Bacon and tomato rigatoni – it’s a quick meal to throw together with the added bonus of some aubergine in there so you can ‘get your speed’ and all that pap. Full confession: this is inspired by a Hello Fresh meal we had. We’re trying out Hello Fresh whilst we’re stuck at Chubby Towers Adjacent because there’s not much of a kitchen here and it was getting to the point where we were on first name terms with the entire roster of the Just Eat delivery drivers. It sounds amazing eating takeaway every day but once Paul’s lips had turned blue from the effort of shaking the drips off after a piss, we needed to change. We aren’t being paid by Hello Fresh – indeed, somehow, Paul managed to be the only person in the entire world to pay full price for his first box – but we will keep you informed as to how we go. So far, so good! Don’t you fret, though, the meals on here will always be Slimming World friendly, and this bacon and tomato rigatoni is a good example of that! Take a look:
Oh, and this bacon and tomato rigatoni is excellent for lunches!
Anyway. How are you all coping with the kids being at home during these difficult times? Because, frankly, it must be bloody awful for you. I have made no secret on here that I am terrible with children. They can’t tell good jokes, they’re rubbish at fetching things and they command your attention all the time. I’ve already got myself for that. Babies get angry and poo all the time (and seem destined to get troubling maladies like cradle cap – a friend of mine had a baby recently and I genuinely thought she had popped out a giant rice crispie), toddlers bump into things and shout, children need clothes and feeding and teenagers – from my own experience – are whirlwinds of emotions and Lynx Africa. Nope.
The reason I mention children is that I overheard an absolute belter this morning. A very prim and proper looking family (you know the type surely, Dad will be an accountant in a failing regional firm, mum will spend her evening writing lengthy diatribes about perceived supermarket injustices on Mumsnet) were in front of me when I went to collect breakfast. There was ever so much noise as you’d expect with two children in tow, with the youngest shouting Mummy over and over again and being largely ignored save by me who tutted and made a show of turning up the volume on my earbuds*. This went on for at least five hateful minutes before he shouted MUUUUUUMMY one last time and then loudly declared that he ‘needed a big shit’. Well: they are looked mortified and I had to feign a good old corona-cough into my elbow to mask my laughter. If I had a child, that’s the kind of kid I want.
* nothing makes me feel older and in the way than trying to change songs on my Samsung Earbuds. You have to tap three times to move back a song, and double tap to move forward. I just can’t get the hang of the tapping, and as a result I’m left walking down the street swearing furiously to myself whilst tap-tap-tapping at my ears like a fucking woodpecker. Honestly, I long for the days of my JAMP3 player where I had to agonise over which twelve Limp Bizkit songs to put on it and then cut about town holding what looked like a radon detector in my hands.
Children is something that will never happen, though. Can you imagine the resulting mess that would come about from Paul and I blurting into a test-tube together and getting it fertilised? If we were lucky we’d end up with a child who inherited my humour and height together with Paul’s fabulous eyebrows and exhaustive intellect but readers, we’re not lucky. The little bugger would get my “designed by Frank Gehry” nose, Paul’s pig-trotter feet, my total irrationality and some bizarre combination of the very worst of all our features. In short, our child would look like a badly-faxed photo of Ann Widdecombe, and that’s something this world doesn’t need.
I’ll concede on one aspect of having children around that I would like: taking them to magical places like Disney. I bet that’s an amazing feeling seeing their faces light up with joy and wonder. But see, that feeling would soon sour when we left them in the car with the window down whilst we went shrieking round the teacups. It’s just too much responsibility for a man for whom keeping a basil plant alive for two weeks is his crowning achievement in fatherhood.
Luckily, I have a nephew who I can deign to visit on occasion, and he’s really not bad for a mewling bespectacled hellion, though I’m reminded that I made the correct life choices within four minutes of being in his presence. If children came with an off button I’d be far more inclined to consider one, but the endless volume is really too much for my old ears.
Anyway. That’s quite enough chatter for now. Shall we get to the bacon and tomato rigatoni? We ought to: it’s really very good.
If you’re not a fan of bacon in the bacon and tomato rigatoni, swap it out for chorizo!
You can all sorts of vegetables into the bacon and tomato rigatoni, but this works jut fine as it is for Slimming World.
We seem to have hit a bit of a run with pasta recipes here at twochubbycubs but I shan't apologise for it. No no. See, quick meals you can throw together with whatever shite you have in the fridge is our raison d'être and frankly, this bacon and tomato rigatoni is very much one of those. We have, of course, tweaked it slightly for Slimming World. But damn does it taste good!
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
300g plum tomatoes, halved
80g reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled (use your HEA!)
400g dried rigatoni
120g bacon medallions, diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried crushed chillis
first, preheat your grill to high and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil
as those are heating up, halve your aubergines lengthways, then slice slice each half into centimetre long strips, then slice the other way for cute little 1cm cubes
spread the aubergine cubes out onto a baking sheet into a single layer and spray with a little oil, and sprinkle with a little bit of salt
place under the grill and cook for about 10 minutes, then turn and cook for another ten minutes
as that's going on, cook the pasta according to the instructions
meanwhile, spray a large frying pan with a bit of oil and place over a high heat
add the bacon and cook for 5-6 minutes, until crispy
reduce the heat to medium high and add the onion, and cook until soft (about 4 minutes, stirring frequently)
add the garlic and the chilli flakes to the pan, stir, and cook for another minute
add the tin of chopped tomatoes and stir
reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally
once the aubergine is cooked, stir it into the pasta sauce
meanwhile, place the cherry tomatoes onto the same tray you used for the aubergine, spray with a bit of oil, and crumble over the feta. Pop under the grill for 4-5 minutes
when the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the tomato sauce with the grilled plum tomatoes, and stir
serve to gasps of amazement
diced aubergine really helps to pad this out and make it go further, and tastes bloody lovely
you can swap out the bacon for chorizo if you like
our slimming cookbook can be ordered online now – full of 100+ slimming recipes, and bloody amazing, with over 2400 5* reviews – even if we do say so ourselves: click here to order
our new diet planner is out now and utterly brilliant – you can order it here – thank you to everyone so far for the positive feedback!
nothing fancy needed for this recipe, but if you need some new lunchboxes for work, the SISTEMA ones we use are currently on sale at time of writing - click here!
Tasty stuff! Once you’ve had your fill of syn free bacon and tomato rigatoni, why not spin the wheel on our other pasta dishes? Here’s links to ten syn-free dishes!
OK, a few days late, but we’re starting to get into the rhythm now. And listen, I’m told – as a flagrant homosexual – the rhythm method is the most reliable method out there. So let’s stick with it!
As you may or may not know, we have a planner out – and part of the planner, amongst the twenty-six fabulous recipes, colouring in, inspirational guff and bits and bobs, there are weekly challenges to keep you focused. The idea being that you let us see the results of the challenge, or you can search for other people’s ideas via the associated hashtag. We’ve completed four challenges so far – and shamefully only posted one – but in our defence we’re surrounded by the most handsome men you can imagine. However, concentrate James…
This week’s #2CCFRIDGERAIDERS challenge is to post a selfie of your fridge or cupboard when it is chock-a-block with everything you need to diet and eat healthily. Here’s our current fridge, another when it’s looked a damn sight better and a reminder that we have the best damn spice collection you can imagine.
