Saucy rainbow beef is today’s Chinese fakeaway recipe, and you’ll find it just below. Enjoy!
Thinking about my nephew’s birthday, and then having to choose from an absolutely bewildering amount of toys available in the shops, got me thinking about the toys I used to have. Now naturally, only my generation’s toys were any good and yours were rubbish, but bear with me.
Favourite toy of all time was a tatty teddy bear that was both a bumblebee and a lion. Of course: hence Bumblelion. Internet research suggests that Bumblelion was from a TV show called The Wuzzles but that means absolutely nothing to me – I think Bumblelion’s origin story was simply being stuck on a table at the Corbridge Boot Sale and being spotted by me and my sticky three year old hands. That teddy bear stayed with me for ages – losing its tail, fur, an eye, the nose, the stuffing over the years, but even now I’m fairly sure I could climb into our loft and find him again. My parents never bothered stitching the bits back on – they took a rather cavalier approach to safety: whilst everyone else went sledging on a proper wooden sledge for example, I was given a rinsed out giant plastic bag with ICI Chemicals printed on the side and sent hurtling towards a barbed wire fence at great speed.
I asked Paul what his favourite teddy bear was and he replied that I was. Once I’d finished vomiting into the toilet, he offered up an alternative. Apparently his parents went to the same ‘caring’ school as mine as he had an unfinished toy mouse without a tail, which by all accounts looked like a rudimentary fleshlight, given it had a huge hole with the stuffing leaking out at the rear end. Knowing Paul, that’s probably exactly what it was used for. He called it Mousey, showing an imagination that captivates an audience even now. I know for a fact where Mousey lives: somewhere in a landfill near Byker, as I accidentally threw him out in an overly-keen cleaning spree. Oops. Mousey was supplemented by all manner of tamagotchis that Paul was given to keep him quiet – I never had one and was furiously jealous of everyone else who had one. It’s probably for the best however – I was given my friend’s tamagotchi to look after and killed it for real within two hours by dropping it into the toilet.
We ended up choosing Lego for my nephew – partly because it’s the best gift you can give a young lad because it fires the imagination, partly because I know how much it will annoy my sister who now faces an eternity of stepping on Lego bricks in the dead of night. She can talk, she never used to clean away the Lego when we played at home. We used to build massive hamster runs and mazes out of Lego – it’s all good times until you forget about poor Snuffles working his way through the maze towards a carrot and go away on holiday. Poor little bugger*. I think all children should be given Lego at the earliest opportunity – not Duplo, that’s cheating, and not knock-off Lego that doesn’t quite fit together, but proper stuff. If I’m ever asked to step in and replace Theresa May on account that I have a soul and can smile without looking like I’m passing wind, I’ll make it mandatory that children are born into buckets of Lego that they then get to keep.
It wasn’t just Lego, of course – we had all manner of board games, all with nearly all the pieces included. It’s easy enough to play Pop-Up-Pirate without all of the swords but Buckaroo becomes a surprising challenge when you only have half of the donkey, and as for trying to solve a murder in Cluedo with only the Miss White card and 100 Lambert and Butler gratis points, well forget it. Paul’s favourite board-game was Screwball Scramble but because his mother was a shaved Hitler, he was only allowed to play it up to the bit where you had to smack the buttons and then stop, because the noise would ‘bring on one of her heads’. Even then he knew that her headaches were probably nicotine-poisoning. We want to join a local board game society up here in Newcastle but it all seems to be complicated games now – I want to play Monopoly with someone who doesn’t get in a huff when I buy Mayfair and then refuses to play when he starts losing: like Paul.
I’m obviously kidding about the hamster, by the way. All of our hamsters had luxurious, full lives, although we did lose one prematurely when it took an exciting and unexpected swerve on the hallway landing and went bouncing down the stairs in his little exercise ball. RIP Snowy.
Final highlight was a sit-on toy tractor that I could peddle around in the yard behind our house. I bloody loved that thing and used it until the brakes were worn, the wheels were shot and the whole thing was one more half-stone of my arse from falling to bits. It did almost kill me – I once went merrily shooting down our steep driveway and across two lanes of traffic before my mother remembered that she hadn’t shut the gate at the bottom. It’s alright, I survived (obviously) and there were only forty people injured in the resulting pile-up caused by the bus having to swerve around me into oncoming traffic.
The picture on this one doesn’t look amazing, but blame Paul: he forgot to take the pictures, so this is just a still from the video. Don’t worry, he’ll be getting a firm lashing later on.
UPDATE: Sorry – this isn’t syn free as it says in the photo, that’s a typo. It’s actually 1½ syns each!
Do you ever have that moment of horror that you absolutely shouldn’t have done something the very second that you’ve just done it? I’m experiencing that now. We had Chinese takeaway for tea last night and there was some leftover egg foo yung. We like to kid ourselves that we’re being healthy by ordering what is essentially an omelette, as if that cancels out the shredded beef and duck pancakes and chicken balls that we gorge on. Anyway, I only realised there was leftover egg foo yung when I was clearing the kitchen down from last night (I know, that’s terrible, leaving a mess all day, but we were tired) and spotted we hadn’t opened one of the containers – the one that had the egg foo yung in. So I’ve been nibbling away at that this evening whilst I fart about clearing up and just as I took the final swallow, I realised that I was eating an omelette that has been sat on the side of our warm kitchen all day after its perilous journey in an overheated car last night from a takeaway who I genuinely can’t bear to check their hygiene star rating because they’re so cheap and quick. On top of that, I can’t be entirely sure that the cats won’t have had a good lick at it too.
In short, I’m fucked, aren’t I? My belly is already doing a cancan of revolt and I have waves of nausea rolling over me like a sulphuric tsunami. I don’t know who is in for a rougher night: my nipsy, Paul’s nose or our toilet. Wish me/him/the good folk at Armitage Shanks good luck.
To be fair, I didn’t have a very good start to the week either, given I spent most of it filing my tax return. Who would have thought that the Little Blog That Could would require me to declare my income? I did ask an accounting friend if I could write off gin as an expense for anaesthetising me to deal with all the nonsense but apparently not. Still, it felt good submitting my taxes like a Good Citizen and knowing that I’m keeping Theresa May in leather. Brrr. I’ll say this though: the entire process, once I’d got my unique number, my special log-in, my paper treasure map, stool sample of eight wise men and temporary membership of the Freemasons, it was all very simple and easy to follow. If any blogs out there need some advice on submitting their tax returns, I’m happy to answer questions…
We’ve solved another mystery, by the way. For a good two weeks our cat has been steadfastly refusing to use his cat-flap. We thought he was just being stubborn – he’d sit by the front door looking strained and fractious and keen to be outside but completely blanked the cat-flap. Paul, soft as shite as he is, would always hasten to the door to let him out. I, however, refused to be a bloody bellboy to my own cat. It’s bad enough that Paul made me drive thirty miles back home the other week because he had forgotten to put the cat’s water fountain on, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be a bouncer too. Anyway, no amount of cajoling or puss-pussing or gentle toeing of his rump with my boot (I’m kidding) could get him near that cat-flap and tonight, finally, we know why. I was busy reading the post in the kitchen and waiting for The Archers to come like the old-before-my-time-fart that I am when suddenly there was an explosion of hissing, clattering and yelping. I didn’t immediately react – I’m used to such noises from Paul if I eat the strawberry creams from the Quality Street tin – but then my attention was demanded by Cat 2 who, startled as she was, had leapt claws-out up my leg. It was a proper farce. Turns out Cat 1 was engaged in a fierce and swift battle with a random cat who had poked his head through the cat-flap, presumably to try and sneak food, only to be met with Bowser Balboa going at his face like Sweeney Todd. You’ve never seen a more clumsy fight than two cats fighting through a cat-flap – one face would disappear only to be followed by a unsheathed paw, then half a cat would appear again only to get smacked, all the while Cat 2 is trying to get at the bone marrow in my leg through sheer fright.
