swiss potato and gooey cheese rosti

This swiss potato and gooey cheese rosti is the mutts-bloody-nuts, I don’t mind telling you. Someone might need to slide you along the kitchen floor like a snail after your dinner – it’s that tasty. Easy to make. But, like the big pricktease that I am, I’m going to make you wait for a moment whilst I waffle on about my usual flim-flam.

See, I was going to talk about the whole pushchair v wheelchair legal case last week when it was y’know, relevant. Have you heard of it? Let me summarise. A chap took FirstGroup to the Supreme Court on the grounds of discrimination after he was unable to board a bus due to the disabled space being occupied by a pushchair. Frankly, I’d like to take bus companies to court based on the fact that I’ve never alighted from a bus without the smell of foist, BO and stale fags soaked into every fibre of my clothing, but that’s by the by. The ruling means that drivers have to do more to help accommodate disabled folk. Good.

Why am I mentioning it? Because I’m astounded that it even had to go to court. Surely good, common decency tells you that you move your pushchair and baby out of the way so that someone who has fuck-all choice as to where they sit can actually travel? Is that not blindingly bloody obvious? And yet when I read online discussion forums about the story they were awash with people saying ‘you can’t wake a sleeping baby’ and ‘it’s not fair expecting a parent to move, they might be tired’! What the hell is all that about, is the baby made from aged nitroglycerine? I know that every baby is special to their parents but the Earth span before the baby and it’ll sure as hell continue afterwards. Perhaps if the pushchair wasn’t the size and build of a Russian Army tank you’d have less of an issue. Buy a smaller pushchair. Put the baby in a sling. Carry it in a papoose. Stuff him safely overhead in the overhead locker bins but be careful as contents may have shifted during transit. If you choose to wheel around a pushchair bigger than Paul’s smart car then be prepared to fold it away if you need to.

Before I get people complaining, just to be clear, if the child has difficulties or it’s a special needs wheelchair then of-bloody-course they should stay on.

There were cries of ‘if disabled people want to be treated equally, why should we make exceptions for them’, which makes me steam at the ears. We’re not talking about laying on a special bus full of blowjobs and cocaine, we’re talking about letting someone ride public transport exactly like everyone else. That’s not an ‘exception’, that’s bloody right! I’d hazard a strong guess that the absolute majority of wheelchair users use their wheelchairs because they have to, not because they fancied being eye-level with everyone’s arses for the day. It’s not like it’s a fairground ride, for goodness sake.

You see it with mother and baby parking spaces too. I can see the merit in them – I absolutely can – but I’ve seen several times over people trying to justify parking in disabled spots because the mother and baby spots were full. Why? If your child is disabled, absolutely fair enough, but if not, park in a normal bay away from other cars and crack on. People managed to get out of cars before without much difficulty. My mother used to haul me and my sister out of our battered old Ford Escort with one hand, the other hand being preoccupied with lighting a Lambert and Butler or smacking our arses for fighting / shouting / breathing noisily. Didn’t do me any harm, and she managed to do it without leaving the car next to her looking like it had been used for a drag race. My arse cheeks did, but that’s beside the point.

I understand the point about ‘not wanting to walk with children across a car park’ but haway, it’s a two minute trundle across Tesco car park – you’re not walking the Hindu Kush. Keep your children smartly to your side and you’ll find it a breeze.

Ah, what do I know, I don’t have children. If I did they’d be raised like Jane and Michael Banks from Mary Poppins and they’d say spit-spot all the time and smoke pipes. And, let me tell you this – if I had them in a pushchair and someone in a wheelchair came aboard the bus, I’d cheerfully strap my children in their pram to the back of the bus and let them ride like the Beverley Hillbillies. It’s just time people stopped being so precious.

Bah. Right, if you feel the need to send me angry words, don’t worry, you needn’t rush to do so.

Oh and as an aside, hasn’t The Archers been delicious recently? Hearing Rob fall apart has been wonderful! Let’s get to the recipe though, eh? I was inspired to make this from something gorgeous that I put in my mouth in Switzerland. He was a potato farmer called Luca and he smelled of Gruyere. Boom boom. This makes one giant rosti which will serve four – I put a quarter on a plate with some sausages and sauerkraut. You know what the best part about this rosti is? It uses butter! Proper butter. Yeah, it adds syns, but not much at all! Plus it’s so easy. Even you could do it! You will need to plan ahead though because step one of this recipe involves doing something the night before!

swiss potato and gooey cheese rosti

to make a swiss potato and gooey cheese rosti you will need:

  • 900g of good floury potatoes, like Maris Piper
  • salt and pepper
  • 25g of reduced fat butter (7 syns)
  • 120g of Gruyere cheese (or cheddar or whatever you like) (4 x HEA) (this serves four, see)
  • a bunch of chives, chopped finely
  • two teaspoons of olive oil (4 syns)

You’ll also need a good pan, about nine inches. If you find nine inches a bit of a struggle, you can use a slightly smaller pan, and just tell people it’s nine inches. It will need to be ovenproof, mind.

to make a swiss potato and gooey cheese rosti you should:

  • this is the key bit – boil your unpeeled whole potatoes for ten minutes in boiling water and then leave to cool overnight until they’re absolutely cold and dry
  • coarsely grate your potatoes – peel them first if you like, but I didn’t bother – I just grated them with the peel on. Now, grating potato is a ballache but we used our Magimix and were done in less than a minute – and look, it’s so pretty!
  • mix the grated potato with a good few crunches of salt and pepper – I really went overboard with the pepper as I don’t think you can have too much, and add the chopped chives for good measure
  • heat your pan on a medium heat with one teaspoon of oil – I use a little wee pastry brush to make sure the whole pan is coated in the oil
  • add half the potatoes and press them down with a spatula, making sure it’s pressed down tight and right to the edges
  • take half of the butter and cut it into tiny slivers, poking these slivers down the sides of the rosti around the pan – leave the rosti to cook for about 5 minutes or so until nice and golden underneath
  • spread the cheese over the top of the rosti, keeping about an inch away from the edges, then cover with the rest of the potato – think of it like making a cheese sandwich – press everything down
  • now the tricky part – how to turn the rosti. You might want to get someone to help you if you’re a clumsy fucker like me but it’s actually not too hard
  • get a flat plate and place it over the top of the frying pan and then quickly flip the pan and plate over, so you’re left with the rosti now the cooked-side up on the plate
  • add the rest of the oil into the pan and gently, oh god so gently, slide the rosti back into the heated pan
  • repeat the butter trick with the rest of the butter and cook for five minutes or so until golden whilst you preheat the oven to 190 degrees
  • transfer the pan into the oven and cook for about fifteen minutes just to finish off the colour then, once it has cooked, take it out and cut into quarters
  • serve with whatever you like – buttery, cheesy rosti goodness awaits!

Now see, I know I’ll get people not trying this because it uses syns, but it’s not many and it’s bloody worth it. You could use frylight, but then you could just eat the foam out of your cushions too. Get it made!

Looking for more inspiration? Click the buttons and get buttering your muffin!

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J

carrot, mint and ginger salad – a quick and easy Slimming World lunch

Here for the carrot, mint and ginger salad? Can’t wait to get chomping? Well, haud yer wheesht, because as ever, we have some flimflam.

