gorgeous meal and a lovely place, mind.

We stopped at the hotel ‘bar’ for a gin and tonic – me resisting the urge to ask if he’d gone to press the juniper berries himself he was gone that long. We won £7 from the Itbox and made for bed, safe and snug in the knowledge that we’d be home in the morning.

advert - freezer-01

We woke at eight, peeling ourselves apart once more like two flip-flops in the sun due to the room being the temperature of lava. I walked around in the shower for ten minutes until I was wet enough to clean myself and then we made for the car. It was here we made a rash decision. You need to understand we were motivated purely by hunger at this point.

We went to a Toby Carvery for our breakfast.

I know, we’re monsters. I’d seen an advert somewhere and it seemed like a filthy proposition – and as I’ve mentioned before, we do love a buffet breakfast.

I barely need to tell you how awful it was. It was foul. I could talk about the fact we were having breakfast on an industrial estate. I could describe the food: baked beans cooked last November, bacon you could reupholster a settee with, sausages with less meat content than a butcher’s pencil, eggs that I’m still working through my teeth now. Hell, I could go on about the fact that they advertise the fact they have ‘special breakfast Yorkshire puddings’ (i.e. the Yorkshire puddings they didn’t sell in the roast dinner the day before that were so hard I could have used them to stop a runaway train) or the ‘cheese and potato hash’ (i.e. the roast potatoes that didn’t get used the day before with a bit of Primula added) or even the ‘special breakfast gravy’ which was yesterday’s gravy with some tomato ketchup in it. This gravy didn’t so much have a skin as a coat of fucking armour. I’ve never had to slice gravy before, I can tell you.

No, what put me off (after all that, shocking!) was the sheer, unadulterated, naked greed from the person sitting a couple of tables away. Everyone makes a pig of themselves at a buffet, yes, but this guy deserved a gold medal. Three plates of breakfast, each heaped like a mini cowpat of excess. He ate and he ate and he ate without barely drawing breath – which was in itself not such a bad thing because when he did breathe it sounded like someone hoovering up a pile of rubber gloves. When he did stop he burped, and it wasn’t a polite wee burp into a hand like decent folk, but a really resounding baaaarp like he was clearing out just another pocket to cram breakfast into. Bleurgh.

I must be clear: I adore a buffet, I’m capable of great amounts of eatings, but have a bit of fucking decorum. When your chin is more bacon fat than skin, stop. This is why we don’t do those all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets in town – you always get someone who treats it as though it’s their last meal and I’m sorry, it makes me feel queasy.

We drove home, ashamed of ourselves for the breakfast and full of regrets that we’d spent as much money as we did on an awful weekend. It was lovely meeting Paul’s brother and Paul’s dad and his partner, but those were the only high points in an otherwise dismal 72 hours. Paul chastised me constantly for driving at 90mph all the way home but in my defence, it was the fear of breaking down and the car having to be towed back to Peterborough that kept my foot firmly on the accelerator. Never again.

We nipped back home to pick up my car and then made our way back to the car rental. Paul, naturally, forgot to have the windows down on the drive over so when the rental guy bent down to check the interior of the car for cleanliness, he visibly paled. I’m surprised he didn’t charge us for making vegetable soup in the boot. Paul also helpfully forgot to un-sync his phone from the car’s entertainment system so when the guy started the car back up, it reconnected with Paul’s phone and started blasting the chorus from Big Girls Don’t Cry by Lolly. A fitting end.

Naturally, upon our return, the cats paid entirely no attention to us and carried on licking their bottoms. We did have a moment of hilarity when we realised we’d accidentally packed the little purple Premier Inn branded bed-runner into our suitcase. I confessed our accidental theft on Twitter and they kindly told us to keep it. I put it on the bed for ten minutes, Paul chortled, then we both realised exactly how many different accountants and salesmen must have wiped their cocks on it. We’ve packed it away in the cupboard for when his mother comes over.

And that’s that. I was disappointed but Paul even more so – he remembered growing up in a place with lots to do. Heraclitus wrote that ‘it is impossible to step into the same river twice‘, and no more so is that true then when you go ‘home’. Bah.

Right then, let’s do the recipe. This serves two fatties or three or four healthy appetites. The main dish cooks all in one pot and we just microwaved some noodles rather than cooking fresh because we’re super lazy. Remember to syn that. As usual, you can use frylight if you prefer for frying, but proper spray olive oil is 7 sprays for half a syn or something, and has the advantage of not tasting like a sweaty arse.

one pot chinese braised beef

to make one pot chinese braised beef you will need:

to make one pot chinese braised beef you should:

  • preheat the oven to 150°C
  • heat a casserole dish on the hob over a medium-high heat and add a little oil
  • fry the garlic, spring onions, ginger and chilli for about 1 minute
  • toss the beef in the flour and add to the pan, and stir until browned all over
  • add the five-spice and honey and stir until combined
  • add the rice wine vinegar to the pan, scraping up the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula
  • pour in the stock and the soy sauce, mix, cover with the lid and cook in the oven for an hour
  • pull the pak choi apart and place on top of the stew for the last fifteen minutes so it wilts down
  • serve!

We thought this was amazing, no kidding. It’s quite like our Mongolian beef but a lot more saucy.

If you want more beef or fakeaway recipes, hit the buttons below! Oh and we’ve finally added the one-pot section, so click that for more one-pot ideas! PHEW

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I’d love some comments and feedback!

J

ricotta and spinach stuffed beefy cannelloni

Genuinely just a quick post tonight before we get to the ricotta and spinach stuffed beefy cannelloni, but first, can someone answer me one question?

Why do people write on their own walls? Hear me out. Chunkles and I were watching Britain’s Benefit Tenants yesterday, laughing at the poor inbetween handfuls of caviar and swigs of champagne. Not quite – we had been watching something on Channel 4, the remote fell out of reach and we couldn’t be arsed to switch over. It was illuminating. I’m not going to get into the whole ‘landlords are bad’ / ‘tenants are scum’ because obviously there’s good and bad on all sides, but it did make me think, not least whether there a direct correlation between neon pink walls and jet black teeth.

What troubles me is the state of some of the houses. Look, I can be as slobby as the next person, but unless you’re unwell, there’s very little reason for your house to be so unclean. You see the same old tropes – the writing of names on the wall (why? WHY? It’s not even graffiti on an outside wall, just shit scribbling and the inevitable weed leaf on the living room wall), dried up dog poo in the kitchen and, in the garden, a broken Fisher Price slide that someone stepped through back in 2005 and two dogs so inbred and vicious that they’re fighting their own feet.

Now, I know, I’ve always been lucky in that, so far, I’ve always been gainfully employed and in reasonable health, so until I moved into the house I own, I always paid my rent. I do wonder if I was a mug for doing so, though, given it seems to be a-ok for someone to rent a house, smash it up and then move on to be rehoused. It’s why we don’t buy our own property to rent out – I’d be fucking livid if someone decided it was an appropriate reaction to kick their foot through my internal walls. Oh and plus, if we were landlords, I know we’d be the type you see on Crimewatch rubbing our thighs and suggesting ‘we come to other arrangements’ if the tenant so much as called in to report a leaky tap.