Our current fridge is a monument to our inability to really cook here at Chubby Towers Adjacent, though we’re currently trying Hello Fresh to try and keep us someway on plan. But that second picture, where the fridge is overflowing with goodness? It’s a SHAM! When we were being recorded for This Time Next Year, they came to our house two or three times to record our new journey. Now, I’m not saying we were told to make sure the kitchen looked healthy, but I’ve never bought more than one colour of egg in my entire life, and now we had a cock full of fancy eggs. The film crew wanted some shots of us opening the unhealthy fridge first, so to begin with it was rammed full of gorgeous, naughty things. They stuck a camera inside so that they could film Paul’s massive fat face reaching in for chocolate and my stuffed-with-Spam-hands clawing away at the beers. They then turned up a few months later to film us laughing gaily as we plucked at the celery and holding back the tears as we tried to pretend we weren’t dying inside as we cooed over eight different types of lettuce.
Worst part was that they filmed us talking through our healthy fridge and I honestly couldn’t tell them what half the things were. You see on the middle shelf those green knobbly things? I bought them at Waitrose because they looked relatively good for you. So, when I’m recording my piece to camera, they pluck one of those out and go ‘and what do you do with these’? I styled it out by coughing and asking for my line, and then a researcher told us they were cobnuts. Well, cobnuts are what I thought hung off your arsehair when you don’t wipe thoroughly, and if I’m honest, I’m still none the wiser.
I mean, the whole fridge is a nonsense: like I’d ever allow Paul to buy coke in glass bottles: I’m that tight with his money that I had triple glazing installed just so he wouldn’t hear the ice-cream van, for goodness sake.
So, think on: things aren’t always what they seem!
Bit of admin before I clock off:
our slimming cookbook can be ordered online now – full of 100+ slimming recipes, and bloody amazing, with over 2400 5* reviews – even if we do say so ourselves: click here to order
our new diet planner is out now and utterly brilliant – you can order it here – thank you to everyone so far for the positive feedback!
Stay safe! Would love to know what your guilty pleasure is in the fridge…
Boy, am I sick of that joke. Yes, though, chorizo and bacon carbonara is coming up – we posted it on our Instagram a few weeks ago as just a lunch idea but we had enough people asking for the recipe that we thought we would throw it on here. I mean, the chorizo and bacon carbonara is just our bog standard carbonara but damned if I ain’t seeing people making carbonara with vanilla yoghurt yet again: and I wish that was a joke, truly I do.
How are we? Still holed up at Chubby Towers Adjacent, still fat and still mean-spirited. We are having work done to the original Chubby Towers. This means a steady stream of builders, electricians and mean-looking gas men which leaves me with such a hot flush that you could fry an egg on my head. To be fair, you could run a motorway layby food-van on there given the size of my fivehead but that, Madam, is entirely besides the point. Our temporary residence in a local hotel does, however, come with some perks.
Firstly, we have been in the same hotel where Network Rail temporarily house all of their engineers when they’re in Newcastle, and to say it has been a treat for the eyes is a massive understatement. Every single day, around 8am, the reception is full of hurly-burly bearded men all coming back from a difficult shift mending the railways. Around 9pm, they all depart for the night. I know this because I’m usually outside smoking with my face full of lust and my brain full of ways I could reasonably make Paul disappear and thus be free to live a life as a worker’s wife. They’re stunning. I’m not saying I’m obsessed but I’m fairly sure they could helicopter me in as their shift organiser, given I seem to know their schedules down pat. The hotel had to ask me to come down later for breakfast because frankly, the whistle of my dilated bumhole was getting mistaken for a faulty kettle. But that’s quite enough of that, although know that if I do disappear and the blog is never updated again, I’m rolled up in a carpet down a railway embankment with the biggest smile on my face.
Secondly, breakfast: they’re kind enough to put a free continental breakfast bag out in the morning, which delights my obesity. When we first ‘moved in’ these bags consisted of a little croissant and an orange because it was the height of lockdown and everyone was about to die. Thankfully, they have upgraded these to include a cereal bar, some toast and two little Costco muffins. Paul, who takes great pains to assure me that he isn’t snacking as he’s trying to lose weight, was rumbled by me getting into his car and finding about thirty of the muffin-cases stuffed guiltily under the passenger seat. To be fair, he’d find far worse under mine. A recent development is free hot bacon sandwiches which are a treat because they use proper stotties and bacon that they set away cooking when they put the Christmas sprouts on. I’m not mocking: it’s nice to have a sandwich that you’re still feeling the benefit of a couple of days later when the bacon works its way back under from your teeth.
Thirdly, temporarily living in a hotel has given me many occasions to totally make a tit of myself, which honestly takes no effort at all for me given my life seems to be a series of slapstick and pratfalls. By way of example, we’re on the sixth floor, and on three entirely separate occasions I’ve been returning to the room a touch tiddlysquiff, entirely engrossed on my phone and failing to notice the lift stopped on the fifth floor when I got out. I go careering down the corridor and start braying on the door of what I think is our room, shouting jokey obscenities and yelling that Paul had better not have anyone in there, only for the door to be answered by some very startled looking guest who wasn’t Paul at all. Or if it was Paul, he’s really been cracking along with his keto – and has grown a better set of boobs than what he currently has – given it’s always been a lady who answered the door. She looked less forgiving the second time I accidentally woke her, I can tell you.
At least I’m on good terms with the reception staff and have totally embraced my role as Filthy Alan Partridge (Anal Partridge?). Upon learning that the seal under our bath had been leaking water into the bedroom below (that poor lass really does have it difficult), a man was dispatched to fix the bath. Upon returning to the hotel later that evening I was told that the flood had been caused by ‘my ring perishing’. I heartily guffawed that it wouldn’t be the first time altogether too loudly, much to the consternation of all the lovely tradies drinking their beer. All that was needed was for Paul to bend over and his bra to come pinging off and Carry On Chubby would have been completed.
Anyway, I digress. But I wanted to say, all is well, we are well and I hope you are too. Now before we get to the chorizo and bacon carbonara, just the small matter of our planner. As you may or may not know, it’s been out for a couple of weeks and the reviews are lovely! Going forward, we will be doing a planner post every week (next one tomorrow, then it’ll shift to Monday). Keep an eye out!
How good does that chorizo and bacon carbonara look? EH?
To the chorizo and bacon carbonara then, and not a moment too soon.
Right, perfect for Slimming World and all other diets, this chorizo and bacon carbonara is a fucking delight. There, I've said it. Hoy some parmesan on at the end if you're feeling decadent but otherwise, it takes ten minutes to make and will really satisfy you in a way that no battery powered dongle ever could.
This makes enough for two.