You know what I hate? Facebook’s Timehop service. Those whose internet experience amounts of replying positively to Nigerian Kings and typing ‘dancing jesus website lolz’ into google may be unfamiliar with it, so let me explain, as it’s very simple. Every other day Facebook will find a photo of you from many years ago and show you it in the vain hope you’ll go AAAH HOW LOVELY and post it. Not me. No, all I see is my youthful looks staring back at me accusatorially, demanding to know what Present James has done with his life to warrant wrecking Past James so horrifically. Occasionally the brightness of the iPad is bright enough that I can see my own current face reflected back on my young previous face and I feel like Dorian looking ashen-faced into his portrait in the attic. I know we all change (“We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be“) we all age, but I swear I’m not ageing so much as I am melting into a hairy, gelatinous landslide of fat. It’s like the slowest Doctor Who regeneration ever – only I’m turning from James van der Beek into Chewbacca’s stunt double. Paul would be Billie Piper, he has the three-cock-gob. So yeah, Timehop can fuck right off.

I did something yesterday which I haven’t had to do for a long time – no, it wasn’t fumbling my way around a vagina and nor was it paying my driving test examiner to pass me despite the blood congealing on my frontbumper – no, I had to learn something. See, I’ve plodded on in my job for many years (and thoroughly enjoy it, mind you) (that one’s for HR) but recently they’ve very kindly agreed that I can broaden my responsibilities and have sent me for training. This means lots of revision and travelling and attending training. Fine for most people, but I struggle to concentrate – I get distracted and tired mid-piss, for goodness sake.

Nevertheless, I gamely headed to London yesterday, making sure I get in as many people’s way as possible as I farted about trying to find my way to Canary Wharf. Unusually for me, I managed to get there without much difficulty or upset, and I took my chair as the lecture began. I’d bought myself a nice new notebook and Paul’s Christmas present to me, a fancy fountain pen. I can’t write in Biro because we were forced to use ‘proper pens’ at school – you can imagine how difficult that was for me as a left-handed eejit. Every essay I wrote was a collection of smudges, stains and wrist-stamps. I had that much black ink on the side of my hand that my doctor thought I had frostbite. I’ve mastered the art now and as long as I take my time and don’t over-excite myself, I can write coherently.

The one thing I didn’t have was a wee desk. This made the whole thing quite difficult – try writing notes whilst you’re balancing a slides handout, A4 notebook and colour examples on your knee, especially when you have to write all cack-handed anyway due to being all sinistra (did you know that was the latin root of sinister, so, left-handed people are evil? Makes sense, I had no compunction about breaking wind on the escalators on the Tube yesterday). On top of that I have the anxiety of not wanting to write too much but also not missing anything, and every time I set my pen down, the lady next to me immediately started writing. It was like that duelling banjos scene from Deliverance, only with a far less troubling outcome. In the end I managed to pay attention and have six beautiful pages of notes to coo over. After the lectures, the worst part of all: networking.

I can’t network to save my life. I know it’s an acquired skill but, despite the three years of this blog, I hate talking about myself and have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to talking about what I do. I had it in my mind that I’d make up a bewildering, breath-taking back-story, but instead I spluttered my tea and stumbled my words. I must have looked like a simpleton. It didn’t help that whilst I was talking to the vert first victim I’d picked to talk to, I dunked my cookie into my tea only for it to fall in, meanly I had to gamely drink my tea with floating crumbs bobbing around on top whilst they chatted about what they do. Next time I’ll just pick up a cookie and go hide in the toilets like everyone else.

Ah well. I might as well be remembered as the cookie guy as opposed to the heavy-breathing-notes-taking man, I suppose. Networking finished, I realised that I had three bloody hours to kill at Kings Cross before my train, thanks to my penny-pinching ways of buying a non-transferrable ticket. I couldn’t even get into the First Class lounge as you’re only allowed in there two hours before your journey. It was rush hour, there wasn’t a single place to sit anywhere in the station, my bag was too heavy to go anywhere exciting, so I just sat outside and people watched.

I know it’s an unoriginal thought, but Christ, London is so busy. Where do all these people, scurrying about like ants on a sugar pile, live? Where do they work? I like to imagine all the threads of their lives crossing over this way and that, all in one giant tangle, and then my head starts hurting so I move my thoughts back to thinking about chips. I spent 30p to have a pee, which I still think is outrageous even now – if I have to pay to piss, then surely I should have the option of saving my money and being allowed just to piss on the tracks instead? Bastards.

After an hour or so I attempted to make my way to the First Class lounge only to be caught up in a giant mass of people all thundering for a train whose platform had just been announced. You know in old cartoons when they’d start fighting and disappear into a comedy smoke bubble with flailing limbs popping out? It was like that, only with a lot more cheap aftershave and hooraying. I was deposited out five minutes later all dazed and confused and, after a brief interlude where I was pushed around Little Waitrose by a heaving queue of focaccia buyers, stumbled into the First Class lounge.

I wish I could say there was respite to be had but no. It was busy, as you’d expect, but that meant it was full of the type of businessmen who need you to know how important they are by bellowing loudly into their phones. On top of this, I kept getting icy stares and extremely loud sighs and harrumphs from an older lady who seemed to take great offence to the fact I’d sat next to her in the only spare seat in the lounge. I didn’t let her know that I took great offence to the fact she’d seemingly put her make-up on four times over, so why was she giving me such cold looks? She soon stopped when I stared right back. I was tempted to do that thing of putting two fingers on my lips and flapping my tongue through but I didn’t want to be bundled out before I’d managed to secrete as many free bags of crisps as I could into my bag. As it happens, I decided to leave soon after I came in as it was all so very stuffy. I people watched for a while longer, made my way through the 5kg of Corkers crisps I had in my bag, and then got the train. Aside from having someone who was clearly unwell jibbering away across the aisle and the train being delayed thanks to ‘problems with the tension’ (I presumed it was sexual tension from seeing me dashing aboard in my Jacamo coat and sensible shoes), it was an entirely uneventful ride home. Job done. Until the next time…

Final thought – Paul has been raving at me about an online internet station that plays all the old nineties music we like without any crappy DJ linking the songs together. I mean, seriously, he hasn’t shut up about it, but I kept dismissing his bold claims because his Spotify playlist consists of Tracy Chapman, more Tracy Chapman and Now That’s What I Call Amyl Nitrates. However, he left the SONOS player open and I stuck on the previously played tracks – and they’re all brilliant. I mean, haway, the song that is playing right now is Ain’t No Doubt by Jimmy Nail, a man who is nothing more than a steel-capped workboot given a tongue and lips. The station is Pride Radio 90s. Yes, the rainbow face made my eyes bleed too, but we can overlook the trivialities, can’t we.

Proper final thought – can you lot calm the fuck down over these Fiber One bars? Jesus Christ man. I’ve seen so many fights and arguments with grown women calling each other worse than child-murderers for having the temerity to buy a few boxes of these in the supermarket. Why? They taste shite, they’re tiny, they’re full of chemicals and you’d get more flavour sucking on the doormat. I swear it’s very much a Slimming World thing – something gets ‘recommended’ on facebook by a couple of people and then hundreds of adults start storming the supermarkets like the boxes came with half an hour of cunnilingus by Tom Hardy. I’ve seen photos where people have bought 30 or 40 boxes and I just think, Christ, have some bloody dignity. It’s not about ‘saving some for other people’, you have as much right to buy them as anyone else, but you’re only buying them because you’ve seen others doing the same. Don’t be a bloody sheep, especially not one who is brawling in ASDA and calling others ‘fukin greedee slags’ all for the sake of a shit bloody brownie.

