caramelised Vietnamese pork and rice

I bet you’ve stumbled here expecting caramelised Vietnamese pork and rice? Makes sense, given the title, and look, you’ve only have to scroll through a few paragraphs to get there. Can I share something that I’ve learned over the weekend? There’s nothing quite as stressful as trying to give a cat medicine that he doesn’t want to take. I’d sooner run into a burning building and have a boxing match with a drunk Hartlepudlian woman than go through this again. He needs to take it because he’s had an allergic reaction to something and is pulling out his fur, the poor bugger. Naturally, because we’re caring sorts, we rushed him to the vets, handed over a billion pounds to the absolutely dishy trainee vet behind the counter (oh! to be a cow in difficult labour!) and were given a course of tiny pills to give to the cat, who would ‘eat them with no fuss, all cats do’.

Like hell they do. I’d have more luck getting Bowser to learn to tap-dance. This is a cat who shat in his own cat-box to stop us taking him to the vets to stop his own sickness. He was foolish, we just bundled him in with his sister and they spent twenty minutes tumbling around in the back of the Smart car until we arrived at the vets and had to pull them apart like old Velcro. Sola is fine, she just spends her day showing off her fanny in the window or sleeping anywhere where we’ve put down clean clothes. I don’t know what it is to own a shirt that doesn’t look 80% mohair.

First we tried the obvious route – slid out a packet of finest Whiskas Bumholes-‘n’Ash and hid the tiny pill inside. He ate every last bit, bar the atom-sized piece of cat-food with this pill on it. There was a haughty arrogance to his walk as he strutted off, dropping hair everywhere he went. Next we tried luring him in with good ham – Sainsbury’s Extra Special Ham, no less – and despite him usually wolfing this down so fast he manages to take your fingernails with him at the same time, he completely ignored it. I gave it to Paul instead, telling him to man-up and spit out the cat-hair afterwards.

Next came the nuclear option – Dreamies. Have you ever seen a cat around Dreamies? I can only assume they contain whatever the cat equivalent is of crack-cocaine because I swear, my cats would be out turning tricks in the street if they knew there was a packet of Dreamies to be had. They’ve been known to get inside our kitchen cupboards just to push the little pot onto the floor before. This time we used our brains, secured the tablet to a Dreamie with a bit of spit, and hid it in amongst a pile of other Dreamies.

Yep, he ate all but one, then went back to furiously licking his willy. He did the same with tuna fish, he did the same with cream and he’ll do the same with whatever suggestion you lot have for me. In the end we had to find a video on Youtube on how to pill your cat and I swear, our relationship will never be the same. He looks absolutely fucking furious – and this is what he usually looks like:

Paul had to hold him and I had the unfortunate job of prising his mouth open to drop the pill in – then he spat it out – so rinse and repeat. Ah well. Only thirteen more to go. I would have genuinely preferred the vet had given us suppositories at this point.

So, aside from pushing pills on the cat all weekend, what else have we done? Finally organised our bloody spice cupboard, that’s what! Anyone else on Slimming World knows the pain of their spice cupboard – a mysterious Null full of eight jars of ground ginger and dried sage that was last wheeled out for the ‘GOODBYE DIANA 4EVA IN OUR HARTS’ vol-au-vents. The amount of times we’ve bought stuff in Tesco only to find we actually had several bottles of it already cluttering up our kitchen, man, it beggars belief. So we emptied it out, like so:

Then, with a quick trip to IKEA and the purchase of all these pretty magnetic jars for the side of the fridge, we now have this:

Pretty right? They’re nice and sturdy so they’ll stay on there until the cleaner knocks the turmeric to the floor with her Henry Hoover and ruins our carpet. But that’s OK, we’ll cross that P45 when we get to it. I posted this online last night and people went wet with delight, which I wasn’t expecting given it’s just jars, but if you’re wondering:

You have no idea how long it takes to scrutinise our highly-reflective gloss surfaces for stray knob-shots, you know. Let’s get to the food, eh?

caramelised Vietnamese pork and rice

caramelised Vietnamese pork and rice

to make caramelised Vietnamese pork and rice you will need:

  • 500g minced pork
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tsp grated ginger (save your fingers and invest in one of these – great for garlic too!)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bird eye chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (4 syns)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • rice or noodles (whichever you prefer)

to make caramelised Vietnamese pork and rice you should:

  • cook the rice or noodles to however you like it – the main bit doesn’t take long so you can probably cook both at the same time
  • meanwhile, heat a little oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat
  • add the onion, garlic, ginger and chili to the pan and cook for 2 minutes
  • add the mince and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until it’s cooked through
  • add the maple syrup and the fish sauce and stir it in only once
  • leave it to cook, untouched, for about 2 minutes – this helps it to caramelise
  • stir, then cook again for another thirty seconds – and then do two more times
  • remove form the pan and serve over the rice or noodles
  • sprinkle over the spring onions and eat

Want some more ideas? Just click one of the buttons below!

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J

chicken cordon bleu burgers

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

click here for part one | click here for part two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Majesty.

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

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

The turtle couldn’t help us.

You’ll float too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK I know, gush much.


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

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

to make chicken cordon bleu burgers you will need:

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

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

to make chicken cordon bleu burgers you should:

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

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

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J

super side: spicy salty sweet potato fries

Here for the spicy salty sweet potato fries – oh, you dirty girl. Of course you are.

Now, before we get to another travel tale (possibly tomorrow, if I can be chewed on) but as we’ve recently had a bit of a spike in traffic, I thought it’s important to do a bit of administration for the blog for the new readers! I do this monthly, long-time readers, scroll away! Actually it’s a decent read, so have a gab. Leave us a comment. Most links will open in new windows.

Remember: you can always scroll down to the recipe if the chat is too long

I think, if you take anything away tonight, it’s this. We’ve had a few people moaning at us lately because there’s too much chat for a food blog. Here’s the thing: we’re not a food blog. We’re not. It’s why you don’t get 500 words of us going ‘and then I went to the market and bought an organic pepper and then I went to the supermarket and bought a carrot made of mist and I remember when my cousin Clitoris-Marie went to Tuscany for the summer’ and all that shite. We’re a personal blog first with recipes tagged on because we like cooking. Don’t like it? Scroll down to the recipe or go to the other billion food blogs out there that’ll give you recipes and nowt else. They’re ten-a-penny, we’re not. You can find out more about the two mincers who run this blog by clicking here.

We’re not Slimming World consultants

But we’re their biggest fans. Possibly literally. Yes, there’s flaws with the plan, they’re a bit slow when it comes to embracing technology (but don’t worry, Doyenne Bramwell has just bought Windows 98 at a car-boot sale and she’s itching to get started) and I’ve never been to a class that didn’t leave my arse aching (and not in a good way), but you’ll not find a better plan out there. I’m yet to meet a consultant who hasn’t been an absolute treasure with their heart in the right place and I always recommend you go along to class, if only to practice your clapping. We’re both paying members, though, and have been for nearly ten years and whilst we might not take it as seriously as some would like, we’re pretty good with the syns values and checking things. That said, if you have SW questions, speak to your consultant first and if you’re unsure about syns, use the online syns checker. Prepare to swear, mind.

Want to find your nearest group? Click here.

I don’t like the coarse language, the smutty references or the gay agenda – what can I do?

Ah, we have you covered there…

Seriously, life is too short for complaints. Don’t like it? Move on!

Where can we find the recipes and more information?

