syn-free butterbean houmous – perfect for lunch

Syn-free butterbean houmous awaits you today, with an apology because there’s absolutely no way of taking a photograph of a plate of syn-free butterbean houmous without it looking like Smash that someone’s already had a crack at eating. But it tastes lovely and makes a decent change from the chickpea houmous that we also recommend. That’s enough about houmous. Very quickly, I’m doing alright. Lots of lockdown langour at the moment – there’s only so much staring sadly out of the window one can do before he becomes a lighthouse keeper – but I’m getting on with things. As per the last few entries we’re opening with a tale as old as time before we get to the syn-free butterbean houmous, but you’re free to scroll down to the food pictures if you’re in a rush! Always welcome feedback on the holiday entries, and must apologise for this one, as it is a little more adult than the previous entries.

Little bit of admin first, of course: our fabulous new planner comes out next month, and if you’re needing inspiration, a kick up the arse, sex-tips (maybe not those) or other flimflam, you’ll find it all in our beautiful new book! You can order it here – I know, how terribly exciting! Now, come back with me to Canada…

part one | part two | part three

Next on the list of attractions that time forgot, a mirror maze! Piece of piss this one, though: how hard can a hastily assembled mirror maze consisting of a few boards of plywood and some scotchy IKEA mirrors be? Please. I spend most of my day cats-bumming my mouth into my phone camera, a few tricksy mirrors and party-bus lighting wasn’t going to hold me back. I paid the lady, Paul went ahead, and in I stumbled into hell.

A little side-story for you. After Canada, we flew to Tokyo for a few days “to rest”. Whilst there we came to learn of a gay sauna exclusively for the larger gentleman – you would actually be turned away if you rocked up with a six pack and a BMI that didn’t need an extra digit on the calculator. Skinny and toned folks were sent next door to use the sauna for the slim. It was heaven: we’ve always been about the larger chap. Sex holds little allure for me unless there’s a strong risk of one of us clutching our arm and Jim Robinson-ing our way through to climax. Oh! They also fluffed you and measured your cock when you turned up and if you were over a certain size, you’d get a King Kong sticker to wear somewhere on your ample frame. They gave me a Goomba sticker and a lollipop.

Anyway, the way this sauna was set up was a giant dark maze – the idea being that you would stumble around until you slid into another fatty-boom-boom and made sweet, slappy love. Or, in my case, a breathless handjob whilst I tried not to pass out from the heady combination of poppers and having to climb more than two flights of stairs. It was great fun, if not a little disorientating.

Paul and I crashed around in the dark (though I went down well, figuratively and literally, because I was a good foot taller than everyone else there) and had a great time. At one point I decided to try and find a new nest of immorality and so I set about exploring in the dark. After a few false starts grabbing the wrong type of knob I managed to find a promising door. I yanked it open only to reveal the other sauna on the other side, well-lit, with lots and lots of skinny, beautiful Japanese fellas sitting around nude. The sight of my hairy, wobbling frame bursting through the door caused instant dismay, looking as I do like a badly-shaved McGrimace with a bouncing erection. I’ve never seen so many sets of lips purse at once – it was like someone had sprayed lemon juice into the room. I gently gave everyone a nod, did a little curtsy (my knees had been weakened by earlier activity – I had forgotten to bring my kneeling pad from the garden) and carefully shut the door. I know my place, and it isn’t amongst men who look like they’ve been whittled from marble by God himself.

Anyway – I mention this sauna because that’s what this mirror maze was like: endless corridors, albeit with less fat businessmen grabbing at my bumhole like a sliding mountaineer might grab at the cliff-edge as he tumbles. I panicked. I knew Paul had managed to escape relatively easily but I just could not figure it out. Small kids were running around my legs and making a quick exit as I blundered about leaving fingerprints on the glass and crying. OK, I may not have cried, but I won’t pretend that I wasn’t struggling to keep my shit together as I was surrounded by eight identical versions of myself. For someone whose camera is permanently on selfie mode you may think that this is my idea of nirvana but I assure you, seeing all my imperfections wrought large in octuple was soul-destroying. I have a friend whose sole reason for existence seems to be pointing out the fact my nose has more angles than a shattered protractor and having this presented to me from all sides really stabbed me deep. Like he does.

At one point I stopped trying to exit and just gazed at my haunting visage, lit by cruel blue LED and strobing green, and wondered where everything had gone wrong with my life to leave my face looking like a bag of broken china. I stood for a good few minutes before the owner must have spotted me looking glum and sad and turned the emergency lights on, leading me straight to the exit where I was met by Paul. To his credit, he had the decency to notice I’d had a full existential crisis and so took me gently over the road to get a burger, where all became right with the world and really, it was just the lighting that upset me. Yes.

Existential ennui overcome and drowned in saturated fat, we made for the final attraction of the night: an arcade that promised a ghost train and a 6D rollercoaster. Not 4D, no no, six dimensions of thrills. It barely managed three. We were the only ones on-board and once the shoulder-holders came down, we realised that actually, it didn’t move – it was a simulator. The 32” ALBA screen in front of us degaussed and we were off, the distant chimes of the Windows 95 start-up sound seeing us into the ride. It. Was. Crap. Give me ten minutes and I can knock together better animation in Paint 3D. The ‘six dimensions’ came from the seat rocking gently to the side about five seconds after the on-screen cue and a tiny spray of what I am sure was hydraulic fluid in my face when we went underwater. I’ve had more thrills and spills washing my poor nipsy on a Japanese toilet.

The ghost train was no better. We shunted off through various neon-painted cardboard ‘frights’ – cardboard graveyard, cardboard fun- house, cardboard 25 Cromwell Street. At one point a spring burst out with absolutely nothing on it. The only scream that the ride elicited from me was afterwards, when the busty young lady at the front asked if we wanted to pay half price and go again. I demurred, claiming my heart could only take so much excitement, and we instead set about winning enough tickets on the Wheel of Fortune machines to claim a glorious prize. An hour later, with handfuls and handfuls of tickets, we dashed up to claim our prize just to find we only had enough for a tacky painted fish (since lost) and some chewing gum. Best $120 we’ve ever spent.