BAH!

Right, with all that out of the way, let’s get this recipe done, eh? You might be thinking that a carrot salad is boring, but if you’re a fan of carrots, I can guarantee it’s worth a go. I made this for a lunch but you could easily use it as a side on one of our dishes that don’t have the third speed in it. You could add cooked noodles into this to bulk it out, if you wished. You know how Slimming World have launched those little salads in Iceland that you can have for your lunch? Think of this like those, only fresher as you’re making them yourself. Yes, it has a couple of syns, but absolutely worth it. We used two packs of Marks and Spencers rainbow carrots (£3 for two packs) but you can use bog standard carrots if you want. We won’t tell. This makes enough for three hearty portions.

carrot, mint and ginger salad

to make carrot, mint and ginger salad, you’ll need:

  • around 400g of carrots, baby ones are better, peeled
  • two shallots
  • fresh mint (or dried, but fresh always better)
  • a little knob of ginger (about half an inch), peeled and grated
  • tablespoon of mustard seeds
  • juice of half a lime
  • tablespoon of olive oil (6 syns) (you could use lemon flavoured oil here, be lovely)
  • good pinch of salt and black pepper

to make carrot, mint and ginger salad, you should:

  • chop your carrots into strips or, even better and far quicker, julienne them using one of these – much easier and you’ll get nice uniform strips
  • thinly slice the shallots
  • it’s much nicer if you toast off your mustard seeds – chuck them in a dry pan on a medium heat for a minute or two, just until you get the scent of them, and then take off the heat
  • grate your ginger nice and fine (yep, I know, predictable, but please, buy a mincer for your ginger, then just freeze a big lump of ginger and grate it as and when you need it straight from frozen!
  • mix everything together in a bowl and top with fresh mint and give everything a good tumble with your fingers

This can go a bit watery if left after a while, that’s fine – just dress it when you want to eat it. You could add sliced peppers and noodles, remember. This would work very well as an accompaniment to curries!

Right, that’s all done. If you want more veggie dishes, lunch ideas or other such nonsense, click the buttons below! You know you want to.

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J

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

droptober recipe #8: syn-free tomato ketchup

Just a recipe for syn-free tomato ketchup today – no time for chit-chat because we’re getting shit done. I say getting shit done, we’re actually trying our best to work through 87 episodes of Police Interceptors and Jeremy Kyle before the Sky man gives us a new box on Monday. I’m not having him judging me based on the fact that most of our TV recordings have the word ‘Benefits’ in the title somewhere and have all been recorded from Channel 5 HD. What can I say? I’m a sucker for seeing bumblebee-teeth (yellow, black, venomous) in blistering high-definition.

So, syn-free tomato ketchup. I did have a look around for a syn-free version and indeed, Slimming World have their own take on the tomato ketchup, but naturally, they add artificial sweetener. So it’s syn-free but tastes like shite (in my humble opinion). Other recipes use passata which is fine, but if you can get your hands on proper tomatoes from the market or grown yourself, all the better. This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver, a man who thoroughly divides our house. Paul hates him with a passion, whereas I think he’s a sweet-natured fella with his heart in the right place, even if his tongue isn’t.

To the recipe then. To be clear, this recipe does contain 50g of brown sugar which should be synned at 10 syns. But it also makes about six bottles worth of the size you can see in my picture. Given there’s probably about 10 servings per bottle, it works out at less than a tenth of a syn per dash. If you’re the type of person who puts ketchup on like you’re trying to hide the food you’re eating underneath, perhaps you ought to syn it. Your choice. You’re an adult, after all, though even if you used every last bit of sauce in one meal, it would still only be 10 syns. So…?

It does use a lot of ingredients but you ought to have most of them kicking around in the cupboard and yes, it is one of those recipes that you could just use a bit of Heinz and syn it – but damn if it doesn’t taste good! We made a batch with red tomatoes and another with orange, hence the colour difference. We added a bit more vinegar to the orange sauce and reduced the sugar – made for a more ‘sweet and sour’ taste. Listen, I know, we’re amazing.

syn-free tomato ketchup

to make syn-free tomato ketchup, you’ll need:

  • 1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ bulb fennel, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • some spray olive oil
  • a little knob of ginger, about the size of your thumb, minced using one of these to save time
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, also using the tool above
  • ½ fresh red chilli , deseeded and finely chopped (feel free to leave out if you’re not a fan of ringsting)
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks chopped (if you buy a plant, stick it in water afterwards and it’ll cheerfully grow again)
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • good pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 kg yellow, orange or green tomatoes , chopped, or 500g cherry or plum tomatoes, halved plus 500g tinned plum tomatoes
  • 200ml red wine vinegar
  • 50g soft brown sugar

to make syn-free tomato ketchup, you should:

  • make sure you’ve got a heavy duty pot for this – non-stick and decent size
  • give the pan a few squirts of oil then add everything solid bar the tomatoes – the onion, fennel, celery, ginger, garlic, basil stalks, pepper, salt, cloves and coriander seeds
  • cook gently for about fifteen minutes until everything is softened slightly, then add the tomatoes and water and allow to gently simmer, like a loved one taking a huff because you recorded over her soap operas
  • allow to simmer until it has reduced by half – can take a while, but there’s no rush here
  • once reduced, throw in the basil leaves and whoosh the sauce with a stick blender – or allow to cool and do it in the food processor, whatever is easiest
  • Jim recommends sieving the sauce twice and I agree – it’s a fart on but it makes for a much smoother ketchup
  • return to the heat and add the vinegar and sugar – stir well and again, allow to simmer for ages until it’s really reduced down and gone nice and thick and gloopy – this took a couple of hours for me, stirring every now and then – no need to rush these things
  • once you’re happy, and you know it, and you really want to fucking show it, decant the ketchup into your sterilised bottles
  • to sterilise bottles, according to the BBC:

Wash the jars in hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place the jars on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to dry completely.

  • keep in the fridge until you need a bit of ketchup in your life – it’s that easy!

Our bottles are cute, but you can use anything glass as long as you sterilise it first. We have fancy Kilner ones because of course we do, and you can buy a set on Amazon for a reasonable enough price by clicking here. They have the added bonus of allowing you to look like a right hipster sod by drinking your smoothies from them too! LOVE YOU.

RIGHT. Must get back to the TV, Paul’s eyes have become unfocussed from so much flashing lights. If you want more recipes, click some of the wonderful buttons below, and have a smashing weekend.

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J

tomato panzanella with haricot beans

The tomato panzanella with haricot beans will be with you shortly, don’t worry.

Apologies for the lack of posts this week, but see real life got in the way and I didn’t have much time to sit at my desk typing away – normal service should resume next week.