Easy!

All of our (450+) recipes are on one page: right here
All our vegetarian recipes are under one section: click here
We even have a page collecting together all of our overnight oats recipes: see?
Want 150 syn free recipes together with free weight loss trackers? That’s fine. Click here.

Need more information about the Slimming World plan? We designed a very tongue-in-cheek FAQ: have a look!

What’s your views on advertising?

Can’t bear it, but it’s a necessary evil. Contrary to what other blogs say, it doesn’t take hundreds a month to run a blog, but at the same time, servers, bandwidth, new cooking stuff and recipe research does cost. So, our blog-income comes from:

  • Amazon referrals – if we use a product – and only if we actually own it, mind you – we’ll recommend it – if you click the link and buy it, we get a tiny bit of commission
  • small blog adverts – each recipe page will never have more than two adverts on it. We use the internet, we know how annoying it is to try and navigate a site when it’s full of adverts and ‘click here to read more’ and other tat. Balls to that: this is a happy balance
  • Musclefood – we get a commission if we sell you Musclefood – all of our meat comes from Musclefood and we genuinely love it – chicken that doesn’t turn to nowt in the pan, proper meat, tasty food – we have all the syns values on one page together with details of the various hampers and deals we’ve got with them
  • sponsored posts – a rarity, because we turn a lot down, but occasionally you’ll see a review of a product that we’ve been given or paid to review – we will be absolutely honest, won’t shill something we don’t like, and will always make it clear

Why don’t you do cooking videos?

Time – we both have full-time jobs and this blog was always meant to be a sideline – it’s become something much more, but sadly we don’t have more time. But there’s plenty of excellent video bloggers out there: Fopperholic, Slimming World’s own website and The Slimming Foodie.

Extending on that point, there’s also some amazing food blogs out there: Basement Bakehouse for good, decent food, Fat Girl Skinny which is an amazing resource for syn values and ideas, Macheesmo for amazing bloody food that isn’t exactly SW friendly but hell he has a good beard and the food is wonderfulPinch of Nom for sheer volume and Slimming World Survival for food and syns.

What’s your view on…

  • syns: use them! You’ve got one body – why make it a race to the bottom by trying to scrimp on your syns – better to spend a few syns and eat decent food than to cut back on ingredients just to get that zero on your chart
  • portion size: most of our recipes serve four unless otherwise indicated – though there’s nothing stopping you eating two portions…
  • sweetener: your choice to make, but we avoid it – not because we have concerns about the health aspects, but simply because it’s unnecessary. Most of our recipes use honey if they need to be sweetened, but you can always swap out
  • Frankenfood: that’s the name we give recipes that use bollocks ingredients for the sake of it – our motto is simple enough, if you can’t buy it easily in a supermarket or a market, then it doesn’t need to go in the recipe. Our recipes are thickened through heat, our flavour comes from spices. Tying into what we said above, we won’t push ingredients on you simply to get some commission from Amazon
  • desserts: hard to do them properly. Desserts are usually amazing because they’re full of sugar, fat or flour, that’s what makes them rich and tasty. You can’t replicate that with sweetener and oats. In our view, better to have a little bit of what you fancy and syn it, that’s what the plan is all about! Ask yourself a simple question: do you reckon those who aren’t struggling with their weight are slim because they’re blending oats into dust or mainlining Canderel? Nope…
  • dieting: just have fun. Life is too short to go around with a face like a smacked arse because you’ve had a Kitkat and a punch-up. Pull up those giant knickers and get on with things. That’s why we like to have a laugh on here.

Can we follow you on social media?

Yep. We have a facebook group (where you’re not allowed to post syns, and we only let people in every now and then), a Facebook page where we post ten recipes a day but no spam, a Twitter account and an Instagram…thing. Whichever way you take us, we’ll leave you satisfied and smiling.

We also have three published books: Saturated Fats, The Second Coming and The Big Fat Gay Honeymoon. In paperback too, so we can get you wet out and about too!

Right, that’ll do, won’t it? Let’s get to the spicy salty sweet potato fries – these are an amazing side, trust me. Spend the syns – totally worth it.

to make spicy salty sweet potato fries you will need:

  • 1kg sweet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp satay sauce (2 syns)
  • 2 tbsp sriracha (1 syn)
  • 2 tbsp hoisin dipping sauce (3 syns)
  • 15g dry roasted peanuts (about 4 syns)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced

Now just you listen here. Before you leave comment after comment asking me what Sriracha is, let me tell you to save those nicotine-stained fingers from dancing over the keys: it’s hot sauce. You can buy it in the supermarket in the sauce aisle, funnily enough! Who knew?

to make spicy salty sweet potato fries you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200°C
  • peel the sweet potatoes and chop into thin chips (save your wrists for something more important and invest in one of these)
  • add the chips to a large bowl and drizzle with a bit of oil or a few sprays (0.5 syns for five sprays, up to you if you syn that) then put a plate over the bowl
  • toss well so that the chips are well coated and roughed up a bit
  • line a large baking tray with baking paper and spread the chips out into a single layer and bake for 40 minutes
  • meanwhile, use a pestle and mortar or a mini chopper to lightly chop up the peanuts – you want a mixture of big chunky nuts and dusty bits (don’t we all, love)
  • when the chips are cooked, remove from the oven
  • drizzle over the satay sauce, sriracha and hoisin sauce, and sprinkle over the peanuts and spring onions
  • enjoy!

Still not satisfied? Just click one of the buttons below to find even more scran to smash into your mush:

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Cheers!

J

one-pot half-syn homemade bacon baked beans

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

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

click here for part one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come again? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

to make homemade bacon baked beans, you should:

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

Enjoy!

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

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J

roast peach, parma ham and Gruyère salad

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

click here for part one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I digress. As ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

roast peach, parma ham and Gruyère salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J

spicy carrot coconut soup – instant-pot or hob!

Spicy carrot coconut soup – done in the Instant Pot in a matter of moments but can also be done old-school on the hob or in the slow cooker – awaits you, if only you bear with me for a few minutes. Good news: it’ll be a short entry tonight as Fat-tits has wheeled out the BBQ and we’re going to do our best to pretend that summer didn’t fuck off back in May and enjoy a nice pink-in-the-middle-see-you-again-in-thirty-minutes beefburger. It’s the British way.

We can only get to our BBQ because we’ve spent the good part of four hours clearing out the shed and ferrying various bits back and forth to the tip. Long-time readers know that I love going to the tip – not just because of all the hi-vis-clad blokes wandering around sweating in the sun and bellowing obscenities on the wind, but also because I love seeing what people are chucking out. It’s why I couldn’t work there – I’d spend so much time tutting at people’s questionable tastes that they’d think a woodpecker had taken up residence in the staff shelter. For example, I saw someone manhandling out of the boot of her Picasso a giant piece of pink, glittering wall-art that simply said ‘DREAMZ’. I don’t know what made me wince more – the mistaken ‘Z’, the mistral font or that awful pink colour that is solely reserved for cheap plastic vibrators, limousines “slagwagons” and those awful velour tracksuits that not a single body in all of existence has ever looked anything approaching decent in. 99% of the time they look like a saveloy sausage with legs. Just sayin’.