All in all, an absolutely fucking brilliant night. We also squeezed in a round of crazy golf and half an hour in a weird door maze but I fear I’ll lose you forever if I don’t wrap this chapter up soon. All you need to know about the golf is that I won. I always win. Paul has prism lenses in his glasses that afford him four holes to aim for instead of the customary one and thus is at an immediate disadvantage. Thinking about it, that’ll be why we’re still, 12 years in, playing the ‘up a bit, up a bit, no down a bit, just push it in’ game of an evening.

Niagara done, we retired to bed, and with the burger and mouldy iHop platter from earlier rustling around in our bellies, were soothed to sleep by the sound and scent of a thousand farts.

We arose the next day in a grim state. I’d been fighting off a nasty cough for about a week and had woken up with a throat like sandpaper. Understand that’s par for the course when you’re a frisky bitch like me, but Christ I felt dreadful. We decided to reach for the antibiotics: but this meant a visit to the Canadian doctors. All very easy – trip to Walmart where the surgery was, a quick signing of a few forms and then I simply needed to pull together every piece of jewellery, money and property I own to hand over to the receptionist who took the lot and asked for more. In a perfect circular loop-back to the time we paid $180 for a course of antibiotics for Paul’s poorly ear back in Florida, here we paid $280 for a ten minute chat with the doctor and some amoxycilin. He had the sheer brass neck to make a loud disapproving noise when I explained that ‘otherwise I was in good health’. Great: I have a face that exudes illness.

Worst part of all of this? No sooner had I paid for my antibiotics and checked with my travel insurance company who no, of course not, wouldn’t cover the cost (too small of an expense – I was tempted to go ram my head through the plate glass window out of sheer fucking spite) than I immediately felt better. The shock of paying so much for a few pills was clearly enough to reboot my system. If I ever get some awful terminal disease, I’m going out to buy a BMW.

The rest of the day was spent driving back to Toronto and finding our AirBnB, before meeting our “just a friend”, who I’m naming Bhalu as he was cute and cuddly. We’ll come to Toronto in another blog entry, because see, that’s how holiday entries work, but I need a good closing anecdote.

Which I haven’t got. So let’s stumble around the word count and take a moment to bow our heads in sadness, because there was one casualty of our trip to Niagara: the sex-hat. Back in Montreal I successfully pulled The Hottest Barista in Town and he gave me a lovely cap to go with my troubled bumhole. The one hat I’ve ever had in my life that doesn’t look like a comedy Christmas cracker sized hat on my giant moonhead. The one that I was wearing because it reminded me of a happy time when I was used like Sooty by someone with hands with size of banquet gammons.

Paul left it in the fucking rental car. He had tried it on whilst he was driving and because I didn’t want a rim of dead skin and sun-tan lotion left on it, I had plucked it from his head and hurled it in the back. You may think the onus was on me to retrieve it but no, it would have been on my head had he not touched my things and ruined my life. I’m not one for sulking but you better believe I was at maximum tittylip for a good hour or so after that. Paul offered to go buy me a hat but it could never have been the same if it wasn’t gifted to me by The Dreamy Barista to make up for the blood pooling in my knickers.

Sigh


Right, let’s get to the syn-free butterbean houmous, shall we? Looks alright!

butterbean houmous

The Northern Lights are dancing!

butterbean houmous

Čajet dan čuovgga!

butterbean houmous

Suppose you’ll be wanting the recipe for this syn-free butterbean houmous, aye? Gosh, I remember when you were far less maintenance…

syn-free butterbean houmous

Prep

Total

Yield 4

Sometimes you just need something to dip your finger / crudites / nipples into without guilt or remorse, and that's where this syn-free butterbean houmous comes into it. You can make it syn free by leaving out the oil, but given this makes enough to serve four, we'd be tempted to demand you drizzle a bit of flavour oil on the top and soak up the syns (6 syns). But again, we aren't your parents. 

Ingredients

  • one large tin of butterbeans
  • one clove of garlic (chopped garlic is fine)
  • one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • good pinch of salt
  • one reserved tablespoon of the weird butterbean pre-cum that they come in the tin with (aquafaba, if you want to be technical)
  • couple of tablespoons of natural yoghurt

If you're using oil, add it at the end (6 syns).

Instructions

  • I mean, haway. Do you want to have a guess, pet?
  • stick all the ingredients in a blender
  • blend
  • loosen it up by adding more yoghurt or the aquafaba from the butterbeans
  • season to taste

Syn-free butterbean houmous, done.

Notes

  • the one thing I’m going to push here is our Kenwood Mini Chopper. It makes very quick work of this dip. It’s cheap on Amazon. Not essential but I will say this – as people who use a lot of gadgets, this is probably one of our favourites
  • we buy our flavoured oils from Yorkshire Drizzle, in this case, a lemon oil. You can take a look at their range here: it'll open in a new window. We haven't been paid to promote or anything like that, they're just a bloody good company and we love them very much
  • remember - our slimming cookbook can be ordered online now - full of 100+ slimming recipes, and bloody amazing, with over 2400 5* reviews: click here to order
  • our new diet planner launches soon: you can order it here (it’ll open in a new window)

Courses dips and sides

Cuisine I hardly think that's any of your business

Looking for more dip ideas? We got you covered:

Enjoy!

Jx

summer breakfast hash

Good morning all – perhaps you’re wondering why I’ve brought you all here today. The answer is this: what the hell do I call this recipe? I went for summer breakfast hash but that’s an absolutely bobbins title and we need more suggestions. Feel free to help! It’s a combination of shakshuka (spicy tomatoes and egg) and a hash (because it has cubed potatoes) but I also threw some chorizo in there. I was going to pen it as ‘shakshukash’ but that’s the noise my cat makes when she’s licking her tuppence right next to my ear at 4am in the morning. Honestly, I don’t know what she’s trying to mine from down there but she’s bloody determined for a breakthrough any day soon.

Couple of bits of admin before we get to the summer breakfast hash (sigh) – a gentle reminder that our planner launches next month! If you want a diet planner with tonnes of room to record your thoughts, plenty of us pointing at you, 26 recipes…all sorts – you can order it here (it’ll open in a new window), and I heartily promise you’ll love it!