The whole debacle only lasted moments but my ears are still ringing and I have no feeling below the knee on my right leg. It came to a halt when I, in that very manly way you’d expect from me, threw a leaflet for Sky television at Cat 1 with a shriek. What do I do here? I can’t shoo the other cat away, it might be starving, but I can’t have a cat who refuses to go outside. Thoughts on a postcard, please. Also, if anyone has an industrial sized drum of Savlon and enough plasters to wrap an Egyptian king up, I’d be most grateful.
Finally, before we get to the recipe, drum-roll please (don’t worry: you can just slap your gunt against your lap, though I imagine that’ll be more of a squelch than a rat-a-tat-tat sound)…
How pretty, right? That took me four months in Illustrator. Well, no, it felt like it. I wish I was one of those stylish people who can fart about designing on a Mac for a living like those achingly hipster bellends you always see looking bored on The Apprentice whilst five suited arseholes bellow at each other about Pantone colours. But I’m not. I can write but design is beyond me. Anyway, the plan is to squeeze in twelve holidays in one year – short breaks doing different things, all in the name of funny blog stories and seeing a bit more of the world. People seem to enjoy our travels and you know what, why the hell shouldn’t we? Life’s too short. We have no vices so we need to spend our money on something. It’s worth noting that we’ve set a budget for each of the twelve trips and anything we don’t spend will be going onto the next holiday! Mind, it won’t trouble the normal running of the blog, we’re still going to be posting our nonsense and recipes as we go along – just with a bit more travel stuff before the recipes as and when we remember! Once I can be arsed, I’ll create a proper travel section of the blog where our recent trips to Cornwall, New York, Corsica, Switzerland, Peterborough, Berlin, Glasgow and Scotland will be in one handy place! Eee I know, we spoil you. We’ve set some targets and rules too:
find a geocache at each venue, preferably in an unusual place
try the regional dish of the place we’re staying
make a Slimming World friendly version of that dish for the blog
diet like hell between the holidays but eat and drink what we like when we’re away
buy a tacky bit of nonsense for our Room of Tat
buy a second tacky bit of nonsense for our Box of Tat which we’ll give away at the end
aim for places we haven’t done before and types of holiday that don’t automatically appeal
save as many Avios points as we can to pay for the flights of the 12th holiday – we will go as far as our Avios can take us (in business class, we’re too fat for long-haul cattle unless they strap us to the underbelly of the plane)
It isn’t going to all be abroad either – if you can think of somewhere unusual or lovely in the UK, or indeed, if you think of anywhere or any type of holiday that could be fun, let us know!
I do want to stress, because I know there’s going to be a lot of you picking fretfully at your pinnies and thinking we’re giving up the blog to do this – we aren’t! It’ll just give us more excuses to write! Let’s get to the recipe then, eh?
It’s worth noting that we served ours with boring old white rice – you could flesh it out a bit by adding some speed veg or having it with noodles, but for a very quick, easy dinner, this can’t be beaten.
to make zingy basil chicken you will need
4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 shallot, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced (use a microplane grater, save your fingers and don’t bother taking the skin off – here’s a cheap one!)
2 tsp soy sauce
1¼ tsp sriracha
½ tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp cornflour (½ syn)
1 tsp chilli flakes
handful of basil leaves, chopped
Now, it’s been a while since we mentioned it, but you may know that we have a fabulous range of deals with Musclefood, including a couple where you get twenty four (or so) big breasts as part of the deal. That’s a lot of chicken! We genuinely love Musclefood chicken – it’s big, it doesn’t leak water like a sieve and it actually tastes of chicken as opposed to ennui and regret. You can view all of our Musclefood deals here, and don’t worry, it’ll open in a new page.
Don’t worry, the fish sauce doesn’t taste fishy. It doesn’t even smell like a tramp’s foot, which is what I had always assumed. It just adds a nice note to the dinner, if you’ll forgive me such a froufrou term.
Oh and I know there’s half a syn in the entire dish. But that’s an eighth of a syn per serving – it serves four. If you want to syn it, have a good hard look at your life and ask yourself if you’re living it to the full.
to make zingy basil chicken you should:
in a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, sriracha, fish sauce, cornflour and chilli flakes along with 1tsp water
heat a large pan over medium-high heat, add a couple of squirts of spray oil and cook the diced shallot and garlic for about thirty seconds
add the chicken and keep stirring frequently until cooked
when the chicken is cooked, add the sauce to the pan and cook for a further minute, making sure the chicken is well coated
remove from the heat and stir in the basil
Eee, now how easy was that? More recipes you say? Fuck me, you’re keen:
You have no idea how much I love a good pun, so chilli stuffed easydillas – as in a really easy version of a quesadilla, really tickled my hoop. If you’re looking for the recipe, just scroll that mouse-wheel or finger your screen and you’ll be there in no time.
Have you been out and voted yet? If not, why not? It’s one of the most important things you can do. Even if you think there’s no point, do it anyway. You’ll never get rid of thrush unless you apply the cream, after all.
We’ve finally been back to weigh-in and after spending eight years waiting in the queue cursing under our breath, we’ve been weighed, shamed and course-corrected. Nowhere to go now but down…
…and speaking of going down, let’s discuss Cornwall, shall we? I’m going to do it a little differently – a series of different thoughts, rather than one big monologue – I need to give my poor fingers a rest and anyway, unusually, I didn’t keep notes. So bear with me…
twochubbycubs go to…cornwall – part one
Why Cornwall? Well, naturally, we were attracted to the endless walks, the wonderful surfing opportunity and the chance to lay on a beach and sizzle. Pfft, as if. Let’s get this clear – the only surfing I did was via my iPad to find out when the local Tesco planned to shut off our clotted cream supply. No, we always tend to holiday out of England when we stay in the United Kingdom, but we thought to hell with it, let’s try somewhere different.
And boy, was that a bloody struggle. Seriously – I’ve said it before, there is a massive market out there ready for milking for holiday cottages built for young, professional couples who don’t have sticky-fingered kids, moulting dogs or an extended family travelling with them like fleas on a cat. We spent hours looking for places to rent for a week away and probably found about four cottages that matched what we were looking for. Everywhere else looked like the type of place you’d see on TV in a documentary about someone who got eaten by their cats or drowned in newspapers. Who has ever looked at a room and thought ‘yes, this will do, but we must add more beige’? Eh? I want a cottage full of modern features, tasteful decoration, fun touches and unusual things. Not somewhere where I could see myself stumbling out into the garden to die of terminal boredom, face-down in a Chat magazine with taupe carpet fibres on my tea-stained jumper.
This was the first cottage we considered.
Admittedly, it looks dull as dishwater inside but heavens, look at the view. I could comfortably see Paul and I as masters of the lighthouse – let’s be honest, if there’s one thing we’re both good at it’s guiding seamen into a safe place – but sadly, they were booked up. Naturally. I’m sorry to be sore about it but I hope Jeremiah (venture capitalist, impotent), Lucinda (yahmy-mummy blog writer) and little Tarquinidad and Labia-Bell (conceived via a rough car mechanic called Trent) had an awful holiday with all those steps to climb. Mahaha.
Our second option, pictured above, up at the other end of the land, was Croft 103 – take a look and tell me that doesn’t look gorgeous. Sadly, again, all booked up. By this point I was beginning to grind my teeth and make plans for a European break when Paul found Two Bare Feet via Google, a cottage down in sunny Cornwall. We booked via uniquehomestays.com – who were excellent, very efficient and a pleasure to deal with (25% off next booking please) and we were on our way. We’ll address the cottage in the next entry.
