droptober recipe #9: chicken cakes

Chicken cakes? I know, it sounds as appetising as sleeping face-down in the cuddle-puddle after a hot session with orange shitbag Donald Trump, but please, bear with me. You can have fishcakes, yes? Well these little buggers are gorgeous, trust me. Like a chicken nugget only you’re not spending ten minutes afterwards thinking about whether you’ve just eaten a bumhole, eyelid, or combination of both.

Only a recipe tonight, mind, as we’re busy working on something exciting. Well, I am, Paul’s busy ironing. WHAT AN EXCITING LIFE EH. This recipe makes about eight or so cakes, and I’m synning them at half a syn each rather than the 0.75 syns that it should be. Don’t tell Mags, eh?

OH one thing. We’ve had word that there’s a Slimming World group in Cornwall somewhere where one of the members is printing off the recipes and selling them as a booklet. Please, don’t do this. We do this for free and we want it to stay that way. If you want to profit from our hard work, at least ask. Don’t be a fucknugget about it.

chicken cakes

to make chicken cakes you will need

  • 500g chicken (or turkey) mince
  • half a red, yellow or orange pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch chilli flakes
  • half a chicken stock cube
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tbsp extra-light mayonnaise (2 syns)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ black pepper
  • 2 shakes Tabasco sauce
  • 25g panko (4½ syns)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard (1 syn)

to make chicken cakes you should:

  • in a large pan, spray in some oil over a medium-high heat and add the onions, pepper, chilli flakes and crumble in half the chicken stock cube, and cook together for about 3 minutes
  • add the garlic and cook for another minute
  • add HALF of the raw chicken mince (you read that right – trust me) to the pan, and cook until cooked though – it’ll take about 3 minutes
  • remove from the heat and set aside to cool
  • in a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, salt, pepper, tabasco, panko, egg and dijon mustard
  • add the cooked chicken (wait until it’s cool enough to hold) and the remaining raw chicken (it’ll be fine! honestly!) and mix really well together
  • divide the mixture into 8 balls and flatten each one into a burger shape (this burger press is only £3.50 and will do the job nicely)
  • plonk onto some greaseproof paper so they don’t stick and pop in the fridge for about half an hour to let them firm up – pour yourself a gin
  • spray a large frying pan with oil and whack on to a medium-high heat
  • using a spatula, add the chicken cakes to the pan (you might need to do it in batches) and cook for about 4 minutes per side until cooked through
  • serve and enjoy!

We served with chips and some extra-light mayonnaise because we’re classy bitches. Want more recipes? Click the buttons below!

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Enjoy!

J

slimming world bbq: chimichurri turkey skewers and an amazing loaded potato salad

Here for the next installment of our Slimming World BBQ series? Well don’t worry, we’ll get to it. But first, indulge me a little time to ramble on…

Today has been a day of getting shit done. I know, a profanity right off the bat, but there’s a good reason for that – I’ve noticed another telling off comment on one of my articles. Please understand: this is a coarse blog about the gay-to-gay lifestyle of two fat blokes with no airs nor graces. There will be swearing. There will be frank and numerous references to sex and knobs and bumholes and slutmanship because well, you write about what you know. There’s a reason this blog isn’t called james’n’paul’n’catz and decorated wth frou-frou hearts and whimsical tales of picnics and cricket and buying peppers in a market. It’s just not us. We’re both about as classy as two seagulls fighting over a discarded packet of chips in somewhere like…oooh, Chelmsford, and we’re quite happy with that. Most of the time I’ll let the little digs wash over me with good grace and a little fart but today I thought I’d reply because, as I said, we’re getting shit done:

slimming world bbq

Oh I’m a stinker, aren’t I? To be fair, I don’t actually think I swear that much anyway. I certainly don’t use the C-word on here because it’s not worth the terse phone call from my mother telling me off for using that word on the Internet. I know, it’s warm under the thumb, but hey, you don’t upset the Keeper of the Inheritance. Though for the record, that works both ways, as Keeper of the Care Home Decision…

So what have we managed to get done today? Well, I pressure washed everything we owned that was looking a little bit grubby: outdoor furniture, fence panels, the blood stains on the front of my car, the hair and scalp in the tyre-wells, the paving slabs and the gate. There’s something amazingly satisfying about watching a tiny jet of water blast away years of accumulated dirt and filth. If I didn’t think it would tear straight through his small intestine I’d have a crack at blasting Paul’s out-pipe. It’d be like pressure-washing a hot Malteser. It goes without saying that I blasted several choice swearwords into the path but Paul made me remove them – apparently it doesn’t do for folks who visit to be greeted by an increasingly-vile set of phrases culminating in mingetacular. Pffft.

When I was putting away the pressure washer into the let’s-tell-Paul-I’ll-use-it-all-the-time-but-then-never-use-it-again pile in our shed, I realised that one of our cats had disappeared under the various detritus on the shed floor and was mewing pitifully. After digging through and locating her and putting her outside the shed (to which point she immediately came back in through the cat-flap to get lost again) (I was all, alright love, you’re not on fucking Fun House here, I haven’t just tagged you back in), I realised it was time to clear out the shed. I know, this is truly riveting reading, but please, bear with me. See, I’ve mentioned before that we turned our giant outdoor shed into a Cat Hotel / stockpile room (hence the cat-flap on a shed, see – it gives them somewhere to go when it’s raining and they can sleep on the cat tree in there). Recently the shed has become a depository for remnants of abandoned hobbies (GPS units from geocaching, walking boots, an unused tent, lightshade made of human skin), stuff from the kitchen which we’re keeping in case we need it (Nutribullet box, ice-cream maker, pickled knees) and well, all sort of other shite. It was chaos, but after two hours and several trips to the tip (mainly because Paul insisted on taking his Smart car rather than my car, limiting us to taking two Rizla papers and a discarded screw at a time), we could see the carpet again.

Yeah, carpet, we can’t have the cats getting cold feet.

As an aside, the men at our nearest tip are a delight, and I’m not just saying that because they wear those fancy hi-vis boiler-suits and I want to be roughly groped behind the oil-disposal drums (though it would be fitting). It’s rare to find folks who seem happy in their job and who are keen to help, pointing us in the direction of the appropriate skip and masking their disapproval of the fact we couldn’t be arsed to separate our garden waste from our general waste. I know, we deserve to be bricked up in a tomb somewhere for killing the Earth, but honestly, Paul’s arse does more damage to the environment and I don’t run the risk of pricking my fingers when I handle that. It’s a far cry from the roughly-hewn grunters at our previous Newcastle tip. I honestly thought I was going to have my face slashed with a shard of a broken Pyrex dish for having the temerity to ask which bin to put hedge clippings in. I mean, I apologised for interrupting their blistering chatter about which bird (sorry: boord) they’d fuck out of the Daily Sport. Pfft.

After clearing the shelves and vacuuming about half a tonne of dried rosemary out of the carpet (hang it in the shed he said…we’ll use it all the time he said…) we had a clear shed and a clear mind. This meant only one thing: time to restock. See, Slimming World and life in general can be expensive but if you buy the staples you use in bulk, you’ll save cold hard cash, and that’s good for everyone, not least because it means you can buy a few more raffle tickets in class and keep Queen Mags in Cheeky Vimtos and Cutter’s Choice. We buy food like beans, chopped tomatoes, passata, pasta and rice in massive bags and store it in the shed, meaning if we’re ever stuck we can throw something together in the blink of an eye. Off we went to B&Ms to replenish.

Now listen, I know B&Ms is like Mecca to some folk, but I just can’t bear it. It’s full of people who dawdle and who hold up a jar of Nescafe in one hand and a jar of Blue Mountain in the other, looking dead behind the eyes whilst their spittle pools around their feet. The aisles are littered with ladies who look like they could punch an articulated lorry to death. It’s awash with screaming children and bright lights and too many not-quite products to bear. We filled our trolley with dishwasher tablets, coal tar soap and oops-sorry-Mags a box of Lucky Charms and hurtled through the checkout. The charming lass behind the counter carried on a conversation with her co-worker the entire time and spoke only to spit the price out at us. Never again. I never learn, I always think ‘let’s save some money’ but then I end up stuck in an aisle with mirrors with the Playboy logo on them whilst Paul holds himself up crying next to the locked display of perfumes featuring classics such as I’ve Just Come by Mark Wright or Gonorrhoea by someone who came second in I’m a Celebrity in 2009.