Second, as mentioned before, in the absence of anything to write about (unless you want 2,000 words of me in lockdown, which is essentially eight wanks a day and the occasional row with the neighbours) (must stop wanking in front of the window), I’m continuing with our Canada tales. If you’re not a fan of the writing, simply scroll straight to the summer breakfast hash: I mean, it’s a safe bet a lot of you know exactly how to do that. It’s a funny thing though, looking back over what was the best few weeks of our lives. Drinking from the memory cup is also a poisoned chalice: we want to be out exploring again, ratching like old times, seeing the world. Even if the 🎵coronaVIRUS 🎵buggers off, what is travelling going to look like? Not as though insurance is going to cover going to America and picking up coronavirus now is it? I know, I know. Cry me a river.

But see, saying that doesn’t help, because I want to visit there too. Boom. Anyway, onto the stories – oh, and a wee plea. If you’re enjoying reading this, do let me know in the comments below. I appreciate they’re a bit lengthy but it’s nice to write about something different. Ta!

part onepart two

The first attraction was a laser maze: oooh! The literature outside promised thrills and spills and I went in with half a lob-on and a heart full of excitement, expecting crazy lasers and an obstacle course. What we actually got was a game fresh out of Bid Up TV’s hot-take on The Crystal Maze: a bedroom painted black with a few laser pens pointing around. I’ve had more risk and adventure getting the clothes out of the tumble drier. We pressed on, with the objective being to avoid the lasers and press the button at the other side of the room, and finished it in record time (so at least Paul felt at home). Turns out stepping over four lasers isn’t that taxing even when you have the manoeuvrability of a Resident Evil heroine, and boy was I pleased we’d spent twenty dollars on it. Paul tripped over his shoelaces upon leaving, becoming quite possibly the first tourist to ever faceplant in an entirely empty room.

Next: go-karting. For this to work, you have to realise how incredibly competitive I am at driving and how bad I am at taking criticism about my approach to motoring. You could come to me, tell me you were shagging my husband, killed my mother and taken a shit in my Instant Pot and I’d chortle and say jolly good, you’re welcome to him. My doctor could tell me I had six weeks to live because I had explosive-sphincter and I’d smile cheerily and say at least it wasn’t four. But, know this: if you get into a car with me and so much as suck air over your teeth as I hurtle up the arse of some old dear in a rust-coloured Renault Shitstorm, I’ll crash the car into the nearest tunnel without a second glance. Paul once told me I didn’t have my radio adjusted correctly and I sulked all the way through to our anniversary. So, go-karting is never a good idea: I can’t bear to lose. Nevertheless, we paid our tickets and joined the queue.

Two things riled me before I even sat in the kart: some airy little minge vocal-frying and pretending she was drunk in front of me. She was as drunk as I was straight. I’d rather hear gunshots from my parents’ bedroom than hear one more syllable from her pouting, oh-my-god- so-zaaaaany’ voice. Of course, she was in front, so I was subjected to it all for a good twenty minutes before I was served a final indignation: some spotty kid with a bless-him moustache who looked at my giant, elephantine head and had to go fetch a special 3XL helmet from under the counter. Alright mate, my mother smoked forty car-boot-sale Lambert and Butlers a day whilst carrying me, give me a chance – and mind I suspect she only took that route because she didn’t fancy hurtling herself down the stairs.

We got settled into our karts, me unable to see because my rage was making my visor steam up. Don’t worry, I recorded the whole thing on my phone – only I didn’t, because I selected selfie mode before slipping it into my shirt pocket so all we have is four minutes of revving and the sound of my nipples dancing under a polyester/viscose mix. Stupid ‘drunk’ girl was in front of me, Paul behind. Captain ‘tache waved us off and immediately the walking womb in front of me starts farting about, not ‘lolzzzz I’m not getting how to drive’, turning around and shrieking at me because ‘how do I work the pedals LOL Instagram am-I-right gurrrrrlz’.

I waited patiently for about three seconds before flooring it, hitting her kart and pushing it out of the starting grid. We were off!

I got to the first corner before I span out. Paul hurtled past cackling and did I balls manage to catch up. In my defence, I got stuck behind Tits McGee who kept stopping, making a lot of noise and trying to flirt with the traffic lights. She was being deliberately annoying and I couldn’t get past, with eventually Paul rejoining me from the rear and everyone starting to get pissed off with her.

She ruined a very good session of go-karting, but don’t worry, I’m a vindictive sod at the best of times, and when we all siphoned back into the starting channels, I took my opportunity. She’d stopped and was in the process of removing her helmet when I hurtled into the back of her at top speed. I’ve never seen a neck move like that – it was just like in the Roadrunner cartoons when he’d fall off the cliff and his body would drop but his head stayed in the same place. Whoops.

She turned to have a pop at me and I just gave the fakest laugh ever known to man, shrugged my shoulders and cawed ‘omg, hoooooooow do I work the pedals again?!’. Even Paul looked appalled. No regrets here though: never get in the way of a tight-arse Geordie and his ten dollars of go-karting. Last time I saw her she was being loaded into the back of an ambulance with a neck-brace on to the sounds of Viva Forever from her shattered iPhone*.

*I’m kidding. I think it was a Samsung.

Next door to the go-karts was a giant ferris wheel which promised unrivalled views of the fall and all the stupendous sights of the Niagara strip. I’m all for a sit-down so you best believe we were on this before I had a chance to fret about the oily-faced terror running the ride, who looked as though he’d struggle to check his own name off a list let alone complete a full safety review of a morning. Did you know Newcastle is getting its own ferris wheel like the London Eye at the time of me writing this? And, because of course, we’re calling it the Newcastle Way-Eye. I mean, the only way you could make the experience more Geordie is if Raoul Moat was in one of the pods and you had to take a gamble that you might finish the night having your teeth polished by a sawn-off shotgun.

The first rotation was great – the subsequent EIGHT spins far less so. There’s only so many ‘oooh’ noises (and I say that as a gay man who has perfected the disappointed-but-it’ll-do response to many an underwear reveal) you can make to the sight of a waterfall pitched in inky blackness half a mile away before you have to admit defeat. We must have been on that bloody wheel a good half hour. Even the London Eye loses its attractiveness after ten minutes. I once tugged my ex off inside a fairly busy capsule on the London Eye though, which remains high up on my list of inspired places I’ve had sex. Saying that, he had a tiny knob: it was like trying to fish a Mint Imperial out of your pocket in a darkened cinema.