Anyway, because it was literally the first thing I put my hands on in our wardrobe, I was also wearing a hi-vis shirt, which led to an awkward moment when someone asked me where best to put an office chair and I had to explain that I didn’t work there. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have played along save for the fact I was getting eyeballed at the time by one of the proper workers who was checking I wasn’t throwing my cardboard box (containing onion peelings, I’m so sorry) into the general waste. I’m glad he didn’t ask why I was wearing hi-vis – my reply that it’s purely for role-play between me and Paul (I’m the road worker, he’s the pothole) would have likely offended.

Now it’s all cleaned out, take a look at my shed:

See? I will have order. All the beans stacked in order, facing the right way. Even that tower of shit-tickets is tidy. I have absolutely no idea what that skidmark is but it’s terribly frustrating – it looked like someone crawled in and died on the carpet.  Our cats are prone to killing all manner of things and depositing them somewhere where they’ll know we will be super grateful to find them, like in a shoe or underneath the settee. I’m not even kidding on that one, I dropped my phone between the sofa cushions the other day and when I reached in to get it, I pulled half a rat out by the tail. Why? Was my cat keeping it for winter? Does he think he’s a squirrel? You can be assured that he was chased out of the cat-flap with the threat of my Dr Martens up his bumhole for that trick.

Oh, and apropos of nothing, you can see on the top there the see-through toaster, Instant Pot and the Optigrill XL – see, we do own the stuff we peddle!

Now, I didn’t want to come on here just to talk you through my visit to the tip, but the story does link somewhat organically into what I actually wanted to discuss by virtue of both venues being awash with bright, unwanted rubbish. See, I went to Sports Direct on Friday. I’m not being snobby, it’s just generally not a shop I’d ever have reason to go in – it’s not like we need specialised clothing for sitting watching TV and occasional dogging. Perhaps some knee-pads, but I can buy them at the garden centre when I pick up our shirts. However, a friend of mine needed to exchange one highly-flammable and very rustly sports outfit for another highly-flammable and very rustly sports outfit, only this one in red. This, inexplicably, took her a good twenty minutes of cooing and picking things on and off the rails, looking around for sizes unknown to man and generally taking an age to do anything. I was there that long I could feel my teeth furring up through the miasma of Mugler Angel in the air. I can’t stand shopping at the best of times but god knows I hate shopping somewhere where I’m clearly unwanted – I could see staff looking at my straining belt and 27XL shirt and trying to decide whether to cone me off or call security.

Eventually El Ehma decided on a slightly lighter shade and we traipsed over to the exchange desk, only for some sweaty-necked oik to barge past us and slap down a pair of trainers on the desk. To her credit, the lady behind the counter didn’t do much as wince, though it would have been tricky to register such a facial movement as she’d taken the highly-inefficient step of wearing all the make-up she owned at once. He wanted a refund because “the tag cut into his foot”. I had two instant rejoinders to that one:

  • it’ll distract from the tag cutting into your ankle, ho-ho; or
  • are you sure it isn’t diabetes?

but see Emma is slight and whilst I reckon I could get a few seconds head-start by throwing her in front of someone’s fist, he’d be able to catch up with me on the stairs, what with my game ankle. So I kept schtum. The assistant looked at the trainers and within the passing of a second, declared that she wasn’t going to take them back because a) they were fine and b) they’d clearly be worn. Worn? It looked like the fucker had water-skiied behind a tractor to get to the shop. They weren’t so much ‘worn-in’ as ‘fit for the fire’. You’d have second thoughts putting them in the charity bin in the supermarket car-parks, put it that way. What followed was a good ten minute shouting match between the customer and the manager who had clearly hurried up from the smoking shelter outside, judging by the blue-smoke drifting lazily from his man-bun. We heard all the usual cliches – ‘hardly worn them’, ‘not fit for purpose’ and then my personal favourite, ‘what about my human rights?’. Because good men laid down their lives so someone had the right to blow spittle all over an exchange desk and return their favourite Nick trainers whenever they fancied.

Sensing that the manager wasn’t going to acquiesce and/or his ankles weren’t going to last, the man scooped up the trainers and stalked off, ranting and raving about rip-off this and fuck-off that. I’ve genuinely never seen someone go so red – if I’d had one of those weight-watcher wraps I could have made a Slimming World pasty* from the heat alone – I was all set for some cardiac action, but no. We exchanged our items with minimal fuss and made for the exit, only to see him stood outside warning folk not to go in, like some sweaty, tracksuited Cerberus. We left him getting shouted out by a street-performer angry that all of the fuss was distracting the crowds from watching him hammer nails up his nose. I’m not even kidding.

* sorry, but corned-beef wrapped in a wrap isn’t a pasty. A pasty is made from delicious shortcrust pasty and gravy. Whilst I’m sure these are delicious, they’re hot sandwiches.

Christ, I said this would be a short entry – I’m sorry. It was longer than either of us expected, wasn’t it? I hope I didn’t bruise your kidneys, ma’am. If I can sum up my ramblings it’s this: be nice to customer service folks. It isn’t their fault, they have to follow company procedure, and you catch more flies with honey than vinegar anyway. I can’t bear people being rude, especially when they’re in the wrong.

Anyway, come on, that’ll do. Shall we get to the spicy carrot and coconut soup? Yes, we should. This is an Instant-Pot recipe but I’ll provide two methods for cooking it, so if you don’t have an Instant-Pot, don’t fret a jot. You don’t need one. It makes things quicker and easier, but honestly, this recipe is a doddle either way. To give you an idea of how delicious it is – I dislike both carrots and coconut, but I loved this! I wanted to try a carrot take on our pea and coconut soup (also amazing) and we found this on a blog called platedcravings and have adjusted it for Slimming World. It serves four.

spicy carrot coconut soup

to make spicy carrot coconut soup, you’ll need:

  • a few sprays of olive oil (up to you if you syn it, it’s 0.5 syns for seven sprays)
  • one large onion, chopped neatly
  • one clove of garlic, minced
  • a little knob (half a thumb) of ginger, minced
  • about 500g of carrots, peeled and chopped into pound-coin size discs
  • good pinch of salt and pepper
  • 200ml of blue dragon coconut milk light (7ish syns)
  • 500ml of good chicken stock (or veg)
  • two tablespoons of hot sauce (1 syn) – any hot sauce is fine, or Sriracha

Few things to make life easier, but you don’t need these to cook with:

  • a microplane grater – it’ll make short work of mincing garlic and ginger – with garlic you don’t need to peel it and ditto ginger, which you can keep in the freezer until the next time you need it;
  • an Instant Pot – we love ours, but only because it’s so quick to do everything, and I’m finally over my fear of them; and
  • a stick blender – you really don’t need anything fancy – this £5 little blender will do the same as any expensive blender!

to make spicy carrot coconut soup in an Instant Pot, you should:

  • press the saute button, spray the cooking pot with a bit of oil and saute the onions for a few minutes until soft – add the ginger and garlic and keep going for a minute more
  • tip in the carrots, a pinch of salt and pepper, and saute for a couple more minutes
  • stir in the stock, coconut milk and hot sauce
  • cook on high pressure for six minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for five to ten minutes, then quick release
  • use a stick blender in the pot until it’s smooth as silk – season with salt and pepper

To cook it on the hob, saute everything off in the pan and gently simmer until the carrots are softened – then blend away! It’ll take longer but it’s still a doddle!

Want more ideas for soup and lunches and veggie goodness? Click the buttons below!

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Enjoy!