200g of linguine (I use that instead of spaghetti, but it really makes no odds)
50g of chopped chorizo (6 syns)
four or five bacon medallions with all the fat cut off
a bunch of spring onions
three egg yolks - you can use the whites to make an egg-white omelette, or you can stop bumping your lips and throw the whites down the sink so you can watch them sploosh down the plughole like everyone else, you contrary tinker
Note: do not salt the water when you boil your spaghetti: chorizo and bacon add a lot of saltiness, so don't be adding more for Christ's sakes
get a big old pan, fill it with cold water and get it boiling away
pop your linguine in to cook
meanwhile, if you don't mind, chop your chorizo and bacon off as finely as you can - we like to cook it almost so it goes like crumbs, but it's up to you
finely slice the green of the spring onions whilst you're waiting
when the linguine is cooked through, get ready to act quickly
drain the water from the linguine, keeping aside a small cup full
add the egg yolks, bacon and chorizo in with the hot linguine and stir to absolute fuckery - you want the heat to cook the egg but you don't want it to scramble (though if it does, no big loss, it just doesn't look as good)
if it goes a bit claggy, and it shouldn't if you're quick, add a tablespoon or two of the hot pasta water
once mixed, plate up and top with the greens of the spring onions
add grated parmesan and so much black pepper if you so desire
We serve ours with the bacon and chorizo on top - see the picture - but there's no right or wrong way.
you can absolutely leave the chorizo out to save on syns, but only if you're devoid of all fun and taste in your life
crumbled up sausage meat is also lovely in this - fry it as you would fry the chorizo
don't be adding oil when you do the bacon and chorizo because the chorizo oil is all you need
Hello! What follows is a very special announcement to any of our readers who attend Slimming World groups. We have to think that’s a great number of you because when we look at the Google Analytics to see what brought you here, we’re still seeing every possible known variation on the word ‘syns’ you can imagine. Suns. Sins. Sinz. Recipes. Recepeas. Rice’n’peas. Seriously, if we’re going to use lockdown for any good, let’s work on our spelling, shall we?
Now, you know Slimming World have always been good to us – allowing us to build our own wee blog full of recipes with only the occasional letter tutting at us for swearing too much or Paul looking too sexy in his swimming knickers. So, in the spirit of giving back, we’re letting you know what they are currently offering in the absence of their normal groups, which are, of course, out-of-bounds at the moment.
To be clear, we’re not being paid to promote this, nor have we been asked to do so, but we know plenty of consultants who are struggling. So, least we can do, and the below is entirely our own thoughts. Naturally we’re taken their very-posh press releases and spun it into our fruity way with words, but if you need the official line, you can find them here:
a detailed FAQ which should answer your questions.
In the absence of group meetings, Slimming World have launched virtual groups – the same sessions as before in terms of inspiration and support, only you don’t need to sit in a draughty church hall for the privilege. Using Zoom (which trust me, is easy enough to get your head around), you will be video-calling (or just audio, if you’re shy, or like us don’t want people to see you rolling your eyes) the rest of your group at a set time.
Then, it’s much the same as before: a group discussion to swap recipes, weigh-in (if you want to – you don’t have to weight at home), support and encouragement.
If you’re someone who relishes going to group then this will be a good substitute and means you have the continued support of your fellow members.
However, we think the best part of this is that for £2.50 a week, you get the above meeting and continued support, but you also have access to all the weight-loss tools on the website, including their syns checker, shopping planner, stories and meal-planning ideas.
Also! If you’re an frontline NHS/HSE worker, you can attend these meetings free of charge as a thank you for everything you do – speak to your consultant for more details.
There’s lots of detail about what happens if you’re on a countdown or have paid your fees – they’re all explained here, but it’s genuinely straightforward.
We no longer go to classes because we struggle to make the time every week to sit for two hours, but at the same time, we remember how important they are to folks. We say without exaggeration that we’ve seen the feverish excitement some people have for their weekly weigh-in and chance to talk about their bowels / weight-loss / weight-loss and bowel problems. You don’t have to forgo that – this is a genuinely good compromise between the support and friendship found in class and trying to strike out and do it on your own.
And, you know, if I may speak on a more personal note: as mentioned above, we’re good friends with a fair few consultants. These consultants are self-employed (Slimming World is a franchise which you buy into) and are suddenly facing quite a bleak time. If this move – and we know it won’t be to everyone’s taste – helps keep their lights on for a bit longer, then that’s no bad thing. The majority of the £2.50 goes to the consultant – not the organisation – which I really like. I’m yet to meet a consultant who hasn’t had their heart 100% in this – sometimes to almost scary levels of positivity – and maybe, just maybe and only if you can, it’s time to support them too.
Long-time readers and listeners will know that we poke fun at the ways of Slimming World, with our references to cat-hair quiche and Sandra (always Sandra) and her constant rambling. But they are the only weight loss organisation we’ve ever used because they’re consistently decent in the way they go about things. There’s a lot of love there, always has been, and will be going forward. If you’re feeling cut adrift and uncertain and need the support, you know where to find it.
Good luck everyone! We’re off round Mags’ gaff now for a Campari and Soda served up in mismatched Stella glasses.
Paul here – just to let you saucepots know that we have had the absolute pleasure to appear on a special bonus episode of ‘The Secret World of Slimming Clubs’ podcast! You can listen to it right now on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Click on their mushes below to go straight to their Facebook page, and don’t forget to tell them we sent you! And also while you’re there don’t forget to subscribe – you’ll get a fabulous episode every week full of the trials and tribulations of a weigh-in class and it’s an absolute hoot! Put a towel down first, mind, because you will piss yourself.
The Secret World of Slimming Clubs
In other news – we’ve been really busy working on our book so ever so sorry that we’ve been quiet. The good news is it’s nearly done and on-track to be coming out for the New Year and we can’t wait for you to see it! If you haven’t got your greasy paws on one yet you can preorder from Amazon, or if you’re feeling particularly fancy you can also preorder a special, limited SIGNED copy from Waterstones! Ooh, get you!
Click here to preorder our new cookbook!
Thanks to all of you for sticking with us and allowing us to cram our shite into your eyeballs every so often, it means a lot to us. We really hope you like our cookbook and it helps you on your way. We’ll be back to posting on here more regularly as soon as we can but also (hopefully) we’ll working on another cookbook for you so if you have any ideas of what you want to see, tell us in the comments below. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, don’t forget we’ve already got 600+ recipes for you ready to go, just click here to go to the index!
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!
Here for the fabulous layered risotto cake? Listen, we’d expect nothing less. But fair warning, it’s a savoury cake, so calm your boobs. Like us, you want something gooey, starchy and warm in your mouth, and you know that we are the guys who will give it to you without questions. No-one can pretend that this is going to be super-healthy for you as a day to day meal, but it’s low in syns, full of flavour and surprisingly easy to make. A perfect family dish. But first…oui oui! Let’s head back to France, my loves!
You may remember we’d had a rather drunken night in the hotel the night before? Well, we had booked a tour of the Paris Catacombs in a gin-soaked fit of YEAH FUCK WAITING IN LINES that would normally leave me hyperventilating with the extravagance. As we stepped out of the hotel a passing Frenchman asked if I had a light for a cigarette so I passed him my American Express card, which was smouldering like a spent match. We Ubered our way over to the catacombs entrance and were immediately glad of the fact we had booked a private tour – the queue was already out the door and away down the street.
Serious tip: if you’re planning a visit, pay the extra and get on a tour. I looked on TripAdvisor and lines of four to five hours are common, with the added bonus of the organisers shutting the catacombs without notice and making you queue all over again the next day. We paid about £140 through getyourguide (paying extra because it was last minute) but the ability to just turn up and go in was brilliant. I do think that it’s usually worth paying the extra for these things when you’re on a short break because your time is as valuable as your money.
We were met by our tour guide Ari, who I instantly recognised as the actor who played Philip Martin in Neighbours, who counted us in and explained we would see bits that others don’t get to see and that the whole thing would take about an hour and a half, capped off with the return to the summit up a tight, narrow and exceptionally steep staircase of eighty eight steps. Paul and I both gasped audibly at this point, causing the group to stare at us with utter disdain and the tour guide to radio ahead to have an ambulance on standby.
