spicy carrot coconut soup – instant-pot or hob!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

spicy carrot coconut soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Enjoy!

J

cooling summer gazpacho – full of goodness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

to make gazpacho, you’ll need:

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

to adorn the top:

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

to make gazpacho, you should:

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

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

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

lunchsmallvegetariansmall    slowcookersmalltastersmallsoupsmall

J

pea and coconut soup: a perfect Slimming World lunch

Here for the pea and coconut soup? At least you’re not going to have to battle through paragraphs of my tut tonight, because it’s a quick post! Well, fairly quick. If the thought of pea and coconut soup makes you feel a bit unsettled, don’t worry: I felt the same, but this was one of the best soups I’ve ever tasted. But first…

Funny how a smell can take you back, isn’t it?

I only mention it because Paul bought some Citrus Fresh Head and Shoulders at Costco (so we’ve got enough shampoo now to see us through three nuclear winters – and I remind you, neither of us have hair) and the smell alone transported me back to a summer fifteen years ago. I was holidaying in Montreuil-sur-Mer with a good friend. It was boiling hot and I was having to shower in a shower block that looked like the origin site for whatever plague happened in The Walking Dead. You had to chew your way through the flies to get to the showers. Anyway, I happened across a shampoo in a Carrefour somewhere and never looked back.

You need to remember this was in the days when I had long, flowing black hair all the way down to the small of my back – it used to smell of farts, no-one understanding me and shit weed, though I always kept it in remarkable condition. This stuff was a bloody revelation – I came waltzing out of that shower block a new man. You know in the Herbal Essences advert when some liver-lipped strumpet fair creams her knickers when she washes her locks? Imagine that, but with Meat Loaf’s stunt double instead.

Anyway, having just washed my beard with it, it’s like I’d been transported back fifteen years back to that shower block. I could feel the verrucas forming on my feet like barnacles, my bowels rumbling with mild gastroenteritis. Ah, to be young again. I have the same smell-trip experience with Calvin Klein’s Crave, which reminds me of time spent in London with an ex, trying not to bring my Iceland ready meal up as his unwashed mother talked dirty down the phone to a punter. She was a sex-chat operator: thank God they were phoning, because if they’d seen her sitting there with a litre of Iceland Choc-Chip wedged in between her boobs clipping her toenails and talking about her fanny being ‘hot’, they’d sharp have lost their lob-on.

Ah, memories. Aside from that, it’s been a terribly uneventful weekend: we’ve had a joiner around building things, we’ve had the gardener around to trim the bushes and we’ve had an electrician in to fit another kitchen light. It’s been exhausting watching people work.

That said, I did manage to embarrass myself at Costco. See, we’re a big fan of Avex water bottles – they’re the only ones we’ve had that don’t leak – but we’ve managed to lose six of them. So, of course, we went to Costco to bulk-buy a new set. However: disaster!

When we got there we discovered that they’ve changed the design to include a weird rubber nipple to drink from. Awful. How did I embarrass myself? Because I loudly told Paul that ‘I didn’t want those ones, they’ve got a nip on’ just as the two Asian ladies who were handling and admiring them turned to look at me with complete disgust. I tried to explain what I meant but in the absence of the original bottles to show as comparison, what could I do? I dug myself a hole trying to apologise despite there being absolutely no racist intent behind my comment before Paul dragged me away and into the freezer section to cool down. Good lord.

Oh, as a final note, we managed to spend £270 in Costco. We went to buy water bottles. As a tight-arse Geordie this upsets me to no end, although we do now have 192 tins of Branston Beans, enough dishwasher tablets to dissolve a body on eco-boost mood, more tea than the SS Agamemnon and, inexplicably, an entire collection of Thomas the Tank Engine books. We can’t help it, it’s Costco, they have a way of making you think that actually you DO need to buy 96 toilet rolls at once, and it gets us every time.

Anyway, this was only supposed to be a quick post because I wanted to get this recipe up here – it’s absolutely bloody amazing. Considering it takes no time at all to make, it tastes divine and is very good for you. We got the recipe from Anna Jones’ new book, A Modern Way To Cook, which has been a bit of a revelation – veggie recipes you’d actually want to eat. Paul almost made me put it on the bonfire outside when he saw how insufferably smug a lot of the writing is, but the recipes themselves? Tip-top. I’d recommend: buy it here. This soup really does take no time at all. Let’s do this. This makes enough for four big bowls of soup. Oh: and it freezes, so perfect for portioning up.

to make pea and coconut soup, you’ll need:

  • a bunch of spring onions
  • 1kg of frozen peas
  • one decent veggie stock cube, or if you’re fancy like us, you’ll use bouillon powder – made into 850ml of stock
  • a good bunch of basil, coriander or both – and we used dry because we didn’t have fresh basil in – 1tsp of each
  • a lemon
  • 200ml of Blue Dragon coconut milk (7 syns)

to make pea and coconut soup, you should:

  • get a good heavy-bottomed pan (heavy-bottomed pans will spread the heat better but won’t allow things to catch) (and fat bottomed girls you make the rocking world go round!)
  • slice up your spring onions nice and fine
  • put the coconut (every fucking time I type coconut I type cocknut – god, that would be interesting as a soup ingredient, no?) milk into the pan on a medium heat and then tip the spring onion in
  • cook for a couple of minutes until the onion has softened a bit
  • tip in the 1kg of peas, add the stock and bring to the boil – then allow it to simmer for three minutes or so then remove from the heat
  • chuck in all your herbs and the juice of your lemon and then blend the bugger with a stick blender
  • serve up, adding a few fresh leaves on top, some black pepper and if you’re super fancy like us, a drop or two of basil oil, but that’s just being decadent

Enjoy! This falls between 1.5 syns and 2 syns – it’s seven syns overall and I’m not going to count that extra quarter syn per serving. If you want to, do it, but haway. Also, if you haven’t got a stick blender, don’t worry – get one, but don’t spend a lot of money on it. We’ve got a cheapy stick blender and it does the job perfectly. Only a tenner on Amazon, see?