J

cooling summer gazpacho – full of goodness

Here for the gazpacho? I have bad news – it’s right at the bottom of tonight’s blog entry, and, for the first time in ages, it’s a new holiday story! You may remember we’re doing 12 holidays this year? If not, we are, and whilst we have a few already under our sleeve waiting to be typed up, you can join us in Paris, having a wet weekend in a seaside caravan and er…on a coach trip. That didn’t end well…

Does it feel like forever since we whisked you away with us, seeing the world and tripping the light fantastic? Weeks since we popped you in our suitcase like the optimistic bottle of lube that all married couples bring along? Pfft. Listen, we can’t bring you – I’m a tightarse Geordie: I need the lube but I don’t need the extra luggage charges for being overweight. We travel the world with one Amazon Basics trolley-bag between us. We’re light-packers, which is halfway to what we were always called at school. Well you know what they say, if the cap fits, bend over…OH AND REMEMBER, I really LOVE feedback on the holiday entries. It makes me happy!

So where are we off to? Unless you’re especially slow-witted, you’ll have spotted Copenhagen on the banner there. Copenhagen – Denmark’s capital and only a mere two or so hour flight from Edinburgh. We chose it for one reason: Rick Stein went there for a ‘long weekend’ and sold it so well that we had the tickets booked an hour later. We’re shallow, but at least we’re honest.

No need to fuss about with the pre-holiday details – we were flying from Edinburgh (again), we argued over who should drive (again) and I won, meaning a nice steady drive up into Scotland in the evening after work. As a treat I had finished work early and created a wee little picnic (in a proper hamper, no less: remember, I am gay) full of exciting treats from Lidl. Paul’s partial to a bit of brie so I went overboard with the brie and grape sandwiches, packing four a-piece. We could have been dashed from the road into a ditch en-route and still had enough food to see us through the cold months. Be prepared – that’s the Scouts motto, isn’t it? I wouldn’t know, I never went. Frankly, unless they gave out badges for tossing off the local farmhands, I’d have been wasted.

Paul finished work late meaning it was getting dark as we set off and, unbeknownest to him, the cheese sandwiches had been sweating merrily away in the back of my car for a good few hours. Please, you mustn’t worry – I have an iron stomach, and Paul needs to lose some weight so a bout of the shits would be just the ticket. We drove for a good ninety minutes or so before deciding to find somewhere nice to sit and eat our nicely-warmed-through picnic. Paul spotted a layby that looked out over the sea on the other side of the road and I dramatically swung the car across the A1 and parked up. The view was marred by a lorry that was parked facing us (to be fair, he was on the right side of the road) but we thought nothing of it.

Until he started wanking merrily away. Not subtly, not with the little curtain drawn, but rather standing crouched over in his cab, pumping merrily away. He knew we were there and could see – I can only assume he was an exhibitionist – but that takes some balls, doesn’t it? Taking a gamble that the two lads in front of you are homosexual and might have a passing fancy in what you’re busy choking. I wonder what gave the game away? I removed my ‘BEEP IF YOU’RE A FELCHER‘ bumper sticker ages ago, but I can only assume it was the sight of Paul daintily spreading Boursin on the water-biscuits that set him away.

Look: I’m no prude. Nor is Paul. We’re both very open about our predilections and normally the sight of a lorry driver putting on a show like the world’s sauciest Punch and Judy act would at least give us significant pause. Had it been a decent looking fittie in a hi-viz jacket then the lights of our car would have been flashing away like we’d accidentally lit a box of fireworks in the glove-box. But, no, this guy looked like the type of man you just know puts his hard-drive in the microwave every time the police drive up his street. We primly packed away our sandwiches and the rest of the picnic into the boot and drove on.

We spent the night at the Dakota Edinburgh, with me having decided to upgrade us into a nicer hotel than the Soviet-Bloc experience we had endured at the little ibis back in February. That’s not fair, it was perfectly pleasant. I was over-the-moon to arrive there at 10.30pm – thus not getting the benefit of the nice room at all – but we had a good sleep and were through Edinburgh Airport in no time at all the next morning. No-one sat next to us on the plane meaning we could spread out, the take-off was smooth and the drinks were being served in record time. All good.

The flight takes a couple of hours so, whilst you’re here, let me regale you of a few facts that I learned about Denmark and Copenhagen. It’s OK, you can have a light nap, I’ll give you a prod when I’m done. Oh and if my notes are wrong, please don’t think ill of me, I’m not putting myself out there as an alternative to Lonely Planet. Firstly, there’s no real substitute for ‘please’ – it’s just not said. This horrifies me, I pride myself on good manners – someone could set my lips on fire and I’d still compliment them on their choice of matches. Remember when I got locked into a thank you war with my neighbour? I bought them a framed photo of where they got engaged, so they bought us some wine, so we bought them flowers, so they bought us chocolates? It’s still going on, albeit with ever diminishing returns: yesterday they pushed 5p through our letterbox, tomorrow I’ll nip over and smile disinterestedly through their window.

They were the first country to legalise pornography (in 1969, which seems fitting), which makes perfect sense when you look at some of the blue-eyed, blonde visions of perfection wandering around. Porn is so much more elegant with the Danish – with the British I end up focussing on their awful B&M wall-art and spotty bottoms. Plus there’s a definite lack of sexiness in the sound someone from Birmingham makes when having an orgasm – it sounds like two cats fighting to the death in a lift-shaft. I’m sorry Birmingham but it’s true: I’ve been there, done that and stained my t-shirt.

Of course, the downside of this sexy boom is that they’re also the country with the highest recorded rate of sexually transmitted diseases. They don’t mention that in the inflight magazine, do they? All them seraphic smiles but they’re all baking bread in their knickers.

Now this one I like: children are encouraged to swear in English. There’s plenty of swearwords in Danish from the unimaginative pis af to the slightly more colourful sut røv, pikhoved which means suck ass, dickhead, which frankly sounds like a step-by-step guide to staying the night at Chubby Towers. However, children are naturally told not to swear in Danish in public and to swear in English instead. I find this absolutely hilarious: I was itching to hear some wee dolly-dimple drop her toy and call it a fucking useless c*nt but it never happened, alas. We did see one lad fall over in the street and exclaim ‘SHIT’ very loudly, but Paul and I assumed he was British and immediately set about tutting and shaking our heads.

Finally, I read that they have a concept of ‘kvajebajer‘ – eating humble pie. The idea is that you don’t take yourself too seriously, you laugh at yourself, and accept you are there for the merriment of others when you go tits-up. Make a mistake? You ought to buy everyone a beer and get over it. I love this. Everywhere Paul and I go there’s calamity, we’ve birthed a blog from the very idea, and you know, if you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point?

Anyway, that’s quite enough about Denmark. Come back to us, we’re still on the plane. Flicking through the inflight magazine – it gives me something to do between elbowing Paul to stop him snoring and brushing the skin flakes off my knees that were slowly drifting down from the scalp of the gentleman in front  – Copenhagen seems like the place to be. It looked absolutely chøc-a-bløc of hip places to eat and fun places to drink. Photos show achingly-cool young folk having a whale of the time, looking effortlessly stylish perched on upturned beer crates or lying on the deck of a floating home. You could almost hear their collective shriek when we stepped off the plane in our ASDA trainers and shirts with all manner of plane food dripped down them.