We’ve hired a car for the weekend. Now, hiring a car when you’re young free and single may bring to mind a fancy sports car or a top-end muscle car, but no, not for the Cautious Cubs, oh no no. Because we’re a) tight and b) stingy, we just went for the cheapest option which has landed us with a Ford Fiesta. Nowt wrong with a Fiesta but it doesn’t exactly get the blood pumping, does it? It doesn’t help that it comes in ‘Aged Pubic Grey’.

The guy serving was clearly on the same bus as us so there was lots of knowing looks at us ‘going away for the weekend’. Luckily, he wasn’t one of those prickly gay men who get uppity and peacocky around other gay men, so all was well. He had the good grace to look ashamed when he handed over the key to our temporary Ford Tedium, though he brightened up when he asked how we got to the rental place and I pointed at Paul’s smart-car and explained that we’d come over in a rollerskate.

I hate driving unfamiliar cars – I like the comfort of knowing what every knob does (in my car he usually sits in the passenger seat telling me how to drive) and how to turn on the air-conditioner. Some silly fool has set all the radio channels up the incorrect way, with Radio 2 being on the number four present and all the other channels being full of Now That’s What I Call Tinnitus. The indicators don’t make a pleasing clicky-clack like mine and to top it off, it’s an automatic. Nowt against automatics you understand, but it isn’t proper driving unless I’m wearing out the clutch and over-revving like I’m the lorry driver in Duel.

Oh a final thing I need to say – sorry, but boring legal bit here. We’re happy for you to share our photos in your groups and links to our blog everywhere you can, that’s grand, no problem at all. However, we’ve had an incident where some greasy-faced spunkguzzler decided to make our recipes into a book and sell them for profit. Let me make one thing clear: we will pursue the rights to our content to the very end. The photos are ours, the content is ours, and we do it for free for a reason – to help those who can’t afford to go to SW. Don’t be a cheeky twat – we will come after you!

Anyway, no time for chitter-chatter as we’ve got stuff to sort. We will be blogging again next week with lots of new recipes, and we’ve even got a theme week planned. I’ll leave you with this quick recipe for a panzanella to use up any tomatoes you have kicking about – perhaps you have some spare from the previous recipe! We found the recipe on another blog – right here – so full credit to them. Naturally, we’ve give it a bit of a Slimming World tweak. Makes enough for four light lunches.

tomato panzanella with haricot beans

to make tomato panzanella with haricot beans, you’ll need:

  • as many tomatoes as you dare, warm from the sun not cold from your heart/fridge
  • a red onion
  • a few basil leaves
  • two teaspoons of olive oil
  • however much bread you want – so if you’re having four portions, use 4 x HEB allowance
  • a tin of haricot beans (or butter beans), easy to find in the supermarket (they’ll be near the sweetcorn)
  • one orange pepper
  • one red pepper
  • tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and black pepper

to make tomato panzanella with haricot beans, you should:

  • cube up your bread allowance and put into a bowl with the oil and some salt and pepper
  • swish it around, rough and tumble, so everything has a bit of oil
  • put onto a tray and slide it elegantly into the oven – maybe for ten minutes or so until it’s just nice and toasty but not actually toasted
  • if you can’t be arsed to fart about, just toast the slices and then cut them up after
  • meanwhile, thinly slice your peppers and onions, drain your beans (that’s not a euphemism, you filthy tart) slice your red onion nice and fine and shred those basil leaves – you don’t need to be elegant here, just cut it up any old how
  • quarter your tomatoes – lots of different sizes and colours
  • chuck everything bar the bread into a bowl, add the vinegar, mix it all up and leave until you want your meal
  • add the breadcrumbs at the last moment and give it a mix
  • serve!

Lots of speed foods and lots of flavour. Enjoy! Looking for more ideas? Take your pick…

vegetariansmall  sausagessmall  seafoodsmallbreakfastsmallsnackssmall dessertsmallslowcookersmall

J

spinach and wild garlic pesto pasta

Hello! Check out the recipe below for spinach and wild garlic pesto pasta.

Work’s been super busy and I make no apology for the lack of posts. It’s all I can do not to tear my car into the central reservation of an evening. Sometimes I think I’d like to give up working and stay at home wearing the same underwear for four days on the trot (you know the type, male readers – change them when you’ve got to fold them with a karate chop) but I know it would end in ruin, not least because I couldn’t possibly be one of those people who prepare dinner for their husbands and push the hoover around inbetween arguing on Facebook in barely-English and playing Bejewelled. I watched fifteen minutes of Jeremy Kyle the other day and it was eye-opening – at least, eye-opening in the sense that I almost held open my eyes and poured hot metal into them rather than watch the show. I just can’t understand it. Going on TV all cankles-blazing to yell incoherently to your other half whilst some smug envelope-ripper alternates between blowing spittle in your face and cowering behind his security guards, who stand on the stage like they’ve fallen off the back of a lorry in a blizzard of creatine and can’t remember the syllable for ‘HELP’. It’s repellent. If you thought your partner was pounding himself into your sister / mother / crudely-drawn approximation of a vagina sprayed on the side of a bus shelter, why go onto national TV to get ‘the troof’? Is the lure of a night’s stay in a Travelodge with all the Taybarns’ beige food and Bellabrusco you can manage really so strong? It must be!

Oops. Side-tracked. Anyway, some GOOD NEWS for you readers. We finally managed to get around to updating our recipe page. This might not sound terribly exciting until you remember our previous bank of recipes was just a giant list and made for a rubbish read. So we put our thinking caps on, loaded up photoshop to make some snappy graphics, and split all the recipes out via their key ingredients. This means if you’re stuck for inspiration on what to do with your pork (PUT SOMETHING ON THE END OF IT) or your breasts (PUT THEM AWAY, THEY’RE FRIGHTENING), you can see at a glance what to make. Give it a go by clicking here. I have a request – share that link wherever you can. I see so many posts from people saying they need recipe ideas and there’s over 300 in there! Thanks.

Tonight’s recipe is a bit fancy but hey, if I can’t let my early onset male pattern baldness down once and a while, what can I do? It uses wild garlic which is growing abundantly outdoors at the moment. Take a walk into any woodlands and you’ll find, amongst the spent custard-catchers and dog muck, strong scents of garlic wafting up from the ground, also known as ramsons. They have big, smooth flat leaves and right about now, tiny white flowers. They’re distinctive but still, be careful – don’t be picking anything you’re unsure of, I can’t have anyone’s death on my conscious, not least because I don’t want my facebook feed full of wailing and ‘SHARE IF U MISS HER IGKNORR IF YOUR GLAD SHE DEAD’ pictures. Do step away from the well-worn paths so you’re not getting a plant with a lacquer of dog piss too. You can find more information here on the BBC website, which includes the fact it’s also known as Stinkin’ Jenny. Which let’s be honest, would totally be my drag name if I ever went that way.

Now look, if you’re not a fan of stumbling about in the woods looking for plants and risking life and limb in the search of a few leaves, then you can swap it out for spinach and some grated garlic, and we won’t tell. You can even lie and still tell your other half that you’ve been out hunting for pleasure in the woods, although you might want to clarify that this doesn’t mean you want to be back there later in the evening bent over a Vauxhall Astra’s bonnet whilst a barely interested plumber tries to fluff himself to half-mast. Is it just my world that requires these clarifications? Good lord. It really is worth hunting out the wild garlic though – for one, it’s free, which will appeal to all those misers who are tighter than two coats of paint, and secondly, it’s so very tasty! Admittedly, be careful not to do what I did when I was a young’un. Buoyed with the excitement of a walk in the woods, I filled a carrier bag with wild garlic leaves and flowers and took it into school to show my teacher, who, with all the enthusiasm of a teacher one week away from seeing the devil children out of the door for the final time, told me to stick it in my locker and stop showing off.