I hope someone makes this and enjoys it – it’s a bloody revelation in our house! Paul made a joke about The Exorcist as I brought it in (it’s famously barfed up by little Linda Blair as she’s possessed by the Devil) and I think it’s worth mentioning, we can’t be held responsible if you summon the Devil in and/or start playing ‘Hide the Crucifix’. Fair warning.

More recipes? Of course. Click the buttons below!

soupsmallvegetariansmall   snackssmall dessertsmalltastersmall

J

hot and sour slimming soup – don’t be put off by the title!

Hot and sour slimming soup? But of course! However, I demand your attention for a minute more.

I mentioned previously about a family situation that was taking up our time – my uncle died yesterday after a long, brave fight with various issues. Now, I’m not mentioning that because I want people to send me messages wishing me well or that they’re thinking of me, which is sweet, but death is death, it comes to us all, and I’m dealing with it in my own way.

It’s been on the cards for a couple of years – we’ve had that many premature dashes to the hospital as ‘he won’t last an hour’ that I’ve actually been half-tempted to throw a blue light on top of the Smart Car and pick up patients on the way. Actually, the Smart Car would make for a shit ambulance, wouldn’t it? Unless it was a dwarf needing a corn plaster we’d be buggered.

No, the reason I mention it is because, like I’ve said so many times before, I wanted to praise the NHS. Every single person – with no exceptions – that I have dealt with (and I know the same goes for my mother) at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary has been an absolute delight. Cleaners full of smiles and chatter at 2am in the morning, nurses rushed off their feet but never too busy for a smile, doctors making sure that the terminally ill shuffle off with comfort and compassion. For the last two weeks my uncle has been in the Critical Care or High Dependency Unit fighting for his life and not once has anyone shown us anything less than courtesy and good humour as we visited. Even my black-as-pitch jokes about nipping shut his oxygen tube to save the NHS’s strained budget were met with laughter, rather than cold looks and being asked to step outside by a stern consultant.

We are so, so, so lucky to have an NHS, and we’re luckier still that the folks serving the public – from the very top of the ladder to the very bottom – have their hearts open and pure dedication running through. They were tremendous when my nana died and they’ve been wonderful this time around as well. More praise is needed. And more money. Lots more money. To the folks that make the difference.

One day last week Paul and I were in that hospital on ‘dead alert’ (as it were) from 10am to 4am the next day. Let me tell you, that’s more than enough time to think about things. Hell, we spent long enough in the little room where they sit the relatives in case of ‘bad news’ that I can recreate it wholly in my head. You know when Sherlock Holmes (modern) visits his mind palace? I’m like that now, only with more leaflets about pressure sores and Alzheimers fluttering across my vision. That’s perhaps one thing they could improve – the waiting room has those awful pleather sofas that invariably make a big sucking farting noise when you hoist yourself up and everything is painted that slightly diseased yellow so favoured of the old NHS – weirdly, it’s the colour of the white ceiling immediately above Paul’s mother’s favourite chair. The ‘nicotine lacquer’ effect, I believe.

It was a very sad room made worse by the fact that we were joined, for what was the longest hour of my entire life, by a chap who just wouldn’t shut the fuck up. He entered the room just as I had laid down on the sofa to try and fall asleep on Paul’s lap (what can I say: I find the smell of chaffed thighs and knobs soporific). He exclaimed loudly and backed out the door, clearly thinking he’d interrupted me mid-blowjob. Because, yes, who doesn’t get aroused in the ‘is he dead yet’ room? Nothing gets me more rigid than posters urging me to think F-A-S-T in case of stroke. Anyway, once he was sure that we weren’t indulging in some grief-based fellatio, he took a seat. And that was very much that: no further chance of sleep.

I heard about his maladies, I heard about his travel to the hospital, I heard what was wrong with the NHS, I heard about his taxi driver friend who had just had a heart attack, I heard about the price of fuel and I can faithfully recount details of the last seventeen passengers he had picked up in his taxi. He didn’t pick up on my social cues – my polite but firm nodding, my glazed eyes, the fact that I’d stuffed my ears with pages from a 1997 copy of Take a Break from the reading rack. I did have a titter at someone’s answer to the arrow-word – (NAUTICAL TRANSPORT (9) was answered as M-O-T-E-R-B-I-K-E) – I rather thought it had to be one of my nana’s old issues where instead of thinking things through she’d just jam any old word in as long as it had roughly the right amount of letters. Even, sometimes, when it didn’t: MURDERERER was a favourite of mine. Anyway, sensing this chap was one of those dear fellows who could talk underweater if he had to, we moved downstairs.