Celebrity scents confuse me at the best of times – I’ve never in my entire life looked at someone famous and thought by Christ I wish I smelled like them – but even more so when it’s a non-entity from a reality show on ITV Be (Thankful You Can Turn It Over, presumably). I imagine that smells like pure shame.

The good news is the shed is all stocked up. The bad news, if you’re a picker at the Tesco in Kingston Park, I’ve just put an order in for 96 bottles of various mixers to fill up our mixer shelves. If you want, crack open a bottle of the diet ginger ale because that belongs to Paul and I know he’ll spare it. Touch my tonic with a hint of cucumber and I’ll turn your delivery truck over. Obviously I’m kidding, but seriously now. Paul did suggest we go and pick up the drinks ourselves but frankly, if we took his car, we’d only have enough for one of those tiny tins of Coke you used to steal buy from Woolworths. The jokes about his Smart car will never, ever end, you realise. Even he’s accepted that, answering me with a chuckle that says ‘oh my’ and eyes that say ‘fuck you’. Ah well.

The other thing I managed to get done today was to finally open and put to use the copy of Adobe Illustrator that I’ve been paying £30 a month for since January, when I downloaded it in order to design a new front cover for our book. Did I mention we have a book? We do! Yes, click here to have a read. If you’ve read it, leave a review and buy ten copies of your friends. The reason for my dip into Illustrator was to design a little advert I could put into these blog entries to sell our Musclefood boxes – it gets difficult trying to shoehorn in reference to meat, especially when the topics are stuff like online bullying or my nana dying. Some might call me tactless but at least I didn’t put a sponsored ad in the funeral readings. So, you might see something like this on a post, but I’ll keep them discreet and not hammer home the advertising:

advert - summer-01

By the way, that’s an absolutely stonking deal – it’s what is fuelling our current BBQ week and the meat is delicious. We do also have three other deals and you can view them by clicking on our special, updated Musclefood page – even if you’re not wanting the meat, pass it to a friend by sending them a link. Cheers, big-ears.

I really have ummed and aahed about adding adverts – I bet you’ve hardly noticed our current level of advertising because we only have one on a page as a rule, and they’re tiny. Advertising is what keeps the blog going so we do have to have it, but I’m loathe to become one of those blogs where you get ten ads on a page, a newsletter sign-up shaking away at you every few minutes and constant plugging of various products that you know the owner is only saying because they’re getting paid to do so. Everything we recommend is something that we genuinely use, I promise. We do try and strike a balance of user friendliness vs advertising and I reckon – based on feedback I’ve requested in our group – we’ve got it right. Please do tell us if that isn’t the case! We want you to come here for either:

  • the delicious food;
  • the attempts at funny chatter; or
  • the hope of seeing my genitals in a blurred reflection of a polished curry bowl.

We’ll take whatever we can!

Right, right, goodness me, we have to do the recipes, don’t we? Sometimes when I sit down I can think of nothing to type and other times, nothing will have happened but I’ll still be able to spin 1800 words out of it. If you’re not a fan of my verbosity, you can always scroll straight to the recipes. If you are a fan, do me a favour and recommend us in your slimming groups or to mates. Build us and watch us flower.

Tonight we have three recipes – one for marinated turkey chimichurri skewers, another for a genuinely delicious loaded potato salad that tastes like it would be full of syns and nastiness but is actually low in syns and keeps well for lunches the next day, and oh, a seabreeze. We’re really getting into the cocktails thing. I know, just when you thought we couldn’t get any gayer. Ah well. To the food…

slimming world bbq

to make slimming world bbq: turkey chimichurri skewers, you’ll need:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced finely (hey guess what, I’m not going to recommend…ah fuck it, you know I am: here, use this!)
  • a big handful of parsley and a big handful of coriander

Listen, it’s always better to use fresh herbs. Buy a plant from the supermarket, stick it in water on your windowsill and it’ll grow all summer. But if you’re pushed for time, use dried

  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • a pack of diced turkey – and what do you know, our Musclefood deal has the perfect pack in it – click here for that – you could also use a couple of diced up chicken breasts from the same box, we won’t tell
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper

Normally proper chimichurri is made with oil – so if you want to be a decadent bitch, get rid of the water and use four tablespoons of oil (24 syns) – this makes enough for eight skewers so that’s still only 6 syns per serving, assuming you have two skewers. If you use the above recipe, it’ll be 1.5 syns for two skewers.

to make slimming world bbq: turkey chimichurri skewers, you should:

  • dice the turkey or chicken if not already done
  • blend in a food processor all the other ingredients – taste with your fingers – you want to get it to a runny paste with some herbs left intact, not a perfectly blended mush
  • tip the turkey/chicken into a food bag and top with the chimichurri – really moosh it in with your fingers to get it pushed into the meat
  • leave for as long as you see fit, but, just like a lot of things, the longer the better
  • actually, that’s a lie, girth is more important, apologies if you’re a guy with a knob like one of those novelty giant pencils you buy in Scottish gift shops, but it’s true
  • when you’re ready to cook and the BBQ is up to temperature, thread the meat onto soaked wooden skewers or, better, metal skewers, together with whatever vegetables you have lying around in the house and place onto the grill
  • turn these a couple of times and for god’s sake, like everything else, make sure it’s all cooked before you eat it

You can also see in the picture there the hickory BBQ steaks and the drumsticks from our Musclefood deal. Just saying. They were delicious.

OK, now the potato salad. This was genuinely amazing, and well worth making! You can gussy it up however you want. This makes enough for four, though it was all Paul could do to stop me mashing my face into the bowl and eating the lot.

slimming world bbq

to make amazing loaded potato salad, you’ll need:

  • 1kg baby potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt, for the boiling water
  • 350g bacon medallions
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of darlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard (1½ syns)
  • 2 tbsp Morrison’s NuMe Reduced Fat Mayonnaise (2 syns) – or use any alternative reduced fat mayonnaise but check the syn values as they vary
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained (obvs)
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach

to make amazing loaded potato salad, you should:

  • boil a big pan of water and throw in the potatoes, whole and with the skins on – cook until they’re done and they fall off when stabbed with a fork (about 15 minutes or so)
  • when done, drain and then rinse the potatoes under cold water to stop them from cooking. drain again and set aside
  • cook the bacon in a frying pan on a medium-high heat until crispy, then remove from the pan and onto a plate to cool
  • in the same pan add the chopped onion and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally
  • then, add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, then remove the pan from the heat
  • in a small bowl whisk together the red wine vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper
  • cut the potatoes into chunks – either halves or quarters, depending how you like them and place into a large bowl
  • crumble the bacon into small pieces and add to the potatoes, along with the onion and garlic
  • then add the sweetcorn, spinach and mustard sauce and mix well to combine
  • serve!

Perfect, right? Now let’s end with a cocktail. We’re keeping it easy with these cocktails, nice and strong with the idea that you’re not going to down it in one. Frankly, if you’re that type of lady, we both know your BBQ is going to end with you with your knickers off face-down in the neighbours’ leylandii, you shameless hussy.

slimming world bbq

to make a slimming world bbq: seabreeze, you’ll need:

  • a chilled glass
  • 35ml of reasonable vodka – we used Absolut Grapevine, but that’s because we’re extravagant  (4 syns)
  • 50ml of cranberry juice (1.5 syns ish)
  • lots of ice
  • 50ml of grapefruit juice (1 syn)
  • slice of lime

to make a slimming world bbq: seabreeze, you should:

  • lots of ice in the glass
  • vodka in the bottom
  • then cranberry juice
  • then grapefruit juice
  • decorate with a lime

Drink lots and be merry, folks.

J

cheese and onion pasties

Right, not going to lie, this isn’t a cheese and onion pasty any more than a eight-eggs-mixed-with-an-options-and-microwaved is a bloody cupcake. IT’S NOT IT’S A CHOCOLATE OMELETTE. But let’s persevere. Just a very quick post tonight because we’re looking at booking our December holiday to Las Vegas. Las Vegas! I love to gamble but I’m crap at table games, so no doubt I’ll be turning tricks by the side of the strip in a torn dress by the third day. More on that in another post, perhaps. You may recollect my previous experience trying to make a steak bake following the recipe flying about on facebook – it tasted like disappointment and regret. Actually, it tasted like what I bet my cat’s bumhole tastes like, although given how much he’s always licking it to a fine shine, perhaps that’s not as bad as I think. I won’t be trying it and I’ll certainly not be doing a recipe.