Anyway, speaking of stuffing tubes, let’s get straight to the ricotta and spinach stuffed beefy cannelloni recipe, shall we? We used to make a variation on this all the time back in our proper Slimming World days when we took it seriously (cough) but that involved cottage cheese and sweetener. God knows why. This is proper food! We took inspiration from a blog called flavourbender which won us over on name alone. This makes enough for four.

1.5 syn ricotta and spinach stuffed beefy cannelloni

to make ricotta and spinach stuffed beefy cannelloni, you’ll need:

  • 10 large canneloni tubes
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced (mince mince mince, mince mince mince, shake your mincer…with this)
  • lots of salt and pepper
  • 270g of ricotta (90g is one HEA or six syns – this serves four – so if you want to syn it, it’s 4.5 syns per serving)
  • 150g of quark
  • 30g of parmesan (which is one HEA, or six syns – so again, between four, it’s 1.5 syns per serving)
  • one 400g packet of extra-lean beef mince (use one from our Musclefood deal – perfect size, perfect quality – click here to order)
  • one carrot
  • one stalk of celery
  • one large onion
  • one carton of passata

So, per serving, it’ll be either 1.5 syns or maximum of 6 syns per serving.

to make ricotta and spinach stuffed beefy cannelloni, you should:

  • preheat the oven to 190 degrees
  • chop your onion, carrot and celery nice and fine, and sweat them off in a squirt or two of oil in a decent non-stick pan
  • add the minced garlic
  • add the mince and brown it off
  • add the passata, a pinch of salt, and let them simmer away gently so it thickens up
  • put your canneloni tubes in boiling water for a few minutes just to soften them up, though we didn’t actually bother and although it was a bit chewy, we still enjoyed it
  • in a seperate pan, tip all the spinach in with a tiny drop of water and put a lid on it – let the spinach wilt right down, then drain, squeeze, squeeze again, squeeze like it’s the windpipe of that bitch/bastard you hate, then chop it nice and fine
  • mix the ricotta, parmesan and quark together with the chopped spinach and a good pinch of salt and pepper to make the filling for the tubes
  • get the dish you’re going to cook everything in the oven with and put a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom
  • push the ricotta mix into the tubes – you can either do this by using your fingers like the filthy slattern you are, or tip the ricotta mix into a sandwich bag, tie it up at the top and cut a corner off on the bottom – voila, instant icing bag – much easier
  • place each filled tube into the dish and then cover the lot with the remainder of the tomato sauce
  • add more cheese on top if you dare, I won’t tell if you won’t
  • cover with tin foil and cook in the oven for 20 or so minutes, then remove the foil, whack the heat up to 210, and cook for another 15 minutes or so until the cheese is golden and the pasta is soft

Serve! Pretty easy, right? Again, it’s one of those recipes that sounds like a lot of instructions but actually, is dead easy. If you want more beef or pasta ideas, click on the buttons below! You could make this veggie by leaving out the beef and adding more veg to the sauce, so I’ve whacked in the veggie recipes link too.

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Cheers all.

J

 

beef and bacon stroganoff – quick and easy comfort food!

Here for the beef and bacon stroganoff? Well of COURSE you are. It’s take take take with you! But, as usual, before we get to the recipe, a preamble…

James is running late, he rang me from inside the multi-storey car park shouting and bawling about the barrier being broken – I could barely hear him over the sound of his car, his rage and my Now That’s What I Call Soviet National Anthems CD. I made out the words ‘…’king sick of this cun…’ and ‘as much fucking use as a sandpaper tampon’ then he cut out. He’ll be home soon, but I thought I’d do a blog entry for once. Poor guy. Poor you lot.

This week I managed to find a major motivator to lose weight in somewhere that I least suspected – clothes. That’s right. Despite being two of the most uninterested people in fashion as well as being the most unfashionable people out there, it was trying to find a nice suit for a job interview that really hit home how much we need to lose weight.

I have more trouble than James on this front – despite him being a good few stone heavier than me he’s also got another half a foot, so his chub is much more easily spread out – he’s like a wardrobe – whereas I’m more like a chest of drawers. Or imagine sputnik balanced on a chubby pair of thighs. It’s a bloody nightmare to find anything that fits properly, if at all. It’s like trying to dress a car accident.

As we’ve previously touched upon, we’ve finally found somewhere that caters to our needs that doesn’t result in 100% polyester or finding them between rows of Pringles – except for a Jacamo run on payday we often finds ourselves strutting around a local garden centre and a franchise of Cotton Traders. I know, I know, we’re not on deaths door or enfeebled but the stuff fits. Well, it fits James – I have to make do with a chequered bit of cotton that sits over my belly but results in the breast pocket being underneath my tit, and the bottom of the shirt floating around near my knees, which if I don’t tuck in ends up billowing about like a curtain in a Celine Dion video.

So it all came to a head when I needed a nice suit for a job interview – there’s a few suits in our wardrobe but they’re all suspiciously high in acrylic (it came to a point a few weeks ago that we had to chuck a few out because every time we swished open the floor to ceiling wardrobe door, there’d be a smell of plastic burning and an alarming amount of smoke). Plus, naturally, they are all far too small (keep hold of them…we’ll fit into them eventually, we say…).

Seeing as though I actually wanted this job we decided to splurge out on a reasonably priced one. So, being fat fucks and the garden centre of no use we went online to Jacamo and ordered a few, in different sizes so I could try one or the other and make a choice but all to no avail. I just cannot look good in a suit. At all. It feels like the shoulder pads are jutting out like I’m the sexiest milkmaid ever and I have to swing my arms around like a wind turbine to stop the sleeves from flapping about. It’s an absolute mare.

And, naturally, because it was something nice, the cats immediately took a dislike and left me looking like Grizabella with just a quick vag-flash and an ankle rub. So that was no good. I did manage, however, to hang on to the waistcoat which didn’t do too much of a bad job. It did make me look as though I was presenting Big Break alongside Professional Shitrat Jim Davison, but hey, you can’t have it all.

Perhaps I do need to lose weight then. I would love to be able to get something without schlepping out to a place where I can also get barbecue tongs and a lavender plant. As convenient as it is.

OOH I hear the door. One moment please. CUT TO ADVERTS.


Remember: our Musclefood deal is running for only three more days! 10% off! Canny deal – even if you don’t want it, share it with a friend!

FREEZER FILLER: 5kg (24/26) of big fat chicken breasts, 2kg (5 portions of 400g) less than 5% fat mince, 700g of bacon, 800g of extra lean diced beef and free standard delivery – use TCCFREEZER at checkout – £45 delivered!

BBQ BOX: 5kg (24/26) of big fat chicken breasts, two Irish rump steaks, 350g of bacon, 6 half-syn sausages, twelve giant half-syn meatballs, 400g diced turkeys, two juicy one syn burgers, two bbq chicken steaks, free delivery, season and 400g seasoned drumsticks (syn-free when skin removed) – use TCCSUMMER at checkout – £45 delivered!

Remember, you can choose the day you want it delivered and order well in advance – place an order now for a couple of weeks time and they’ll only take the payment once the meat is dispatched! Right, that’s enough of that.