A&E at 1am in the morning is an interesting place, isn’t it? A waiting time of four hours and I reckon 70% of the people waiting were smashed out of their face. Lots of bloodied noses, black eyes, bust lips. How I pity folk having to deal with all that dross. I can’t bear being around drunk people when I’m sober, I’d be Harold Shipman-ing the lot of them before anyone could say ‘check for an air bubble’. We spent the rest of the evening drinking piss-poor tea and staring moodily at our phones. I played Super Mario Run until my already boss-eyes went awry. A very long night.

Ah well, it’s all over now. Like I said, no need for sympathy, we’re fine, it’s very sad but nowt that can be done. Life goes on. Well, mostly.

Right, let’s get to the hot and sour slimming soup. Why slimming? Dunno. Something to do with the vinegar! Can I make a plea with you? Don’t be put off by the appearance of this dish – give it a go, it’s a really tasty, quick soup full of nutrients and taste. This makes enough for four full bowls so although technically it should be 0.75 syns, you can bugger off if you think I’m including the quarter syn. Half syn per portion!

hot and sour slimming soup

to make hot and sour slimming soup, you need:

  • 6 shittake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 60g bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks (that’s half of a small tuna-sized tin, drained)
  • 2 pork chops, all visible fat removed
  • 100g firm tofu, cut into matchsticks
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 4 tbsp white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp cornflour, mixed with 4 tbsp water (3 syns)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 spring onion, chopped

to make hot and sour slimming soup, you simply must:

  • chop the pork chops into small strips about half an inch long, and quarter of an inch thick, and set aside
  • in a large saucepan, bring 1.2 litres of water to the boil, crumble in the stock cube and stir until dissolved, and then add the soy sauce
  • add the bamboo shoots, mushrooms and pork to the pan, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about three minutes
  • add the tofu, pepper and vinegar to the pan and bring to the boil again
  • stir in the cornflour mixture and keep stirring until the soup has thickened a bit
  • turn off the heat and pour in the beaten egg, stirring gently but continuously so it doesn’t scramble into one big manky lump
  • pour into bowls, sprinkle on some spring onions and eat!

Looking for more soup ideas? More ideas on meat? Things to do with tofu – well, you’re shit out of luck, it’s the first time we’ve used it. Even so, click the buttons below!

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Enjoy!

golden lentil and barley soup – look, I tried, OK?

I don’t think I’ve ever put a less appetising picture up on this blog (actually, that’s a fib, remember the time we accidentally uploaded a giant pulsing sphincter? No? Click here for that, it’ll open in a new window) than this golden lentil and barley soup. It looks like someone has already taken a stab and eating it and then chucked it back up for someone else to have a go with. But see, we do like to support our vegan members, with their milk-white skin and gunshot eyes, and this looked so appetising on the blog where I took the recipe from. Usually I take a recipe and adopt it for Slimming World myself but this required no changes so full credit and awe go to yupitsvegan. I’m sorry that I turned your delicious looking golden lentil and barley soup into a pile of tramp’s truffles.

Anyway, just a short entry tonight because it’s our anniversary. We’ve now been married six years. We both thought it was five as it happens and were shocked when Facebook’s lookback feature showed us both relaxing in the double bath six years ago. I mean, where does the time go? In May it’ll be our proper anniversary from when we started, how can I put this delicately…fucking, and that’ll be ten years. Ten years and we’re still dead romantic – only the other morning Paul murmured lightly, as I cuddled him, that I was ‘like a George Foreman grill’ – I keep him lovely and warm. D’aww. I recounted this whimsical tale of love into our facebook group only for someone to say ‘Is it not because you drip when he puts his meat in?’. Brrrr. Although it made me laugh, it does show a lack of understanding of the general mechanics of our shenanigans. Mind the romance doesn’t just flow one way, you know, look at the heartwarming notes I leave in his lunchbox (and I apologise for the naughty word, it’s rarely used on here):

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If that offends you, it shouldn’t, it definitely says fat aunt. Promise. *cough*

Now, rather than leave you unsatisfied and wanting more, I’m going to put the very first entry from our honeymoon book on here – it deals with our wedding day! The glitz. My writing style has changed somewhat since then but hopefully you’ll still get a taste of us…


Way back in 2009, also at Disney, I proposed to my stout little barrel of a man and he gleefully accepted. I think it was the fact we were in the middle of a lake and I’d be watching an awful lot of Dead Calm recently that hastened his positive reply. We got honked at by a passing Disney ferry whose inhabitants thought I was down on my knees doing something other than proposing. The nerve. I mean, it wasn’t Christmas! Zip forward to 3 January 2011 and the day before our wedding. Well, the glamour started right from the off with one of the cats deciding to do a dirty protest in the car whilst we ferried him over to my sister to look after. You’ve never seen someone wind a window down quicker than us that day, and because the cat is fearless and would have jumped, he stayed in his messy box all the way to my sisters. It was with tears in our eyes (and Vicks under our nose) to see our pooey little furball depart, but there you have it.

We spent the evening before the wedding in our first treat, a room at the Hotel du Vin in Newcastle. You may think Newcastle is purely the land of bust noses, bare flesh and broken hymens, but we’re more than capable of bringing the class, and this is one of the nicest hotels in the area. I mean, it has a cigar bar attached, for heaven’s sake. Our very first surprise of the honeymoon? We were upgraded to the best suite in the hotel, the Dom Pérignon suite. It was bloody beautiful. It’s the honeymoon suite and I was overjoyed, especially as I had only paid £68 for the room through my shrewd discount plans. A massive thank you to the staff of the beautiful Hotel du Vin, that’s for sure. The room had two bathtubs in the living room, and I think we were in the room for a grand total of two minutes before they were full of bubbles and we were laid in them watching Deal or no Deal on the giant TV and feeling like kings. The bed was wonderful too – it felt like it was 9ft wide – I could lie in it, stretch myself out and STILL not touch the sides. Sometimes I wonder why Paul married me.