Anyway, I love nothing more than a pasty from Greggs. Here in Newcastle they use Gregg’s outlets like one might use a drainpipe – attached to every major building. I swear we’re about three shops away from Inception-Greggs where you go in for a steak bake and never leave, every time you push out through the exit door you tumble back in from the rear entrance, like some dodgy version of the stairs scene from Labyrinth. Though, if it means I get to gaze admiringly at the late David Bowie’s moose-foot whilst I reach in for my oval bite, so be it. Still, we had a couple of those sandwich thins to use up and some leftover mash, so why not?

cheese and onion pasty

to make a cheese and onion pasty, you’ll need:

  • one Kingsmill wholemeal sandwich thins, which I’m reliably told by SW’s own website is a HEB. Invariably it won’t be, so if you need the syns, it’s 5
  • any leftover mash
  • bit of cheese
  • onion powder (classy!) or gently soften some onions (before you start emailing me like you did when I used bloody panko that one time, onion powder can be found wherever the jars of herbs and spices are in your supermarket)
  • one egg, beaten to within an inch of its life so it won’t bloody do it again

to make a cheese and onion pasty, you should:

  • now come on, really?
  • add your HEA of cheese into your leftover mash, tonnes of black pepper, teaspoon of onion powder or some proper onions and salt
  • spread it into your thins
  • cover and pinch the edges together
  • wash with some beaten egg (the thin that is, not your body)
  • it bothers me that I even need to add that qualification
  • cook in the oven for around 15 minutes on say, 170 degrees – you want the top to crisp a little

For the true Greggs experience, pop it in the mouth of a child who can barely gum a rusk whilst you fumble around in your Paul’s Boutick bag looking for your Richmond Superkings.

If you’re looking for more recipes, you’ll find over 300 of the buggers RIGHT HERE. Yes!

Enjoy!

J

taster night ideas for Slimming World

Looking for taster night ideas? There’s SEVEN recipes down below. I’m not surprised you want inspiration, nothing seems to strike fear into slimmers at Slimming World more than ‘we’re having a party next week, bring something along‘. Well, perhaps the words ‘let’s split the room in half, someone keep points, we’re going to do group activities‘. God I hate that. I’m too antisocial at the best of times but being forced to come up with a witty team name and shout out speed foods makes my throat hitch. For those not in the Cult of Mags, a taster night is where everyone is expected to bring along some food to share with the rest of the class and usually results in about twenty quiches and a box of grapes bought from the Co-op over the road by the lady who forgot it was on.

I struggle with taster nights because, as previously mentioned, I don’t like eating food when I don’t know how clean the kitchen it’s coming from is. Luckily I’m in a class now with people who do look familiar with a bottle of Ajax, but Christ, some of the sights I’ve seen in other classes, well I wouldn’t eat what came out of their kitchens even if it contained the antidote to a life-threatening poison I’d accidentally ingested. I don’t mind a slice of Slimming World quiche, I just don’t like to be twanging cat hair out of my teeth for the following week. Anyway, as ‘what can I make for taster night’ and ‘slimming world snacks’ appear quite regularly on the little index of what people search for to find this blog. Well, it can’t all be ‘chubby cub cum explosion’ (can’t remember that recipe?) and ‘fat men fuking’ (masturbation is no excuse for poor spelling, chaps).

Oh! A quick word. When a buffet is served up in class, try and allow the meek amongst us access to the food. A couple of years ago, in a class in Wakefield no less, Paul and I didn’t get any food because half the class – not the better half – dashed forward as soon as the ‘party’ began and formed one giant body of impassable bulk. It was like the Berlin Wall, only smelling faintly of chips. I’ve never seen food shovelled and devoured with such ferocity and I’ve seen Sicilian wild boars being fed. All I wanted was a (nothing-like-a) Ferrero Rocher and a few ‘JUST LIKE DORITOS’ crisps that I could have planed a door with. I had my revenge anyway – the wasabi peas that I put on the table thinking they were syn-free were actually about eight syns a handful. What can I say? My knowledge of the Mandarin language is a little rusty.

So, with all the above in mind, we decided to do a post on snacks, also fuelled by the fact it was Eurovision last night and we like to have a trough of food to work through whilst we watch our entry get annihilated. Before anyone says the UK will never win because ‘it’s too political’ and ‘no-one votes for us because of the war’, that was relevant maybe ten years ago and certainly isn’t now. Russia almost won it and well, that Putin’s been a bit of a tinker this year, has he not? We don’t win because we send absolute shite – po-faced, dreary, period-pain music with insipid staging and crap tunes. No doubt that Aldi Jedward can sing a tune and strum a guitar but they lost a singing competition where literally tens of people voted for someone else to be a winner. Why would that translate to success in the Eurovision Song Contest? EH? We need to send something amazing, with a massive chorus and an uplifting melody, not a song that would barely make its way onto the second CD in the Now That’s What I Call White Noise 87 compilation.

I was just sore because I had Poland and Italy in the sweepstakes, and did you catch them? Poland came dancing out like a crystal-meth Cheryl Cole and Italy’s act was so boring that I forgot about it whilst she was singing the words, which is quite something. I wanted Russia to win. That stage, that song (You Are The Obi Wan, You’re My Obi Wan…) and gasp, when that screen spun around…well, I loved it. Plus one of my work colleagues had Russia in the sweepstakes and I just know he’s going to be spend his winnings on delicious things for the entire floor. That’s right, isn’t it Alan? SHOUT-OUT FOR ALAN. Mahaha. Paul threw his weight behind Sweden, who I can’t really be mean about because the singer was only 8 and he has the angst of puberty to get through. He’s no Eric Saade (2011) with his exploding glass cages though.

As it happens, one of the worst songs managed to win – Kate Bush’s stunt double caterwauling about politics – and Ukraine took the prize, meaning Russia will be hosting the Eurovision next year. Boom boom. We’ve said it every year – we should go to the next Eurovision – and the fact that it is being held in Ukraine only sweetens the deal. If it had been Russia we’d have been conflicted – on one hand, we love the idea of a night of catchy tunes surrounded by every other gay man in existence, but on the other hand I prefer not to have my teeth kicked down my throat because I’m a rampant bummer. Ah yes.

Anyway come on now, let’s get to the recipes, shall we? This is the spread.

taster night ideas

Fancy, right? On view then:

  • Bánh Mì balls with a spicy dip
  • our teeny tiny teriyaki tasters
  • sandwiches filled with syn-free egg mayonnaise and tuna and cucumber
  • sweet potato crisps with four different types of houmous
  • baked new potatoes with cheese and bacon topping

Out of sight:

  • spicy couscous balls
  • gin and tonic lollies

Three caveats that I’m going to throw in before we begin:

TWEAK

  • some of these recipes are ‘tweaks’ in the truest sense of the word – especially the crisps – and it’s up to you whether you follow the rule of synning them or not – tweaks being when you use an ingredient in a way it isn’t intended to be used, such as slicing a sweet potato to make crisps. I will mention it where appropriate. My own view (which you can find here) is that it’s better to be eating something made from a healthy ingredient than a processed packet of crisps. It boils down to this – 100g of sweet potato is around 85 calories, 100g of Walkers crisps kicks in over 550 calories. I’ll be fucked if I’m synning sweet potato crisps at the same rate as normal crisps. If you feel the need to be all frothy and leave a comment castigating me for my temerity, please save yourself the finger strain, wipe the spittle from your lips and simply don’t bother – personal choice;
  • a couple of these recipes you’ll have seen before if you’re a long-time follower, but I thought it would be handy to put them all in one place; and
  • as usual, I’ve given syn values for a normal portion and I’ll mention when it uses up a HEA/HEB. If you’re eating the entire buffet, you’ll need to think about how many HEB/HEA’s you’re using! It’ll make sense as we go along. Basically, each recipe stands on its own. Right? Right.

taster night ideas #1: sweet potato crisps with four different types of houmous:

taster night ideas

to make the sweet potato crisps, you’ll need:

  • a couple of big sweet potatoes
  • spray oil – a few squirts of Filippo Berio’s olive oil is only half a syn, and that’s all you need
  • chinese five spice

to make the sweet potato crisps, you should:

  • to make the crisps, use a microwave, it’s much easier
  • get a big old sweet potato and cut it to uniform thin slices – this is where having a mandolin slicer comes in very handy, because it’ll take no time at all to do the slices – buy one here and never look back, not least because it makes your food look great when it’s all uniform
  • arrange the slices on a plate, squirt with some spray oil, dust with chinese five spice (or indeed, any flavouring you want) and rub it in
  • microwave on full power – it usually takes about six minutes, but keep checking every couple of minutes, and once they start to look dry, turn them over
  • keep a proper eye on them mind, because they can burn easily once they dry out
  • once done, take them off the plate, set aside, and do the next batch

to make the four way houmous, you’ll need:

  • a few small tins of chickpeas
  • garlic cloves
  • fat free cottage cheese
  • a lemon or two
  • sea salt

to make the four way houmous, you should:

  • the basic houmous recipe is simple enough – for enough to fill one of those little square bowls above, you’ll want to use one small tin of cooked chick peas (syn free), a nice round tablespoon of fat free cottage cheese, a garlic clove, pinch of sea salt and some lemon juice. Blend it together, adding a little more lemon juice if you like it runny or keeping some back if you prefer it chunky. It’s up to you. You will save yourself so much time if you get yourself one of these little express choppers that Delia Smith was always going on about between tumblers of Scotch – you can find one here – it’ll make houmous in no time
  • to make the different variations, you just add a few ingredients:
    • lemon and garlic (add an extra couple of garlic gloves, a squidge more lemon juice and decorate with finely grated lemon peel) (don’t take the pith, literally, as that is very bitter – just the top layer, please)
    • basil and parmesan (10 torn basil leaves, 10g of shaved parmesan, bit of salt) – up to you if you want to syn such a tiny portion of parmesan but bearing in mind you’ll be getting what, 2.5g of it, I wouldn’t bother
    • pickled red cabbage (just a few chunks of pickled red cabbage and some of the pickling vinegar added to give it colour
    • paprika and sun-dried tomato – I chucked in 1tbsp of sundried tomato paste (1.5 syns, but again, through the laws of dilution, it’s up to you if you syn it)

Easy! Of course, if you don’t want to fart on making the crisps, just chop up some peppers, carrots and cucumber and use them instead to dip into your houmous. If you want our little serving dish, you guessed it, it’s on Amazon!

taster night ideas #2: teeny tiny teriyaki tasters:

teeny tiny teriyaki tasters

This makes enough for 36 sticky teeny tiny teriyaki tasters (fnar fnar), if you make them bigger, adjust the syns per ball. There’s 12 syns in the overall recipe.

to make teeny tiny teriyaki tasters, you’ll need:

to make teeny tiny teriyaki tasters, you should:

  • in a large bowl mix together the pork and the beef mince with the egg yolk
  • using a tablespoon, scoop out a spoon-size ball and roll into meatballs – do this for all of the mixture (you’ll need about 36 – if you want, you could weigh out each ball at around 27g each…but life’s too short)
  • heat a large pan over a medium high heat and add a couple of squirts of spray oil or, urgh, Frylight, bleurgh
  • cook the meatballs until browned all over and cooked right through – you WILL need to do them in batches
  • place cooked meatballs onto a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm whilst you cook the rest
  • when done, mix together the soy sauce, white wine, sherry, honey and ginger in a small jug and pour into the same pan you used to cook the meatballs and reduce the heat to medium
  • cook for a few minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened
  • add the meatballs back into the pan and stir carefully to coat – I find it easier to tumble the meatballs in and then pick up the pan and gently slosh them around rather than trying to stir with a spoon
  • serve on cocktail sticks and sprinkle over the seeds – don’t sweat it if you can’t find these, you could easily leave them off and that brings the syn count to 1 syn for six – even better – but they look so pretty with the seeds on

taster night ideas #3: Bánh Mì balls with a spicy dip:

taster night ideas

to make Bánh Mì balls with a spicy dip, you’ll need:

  • 500g turkey mince
  • 1 onion (grate half of it, chop the other half)
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp of sriracha, (1 syn) (you can use any old hot sauce)
  • 1 egg
  • 25g panko (4.5 syns) (or use breadcrumbs from your HEB allowance)
  • ½ cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 5 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 100g quark

to make Bánh Mì balls with a spicy dip, you should:

Full disclosure: we got this recipe from the fabulous cookingforkeeps.com – her recipe can be found here and looks equally as delicious – we’ve tweaked ours for Slimming World!

  • preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  • in a bowl, mix together the turkey mince, onion (grated and chopped), carrot, spring opnions, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, 1 tsp of sriracha, egg and the panko until combined
  • roll into 1″ size balls and place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper
  • cook in the oven for twenty minutes
  • meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together 1 tsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp sriracha and the quark to make a dipping sauce
  • slice the radishes and cucumbers as thinly as you can and skewer one of each onto a cocktail stick with the meatball

taster night ideas #4: little sandwiches:

to make little sandwiches, you’ll need:

taster night ideas

No need for a full recipe here, really. Take whatever bread you want from your HEB – we use Kingsmill Crustless Wholemeal bread, which you can have three slices of. Cut nice circles out of them, remember you eat with your eyes.

  • for the egg salad, boil up four eggs, break them up with a fork, add a tablespoon of quark, lots of black pepper, a chopped tomato and some spring onions
  • for the tuna – well, we’re old school, we just like tuna mixed with vinegar and served with cucumber. You could splash out and add a bit of Quark to bind it, I suppose…

taster night ideas #5: baked new potatoes with a cheese and bacon topping:

taster night ideas

to make baked new potatoes, you’ll need:

  • 1.5kg small salad-type potatoes
  • 100g fat-free fromage frais
  • 30g parmesan (1x HEA)
  • 4 rashers of bacon, all visible fat removed
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • chives

to make baked new potatoes, you should:

  • preheat the oven to 200 degrees (or an actifry with the paddle removed is just as good – Amazon are selling them for £125 at the moment too!)
  • prick the potatoes with a fork, spray with a little frylight and bake in the oven (or actifry) for about 45 minutes
  • grill or dry-fry the bacon until crispy and chop into small pieces
  • mix together the fromage frais, parmesan and spring onions and set aside
  • when the potatoes are cooked, leave to cool for about ten minutes
  • make a cross in the top of each potato and squeeze the bottoms to open them up
  • spoon in a little of the fromage frais mixture and top with bacon pieces and chives

taster night ideas #6: spicy couscous balls:

couscousballs

Please note: that’s an old photo, it’s actually now 4 syns for all the balls, but you’re not going to eat them all yourself anyway, surely? I’ll nip back in time and change the photo later.

Not worth making a full recipe breakdown for this, because it’s so, so easy. I use two packets of Ainsley Harriott’s spicy sensations couscous, which come in at 2 syns per pack made up with water (so don’t be adding butter, you cheeky buggers). Add the appropriate level of water (whatever it says on the pack) and leave to absorb. Fluff with a fork. Beat an egg and mix it into the couscous, then squeeze as many balls as you can out of the mixture. Pop onto a tray and stick it in the oven on 150 degrees for an hour or so – you want to ‘dry’ them out. Cooked low and slow, you’ll be laughing. For a dip, make tzatziki – greek yoghurt (I use Tesco Finest 0% fat – no syns) mixed with cucumber cut into tiny cubes and mint. Stir, chill, eat.

taster night ideas #7: gin and tonic ice lollies

taster night ideas

Again, no need for a full recipe. We mixed 25ml of gin with a glass of diet tonic, poured it into a cheapy ice-lolly mould like this £3 from Amazon and added a slice of cucumber. Between six, it’s half a syn each. Of course, it’s easy to customise this, put your pint of whisky in, add lime, add fruit, don’t add alcohol, do what you like!

OK, I hope that’s given you some inspiration. It’s certainly made my fingers ache!

Do me a favour though – share this page in as many facebook pages as you can, because taster recipes is one of the main things people need. Spread the love! Leave me your comments below!

Oh it’s worth noting, we did have a couple of drinks to get us through Eurovision, see…

taster night ideas

J

budget week: yellow ginger pickled eggs

Our carpet is down!

I can’t begin to tell you the satisfaction saying that brings me, not least because the house no longer looks like a knockoff Dignitas clinic. I’ve never known someone match their carpet to the interior of a used commode before. The carpet was fitted by a pair of carpet fitters who had clearly just finished a shift as runway models for Abercrombie and Fitch – one was so good-looking I almost told him to go outside as he was smoking inside the house. Boom. Not our type – Paul and I prefer a more rugged/lazy look, but Christ it must be nice to be blessed with natural good looks. That’s definitely not me, I’ve got a face that would make an onion cry, but eh, I get along in life.