The landing at Copenhagen Airport is a slightly unusual one in that there doesn’t appear to any airport at all and the pilot has decided, somewhat rashly, to set us down in the North Sea. This leads to the arresting sight of water looming closer and closer until you’re quite sure you could pop the window open and grab a 99 from the ice-cream seller on the beach as you hurtled past at 500mph. Naturally, I stayed stoic, merely plucking erratically at Paul’s sleeve as I prepared for an entire Airbus A320 to be crumpled through my soft tissue. Luckily, at the last second, a runway appeared and we glided elegantly to a smooth stop. I, somewhat forlornly, removed my armbands and we left the plane.

Naturally, nothing is that simple – I actually made a spectacular entrance by tripping halfway down the plane stairs and crashing all the way down to the tarmac on my arse. Thank god it’s so well-upholstered. We saw a fleet of fire engines go burring past, presumably mistaking the crash-bang-wallop of my bulk cascading down the stairs for the sounds of a fully-fuelled aeroplane crash. Velkommen!


There we go – we’re off! Do you enjoy our holiday entries? I know they’re long and quite a bit to get your lips around, but you can manage, because you’re filthy! Shall we get to the gazpacho? But of course! I found this recipe via a chef called José Andrés and it’s the perfect summer soup. Yes, it doesn’t look great, but if you’re a fan of fresh tastes you’ll bloody love it. This serves four and I heartily recommend it!

to make gazpacho, you’ll need:

  • one large cucumber
  • one large green pepper
  • 700g of ripe tomatoes (if you’re buying them in the supermarket, spend a bit extra – or at the very least, leave them on your windowsill for a few days to ripen
  • one glove of garlic (minced: using a microplane grater – that way you don’t need to peel – but any grater will do!)
  • one tablespoon of olive oil (6 syns)
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar – you can buy it in most supermarkets and it’s just as cheap as normal vinegar

to adorn the top:

  • 150g of cherry tomatoes, ripe and tasty, halved
  • two radishes cut into matchsticks
  • two spring onions finely sliced
  • a good chunk of cucumber, cubed
  • a load of cress
  • lots of black pepper

to make gazpacho, you should:

  • chop up the veg of the main soup and mix it all together with your hands, together with a good few twists of salt and pepper
  • seal it in a zip-bag and leave to marinate for ages – I waited overnight
  • in the morning, blend everything together until nice and smooth – we’ve got a Nutribullet for this kind of thing and it works an absolute charm – but you can do the same thing with a £5 blending stick, so don’t fret – add a few ice-cubes if you’re serving right away
  • adorn the top with the chopped veg above, or whatever you fancy
  • the key is to serve it as ice-cold as possible

Very, very good for you! If you’re on the fence, get down and try it. Nothing ventured nothing gained!

You want more veggie recipes? But of course. We’ll look after you. Take our hand. We won’t even shiver at your papery skin and clammy hands.

lunchsmallvegetariansmall    slowcookersmalltastersmallsoupsmall

J

boozy bangers and mash with amazing gravy

Here for the boozy bangers and mash with a gravy that’ll blow all other Slimming World gravy out of the water? Fine. But first…

I am pleased to announce that, after nine months of worry, tension and angst, we have finally chosen our new car. Well, my new car. Paul’s still ‘driving’ around in that ‘Smart’ ‘car’ of his, looking to all the world like a sunburnt wine-gum squashed into a lego car. After months of putting it off, I bit the bullet and went to the car dealership to see what the crack is. First thoughts? So much hair gel. Second thoughts: I’d rather spend my Saturday chewing toenails than have to go through the ignominy of pretending I give a toss about cars. We were greeted by an exceptionally exuberant man who bustled over to greet us before I’d even had a chance to park up.

Before we could start the dance of finance, he had a look around my car to make sure it was in a good working order for a part-exchange. Well, no, he had a glance and took me at my word that all was well. That really made the £400 that I’d just paid for the ‘obligatory’ service seem like good value, I can tell you. He commented that I keep a pristine car – I thanked him, neglected to tell him it’s because we’re always ‘wiping it down’ and prayed to myself that he didn’t sit on the back seat. The cushions in the back are like a Twinkie. Don’t get the reference? Click here and feel ashamed.

He took us inside and offered us a drink, having the good grace to laugh when I asked for a whisky to take the edge off getting fucked. He brought us some grey coffee instead which I tipped into a plant-pot on his desk when he wasn’t looking, only for it to start dripping out of the bottom and onto the floor. He didn’t notice, thankfully – he was probably lost in my eyes.

I knew we were on shaky ground when the portly chap (I’m going to call him George, not because that was his name, but because he looked like a George) grasped my hand, called me by entirely the wrong name and then asked what type of car I want. You need to understand, readers, that I know nothing about cars. I know how to drive one, of course, but what is horsepower? Why is a petrol better than a diesel? Why is there always so much blood and matted hair on my front bumper? It’s useless knowledge to me, like where to buy skinny jeans or how to stimulate a clitoris. Irrelevant data. To me, clitoris sounds like the name IKEA would give a coat-hook.

Anyway, dear George, to his credit, didn’t laugh when I said ‘something colourful’ and ‘a bit fast’. Those were my sole requirements. My previous research, so far as I’d glanced at Auto Trader, turned this up:

Fancy, but Paul had pointed out that I wasn’t Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, didn’t need a car with an automatic amyl-nitrate dispenser and anyway, it was over £500 a month. I appreciate I’m a tightarse Geordie but there’s fuck all way I’m spending that sort of money per month on a Citroen, unless it comes with a feature that automatically changes my number plate and flashes the interior lights whenever Paul and I pull into a layby of an evening. I asked if there was anything similar with an onus on lots of tech in the car and he hastened us over to look at the C4 Cactus.

Why? God knows. I’d rather get the bus, especially as this car was the colour of a dying man’s lips. Sensing I wasn’t swooning and completely ignoring the fact it’ll only be Paul and I so we don’t need a family car, he plopped me into the driving seat and leaned across to show me the ‘latest tech’. I mean, come on – you know someone’s clutching at straws when he’s feigning astonishment at the radio as though he was Marconi himself. I resisted the urge to be sarcastic and clutch my pearls when he mentioned the air-conditioning, and, knowing he was onto a loss, he got us back out and showed us an altogether more sensible solution, the new C3.

Imagine that but black. Tsk, racist.

Now this was more like it – it pretty much looks like a DS3 but designed by Fisher Price, but that’s fine – I’m a fan of bright colours and spend more time angsting about people banging their car doors into mine than I do blinking, the air-bumps on the side were a big ‘yes’. Even if they do look like someone’s stuck a particularly hi-tech jamrag on the side of the car. I selected the black and red version and so the negotiations began.

I like to think I’m pretty good at negotiating, but only for about 15 minutes. I simply can’t be arsed to haggle. I see Martin Lewis chirruping away on the telly about arguing for a better deal but sometimes, what price dignity? I did knock about £80 off the monthly amount but once George had gone an especially lurid shade of crimson and was looking at his own wallet with watery eyes, mumbling about having to feed the kids, I collapsed like a wet cake. I don’t doubt for a second that I could have maybe squeezed an extra ten quid or something off a month but it was hot, I was tired, I hate having to do the dance and that was that. I signed there and then and was told my car would be here in two weeks, thanks very much.

It actually turned up four days later – hooray – and with Paul away throwing himself at Jeremy Corbyn at the Durham Miners’ Gala, I picked it up myself and decided to go for a drive up to Coldstream. I’d never been before but I knew it is a good seventy miles of twisty-turny country road away from my house. It was a great drive – the car was responsive and zippy, my driving was top-notch and there was a minimal amount of people in my way all the way to Coldstream. I had, quite literally, just driven past the ‘Welcome to Coldstream’ sign when the in-car phone rang, almost forcing me to crash into a coach full of elderly folk in sheer shock – it was so bloody loud.