There was NO late-night prodding awake with a bed this big.

After a meal on the Quayside and a romantic stroll back to our room, we settled down to sleep – our last night as bachelors! Here’s a sweet fact for you – in all the time we’ve been together, we’ve never had a night apart. A good start to the marriage methinks! And so…to the wedding!

We had decided a couple of months previously not to have a big do at all, and just a small registry office affair followed by a good dinner. I wish I could say it was for any other reason than the fact we’re both terribly selfish and Northern and thus the idea of spending money to facilitate other people having a good time appals us. Plus, I wanted to avoid the horrid old clichés of a civil partnership. Bah! I’m not casting aspersions on anyone else’s wedding but it suited us to have a small, tidy, manly do. So we did. Well, we did toy with the idea of dressing up like the sisters from Shakespear’s Sister’ Stay video but we were talked out of it. We became Husband and Husband in Newcastle Registry Office, presided over by an official who was the spit of Annie Lennox, and watched over by our immediate family and good friends.

The deed is done! Don’t you think the Argos CD player really sets off the room? 

As an aside, my gran was there, and she’s brilliant – despite being 87, she’s thoroughly accepting of our relationship and is always asking after Paul when I call up. I mean, there are limits to her acceptance – I didn’t dare explain what fisting was when she asked me one day after seeing the word on my phone (I might add, someone had texted it in a joke to me, I’m not that FILTHY). It still felt a little bit too formal for me, as I’m not used to someone addressing a suit-clad Paul without adding ‘the defendant’ afterwards. We decamped to SIX, the faffy little restaurant on top of the Baltic. It’s very posh. NOW, we’re not a posh lot, and class McCains as a ‘fancy potato style’ but you have to let your hair down once and a while, even if (as is the case in all the males at the table) you don’t have any.

So, a suitably lovely meal was had, only enhanced by the snotty waiter looking down his nose at us and rolling his eyes when I ordered a couple of bottles of reasonably-priced champagne. Well, reasonably priced for them – paying £65 for a bottle of fizzy cat pee gave me such a cold sweat that I had to excuse myself to the bathroom to calm my shakes. My nana, bless her, didn’t really fancy anything on the menu (I can’t blame her, I’ve never heard two bits of chard, a sliced tomato and a bloody drizzle of balsamic vinegar described as a French Salad before) but they were very good and cooked her up her own individual meal. I stopped short of asking them to put a glass of Banana Complan on ice, though.

After the meal, we went to the pub for an hour, then everyone dearly departed, and our honeymoon officially started. Yes! Back to the flat to really put the bed through its paces by er…putting the suitcases on it and tipping our wardrobe into them. I have to say, it wasn’t the first type of packing that I had planned for the wedding night. We slept, butterflies in our stomach (SIX would call them an amuse bouché) and in no time at all, we were in a taxi being bellowed at by a rather brusque taxi driver who wanted to know the far end of a fart and when it came from. Honestly. I spent the entire trip to the train station trying surreptiously to take a photo of his face on my phone so I would be able to identify who had burgled our house when we were away. Thankfully, that didn’t arise.

Straight onto the train, into the first class carriage (where you too can travel in style with an extra doily and a few crappy biscuits) and we were disappearing over the Queen Elizabeth bridge, saying goodbye to Newcastle from the bridge. Now here’s a tip for you. If you’re coming into Newcastle (or indeed leaving) from the South on the train, don’t look slackjawed to the right and admire all the bridges, but instead, look on the other side of the river, up the Tyne. As you cross the bridge, there’s a little wasteground, and it’s always full of men out ‘badger-hunting’. Yep – whereas most people are taken by the beauty of the moment, Paul and I spent the first minute of our honeymoon journey playing ‘Count the Cruiser’. What larks!

In no time at all, we were in London, our seedy capital. Kings Cross is lovely, yes, but in no time at all we had tubed our way to Victoria and onto the Gatwick Express, heading for the giddy heights of the Gatwick Hilton. What a place! After spending seven years navigating to the hotel from the train station (seriously, we spent so much time walking there that I almost gave up and set up base for the night), we were checked in by a clearly-couldn’t-care-less-customer-divvy and in our room. Grim. I’m not a hotel snob but after spending the night in the Hotel du Vin only two nights ago, the Hilton’s tired brown sheets and tiny bathroom didn’t exactly enamour the soul. After spending only a moment admiring the view (car-parks are just SO fantastic to gaze at), we trekked back to the airport and checked in super-early (is it still Twilight Check-in if it is during the day?) with Virgin Atlantic. We had pre-booked our seats in the bubble but no sooner had we dumped our bags than the lady behind the counter told us we had been moved. Argh! I was too busy trying to work out the best way to hide her body to take in what she was saying, but – hooray for thedibb – when I was back at the hotel I checked online and we were RIGHT at the front of the bubble. Get in! Not only do I get to look down at the cattle-class, but I was going to be on first-name terms with the pilot. OK, maybe not THAT close. And we don’t look down our noses at anyone…well…not much.