Now, Newcastle to Cornwall is a bloody long drive – just shy of 450 miles, fact fans. We could have flown, but it’s Newcastle remember – the only flights available that weren’t a vomit-express to Malaga didn’t leave on the days we needed. Plus, I needed to work on our day of departure, so we decided to drive halfway after work and stop in a Premier Inn somewhere in Bumhole, Birmingham. I might have made that name up.
What a drive though – the glamour of the A1, the majesty of the M6. We elected to take my car rather than Paul’s Smart car as we needed to take more than two lightly-folded t-shirts and a plimsoll, so his boot wouldn’t have worked. Paul, having driven an automatic now for many months, gave me such a start as he lurched out, over-revving and kangarooing and generally being over savage with my clutch, but luckily we escaped certain death once he didn’t have to slow down or be gentle. That’s unfair – I’m just as bad driving his Smart car. But that’s because I’m six foot of man pressed into a Quality Street tin sized car interior. It remains the only car I can simultaneously pop the bonnet with one knee and open the boot with the other. That’ll be me banished from ever driving it again. Imagine my distress.
There is something about long car journeys at night that I love – and it’s not that it usually ends up with me getting holes in the knees of my jeans in a layby somewhere, because that simply isn’t true. No, it reminds me of my childhood, when holidays involved my parents shepherding my sister and I into a battered Ford Escort at 3am in the morning in order to get a good start driving up into Scotland to “beat the traffic”, as though the A69 at Warwick Bridge was the equivalent of the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe. Invariably it would be too cold to have the windows down so the first few hours of the drive would be spent coughing and spluttering whilst my parents hotboxed us to death via endless Lambert & Butlers. We’d get out for a desultory Olympic breakfast in a Little Chef on an industrial estate outside of Lockerbie with blue lips and a faint golden patina of nicotine. No wonder my sister and I always used to fight in the back of the car – my dad would barely have backed down the drive before punches were being thrown, ankles were being kicked and hair was being pulled – but see that was my sister all over, so I never hit her back.
Gosh, I might do a few blog posts about earlier holidays actually, I love reminiscing of times when I used to be a) skinny b) far less cynical and c) more easily impressed. Let’s get back into the fast-lane though and talk about our current excursion.
I’ve mentioned on previous occasions how much I love stopping at service stations. I find them exciting! Everyone is going somewhere – normally to the cash machine to get £20 out to pay for two coffees and a side of abysmal customer service – and everyone has a tale. Travelling does something to my sphincter that invariably means I want to stop for a poo at every opportunity, so our short four hour drive took about six hours in the end. Our stops ended up costing us £260 because I was so taken with a Deal or no Deal fruit machine that, when I came home, I ordered one for the games room. I’ve told Paul it’ll help us save money and it will, not least because seeing Noel Edmonds face all lit-up in the corner of our games room will make me so nauseated I’ll not want takeaway. We did have a hairy moment when we turned into Trowell Services at midnight and unpacked our brie and grape baguettes only to have a procession of chavs in their acne-carriages turn up and start doing spins in the car-park. It was Fast & Furious 9: Roaccutane Rush. Listen mate, you’re not impressing anyone by sticking a ‘RIP Paul Walker’ sticker on your nana’s haemorrhage-purple 02-plate Micra.
We left them to it, driving with a contemptuous sneer of our own which was somewhat diluted by the fact the Archers Omnibus theme-tune was playing through our car speakers as we glided past. At least it wasn’t Yes Sir (I Can Boogie) which was the song of the holiday. Anyway, our moment of happiness turned into despair when, after a bit more driving, we were informed that the motorway was shut and that we had to find our way to the Premier Inn on our own steam. This was past midnight, remember, and I was tired – I hadn’t managed to finish my baguette either. Paul took control and used a new app on his phone that acts as a sat-nav. Brilliant!
NOT brilliant. No, somehow, those last 25 miles seemed to take an eternity, taking us down all sorts of country roads, private lanes, farm tracks and tiny B-roads. I was cursing the whole time (remember, I don’t trust Sat-Navs) but Paul was adamant we were going the right way. Because I wanted to listen to the end of Brain of Britain, I shut my hole, and carried on. It took us over an hour to reach our destination and it was only then Paul discovered he’d effectively selected the ‘scenic’ route option, avoiding major busy routes. My language was as blue as the bedspread was purple. Our Premier Inn receptionist booked us in, taking a moment to ask Paul ‘who are you?’ before realising that he was the ‘Mrs’ on my booking, and we sank into bed, top layer of skin burning and crisping nicely in the far-too-hot-bedroom. Ah, what a start.
Right, so clearly I can’t just write the odd thought, I do need to monologue. Sorry! I’ll get to Cornwall in the next entry! Let’s do the recipe! Here – this looks complicated and a fart-on to put together, but it really isn’t. So calm your knickers. The picture below shows two portions mind. If you want the lot, you greedy bugger, you’ll need to syn an extra wrap – 4.5 syns. But really, it was almost too much for us, and we’re very confirmed fatties.
to make chilli stuffed easydillas you will need:
for the spice mix:
1½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili flakes
for the sauce:
3 tbsp white vinegar
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili flakes
for everything else:
4 BFree Foods Multigrain Wrap, Wheat & Gluten Free (1x HeB per person) (don’t worry, they’ve left the taste in)
400g minced beef (you get a fair few portions of 400g mince in our freezer filler deal with Musclefood, so why not take advantage? Eh? What’s your excuse? Click right hereto take advantage of that before we change our deals!)
1 onion, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp chili flakes
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tins mixed bean salad, drained
zest of half a lime
1 tsp lime juice
30g grated reduced-fat cheddar (HeA)
25g sliced black olives (2 syns)
4 tsp quark
to make chilli stuffed easydillas you should:
preheat the oven to 200 degrees
in a small bowl mix together the ingredients for the spice mix and set aside
in a small saucepan heat the ingredients for the sauce together over a medium heat and stir frequently until thickened (this will be towards the end)
meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and spray with Frylight
cook the onions for a few minutes until soft
add the beef and cook until browned
add the tomato puree to the pan along with the garlic and the spice mixture and stir well, remove from the pan into a large bowl
using the same pan, add the mixed bean salad and allow to cook for a few minutes until warmed through
mash roughly – you can add a tbsp of water if it looks too dry – then remove from pan from the heat and set aside
spray another large frying pan with frylight and place over a high heat
add one of the tortillas to the pan and cook for 30 seconds – flip over and cook for another 40 seconds, then flip over again and cook for another thirty seconds
place on a wire rack to cook and repeat the process for the rest of the wraps
spread half the bean mixture onto one of the wrap and top with half of the meat mixture – leave about a centimetre gap around the edge so it doesn’t seep out – and place another wrap on top. do this again for the other one
spoon 2 tbsp of the sauce on top of each wrap and top with the diced red onion, diced tomatoes cheese and olives
bake in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted
Beef satay with peanut dipping sauce? On Slimming World? Surely not! But YES. Let me tell you, it actually tasted like something you’d get in a Chinese restaurant too, as opposed to the usual Slimming World slop-swap, where the end result isn’t so much divorced from the original as moved to a new city and never seeing the children. You know when people theatrically slap their hand to their open mouth in shock? Well, I didn’t have time to do that as I was too busy making sure Paul didn’t eat my share. Recipe below.