It was Paul asking where I was. He was home, see, but hadn’t thought to take a key with him. To make matters worse, he was “hot” and “tired” and “had been in the sun all day and was feeling faint”. The one set of neighbours we trust with a set of keys (i.e. the only ones who wouldn’t let themselves in to have a bloody good gawp) were out, of course. Thinking the poor bugger had sunstroke I performed an entirely illegal u-turn in the middle of the road and set straight back off for home, at an altogether terrifying speed.

All legal, I must say.

But certainly far faster than I should have been driving, and all in the name of love, with the thought of Paul’s scalp crisping up like a salad crouton rattling in my head. Naturally, he turned his phone off, so I couldn’t get hold of him, which led to even more panic as I thought he was slumped on the doorstep shallow-breathing. As opposed to his usual stance, slumped on the settee shallow-breathing. I overtook lots – and lots – of old dears, all perched as usual right up against the steering wheel, all doing a committed 40mph no matter what the occasion. There may have been swearing. I may have bellowed myself hoarse. I was definitely putting the c*nt in country road. But by god, I got back within the hour, just in time to see Paul relaxing with a cold drink and flicking through his facebook notifications.

Turns out the neighbours had come home about five minutes after his call to me and he’d put his phone onto charge, completely neglecting to tell me.

You can imagine the laughs we had about the whole misunderstanding, can’t you? How I chuckled as I ironed his face.

So yes, that’s my new car. It’s very nice, it goes like the clappers in comparison to my old one and I’ll never miss it in a car-park. All good.

Now, tonight’s recipe. Boozy Bangers and mash. I know that’s a wank title, I know. It’s sausages and mash but more importantly, it has an AMAZING gravy. Can we talk about gravy for a second? I made this for our facebook page:

I genuinely can’t stand it when you see a delicious looking roast and then someone pops up with ‘omg make sun-free gravy by blitzing (always fucking blitzing, how exactly are you blitzing your peas you spittle-flecked moron, dropping a bloody bomb on it?) a tin of mushy peas, or eight roasted onions, or some other AWFUL slop. That’s not gravy, that’s a grave injustice. A war crime.

Gravy is low in syns and given that so many people have more gravy on their plate than carbon atoms, you might as well get the good stuff. Make your own or use instant at a pinch. It’s a syn per teaspoon of powder. Unless you’re having a bath of gravy, how much do you bloody need? Drives me up the wall, which is fine because I’ve got that fancy new car, but still. So here’s a recipe with PROPER DELICIOUS GRAVY. We are going to be steering away from ‘pretend’ food (to be fair, we don’t do it much to begin with) as a blog and I’m sure you’ll come with us!

boozy bangers and mash

to make boozy bangers and mash you will need:

We get asked a lot about how good our mash looks. We don’t add anything, you know – it’s just good potatoes riced with a potato ricer once cooked. The one we use is only a tenner and can be bought here!

to make boozy bangers and mash you should:

  • bring a large pan of water to the boil and the potatoes – cook until soft and then mash, to however you like it (we like to chuck in some wholegrain mustard but not everyone is as classy as us)
  • whilst the potatoes are boiling away, make a slit down the sausages and squeeze out the meat into 3-4 equal-ish balls. don’t worry about rolling them into neat balls, they’ll be fine as they are
  • heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a little oil
  • add the sausages to the pan and fry until cooked, then remove from the pan
  • add a bit more oil to the pan if needed, and then add the chopped garlic
  • stir for about 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to medium-low and add the sliced onions
  • cook the onions until they begin to caramelise, stirring now and again. Don’t worry if they stick a bit – that’s good
  • after about 15-20 minutes, add the stock and the guinness to the pan and bring to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan
  • in a little bowl, mix together the cornflour with 2 tbsp COLD water (it MUST be cold), and slowly dribble into the gravy, stirring constantly, and when you’re happy with it take it off the heat
  • dish up the potatoes and sausages, and pour over the tasty gravy
  • enjoy

See now come on, that’s a proper dinner right there! No? Want more? Get more!

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Beep beep (Richie!)

J

buffalo chicken and bacon toasted cheese sandwiches

Buffalo chicken and bacon toasted cheese sandwiches. If sandwiches were gay, this one would be a powertop with a vein-cane like a draught excluder. And we’re off! BUT FIRST.

If I see one more gay pride rainbow or business logo turning rainbow-coloured, I’m going to scream. Or theatrically flounce, at the very least.

Hear me out before you start lighting the pitchforks and assembling the L.G.B.T.Q.A.I.S.P.T.S.D.R.O.F.L.B.B.C.R.A.D.I.O.O.N.E unicorns to put my windows through. I have no problem with gay pride, hell, I’ve done my bit for the gay community simply by being born and fabulous. No, it’s the fucking comments that get left by other people that do my nut in.

OMG WHEN CAN WE HAVE A STRAIGHT PRIDE PARADE‘ being the main one, although there’s normally a few more spelling mistakes and flecks of spittle involved. They are, almost to a point, middle-aged men or women who think they’re being original and edgy asking the same question that gets asked every single time there’s any reference to Gay Pride.

It’s such a pointless, doltish comment to make, and it’s nearly always followed up by someone you know pronounces England with three syllables saying ‘it is PC gone mad‘ or ‘BECAUSE THE WHIRLED IS HETROPHOBIC‘. It isn’t heterophobic at all – anyone can come along and support, wave a flag, have a good time. But see there’s a key difference – everyone is welcome whereas us gays, and all the various iterations that involves these days, are still excluded or prejudiced against in certain ways, both big and small.

For example, we have to really think about where we go on holiday. I’d love to go to Russia, but when you see videos of young lads being kicked, beaten and punched for being gay uploaded onto Youtube and the swill of comments underneath in support, it puts you off. Brazil sounds like a fun place to visit, but less so if you’re a transperson – then you’re running the risk of being beaten to death in the fucking street surrounded by people who won’t help you simply because you’re not some shitty version of normal. Least you’re safe in our progressive country where Pride isn’t needed – well, unless you’re getting an Uber (thrown out for being gay), or perhaps you fancy a stay in a B&B but oh wait you can’t because you’re bummers and the owners are good tolerant Christians. Need a drink to settle your nerves? Fine – but don’t go out with your lesbian friends otherwise you’ll be jumped by a gang of fifteen men who’ll knock your teeth out. That was three months ago, by the way.

Hell, I’ve told you before about my ex, haven’t I? He spent two months building up the courage to come out to his parents because he was so imbued with happiness at being in his first gay relationship and wanted to be open about it. They responded by ramming a screwdriver against his throat, telling him he was ‘wrong’ and then locking him away in his house. Imagine how fucked up that would make you feel – all because you love someone of the same gender. I know of at least two other similar stories in my circle, and I’d hazard a guess that if you asked most queer folk they’d have a similar ‘cheery’ story. Do you think there are many young teenage straight lads out there who agonise for months – years even – about telling their dad they love a girl? Do you reckon the streets are awash with straight people holding hands and being told by perfect strangers that they’re sick, immoral, nasty or perverted? Nope.