We spent the evening in the hotel, watching a home movie entitled ‘Britain’s Fattest Man’ starring Timothy Spall. It was very good, even if we didn’t feel a shred of shame stuffing a pork-pie into our gob the very moment he had his fat chopped off. A good nights sleep was had, and we were ready for day 1.


God, I’m absolutely itching to rewrite that, you know. Not least because it refers to my nana in the present tense instead of the past and I’m fairly sure she’s still Voldermort-ed. However, if you’re a glutton for punishment and you like sentences that never end and punctuation used like confetti, you can buy the rest of the honeymoon book right here.

Right, let’s deal with this delicious looking dinner, shall we? Mmmm! Get ready to gag! No I’m kidding, it looks like slop, but honestly, it tastes bloody lovely! Please don’t be put off!

golden lentil and barley soup

Look, to make up for that picture, here’s some similarly coloured cats:

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Why can’t we have a cat like that one in the middle? Why must we have one that licks his knob all day and another who scrapes her minnie-moo on the floor? For fucks sake.

to make golden lentil and barley soup, you’ll need:

  • a few sprays of olive oil – frylight if you must, but just don’t do it to yourself
  • one large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic or a reet good sprinkling of the powdered stuff
  • a fiddler’s thumb of fresh ginger (about an inch) (or powdered, about half a teaspoonful)
  • as above, but with fresh turmeric – can’t get fresh turmeric? Don’t shit the bed – just use about 1/2 teaspoon of the powdered stuff, I’ll never tell)
  • one large carrot – thinly sliced
  • pinch of cumin and the same again of coriander – don’t like your meals with cumin? Then don’t get so excited! Hello? Is this thing on? Hello? Nah, leave it out if you’re not a fan
  • 1200ml of decent vegetable stock / bouillon
  • 150g of red lentils
  • 100g or so of dry pearl barley
  • two tablespoons of tomato puree
  • salt and pepper to taste

You know what’s coming don’t you? You just know it! Buy a mincer to take care of your garlic, ginger and turmeric in no time at all. Also, chop your carrots quickly and uniform with a mandolin slicer, but for crying out loud, be careful. I’ve got fingers like snapped Matchmakers thanks to mine.

to make golden lentil and barley soup, you should:

  • chop up your onion nice and fine and then cook off in a bit of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan
  • once the onions have softened, add the minced garlic, turmeric and ginger and stir on a medium heat until everything smells lovely
  • add the coriander and cumin together with the chopped carrot and continue to cook gently until everything has softened a bit
  • add the pearl barley, lentils and stock – bring to the boil then drop it to a simmer

A quick note: take the time to wash the pearl barley more than a few times. Stick it in a sieve, get the hot water running, and rinse rinse rinse. Stops it going gloopy. Right, where were we…

  • cook uncovered for about 25 minutes until the lentils and pearl barley are cooked through – longer is fine, but you might need to top the liquid off with more stock
  • add the tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste, stir through and cook for another minute or two
  • serve – oh we added a drop of chilli sauce on the top but that’s up to you, see

If anyone asks, just reassure them that it’s hearty and delicious and syn free!

Looking for more soups? Try these!

Looking for more recipes overall? Click some buttons!

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Enjoy!

J

no fussin’ tomato soup

Watching old episodes of 999 instead of doing what I’m supposed to do tonight, and I love this classic bit of British understatement. A chap who was a passenger in a stunt plane had a calamity when, at 10,000ft, during a loop-de-loop, his chair worked loose and he FELL OUT OF THE PLANE. He survived, and the show cut to him talking to camera where he says ‘I realised something had gone wrong when I wasn’t in the plane anymore’. You think?! Jeesus. If that was me you’d have been able to spot me across three countries as my carcass, and the stream of faeces where I’d shit myself, fell to Earth.

A friend in our facebook group pointed out something today – we’ve been going for OVER A YEAR. We started this blog on September 20, 2014 – quick, go back and look at our lack of humour and earnest WE WILL LOSE WEIGHT THIS TIME prose. The first post is right here. Looking at the blog stats, we’ve published 250 posts and I’ve had over 2,000,000 views – that’s averaging over 5,000 views a day, and recently, it’s been sitting around the 7,000 – 8,000 mark. We’ve got twenty two thousand followers on Facebook, 7,000 or so in our group and over 3,800 folks who have actually signed up to let me enter their inbox on a daily basis. If the average post is around 1,000 words which is what I am for, that means I’ve sat here and typed out 250,000 or so words about us two fat buggers who don’t really do anything at all. 

To me, that is absolute fucking insanity. I’ll tell you why. 

We never see anything through. Our house is a shrine to unfinished projects, passing interests and enthusiastic but ultimately pointless endeavours which have bubbled away to nothing – for example, we have:

  • a £200 GPS receiver which we bought to go geocaching and then put in a drawer when we realised we didn’t have the batteries for it – never been used;
  • ten disco caches – essentially kooky little containers that we were going to hide all over Newcastle…and didn’t;
  • a second computer which we bought to help us enter competitions faster when we were going through our comping phase;
  • a £450 stand mixer when I was going through my ‘baking’ phase (although to be fair, I’d love to bake, it just makes me too fat);
  • two wonderful pairs of walking boots which still have the tags on;
  • see above, but with wellies;
  • see above, but with trainers, gym kit, a gym bag;
  • a scrapbook which contains two Metro tickets and a receipt for M&Ms;
  • a year long contract with David Lloyd which we used for a month – though in our defence we quickly grew tired of pipe-cleaner men strutting around the place looking at themselves in the mirror;
  • a pair of brand new bikes;
  • jigsaws, after Paul saw a nice one in a dentist’s reception and thought he’d give it a go;
  • a full suite of decent DIY equipment, which we studiously ignore…

…and so on. We started the blog with the aim of rattling off a few recipes and giving me an outlet to practice my writing (I used to have another blog about health anxiety called shake, rattle and droll, a title I was so proud of it was almost a shame to cast off my health anxiety and thus stop using it), and here we are a year later with over 200 recipes and lovely folk all around the UK, and indeed outside the UK, sending us lovely messages and reading about Paul’s helmet on facebook. It’s a mad world. 