The tour involved lots of walking and staring at the neatly stacked bones of millions of dead French folk. Sounds awful, yes? It wasn’t, it was utterly fascinating. Knowing that these tunnels were build so long ago, in such cramped and awful conditions, and that there are literally hundreds of miles of them, was a sobering thought. Even I stopped cracking jokes when met with a pile of skulls and bones bigger than my house. There’s lots of hidden things too, such as a miniature hospital carved into the limestone and a facsimile of a seaport that some intrepid miner had created. Mind-boggling. You forget, and it’s really terribly sad, that all of these bones belonged to living people with families and jobs, and they’ve been interred beneath the city without a name or a memorial other than to have hundreds of thousands of tourists ignoring the no flash rule and photographing themselves pulling silly faces in front of a stack of legs. When I die I want to be stuffed and sat in a chair (in a tee-shirt covered in blood with IT WAS MAGS WITH A SHARPENED COCK-SHAPED SHAGALUF LIGHTER scrawled across it) at the local Slimming World class, a reminder to everyone that there’s bigger things to worry about than spending half a syn on a sausage.
I’m going to post a few pictures now, but do feel free to scroll on by. Spin that wheel quickly if bones creep you out.
“Wherever you go, death follows the body’s shadow”
To give you an idea of how cramped it can be – but it is far more open when you’re in the crypts. Well, you need space to stretch your legs when you’re dead.
To give you an idea of how tall this pile is, I’m 6ft 1″, and I took this on my tip-toes with my arms outstretched above my head. Think how many ‘people’ are in this photo alone.
Miles upon miles of bones stacked like this – beautiful, creepy and amazing all at once. Oh, and it was good of Paul’s mother to drop in:
“yer yer y’know Bejewelled 3 yer HOW de yer get credits yer yer WELL ‘E GOES ON ABOUT JIMMY FACKIN’ SAVILLE ALL THE TIME COUGH COUGH SPLUTTER COUGH”
We were joined briefly and awkwardly by some lovely but super-flighty woman who asked us a stream of random nonsense – were there tarantulas down here, did I think the air smelled funny, what do the bats eat? Paul made the fatal error of not looking at her blankly and gesturing to his ears to pretend he was deaf, and she was away, jolly-hockey-sticking about her holidays in Paris and her homes in Berkshire and all other such terribly interesting flimflam. I made as though I wanted to take a picture of a pile of skulls and disappeared to the back of the queue, where I was able to look at her high-heeled shoes with disdain. Who thinks that high-heels are just the ticket to wear to an underground crypt full of puddles and mud and cobbles? I could barely make the distance and I was wearing my usual Build-a-Bear shoes! I mistook the clattering of her shoes for some of the bones reanimating like the old Scotch video-tape adverts.
The tour lasted a good two hours and I have to confess, towards the end, I was beginning to wonder if it was a cruel joke and they were planning on leaving us down there. I don’t care who you are, you lose the ability to sincerely go ‘eeee never’ and ‘goodness’ at yet another pile of bones. I’m just being honest. Everyone was respectful but you could tell the mood was turning and it was with barely hidden relief that Ari told us we were at the end of the tour and freedom was that worrisome flight of stairs away. Paul and I loitered at the back so that no-one would be treated to my especially fragrant arse in their face as we ascended and fuck me, we nearly died. I know it’s not a terrific amount of stairs but it was steep and very, very tight, plus you can’t stop to admire the view / hyperventilate. Thankfully our group had spilled out onto the street and only a couple of eyebrows were raised at our beetroot faces and shaking legs. You’d think we’d escaped from Alcatraz via Ben Nevis – it was all I could do to pretend I was interested in some tatty nonsense in the gift shop whilst I desperately tried to replenish my oxygen levels. I know for next time: bring a spare tank of oxygen ‘just in case’.
We managed to get our breath back and our resting heartbeat back to its usual 166BPM after four hours and by that time we were bloody starving. Nothing sobers the mind about your health like a shocking burst of exercise and so we thought it only right to have a small side salad with our colossal pizza. Don’t worry, we’re not pigs, we left it. We had ducked into the first promising little bistro we came across and it’s only a slight exaggeration to tell you our pizza was the size of a conference room carpet. You know you’re in trouble when it takes eight waiters coming in like pallbearers to fetch your dinner. We sat and ate our quarter-tonne of dough whilst people watching, our favourite thing. Paris is so stylish, isn’t it? Even the roadsweepers looked graceful as he tried to brush a dog-shit into his little sweeper, leaving a cheery doughnut-smear on the path just by our table. I wish I could say it put us off our lunch but fuck it, you know we’re fat bastards.
We paid the bill, as ever unsure as to whether to leave a tip on the table or don’t tip at all because it’s rude to tip, so we settled on slipping the waiter a note (of money, I mean, not our phone number scrawled in lip-gloss with ‘we’ll be gentle’ underneath) as we left. We’re just so smooth. We wandered for a bit just to take in the scenery. Well, no, that’s what normal folks do, we however spent a good fifteen minutes trying to find a toilet so Paul could ‘drop the kids off’. He was, apparently, too embarrassed to ask where the lavatory was at lunch and so it was that, yet again, I found myself loitering outside an automatic toilet for longer than could ever be considered reasonable. This time, determined not to be arrested for being a sex pervert, I went off into a tiny little bakers and bought us both something gooey and delicious. Paul emerged a good while later, having deposited something gooey and absolutely not delicious, and was delighted to see I’d rewarded him for his foul behaviour by buying him a treat. I hope he’s not like a dog – I don’t want him stopping at every toilet we see thinking he’s going to get a tarte aux pomme for his trouble. Anyway, enough toilet talk (we’re just going through the motions!) (eh?).
We Ubered back across the city to visit the The Centre Pompidou, despairing as we arrived at the site of a colossal queue snaking around the building. Why? Why can’t WE be the only tourists visiting Paris? It seemed so unjust. We were about to move on when, seized by a combination of rashness and swollen ankles, I decided that we really just ought to queue. Paul was aghast, but I promised him an ice-cream when we were inside. As it happens, the queue moved quickly, not least because we were afforded the chance to snark on every single stereotype about drippy artsy-fartsy folk whilst we waited. See:
nobody wants to listen to you play two notes on a didgeridoo over and over and over whilst slapping the ground with your foot – that isn’t expressing yourself, it’s being an annoyance, and that’s why people were avoiding you;
nobody wants to see the black soles of your filthy feet whilst you walk around ‘being free’ and giving people flowers;
nobody is going to buy your bangles and trinkets, they look like fire-damaged electrical cord, you lunatic wench;
no, I don’t want to donate to your cause;
no, I don’t want to fill out a ‘survey’ where we’ll get to the end and you’ll ask me to donate anyway;
no, I don’t want to hear anything other than Paul reading the ice-cream menu aloud.
It was like this:
Anyway, after fourteen weeks of waiting, we were in the building. Paul got himself a Magnum and I had a prim bottle of water so I could sip it and look thoughtfully at the art. If only I’d grown my beard I could have stroked it in that bloody aggravating manner people have.