That’s why Pride is needed: the more something is celebrated, the more something is held up as a perfectly acceptable way of living life, the less of an issue it becomes. Your ‘straight pride’ is every fucking day that you go through without some judgement being cast on how you live your life.

I’m amazingly lucky – I have fantastic parents who have been nothing but supportive right from the get-go and as a result, I’ve always felt comfortable talking to them about anything. You don’t understand what a difference that makes – imagine being unable to talk to your parents about who you love or what you’re confused about. Imagine what it must feel like to know they think of you as a disappointment or less of a person just because of a biological setting no more able to change than your eye-colour or your skin tone. Paul has the same, sort-of – his dad was marvellous about it and his mum made retching noises and ignored him for a few weeks, but she’s alright now, even if I might as well not exist for all the interest she shows in our life. I remember a few weeks after I came out to my mother (she may have been drunk, it was just after I got in from school) telling me that if I needed lubricant or condoms I ought to tell her and she’d buy some and leave it outside my bedroom, like I was ordering the express breakfast in a Travelodge. I didn’t have the heart to tell her at that point that me and my ‘good friend’ who would stay over for weeks at a time were already merrily boffing away and we would go through condoms like an Amsterdam hooker.

Anyway, it’s not all bad. Paul and I were discussing only the other day how far things have come for us (usually the wall behind the bed, thank God for wipe-clean Dulux Endurance paint, that’s all I can say) and how easier it is for us to be gay. Not many people bat an eyelid when I introduce him as my husband, although there’s always a few startled gasps that so much beauty shouldn’t be in one room together lest we collapse in on ourselves like a rainbow-black-hole. There’s the option to tick civil partnered on every form and most places will refer to him as my husband rather than ‘my friend’. Even my nana, back when she wasn’t ash, embraced us as a couple, only stopping occasionally to ask who was the woman. The answer of course being Paul, because he does the dishes, makes the dinner and iron the clothes, if he doesn’t want two black eyes and his pin money taken away.

Enjoy Pride, folks. But more importantly, enjoy your life, however you choose to live it, and don’t stop to give a second thought to a single person who thinks any less of you based on who you love. They’re the ones who’ll end up alone. Frightened, alone and looking back at a life filled with hatred and bile and realising they’ve wasted it, and the only thing waiting for them is blackness and fear.

I saw on a t-shirt the very thing I’m trying to say but encapsulated in only two sentences, rather than the usual 1,000 word burble you get from me.

Gay Pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.

Oooh, get her.

Right, now, I was going to do a rainbow recipe, but I can’t be arsed. You’ve had a ranty polemic instead, be happy. No, instead, I’m going to introduce you to one hell of a dirty treat – amazing buffalo chicken and bacon toasted cheese sandwiches – yes, you’ll need a syn, but then what do you expect from two sinful gays?

buffalo chicken and bacon toasted cheese sandwiches

This makes four sandwiches! FOUR! Scale back if you need to. We used our Optigrill for this recipe and it worked a charm, but it can be done just as easy under the grill or on a George Foreman. No expensive kit needed. Though, it makes it easier. If you’ve bought an Optigrill on our recommendation, have a look at our other recipes:

to make buffalo chicken and bacon toasted cheese sandwiches you will need:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 8 slices bacon medallions
  • 8 slices wholemeal bread (this’ll be your Healthy Extra B choice)
  • 135ml Frank’s Hot Buffalo Sauce (1.5 syns)
  • 50g Philadelphia Lightest (2 syns)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 80g reduced-fat red Leicester cheese, grated (2x HeA choices, so half an A choice each)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • salt
  • pepper

If you’re looking for a decent place to buy chicken and bacon, you can build them into your own slimming hamper at Musclefood! Come take a look at our hampers or build your own. No longer do you need to suffer with breasts that turn into prawns once all the water has leaked out and bacon with less meat than a sparrow’s knee!

to make buffalo chicken and bacon toasted cheese sandwiches you should:

  • we used the Optigrill for this recipe and it was champion but you can use just a normal grill or a George Foreman and it’ll still be as good. first, cook the chicken:
    • on the Optigrill, press the Chicken button, wait for it to heat up, slap the chicken on and wait til it’s done, then set aside
    • otherwise, heat the grill to medium-high and cook the chicken until done, then set aside
  • next, cook the bacon – same deal as before:
    • on the Optigrill, press the Bacon button, wait for it to heat up and chuck on the rashers – it’s that easy. You want them to be quite crispy
    • otherwise, put the bacon under the grill and cook until crispy
  • pour the Frank’s into a large bowl and microwave for thirty seconds
  • stir in the grated cheese and philly, it should melt a bit but if not don’t worry about it
  • next, shred the chicken breasts by pulling apart with two forks, it doesn’t need to be perfect, just get it ripped up
  • add the chicken, sliced spring onions, salt and pepper to the bowl and mix in well
  • dip the slices of bread into the egg and ensure it’s well coated and gloopy
  • top four slices of the eggy bread with the cheesy-chicken mixture, topping with two slices of bacon and then the other slices
  • next, finish off the sandwiches:
    • press the Manual button on the Optigrill and select Red, when it’s heated add the sandwiches to the plates and close the lid until nicely cooked and the cheese is melting out the sides – about 2-3 minutes
    • otherwise, heat a large frying pan over a high heat and cook the sandwiches one-by-one for about three minutes per side, flipping halfway through
  • inhale it

Come on, get this made. Get it made and enjoy it like life! Want more ideas? Click the buttons below!

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J

meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam and honey tomato sauce

Meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam? Topped with tomato sauce sweetened with honey as opposed to some watery old passata and the tears of the terminally disappointed? Yes! Not going to lie, this is an amazing recipe. I had to stand a good eight inches back from the cooker as I made it, if you get my drift. However, sound the klaxon, boop-boop:

We’ve been asked to do a recipe featuring Hellmann’s Tomato Ketchup Sweetened with Honey, so here it is. Easy enough to do because everyone likes meatloaf and tomato sauce is always a winner, but see we’ve done meatloaf before so how to make it different…stuff it with bacon jam. Oh my!

But first, the usual flim-flam. I couldn’t think of a natural link between tomato ketchup and our usual blog content – there’s not many hilarious stories about tomato ketchup that’ll have people slapping their knees and wheezing into a paper bag, after all. Then it struck me: let’s revisit the ‘trivial things that annoy me’ post – we did it in 2015, I’m sure we did it in 2016 but I can’t be arsed to check, so here’s the 2017 list!

Paul buys far too many bottles of ketchup

See! I bloody well managed to link the recipe and the blog content after all! Just call me Mark Zuckerburg. We’re not a couple who feel the need to drown our dinner in condiments, not least because we season our food properly in the first place, but see it’s always nice to have something to dip your sausage into. It’s why I married Paul. However, he takes it too far: our little spinning cupboard in the kitchen is actually canted to one side because of the weight of the 87 bottles of sauce currently wedged in there – he buys a new bottle every single time he goes to the supermarket “just in case” – in case of what? Nuclear war? I’ll be far too preoccupied with shitting my lungs out than having a seasoned bloody chip. Shopping with him has become a passive-aggressive two hours of him putting a bottle in the trolley and me taking it back out again. I’d rather he came home and told me he was having an affair with my mother rather than see him surreptiously pulling another bottle out of the bag for life.

Oh and mother, don’t you dare.