The waxworks came next, and listen, if you’d told me the waxworks had recently suffered an intense electrical fire causing significant damage, I would well believe you. I’ve seen better takes on Jamie Lee Curtis and Mel Gibson formed from the cellulitis on my thighs than anything on display here. I’m not saying it was rough, but the lovely old biddy on the front desk looked more like Sylvester Stallone than the supposed waxwork did. Mind to her credit she was hanging from a helicopter with a knife in her gob at the time. We wandered around and had a whale of a time – Cher looked like Axl Rose having a shart, One Direction: The Meth Years were a particular highlight, and better yet: animatronics. Animatronics from the There Was An Attempt box – Mike Myers dressed as Frank Butcher cosplaying as Austin Powers shouting YEAH BABY accompanied by the loud hiss of hydraulics and a juddering lunge.

Somewhat inexplicably, amongst the waxworks, they had a full size set of The Simpsons, with them all sat on the sofa. Because I’m a pervert, I immediately climbed over and stuck my face into Homer’s crotch for a photo opportunity. What can I say: at times like this, instinct takes over and when presented with a straight daddy with his legs open, my knees go out from under me like I’ve got rickets (Dickits?) and my lips drip like a sunken sponge. No sooner had I started gagging on the polystyrene and Paul had taken a few photos for above the fireplace than all the lights came on and the primmest voice you’ve ever heard came crackling out of the tannoy to ask me to ‘refrain from posing with the models’. Posing? Bitch. We were ushered out with a face that said ‘don’t come back for a refund’ but I could see from the twinkle in her eye and indeed, the dew on her twinkle that she’d be buttering her muffin over the CCTV footage later.

You know, let me say something here. It’s too easy – and cracking for the word count – to be dismissive about places like this. They’re crap, but by god they’re entertaining crap. I compare it to somewhere like Benidorm – no-one goes to Benidorm to stroke their chins and admire the high culture (and if they do, they’re wankers), but if you go to have a good time, that’s exactly what you’ll have. Too many people walk around with their nose in the air and a stick up their arse in some misguided attempt to look aloof and superior. Please. I might write about things in a sarcastic fashion here but know this: I will always be the first in the queue for a shitty exhibition or a naff house of horrors, with Paul a close second (and third, because he’s so fat). Life is for having fun, not sneering at those who do.

Anyway, enough of that, let me get back to stroking my chin, walking around with my nose in the air and a stick up my arse – it’s hard work being this aloof and superior, you know. We shall continue this post next week!


Right then, to the summer breakfast hash which still absolutely need a better title. If you want to make a lighter version you could leave out the chorizo, but it does add a lovely taste to the whole dish.

summer breakfast hash

summer breakfast hash summer breakfast hash

summer breakfast hash

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 large portions

This recipe for summer breakfast hash is surprisingly quick to throw together, and is perfect for using up all the veg shite you have cluttering around in the bottom of the fridge. If you're not a fan of spice, leave out the chilli flakes. Similarly, if you want to cut a few calories/syns, ditch the chorizo.

You absolutely can cook the potato in the tomato sauce if you want to make it a one-pot summer breakfast hash, but we recommend following the recipe - the crunchy oven-baked potatoes add a nice contrast to the 'gooey' eggs and sauce. But each to their own.

Oh and of course, you can use Frylight instead of oil on the potatoes and your pan. But you can pleat your own bog roll from dock leaves, doesn't mean you should. Flavour always.

Ingredients

  • two tablespoons of oil - one for the potatoes, one for the pan
    • swap out for Frylight if you want to save syns, but please, don't
  • three fist-sized potatoes, peeled if you prefer, cut into small cubes 
  • two large red onions
  • two large peppers - we went for a yellow pepper and a large sweet red pepper, but it hardly matters
  • four fresh large eggs
  • 50g of diced chorizo (6 syns) - you can buy frozen diced chorizo in Tesco now, which makes this so much easier
  • teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • one tin of chopped tomatoes (we use the chopped tomatoes with chilli, again from Tesco) - if you have fresh tomatoes, dice them up and use those instead
  • one carton of passata (500g)

A note on the oils. We've been using rapeseed oil from Yorkshire Drizzle for the last few weeks - same amount of syns as regular olive oil but a much higher frying point. That's all well and good but really the most important thing is they're flavoured, and flavoured well. For this recipe, we used the black pepper oil. You can take a look at their range here: it'll open in a new window. We haven't been paid to promote or anything like that, they're just a bloody good company!

Instructions

  • preheat the oven to around 190 degrees
  • take your cubed potato, put them in a bowl with a tablespoon of oil and give them a right good toss around - you don't need a lot of oil to coat them
  • spread them on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes until they're softened - might do you as well to give them a quick turn halfway through
    • if you have an Actifry, you can just chuck them in there to cook and everyone's a winner
  • meanwhile, finely slice the onion and peppers and gently fry them off in the oil until softened
  • add the tomatoes, chilli flakes and passata and leave to bubble away until your potatoes are done
  • when the potatoes are done, chuck them in too - taste the sauce, add a pinch of salt if you like, and then leave to reduce and thicken
  • once you're ready to serve, make four wells in the pan and crack your eggs into them - cover the pan with a lid and let the eggs cook through
  • serve to the gasps and shrieks of your loved ones

Notes

  • remember - our slimming cookbook can be ordered online now - full of 100+ slimming recipes, and bloody amazing, with over 2400 5* reviews: Click here to order
  • our new diet planner launches soon: you can order it here (it’ll open in a new window)
  • don't forget, Slimming World are running virtual classes for all those struggling with the lack of groups - you can find more information by clicking here

Courses breakfast

Cuisine what the fuck do I write here

Summer breakfast hash all done! I can’t believe you came. Now, are you looking for more breakfast recipes, you insatiable hussy? That’s no problem – here’s a load more!

J

a very special announcement

Hello! What follows is a very special announcement to any of our readers who attend Slimming World groups. We have to think that’s a great number of you because when we look at the Google Analytics to see what brought you here, we’re still seeing every possible known variation on the word ‘syns’ you can imagine. Suns. Sins. Sinz. Recipes. Recepeas. Rice’n’peas. Seriously, if we’re going to use lockdown for any good, let’s work on our spelling, shall we?

Now, you know Slimming World have always been good to us – allowing us to build our own wee blog full of recipes with only the occasional letter tutting at us for swearing too much or Paul looking too sexy in his swimming knickers. So, in the spirit of giving back, we’re letting you know what they are currently offering in the absence of their normal groups, which are, of course, out-of-bounds at the moment.