Anyway, the reason for all this babble is just to say – thank you. Seriously. I’d write and chuckle away to myself even if no bugger in the world read what I wrote but the fact that so many do really cheers my butter-filled heart. I might come across as a brassy, bolshy, confident tart on here but I’m actually quite shy. Put me in a lift with strangers and I’d prefer to stick my finger in the exposed wiring than make ‘polite conversation’. So each comment, each like, each share, each thank you – that makes it worthwhile. OH GOD I’M WELLING UP.

to make syn-free tomato soup:

  • as many ripe and squishy tomatoes as you can get – go to a market at the end of the day and you can pick up crates of the buggers for next to nowt;
  • one strong onion;
  • one small potato;
  • two cloves of garlic

And that’s it! All you need to do is to slice the onion, fry it in a little oil, add the cubed potato and grated garlic and then chop up all the tomatoes and throw them in a pan. You don’t need to add stock, the tomatoes will have enough liquid in (if they are ripe) to make a soup – and leave to cook low and slow for as long as you can. Better it takes four hours on a low heat than one hour on a hot ring. Haha, ring. Just keep an eye on it. When it comes to serving, just blend it with a stick blender and if you’re boring or you don’t like your poo to look like a sesame bun, sieve it to get rid of the seeds and skin. By adding nothing but simple things, it tastes so much nicer. 

Enjoy! Tomorrow (hopefully) I’ll type up more Corsica shenanigans, though as I say that a little alarm is ringing to suggest there’s something I’m supposed to be doing tomorrow night too. Hmm.

J

cabbage, sausage and kidney bean soup

Can we get something right straight off the bat? Man-buns. There’s a simple test – if you are male, and you’ve tied up your locks like some weird hairy sphincter on top of your head, you’re a cock. And not a nice cock, mind – we’re talking a fishy old schlong. In fact no – if you had a sphincter in the middle of your head, that would actually make you an arse. I can’t bear it. It doesn’t so much as make my skin crawl as force it inside-out through cringing. Back when I had long hair, the only ‘style’ I succumbed to was brushing it, and that was only when I felt there might be a boiled sweet in amongst the tangles. There’s an advert on TV now for Trivago which ends with a supposedly-dreamy shot of a woman asleep in a man’s arms as he carries her down a hotel corridor to bed. He wouldn’t be bad looking, but because of the man bun, you know that night is going to end with her face-down on a pillow and him accidentally calling her Patrick at the height of climax. There’s no masculinity, no ruggedness – a weak, effete affectation which should only end up one way – in an acid bath. Too far? I say not far enough!

Tonight’s been a bit of a wash-out – I was originally supposed to be out for dinner with work colleagues to say goodbye, good luck and thanks for all the laughs to one of the partners I work for, but thanks to the incompetence of Northumberland Council and their inability to fit a bloody toilet correctly that didn’t happen, as I was summoned to my gran’s house. Water was leaking through the ceiling again where they incorrectly fitted the toilet. Well they didn’t fit the toilet on the ceiling, obviously. Anyway, it turns out it had been leaking since Wednesday and she had been patiently waiting for the council to come out, completely unable to use her upstairs loo, and having to totter down the stairs and to the outside loo (it’s a really old house, we’re not that Northern) every time she needed a tinkle in the dead of night. I mean for fucks sake, she’s a very slow mover – she can go upstairs with a fiver in her purse and by the time she’s made it back downstairs it’s only worth £4.50. So this was a crap situation, and after my sister and I spent a bit of time bellowing at the council, they remedied it. Bloody ridiculous. I had an image in my head of her sat on the outside toilet, Puzzler in hand, frozen in time like Jack Torrance at the end of The Shining. Thankfully that didn’t happen, although…

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Haha. We did get to spend some more time with my sister and lovely nephew though. I stand by everything I said earlier about children being red-faced poo-factories with all the charm of an ingrown toenail, but my nephew is the exception to prove the rule. Although, that said, the first thing he did when he heard we were on the way was immediately void his bowels – but then Paul does the same thing when I tell him we’re out of Muller Lights so isn’t life a rich tapestry.

Paul and I were chatting away in bed last night before sleep, discussing what we could do with the blog next. Our next idea that we’re going to build into the recipes is to have one recipe a week from a European country. Easy to begin with – we have Armenia first on the randomised list, but Kosovo is the third. Going to be a steep learning curve but well, our Slimming World journey is all about new flavours and learning to cook – so look forward to that!

Tonight’s recipe doesn’t look all that. In fact, if I’m being searingly honest, it sorta looks like something you might happen across in the pan of a public toilet after a heavy night. I know. But it tasted really good, and it’s our soup of the week – cabbage, kidney bean and sausage broth!