Eee yes! Anyway, flying in the face of all of the above, we’re having chippy tea tonight because we’ve had some good news. GASP. But listen, I’m not going to let you down with thoughts of James pushing a spam fritter around his face like a greasy sponge. So let’s get tonight’s recipe done. You can reduce the syns in this by making a proper white sauce but you know sometimes when you get home from work, you want to sit on the settee with your bollocks out doing fuck all? This is for one of those nights. It cooks itself pretty much. Plus, unless you’re super careful, all the white sauces on Slimming World end up looking like something scraped off the side of the bin at the GUM clinic, so, make this, use your syns and rock on. This makes enough for four, so the syns in the soup aren’t that much per serving!

beef and bacon stroganoff

to make beef and bacon stroganoff, you’ll need:

At 15 syns for the whole dish, I’ll call it 4 syns a serving. I know that’s not quite right but hey.

to make beef and bacon stroganoff, you should:

  • chop up your onions, the green pepper and the mushrooms nice and fine
  • sweat it off in a few squirts of spray oil (not Frylight, haway) with the minced garlic
  • add the mince and the chopped bacon and cook it off with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • add in the frozen peas
  • pour the condensed soup into a jug and add the milk – you want a nice thick sauce – you’re not going to have loads of it, but that’s the point
  • lower the heat, add the soup to the mix and simmer gently just to thicken it up – if you want more sauce, add more milk and then simmer it for longer
  • cook the noodles, drain, add the sauce, serve!

 

Easy! Sounds complicated but it’s really just chop, chop, cook, cook, mix. Even you can do that! Oh and we’ve done a couple of stroganoff recipes before, too:

OK, if you want more pasta recipes or beef recipes, go ahead and click on the buttons below.

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Enjoy!

P

homemade corned beef potato gratin

Homemade corned beef potato gratin? Homemade? Yes! Making your own corned beef is a lot easier than I imagined – not as easy as pulling your pork or stuffing your fish taco, but bear with me. If you’re a lazy arse, don’t worry, you can use tinned corned beef, but I wanted to see if I could make a very low syn version – and I succeeded. Of course! No theme for today’s blog post, so I’m just going to rattle off a few observations that don’t lend themselves to a full blog article.

Let’s begin with Naked Attraction on Channel 4. Ostensibly a dating show, it’s a crude little performance masquerading as a serious look at attraction. To put it succinctly, it’s an excuse for everyone to gawk at a few cocks for 60 minutes. Listen, it’s not like I’m averse to that, I love my daily intake of Vitamin D, but haway, on the telly? The only time I want to see an engorged prick when I turn the TV on is when Owen Smith hands in his resignation. Boom: biting political satire. The problem with this show is that there’s really no such thing as an attractive cock when it’s on the flop. If the guy isn’t packing heat, it ends up looking like one of those lugworm piles you see on the beach when the tide goes out. Like a walnut whip left in a slightly warm room. Similarly, if he’s a shower, it just looks like someone’s stuck a googly-eye on a length of intestine. A penis is a wonderful thing, regardless of whether it’s compact, coupe or stretch, and yes, it’s the motion not the meat, but please, erect only.

Damn, I actually should do a full article on the above. So many thoughts.

We had a trip out in the car yesterday to Seahouses, North Northumberland’s premier tat-shop hotspot. It was literally a trip in the car, because, after driving for what felt like eight hours behind some lovely old dear in a Fiat Euthanised doing about 6mph and throwing the brakes on every time the air over her chin-whiskers got a bit much. I reckon it would have been quicker for me to park up, jump into the North Sea and swim up the coast – I’d have done that but I didn’t want a human turd in my 99. By the time we had arrived in fair Seahouses, the car was actually running on the steam from my ears. When will people learn that it is just as dangerous to drive too bloody slow than it is to drive too fast? If I was PM, I’d make it legal to give these tiny, slow cars a gentle nudge into a layby or say, a combine harvester. I can’t imagine she was enjoying listening to Paul and I bewailing our way through We Don’t Need Another Hero that much.


You may not need another hero, but I bet you do need meat. We all do. We were approached by another company to try and shill their healthy seeds and flours and I said no, not my lot. They’re hungry. Here’s a wee deal:

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Seahouses was a bust. When I was young it was the go-to place for my parents to take me and my sister – it had the dual advantage that they could furnish us with a few quid and we’d look after ourselves in the arcades for a couple of hours whilst they sat outside and smoked. Sometimes they smoked inside for a change of scenery. It’s a perfect example of a town that should be so much more. For a start, it’s in an absolutely beautiful part of the country – fantastic beaches, amazing castles (Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh, Chillingham – all very different experiences and all marvellous), great food and the majesty of the North Sea.

I remember great places to eat, chips on the pier, rock-pooling, playing that shitty bingo above the arcades where you slid a plastic door over the numbers as they were called and won a packet of J-Cloths for a full house. Now there’s a Co-op, a litany of awful trying-to-be-upmarket gift shops, an expensive fish-and-chips place and a sense of general ennui. I took the jackpot out of a Deal or no Deal fruitie on the seafront and I genuinely thought I was going to get stabbed on the way out. I’d have had less eyes on me if I’d stripped naked and given Paul a rim-job over the Grace Darling commemorative buoy.

There used to be a brilliant arcade full of sit-on-rides and proper funfair type games – that’s gone – replaced by soulless, identikit apartment blocks that no doubt don’t have enough room to nudge-nudge-nudge your lemon in. Yeah, some rich la-de-dah has a sea-view and somewhere to put those awful inspirational-shite-on-a-piece-of-driftwood wall-art that you can see fading in every gift-shop within flying distance from a seaside town, but where’s my chance to win an asbestos-stuffed Sanic the Hodgeheg from a fixed claw machine? Eh?

I should have learned my lesson from the last time we visited – this time with Paul’s severely autistic brother. He disliked the place so much he got himself worked up into a sulk and wouldn’t get out of the car for love nor money. He had the right idea. We should follow his sage advice – my favourite story ever involves him asking his mother to buy that tea-tree and mint Original Source shampoo because ‘it makes my head feel like it’s sucking on a giant mint Polo’. I love that, he’s brilliant.

I’m perhaps doing the place a disservice for the sake of a tongue-in-cheek blog entry. It’s still worth a visit. Remember, I have rose-tinted (well, more nicotine-stained) glasses from childhood visits with school and family. As a returning adult, I see all that has disappeared and wince at what has replaced it. Perhaps it was the fact we arrived at 3pm on a Saturday (to be fair, we’d set off at 5pm on Tuesday but thanks to that auld cow in the Fiat…) but it was all very meh.

One glimmer of hope, though: ONE of the tat-shops remains. I think it’s called Farne Gift Shop but don’t rely on that, I saw the name through a red-mist of pure rage as I drove in. It hasn’t changed a jot – it was a relief to find that the giant pencil with ‘SEAHOUSES AND BAMBRUGH’ smeared down the side in lead paint was still tucked away on the shelf where I regrettably left it when I was 8. It’s literally a shop full of tat: tea-towels with a ‘HERE’S TO A HAPPY FUTURE’ message for Charles and Diana, jigsaw boxes devoid of all colour from being left in the sun for eighty-seven years, sticks of rock to prise your fillings up and tonnes of other nonsense. I loved it.