Can I just take a moment to say I thoroughly enjoyed Batman v Superman? I just like to think that Ben Affleck is probably reading this blog, dying to know how to turn ASDA beef chunks into something palatable, and after all of the criticism he’s faced over his boring film, this might cheer him up. Plus, Paul and I both agree that you have quite an impressive knob in Gone Girl, and I’m not talking about Rosamund Pike. I went to see Batman vs Superman with an old friend (literally, she’s well old) and it was all very enjoyable, even in blurry 3D-vision. I’m a fan of 3D if done well (Saw 3D, of all things, was fun) but not if it’s just to make the odd leaf or snowflake look like it’s coming towards you. No amount of blistering 3D detail is going to make me think I’m right there in Gothametroplis (right?) – my arse-cheeks turning to concrete on the rock-hard cinema seats keep me grounded.
Oh, that and the little shits along the row who, along with their father, spent every other minute looking at their phones and being unnecessarily rambunctious. Naturally, as a Brit, I tutted and sighed for two hours until I was on the verge of hyperventilating and had to blow into my pic-and-mix bag for comfort. The father took a bloody phone call at one point! Unless it’s a doctor ringing up to tell you that “yes, Mr Smith, we’ve found you a brain, you’ll need to come in for fitting immediately” you don’t take a bloody phone call in the cinema. If I had my way, everyone would have their hands stapled to the arm-rest and if your phone rang or you needed a poo, well tough titty. The cherry on the cake was towards the end I went to get the last sour apple snake from my bag (not a euphemism) (also, yes, hypocritical) when one of the children sighed like he was blowing out the candles on a birthday cake and said ‘I CAN’T WATCH THE FILM IF PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO RUIN IT‘. I’ve never felt so chagrined.
Anyway, today we’ve said at least two things that hammer home how old we’re getting – first, Paul suggested we go out “for a drive in the car“. I don’t know why we do it, we invariably get stuck behind someone for whom the fourth gear is uncharted territory and I end up going apocalyptic behind them trying to overtake. I have to come home and punch a brick wall to calm down. The second line that tumbled from my ageing lips was the clincher though – when Paul mentioned that our home town could do with some decent flowers being planted (in itself a very Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells thing to say), I replied by saying ‘yes, but the young’uns would just pull them up and cause a mess‘.
May I remind you I’m 31.
Goodness me. I almost stopped at the Lloyds Pharmacy on my left there and then for a hearing test and a fitting for Tena for Men but well, it would take a while to get parked and with my aching hips, getting out of the car is too much of a chore. So instead we drove to the beach and ate sandwiches in the car whilst listening to Gardeners’ Question Time and nodding at nothing in particular.
Ah well, to the satay! It’s something I always order whenever we get a takeaway, though sadly our favourite local takeaway seems to have closed down. I like to think they couldn’t keep up with our demands. I’ve definitely had more than eight ‘it’s my birthday, can we have a free giant spring rolls please thanks‘ events this year. I certainly hope it hasn’t been closed down by the council because that would bring our total of ‘favourite then condemned’ eateries to three. We used to have a Chinese takeaway literally across the street from us when we lived in Gosforth (more Kenton actually, but Gosforth sounds posher and well, we didn’t have a trampoline or discarded mattress in our front garden, so we didn’t belong in Kenton*) which was fantastic.
Paul was confused when he first went to order because the tiny, very Chinese looking lady behind the counter spoke with a Geordie accent that sounded like she was possessed by Tim Healy. And he’s not even dead. It really didn’t gel with her beautiful cheongsam dress and I-kid-you-not chopsticks in her hair bun.
Still, the food was delicious and tasty up until the point the ‘Scores on the Doors’ folk came around and rated them zero out of five for cleanliness, food safety and hygiene. Nothing says did you enjoy your chow-mein like seeing it again two minutes after eating from one end or twenty minutes from the other. I must have a stomach of asbestos though as so few things ever upset my natural balance.
We now get our Chinese food from a car-park in Morpeth. So far, so good – they certainly don’t seem to be using the same microfibre cloth to wipe their work-surfaces and their bumholes, so they’re already up on the Gosforth Chinese.
* Kenton is lovely really. Please don’t firebomb my house or spray me with Greggs crumbs as you refute my jokey aspersions.
to make beef satay with peanut dipping sauce you will need:
700g beef, cubed (why not use the beef you’ve got from our wonderful Musclefood Freezer Filler? You get a couple of packs with your mince, chicken and bacon, and it has the added benefit of not feeling like you’re chewing on a bike tyre like so much of the beef in your average cheap supermarket beef does – click here to order. Oh, and we’re running a competition to win one of our £50 hampers –click here and enter!)
8 shallots or two large white onions (shallots are far nicer though, much sweeter)
a little knob of ginger, peeled
haha, I said little knob
2 lemongrass stalks, sliced (can’t get lemongrass? Use a teaspoon of lemon rind)
1½ tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground fennel (or crushed fennel seeds)
1 tsp salt
a few squirts of olive oil spray
for the peanut sauce:
4 tbsp reduced-fat peanut butter (18 syns) (be sensible here, a tablespoon is a tablespoon, but don’t go scooping it out like it’s mortar and you’re building a brick wall at gunpoint)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sweetener
2 drops of sriracha (or any hot sauce)
1 clove of garlic, minced
to make beef satay with peanut dipping sauce you should:
place all of the ingredients together (except the beef) in a food processor (aside from the stuff for the peanut sauce, obviously) and blitz until you get a thick paste – loosen it off with water if it’s too thick but you do want a paste, not a slop
in a large bowl mix together the beef and the marinade until it’s well coated, and leave for at least six hours (or overnight)
push the cubes of beef onto skewers and grill under a high heat for about 15 minutes, turning regularly
Feel free to ramp up the speed factor by adding peppers and mushrooms onto your skewers. Also, if you’ve got wooden skewers, remember to soak them for as long as you can – basically, if you’ve got wood, get it wet. Lesson to live your life by.
To make the dipping sauce, mix together all of the ingredients with 4 tbsp of water – to make a really thick paste. keep mixing in 1 tbsp water at a time to the required consistency.
Yep, you’re getting two recipes for the price of one with this post for loaded bacon and cheese wedges and philly cheese steak sliders. We’re really spoiling you lately. Least you could do is show willing and buy my ruddy book or a meat-box! Haha.
I’m in a bit of a huff tonight, if I’m honest. Came home to find a big bill waiting for me on the doormat. Normally I never say no to bending down for a Big Bill but this one was our council tax and it’s fucking £1700! What the hell for? They’ve turned off our street lights, driving on the roads feels like I’m playing Moon Patrol and they only pick up the bins when there is a full solar eclipse. There’s more chance of me getting pregnant than getting a book that doesn’t have Katie Price on the front cover out of our local library and if you fancy a stroll in the park, best get used to the dogshit and litter billowing around your feet like the shittiest version of the Crystal Dome. I don’t know why they don’t push all the dog-sausages into the fucking potholes in the road, at least that way I wouldn’t get out of the car with my neck canted a forty-five degree angle from being clattered off the roof of my car.
MOAN MOAN MOAN. But seriously, it would be a bloody welcome change if they said oh James, you work hard, here, enjoy your wage to do whatever you want with it, instead of grasping it out of my cold, cruel hands. I’m paying into a pension and being sensible by saving, but what’s the use? So when I get to seventy the Government can take away my house and stick me in a care home? Fuck that. We’ve already decided that when we get to seventy, if we’re both alive and capable of getting lob-ons, the house is getting sold and we’re getting two lithe twenty year olds to rub our bunions and change our oxygen tanks. BAH.
I might start a go-fund-me accompanied by a picture of Paul looking sadly into middle-distance and footage of me looking through photo albums. Maybe.
Can I just take a second to remind you of something? We have a list of every recipe we’ve EVER done right here. I worry that some people don’t know where it is. Use it, it’ll serve you well!