To be clear, we’re not being paid to promote this, nor have we been asked to do so, but we know plenty of consultants who are struggling. So, least we can do, and the below is entirely our own thoughts. Naturally we’re taken their very-posh press releases and spun it into our fruity way with words, but if you need the official line, you can find them here:

In the absence of group meetings, Slimming World have launched virtual groups – the same sessions as before in terms of inspiration and support, only you don’t need to sit in a draughty church hall for the privilege. Using Zoom (which trust me, is easy enough to get your head around), you will be video-calling (or just audio, if you’re shy, or like us don’t want people to see you rolling your eyes) the rest of your group at a set time.

Then, it’s much the same as before: a group discussion to swap recipes, weigh-in (if you want to – you don’t have to weight at home), support and encouragement.

If you’re someone who relishes going to group then this will be a good substitute and means you have the continued support of your fellow members.

However, we think the best part of this is that for £2.50 a week, you get the above meeting and continued support, but you also have access to all the weight-loss tools on the website, including their syns checker, shopping planner, stories and meal-planning ideas.

Also! If you’re an frontline NHS/HSE worker, you can attend these meetings free of charge as a thank you for everything you do – speak to your consultant for more details.

There’s lots of detail about what happens if you’re on a countdown or have paid your fees – they’re all explained here, but it’s genuinely straightforward.

We no longer go to classes because we struggle to make the time every week to sit for two hours, but at the same time, we remember how important they are to folks. We say without exaggeration that we’ve seen the feverish excitement some people have for their weekly weigh-in and chance to talk about their bowels / weight-loss / weight-loss and bowel problems. You don’t have to forgo that – this is a genuinely good compromise between the support and friendship found in class and trying to strike out and do it on your own.

And, you know, if I may speak on a more personal note: as mentioned above, we’re good friends with a fair few consultants. These consultants are self-employed (Slimming World is a franchise which you buy into) and are suddenly facing quite a bleak time. If this move – and we know it won’t be to everyone’s taste – helps keep their lights on for a bit longer, then that’s no bad thing. The majority of the £2.50 goes to the consultant – not the organisation – which I really like. I’m yet to meet a consultant who hasn’t had their heart 100% in this – sometimes to almost scary levels of positivity – and maybe, just maybe and only if you can, it’s time to support them too.

Long-time readers and listeners will know that we poke fun at the ways of Slimming World, with our references to cat-hair quiche and Sandra (always Sandra) and her constant rambling. But they are the only weight loss organisation we’ve ever used because they’re consistently decent in the way they go about things. There’s a lot of love there, always has been, and will be going forward. If you’re feeling cut adrift and uncertain and need the support, you know where to find it.

Good luck everyone! We’re off round Mags’ gaff now for a Campari and Soda served up in mismatched Stella glasses.

the best damn pulled pork we’ve ever done

Pulled pork: one of those things that happen to the best of us when we’re locked down and not much to do. Seriously, mine is about to drop off. However, I picked up a shoulder of pork in the reduced bit in Morrisons for £1.60 and, after leaving it sweating in my car for about six hours, realised I had to save it. So, pulled pork burgers it was. The benefit of this recipe is that you get enough pulled pork to make a thousand other things with – wraps, pasta bakes, I even stuck some in a cheese toastie the other day. We’ve used an Instant Pot to speed up the pulled pork but you can make it in a slow cooker just as easily.

Quick mention: our planner has now been finalised and is being printed – if you want a diet planner with tonnes of room to record your thoughts, plenty of us pointing at you, 26 recipes…all sorts – you can order it here (it’ll open in a new window), and I heartily promise you’ll love it!

However, before you get to the pulled pork recipe, there’s a hell of a long entry to read and/or scroll past. See, I’m very conscious that I haven’t been writing much (well, I have, but nothing I can share with you, yet) and, god love you all, you guys do seem to enjoy my scribbles. So, rather like the writers of Doctor Who at the moment, I’m scrambling through my old writings to see what I am yet to publish. I’m not so arrogant to think you’ll all be chomping at the bit to read, but if you have ten minutes, what follows is part two of our trip to Niagara Falls. Which is a tiny, tiny part of our massive book on our trip, bits of which I have scattered around on the laptop. I always enjoy writing the trip reports, so I hope you like them.

As an aside, I recently pulled together a load of clips from Canada for Paul so we can look back and shake our heads and be thankful I got over the gastroenteritis I was suffering from at the time. You can find the video here:

I know, we’ve never looked better. To the next chapter then!

Click here to read part one! It’ll open in a new window. Probably.

Niagara Falls, then. We decided to have a stroll along to see it from the side. There’s an option to ‘cross the rainbow bridge’ and see it from the American side, but why bother? Plus the phrase rainbow bridge makes my teeth itchy, because I’ve seen it used in conjunction with dogs dying on Facebook and it’s nearly always accompanied by a trite quote and a Minion. We stopped for a moment to get the biggest ice-cream I’ve ever seen in my life from a place called Sweet Jesus. It was bigger than my head, and I had to apply for planning permission for my fivehead. Paul fibbed and told them it was his birthday so they gave him an extra scoop and stuck a candle in the top.

I’m glad, for a fleeting ten minutes, we were able to provide everyone with the stereotypical sight of two morbidly obese blokes eating enough ice-cream to feed a Christmas orphanage. I went at that ice-cream like a sex-starved sailor going at a portside snatch. It’s a bad job when someone who had been poured over a mobility scooter like hot wax gives you a withering look at your excesses.

The Falls, then. Here’s a revelation. Like so many things in life, including 90% of my Grindr dick appointments, it doesn’t look as big in real- life as they’ve made it look in photos. Presumably because they’re not pressing so hard into their pube fat-pad that they’ve got diamonds forming in their thumb-print. Don’t get me wrong, the main falls (i.e. the one you’ll know, the Horseshoe Falls) is 800m across, it’s not exactly an emptying bath, but I dunno – I expected bigger. Story of my life.

Favourite fact? In 1901, a 63 year old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor climbed into a barrel and set away, only to be washed over the falls. Oops. They found her barrel a few hundred meters downstream and out she popped, exclaiming that “no one ought ever to do that again”. Talk about an action nana! My nana, at least before we returned her to the Earth in a cloud of smouldering winceyette, used to get out of breath spreading butter on her toast in the morning. Best part is, Adventurous Annie didn’t get paid for her exciting adventure. I’d have been furious and sulked in my barrel for at least three days.