We had a moment of hilarity when Paul discovered something which he’d been referencing for years: a donkey which shits out cigarettes. Apparently his mother had one, along with a toilet ashtray which dispensed a little bit of sand to snuff out your fag – and I’d never believed such a thing existed. Well, here we had one – I wanted to buy one to really class up our living room but Paul pointed out that a) neither of us smoke and b) our furnishings aren’t being paid for in weekly installments. Spoil-sport.

To show that I’m not making it up, click here to view the donkey in it’s full ‘glory’. What I love about that listing is that it’s filed under ‘Cigar Accessories’, as though it’s a classy humidor or a tasteful engraved ashtray like the one that did Saskia in. I can’t imagine ever having a conversation where I’m offering someone a Colorado Maduro and when they gratefully accept, waving their hand away and saying ‘but wait, watch it emerge from a donkey’s arse!’. Actually, that’s a filthy lie. I totally can.

No, do give Seahouses a go. If you’ve never been, have a weekend away on our coast. It’s amazing. I’m planning a proper paean in the future to the wonderful world where I live, so keep an eye out for that, but in short, come see the castles, have a trip out on the boats to Holy Island, enjoy our beautiful beaches and have some cinder toffee. Just understand that if you get in front of me on the roads and your car has dust on all the numbers above 25 on the speedometer, you’ll get three minutes of me smiling at you politely before I drive into your boot and throttle you with my bare hands. I’ll do it, prison holds no fear for me.

Right, let’s get to the recipe, shall we? I’ll do it in two stages. If you want to make your own corned beef – and you should, mind, because it’s really bloody easy, follow the first bit. If you’re going to chicken out and buy tinned, buy decent quality or get the fuck out. Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of the prepared corned beef, but that’s because it looks like a bit of body that’s been trapped in a weir for two weeks. Now, I can’t claim any credit for this recipe – it comes from Manna and Spice – I’ve just tweaked it to make it Slimming World friendly. The process is simple – make a brine, cure the meat, cook the meat. Done!

to make your own homemade cured corned beef, you’ll need:

  • 275g of kosher salt (you can buy this in Tesco – if you use table salt, add a bit more – maybe increase it to 350g)
  • a decent cut of brisket beef – fat removed – we used 2.75kg which we had cut from a butcher in Newcastle’s Grainger Market – and it was lovely – but you can also get them from Musclefood by clicking here, albeit you’ll need to buy three to get the same weight – which is fine, because it all goes into one pot anyway)
  • 50g of sugar (10 syns – and it’s up to you whether to syn this, but understand this – the corned beef probably makes enough for 20 servings, the sugar goes into the brine and well, you’re not drinking the brine, are you? So, per serving, the syns are infinitesimal)
  • don’t use sweetener, for crying out loud: you’re making something special, not trying to pretend your options and egg omelette is a fucking chocolate cake taste extravaganza)
  • 150ml of cider vinegar
  • 5-6 bay leaves
  • 10-12 pods cardamom, lightly crushed in your pestle and mortar
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorn, lightly crushed
  • 2 tbsp allspice berries, lightly crushed
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp prague powder
  • 1 gallon warm water

Now: that’s a big long list. Don’t shit yerself if you haven’t got everything in – we were lucky, we had almost everything bar the juniper berries, but if you want to miss some out, don’t stress. One thing I’ll say though, take a look at your indoor markets wherever you live – there’s bound to be a spice merchant or similar where you can buy small quantities of the ingredients for pennies. It’s what we do!

ALSO, important: that prague powder on the list. I bet you’re wondering what the fuck that is. It’s a curing salt and it stops the meat going a bell-end grey. It’s what makes corned beef pink. You can buy it from Amazon right here for a fiver.


I can’t stress enough that if you change the weight of your meat, change the amount of prague powder accordingly. If you use less meat, use less powder!


to make your own homemade cured corned beef, you should:

  • make a brine by pouring the liquid into a nice big pan, adding the salt and the sugar, dissolving them over a low heat, add everything else bar the meat, warm through and then tip the meat into the brine
  • cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave somewhere cool for five days, but preferably ten – making sure the lid is airtight and that there’s enough liquid to completely cover the meat throughout the ten days
  • once you’re ready to cook, simply take the meat, give it a bit of a rinse under cool water to remove the brine and put into a slow cooker with enough hot water to cover maybe a third of it
  • cook on low for about eight hours
  • once it’s done, allow to cool completely and then slice against the grain of the meat into nice thick chunks

Done!

Now I’m not daft, I know most of you are going to read all that, think fuck that for a game of soldiers, and go open up a tin of Arseholes and Eyelids Special from Fray Bentos. Can’t blame you, but really, it takes no effort to cure your own once you have all the bits you need, and it tastes that much nicer, trust me. If you choose to use tinned corned beef for the recipe below, remember to syn it! Right. Aside from a tonne of sandwiches and whatnot, I decided to make the corned beef into a tasty gratin – essentially a fancy layering of various delicious things. Again, I’m not claiming the idea for this recipe either (though I’ve adapted it considerably to make it Slimming World friendly) – all credit goes to Kevin at KevinIsCooking. His photos look better than mine, but to be fair to me, I was too concerned with getting it into my big fat mouth to fart about taking pictures. Right, let’s do this. Oh! Before I DO start, look, this recipe uses a few syns. It’s worth it. I’m sure you could replicate it with a Muller Yoghurt strained through Mags’ hair and mixed with Splenda, but don’t bother.

homemade corned beef potato gratin

to make homemade corned beef potato gratin, you’ll need:

  • lots and lots of lovely sliced homemade corned beef (syn free) or tinned corned beef (synned, and what price dignity)
  • two or three large potatoes (preferably something wet – the extra special potatoes from ASDA are perfect for this recipe)
  • 500ml of semi skimmed milk (250ml is a HEA and this serves four – so two people’s HEA or 12 syns)
  • 2 tbsp of corn flour (2 syns)
  • four sliced shallots
  • a big bag of brussels sprouts
  • 30g of parmesan (a HEA, or 6 syns)
  • lots of salt and pepper

Right, so, if no-one uses a HEA, this is 4.5 syns per serving. If you decide to use a HEA for your milk or cheese, knock some syns off. Let’s go!

to make homemade corned beef potato gratin, you should:

  • put that oven up to 220 degrees and give a nice square casserole dish a bit of loving with some spray oil
  • now listen: the one thing that is going to make your job easier today is a mandolin slicer with a guard – get one, you’ll get perfectly uniform slices and, used correctly, you’ll not take off your fingertips – you can click here for one – stop being a cheapskate, especially now it’s on sale!
  • using the mandolin or a knife, slice the potatoes into 1/8th inch thick slices
  • do the same with the shallots
  • do the same with the sprouts
  • do the hokey-cokey and turn around
  • that’s what it’s all about
  • put the potato into a pan and cover with milk, simmer for eight minutes or so just to take the crunch out of the potatoes and then allow to cool
  • layer the potato into the casserole dish – not all of it mind, then add corned beef, then shallots, then the sprouts – then repeat with the rest of the ingredients until you’ve used it all up
  • whisk (quickly) the flour into the milk, add a pinch of salt and pepper and pour over the layers – add the parmesan on the top
  • bake for around fifty minutes until the top looks all crunchy and delicious
  • wait: don’t rush in, allow to cool and firm up – then serve with peas!