Anyway look, let’s get to the real reason you’re here. These recipes make enough for four. Each recipe is syn free if you use the appropriate HEAs and HEBs. If you have both of them at the same time, syn the cheese on the wedges – 40g is one HEA or 6 syns, so at most it’ll be 1.5 syns per portion. It’s syn free if you don’t combine the burgers and wedges. I’m just being a slut.
to make loaded bacon and cheese wedges, you’re going to need:
‘wet’ potatoes, like Maris Piper, as many as you dare
a few squirts of olive oil spray (0.5 syn for 7 squirts)
one beef oxo cube
packet of bacon medallions (we used half a pack from our Musclefood freezer filler, because it doesn’t disappear to nowt – proper tasty bacon)
lighter mature cheese (40g or one HEA)
optional: hot sauce if you want it
to make loaded bacon and cheese wedges, you should:
cut each potato in half, then cut into each half in a ‘v’ shape, so you’re dividing each half into three triangular wedges – or you know, don’t fuck about and just cut them how you like
tip them into a bowl, sprinkle over the oxo cube and oil, and shake the buggers so they’re coated in a bit of stock cube and oil
put them into an oven for 30 minutes or so to colour and soften
check your wedges – if they’re nearly done, take them out, scatter the bacon and cheese and spring onion over the top, and put back into the oven until the wedges are done and the cheese is crispy and delicious
best get a defibrillator ready, just saying
If you’re looking for something to serve it with, these tiny sliders (fancy word for little ‘burgers’) will do the trick. There’s no speed food on your plate, but fuck it. If you don’t tell Mags, nor will I. This was our treat night after all. Jeez.
to make philly cheese steak sliders, you’ll need:
a big white onion
a big green pepper
one slice of Swiss Gruyere (we buy ours from Waitrose) – 5 syns for a 25g slice, or a HEA
a suitable breadbun for your healthy extra allowance
120ml of beef stock
packet of beef strips (I promise I’m not deliberately over-advertising but we genuinely used our beef strips from our Musclefood freezer filler, and they were tasty as all outdoors)
lots of black pepper
to make philly cheese steak sliders, you should:
cut your onion into decent slices, same with the pepper
soften them in a dot of oil, a few sprays of olive oil or even better, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, or if you’re an imbecile, use Frylight and wreck your pans
once they’re softened, set them aside and throw in the beef, cooking it off and giving it a bit of colour – I use Worcestershire sauce instead of oil because it adds taste
once the meat is browned off, put the stock in plus lots of pepper and whack the heat up, stirring until the stock has cooked off and thickened – give the bottom of the pan a good scrub with your spoon to get all those juices up
assemble your slider – breadbun cut in half, cheese slice, beef strips, peppers and onions
It doesn’t look terribly exciting but my word these were fantastic.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to perform oral sex in exchange for money. By the time I’ve paid off the council tax I’ll be permanently yawning. 🙁
You’re here for the popcorn chicken – of course you are. Quite right too, because it’s bloody delicious and has the benefit of not using bloody Smash. But before we get to that, there’s the little problem of getting a New York entry in. As you know, my holiday trip reports are always fairly long, so you might wear out the scroller on your mouse if you’re desperate for the popcorn chicken. Ah well. Send the bill to the good folk at Cry Me A River Inc. and crack on. You’ll find part one of our trip and, if you buy our book, all of our previous holiday reports are there in one place, including Corsica, Ireland and Germany, where I exposed my arse to a whole platform of waiting train passengers. Yes! You can buy that here. By the way – if you’ve already bought the book and enjoyed it, please leave us a review on Amazon – you have no idea how happy that makes me. Not as happy as you buying several copies and giving them out electronically to friends but you know, let’s make do. Let’s head back to New York, then…
twochubbycubs go to New York, part two
After landing at JFK and undergoing the most intimidating entry interview I’ve ever faced (normally I’m not asked many questions prior to anyone admitting me entry, rather just a plea to be gentle and to call them after) (pfft!) (or rather whoooooooo….) (work that out) (jeez, this is a lot of bracketed thoughts), we were on our way. We decided that, rather than paying a billion dollars for a taxi to our hotel, we’d be savvy and streetwise and take the subway, not least because the subway is famous and exciting. I say exciting, there was a TV playing in the station whose main headline was ‘SEVENTH SLEEPING SOUL SLASHED IN SUBWAY’. Now, I’m all for alliteration and sharp headlines, but knife attacks aren’t usually an enticement to travel. Nevertheless, we ploughed on, trying to figure out what ticket we needed to buy for the week to get us from JFK and then afford us travel throughout the network all week. God knows what we bought – I was hustled into buying something in a newsagent by a strident sounding lady who was more weave than woman. The tickets worked in the barrier (after much ‘PUT IT THAT WAY, YOU’VE GOT IT THE WRONG WAY, NO YOU NEED IT PARALLEL TO THE Y-AXIS, YOU STUPID POMMIE ASSHOLE!) and we were on our way. Hooray! At the risk of sounding like a hipster twat, I like to take the subway rather than taxis because I feel it adds to the experience.
Sadly, I was stabbed in the lung and spent the rest of the holiday in an American hospital being shook from my ankles until the coins fell out of my pocket.
I jest. After a couple of transfers and a brief interlude to watch a genuinely crazy man shouting and bawling into a litter-bin, we arrived at 34th Street – Penn Station. I don’t know what had caused the shouting man such ire but by God that bin had infuriated him. I find it remarkable that Paul and I can find our way around any foreign subway system given all we have to practice on up here is the Tyne and Wear Metro, which consists entirely of two lines and spends more time being apologised for than actually going anywhere. I used it briefly for about two months but eventually made it to my destination. Anyway, I digress. We climbed a set of stairs, exited the station and goodness me, what a shock. Everything is so tall. That may seem ridiculous to you, I don’t know, but I hadn’t realised almost every building in the streets would be so many storeys – it creates the illusion of feeling a bit bunkered down – but not claustrophobic. I was expecting the streets to be busy, and they were, but I never felt as though I was in the way – which when you consider that combined Paul and I take up as much room as a modern housing development, is quite something.
Our hotel, the Wyndham New Yorker, was over the road, and we hastened across, taking care to observe the flashing white man (who wouldn’t?) to permitted us to cross. Given my experience with the officers upon entry I didn’t fancy getting banged up for jaywalking, though it didn’t stop anyone else. The crossing was absolutely filled with cars coming from all directions, pedestrians, suitcases, people asking for money and a horse. Not people asking for a horse, rather, just a horse. Naturally. We had picked the New Yorker on a whim – it looked pleasant enough and the location was perfect, but that was the limit of our research. Well, it was delightful. It’s an art-deco hotel, opened in 1930 and not modernised too much – the lifts are grand, the lobby massive, the staff all well-to-do and pleasant and the plumbing clearly hasn’t been touched since the first brick was put down. I’ll touch on that in a moment. We checked in and were directed to our room on the 27th floor. I was sure that meant a penthouse or a decent suite but that was soon dispelled when we got into the lift and realised there were 43 floors. Boooo! We had sent ahead and mentioned it was our anniversary and I’d gone so far to book the room as Professor J Surname rather than plain old Mr, but nope. Ah well. Our room was perfunctory – pleasant, but nothing you’d write home about. You’d have a hard job given there was no writing desk or pens. The TV was small and the bed was so lumpy that I had to check we weren’t lying on top of the previous guests, but it was clean and warm and had an excellent view. We bravely set about emptying our suitcases into the tiny wardrobe (with four coat-hangers – we had to call down for more, I felt so stereotypical) and then immediately shoving everything we could possibly lift into the suitcase. It’s just the done thing to do.
They did do this to the bed though. D’aww. Don’t worry, the romance didn’t last – the sheets looked like a Jackson Pollock within 10 minutes.