Oh, and 90% of fish that get swept over survive AND have some cracking Instagram shots afterwards.

Speaking of Instagram shots, some random ones to punctuate the words:

The waterfall was pretty. I wish I could do it justice with words but frankly, it’s a lot of water sloshing over a giant crack, and I covered that with my bubble-bath tale. But, because I’m an uncultured queen, I gazed at it for about five minutes, wondered how it would feel to be swept over the edge and then was ready to move on. Once you’ve got a picture (and trust me, that’s an adventure, given the sheer amount of tourists standing in front of it doing wistful looks into the distance) you’re kinda done. Worth the trip to say you’ve done it, but well. We stayed for another ten minutes watching the lights change and then went to find a pub.

A bar called Spyce came to the rescue (although I did wince at the weird Y in the name – love, Jaymes) and we were soon settled right behind a live singer with a flight of beer that extended to the sky. It was tremendous – lots of locally brewed beers and ales all with puns in the title. That’s my dream, right there, and we were having a great time until the singer started with his Tracy Chapman covers. Paul was dilating with pleasure and me? Well, if you have been a long-term reader you’d realise I’d sooner have extensive pulsatile tinnitus than listening to that warbling hellcat and so, we nicked off to the arcades. She absolutely infuriates: two chords on her guitar and no hope in her voice.

After a long night of pissing away the beer and altogether too much in the arcades, we went to bed. Our bathroom still looked like a pre-go-kart game in Fun House, only we didn’t have a walking mullet offering us the chance to win a ruler with a calculator in it. Gutted.

We awoke the next day, surprisingly refreshed for two lads with a surprise 2am Grindr visit from the floor below. My beard looked as though someone had spilled PVA glue on the floor of a barbershop but you know, a hot shower and a quick apology prayer to God soon put that right. We decided to do a few tours and so, after a keen breakfast buffet, we went out to find the information desk. We found it after a fashion which necessitated me having a strop, taking up smoking and a brief interlude where I considered going home, and joined the queue of about six groups.

We were there FOR NEARLY A WHOLE FUCKING HOUR. I’ve never known such unbelievably slow service. I don’t know whether the cashier was physically getting up and driving each customer to the various lookout points but it would have been quicker to wait for the waterfall to erode to the point where we just fell in. Christ almighty. Grim British Resolve meant we couldn’t move but we were entertained at least by the little Chinese lady in front who, after fifteen minutes of flapping her arms about, was smartly stung by a wasp right on the end of her nose. The first aider in me wanted to step in and help but the selfish, mean bastard in me overruled that and was glad to take her place when she had to step out crying. Pfft: amateur hour.

We arrived at the front after stopping to celebrate our 12th and 13th wedding anniversary in the queue (the Chinese lady had returned at this point, and I like to think the tears in her eyes wasn’t just venom leaking out) and were busy being served when some chap started proper kicking off in the queue because he thought a gaggle of Chinese ladies had pushed in. They hadn’t, they’d just done the entirely sensible thing of going off whilst another member of the family stayed put). He was giving it great classy guns, shouting in their face in loud Australian whilst they look confused and scared. I shouted oi but kept my face to the ticket lady, which gave her such a start that she sped her way through dispensing the tickets and drawing on our map and sent us on our way. I’d have stepped in but a) I wanted my tickets. There’s no b) – I’m horrendous.

Our first tour necessitated a bus-trip up the road, which I was eternally grateful for as up until that point I’d barely had a chance to sit down and send my eighty thousand texts and Instagram shots. Paul has so many photos of me taking photos of myself in his phone that we’ve almost reached Inception levels of vanity. The tour wasn’t even of the falls themselves but rather a wee bit down the river where the waters boil and swirl in a narrow gorge, and you’re taken over this water in a charming little cable car that the attendant took great care to tell us was ‘ancient’ and ‘rickety’ but ‘had never had an accident’. Hmm. I’m fine with heights but thundering water scares the bejesus out of me – Paul was happy as larry but it was all I could do not to rainbow-yawn over the side. I definitely drowned in a previous life – I get the willies when you take the plug out of a bath and the tiny whirlpool appears, for goodness sake.

It was beautiful, to be fair, and we got some cracking photos, but boy was I glad to be off. We spotted an iHop over the road and, buoyed up by excellent memories of Disney-times past, we made our way in, only to be curtly told that they shut at half two. It was half one. I reassured them that an hour was probably more than enough time for us to choke some dry pancakes down and then immediately resolved to order something I knew would need to be cooked fresh. Bastards.

We were shown to our seats by a man whose face betrayed the fact he’d had to battle for every erection he’d ever had and who then proceeded to serve us with all the enthusiasm of a prostitute’s eighth blowjob of the day. I mistook his grave attitude and dour face for an attempt at deadpan humour, and was badly mistaken: he was just a miserable fucker. He took our order without a please or a thank you, looked like he was about to cry when I asked for a refill and Christ, when Paul asked for some ketchup, you’d think he’d asked to borrow the waiter’s shoes. I’ve never seen such a downcast expression and, may I remind you, I used to have summer holidays in Darlington.

Now, you might be reading this thinking he was having a bad day, perhaps he didn’t want to deal with two jolly Englishmen wanting sustenance, and that’s possibly true: but fake it, mate. I don’t need a half-hour rimjob when I come into a restaurant but a degree of civility and a look that doesn’t suggest I trod dog-shit into the carpet will suffice. Things came to a head when I very gently pointed out that my steak philly sandwich had clearly been served straight from Alexander Fleming’s lunchbox, given the amount of mould growing on it, and he took the baguette, rubbed it on his pinny to check I hadn’t just painted the mould on myself, and took it away without a word of an apology.

Well, fuck that for a game of soldiers. It’s not like I have high food standards: I just prefer my sandwiches to be cold and emotionless, not sentient and able to move of their own volition. We slapped ten dollars on the table to pay for our drinks and walked straight out. I imagine he’s probably still there, looking at our empty seats with those big watery eyes and wondering where it all went wrong. We jumped on the bus and made our way to the next tour, a walk behind the falls.