Mmm. How inviting! Look, you try making cabbage soup look appealing. If Roald fucking Dahl couldn’t manage it, I sure as hell can’t. So stop being so judgemental, sheesh.

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to make cabbage, sausage and kidney bean soup, you’ll need:

ingredients: 1.5l of chicken stock, half a big white cabbage sliced thinly (see tip below), eight grilled weight-watchers cumberland sausages (1/2 syn each) cut up into chunks, three tablespoons of tomato puree, two garlic cloves very finely grated, 1 shallot sliced, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, 1 teaspoon of celery seeds (or use fennel seeds) (or omit altogether, I’m not your keeper) and 1/2tsp of dried thyme – you’ll also need a tin of kidney beans.

tip: I bang on about this all the time, but if you’re a clumsy oaf like me in the kitchen, get yourself a decent mandolin. They’ll slice things perfectly for you, and you just need to be a bit careful not to slice off your fingertips. I bought mine for £10 from Amazon and the link is here – you’ll never look back. Honest, you’ll thank me for it. Along similar lines, I use a microplane grater for the garlic (and it can be used for parmesan too) and you can find that for less than a tenner on Amazon, here. You can do the job with a knife too, you don’t need fancy equipment for Slimming World – but they do make things easier!

to make cabbage, sausage and kidney bean soup, you should:

recipe: saute the garlic and the shallots for a few moments on a high heat – don’t burn it though. Then, tip everything in bar the sausage and beans, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add a bit of salt, your ticker can handle it. Chuck in the sausage and beans, and cook until the cabbage is soft and cooked. Done!

It’s more of a brothy soup – lots of liquid, but tastes good. If you like your soup so thick you could artex a ceiling with it, you’re out of luck – but if that’s what you like, try my super-speedy soup.

extra-easy – yes, and only one syn! Cabbage is a superfree food and a much maligned vegetable – don’t rule it out! It serves four, and the sausages are the syns – but what’s one syn between friends?

Enjoy, enjoy.

J

kale, spinach, broccoli and pesto soup

Just a very quick post tonight as I’ve spent the evening trying to find the ‘right’ tie for Paul and being on Grannywatch. Parents away so someone needs to go over and make sure she’s not face-down in her knitting, bless her.

slimming world spinach kale soup

to make low syn kale, spinach, broccoli and pesto soup, you’ll need:

ingredients: a chopped onion, one large broccoli, one medium bag of chopped kale, one medium bag of spinach, one small potato, 600ml vegetable stock made from one stock cube and a jar of reduced fat pesto

to make low syn kale, spinach, broccoli and pesto soup, you should:

recipe: it’s soup. Fry the onion, cut everything else into medium pieces, chuck into pan, simmer until soft, chuck in three tablespoons of pesto and blend. Serve!

extra-easy: completely. Reduced fat pesto is 1.5 syns per tbsp – and this recipe made three big portions, so I went for 1.5 syns a portion. You could leave it out but it does add a nice note. Otherwise, a very healthy, superfree packed soup.

That’s all folks – I’m really very tired!

J

syn free pea and ham soup

I swear to God – Old Man River put my bin back for the second time today! Why did he think I’d put it again? Does he think I’m giving him a cardio workout or something? Ah he’s so bloody nice it’s impossible to be mad but I fear that the rough-hewn men at the council will be foaming – three times now they’ve had that bin lorry backed up our street and three times the bin hasn’t been out. Oops. That’ll be them putting Bowser into the rubbish compacter tomorrow.

So, today. I was unlucky enough to be caught behind a cluster of office workers waiting to cross the road today, all puffing away on their e-cigarettes. That said, it did afford me the opportunity to mince through the strawberry-scented fog like I was coming out of the doors on Stars In Their Eyes when the light changed. I’m not keen on those e-cigarette thingies – I’m of the belief that if you want to smoke, then man up and bloody smoke – it should be Capston Full Strength tabs or bust. Admittedly it’s far nicer seeing someone misting away like a boiling kettle than it is seeing them bent double chucking their lungbutter all over the pavement but still. Plus the e-cigarettes always look so ungainly, like you’re sucking nicotine from a nosehair trimmer, and it does attract a lot of quite smug people who say they are harmless – perhaps, but society thought thalidomide was ‘armless once.

I gave up smoking two years ago using Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking (clicking takes you to his book), and it was a revelation. I was panicked thinking the cravings would be hell on Earth but I finished his book, put out my cigarette and hardly even thought about smoking again. He teaches you to examine what exactly you’re doing when you smoke, and explains why you want to keep smoking, and then breaks down each reason/excuse that you use to rationalise your smoking. It’s great – cost £6 and never looked back, and I was on a good 20 smokes a day.

Mind you, that’s not to say I’ve become one of those fervent anti-smokers who cough that tinkly little cough if someone has the temerity to light up near them. That I absolutely can’t stand, it’s such an oddly British passive action to take – either ask them to put it out or fuck off – you wouldn’t sit in a burning building sneezing at the fire, you’d take immediate action! Fair enough you might end up with a Richmond Blue smouldering in your eye-socket but you would have the comfort of not being a passive-aggressive tosser to soothe it.

Speaking of soothing, here’s the soup recipe for this week – and fuck me, look at that, I definitely need to get a trim on my worktop.