This isn’t a thick, creamy sauce – that’s because you’re a bad person and you’re on Slimming World and most thick sauces tend to split – but it is very, very tasty and filling. Don’t like sprouts? Why not, don’t you like farting for England and smelling like a discarded settee? Swap them out for peppers or cabbage or anything. Sweet potatoes could be used instead of normal potatoes, though simmer them for less time. If the top of your gratin is burning but the rest isn’t done, just cover it with foil and cook for a bit longer.

Done!

Christ, am I tired now. If you’re looking for more delicious beef recipes, click on the button below and get yourself ready for a hot beef injection.

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Enjoy. I’m off to wrap my fingers in gauze.

J

blackened chicken caesar salad

Blackened chicken caesar salad? Yes, that’s right. And, for once, when I say it’s going to be a quickpost, it really is – no guff, no messing about! Your dear writer is unwell! Bah.

This makes enough for four, especially if you add some extras like tomatoes and cucumber. Just customise it however you want, I’m not arsed.

blackened chicken caesar salad

to make blackened chicken caesar salad you will need:

for the rub

  • 4 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp salt

for the dressing

  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp Morrison’s NuMe Reduced Fat mayonnaise (3 syns) (feel free to use other mayo, but check the syns)
  • 2 anchovy fillets, mashed (leave out if you’re not a fan, but, take it as someone who doesn’t like fish, it doesn’t taste fishy!)
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard (½ syn)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan (2½ syns)

to make blackened chicken caesar salad you should:

  • cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise (butterfly) so you’re left with a total of 4 halves and put into a sandwich bag
  • pour in the fat free vinaigrette and leave to marinade whilst you make the rest
  • if you’ve got an actifry, throw in the bread cubes with a little bit of oil and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, or until they resemble croutons. If you haven’t got an actifry, spray the bread with oil and bake in the oven at 190°c for about 12 minutes
  • in a shallow bowl, mix together all of the rub ingredients and set aside
  • in another bowl, add together the dressing ingredients and whisk until creamy. put in the fridge until you need it
  • pat the chicken breasts dry with some kitchen roll and coat with the rub mix – don’t be shy, get it right in there
  • heat a large pan over a medium-high heat and brush with oil
  • add the chicken breasts and cook each side for about 5 minutes each side, or until cooked through
  • serve with the lettuce, croutons and dressing

Done! Now, if you’re after some more chicken recipes, you’d do well to click the button below!

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J

sausage, fennel and pesto pasta

Sausage, fennel and pesto pasta? Have we gone all posh here at the always unpretentious, classless twochubbycubs? No. Don’t worry. We’re not going to start asking you to sous-vide (I’m sure she works in our local chippy) your food or start using sweetener that you can only buy in an Axminster branch of Holland and Barrett. However, we were asked for more sausage recipes so that people had something to do with those Slimming World sausages other than open the box and pour them directly into the bin because they’re so bloody awful. To make Slimming World sausages palatable (why is the third ingredient – after the 79% meat – citrus peel? I want to eat a sausage, not a pork-flavoured Yankee Candle), you need to add lots of flavour, hence the fennel and pesto. Before we get to that, though, some business to attend to.

I went over to visit The Progenitors this evening to make sure that a) they’re still kicking about and b) to casually remind them that there really is no better time to make a will than right now, and yes, don’t worry I’ll share. They’re in rude health as ever, and although I got roundly admonished for proclaiming that ‘the iPad can’t sense through leather’ when my mum told me her iPad wasn’t recognising her fingerprint, all was well. However, my mother has two messages for the blog which I feel I must pass on, at the very least to ensure that the flow of newly-laid eggs keeps coming my way.

First: she’s taken umbrage with the fact that I like to portray my childhood as some kind of Catherine Cookson-esque, poverty-stricken wasteland of bland meals and stolen potatoes. Well, obviously that wasn’t the case. We didn’t have much money but my sister and I never went without – we always had good food in our bellies, clothes on our backs and all the second-hand Lambert and Butler smoke a child could want. I reckon I was on ten fags a day by proxy by the age of ten. I’ve certainly inherited my lack of worry from them – they’re both very down-to-earth, decent people – just because my mother can drink like a sailor and my dad uses flatulence like one might use a full-stop doesn’t change that.

No, look, I do jest, and I do like to make gags about growing up, but I couldn’t have wished for better parents and when I listen to them now, bickering on at each other and twisting their faces, there’s still so much love there, it’s marvellous. They’ve been married for absolutely bloody ages and it’s quite inspiring to think you can make small-talk with the same person over dinner for thirty years and not want to stab them in the eye. It’s all I can do not to set myself on fire if I pass the same person on the stairs twice in one day. I think the anniversary gift for 30 years is pearl, and I’m definitely not going to mention that to my parents because, Christ, if you think I’m bad for smut and innuendo, you haven’t seen anything yet…

The second public service announcement from Mother Cub is a new gadget. See, since buying hens she has been awash with more eggs than she knows what to do with. My poor dad has had fried eggs, cubed eggs, boiled eggs, poached eggs, eggs eleven, eggy-eggs, eggy-bread and god knows what else. Anyway, my mum has found this on Amazon and it filled her with so much excitement it was the third thing she said to me after I stepped through her door (after DON’T GO STRAIGHT TO THE FRIDGE and CAN YOU JUST HAVE A LOOK AT SOMETHING ON THE COMPUTER FOR ME).

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It’s a three way egg-slicer. For when cutting with a knife won’t do, but then, nor will boring old slices. This one makes perfectly chunked egg mayo, wonderfully measured egg slices and, for that decadent touch, egg quarters. Whilst admittedly it’s quite literally the only time I ever want to hear about my mother having a three-way in the kitchen, it’s a gadget too much for me. I’ll say this though – the egg mayo sandwich that she made me was terrific. I’ve never had such uniform egg-based texture.

This makes enough for two big fatties to shovel in as dinner. So, just enough for me and Paul. So let’s say three syns per serving, but remember, it’s a giant bloody serving. I do like how the Amazon picture above already has the nicotine mottled-effect that most things in my parent’s house have. I’m joking again, just to be clear. Anyway, it’s on Amazon for only a few quid, so if you’re looking for a slicer that will blow your mind, go for it!

Anyway, that’s quite enough from Eva Braun, this is my blog, damn it.

Before we get to the sausage, fennel and pesto pasta, I have a quick question. I listen to The Archers. Love it. Don’t care that it’s a fuddy-duddy programme, I like how relaxing it all is. I’ve probably been listening for a year now – I tuned in when Rob Bastard started terrorising poor Helen and she stabbed him over the burst custard. But three questions:

  • am I ever going to get to the point where I recognise who is talking and who is related to who – I’m currently treating it like a white noise machine but I reckon I’d get more out of it if I actually understood the characters. But see, I go onto the Radio 4 website, read up on them, and then instantly forget everything I read, like my brain is trying to save me from premature old age;
  • is that young Johnny fella ever going to boff that other one (Josh?) – I feel like they’ve been building to A Beautiful Thing, but maybe that’s just me; and
  • am I wrong for getting teary-eyed over poor Scruff? SOB.