Part of preparing the house ready for the carpet involved moving all of our furniture into the bathroom, like a game of Hoarders: Tetris Addition. I took the opportunity to get rid of the giant media unit we have which holds the TV and Sky box and all the usual technological accoutrements that litter a living room. Bear in mind that wasn’t some fag-burned bit of Formica, it was a decent, solid piece of furniture in excellent condition – well, one of the little knobs was a bit loose, but what more would you expect in our house? Overcome with a pique of philanthropy (and partly because there was no way we were going to get it into the DS3), I rang a local ‘community charity’ company who collect secondhand furniture to furnish the houses of the disadvantaged – people who’ve been smacked about or smacked up. Great cause.

They promptly turned up, ran their fingers over the wood and told me ‘it wasn’t appropriate for their clientele’. Seriously now, I’d understand if it had a giant plastic cock stuck on the side or spent condoms plastered on the underside like smutty papier-mâché, but no!

I asked him why and he wheezed out that ‘it would just sit in the shop collecting dust’. Well heaven forbid! I feel it had more to do with the fact he couldn’t be arsed to lift it. I sent him away with a flea in his ear, and, in a proper huff, took it outside and smashed it into matchsticks with a sledgehammer. I know I could have stuck it on freecycle but I find that whole business very stressful – I once put an advert in there for a Nintendo 64 to take away and I got so many illiterate emails in barely-legible English that I thought I’d been hacked by a Russian Johnny 5. The art of please and thank you are seemingly lost on those who are desperate for stuff to fill up their car-boot sale table for furniture. I did, somewhat meanly, follow that up with an advert for a spare Xbox 360 and then replied to each email who didn’t say thank you or please with a ‘you were the first to reply, but your lack of manners have cost you dear’. Oooh, what a sanctimonious arse. But I do so hate bad manners.

We once used freecycle to pick up a landline phone a few years ago – we went (on the bus, those were the days) to pick up a little answerphone machine only to find that when we got there that a) the tattooed wardrobe (who had clearly never used the phone to book a dentist appointment) who answered the door wanted twenty quid for it and b) it was so lacquered with years and years of nicotine that I didn’t dare dial a number longer than the speaking clock for fear of contracting emphysema.

Anyway, back to the carpet. It’s marvellous – the last big bit of DIY that we needed to do before we buy lots of nice things to fill the house up with. However, it’s not without problems. See, a new carpet needs a bloody good vacuum (yes it does, it’s an old myth that you don’t hoover a carpet) to get all the fluff off it. Grand, no problem, we’ve got a fancy Dyson Digital. Problem is, the Dyson Digital only lasts about six minutes on full suck (just like Paul) and needs emptying out after two minutes of vigorous vacuuming. I’d no sooner hoover one third of a room when it would turn off, needs emptying, switched back on and then beep – out of battery. You’ve never seen anyone hoover so fucking quickly – all I needed was Philip Schofield bellowing at me from behind a sheet of plexiglass and it would have felt like I was on The Cube.

But the carpet still looks lovely so it was worth it, right?

Now, because we’re pushed for time, I’m going to post a recipe for a budget snack idea – you might boke at the idea of a pickled egg, but trust me, when combined with a raft of fancy spices, you’ll be laughing. BUT THAT’S NOT BUDGET. Perhaps. But since joining Slimming World, we’ve got more jars of spices than we do individual atoms in our bodies, and I’m going to hazard a guess that you’re the same. I found this recipe ages ago and put it down in my notes, but not the actual source – so in the interest of full disclosure, this is someone else’s recipe and I thank him/her for it, but hell, it’s a pickled egg.

Three things first:

  • buy your spices at Asian supermarkets – so, so much cheaper. Even if you can’t find an Asian supermarket near you, the ‘world foods’ aisle in Tesco generally has the spices there as well as the usual spice place, so look in that aisle and SAVE’;
  • you don’t NEED a fancy ferris wheel spice rack…but if you want one like mine, you can find it on Amazon…I’ve helpfully made this sexy picture a link if you want to go find one… 51cjvcZkfpL._SX425_
  • this is an excellent way of using up eggs that are about to go on the turn; and
  • no lies – these taste and look amazing, but they’ll give you farts that could skin an elephant from half a mile away. I’ve never had a fart physically climb out of my bum before, but these were that powerful. Enjoy!

IMG_1872

This is going to sound so pretentious but fuck it. I served the eggs with shredded chicken, homegrown tomatoes and rocket and podded peas. All from the garden! I had the gardener pick only the best.

to make yellow ginger pickled eggs, you’ll need:

  • 175ml of white wine vinegar (80p in Tesco and you use half a bottle – 40p)
  • 150ml of water
  • five thin slices of ginger (remember: you should be freezing your knob of ginger, or if you will, a ‘Sheeran’ of ginger – do this and it’ll last bloody ages) – 4p
  • a tsp of sugar (any, but brown will do) (don’t use sweetener – better doing without)
  • 1 tsp of turmeric (85p in Tesco, use 5p worth)
  • 1 tsp of mustard seeds (85p in Tesco, use 5p worth)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (85p in Tesco, use 5p worth, just smash them with a rolling pin or your husband’s face if you can’t find ground)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • you’ll also need a jar (sterilise it)
  • however many spare eggs you have (I’m not counting these, but you can buy 12 for £1.75, so go mad)

To sterilise jars, the BBC say:

Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place the jars on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to dry completely. If using Kilner jars, boil the rubber seals, as dry heat damages them.

then to make yellow ginger pickled eggs, you should:

  • set your eggs away boiling – ten minutes or so normally does it, and when cooked, plunge into cold water (the eggs) and when cold, shell the buggers
  • tip all of the above into a pan and bring to the boil
  • reduce, and allow to simmer for around six minutes
  • place a couple of eggs into your jar, add a bit of the liquid, and carry on until the jar is filled up
  • you’ll need around five days for the colour and the flavour to really sink in, but these are delicious and plus, they’re eggs – they’ll fill you right up!

to gussy it up:

  • use quail eggs
  • have jeeves boil the eggs for you
  • add chilli 

to cheapen the deal:

  • you can buy a jar of pickling spices from most shops – cheaper than buying the individual spices, but you’ll get the use out of most of the above so it’s a worthwhile investment

Enjoy!

J

creamy spinach dip

Just a quick post tonight as we’re feverishly cleaning the house up ahead of yet more people arriving plus making dinner plus trying to get an early night. We’re always full of good intentions but yet somehow always end up going to bed about 1am, then chatting and screaming for a good half hour, meaning we roll out of bed in the morning looking like a bag of shite and being knackered all day. But listen here, I did manage to do something constructive today. Well, two things.

Firstly, at work, part of my job is to edit and distribute the company internal newsletter. Because I work for a totally “rad and happening” firm, it’s always full of stuff like running groups and bake sales and other such activities, most of which I get out of breath just typing out. They’ve set up a walking group at lunch where people who don’t expend enough energy during the working day can go for a walk at lunch and burn off calories running away from muggers and doing the ‘Can yuz lend uz 20p flower’ Gauntlet outside of the building. All wholesome fun. They walked through a small petting zoo or something last week and so I got to put the (paraphrased) line in of ‘We even happened across a monkey on our travels’. All fine yes? Well apparently my next sentence of ‘That’s nothing – I came across a bear in the bushes in Leazes Park‘ would not have been appropriate for wider viewing. See? I’m learning moderation. M-O-O-N that spells moderation!

The other EXCITING thing is that I’ve gone and booked another holiday – this time we’re off for a week in Corsica. The villa we’ve hired is built for six people and is high up in the forest overlooking the sea. It’s genuinely beautiful, look:

Casa_Julia_LowRes_Sept14_SH_17 (1)

 

Doesn’t the thought of my hairy arse climbing in and out of that pool just add to the luxury feel? We can’t wait, and you’ll be glad to know there will doubtless be shenanigans to write about.

Speaking of writing, today’s excerpt from my trip to America book is a long one, detailing the day we went to Epcot…remember, you can buy my book here. The recipe is below this post so keep on scrolling!


Day Four: Segway? WAAAAY! (Epcot)

I need to get something off my chest – and it isn’t the remnants of Pringles caught in my chest hair that I sometimes save for the morning after (it’s where I put the bean dip that I can’t write about). Something is very wrong with this holiday. Every morning, whilst I brush my teeth and Paul ped-eggs his feet (something to sprinkle over our nachos later), we have the news playing. Now, as you all know, American news is awash with low-budget adverts, and the last two times we have been to America there has been one advert that gets under your skin. The Bob Dance adverts. They feature some booming fat guy and the most precocious, annoying, apple-cheeked little girl (Grace) ever committed to film. I could deal with that but the advert used to sign off with Grace mooing ‘BOB DANCE WHERE EV-VA-BAH-DEE RIDES’ in some bizarre off-key manner.