Showing off? Christ I know we were a poor family but I think even I could have done better than some bloody garlic on Show and Tell. I could have brought in my Kerplunk with the sticks missing, for example. Short game.

Anyway, it stayed in my locker for eight weeks, heating up nicely in the summer holiday, then rotting down into a putrid, gloopy mess which slicked down between the lockers and out onto the carpet. When they re-opened the classroom a couple of days before school came back the smell was so overwhelming that they had to put the classroom AND the adjoining classroom out of use for a week or so to air it out. It’s amazing, even then I had the ability to befoul a room with my odours. Anyway, who’s laughing now? Not the teacher, she smelled like a freshly cut dump for two weeks whilst the residual smell permeated her every pore. WHAT AM I LIKE. So yes: by all means pick the garlic, but don’t bloody store it anywhere you wish to breathe the air of. Oh, and if you’re concerned that a diet of flowers, leaves and garlic is going to leave you skinnier than a vegan’s dog, throw some plain chicken in there. It’s that easy. This makes four servings. It assumes that you’re using 4 x HEA (i.e. one per person/serving).

spinach and wild garlic pesto pasta

to make spinach and wild garlic pesto pasta, you’ll need:

  • 200g of spinach
  • a clutch of wild garlic leaves, washed, and a bunch of the flowers from the top
  • enough pasta for four people
  • 180g of ricotta (90g is one HEA, who knew?)
  • two tablespoons of good olive oil (12 syns)
  • 60g of parmesan (2 x HEA)
  • salt and pepper
  • chive flowers if you have them

to make spinach and wild garlic pesto pasta, you should:

  • cook up your pasta
  • boil your spinach and garlic leaves for a minute or two – you want it softened but not mush
  • blend the spinach and leaves together with the oil, pinch of salt and pepper, together with 50g or so of the parmesan
  • you don’t want it looking like soup – keep a bit of texture
  • add the ricotta and stir it through
  • stir into the pasta
  • decorate with chive flowers and garlic flowers and a bit more parmesan

This keeps really well for a lunch the next day.

You can find all of our vegetarian and pasta recipes by clicking on the icons below!

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Enjoy!

J

fresh spring rolls and dipping sauce

Was it my fresh spring rolls and dipping sauce that caught your eye? Well scroll on down, you filthy buggers. Fair warning, tonight’s entry is a little saucy.

Before we get to the recipe, I’m going to do something unusual. See, in the facebook group that accompanies this blog are a load of funny buggers, each more crass and hilarious than the last. I can rattle off a blue joke and a knob gag no worries, but well, I struggle to get women’s problems correct. It’s all so complicated, and well, if you get it wrong, you’re liable to end up with a clit around the ear and a flap in the face. Wah-wah.

Anyway, I decided it would be a gas to ask people if they wanted to write an ‘article’ for the blog – no catches, write what you want, and if I have a recipe but can’t be buggered to type up one of my usual why-use-one-word-when-forty-paragraphs will do, I can post one up! If you’re interested in having a go, let me know in the comments. Readers, please remember that these articles are people wanting to try their hand at writing a blog post but don’t have the confidence to set up a full blog. Be kind. If you’re thinking negative comments, keep them ssh. If you enjoy the article, let’s hear from you!

Tonight’s entry is by the charming Clarabell, who lists the ability to say the alphabet backwards and having a creepy double-jointed hand as her party trick. Don’t believe me? Take a look!

20160522_174459

Goodness. Least she never struggles to get the last Pringle out of the tube, eh? I’d better make sure that isn’t the image that shows up when you post this to facebook. Over to Clarabell…


sweatbox: a tale by Clarabell

Now, we’re all used to the candid craic from James and Paul about douche bulbs, all things in the downstairs department, and of course the post that mentioned bukkake…which I had to google. On a work laptop. Upon which I forgot to delete the history. Cheers guys! So I figured that with a gaggle of MAINLY female readers that my post would have to be about some nether region tale of the female variety. Something we’ve probably all experienced at one point. Perhaps not James and Paul. (James edit: NOT TRUE! I’ve been there and it was all very charming, but not for me. That’s what keeps the world interesting, different opinions, apropos of nothing I don’t like potted ox tongue either).

I’ve been fed up lately, I’ve been getting bouts of cystitis, antibiotics, thrush, cystitis….repeat. I’ve had a scan and there’s nothing wrong with me other than I don’t drink enough water, and have self-created this cycle of misery.

Resigned to buying the thrush cream, after the standard tactic of ‘ignore it and it might not be there’ stopped working, off I went to the local shopping centre, my purse hovering on the thick air in front of me. I’m in Asda but I can’t see what I want on the shelves, and I’m quickly narked that the chemist is the other side of the centre, only because when your regions are on fire, that’s a long walk to do, simultaneously avoiding the urge for a scratch, and walking like there’s stones in your shoes. But! In a flash of delight, I remember that they took out half of the checkouts, to make an optician that no-one goes in, and…. a PHARMACY! Whoop! There’s nothing like the delight of knowing you can get minge cream at the same time as your linguine.

I approach the counter, there’s a pharmacist (identifiable by not being in day-glo Asda attire) fannying on with those little plastic mesh baskets that the prescriptions are homed in before dispensing, and very engrossed in it HE is too. Yes, he’s a he. Urgh. Oh well, in the spirit of “he’s heard it ALL before”, I man up and he eventually stops fussing and walks over, asking the age old idiot question “are you being seen to?”…am I being seen to?! By who?! Unless you’ve started employing invisible colleagues, then no…there’s only you there, and only me this side of the counter, and so no, I am not being seen to! Shop assistants, bartenders and pharmacists really need to drop the “are you being seen to?” line. What we all know is that you are trying to feign perplexion at my presence, as some sort for cover for the fact that you effectively ignored me for a good few minutes whilst procrastinating at your work – in this case the vital work of rearranging plastic baskets.

I’d like some Canesten Oral Duo” I say bravely– pointing to the bottom shelf. Worryingly, he looks like he doesn’t have a clue what I’m asking for. He follows my finger to the bottom shelf, and picks up some Sea Legs, examines box, puts it back and repeats – he does this a few times with a box of Rennie, and some headlice solution, and eventually comes across the thrush ‘range’ glowing on the shelf like a barber’s pole in full red and white glory. I’m wondering at this point if he is the pharmacist, or whether he’s mugged the rightful medicine man of his Asda badge and strolled behind the desk in the manner of an imposter, hoping to get first nab of the nearby ‘Whoops’ range, but he comes across the requested item at last. Not literally, you’d really struggle to pick the box up if he did that.