I wish I could tell you that we spent the evening out in the glitz and glamour of New York, but, somewhat jet-lagged, we opted to stay in the room watching Wheel of Fortune and eating Jolly Ranchers. We both feel asleep almost immediately and didn’t wake again until 6am the next morning, where I was alarmed to find a half-sucked blue raspberry Jolly Rancher had tumbled out of my sleep-open mouth and into my hair. I’m a classy guy.
So, at 6am in the city that never sleeps, where do you go? I’m ashamed to say we spent a lot of our holiday time doing the really obvious sites, but listen, you can’t go to New York and not take in the obvious. To that end, this whole trip report will be a series of ticks off the list. We started the day right by nipping into the Tick Tock Diner right next to the hotel for a breakfast – I showed British restraint, having only three eggs, corned beef hash, sausages, bacon (it’s not bloody bacon, it looks like grilled hangnails, but nevermind) and toast on the side. My eggs came covered in cheese which should tell you everything you need to know about breakfasting in New York. It was AMAZING. Paul had pancakes – great big lumps of dough and syrup which he seemed remarkably content with. His eyes glazed over, but I reckon that could have been the maple syrup pushing through from the back like shampoo on a sponge. We finished our meal, paid the bill with a slight grimace (I had forgotten it was obligatory to tip over in America – I nearly always do anyway, even in England, but I do so hate how I’m forced to tip) and we were on our way.
First stop – the Statue of Liberty, which immediately set Paul off going ‘I THINKA CAN SEE THE STACHOO OF LIBERTAAY AL-A-READY‘ like that tiny Italian man from Titanic. There were a lot of Titanic quotes on this day. A good friend of mine had recommended I book everything well in advance, so we had tickets booked for Statue Cruises which set off from Battery Park. Once on the island we had a choice of going up to her crown, just into the general minge level or walking around the outside. We had opted for the minge option (I think they call it Pedestal Level) and were very much looking forward to it, so much so that we arrived an hour early. Oops. I entertained myself by going for a poo in the park toilets, which is always a terrifying experience in America as they like to leave a giant gap down the side of the doors plus make the door itself the size of a postage stamp. This is just awful – you end up desperately trying not to make any eye-contact with passing folks as you’re busy pushing brown. I get that it’s to stop cottaging and drug-taking but come on, people like a bit of privacy whilst they poop. Just look!
Actually, that doesn’t quite convey the creepiness. One sec.
Brrr. After a poo each and a good cup of coffee, we noticed our boat was coming in and so made our way through the security check, removing our belt for what would be the first of many, many times throughout this holiday, and dealing with customer service people who hated their jobs and everyone involved in it. I wear this necklace:
and the charming woman on security held it up for everyone to look at and asked me ‘it’s meaning’. I almost said OOHO IT’S A BIT OF VIV WESTWOOD LOVE’ but didn’t. I wear it because I like it, and it’s quite literally the only piece of designer anything I own. I’m too fat for designer clothes and too poor for designer furniture, so I can only have nice jewellery and shoes. And I buy my shoes from the same place I buy my toilet roll, so, you know. I wasn’t expecting to have to justify it to someone who had clearly only just remembered to have a shave that morning. She waved us through. Paul never gets any bother with security and he’s got half a bloody Meccano set keeping his arm together since he gashed it open on a discarded shopping trolley half-submerged in a ditch in Peterborough, or as they like to call it, a ‘child’s play area’. Our boat docked and about ten thousand people appeared from nowhere to disembark, pitching the boat at a perilous angle where I genuinely thought it was going over. Of course it wasn’t, but what’s life without melodrama. We boarded, seemingly with the entirety of China’s under 35’s, and were on our way in no time at all.
The cruise, such as it is, takes fifteen minutes, which afforded Paul enough time to discover a snack shop and buy us a cup of coffee that had seemingly come fresh from the sun. My lips blistered just taking the lid off the cup. Let me save you some money – if you’re going to New York, unless you’re massively fussed about seeing the statue up close and finding out more about it in the museum, you don’t need to visit the old bird. Take the Staten Island ferry and see it from the water – it’ll cost you next to nothing and you won’t have to push children overboard indulge in a scrum to get on and off the boat. We love a good nosey around a museum though so we were champion, cooing and oohing our way around various cases and replicas of her giant toes. She certainly didn’t have a problem with an ingrown toenail – oh how I envied her. If you’re squeamish, skip the next paragraph. In fact, I’m going to hide the next paragraph so it’s only visible if you highlight it!
I remember once holidaying in France with an ingrown toenail so bad that my toe actually exploded in my trainer on a hot day, showering my sock with pus and a dead nail. The relief I felt though – no sex has ever come close to that feeling. Not quite grossed out enough? I used to let the family dog clean my toe because I was told a dog’s tongue has antiseptic qualities and he seemed to enjoy it! Eee, that’ll be me straight to hell now. Still, he did a great job until he died of advanced sepsis two months later.
I know, gross right? I’m so sorry. Poor Oscar.
We bought a tiny replica of the statue, took a few upskirt pictures of the old bird and then fannied about with the telescopes for a bit. It was a lovely day – warm but springlike and fresh, perfect for the massive wool coat I was wearing. At least I had my magma-esque coffee to cool me off. Then, back onto the boat for a short hop over to Ellis Island, an optional freebie excursion where you can see the famous Immigrant Inspection Station and the housing and suchlike. It was all very interesting indeed but at this point our crippling obesity was beginning to play havoc with our ankles and we needed a good old fashioned sit-down, so we went into the little restuarant and seemingly emptied my wallet in exchange for two club sandwiches the size of my arm. We sat down and immediately regretted it as we had a talker immediately to our left, an octogenarian with a lot to say. We couldn’t ignore him because he seemed lonely. ‘So where you guys from’ was his opening gambit, and when I replied with ‘Newcastle, England’ he took such a gasp of air that I almost gave him his last rites, thinking perhaps an errant crisp had lodged in his windpipe. No, it was just genuine surprise which didn’t subside when I explained it really wasn’t that far and we didn’t row across the Atlantic. He then kept us at the table for a good half hour, clutching my arm every time we made to leave. To be fair, he was actually very interesting and my ability to make small-talk never failed me, so the time flew by, but we did miss our boat back, meaning we had to spend another hour on the tiny island, trying to keep out of view of this old chap. I felt like I was sneaking into America myself.
After Ellis Island we got the boat back over to Battery Park and decided to take a walk over to where the Twin Towers used to be and where the new One World Trade Centre tower now stood. Let me say this – although it is easier to walk to places in New York rather than fannying about on their labyrithine subway system, make sure you gauge the distances before you set off. We ended up with feet like corned beef by the end of the holiday. It’s more interesting though, seeing a city on foot. That’s what I told Paul as he poured blood out of his shoes.
Nothing can be said on the Twin Towers disaster that hasn’t already been said, but I’ll add my own thoughts. It’s always been something abstract – images on the TV or in the papers – and whilst utterly horrific and downright barbaric, I’ve never been able to actually get my head around it. Standing there then in the shadow of the new tower, with the two massive memorial pools in front of us, it actually hit home. Imagining not one but two of these towers falling into the street and the absolute mayhem and terror that would bring, well, we both actually got emotional. You need to understand – the only time I think I’ve seen Paul cry was when I hid his selection box at Christmas or when I clipped a peg onto his bumhair and accidentally nicked his sphincter. You stand at the bottom of this tower and look up and you can’t see the top. Imagine that the other way around and knowing you had to jump down to your death or burn. Horrendous.