Today, Epcot, land of terrifying accents, loud shirts and a surprisingly fun kids adventure. But first, Segway! As a surprise, I had booked the Segway Around The World tour a while ago, and it was something we had both been looking forward to for ages.

A quick hop on the monorail to the TTC and another to Epcot, and we were at the park in plenty of time to er…visit the restrooms, take pictures of the golf-ball and try and spot the gayest looking legends ever. Not really the most fun way to kill an hour but in no time at all, we were being greeted by our trainer, an acerbic old lady from New Jersey was who brilliant – no Disney treacle and a good sense of humour.

Now, I have to confess – the weight limit for the Segway is 250lb and I’m not entirely convinced that I’m not about twenty pounds over that limit. Being the stunt double for Lisa Riley has its downsides, you know. So, whilst she was telling us all about how to steer, I’m sitting there imagining that as soon as I step on the Segway, it was going to beep, buckle and shriek out in a Johnny-5-like voice ‘No coach parties please’. However, I needn’t have worried, as there was no such issues. Either I’ve lost weight or they set the bar a lot lower than the machine can cope with. SO – if you fancy the Segway tour but are just above the weight limit, don’t fret. I feel I should warn you that there isn’t a tray to rest your pastries on, mind.

Handling a Segway could not be easier, as the machine does most of the balancing for you. You lean forward slightly to go forward, same going back, and turn left and right by tilting slightly. You do not feel as if you’re out of control, or that you’re going to fall, and it’s genuinely safe. Unless you’re the creator of the Segway, who decided to test its flying capability. It doesn’t fly. You start off navigating around some cones and a small hill in the Innovations Centre – there are no crowds watching and the instructor makes a game of it, so there’s no pressure or worries about what you look like. Once the handling is sorted, you’re off, across the park and into the World Showcase.

For both Paul and I, this was easily the best part, getting to go around the different countries before they fill up with crowds, because, and I’m a little ashamed to admit this, the last two times we have been to Epcot we have walked around the front of the World Showcase not realising all the little streets, rides and shops behind the main buildings at the front.

We wrapped up the tour at 11am, wheeling back into Innovations and getting to do the Segway parade where you wave at slack-jawed folks on the way past. I have to confess – I felt like the Bionic Man – shame I actually looked like the gay robot from Lost in Space. As a neat touch, you receive a special pin for taking part in the tour, which I can’t wait to get home and display.

On eBay. We were also told our Just Married badges would bring a few pounds on eBay these days, which is good news. No room for sentimentality!

After the tour, we planned to take it easy, with a few rides and a leisurely walk around the WS. We managed to get Test Track out of the way, which I remain undecided on. Part of me thinks it’s a great ride with superb theming, the other part of thinks it could have been so much more, much like Soarin’. Oh, speaking of Soarin’, I got to play the big macho husband for once. We were waiting in the queue when this swarm of Portuguese visitors started to push past Paul. This is my one massive bugbear with Florida – not tour groups as such, but the fact they always play ignorant and just try and squeeze past without so much as an excuse me. Anyway, I could see there was about twenty or so behind us trying to join the four in front of us. WELL. Not having that, so I stood my ground, and pushed right past the ones who had overtaken us. Of course, the tour guide starts up saying the ones behind us are with her group and that it wouldn’t harm to let them past.

I came back with ‘Then you four can go behind us, problem solved’. She didn’t like that one bit, but given me and Paul are the size of two hot water tanks, once we had spread out there was no getting past. With a resigned look on her face, she slunk behind us, and we got to claim a small moral victory. I would like to say at this point that I’m not normally that bothered about queue-jumpers, but I get sick of the lack of bloody manners involved, plus her Kevin Webster moustache didn’t help matters. So, I’m glad I stood my ground. Let’s move on.

We decided to take in the sights of the showcase, starting in Canada. But yet, how gutting is this – having made our minds up to get some lunch, we chanced Le Cellier to see if they had any free tables, only for the couple immediately in the queue ahead of us to ask the same question. And the response – to them? ‘Oh you’re so lucky, we do have a table, and this normally never happens’. Typical. Once I had finished grinding my teeth to dust and secretly cursing the old biddies in front of us, I tried, and got a snotty no. Ah well. Couldn’t get more disappointing, no? Only, have you SEEN ‘O CANADA’, the Canadian presentation presented by Martin Short? Bloody hell. Boredom she wrote. Once Paul had brought me back to life and packed away the defibrillator, we went outside only to find our first storm of the holiday was busy emptying all over Epcot. Of course, being British, we stepped out regardless whereas the Americans scattered about as if it was acid rain. Bah! Balls to that. We noticed the Kim Possible station and decided to give it a go.

Now, I am so glad we did – it’s excellent! I think it is geared more towards children but given Paul and I are big kids at heart, we loved it. You get a tricked-out (get me) mobile phone and are sent assignments to complete, such as finding codes or smoking out a villain. For example – caution, spoilers (hello sweetie) – in the UK, you get issued a little golf-ball that rolls out of a fake telephone box which everyone else passes straight by. Pop the ball in a tankard on display in one of the gift shops, and you get told to go behind the shop, where the window floods with water. It’s extremely well done and (I imagine) a good way of getting younger kids who would otherwise be bored by the World Showcase to have a good look around.

After we ousted the United Kingdom villain, we set off to France for our next mission, but decided to catch some lunch at Chef de France. I’ve heard some snotty comments about this restaurant but the food was lovely – onion soup, quiche and gateaux for me and Paul chose a croque monsieur.  With our bellies full, we waddled all the way around the park to get to Ellen’s Energy Adventure, which Paul had been clamouring to see all day long. Well. Frankly, I would have had a better time if Ellen herself had come down and tried to turn us both straight, because I’ve genuinely laughed more at a funeral.

I should probably explain that. When one of my ancient Aunties died, bless her, her husband decided he couldn’t live without her and threw himself in the Tyne, only for his body to be caught in the water intake station down the river, which was both beautiful and tragic at the same time. Anyway, when they did the service at the crematorium, they had her coffin on the proper conveyor belt but, in an unusual touch, they had his coffin on a decorating table just in front. Now, given I have a nervous laugh, I was already on edge, and coupled with the two thoughts that a) the table might give out and send the coffin cascading down the aisle and b) the body in the Tyne getting stuck just like the pig in The Simpsons where Lisa becomes a vegetarian being shot out of the dam outlet pipe. I know it’s macabre but I’m a firm believer in laughing at death, and I burst out laughing during the prayers. I blamed it on hysteria. I know, I’m going to Hell, but the sodomy most likely made sure of that. Anyway yes – Ellen – just don’t bother. I’ve had funnier bowel movements.

Tired and emotional, we made our way back to the Polynesian. We had the Wave booked for our evening meal at the Contemporary, but couldn’t face it, so we ended the evening watching the Electrical Water Pageant (and its absolutely amazing music) bustling its way around the lagoon from the safety of our hammocks on the beach, after watching the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom from the beach. All in all, a fabulous day – loved the Segway tour, plus seeing plenty of Epcot which was new to us, and gaining a new appreciation for life after nearly dying of boredom with Ellen.

So, all together now, what’s the bottom line Grace?

AAARGH!


 

So, tonight’s recipe. I thought that due to the fact we’ve had a lot of cheesy meat dishes recently, we’d go vegetarian with one of our fond memories of the trip – spinach dip. Cheesy spinach dip, obviously. Now in America we’d be eating this with a bin-liner of Doritos and a debillirator on stand-by, not least because it’s made with cream and proper cheese. Our lighter version still tastes great and by serving it with a lot of freshly chopped veg, you’re going to really up your speed food intake.

creamy spinach dip

 

you’ll need these to make creamy spinach dip

  • 600g of frozen chopped spinach
  • 500g of 0% fat-free greek style yoghurt (syn-free – check!)
  • a vegetable stock cube
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • your HEA of parmesan cheese
  • a tin of water-chestnuts (optional, because they’re BLOODY disgusting)

then…

  • cook your frozen spinach until it’s thawed
  • drain the liquid from the pan
  • squeeze the spinach to try and get as much water out as possible
  • squeeze it again, and put some bloody effort in
  • finished squeezing? NO. Keep bloody squeezing;
  • OK, now your spinach is KEEP SQUEEZING MAN, DON’T STOP, YOU’RE SO CLOSE
  • once the spinach is bone-dry, allow to cool
  • mix in the yoghurt, chopped spring onions, water chestnuts if you like them, your cheese and stir
  • stir in some black pepper if you like and put it in the fridge for a wee bit
  • serve with chopped speed vegetables

Delicious!