Now: I’m sorry. I know we’re going to sound like philistines. I know. But it was boring. There were some pieces of art that did jump out at me and I enjoyed having a gander at those, but personally, I found the mix of modern art (wank) and the more traditional pieces to be very tiring indeed. I know my faults and having very little interest in gallery art is one of them. There was an exhibition by Cy Twombly there that looked like something a troubled child might do with a box of Crayola and the threat of violence. I’m about as artistic as the stuff you bleed from a radiator but even I thought I’d do a better job with an Argos pen. People were gazing at each painting and I felt like I was going mad – that I wasn’t seeing some revelatory twist to the paintings that everyone else was experiencing. One lady looked like she was about to come and all that was in front of her was a white canvas with some blue squiggles on it. I’ve never been more perplexed in my life. In fact, I was trying so hard to work it out that I bumped into Paul sending him stumbling over the little black tape on the floor which in turn set off an alarm and caused a very gruff security man to shout at us. A French couple, clearly sharing a moustache, spat at us as we left.
The view from outside, over the streets of Paris, was lovely, mind. Oh, and it was good of Paul’s mother to drop in:
“well ofcourse ‘e don’t fackin’ listen see yer yer I mean I’ve told ‘im and ‘e still goes on a-mean it’s not right yer hockle hockle phlegm yer”
There were two exceptions to the pile of wank, though. There was an installation of contemporary art from the old USSR which was interesting – I didn’t quite have an epiphany but at least I wasn’t scratching at the walls to be let out. Lots of hammers and sickles and people saying ‘but yes of course’ and ‘how daaaah-ring’. I nodded my way through. The other piece was a giant ultramarine painting by Yves Klein and I was only struck by that because I’d love a car in the same shade.
Hmmm yes, yes I see what the artist is trying to say: every man is an island, time is fleeting, don’t oversalt your pasta and the oppressive commercialisation of the modern age is terrifying.
We did give it a good try, though – we went into every exhibition, we read all the little wee leaflets, we tried not to look like thick Geordies abroad, but I’m guessing we failed. We stepped into a tiny cinema on the second floor which was screening a tiny arthouse movie. We took our seats and promptly fell asleep, our bodies glad of the chance to sit down and digest all that dough from earlier. We woke a good twenty minutes later when the bombast of the closing credits brought us round. We left, shame-faced, although I’m sure we’ll be listed on some tosser’s Tripadvisor report in no time at all: “My children, Persephone, Hedge-Fund and Hugo Chinnery-Pissflaps, were paaasitively screaming to watch the Hungaaaarian tilt-shift documentary on corn-growing but it was simply ruined by the two rubenesque leviathans farting and snoring in the corner. Can’t recommend”. Pfft.
Seems like a good point to leave it, actually. So much more to come! Remember, I’d truly love your feedback!
Anyway, you’re lucky to get a post at all – I’ve been playing Breath of the Wild pretty much non-stop since last Friday. Can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is. If you’re on the fence about getting a Nintendo Switch and/or this game, you need to get off and take action.
This recipe then: it’ll serve eight if you have it with a side-salad or four as a hearty bowl of yum. Customise it however you want – stuff it full of asbestos for all I mind – it’s just a fun way of presenting the food and also, perfect cold night fare. It lasts well in the fridge too so champion if you want it for lunch. Let’s do this! We found this recipe in a Sicilian cookbook which a friend bought and I coveted so badly I had to Amazon Prime Now it. We’ve adapted it for Slimming World. Oh, and it’s known as a rice timbale, but I much prefer an ooey-gooey risotto cake, and, as I’m the fat bugger in charge, that’s what we’re calling it. Although this does serve eight, I’m going to err on the side of fat caution and syn it as though it makes four servings, so you can have a canny big serving.
to make an ooey-gooey risotto cake, you’ll need:
500g of arborio/risotto rice
two large onions, cut finely
two cloves of garlic (minced, using one of these bad-boys for speed)
175ml of white wine (optional, leave it out if you want – if adding, add 1.5 syns per serving)
500ml of good passata – don’t be tight, buy a decent brand – we used a passata with basil in for a bit of oomph, but you’re really looking for something made from cherry tomatoes where possible – though don’t shit the bed if you can’t find it
900ml of chicken stock (or veggie) made up
50g of fresh parmesan (10 syns)
240g of light mozzarella (4 x HEA)
600g of spinach
a jar of those big roasted red peppers (optional)
to make an ooey-gooey risotto cake, you should:
Think of this recipe as nothing more than making a risotto, taking it a wee bit further than you normally would when cooking it, then assembling it into a ‘cake’.
whack the oven onto 180 degrees and carefully line a cake tin (if you don’t have one, you could do this in a pyrex dish just as easy) – I used a square cake tin like this one but really, anything that’s deep and about 8 or 9 inches across (I’ve said that before) – we line our tins with greaseproof paper and a top tip, if you have some metal (NOT PLASTIC) bulldog clips to hand, use them to clip the paper in place once you’ve lined the tin
get a big heavy pan out (preferably non-stick) and gently fry off the onion and garlic in a few sprays of olive oil until they’re softened
chuck in the rice and allow to toast gently – couple of minutes at most until it crackles
if you’re using wine, throw it in at this point and allow to simmer off for a good three minutes (stir to make sure things don’t stick)
add the passata, pinch of black pepper, salt and two thirds of the stock
now the boring part – it’ll take about twenty to thirty minutes, but you want the mixture to bubble away on a medium heat with you stirring every now and then, topping it up with stock when the liquid gets low, until you have a nice thick risotto – remember, you want to bubble away past the point of normal risotto – you want a good ‘firm’ risotto – add in 40g of the parmesan, stir and set aside to cool
prepare your spinach by chucking it in another pan with a splash of boiling water – keep it on a medium heat but allow the steam to wilt the leaves right down – then sieve and chop it finely to remove as much liquid as you can and make sure you season with a bit of salt and pepper
assembly time: put half the risotto in the bottom of the cake tin, flatten it out the best you can, then top with the mozzarella (sliced, obviously), spinach and red peppers (they open up like a book) – don’t worry about neatness, just chuck it in any old way
put the rest of the risotto over the top, sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan, and cook in the oven for about twenty five minutes
once everything is lovely and golden and bubbling, remove and leave to stand for a good ten to fifteen minutes to firm up
dish up and fall in love!
Now, like I said earlier, customise this to your heart’s content. Change the risotto, change the filling, add more veg, add meat (cooked slice bacon would be lovely), use a different cheese. It would also look slightly prettier in a round cake tin rather than a square tin, but make do with whatever you’ve got. If it all slops apart, don’t worry, you’ve still got a delicious dinner! Keep some for lunch the next day. To sex it up, I’d add some chorizo to the risotto, but remember to syn it or your consultant will be farting through your letterbox.
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PS: we’re currently changing the ‘share this buttons’ – so if you’re wondering where they’ve gone, just hold on, they’ll be back!
It’s the return of the vag-pasta! Our caprese causage stuffed pasta makes good use of that weird shaped giant pasta!
Yeah that’s right, it’s a while since we used it and before I get anyone sending me frothy messages saying it’s not like a vagina, well, of course it’s not, but how many do you think I’ve seen in my life? Been there, done that, dry-heaved into my t-shirt. But see it’s what Paul calls this pasta so let’s just crack on with sausage caprese stuffed shells.
My goodness me. I opened the last post with a comment on the shitstorm surrounding this Porky Lights fiasco and here I see it has escalated into people appearing in the papers claiming they are devastated and had their diets ruined because the seven sausages they were eating for dinner might have had a slightly higher fat content than they expected. Listen, if you’re eating seven sausages in one sitting, you’ve got bigger fucking problems than a smidge more grease smacking on your lips. I work from home on a Friday so I was treated to even more hullabaloo from crinkle-faced mouthbreathers whingeing on. I think I’d rather be in the papers because I’ve been discovered wanking through a letterbox than holding up an over-done sausage the same shape as my downturned mouth and claiming my life was over. What happened to perspective?