“Is it for you?” he asks. Christ on a bike…look mate, it’s fifteen flaming quid…I am not about to raffle it off in the Slimmer of the Week basket I don’t say this, instead I go with “yes” and 100% resting bitch face. Oh but he isn’t finished, “have you used it before?”…panic! What’s the correct answer to this? ‘Yes’ and appear like some serial offender, someone who can’t control their rancid ways and lifting minnie?! Or ‘no’ and risk a declined purchase, or worse, some sort of lecture on best application practice and/or side effects?! I go with “yes” quickly followed up with “a while ago…” He gives a small nod. He knows I’m baking bread. Phew, home and dry, which is good because another customer has joined me and she has the smug privacy of a prescription, which is her ticket to a no question transaction.  What is it with these useless questions?

However, there can be none more useless than the question I once got asked buying antihistamines for hayfever, “drowsy or non-drowsy” I was asked! Really?! Erm..let me check my diary…nope, nothing on the afternoon, drowsy for me please, I’m fine to lounge around spaced out and sleepy, I was not planning on driving and the only ‘machinery’ I’ll be operating will be the telly, so yup, drowsy will do just do fine…ah wait, no consuming alcohol? Poop.

Anyway, Ahmed walks to the till, and promptly stops and stands above it doing jazz hands, and of course he just remembered he doesn’t know how to use it. Suddenly, “Doreen!” he shouts WAVING THE CANESTEN BOX IN THE AIR! “Doreen, can you ring this in for me please”! I swear the smug-prescription-holder does the smirking shimmy, that tiny little wobble that comes only with an inner titter.  I throw her some side-ways shade, which is code for ‘look lady, we’ve all been there, and you will one day (maybe soon after that prescription for antibiotics teehee!) also have to stand here and deal with this lovely bloke, showing the world his arm pit sweat patch whilst at the same time holding aloft the solution to your itchy snatch’.


Goodness me! I once had a flatmate who had perpetual thrush, brought on by the fact her extra-endowed boyfriend  seemed hellbent on hammering her cervix over her back-teeth. Not even kidding there, she showed me a photo he’d sent and what I thought was his arm holding the camera definitely wasn’t. At one point our fridge was more cranberry juice than anything else. I still can’t have a cranberry sour without thinking of her undercarriage. I remember we once had a full stand-up row over the fact I refused to boil tea-towels in a saucepan on the hob to sterilise them. Awfully judgemental for someone with a little too much glue on their envelope.

Now listen, before anyone starts writing their ‘ANGRY OF TUNBRIDGE WELLS’ letters and getting themselves in a tizz, don’t. I know it’s perfectly natural and I know people get all sorts of things but do you know, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, what can we do? Let’s not live in a joyless vacuum.

Right, to the food!

 fresh spring rolls

These are one of those tasty little dishes that look complicated to make, but they’re really not. We used Blue Dragon Rice Pancakes for these which SW say are one syn each (ridiculous) – you can buy rice pancakes from any Asian supermarket too. The joy with these is that you can ram them absolutely chock-full of speed vegetables and lovely free things. 

to make fresh spring rolls, you’ll need:

to make fresh spring rolls, you should:

  • get a plate and fill it with warm water, you’ll obviously not need a lot
  • chop all your veg up – this is where a mandolin will save you so much time and make everything neat and wonderful – click here to buy one of those
  • get everything ready to hand
  • take one pancake, push it into the water, allow to rehydrate a little
  • take out, shake off the water and lay it on a tea-towel or better, a nice clean worktop
  • if you imagine it in thirds, you want to place a big amount of filling at the top of the bottom third – or really, just below the middle of the pancake
  • fold in the sides
  • fold in the bottom
  • roll – keep it nice and tight with your hands (fnar fnar)
  • place on a chopping board and cut with a very sharp knife

You’re done! We served ours with a dipping sauce where we took low sodium soy sauce (6 tbsp), a couple of tablespoons of hoisin (4 syns), a few chilli flakes, a drop of honey (1 syn) and some passata. Stir and serve!

Although these are a syn each, these fresh spring rolls are very, very filling and a brilliant way of getting fresh veg into you. I’m a big fat pig and only managed four! If you wanted to keep it vegetarian, swap out the meat for cooked egg or mushrooms.

Enjoy.

J

peanut broccoli salad

Here for the peanut broccoli salad? Scroll down to the picture and start running your fingers under the words on the screen. Today’s post isn’t going to be played for laughs because something is on my mind. The NHS. Yes, today we’re not going to so much as wander off the path as set camp in the forest. See, I was driving home listening to Professional Chode Jeremy Hunt gabbling away in that smug, shit-eating way of his about reaching a deal with the junior doctors. I can’t abide the man. You know when someone is described as making your skin crawl? He makes me turn inside out like a salt-covered slug with shyness issues. I’m unapologetic in my view. He represents the very worst – perhaps second only to George Osborne, a man so smug that he probably has a Fleshlight designed in the vision of his own face delivering bad news – of what is wrong with who is running the country. But that’s another rant for another time.

See, I love the NHS. I truly do. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had previous bouts of health anxiety and whilst that’s under control, it’s also meant I’ve had many trips to the doctors in my time. I’ve also got a dicky ticker to boot. Every single time I’ve been into hospital I’ve been treated with the utmost respect by all of the staff, who wear their smiles wide and work hard to bring reassurance and comfort to all. I was in there this morning for physiotherapy on my Klicker-Klacker neck. The doctor who I saw was wonderful, knew about my anxiety, took the time to explain what the problem was (and more importantly, what it wasn’t!) and even had the good grace not to recoil when I took my shirt off. I wasn’t rushed, I wasn’t made to feel like I was inconveniencing them, and I was told just to call up if things got worse. 

I hasten to clarify something – I’ve only been into hospital when I’ve actually had something wrong – I’m not a timewaster (though I’ll say this – don’t dismiss anyone with health anxiety as being a timewaster – take a moment to ponder what it must actually be like worrying and fretting that they’re dying). I’ve never had a single bad experience with the NHS, and it breaks my heart (just what I need) to see the systematic dismantling of it coming in via the back door.

And listen – I normally love things coming in via the back door. Of course there could be improvements, but what massive organisation can’t stand to lose a little fat? Plus if I have to sit through one more ‘GO YOU’ video in the waiting room where positive messages are beamed at me by someone more tooth than human I’ll cut myself. Least I’ll be in the right place. I’m going to hand over the typing to Paul, who can put our feelings in much better terms. Over to you, Fatty.

All we ever really hear about the NHS is that it’s awful, things are going wrong, mistakes are happening – I can only disagree with that entirely both with my own experiences and those I’ve seen of others (as a spectator and a cog in the machine itself). 

It’s pretty amazing to think of this giant institution being there in the background which we all take for granted. Can you imagine having to dole out some cash every time you wanted to see the doctor? I had a taste of it when we last went to Florida and suffered from a simple perforated eardrum. It cost nearly £500 for ten minutes with a mardy quack and a Tiny-Tears bottle of ear drops. £500! James started clutching his heart until I reminded him we’d need to mortgage the house to pay for the defibrillator. We paid it because I needed it – I was in agony and due to fly back, and fortunately had some travel insurance to cover it, but to imagine having that sort of thing drop into my lap on a normal day beggars belief and needless to say would mean I’d probably have to self-medicate with whinging and attention-seeking, and probably some Ben & Jerry’s too. 