J

syn-free houmous four-ways

Only a small post today as it’s mother’s day (so I need to go visit Ripley) and I’m ‘on-call’ for work, with the expectation that I’ll be expected to work into the wee hours again. Fingers crossed this doesn’t happen but it’s not as if I could just turn my phone off…

I am very lucky to have a mum (and dad) like I do. They handled my being a back-door-deirdre with sensitivity and aplomb, which aren’t words you’d immediately associate with our family. I always felt incredibly supportive and they even put up with the various boyfriends that I brought up like a cat with a dying mouse without too much commentary. They even let my ‘friend’ stay for two weeks at a time during the summer holidays. Such a memorable summer. ALTHOUGH saying that, my mum absolutely detested one of my exes, Neil, but he was a cock and she was absolutely right in retrospect. Plus, he looked like a daddy long-legs wearing Matalan slacks. Spindly little bugger. I know a few other gay lads who weren’t so lucky with their parents – I’ve mentioned on here before about the guy who, enthused about being gay since I broke him in, rushed home to tell his parents the good news only for his dad to throw him against a wall and hold a screwdriver to his throat. Good old religion! My parents came through then too – they let him stay at our house and ‘hid him away’ despite his parents turning up in the village where we lived and asking on doors if people had seen him! Crazy times. I think I’ve managed to grow up well-adjusted and happy in myself thanks to my parents and I love them very much for it.

Anyway, enough bloody treacle. In honour of dear old Mother, here’s a rare picture of me and the good lady on a night out. Don’t we look glam?

article-0-02E1BA3C000005DC-221_468x351

What a trooper. Still, better get in the car, nip to the graveyard to pick up a nice bunch of flowers for her, and be away. I can fudge away the ‘With Sympathies’ card easily enough, I’m sure.

Here’s a recipe to tide you over:

syn free slimming world houmous

to make syn-free houmous four-ways:

I love how this looks in a photo, and all four varieties of houmous taste different and fresh in their own ways. All syn free too! They’re just variations of the same basic houmous recipe, below:

  • lemon and garlic (add an extra couple of garlic gloves, a squidge more lemon juice and decorate with finely grated lemon peel) (don’t take the pith, literally, as that is very bitter – just the top layer, please)
  • basil and parmesan (10 torn basil leaves, 10g of shaved parmesan, bit of salt) – up to you if you want to syn such a tiny portion of parmesan but bearing in mind you’ll be getting what, 2.5g of it, I wouldn’t bother)
  • pickled red cabbage (just a few chunks of pickled red cabbage and some of the pickling vinegar added to give it colour)
  • paprika and sun-dried tomato – I chucked in 1tbsp of sundried tomato paste (1.5 syns, but again, through the laws of dilution, it’s up to you if you syn it)

The basic houmous recipe is simple enough – for enough to fill one of those little square bowls above, you’ll want to use one small tin of cooked chick peas (syn free), a nice round tablespoon of fat free cottage cheese, a garlic clove, pinch of sea salt and some lemon juice. Blend it together, adding a little more lemon juice if you like it runny or keeping some back if you prefer it chunky. It’s up to you.

You may remember Delia Smith banging on about these when she wasn’t pissed off her nut. They’re genuinely amazing and it’ll make just the right amount of houmous to fill one of the bowls above. I use it all the time.

BUT OH NO:

TWEAK

Before the Tweak Police are on the phone to Margaret and she’s clambering into the back of a battered Ford Transit with a sock full of batteries to take me out, FAIR WARNING. This could technically be considered a tweak on the Slimming World diet. Is it? Is it bollocks. You’re not eating more chickpeas than you could reasonably eat, and this filled us up enough to skip our evening meal, so kiss it! I’ve done a whole article on tweaking which, if you’re new to this site, you’ll probably get a right good kick out of. It’s here.

Serve with pitta chips (one WW 50/50 pittas (branded as love fibre) is a HEB – toast it and cut it up) and all sorts of superfree slices – cucumber, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes. World is your oyster.

Happy mother’s day all.

J

spiderweb eggs and Paul’s random stream of nonsense

So, we finally managed to track down an Iceland in the local area today that still had some ready meals in stock. I went to the one in Gateshead which fortunately was stocked all the way to the top, even though someone who looked like a post-menstrual imagining of Pauline Quirke was circling nearby like a stinking,shuffling Belgrano. Not a bad selection either, so I got plenty of sausages and meatballs and a few tikka masalas. In a strange coincidence, James did exactly the same thing and flounced into the Cramlington one on his way home, so now our freezer is dangerously overstocked and I daren’t open the door because it feels like I’m stuck in a hall of mirrors with Wor Margaret.

But anyway, I digress. Tonight – Tikka Masala and Rice. I’m rather looking forward to it, I don’t mind a good curry and the spicier the better. I was going to make a ‘Grecian Pizza’ – I called it Grecian because it had Feta and Olives on it and that’s all I know about Greek cuisine. It was going to be the ‘ring’ pizza you see in the Fakeaways book with a fancy salad in the middle, but could I hell get it to roll right. I tried everything but it was just wasn’t going to happen. A shame, really, because I was an absolute natural when I worked at Domino’s Pizza in my teen years (best job in the world. No, really) and could whip up a thick, thirteen incher in seconds (still can on a good day and with a good breeze behind me). But because I was in a huff I just rolled out a misshapen slab and flung it into the bin when I couldn’t get the shape right.

I absolutely love Greek cuisine, and anything Mediterranean. I’m trying hard to convince James that we need a holiday around there, just so I can vacuum up my own bodyweight in Feta. Travelling is one thing that we absolutely love doing. It’s only really been in the last few years that we’ve gone anywhere that exciting, mostly due to a lack of money or something coming along that is more important (we had to cancel a trip to Iceland to buy a new kitchen instead. Booo!) so a holiday in the sun is well overdue. I still get like a giddy schoolboy at holiday time. I’m sure James slipped me a wobbly egg or two (a la Shannon Matthews) when we went to Germany because I just couldn’t stop flapping my hands like a kid with ADHD. I always had crap holidays as a kid. We once went to Benidorm in the early 90’s which was absolutely fantastic but since then they were just dreadful. You know it’s bad when a few wet weekends at Butlin’s Skegness is a highlight.

The worse one though was to Ireland. No rolling hills, leprechauns or culture for us. Oh no. We went to stay with my then stepfather’s family in a run-down part of Downpatrick where the spirit of The Troubles was still well and truly alive. There were no fewer than eight of us crammed into a tiny two bedroomed house, and the kids were all bundled two-a-piece into three-storey bunkbeds made from pallets and chickenwire. You think I’m joking – I’m really not. The house was wall-to-wall Virgin Mary and that bloody awful picture of Jesus doing a Goatse to his chest. You know the one I mean. I was handed a rosary by an elderly woman and had no idea what to do with it, so I wore it round my neck for the whole weekend. I thought I looked fabulous, personally and never resisted an opportunity to strut around with it.

In the evenings we had to secure the house against the IRA (or was it the Police? I can’t remember what side they were on). It meant some elaborate traps had to be set by the front door in case it was kicked in. It looked like a fancy laser matrix but out of skipping rope. I got a smack across the head from someone who earlier had pissed against the bedroom wall because when I went to get some squash during the night I set off some trap that meant a radio fell into the hallway and set some picture frames cascading down the stairs like a paramilitarian game of Mouse Trap. It was all so surreal! Fortunately we never went back. I think if it had been suggested I would have seriously considered putting myself into care.

The worst part of the whole time we were there was the food – not that it was that bad, but because we were only fed once a day. ONCE. And it was at some weird time like 3pm. Not quite lunch, not quite dinner, but far too far away from what would be breakfast. A nightmare for a fatty like me. Give me waterboarding any day over that absolute horror.

And, for some reason, I came away with ABBA Gold on tape.

I’m glad to say that was a definite low point and they only ever got better since then. To be honest I don’t think I could have tolerated anything worse without doing some sort of spazz-out on the whole lot of them and that most certainly wouldn’t be pretty.

One place I’d really love to go though is the Far East. I’d love it! I love the whole culture and Western mysticism about it all. China, Japan, Singapore – I’d do all of it, and chow down every last crumb of chow mein I could find. I’d probably whinge that it wasn’t like a ‘proper Chinese’ you get from some foul-smelling grotty shop in Blyth like I’m used to. Top of the list is North Korea but the food there is shit so I might not bother unless I can get away with smuggling in a Matheson’s sausage.