Now, you might be scoffing and tittering into your hand about my love of The Archers at the age of 31, but you know what, I don’t care. Not after poor Scruff’s death! LIFE’S TOO SHORT.

Right, let’s do the recipe.

sausage, fennel and pesto pasta

to make sausage, fennel and pesto pasta you will need:

  • 500g pasta
  • 6 sausages, skins removed (have you tried the sausages in our special Musclefood deals? They’re only ½ a syn each! Plus they have the added bonus of not tasting like you’re chewing a draught excluder – click here to order!)
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp reduced fat green pesto (3 syns)advert - summer-01

to make sausage, fennel and pesto pasta you should:

  • cook the pasta according to the instructions, towards the end of the cooking time take half-a-mugful of the pasta water for later on
  • meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over a medium high heat, sling in some oil and chuck in the fennel seeds, cook for about 30 seconds
  • add the onion and saute until it softens, about 5 minutes or so
  • mash the sausages the best you can with a fork and chuck into the pan, stir quickly to make sure it stays as broken up as possible – it doesn’t hurt to get a potato masher and smash things up a bit
  • add the black pepper, reduce the heat and keep stirring every now and again – don’t worry if bits stick to the bottom of the pan – that’s good
  • stir the pesto into the mug of pasta water and add to the pan and use it to scrape off any bits on the bottom of the pan
  • add the drained pasta to the pan and stir so it’s coated evenly in the pesto sauce and the sausage is mixed in
  • serve

Easy, right? If you’re looking for more sausage or pasta recipes, you’ll do well to click on the buttons below. We’ve got loads!

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Enjoy, won’t you?

J

stuffed ‘n’ rolled crunchy chicken

Here for the stuffed ‘n’ rolled crunchy chicken and don’t want any of my nonsense ruining it? I know right? Well tough titty. If it’s any consolation, I don’t have a lot to say so I’m not going to keep you long, but I do want to fill you in on something exciting.

We have decided we are going to have a new theme on the blog next year: holidays. We love going away, but saving money means that we’re being sensible and not going away. Which is a shame, but we did have six holidays in ten months so really, restrain yourselves. I don’t want to end up with one of those vagina necks from being in the sun too much anyway. So, despite me being one literal click from booking Las Vegas for a December break just yesterday because I was bored at home, we’re being good.

However, next year, we’re doing ten holidays – to celebrate our ten years together (aw). Now, we’re not Rockafella, so these holidays aren’t going to be super glitzy and glam – the idea is that we have ten two-to-four day breaks away over the year, with a set budget for each one. Any money we don’t spend on one holiday can be rolled onto the next, do you see? I get a lot of comments from folks that our travelogues are hilarious, so hopefully this means even more of those. We’re trying to do different types of holiday too – so expect to see us in (possibly!) a proper roughing it camping style holiday, Amsterdam (good grief), possibly somewhere awful like Benidorm, a city break, a coach tour…we’re still mapping it all out – but it’s going to be fun!

I know what you’re thinking – set up a Paypal account and you lot will pay for us to travel the world. It’s tempting, but I’m just not that mercenary. But do us a favour, buy some bloody meat once and a while, if only to pay for the extra fat-seat that Paul needs on the plane. It’s called the cargo deck.

Speaking of meat…

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Right, let’s get to the chicken!

stuffed 'n' rolled crunchy chicken

to make stuffed ‘n’ rolled crunchy chicken, you’ll need:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 8 tbsp quark
  • 50g panko (10 syns)
  • 1½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • pinch of basil
  • pinch of oregano

Can’t get panko? No need to shit the bed, just whizz up a wholemeal breadbun into crumbs. THINK OF THE SYNS SAVING.

to make stuffed ‘n’ rolled crunchy chicken, you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200ºc and line a baking tray with tinfoil
  • in a bowl, mix together the panko, breadcrumbs, paprika, celery salt, black pepper, garlic salt, garlic owder, onion powder, basil and oregano – mix it well as some of the ingredients have a tendency to settle at the bottom of the bowl
  • cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise (like you’re opening out a book) so you’re left with 8 thin breasts – lay them out flat
  • dollop a tablespoon of quark onto the middle of each breast and roll up from one end – don’t worry if it isn’t neat or it oozes out – it won’t matter – and secure with a toothpick
  • drop each roll into the bowl mixture and sprinkle over the panko mix to get an even coating – it should stick quite easily but if it doesn’t just spray with bit of frylight
  • place each roll onto the baking tray and bake for 25 minutes
  • when done, gently pull out the toothpicks before serving

We served this with salsa – Doritos Hot Salsa is 1/2 syn for two tablespoons and you know what, life is too short to be chopping up a bloody salsa.

If you’re looking for more chicken recipes, click on the button below and drool on the carpet with wonder. From your top lips or otherwise.

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Cheers!

J

syn free sweet potato and turkey layered casserole

Turned up for the sweet potato and turkey layered casserole, that’s syn-free and awash with taste? Well, don’t hasten along just yet. A word please, but for once, I’ll make it a quick one.

How do people keep falling for Facebook scams? It’s beyond me. I get it, people are keen for a bargain and would snatch the skin off your face if it meant getting 25% discount at Aldi, but please, exercise just a modicum of common sense. Tesco aren’t giving away 500 gift-cards with £500 quid on them because they’ve turned 50. You can tell that because a) Tesco wouldn’t give away a quarter of a million quid via stay-at-home-mums on facebook ‘buy ‘n’ sell’ pages (the ‘n’ stands for not having THAT in my house because it’s fucking gopping) and b) Tesco wouldn’t give you the steam off its piss.

I only mention it because Alton Towers have had to issue a statement explicitly stating that they’re not running a promotion for five free tickets for each person who shares some crappy low-res and clearly photoshopped picture of a ticket. I just find it perplexing that people get suckered in by crap like that. Surely at some point during the ‘complete X surveys’ and ‘submit your Paypal account details here’ an alarm bell must ring, and presumably that bell is going to be bloody loud because it’s got no brain to muffle the sound? Pfft. If I was in charge of Alton Towers, I’d honour the crummy tickets and put all the people most vocal about it straight on The Smiler – and I’d put the work experience kid in front of the controls. I mean HONESTLY.

This wouldn’t have caused me so much ire if Alton Tower’s official status on Facebook wasn’t awash with people who immediately started twisting their gobs about how Alton Towers had a duty to provide free tickets as compensation. Com-pen-bloody-sation! Listen, you should get compensation if you have your legs blown off by faulty wiring or your eyes smacked from your skull from a falling crane, you don’t deserve compensation just because you got your juicebox in a froth thinking you’d get a free ticket because of some barely literate sharing on Facebook.

Anyway, the last time I went to Alton Towers I had a very reasonable time. Make of that what you will. I enjoyed waiting in the queues for a one minute ride, I loved looking at the delicate displays of litter and wasps and found the experience of applying for a loan just to buy a small fries and hotdog to be remarkably thrilling. I love theme parks but I’ve been utterly spoiled by spending a month in Florida, with the added bonus of not being the fattest person in the park.