This whole idea of the value of the NHS hit me today just as I was sorting out our diary – I’ve got a few medical appointments coming up with my GP and at the hospital (we’re at that age, you know) that are for things that are all down to my fatness, and James had a quick rub-down by the physio today for his wonky neck. I did a quick bit of googling about the subject and to have all of these things without the NHS (i.e. like in America) would have cost nearly £3,000. Isn’t that astonishing? I know there’s insurance and various schemes but overall, what a mess. 

Isn’t it great that all these services are offered for nowt, all because of our NHS. Now, I know – I annoy myself with these things – all this treatment is entirely my own fault and completely avoidable, and I am a little ashamed to have to be using up the resources of the NHS on me being too greedy, but on the other hand what a fantastic public service it is – to know that all of us, whoever we are, where we come from, what we do, can have the most fundamental thing – our continued survival – at our disposal. And, what a thing it is that we can be so lucky to have something so grand and wonderful that we take it for granted.

So I made myself a commitment today – to look-up to the NHS and champion it, and also defend it. James will be rolling his eyes at this (he hates it when I get political) (James edit: no I don’t, I just find it hard to get it up when you wear your Thatcher wig and flat shoes) so I’ll maybe soften it a bit – but we ALL need to defend it from those that want to take it away. It is OURS and we must keep it OURS and so we must all do what we can to cherish it, use it, and make sure it’s there for others in the future. So, from today, I’ll continue my weight loss journey so that I can get healthy but also reduce the strain on the NHS in the future – today it’s a fatty liver but if I keep on at the rate I am there will be all sorts of obesity-related conditions that come knocking at my creaky door (and knees – and I need them for….things…), and make sure I do all I can to protect and defend the NHS when I can. Not just in a rabble-rousing way but also to defend the very essence of the NHS and the culture that comes with it, because god knows we’ll miss it when it’s gone. 

Phew. All better. 

Let’s do the recipe, then. This salad more than filled us up as a main meal – we served two paprika chicken breasts with it, the recipe for which you can find here – but it would do as a side too. Plenty of speed and more importantly, plenty of taste. This makes enough for four people as a big side dish.

peanut broccoli salad

to make peanut broccoli salad, you’ll need:

  • 1 or 2 large broccoli, cut into florets (or use 600g tenderstem/purple sprouting broccoli like we did)
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp reduced fat peanut butter (8 syns)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey (2½ syns)
  • a drop of sesame oil (½ syn)

If you’re serving with chicken, use the Musclefood chicken. Not saying this to push the product because we get paid commission (although we do) – we forgot to defrost some chicken and had to buy a couple of breasts from the supermarket. They went in looking swell and tasty, they came out shrunken and dry as a dead dog’s dick. Musclefood’s chicken is tasty, doesn’t shrink and isn’t full of gristle that makes eating your dinner the equivalent of chewing on the ring of a condom. Click here to order our freezer filler which will get you loads of chicken!

And look – yes you use syns, but this dish works out as 11 syns for the lot. I’ve divided it into four at 3 syns each, so I’m actually being over-cautious there. Don’t sack it off because it uses syns, that’s what they are there for. 

Finally, the inspiration for this recipe came from gimmesomeoven – we’ve taken it and made it SW-friendly.

to make peanut broccoli salad, you should:

  • reheat the oven to 200°c
  • drain the chickpeas well and place on a single layer on a baking sheet and dribble Worcestershire sauce over them – give them a shake to get them coated
  • bake in the oven for about 30 minutes – you don’t want them at full teeth-shattering level but a bit of crunch is a good thing
  • meanwhile, in a bowl mix together the peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil, loosen with a tablespoon of hot water if it’s too thick, until you reach your desired consistency
  • bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the broccoli
  • cook for a minute or two, or longer if you like it softer (amateur)
  • drain and place in cold water
  • when ready to serve, drain the broccoli and in a large bowl mix together with the peanut sauce
  • serve and sprinkle over the roasted chickpeas

Enjoy!

J

savoury porridge with asparagus, sprouts and bacon

Oh I know, haven’t I gone all posh with the savoury porridge with asparagus, sprouts and bacon? We even chuck an egg on there. That’s a wee bit below.

Apologies that I forgot to post the last couple of days but well, I’ve been busy with work. For the first time in so long I’m actually learning something new and it’s great fun. If you knew what it was I was learning you’d probably think it was deathly dull but honestly, it’s nice to use my mind for something other than fart-gags and thinking about Paul’s willy what to cook for dinner (not Paul’s willy).

I’ve never been the best learner mind. I did very well at school despite my very best efforts not to and although I didn’t go to university (a decision I don’t regret), my grades have steered me where I want to go. I always wanted to be one of those people who could make snappy little flash cards and a schedule for revisions but my exam preparation happened to coincide with the arrival of broadband in our sleepy village, and let’s just say it wasn’t the books I was bashing. It’s lucky I only use my left hand for writing otherwise I’d have really been fucked in my English literature exam.

I’ve just asked Paul what his favourite lesson was and he replied ‘science’, which seems like a bit of a catch-all. Personally, I never had much truck with science – my physics teacher had a voice like a dying bee and made everything sound dull and our biology teacher made us watch a video of a baby being born which I think may have at least strengthened, if not concreted, my homosexuality. Chemistry was fun only because we had a teacher who looked like Professor Weetos and who you could genuinely imagine blowing a crater into the Earth. He once set the ceiling on fire during an experiment and given it was a) a bit of a run-down school and b) just before health and safety kicked in, the resulting toxic plastic smoke was rather spectacular. If I cough hard enough now I still get polystyrene flecks.

No, my favourite lesson was English (hence all the writing I do now, I suppose) but that’s mainly due to the succession of genuinely excellent teachers I had. My AS level teacher was also a friend of Dorothy and I used to try and shoehorn in as many references to me being gay in an unproductive attempt to be ‘asked to stay behind’. He was ever the professional. All those hormones. He could have split my complex sentence at any time. 

I’ve already talked about the time I ran out of the PE changing rooms shouting ‘I’VE GOT DIARRHOEA’ thinking it would get me out of cross-country only for the sadist midget (and mind, he was both) to order me back and tell me ‘IT’LL MAKE YOU RUN FASTER’. He wasn’t wrong. Nothing gets you around the back of Newcastle Airport like the threat of filling your Diadora Borgs with yesterday’s school dinner. He once threw a blackboard eraser at someone so hard that it cracked a chunk of plaster (probably asbestos, actually) out of the wall behind. How he kept his job I do not know, although I’m sure the same school’s headteacher got fired for putting the naughty children UNDER THE STAGE when Ofsted came around, so I’m sure there’s a reason there.

I, rather disappointedly, only remember getting four detentions. One was for carrying a knife around school, which of course makes me sound all hard and dangerous until you realise it wasn’t a knife, it was a tiny gouging tool used to make a pattern in cork tiles during art class, and I only had that with me because I snapped the blade and didn’t want to get wrong off the teacher because he used to whistle through his teeth when he talked and it made it difficult not to laugh in his face. Well fuck me, you’d think I was walking round the school like the Zodiac Killer the way I was yelled at and threatened with permanent expulsion. It’s a bit hard to shank someone with a tool you could barely use to clean behind your nails with. 