TONIGHT’S RECIPE – Chinese tea eggs. No I don’t know either, but James thought they looked cool and who I am to deny my baby his pleasures? I half wondered whether I’d heard him wrong and he was going to fire them out of his bottom like a Taiwanese hooker, but no. They are pretty. He’s called them spiderweb eggs because he’s feeling deliciously random.

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to make spiderweb eggs, you should:

recipe – nice easy one this! These eggs are lovely for a snack or putting into a salad – they take on the taste of the sauce around them and so easy to do. Fill a pan with enough water to boil six eggs and a tsp of salt and boil for two minutes. Keeping the hot water to one side, plunge them into cold water for three minutes and then, when they are cold, crack them all over with a teaspoon. Don’t hit them with the spoon like a nun hitting an erect willy – you want them to crack but not shatter. Doesn’t matter if a bit of shell comes off.

Add into the hot water two black tea bags, four star anise, black pepper, salt, a cinnamon stick (or powder) and a big old glug of dark soy sauce. Pop the eggs back in once they’ve been cracked, and simmer very gently for three hours. After this, all you need to do is put the eggs, still in the sauce, in the fridge for 24 hours. Then shell and eat!

I know it sounds like a clart on but this can all be done in one pan and the effect is lovely – perfect for something different! Just like us, right?

P

mini lasagne cups

Just a quick post tonight as I’ve been out for the evening to see Ex Machina – the latest film from Danny Boyle. Decent film, very sci-fi, but with an unexpected amount of muff on show. And I’m sorry, but there’s nothing more surprising than an unexpected muff. A muff you can plan for, fine, but no-one wants to be presented with a muff when you’ve got your guard down. To be honest, I just like typing that word. Muff. Ah.

I was going to be good and be one of those bores who go out for dinner and just order lettuce leaves dressed in the tears of a fat man, with a side order of smugness, but instead we went to Nandos. Now see I don’t see the fascination with Nandos – to me, it’s KFC but with wooden furniture and hipster beards. They do pleasant enough food and all, but raving over it? No! I did make a mistake of choosing a table right near the toilets mind – I’m such a classy guy. They have those awful open back chairs too – I (and I imagine a lot of other larger framed folks share this fear) spend an inordinate amount of time worrying that my shirt had ridden up, my trousers have sank down and that the crack of my arse was busy winking at the rest of the diners in the restaurant. The last thing I want is for someone to post a business card in there thinking they’d win a half chicken and chips. BAH. Anyway, I had the caesar salad followed by an oil-drum of popcorn in the cinema later, and I don’t care – syns are there to be used, after all. Remember, I’m all about maintaining this week. So, tonight’s recipe….

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Now, some people will probably consider the above to be a ‘tweak’ – tweaking is when you use something not for its ‘original use’ – i.e. grinding up couscous into flour to make a cake. The science being that you’ll stuff your face with a whole cake which might contain 500g of couscous, whereas if you tried to sit and eat that much couscous in one go you’d go pop. Well, balls to that. In the example below, I’m using lasagne sheets or ham to create a cup, but you’d eat the same amount if you were to have lasagne. So shut your hole.

This is a ‘use up your leftovers’ recipe – this time, you’re using up any old bolognese (and you can find our recipe for bolognese with sluts spaghetti here) or chilli. Serve with a side salad or some sweet potato wedges for an easy win.

to make mini lasagne cups, you’ll need:

ingredients: your old bolognese, a few cherry tomatoes, either 12 lasagne sheets or some wafer thin ham and some light philadelphia (75g HEA) and some rocket

to make mini lasagne cups, you should:

recipe: easy! cook your lasagne sheets, cut them into squares and place one into the cup in a muffin tray, with another one rotated 45 degrees so you have a nice star. Stuff the bottom with rocket, spoon the bolognese into the middle, top with philadelphia and a tomato, and pop in the oven for 20 minutes! If you can’t be arsed fannying about with lasagne sheets, you can use ham – see the picture. Don’t cook it for so long though, ten minutes at most, or you’ll end up with a burnt rim – and no-one wants that!

extra-easy: of course – syn-free. Better if your bolognese is stuffed with superfree nonsense, but if not, have a wee salad on the side. Easy peasy.

Cheers!

J

square egg, snacks and injuries

Previous readers may recall that a few months ago, I had to go for an MRI scan on my heart. Exciting. I described it at the time like being sucked into a Polo-coloured sphincter. Well, after weeks and weeks of fitfully looking at the letterbox waiting for news, I finally got a letter from my doctor yesterday which said everything was OK, heart was beating as it should be and I had nothing to worry about, bar being too handsome for most people to deal with. Typical NHS restraint. I’ve actually (touching wood) been remarkably lucky with my health so far – found a lump in my boob a year or so ago but it turned out to be nothing exciting (I’m surprised it wasn’t an M&M, to be honest) and a couple of bouts of anxiety throughout the last few years. I don’t want to dwell on anxiety, but it’s a very funny thing – people who wouldn’t take the piss out of you if you had a broken leg or lost the sight on one eye feel quite chipper making snide comments about anxiety behind your back. I don’t see a mental illness as less important than a physical one, but the world has a long way to go before that status is reconciled.

Ah well.

The only injuries I’ve ever had of note both have typically me causes – I’ve got a scar on my forehead from a killing curse launched at me by the greatest Dark Wizard who ever lived cartwheeling into the side of a door. I remember going downstairs (the cartwheel having been done in my bedroom, which was surprising because it remains the only bedroom I’ve ever been in where I had to back out onto the landing to turn around) with a cartoon egg-shaped lump on my head only for my mum to hoy a big bag of peas on it and sat me down in front of Countdown until I stopped trying to make an 18 letter conundrum. The second time I tore my lip open and bent (but didn’t break) (I don’t think) my nose to the left by using my face as an impromptu braking device on my bike – forgot that my brakes didn’t work as I thundered down a hill the only way a fat lad on an old bike can, hit the front brakes, bike stopped immediately and I sailed through the air like a clay pigeon. Only I landed on my face. This time, I think I was knocked out, as my only memory is my sister running home to get my mother who took me home, wrapped a tea-towel from the side in the kitchen around my face (I can still taste I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and strawberry jam if I lick the scar) and left it to sort itself out. I’ve got a big scar on my bottom lip which I can see if I push my lips flat against my teeth, but other than that I’m fine. Actually, reading all this back, it makes it sounds as though I grew up in Mr Bumble’s workhouse, but that’s far from the truth. My mum just didn’t want the nurses to question all the other bruises and marks on my body.

And that’s a joke too, before anyone tries to respectively put us on the register. I always received medical aid where necessary and my parents were – and are – very loving!

Speaking of very loving, how about this for an evening meal? Up here in Geordieland, we call an evening meal made up of lots of different little things (normally sandwiches, cakes, pork pies etc) a tea-tea, but I know there’s lots of others. Paul informs me he used to call it a picnic tea but I find that hard to believe because it conjures up a charming spread served on gingham tableclothes and bone china, whereas I know from his many tales that he never tasted food that didn’t have 4% Lambert and Butler ash in it until he moved up here.

snacks on slimming world

Like yesterday, with this being more of an ensemble dish, there’s little point in doing a recipe, so instead let me break down the various bits:

pickled onions – you can have most pickles for nothing on SW, so fill up – and try sauerkraut, it’s bloody delicious, although too much pickled cabbage will leave you with veritable knicker-stainers later. Open a window.

tomatoes – buy a variety to add colour and keep them out of the fridge – they’ll taste so much nicer.

pitta chips – you’re allowed one wholemeal pitta as a healthy extra – toast one, cut it up and serve with…

…sweet potato houmous – blend one large cooked sweet potato with four tablespoons of fat free yoghurt, one garlic clove, two tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and a 200g tin of chickpeas. Don’t blend it too smooth, it’s better with a few chunks. Just like the best of us.

roast potatoes – cut up some new potatoes, put them in the Actifry with an Oxo cube to cover them. Delicious.

pastrami wraps – make a sauce of four finely chopped gherkins, four tablespoons of fat free fromage frais and half a teaspoon of mustard powder. Smear onto a slice of pastrami, stuff it full of rocket and roll it up.

chicken wraps – nowt more fancy than a gherkin wrapped up in a slice of chicken!

square egg – they taste so much better than a normal egg but I’ve heard it makes the chicken walk funny. WELCOME TO MY WORLD, COCK.

A perfect picky dinner. Now off to watch Before I Go To Sleep with Fattychops. 100th post coming soon!

I used this little gadget to make my egg cube, by the way!

J