My mind boggles.

Speaking of mind boggling, you need to give Stranger Things a go. It was recommended by a friend, who, to her credit, is normally fairly spot-on with her recommendations and tea-making. It’s sublime. Wonderfully shot, gorgeously scored, tightly plotted and just something so unusual on TV these days – a real rare treat. It’s on Netflix and I can’t, in turn, recommend it highly enough. Who knew Winona Ryder (Ryder? I barely knew her!) could act? She’s a revelation. Even the kids can act! How comes whenever we see children on UK television they’re always that unique breed of smug, breathy annoyances with a know-it-all attitude and a name like an old Victoria affliction. OH LITTLE DROPSY, DO COME ALONG, YOU’LL BE LATE FOR YOUR MANDARIN CLASS. That kind of shite.

If it helps sweeten the deal, there’s a policeman in there with a strong jaw and a mean attitude, so at least you’re guaranteed a bit of rain at Fort Bushy.

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Eh?

Let’s get to the bloody casserole, eh, before I give you a nosebleed.

Look, it doesn’t look great, but it’s a good way of getting some speed veg in, it freezes well and you know, you could do worse!

sweet potato and turkey layered casserole

to make sweet potato and turkey layered casserole, you’ll need:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 500g turkey mince (or use beef mince, and yeah, you’ll get plenty in our box below)
  • 250g bacon medallions (you’ll get some in any of our musclefood deals!)
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 50ml almond milk (this works out at less than 1/3rd of a syn – I didn’t count it but you can if you like)
  • 4 tbsp quark
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 150g mushrooms, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper

to make sweet potato and turkey layered casserole, you should:

  • begin by peeling the sweet potatoes and cut into chunks, and add to a pan of boiling water, cook until tender and drain
  • in another pan meanwhile, cook the bacon under a hot grill until crispy – when done, remove from the under the grill and set aside
  • great – now preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  • cook the cauliflower florets in a pan of boiling water, for about 7 minutes (or until tender)
  • over a sink, drain the cauliflower and put into a food processor (or blender)
  • completely blend with half of the almond milk, a load of black pepper and half of the quark – blend until smooth and set aside
  • kindly do exactly the same with the sweet potato, but add parmesan if you want rather than peppers
  • in a large frying pan, add a little oil and cook the turkey mince
  • now, once the mince starts to brown, add the onions and mushrooms to the pan and keep stirring every now and again
  • mainly a job of layering now – in a large ovenproof dish (pyrex is best!) spoon half of the mince mixture and spread out to a thin layer
  • yes, add all of the cauliflower mix and spread out, then add the remaining meat mixture followed by the sweet potato
  • bake in the oven for 30 minutes
  • usually, we chop or crumble the bacon into little pieces and spread over the dish when cooked
  • masses of casserole for everyone – serve!

Looking for even more recipes? Good lord woman, steady on, you’ll snap it off. Click the buttons below for even more!

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Hope that left you satisfied and smiling.

J

chicken and pea lasagne

Chicken and pea lasagne? Yes! Just scroll down if you don’t want to hear all my prattle.

Before we start: some good news. I’ve had a weird thing happening with my neck for ages where if I look to the right, there’s a click noise and a lot of pain. Very frustrating. But the good news: I was sniffing a flower and the pollen made me sneeze so hard that I’ve fixed whatever what was wrong with my neck. I’ve sneezed myself better! Let’s celebrate by being nice. No…

I’ve discovered a new past-time. Admittedly it’s one that shows off my mean, vexing side, but I don’t care. I <3 looking through and commenting on the Facebook ‘buy and sell’ groups in our local area. Honestly, the tat people try and sell is just beyond me. Plus, you get the bonus of looking at pictures of people’s houses and getting to suck air over my teeth at the state of the wallpaper or the “canvas art” littering every room. If I see another KEEP CALM AND DRINK PROSECCO poster I’m going to find a way to reach through the atoms on my iPad screen and torch their house.

As an aside, Paul used to know someone who drank from a cup that said ‘KEEP CALM AND GO MENTAL’ on the side. I rather think it remains to his credit that he didn’t smash it over her head.

I recently got into a spat with some orange harridan with a face like a rushed omelette who accused me of being a bald fat fuck because I accused her ‘100% NOT FAKE’ Calvin Klein dress as being fake. First of all, you can’t insult me by calling me a bald fat fuck because, if you remove the spaces from that and add slut, that’s my Grindr name, and secondly, I don’t think Calvin’s knocking out dresses under the name Calvan Kline. Calvan Kline sounds like a ski village in Norway, for one thing. Anyway, spluttering ill-conceived and predominately vowel-less insults at me has no effect. It rolls off me like gravy off a fat duck’s back.

Just an aside, I’m not always mean. I’ve bitten my tongue all weekend after seeing a PicCollage (it’s always a fucking PicCollage) recipe for ‘Hawiian BBQ chicken’. Hawiian? That’s how a Geordie mother calls her children in off the street.

Now, a lovely bit of news. You may remember from previous posts that we are part of something called the Reddit Gift Exchange? In short, you pick one of the monthly themes (for example, The Simpsons, or The 90s) and you’re matched with a complete stranger from somewhere else in the UK. You then buy this person a gift pertaining to the theme and send it to them. It’s a giant Secret Santa. You’re guaranteed a present in return from someone else and it’s all very jolly-hockey-sticks and amazing. We love it. In the twelve months we have been doing it we’ve had some genuinely brilliant gifts – homemade cookbooks, a massive box of ‘tourist’ paraphernalia from Scarborough, posters and gaming kit and plenty of others too numerous and marvellous to mention. I do love a Secret Santa, although I did once get my ex-boss a duck for her bath without realising it was a vibrator. That caused much embarrassment, especially when she tried it out in the office no-she-didn’t-don’t-worry. We didn’t have a bath!

So the theme this month was favourite decade and for both Paul and I this was definitely the 90s. It had it all – great TV in the shape of The Crystal Maze, 999 and dinnerladies, superb music (aside from Eiffel 65, fuck those guys) and proper morning-piss yellow Sunny Delight. Though for the record, remember we didn’t have much money and so branded radioactive drinks were out – the best we had was a bottle of Overcast Ennui in our lunchbox. What a time to be alive.

Anyway, our Secret Santa totally knocked it out of the park with their selection of 90s goods – just look at what we received!

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Quite hard to see from Paul’s tiny photo which, in the spirit of the 90s, he seemingly took with a Game Boy camera, but there’s three CDs which I used to own and absolutely fucking love (especially the one on the right), a packet of Nintendo Playing Cards, two Tamagotchis, some Hot-Wheels and a proper little watch. There was also a lovely card. But good lord, what a perfect selection of 90s goodness – I had such a rush of nostalgia that my pubes disappeared and my voice unbroke. I know that’s not a word, squiggly-red-line, but it makes sense in this sentence.

I was always very lucky in that I didn’t go through the whole protracted stage of my voice breaking – I went to bed one night with a voice like Joe Pasquale and a scrotum like a tangerine, woke up the next morning sounding like Isaac Hayes and had a ballsack like a Bassett Hound’s ear. Perhaps it didn’t go quite as deep as Isaac but certainly I avoided all the squeaking and dropping that so many teenage lads seem to experience.