Of course, before we could do that, Paul let me know that he needed a waterfall of his very own: from his anus. Smooth bit of writing, that. We nipped into the gift shop so that he could strangle a brownie and I was left to mince around looking at the tat on show whilst he took care of business.

I love a gift shop, especially a naff one, and I can spend a lot of time fingering lumps of wood with Niagara on and the exact same shirts and jerseys we’d seen literally everywhere else but with Niagara stencilled across them in Lucinda Handwriting. I was cooing to myself and wondering just how they sell enough china replicas of waterfalls to make it worthwhile giving them their own stand when I heard the thunder of a pair of George trainers rushing towards me. Paul skidded to a halt with a face that said ‘deportation imminent’ before clutching my sleeve and pulling me out of the shop as though it was about to blow up.

I cast a stricken glance over my shoulder as we rushed for the exit only to see about twelve Orthodox Jewish women waving their arms and shouting at us. It was only once we’d hyper-minced to the relative safety of a Baskin Robbins stand that Paul, breathlessly, clued me in as to the cause of all the tumult. He’d seen the queue for the gents stretching well into the bank of ‘I wish my husband got me as wet as Niagara’ XXXXL shirts and decided to instead nip into the ‘accessible toilet’, which was open for all. Not the disabled toilet, mind you: the genderfluid shitter.

In he had dashed, unbuckling his kegs as he jostled towards the trap, only for the door to burst open in his face to reveal a woman crimping off a hot turd and, inexplicably, another eleven or so ladies all bent around her watching what she was doing. Mortified, Paul starts putting his cock away, they all start shrieking and screaming, and out he dashed with a bright red face and a turtle’s head poking out. I’ve never seen him move so fast, and this is a chap who appears like the Tardis if he so much as hears a Toblerone being snapped. We never found out why they were all in there, why they didn’t lock the door or whether the Shitting Lady felt better after dropping the kids off, and we’ll never know. One of life’s little mysteries. We took the opportunity to join our tour ‘Behind the Falls’.

Now, admittedly, I could have guessed from the name, but a tour ‘behind the waterfalls’ wasn’t exactly much to write home about. You can look at a waterfall from many interesting perspectives: from the air to appreciate the scope, from a boat to take in the noise, from the edge to gain a new found love of life. What isn’t interesting is viewing a waterfall from behind. Think about it: you’re led down a couple of dank tunnels only to experience the ‘fascinating’ sight of water thundering down in front of you in a window sized hole. I felt like a Toilet Duck on curry night. You could have held up a badly-tuned television for the same effect.

Inexplicably, hundreds of tourists were snapping pictures of this astonishing vista as though it was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and as a consequence, we couldn’t move because of all the mouth-breathers getting their photos just-so. It was awful, and I do not recommend. Half an hour we were down there and the only respite from the misery was me suffocating myself with the poncho, initially for a joke but then with a certain sincerity in my eyes as my lips turned blue. I took a picture and sent it to a friend who is well into suffocation play: fair took his breath away.

We hustled to the next tour – the famous one, mind, the Maid of the Mist. You know it: get on a boat with nine thousand other tourists, bob towards the bottom of the falls and get wet. I’m not doing it justice – it was fantastic and awe-inspiring and terrifying and wonderful – but again, it’s still just a waterfall. We’d seen this friggin’ waterfall from the air, from the side, from behind and now from the bottom. At this point I felt so close to the falls that I almost unlocked my private Growlr pics for him.

Oh: memory unlocked! When I was at school, a friend of mine appeared on 999: International when the boat he was on at the top of the falls broke down and started drifting towards the edge. That’s frightful luck, isn’t it? We all put it down to the fact his family and indeed, himself, were so astonishingly fat, and it led to all manner of ‘he’s fat, he’s round, he bounces on the ground’ songs for a good few months, until he kicked a window out on the school bus on the way home and ran away. Honestly, kids can be so cruel. Me especially. I was driving the bus, and this was only last year. His drifting boat was rescued by the hydroelectric workers just up the river, as it happens.

We docked up, and went for another beer. See, there’s a problem with Niagara: once you’ve got cooing at the waterfall out of the way, you’re stuck in a town that doesn’t have an awful lot going on for it. Cultured folk might drive on and visit one of the myriad beautiful villages nearby but well, we aren’t cultured, unless you count what’s growing on Paul’s taint. Which we ought to have looked at but hey, free Brie. So, to give all the people who buy Chat to sit on their coffee table something to do, they’ve built a strip of the most magnificent shite imaginable. It’s like Blackpool, only you don’t get given a cocktail of naloxone and Imperial Leather upon entry as a precautionary matter. Look it up: that joke works so much better than you imagine.

Here in Newcastle we have a seaside town called Whitley Bay. It’s just the ticket if you’re a stag party wanting to work on your STD catalogue and the beaches are terrific if you enjoy basking in a fetid mix of dimps and dog turds. To compensate for the lack of sunlight, vitamins and wholesome fun they tried many things: carnival rides which collapsed, arcades which take your money either through rigged machines or getting mugged by someone in a tracksuit with teeth installed by the council, summer festivals consisting of a stand selling knock-off Ella-with-Mumps dolls and tiny fried doughnuts – but nothing has ever worked. There’s always an air of gloom and poverty hanging over the place and hell, that’s Niagara for you, only with a giant overflowing bath in the middle.

Of course, we absolutely fucking loved it. There’s nothing more attractive to me than shite attractions with ridiculously high entrance prices: it’s why I married Paul, and gave away my soul. What follows in the next post will be a mince through some of Niagara’s premier entertainment choices. Strap in, give yourself a quick spray of your B&M David Beckham aftershave, and enjoy…once we come back. Which given my posting history, will be sometime in 2022.


To the pulled pork then. You can throw anything in with this, in all honesty, but we found this works well.

pulled pork

I mean just look at that. Perfect for Slimming World, given it’s only half a syn.

pulled pork

This stage is important – don’t be tempted to skip it.

pulled pork

We have our own mushroom ketchup courtesy of the good folks at Geo Watkins!

pulled pork

75 minutes in the Instant Pot and this Slimming World friendly pulled pork is yours!

pulled pork

That glass in the background – three parts lager, one part Fanta. Gorgeous!

amazing BBQ (ish) pulled pork

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 8 massive servings

This is a dead easy pulled pork recipe, which pretty much makes itself. The Instant Pot makes this a one pot, quick dinner but you can do it in the slow cooker if you prefer.