We entered the new tower and boarded the lift up to the 102nd floor which was an experience all in itself – 102 floors in less than 60 seconds, with the lifts being made from a 360 degree set of TV screens which model New York in front of you. I’ve done a shit job of explaining that, so here, take a look:
Come on now, that was something special. After leaving the lift, you’re taken to a row of cardboard cut-outs of skyscrapers in a darkened room, upon which a cheesy video about New York was projected. Naturally, being a cynic, I was about to moan to Paul that we’d paid $100 to watch a movie when suddenly everything in front of us rose out of view and was replaced with floor to ceiling glass windows, affording us the most incredible view. My flabber could not have been more gasted. It’s initially very disorientating as you forget you’re so high up until New York is revealed before you like a magician’s trick, but it’s genuinely wonderful. We spent an age walking around taking pictures that we’ll never look at again, like everyone else, before nipping up to the bar for a cocktail.
Are you sitting down? Our two cocktails cost $58. Yes, you could get a glass of tap water but fuck it, we were on holiday and it was money well-spent, although such very strong alcohol combined with the natural swaying of the building leads to a slightly unsettling experience. Here’s a couple of pictures.
The lift down was as fun as the lift going up and let me tell you, we were genuinely impressed with the whole experience. There was no gung-ho over-the-top patriotism like we expected, we weren’t forced to pay extra for stuff time and time again, and the views made it completely worthwhile. I’d recommend this in a heartbeat. We spent half an hour looking around the memorial pools and that’s another thing that seems odd – it’s so quiet. No-one is shouting or running around, just quietly paying respects. Roses are left pushed into people’s names that have been etched into the shiny black marble that surrounds the pools. It’s tasteful and thought-provoking. Not so much for a couple of very prissy knobheads who decided to treat the experience like a fashion show, lying across the memorials, draping their scarves on one another, squealing and clapping and generally being obnoxious dicks (and hell, that’s my job on holiday, surely?). We ruined a good number of their photographs as a petty revenge, walking behind them and into shot with stupid expressions on our faces, until I tired of the game and whispered loudly as we walked past that ‘they should show some fucking respect and stop being selfish boys’. I may not have used the word boys. I might have said something that rhymed with punts. The photographer of the two went squealing over to the other and they stalked off in a huff. Way man. A bit of respect, that’s all.
OK goodness me, we’ve hit the 3000 word mark. Let’s stop there! Popcorn chicken, then…this makes enough for two.
James here. I have some devastating news to get to before we dish out the recipe for spicy orange chicken that you’re all after. After weeks of ‘it will be so much cheaper to run‘, ‘they go fast, honest’ and ‘well I’m not letting you slide that up there until you get me a Smart car’, I’ve folded like a cheap suit, prised open the wallet and given in. Paul now has a Smart car. I maintain my dislike of them – we’re two large fat men, it’s the equivalent of trying to squeeze a roast chicken into a travel kettle, but nevertheless, Paul deserves a car that doesn’t sound like it’s just finished the Dakar Rally. I’m not a petrolhead and I’m certainly not one of those people who need a massive car to try and compensate for their flea-bite willies, I can assure you – my favourite car so far was a crummy, rusty Citroen C2. As a parallel, there were so, so, so many middle-aged knobheads buying giant cars in the Mercedes showroom – don’t worry, you’ll see them soon in blisteringly high detail, beetroot-faced and gesticulating wildly in your rear-view mirror. But no, the Smart car just isn’t for me. It’s all about Paul. So on that note, let’s hand over to him for a wee bit. Oh! This is why we haven’t weighed in this week, we were at the car place on Thursday. Don’t worry, the Knobometer will be back next week. So yeah, Paul…
Hooray! Lots of excitement and excuses to run over the Londis over here at The Sticky Patch because the new car has arrived! Well, it’s half-arrived – they can’t actually find the car we’ve ordered, only that it is somewhere in Zebrugge. James cracked a gag about whether it had come over on the Herald of Free Enterprise but was met with an icy stare from the lady at the dealership. Oops. Ah well, it’s not that terrible as they have let me have the exact same car but in different colours to use until they manage to track the other one down so it all sorted itself out. Of course, I’m totally gonna milk it so that I get a fancy free gift out of their accessories cabinet. There’s a trolley coin and fancy ice scraper in there with my name written all over it.
Of course, this happy event is tinged with sadness as it also means a (probably long overdue) tearful farewell to Betty the Micra, who I will always have a soft spot for as it was my first car. The wing mirror was hanging off and the boot went through a period of not opening aside from random intervals when the car was travelling over 70mph, giving the driver behind a fright as twelve bags of Tesco shopping would start cascading out. She absolutely reeked of several years of accumulated farts that no amount of Yankee Candle knock-offs from Aldi could put a dint in. But I loved her, warts and all.
The Smart is a fantastically fun car to drive – I still maintain that it doesn’t feel like a teeny tiny car when you’re in it (except over speed bumps when both ends of the car seem to go over it at the same time – I still can’t get used to it) and it’s a doddle to park, even with my glyphy eye. Plus, people really, REALLY hate being behind a Smart car so will aggressively overtake which then gives James a chance to practice his more colourful language. He’s not an aggressive driver, just a descriptive one. It’s pleasant that we now that we have two decent cars instead of one nice and one shit one. The neighbours have been unusually quiet today so I fully expect they’re all out now updating their own cars – they can’t be getting outdone by ‘the poofs’ (and I’m not even joking – they really will be).
I love driving, I really do. It’s especially fun up where we live because there are plenty of winding, hilly roads to throw yourself about on, and only a handful lead to dogging spots. In fact, I only passed my test two years ago because to be honest I didn’t really need to drive when I was younger – I preferred to spend my minimum wage wages on fags and cider. I’m from a chronically dull place near Peterborough where fun doesn’t exist and where the roads are just long, straight parkways leading to other long, straight parkways, plus the nearest glory hole was only a fifteen minute walk away so I didn’t ever really feel the need to pass my test anyway. Not that I could have afforded it, I’m terminally underpaid. My childhood experiences of cars was never that exciting either – mother’s Megane had the Celine Dion album she owned on a permanent loop despite being so scratched it sounded like she was rapping her way through My Heart Will Go On. Add to that the fact I couldn’t see out the windows for all the fag smoke that filled the car from her coughing lips – even now I can’t recognise Peterborough without applying a blue smoke filter over the top. Getting out of the smoke-filled car was like coming through the doors of Stars in your Eyes, only I was coughing and spluttering rather than singing Marti Pellow. Ah good times. No wonder I like having my own car now.
Anyway, enough reminiscing. It’s back to James for the recipe. This orange chicken isn’t too spicy and a perfect substitute for a takeaway dinner.
to make spicy orange chicken you will need:
This serves four, by the way.
4 chicken breasts, cut into small chunks (of course, you can use the fabulous chicken breasts that we sell in our fantastic Musclefood deal – in which case, you’ll probably only need two to serve four – click here for those!)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
for the orange sauce:
325ml chicken stock
250ml Tropicana Trop50 Orange Juice (2.5 syns)
150ml white vinegar
125ml soy sauce
zest of 1 large orange
1 garlic clove (minced)
2 tbsp sriracha (1 syn)
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp honey (5 syns)
2 tbsp cornflour (2 syns)
1 tsp chilli flakes
to make spicy orange chicken you should:
in a bowl mix together all of the orange sauce ingredients
in another bowl, add 150ml of the orange sauce to the diced chicken, cover and allow to marinade for twenty minutes
meanwhile, heat the rest of the sauce mixture in a saucepan and bring to the boil
keep stirring until it begins to thicken a little, reduce the heat but keep it on medium and keep stirring
remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the sauce
heat a large pan over a medium-high heat and add a little oil
add the minced ginger and garlic and stir for about 1 minute
add the chicken and fry until cooked
pour half the sauce mixture over the chicken and stir well to coat
serve with rice and pour over the remainder of the sauce
I’ve just received a bastard speeding ticket from Corsica! We went in bloody September. You can imagine that I’m impotent with rage, although, fair dues, I was speeding – 78km/h instead of 70km/h. I’m tempted to appeal against it on the grounds that there was no possible way the car we hired could get anywhere near 78km/h – it struggled backing us off the driveway let alone speeding through the Corsican roads like we’d stolen it. Bah.