OH and another bloody rant, if you don’t mind. If you drive and fiddle with your phone whilst you do so, then you’re an absolute and utter shit. A moron. A self-important, overly-entitled, preening cock. You’re a boil on society’s arsehole and everyone you come into contact with merely tolerates your presence. You’re about as liked as finding a hot streak of blood when you wipe your arse. If I saw you in the street I wouldn’t slap you, but it’s only because shit splatters.
The reason for my ire? Someone went into the back of me yesterday at a set of traffic lights (and I mean I’m used to having my crumple-zone pushed in from the rear, but at least buy a bloody drink first to grease the wheels) because he was BUSY PLAYING WITH HIS PHONE. I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry – the good thing about being tall and fat with a shaved head is that when you come hurtling out of a car with a face full of piss and vinegar the other person tends to back down pretty sharp, and I’m bloody mortified now that I reacted so aggressively. I didn’t hit him, but a proper red mist descended (probably an aneurysm brought on by the shunt) and I called him all sorts of very naughty words in an unexpectedly manly Geordie accent.
To the bloke’s credit he admitted straight away he was on his phone and apologised profusely and our insurance people are sorting everything out but FOR CRYING OUT LOUD just pull over. No-one is important enough to think they should be allowed to break the bloody rules and I genuinely hope that if someone is sitting out there reading this and thinking there’s no harm in using your phone that the next stop you make in your car is a dead-stop into a wall. It takes a bloody moment or two to pull over and deal with whatever you need to do and that way you don’t become a MASSIVE PULSATING DISEASED TWAT.
AAAAAARGH. Get me back to bloody France man! Speaking of which…
Smooth segue, eh! I’m the Astroglide of blogging. You left us at the airport after we’d just passed through security. We found our bags and made for the train station. Paul asked me why I was walking slowly and I explained that I was just bracing myself for his inevitable ‘landed in a strange place, must have a crap’ moment. He astounded me by informing me, with all the subtle discretion of a football manager shouting instructions to his team from across a pitch, that he’d been for a ‘tom tit on the plane’. He’s learning, folks. I’d anticipated having to spend at least fifteen minutes loitering outside the gents whilst he strained and grunted but nope – we were straight onto the train, then the Metro, then a short mince to our hotel.
Now, wasn’t this grand? The Hotel Square in Paris – 22 rooms and featured in the Luxury Small Hotels guide to boot. I’m not sure how easy it is to get in that book – maybe it’s one of those scams where anyone can pay to look prestigious – but the hotel was gorgeous. Very clean, very modern. Big room with a bed big enough to roll around in and eat croissants. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was the bathroom, given it was a very grand marble affair with mirrors surrounding the shower area. I’m not shy with my body but even I pale at the sight of reflections of my hairy arse coming at me from all sides of infinity. Paul came in to pick up a toothbrush whilst I was freshening up and it was like eight hundred of him had walked in going “how long you going to be, turns out there’s another train waiting at the station ready for dispatch“.
Here’s a photo so you can see what I mean. How embarrassing though I managed to get my face into the shot! Eeee I can’t get over it!
We had planned a very quiet first day and so it was that the only thing on the agenda was an Escape The Room. You know we love these: you’re locked in some weird room with a scary backstory and given sixty minutes to get out before disaster strikes. In London you’re locked into an abandoned cinema. In Iceland you’re put away in a jail cell on death row. They’ve opened one in Dewsbury where they take away your swimming costume and push you into the base of a divan bed with only a box of Tramadol for company. It’s all terrifically exciting. This one, however, was by far and away the best. We Ubered (I don’t know if that’s a verb or not, and I don’t care – it’s easier than saying ‘took an Uber’) over to the venue and after much confusion, found our way in.
We were met by the lovely Lucas who told us, in broken English far better than my pidgin French, what the situation was. We were to be stuck inside an out-of-control Paris Metro and we had to stop it before it crashed. Exciting! What really did make this fun was that the room was an actual Metro carriage and, whilst it clearly wasn’t going all end-of-Speed on us, it did rock side to side and brake and move. It was amazing! I like to think Paul and I have these things nailed now and we know what to look for but we were defeated at the very last step by the fact we were both recovering from head-colds – part of the clue revolves around sniffing bottles to identify smells to work out an exit code. We were supposed to smell cherries – all I could smell was Parisian soot and Vicks Sinex. Lucas had the good grace not to mention the fact that every time I had bent down to pick up a clue a good thirty percent of my arse was on show thanks to my inability to pack a belt, though doubtless we’ll be on some French version of You’ve Been Framed somewhere accompanied by bouncy accordion music.
Ashamed of the fact we had failed in our duties (but buoyed by the fact it was bloody good fun) we wandered the streets until we realised we were both hungry and that we really ought to eat. Well, you know Paris – you can’t move without happening across somewhere delightful full of lovely things to eat (I don’t think there was a single point in the holiday where I wasn’t either stuffing my face with pastry or brushing the crumbs off my coat) and it took no time at all to spot a little cafe down by the Seine which looked busy and promising. We bustled in, Paul ensuring that his coat dragged across as many tables as possible and me knocking into chairs and tables and ankles like a lost bull. One day, just once, we’ll enter a restaurant without it looking like we’re there to fake an insurance claim.
Our waiter (curt tones, face like a hundred miles of rough road, eyes that had never known joy) came over and barked at us to order. Our French is poor but we do try, but by god he gave us no leeway for error. Every fumble was tutted at – not necessarily in a rude way, just it was clear that he didn’t have time for our stumblings because he had to go back to watching emo arthouse movies and smoking. We ordered a starter consisting of various Corsican meats and cheeses – we had loved Corsica so and, given it cost a billion pounds to go there last time making it unlikely we’ll revisit, this was an easy way of reliving some memories.
The waiter had no sooner seemed to disappear through the doors into the kitchen when he immediately re-appeared holding aloft a platters of meats and breads. He set them down, adjusted them just so, took a moment to think what was missing and then blurted ‘le fromage’ and disappeared anew. A minute or two later he returned with the cheese board and goodness me, It was a challenge and a half. I like a strong cheese but even I was defeated by two of the monstrosities on this plate. I’m not exaggerating even for a moment when I tell you that I was entirely convinced one of these cheeses was actually alive. I had to leave it. Our waiter, his face full of French woe, asked if anything was wrong, to which I gave a British ho-ho and explained that I hadn’t realised I’d ordered the pickled smegma fresh off the chef’s helmet. Spread it on my bread? It was all I could do not to hurl it into the traffic outside. The only thing that stopped me was knowing Paris is on a critical terror alert and I’d end up banged up in Guantanamo Bay with bamboo being slid up my urethra.
Paul, having experimented with a somewhat French dish as a starter, decided that was quite enough of that nonsense and ordered an Italian burger. I was mortified. At least I made an effort, I had a croque Madame so French it was smoking a Gauloise when it was dropped in my lap. I’m not shy of trying new things – snails I have no problem with (who would have thought, me, a pro at swallowing unpleasant mouthfuls) and I wasn’t going to bother with frogs’ legs. I’ve had them before and it was like eating the meat from the used toothpicks at the end of a group dinner.