It was the Pogs that really sent us both whooshing back into memory land though. I absolutely loved them. God knows why, it’s just some natty coloured cardboard discs, but something about the simplicity really won me over. Paul and I tried to have a quick game only to send them tumbling all over the kitchen floor so god knows what has happened since, but back in the day, I was the King of Pogs. Well, perhaps the Queen of Pogs. I had the full set, a fluorescent green Pog holder and a slammer which was really just a massive, heavy-duty washer that my dad brought home from work. The Pogs epidemic swept through our school like the norovirus, with fights and scuffles leading to the outright ban of Pog battles in the playground. Didn’t stop us – we used to just play out of the sight of teachers. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe the amount of lads I beat off behind the sheds when no-one was looking. Some things never change, eh.

I reckon Pogs was also the first flirtation with crime for both me and my sister. We had been dragged along to a car-boot sale somewhere inexplicable and indoors and were bored shitless. Parents, don’t take your kids to car boot sales. They’re full of things other people don’t need or want and anything interesting a kid finds is always met with a ‘WE DON’T NEED THAT’ from the parents. Oh, but we do need a VHS of Beverley Callard’s Fitness First and a giant glass ashtray, apparently.

We had spotted a Pog stand full of slammers that looked like something out of Saw and not-quite-Pogs that were possibly printed at home. Didn’t matter. All about volume in those days, see. Anyway, I distracted the lady behind the decorating table by commenting on how fine her moustache was or something whilst my sister proceeded to fill her trousers with Pogs, all held in by virtue of her Adidas Poppers had been tucked into her socks. Genius right? We were like the Krays of South Northumberland.

Don’t judge us too keenly, we were young and bored. Karma got us back anyway because the Pogs were of such bad quality that the ink ran and they were ruined by the heat of a rustling shellsuit. I’m sure my sister probably has a faint imprint of a Tazmanian Devil somewhere on her ankle even now.

Mind, as an aside, Pogs were nothing compared to the thrill of completing a Panini Premiership sticker book. Seeing Alan Shearer’s smug, insufferable face sliding out of the packet on a shiny backing meant being King of All Things, if only for a day. Nevermind the arguments that Pogs caused, I’ve seen fights that looked like when The Bride battles the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill 1 over a four inch by two inch sticker of Tino Asprilla. No amount of trading Paul-Furlong-for-Kevin-Pressman-and-the-Nottingham-Forest-logo is worth having your first adult tooth kicked clean out of your mouth for.

Dangerous times indeed!

Speaking of teeth, you’ll need them to chew the next recipe. I know right, a flawless segue. Now listen, I can’t claim any credit for the idea of this recipe, I found it on another site (Every Nook and Cranny) and thought it looked delicious. Naturally, ours came out looking like someone had driven a car over it before serving, but hell, who cares. It tasted fine and I’ve adapted it for Slimming World. So let’s do this.

chicken and pea lasagne chicken and pea lasagne

to make chicken and pea lasagne you will need:

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded (three if you’re using supermarket ones) OR 500g chicken mince

Here’s the thing. Chicken breasts from our big Musclefood deal – you only need two because they’re so large and don’t shrivel away to nowt like the supermarket ones do. Click here to have a look – it’s definitely a good deal!

  • 2 leeks, finely sliced (save your fingers and time by using a mandolin slicer, not least because they’ll be uniform and so skinny it’ll make the other vegetables jealous) (also that’s the cheapest I’ve ever seen this slicer)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced (use a mincer – garlic powder is fine, but a mincer makes short work of this and takes no time at all – buy one here and I promise you you’ll never look back)
  • 8 to 12 lasagne sheets (it depends on what size dish you use, see, I’m not just being awkward) (totally am)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 3 tbsp passata
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 200g peas
  • 250g quark
  • 30g grated parmesan (HeA)
  • 70g reduced fat mozzarella ball (HeA)
  • 12 cherry tomatoes (because I’m an ostentatious sod, I’m using ones grown in our greenhouse – next year raise a tomato plant and you’ll be amazed by the difference in flavour – because home-grown tomatoes actually taste of something, see)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • worcestershire sauce

If you can’t get chicken mince and don’t have a food processor to make your own, don’t panic – use turkey mince instead. Perfectly acceptable swap and very easy to buy in supermarkets. Chicken is tastier, though.

to make chicken and pea lasagne you should:

  • preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  • if you’re using chicken breasts you will need to mince it – if you don’t have a fancy mincer (who does?!) then you can use a food processor with a grating blade, or use a cheese grater. Either way it’s a clart on so use chicken/turkey mince when you can!

Because we’re super fancy, we have one of these wonderful Magimix mixers. We threw the chicken breasts in there, pulsed them for a few seconds and that was that. If you cook a lot and have some spare moolah, I can genuinely and heartily recommend it. If you’re someone whose refrain to anything is ‘I CAN GET IT CHEAPER IN ALDI’, perhaps don’t even look.

  • heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and add some squirty olive oil, but not Frylight. Never Frylight, it scares me.
  • add the leeks, reduce the heat to low and cook until they soften, which will take about ten minutes
  • when the leeks are soft, add the garlic, stir, and then add the chicken
  • raise the heat to medium and stir well and cook until the chicken is no longer pink, because you don’t want to be revisiting the lasagne thirty minutes after eating as it thunders out of your arse
  • add the oregano and sage, stir, and then add the chopped tomatoes, passata and tomato puree with 60ml of water
  • stir the peas into the pan and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the sauce has reduced. If it looks too thick add more water
  • add salt, pepper and worcestershire to season however you like it
  • in a small saucepan add the quark and parmesan and heat over a low heat until it softens, then remove from the heat as soon as the mixture is well combined, adding salt and pepper if you like – I like a really peppery sauce so I always shoot for the moon at this point
  • in a deep dish assemble the lasagne however you like
  • spoon a third of the chicken mixture into the bottom of the dish, followed by a third of the cheese sauce and a layer of lasagne sheets. repeat for two more layers – if you don’t have enough, just do two layers – it’s all going to get turned into poo, it doesn’t matter how well you put it all together
  • top with torn chunks of mozzarella and pop on the cherry tomatoes
  • bake for 35 minutes or until everything looks delicious and the top looks like a burnt knee
  • serve with a side salad of speed food, or, do as I do, give a portion to your other half and then secretly eat all the crusty cheesy topping under the guise of going back to the kitchen for a drink
  • it’s no wonder my thighs smell of bacon, is it

See? Nice and summery and a bit lighter than your traditional hefty lasagne. You can adapt this recipe however you want. I got scolded last time for using two HEAs in my recipe on the basis that one person is only allowed one healthy extra. This is true. But, this also serves four folks easily and six people at a pinch, and frankly, if you’re eating enough lasagne in one sitting to feed six people, you’ve got more to worry about than an extra 30g of cheese.

We’ve made three other lasagne recipes, why not take a look?

If you’re looking for more pasta ideas or chicken recipes, click on the buttons below and be whisked away to a land of recipes and whimsy.

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Cheers!

J