The last time I got a speeding ticket was for doing 53mph in a 50mph zone and it was all very British – slightly apologetic letter, strong grounds of appeal, nip along to a speeding awareness course and don’t do it again. This French ticket was full of French disdain – every last word in French, four different sheets of A4 in tiny writing with lots of aggressive red underlining – I can imagine that some paunchy-faced chief in an administrative office in deepest Roubaix scoffing at my infraction, spitting a wad of Gauloise-laced phlegm into a bin and ringing AVIS demanding my credit card.
Ah well. I was the one speeding, so I’m the biggest arse of them all. That’s one thing I can never get my head around – people who moan about getting caught speeding. You’re speeding! We all do it – I’m terrible for it – but you can’t complain about getting caught when you’re actively breaking the law. It’s not like taking an extra biscuit from the packet – you do run the risk of turning an old biddy into human jam on the front of your bumper if you lose control.
The speed awareness course was surprisingly good fun, though. The car-park outside was rammed full of Vauxhall Insignias, Audis (shock!) and various shittily-modded Acne Carriages belonging to the chavs. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly better things to do on a Thursday morning than sit in a hot room in a Holiday Inn with a load of chavs and salesmen, but the course itself was interesting enough. I thought I was going to have three hours of being told I’m a naughty boy for being a bit savage on my accelerator but once we got past the awkward talk and the dishwater coffee it was alright, though of course we had to spend a ridiculous amount of time introducing ourselves like we were on a shit gameshow.
Anyway – I’ve paid it, so I’m just going to sulk about it all night now. Here’s a recipe for any spare chicken you may have sitting around – it’s not exciting, it is just chicken and chips…but still! To make it a little more Slimming World friendly, chuck in some crunchy veg with the chicken. This is the kind of thing we have when we don’t want to cook – it’s just make a sauce, pour on, fry off. Easy!
We’re off gallivanting (actually, we’re watching Homeland with vodka) so just a super quick recipe tonight – but BY GOD it’s good. The sauce does use a lot of ingredients but they’re Slimming World staples – I bet you have them in your cupboard. Mirin is rice vinegar, before anyone asks. Seriously, I dare not use bloody panko again!
to make chinese chicken lo mein, you’ll need:
2 chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
packet of whatever syn free dried noodles you want
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 handful of mangetout, ends trimmed (about twenty pods)
1 red pepper, cut into slices (we only had a green pepper so we used that and added some cherry peppers for some colour!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
FOR THE SAUCE:
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp cornflour (1 syn)
1/2 tbsp Mirin
2 tsp honey (2 syns)
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil (2 syns)
1 tsp chilli flakes
180ml cold water
to make chinese chicken lo mein, you should:
cook the noodles according to the instructions, drain, and set aside
next, make the sauce – it makes it much easier to do this first. In a large jug whisk the cornflour into the water until there are no lumps
add all of the other sauce ingredients, mix, and set aside
meanwhile, add the chicken to a bowl and toss well with the salt and pepper, haha
add a little oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat and cook the chicken until browned
remove the chicken from the pan and place onto a plate
add a little more oil to the same pan and add the red pepper, mangetout, garlic and ginger and cook for about two minutes, stirring frequently
add the spinach and cook for another few minutes until it has wilted
add the chicken back to the pan and the noodles
pour the sauce over the two and mix well until everything is well coated and cook it for a moment or two, just to thicken
Quick post tonight as we’re both knackered after our poor stay at the glamorous, salubrious Village Hotel just outside of Whitley Bay. We decided to spend a night there on the basis that “it can’t be that bad”, which is never a good reason to stay in a hotel. Now let me say this, I’m sure it’s lovely for weddings or it has rooms that blow the mind, but we were given a room that resembled Barbara Cartland’s bathroom, all bright colours and furnishings. The bed was that uncomfortable that we actually went for a drive at midnight as opposed to trying to sleep with the jizz-rusted springs digging into our back. We had a meal delivered by room service that was so forgettable I went for a bath halfway through my burger. It was very ‘god bless, they’ve had a try at least.’ I did feel bad for the room service people though – as soon as Paul ordered our meal I spent a good twenty minutes generously farting away under the duvet, with the effect that as soon as they knocked on the door and I barrelled to the bathroom, a veritable mushroom-cloud of trump went off in the bedroom. Paul tells me that the poor lass delivering our food physically blanched upon smelling, and I’m sure I heard her gagging away in the hallway.
You know what pisses me off though? The various ways they rip you off or let you down in places like this. For example, for £20, we could have been upgraded to ‘Upper Deck’ where such luxuries as Sky Movies and Starbucks coffee awaited. Choose not to upgrade, and your TV (I kid you not) picks up BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, True Movies and Nickelodeon. Perfect if I want to watch the lass out of Cheers getting slapped about or Songs of Praise, but otherwise, fucking pointless. Not to mention the picture broadcast was so poor that I wasn’t entirely sure there wasn’t a tiny man behind the screen hastily drawing an approximation of what should have been on the screen at any given time. Why not just give us the normal TV channels rather than going out of your way to give a shit service? We had a drink in the bar – £13.50 for a gin (unbranded) and tonic (ditto) and a cider. I’m a tight Geordie, yes, but for that price I expect a hairy orchard-worker to come and squeeze my apples himself. Our room service cost £7 to be delivered (had they come in a taxi?) because we had two trays – fair enough, save for the fact that one of the trays held a tiny plate of cheesecake and could have easily been buried on the other tray. I’m surprised that they didn’t have the lift shake the coins out of our pockets as we checked out.
It’s foolish because all it does is create a shit impression – pay extra on top of your hotel stay and you’ll get what you paid for originally. It’s no surprise the hotel trade is dying on its arse with the likes of AirBnB chasing them – I’d sooner pay a flat rate and get everything than pay through the nose and then get asked for more.
Oh, and the coffee. I’d have got more taste and flavour if I’d pissed the bed and sucked it through the mattress.
Staff were lovely though.
So: recipe. I’m calling this date-wrecking because cor, it has a lot of garlic. Very mellow tastes though and it’s a good way to use up the beef strips like you get in, oh I dunno, our fantastic bloody deal with Musclefood? Remember? Forty quid of meat that you can enjoy all sorts of recipes with? Here, take a gander.
to make date-wrecking asian garlic beef, you’ll need:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
5 cloves of garlic, crushed (or even better, use a little mincer – no, not Paul, one of these)
salt and pepper
500g of beef strips (or any beef, cut into strips)
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 pack of mushrooms – any you like, we used those exotic mushroom packs you get in Tesco
2 spring onions, sliced
and then to make date-wrecking asian garlic beef, you should:
in a bowl, mix together the sauces and lime juice
in another bowl, mix together the garlic and 1 tsp pepper
season the beef with some salt and pepper, spray a large frying pan with oil/frylight, and heat to medium high
add the beef and mushrooms (FINALLY I UPDATED IT) and cook until browned, for about 1-2 minutes and then set aside on a plate
in the same pan, spray with a little more frylight or oil and cook the onion for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently
add the garlic and pepper paste and stir constantly for about thirty seconds – add a splash of water if it begins to ‘catch’
return the beef to the pan and stir well to combine
add the soy sauce mixture to the pan and stir until well combined
serve and top with the spring onions
We served this with greens, the recipe for which is coming tomorrow. What a tease!