I made the right choice, lunch was lovely, and we lingered over coffee whilst we people watched the good folk of Paris and (quelle surprise) half of China flit about in that hurried way I’ll never understand. I find it incredible that all of these people have places to live and sleep and shag and eat and work and play and yet everything works like a well-oiled machine. I adore cities, I find them endlessly fascinating, and I could merrily sit and watch all day long. However, the waiter, possibly tired of watching us make a Gin Fizz last half a day, brought us l’addition with a cheery ‘you pay now’. I didn’t dare refuse, the sight of his ashen-face crumpling in on itself would haunt me forever more.
We decided to rough it and take the Parisian underground back to the hotel, only we had no sooner made it down the stairs when a large chap (imagine Shadow from Gladiator only with milk for eyes and a diseased foot) hurtled towards us asking us to donate. Donate to what? The Burns Unit that would need to tend to my eyes as the sight of his crispy foot sizzled against my retinas? We bid a hasty (as hasty as two fat blokes can) retreat back up the stairs and sent for an Uber.
As ever, our driver was lovely, he handed us a bottle of water, pointed out as we dashed through that we were in the tunnel where the Queen Fiat-Unoed poor Diana out of existence and offered us some sweets. He also had the kindest, more soulful eyes I’ve ever seen and he had the good grace not to notice me winking salaciously at him in his rear-view mirror. I begged Paul to let me put ‘Drove like a pro and melted my heart’ on the Uber review but alas, that was dashed. Muhammad, if you ever want to take either of us, or both of us, or a bit of one and some of the other, up a one-way street, do get in touch.
As we were knackered, we decided to have an early night and a few drinks in the room. I say a few drinks, it was rather impromptu – I went for an after sex decontamination shower only to hear the sound of Paul opening the minibar. Uh-oh. Worse, I barely had time to wash the Molton Brown out of my bumcrack before I heard the hiss of a bottle of fancy water being uncapped. I vaulted out of that shower like I was the winning horse at the Grand National and hurtled into the bedroom shouting EUROS ITS BLOODY FIFTEEN EUROS PAUL FIFTEEEEEEN like a man possessed. Paul explained he was thirsty but pfft, I’m Geordie. I didn’t speak to him for the rest of the holiday.
No, I jest. Once we had broken the seal of that minibar, the whole lot came out. We had a great night indeed, mini bottles of alcohol scattered everywhere, peanut crumbs in the bed, eye masks on, condoms blown up like water bombs in the bath. We sent down for another cheese board at 11pm to cap the night off and then away to bed with us.
When we woke the next morning, we were horrified. We tidied up until that room was sparkling like a new pin and stumbled out into the light. I wanted to throw myself over the desk of the charming lady on reception and wail je suis désolé! pardonne-moi je t’en supplie! in the hope she might take a dent off the minibar tab but all I could manage in reality was a gruff, Phil Mitchell-esque good morning and a couple of black peppercorn scented farts in the lift.
I’ll leave you to digest that image and get straight to the next recipe, eh?
to make caprese sausage stuffed pasta you will need:
6 sausages (we used the ones from our Musclefood deal – they’re just half a syn each AND they come with the added bonus of not being stockpiled by jibbering morons!)
½tsp fennel seeds
500g conchiglioni (you know the ones – the GIANT pasta shells)
balsamic glaze (just reduce some balsamic vinegar in a pan, easy peasy)
If you’re using different sausages, remember to syn them however they are. Technically this dish comes in at just less than a syn each, actually, so hoy a bit extra cheese on. I’ll not tell Mags, though she’ll be too busy hammering nails into the Porky Light farmer’s tractors to give a toss.
to make caprese sausage stuffed pasta you should:
preheat the oven to 190ºc
spread half of one tin of chopped tomatoes across the bottom of a 9×13″ pyrex dish, or any, I don’t care
cook the giant shells according to the instructions, and then drain and set aside
meanwhile, slice the sausages as best you can (it doesn’t have to be neat) and then cut each slice into quarters
add some oil to a large frying pan and stick over a medium high heat
add the sausages and stir to cook until no pink meat remains – give them a chop up with the spatula to break it up, or gently press a masher over the top
add the rest of the chopped tomatoes, the spinach and half of the chopped basil and cook for about five minutes
remove the pan from the heat, and spoon in 1 tbsp the mixture into each of the shells and pop them into the pyrex dish
top with the mozzarella and sliced tomatoes and bake for twenty minutes
remove from the oven, top with the remaining basil and drizzle over the balsamic glaze
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Yes, rumbledethumps. It sounds like a coy euphemism for getting nasty but actually, it’s a very pleasant side dish of cabbage and potatoes. If anything, having cabbage tends to exclude any possibility of having nookie-noo later thanks to all the resulting flatus. But give it a go!
Just a very quick recipe tonight thanks to Paul and his big fat arse. No, let me finish. See, for about four months now, our computer chair has been slowly breaking under our combined weight/bouncing/spinning/wanking. One of the arms snapped off a few weeks ago but that’s alright, as long as you hold yourself stiff (and god knows I’ve got plenty of experience keeping myself stiff in front of the Internet) you can still type. But about a fortnight ago the hydraulics started failing and we would end up sinking, ever so slowly, closer to the floor as we typed. That’s fine until you realise you’re typing with your eye-line just over the top of the keyboard and your neck sounds like a cement mixer.
Things came to a head last night when Paul leaned back in the chair to contemplate my offerings of Chinese or Indian when there was a tremendous crack and the entire back of the chair came away, sending him hilariously to the floor, rolling on his back like a stuck turtle. Paul falling over anything always cracks me up and I spent a good five minutes clutching the settee and laughing until my vision went blurry and I had to sit down. I think it’s because he makes a proper comedy fat-person noise when he tumbles – the sort of noise a bouncy castle would make if you drove a car into it. I’m a terrible husband, aren’t I?
So yes, picture me now, sat here, legs bowed under me, no back support, the gentle hiss of air escaping as I’m lowered further and further to the floor, and you’ll understand why I must hasten to the recipe! On we go…
To be honest, this meal is just a collection of nice things so although I’ll cover the other three bits, rumbledethumps is what I’ll focus on. It’s a lovely side of potato, cabbage, onion and cheese, and let’s be honest, everything is better when covered in cheese. Nearly everything. No-one like a brie lollipop, just sayin’
Nothing more fancy than Waitrose’s Pulled Ham Hock (I think Paul did that yesterday when he fell out of his chair) pressed into a nice shape with a ring-press (think he did that too) (you can buy a mould here) and topped with a tablespoon of piccalilli. The ham is syn free and piccalilli is half a syn per tablesspoon but I never syn it because I’m a frightful slut.
We buy our pease pudding from a lovely local business called Pete’s Puddin’ – it comes in bog standard flavour, Newcastle Brown Ale flavour, Cheese and Pickle flavour and best of all for someone like me who would happily main-line the stuff straight into my veins, Marmite flavour. I bought the stuff because I was so taken with his puns (and also they were selling it in Sausology, another local business) and never looked back. It’s amazing – you can find buy it yourself here: http://www.petespuddin.com/
I know pease pudding isn’t for everyone but we bloody love it and the flavoured versions are almost guaranteed to give you the proper fanny gallops if you try them. I’m not recommending this product because we’re getting a kickback or money or half an hour with a rough-handed lorry driver in a pool of pease pudding, no, I’m recommending because it’s bloody delicious. Plus, it’s good to support a local industry, and you cannot get any more local than buying pease pudding from the market in the centre of Newcastle. Well, unless Denise Welch was stottin’ a stottie offa Cheryl Cuuurl’s heed next to you, haway man pet etc. No, you haven’t tuned into Vera.