Another detention – very unjust – was for suggesting a condom was a sensible thing to take on a survival course. My reasoning (which I learned from my little SAS Survival Book) was that it can carry up to two litres of water. Why, incidentally? Unless you’re rolling it onto a bull, why does it need to hold that much? Anyway, the home economics teacher (who I might add was the wife of the PE teacher, and clearly used the same razor he did to shave her top lip) threw me out for being vulgar. It wasn’t like I offered to put one on to demonstrate.

Detention number three was another injustice – I dropped a three-tier, full size wooden xylophone down two flights of stairs in a genuine accident. Of course Mrs Jinks didn’t believe me, put me in detention and didn’t even get me a credit for the fabulous melody it made as it clattered down the stairs and turned to matchsticks. Of course nowaways I’d be given a badge for displaying artistic integrity, which is certainly more than the xylophone did.

Finally, detention number four was a doozy – we used to have big jugs of fresh water on the table during lunch see, to help take away the taste of the horse arseholes they put in the stew. Anyway, someone stole my Pogs and put them in the water jug. My measured reaction was to turn around and punch him on the jaw, shaking a tooth loose. I wouldn’t care, but they were my duplicate Pogs and a shit slammer to boot, so really I suppose that detention was fair enough. Still, never disturb a fat man when he’s eating, it’s like poking a sleeping dog. Funny what writing this blog does – for years I’ve been confidently saying I’ve only ever been in one fight (and even that was over nothing – someone stood deliberately on my ankle during rugby, so I stood deliberately on his head) but now I can add this one to the mix. What larks.

Here, how the hell did we get to 1000 words just writing about school? I can’t even remember how I got onto the subject. Shall we get to the recipe?

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to make savoury porridge with asparagus, sprouts and bacon, you’ll need:

to make savoury porridge with asparagus, sprouts and bacon, you should:

  • preheat the oven to 220 degrees
  • spray a large pan with a few squirts of spray olive oil, add the onions and cook until softened
  • add the porridge oats and stir
  • add the stock and bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for about twenty minutes, adding salt and pepper to however you like it
  • while the porridge is cooking, spray another pan with a few squirts of oil and add the sliced brussels sprouts and cook for about five minutes over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until softened and slightly browned
  • add the garlic and stir through, then keep warm and set aside
  • in another pan, fry the bacon pieces over a high heat until crispy and yes, set aside
  • in a large, shallow bowl beat TWO of the eggs
  • dip the asparagus spears into the egg mixture and then roll in the panko – they just need a little bit – don’t go mad, you’re not covering up a murder
  • place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes
  • towards the end, cook an egg for each plate however you like it – we dry fry ours, but then we do have good pans
  • once everything is complete, serve and enjoy.

Of course, you can make this vegetarian friendly by omitting the bacon and replacing it with a giant mushroom and a faint smell of foist.

EASY. 

J

sweet and sour cucumber salad

Coming for the sweet and sour cucumber salad? Well, it’s not exciting, so calm down.

Now see, I wasn’t going to post tonight because I’ve come home to an empty house (Paul is out at a rally or on a Raleigh or is just rally, rally tired or something), the cat has left another half-rat on the kitchen floor and I want to do some baking. But, this is a recipe blog, is it not, and who am I to deny you such simple pleasures? We both always struggle with lunches and I see a lot of people asking for ideas, so here is a cheap and easy idea. I’m writing the New York entries up, by the way, and they’ll be online fairly soon, which has to be good news if you’re a fan of our holiday reports. Someone certainly is, we’ve sold an insane amount of our book lately – just saying, but feel free to join them by clicking here!

I’m not sure we’re going to have any more holidays this year because we’re saving up for a six week jaunt to America in 2017, travelling around in a decent car like the aching hipsters that we are. I know I know. We did watch a TV show about how to do Benidorm on the cheap the other night, which included such gems like get your water from a mountain spring and spend your day at a timeshare sales pitch in order to get a few packets of crisps, a cold meat platter and presumably, devastating dysentery. Benidorm, though. Listen, I’m not a snob, sometimes I’ll shop at Aldi and not take my Waitrose bags with me after all, but I just can’t imagine enjoying myself in Benidorm, and I’m of the mindset that you don’t get many holidays a year, you’re better off spending them somewhere where you’re not going to be looking at ‘ENGLUND 4EVUR’ tattooed in the crinkles of a fat chav’s neck.

Before you all start, I know there are decent places in Benidorm and of course there is, but in order to persuade me to go someone suggested looking up an act called Sticky Vicky. Let me state that, as a practicing homosexual (fuck that, actually, I’ve mastered in cockology), there couldn’t have been a less inviting prospect.  Sticky Vicky’s whole act seems to be that she puts things up her twaddle-dandy that REALLY shouldn’t be in there. You name it, she’s coated it in a dull patina and pulled it from her box – lightbulbs, streamers, razor blades. BLOODY RAZOR BLADES. Well not bloody in the sense that they’ve cut her, she’s clearly very talented, but for goodness sake. I’m quite possibly the polar opposite of a prude, but even I draw the line at watching a sexagenerian slopping the contents of a First Aid box out of her minnie whilst I sip warm Stella Artois and smile wanly. And hey, before you all start writing hate mail, I went to Ayia Napa once – even the flight there was so rough the oxygen masks came down.

Plus, by all accounts, the main ‘place to go’ is awash with ENGLAND bars and ENGLAND places to eat so well, what’s the point? Might as well nip to Blackpool so I can sit on a beach that is 37% cigarette ash. OOOH I got sidetracked. Let’s get back to the sweet and sour cucumber salad so I don’t lose track of time.

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Now, you can use a spiraliser like we did to get the pretty ribbons, or you can use a grater. Hell, you can go at your cucumber with a samurai sword for all the shits I give. It’s your life. If you want a spiraliser, I can recommend the one we use. At the time of writing, that’s £30 instead of £70. Is it worth it? Depends how cylindrical you like your dinners. This will make enough for four normal folk or two big bertha lunches.

to make sweet and sour cucumber salad, you’ll need:

  • for the salad:
  • one cucumber so big that when you scan it through the self-service checkout even the computer calls you a slut
  • or you know, two normal sized ones
  • or three tiny ones, but yeah, size doesn’t matter (cough: it does)
  • one chunky carrot
  • a few thinly sliced spring onions

 

  • for the dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil (6 syns)
  • half a teaspoon of dill – dried is fine
  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, or any fancy vinegar you have
  • 1 tablespoon of honey (2.5 syns, or put a bit of sweetener in and save the syns, but let’s be honest, a bit of honey is so much nicer than the scrapings off a scientist’s shoe)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced finely, and yes, I know a bloody good mincer right here
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • a good grind of salt and a good grind of pepper

and to make sweet and sour cucumber salad, you should:

  • run the carrot and the cucumber(s) through the spiraliser, grater or Ken Dodd’s teeth 
  • put in a bowl with the finely chopped onion
  • put the dressing contents in a bowl, whisk like mad, pour over the top, and give everything a nice coating
  • serve

Although I’ve pitched this at 2 syns, it’ll actually work out less if you’re dividing between four because a lot of the sauce sits at the bottom of the bowl once the cucumber noodles are dressed. Recipe adapted from a somewhat more sugary Simply So Healthy recipe. SEE, ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR YOU.

J