PEAHAM

to make syn free pea and ham soup, you’ll need:

ingredients: tiny drop of olive oil, or some frylight, 200g chopped bacon medallions, an onion, one leek, 2 cloves of garlic, 500g frozen peas, 700ml chicken stock, 1tsp dried thyme and salt.

to make syn free pea and ham soup, you should:

recipe: I made this in my soup-maker, but to cook in a pan is just as easy – fry the bacon and onion off so there’s a bit of colour, add the sliced leek, sweat a bit more (the onion, not you, but I understand it’s a hot kitchen). Crush the garlic and add, together with the frozen peas, chicken stock, thyme and salt. Simmer for forty minutes and blend.

extra easy: yes, easily- all those peas, you’re really cooking on gas. It’s a lovely soup on its own but I added a poached egg, a couple of tiny drops of truffle oil (syn those) (1 syn) and some chilli flakes to pep it up. Make some, have it as a starter, take the rest to work in the morning! Done!

Oh and before I forget, my mate Phillipa challenged me to use the word enunciate in my blog today.

J

tomato, fennel and feta soup

I got asked for five pounds by a tramp today.

Five pounds! Gone are the days when someone would come up to you and shakily ask for 25p because they were just shy on the metro fare home. When did it make the jump to a fiver? If it goes any higher it’ll be cheaper for me to jump in the car and nip over to Gateshead to buy the smack myself. Oooh think of the weight loss. Actually, I’d be a shite smack addict, I start shaking like a shitting dog the day before I have bloods taken. I’m not averse to giving to the homeless and unfortunate, but his sheer cheek put me right off – I didn’t even get to do my ‘pretend to pat my pockets for non-existent change’ dance, which never works anyway because I’m forever sticking all my change into one pocket so I’m jingling and jangling down the street like a friggin’ pearly queen. Plus, to cap it all off, what I thought was a little lip piercing from a distance was a howking great pus-filled sore on his upper lip which made me gag. I can’t BEAR anything like that, it really upsets me. I know that’s an incredibly superficial and shallow attitude but I don’t care who you are, everyone has a physical attribute that they can’t stand in others – mine is pus spots. I hardly think that’s irrational.

Newcastle has some great tramps as well as the usual chancers, mind. Paul and I actually managed to make an enemy out of one of Newcastle’s less fortunate citizens when we lived down on the Quayside, who we christened Rory just because that’s what he always did – roared. There was a little yellow bus which would take you into town from the Quayside and because he was mad, he used to spend all day travelling up and down along the route – it was only ten minutes long and never varied but nevertheless. He used to have eye-wateringly bad BO first thing in the morning and by the time he’d spent all day cooped up on a bus on a hot day, well, it was the only bus I knew where the driver lit a match when old Rory got off. Anyway, whenever Paul and I got on the bus, he’d roar (hence the name) TEAPOTS at us and stare at us with his googly-eyes and spittle-flecked beard. All the way into Newcastle. Occasionally blowing kisses. And we never, ever knew why – until we happened across him outside of the bus. He did his usual trick of shouting teapots, but this time bent over in his shit-crusted coat and made a spout motion with his arm and a handle motion with the other – then it clicked, he was taking the piss out of us for being gay and the teapot thing was his way of saying we were camp, like this:

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Well, we thought it was bloody hilarious. I mean honestly, I might be a friend of Dorothy but at least I can have a hot bath of the evening. Sadly, we moved away and we only see him now and again, although he still gives us the old swivel-eye if it clicks who we are.

Anyway, speaking of ripe old fruits, here’s tonight’s recipe – tomato, fennel and feta soup. Enjoy!

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to make tomato, fennel and feta soup, you’ll need:

Oh – you might be wondering where the old comic strip style recipes are. They’ll be coming back, but I’m a bit pushed for time in the evening at the moment and I’d sooner spend it writing rather than fussing about with layouts. I’ll use them when the recipe is more complicated…this one isn’t, so here goes.

ingredients: one bulb of fennel, reasonably large, one medium red onion, a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes (400g), a small potato, white wine vinegar (tablespoon), garlic clove chopped up, tomato puree. 50g of feta.

to make tomato, fennel and feta soup, you should:

recipe: cut your tomatoes in half and pack them together, cut side up, in a tray – drop a bit of salt on there and stick them in the oven to roast for forty minutes on a lowish heat. Then, chop up the onion and thinly slice the fennel, keeping aside a few fronds for decoration. Dice the potato. Pop a tiny bit of oil (or bloody Frylight) into a heavy-bottom pan, add the onion, 40g of fennel, crushed garlic and a tablespoon of tomato puree. I add a tiny bit of water just to keep things steamy, cover, and let the onion and fennel cook gently for ten minutes or so, being careful not to let it catch. Add the roasted tomatoes, rest of the fennel, bit of salt and 500ml of water. Leave to cook gently for 40 minutes, and then blend. Add 50g of diced feta, and blend again. Dish it up into bowls (sieve it through a fine sieve if you don’t like lumps – but really, that’s the best bit!) and serve with a bread roll if you fancy synning it. Easy!

extra-easy: yep! Plus you’re only using 25g of feta per serving when you’re allowed 45g, so you could add a little bit extra cheese and be cooking on gas. Tomato and fennel are both speed foods, as is the onion, so there’s really nothing much in here that isn’t fantastic on EE. In fact, looking at it, you could easily adapt it for EE:SP by leaving out the bread and using the cheese as your HEA choice. Delicious!

Enjoy!

J