Oh, and it’s syn free.
We often have these tiny roasties – if you’ve got an Actifry, and if not, why not, just cut your potatoes up nice and small, whack on some worcestershire sauce and two oxo cubes and set them away. If you don’t have an actifry, cut the potatoes up, make a thickish liquid with two oxo cubes and a splash of water, tumble the potatoes around in it and cook in the oven until scrummy-yummy. Scrummy-yummy? Yes, I vomited into my mouth on typing it too.
Best to use leftovers for this but let’s just say, for the sake of argument, you can’t be arsed and/or you’re too fat to leave leftovers. That’s us. This makes enough for four people as a side, so you know what, I’m going to use butter again! I’m using a few odds leftover from the rosti so hopefully you’ll have everything in. So you will need:
750g of potato, peel them if you’re fancy – or use a mixture of potato and cubed turnip, chop into cubes
500g of cabbage, any old cabbage will do, but we used savoy, sliced super thinly
25g of reduced fat butter (7 syns)
two fat onions, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, sliced thinly
120g of strong mature cheddar (4 x HEA)
a good handful of chopped chives
lots of black pepper and salt
If you’re wanting to make this quick, use a mandolin slicer to cut the onions and cabbage – it’ll be done in less than a minute. The one we use is here! Only a tenner, too!
To make rumbledethumps you should:
boil your potato or tatty and turnip mix for about twenty minutes until soft and then mash – don’t mash it too finely, just give it a quick going over – a knee-trembler, if you will
meanwhile, melt that delicious butter and gently cook the onions and cabbage, oh so slowly now, until everything is soft and cooked – takes about the same amount of time as the potatoes and don’t be shy of adding a drop of water if things start to stick
tip the butter, cabbage and onion into the mash mixture and stir like a bugger, adding two thirds of the cheese and a good few twists of salt and pepper
drop the lot into a wee oven dish and top with the rest of the cheese and some chives
cook for about fifteen minutes or so and then plop it onto your plates with everything else!
Eeee, what a handy way to use up spare veg. Cabbage and turnip are always in the bargain bins at tesco so help yourself!
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I’m almost loathe to post this recipe for sweet potato bread buns because I’ll invariably get a load of people messaging saying ‘but you can have an Aldi bun for a few syns more’ blah blah. Listen, I know that. But why buy a car when you’ve got two legs? Sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and with soup season just around the corner, these make a nice side dish for whatever slop you turn your veg into. Plus, I don’t know about you but we always seem to have three or four sweet potatoes rolling around in our drawers. It’s like being haunted by a vegan – but how would you even go about telling whether a vegan is a ghost? God knows they’re pale, wispy and whining in real-life. I’m kidding. Please don’t write me letters, save your strength.
Things are still grim in Chubby Towers. Paul’s been flirting with a cold for a good couple of weeks and now it has really got him in its snotty grip. He’s currently lying on the sofa sniffing and snorting like Kerry Katona on giro day. He’s coughing like a 200-a-day-smoker/his mother and I could toast marshmallows on the end of his nose. You know that bit in the movie Misery when Annie Wilkes gets walloped with an iron at the end of the movie? That’s Paul. He’s in a bad way. Now, traditionally, we’d rattle off a few jokes about man-flu but I’ve always thought that was reductionist and mean. He’s just a soft arse. I’m sore because as a result of him snoring like an idling bus all night and keeping me awake and I’m tired of running around getting drinks and decongestants and nasal sprays and tissues – oh CHRIST the tissues, it’s like I’m living in the bedroom of the type of blokes who get stung by online vigilantes – and I’m reaching the end of my goodwill. I’d make a shit nurse, I’m not going to lie. Anything more than applying a plaster and I’d be pressing a pillow into their face and turning off the alarm bells.
There was a brief shining glimmer of goodness in my day, however. I was given a free packet of crisps by someone in town today. Because I’m naturally cynical, I spent five minutes looking around for the hidden camera crew who would be recording me opening the packet only to get a face full of bees or something mean. Also, because I’m naturally morbidly obese and a greedy bastard, I spent another twenty five minutes going around and around to the various people until I had seven free bags. I know, what a cad. Paul and I were once in the Metrocentre (the glitz! the glamour – it never ends because it never fucking begins) and there was a team of 12 people handing out bags of those Milky Way Magic Stars. We sharp calculated that if we split up we could grab 24 bags. Even better, once I had removed my glasses I could grab another twelve and better yet, when Paul put my glasses on, he was able to get another 12, even if he could see through time whilst doing so. Then, swap coats to repeat the whole affair, then go and sit in McDonalds for half an hour and go around again. In total we ended up with about 150 bags of Milky Way Magic Stars. This was back when we didn’t drive so it meant an hour trip home on the bus with more chocolate than any fat bloke has a reason for having but we definitely won that day.
I can tell you now though – the allure of so much free chocolate is sharp lost after the 35th bag. We were eating those bloody stars for days and even now the sight of that four-eyed twat the Milky Bar kid fills me with absolute rage. I swear I was reclining in the bath when one of those damned stars floated out of my belly button.
Paul just chimed in from the sofa to add his best freebie story, so let me treat you to a wee bit more. Back when Paul was a nurse he, and a lot of his colleagues, were often treated to fun little freebies from drugs companies and other parasites. Mugs, laser pointers, chocolates and, somewhat inexplicably, a doorbell. Because nothing says ‘best treatment for a prolapsed arsehole’ like a doorbell. Anyway, he was super excited to be given a face towel roughly the same shape as a little pink pill. The gimmick being that you added water and the whole thing would rehydrate, unfurl and give you a charming, if somewhat moist, free towel to wipe your sweaty face with. So enchanted by this fabulously pointless gimmick that he saved this little towel-pill until he was at the gym and, with a proper flourish, rehydrated it in the changing room gym. Here’s the thing: it was a great towel, but it’s hard to look debonair and stylish when you’re wiping a towel with VAGISIL imprinted across it in pink Mistral font. No wonder he doesn’t bother with gyms now, the poor bugger is scarred.
Right, let’s get to the bread, eh?
to make sweet potato bread buns, you’ll need:
300g of sweet potato – either leftover mash or some that you’ve made especially – just peel, boil and mash it as smooth as possible
450g of plain flour (this makes enough for 18 buns – they’re not huge but they’re tasty – so this works out at 4 syns each)
1 packet of yeast (1 syn – but damn it if I’m splitting that between 18)
120ml of warm water
good pinch of salt and pepper
poppy seeds – if you want them, syn them, but you don’t need to add them onto the top
to make sweet potato bread buns, you should:
either in a big bowl or a stand mixer with a dough hook (we use our Kenwood Chef, we love it), add the flour, mashed sweet potato on one side, water on the other, yeast on another side and get bloody mixing
once it’s starting to come together, add the salt and pepper
you want to mix it until it’s all come together nicely – you want it smooth and elastic
drop it into a bowl and cover with clingfilm – then leave to double in size for about an hour in a warm room
take out, divide into 18 small balls, put onto a non-stick baking tray or two
cover with clingfilm and allow to double again for an hour
crack and beat the egg then smear the top of each bun with good old beaten egg
cook in a pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes on 180 degrees
serve – it’s just that easy!
Like I said, you could buy your own, of course, but if you’ve got leftovers, why not make these? EH? Click the buttons below for even more inspiration!