Black car badges

These:

I may have adjusted the picture slightly. Anyway, you’ll see them everywhere now, I can guarantee it. A black fadge-badge like the one pictured isn’t too bad on a black car, but I’m seeing it on all sorts of acne-carriages that barrel around on the road with their rubbish mods. What looks (arguably) passable on a decent motor looks like an embarrassment on a car that sounds there’s a bee stuck in the engine. We all know that certain cars attract certain types of driver – I feel like this little embellishment is just another way of reassuring you that yes, indeed, the person behind the wheel is a pulsing sphincter.

Vaping

I know, I know it is healthier than smoking. I know it’s a great thing to do if you’re trying to give up the fags. But do people need to be so…theatrical about it? Walking past a bus-stop these days is like being stuck in the middle of a chewing-gum flavoured hurricane, with blasts of vapour from all around. I’m tempted to chuck a load of gold and silver tokens in the air and pretend I’m in the crystal dome. You see people billowing out clouds like they’re a Chernobyl cooling tower and it just looks ridiculous. Yes, less ridiculous than coughing out your last in a hospital bed, but ridiculous none the less. I saw a wonderful little meme on Facebook that simply said how hilarious it was to walk past all the hard meatheads standing outside of pubs vaping away and stinking of strawberry shortcake. Now, before you think I need to be told how much better it is that people vape, please don’t, because…

I also hate people who smoke in cars

It’s fine if you are by yourself, though I do worry that if you were to drop your tab into the crack of your boobs, you’re not going to be looking where you’re going as you try and fish it out. No, it’s only a problem for me if you’ve got kids in the back. It’s the height of selfishness.  Both of our parents smoked like chimneys on every car journey when we were growing up – it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve realised Northumberland doesn’t have a faintly yellow patina to every vista.

Ridiculous packaging

Yes, it’s an obvious thing to moan about, but let me give you an example. We were told to bring a calculator to my last exam as we’d need to add up international fees, all very basic, but I can’t add up under pressure. Hell, I can barely remember to breathe in and out. Naturally, I forgot to pick one up from the cupboard at work, meaning a last-minute dash to Argos to buy a calculator. £15! They had none of the basic models in stock (of course) and so I had to buy a calculator that I’m fairly sure I could hack Sellafield with. Anyway, on my Tube ride over to the exam hall I set about trying to extricate the calculator from its sealed plastic packaging. Could I hell. I wrenched at it with my fists, I tried to chew my way in, I tore a nail trying to open the bloody thing up. I went four stops before I had to give up, not least because the sight of me sweating and fumbling in my rucksack was understandably making people anxious.

No, I had to go out of my way to go and buy a pair of bloody scissors in order to open the calculator with. Scissors are a surprisingly difficult thing to track down at the last second and even those came with a stupid cable tie attaching them all together. The sales assistant clearly sensed my anguish because she at least offered me a bag, though I turned it down thinking it would probably involve me doing a full turn on the Krypton Factor assault course and naming the top forty capital cities in the world.

Oh, and it turns out I didn’t need the calculator after all. Imagine my cheeriness!

Now, the other thing that annoys me is food blogs that don’t get to the damn point, so, after that 1,000 mince around the gardens, let’s get to the moment you’re all waiting for: american meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam and honey tomato sauce!

meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam

to make american meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam and honey tomato sauce (phew), you’ll need:

to make the meatloaf:

  • 500g of lean beef mince
  • 500g of lean pork mince
  • one large red onion
  • 1 tbsp of dried mustard powder
  • 1 tsp of thyme
  • 1 tsp of onion powder
  • 1 tsp of garlic – fresh or powder
  • a good pinch of salt and pepper
  • a good mix of cherry tomatoes
  • 8 tbsp of Hellmann’s Ketchup Sweetened With Honey (4 syns)

to make the bacon jam for the middle:

  • four large red onions
  • 700g of unsmoked bacon, no fat
  • pinch of salt
  • 125ml of water
  • 4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp of Hellmann’s Ketchup Sweetened With Honey (2 syns)
  • pinch of pepper

Now, of course, you can use any ketchup for this recipe – but the reason Hellmann’s Ketchup Sweetened With Honey works here is that it replaces the sugar you’d usually use to make the ‘jam’ and is half the syns of regular ketchup. Plus, sweetened with honey rather than extra sugar means it contains 30% less sugar than the ‘market leader’. We all know who that is, don’t be coy. Oh and it actually tastes decent, so fair play to them for that. You can buy it in Tesco for £1.89 but it’ll roll out all over the place as we speak.

This meatloaf recipe might look difficult to make but it really isn’t, but start with the jam first, eh? This makes EASILY enough for four and could stretch to six, and we served ours with green beans and skin-on mash, as is tradition.

to make american meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam and honey tomato sauce (phew), you should:

to make the jam:

  • do you have a chopper? One of these mini chopper things I always bang on about – if so, get it out, save your poor wrists, but if not, that’s fine
  • peel and chop your onions nice and fine – we’re talking really diced, but it isn’t going into an art gallery, make it as messy as you like
  • grill all the bacon until nice and crispy whilst you’re doing that
  • once you’ve got the bacon crispy and it isn’t so hot it sears your flesh, cut it up so it’s about the same chopped size as the onion
  • get a good, solid-bottom pan and spray some oil in – or use olive oil, I’ll never tell – add the onion, bacon, water, vinegar, ketchup, salt and pepper
  • cook slowly and gently for a good forty minutes – keep checking on it, add a dash more vinegar or water if it needs it, or some ketchup, until you have a nicely reduced jam
  • this isn’t going to be the smooth jam you see on a scone, no, but this is sticky, delicious bacon-goodness
  • keep to one side

to make the meatloaf:

  • get the oven on to 180 degrees and line a loaf tin (or just spray it with oil if you’ve got a decent one)
  • slap everything from the meatloaf list (save for the ketchup and tomatoes) (dice the red onion nice and fine first mind) into a big bowl
  • you can cheat and use chopped chives rather than onion if the thought of chopping more onion drives you to drink
  • mix – mix by hand and my goodness, don’t you stop for one moment – it’s very theraputic, get all that frustration and anger out by making sure you have the perfect mixture
  • if the meat is dry, add an egg – if it’s too wet, add breadcrumbs – but you’ll be able to ‘tell’ when it’s firm and ready
  • slap a good half of it into the loaf tin and press it down
  • make a channel for your bacon jam – I pressed the side of a glass into the meat to give a nice uniform look but honestly, no-one is going to care how it looks
  • spoon and press down as much jam as you can, being careful not to go right to the sides

meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam

  • press the rest of the mince on top of the jam – think of it like trying to create a core in the middle – make sure you press everything down nice and firm mind
  • spread your tomato ketchup over the top of the loaf, then slice the cherry tomatoes and arrange them in a sexy, pleasing manner
  • cook for a good hour or so – cover it with tin foil if the tomatoes start to burn – the internal temperature should be over 70 degrees if you have a meat thermometer to hand
  • remove from the oven, allow to cool for a good ten minutes or so, then serve!

meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam

It really is easy to make – you’re just slapping together a load of ingredients and baking it – it just looks like a long recipe typed out!

Looking for nutritional info? Based on the average lass’s intake of 2000 calories…

meatloaf stuffed with bacon jam

Not bad eh! If you want to find out a little more about the ketchup, you can speak to Hellmanns on Twitter  or via their Facebook page. If you want more recipes, click on the buttons!

 

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See? I can do a sponsored food post without it being boring and buy buy buy! Let me know if you have concerns! But this meatloaf man, amazing…

J