Ingredients

Again, use this as a rough guide, but there's really no exact science here. We used treacle because we like the taste, but you can swap it out for brown sugar. Up to you, but the syns are negligible when split between the easily eight portions this makes.

  • 1.5kg of pork shoulder, fat removed and cut into chunks about the size of your fist
    • well not your fists, a normal person's fists
  • two tablespoons of treacle (4 syns)
  • two teaspoons of salt
  • few good grinds of black pepper
  • one teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • one teaspoon of garlic powder
  • one teaspoon of onion powder
  • one teaspoon of ground mustard
  • a good pinch of chilli flakes (leave out if you don't want your arse troubled)
  • 300ml of chicken stock
  • more than a fair few shakes of mushroom ketchup (we use Geo Watkins' ketchup here, but if you can't find it, add Worcestershire Sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Speaking of Geo Watkins, they were excellent enough to send us a personalised bottle to try - we use it all the time, but shamefully, it hasn't come up in recent recipes! We do recommend it - it's like a more savoury Worcestershire sauce. Paul hates mushrooms but loves it! 

Instructions

  • place your pork chunks into a massive bowl and tip over the dry ingredients
  • add the treacle - if you do it from a spoon, try and cover the pork all over as it slowly, slowly, slowly drips
  • get your fingers in - you want to rub the ingredients in as much as possible - I take five minutes or so here, and then have a cigarette after to calm down and feel ashamed of myself
  • then, depending on whether you're doing this in an Instant Pot or not...

Instant Pot

  • click 'Saute', add a fair glug of oil to the bottom and when hot, sear the chunks of pork on all sides - you'll probably need to do it in two batches
  • once done, add the trivet, then the stock, then the pork
  • seal the Instant Pot and set the pressure to high for 75 minutes
  • go play with your ha'penny and come back once it's done, letting it vent naturally 
  • once safe to do so, open the Instant Pot, drain the liquid (but keeping about 100ml aside), shred the pork with two forks, tip the passata and the leftover liquid back in
  • hit saute and let everything bubble away until the sauce has reduced right down - make sure you keep stirring
  • serve however you want - we put ours in burgers with a brioche bun, cheese, lettuce and pickled red onion - but we're fat

Slow cooker

  • as above, but you're gonna wanna add the passata right at the start, and leave it to burble away for eight hours
  • shred the meat and if there is still too much sauce, throw it all in a big pan and cook it right down

Notes

Courses pork

Cuisine dunno, whatever

Hope you all enjoyed! Want more pork ideas? Filthy cow. Try these!

Enjoy!

J

bacon and butternut squash dahl

Here for the bacon and butternut squash dahl? Of course: because the bacon and butternut squash dahl is amazing. You’ll find the recipe for bacon and butternut squash dahl down below, but before we get to the bacon and butternut squash dahl, you’ll have to endure a few words from your fearless leader. And Lisa, you may be saying bacon and butternut squash dahl an awful lot, but that’s because I can’t be arsed to scatter the references to bacon and butternut squash dahl throughout the article properly to hit the SEO target. What am I like!

Morning all! Having been woken up at 8am by my other half grabbing my morning thickness in his sleep and loudly going ‘Oooooh MY‘ like an especially somnambulant Kenneth Williams – and then having the poor grace to turn over and ignore it – I’ve decided to wake early. And not just so I could ‘realise my full potential’ all over his pillow out of frustrated spite. Good luck prying your face off that when you wake up, you jolly little butterball, it’ll be like pulling a cheese toastie out of a car-boot Breville.

There’s the classy writing you’ve all been missing during these times of uncertainty and woe. And what truly preternatural times these are – normally the biggest decision I have at the corner shop is whether I can eat four Kinder Buenos on the short drive home so I don’t have to share with Paul (readers: I can, and a pack of knock-off Wine Gums), now I have to worry about picking up a deadly virus with my bits and bobs. Fun!

In my last blog post I spoke of being hopeful and being kind, and all that applies ever more so now, but I won’t lie and say everything has been just peachy for me. I’ve always been entirely open and honest about my mental health – for there is no shame in it – but long days without the usual focuses of work or the familiar anchors have meant that there’s been times when I’ve been inside my own head too much. And listen: I have a giant fucking head, there’s room for us all in there as long as you like endless Doctor Who music and creaking Simpsons jokes. Curiously, I’ve managed to keep a lid on my health anxiety, taking the somewhat fatalistic view that I’ll probably get it and might die, but that does take some effort.

Anyway. I’m feeling much better now. Why worry about what you can’t change during a pandemic – going out, getting the bits you need, Paul – and concentrate on the good things. Little victories, my Good Friend Paul calls them, and so it is I will share with you my tips for getting through when you’ve got a face like a slapped arse and a head full of apathy.

Get a hammock or go outside

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love our hammock. Now I appreciate this will alienate those without a garden so I’m caveating it by saying, go outside. But, having finally assembled the bastard with Paul ‘helping’, I can’t recommend it enough. I lie outside and get a full dose of Vitamin D (sadly not euphemistically, and boy, am I missing that) and feel like a new man. I do feel for the neighbours though: I’m not shy about my body and so I tip myself into that hammock in just my boxer shorts and it must look to all the world like someone left two tonnes of bread mix out to prove in the sun.

There’s also the small matter of getting into it. Again, I am a man of heft and very little grace, and I essentially have to tip myself in. This is quite the acrobatic feat for someone for whom getting into a sex-sling requires two strong men to hold the frame and an army instructor bellowing encouragement. It would be easier to air-lift me in but I feel inappropriate ringing the air ambulance. More than twice I have thrown myself in and rolled straight back out the other side onto hard concrete, but I still persevere.

And honestly, I feel so much better for it, despite the sun bleaching my eyebrows blonde to the point where they disappear and remove my ability to look surprised.

Oh: added bonus. Being secreted into my hammock gives me the opportunity to eavesdrop on some of the conversations my neighbours have. So far, I’ve heard them slag off Paul, his car (fair game), our broken fence (broken by their tree) and us in general. Mind, I’ve also heard one of them describe the virus as ‘nothing more than a common cold, so this is all over the top’. She’s in her seventies, exactly the type who people are staying in to protect, and that’s her attitude. I’m not saying I get excited when I see an ambulance pull into the street but…

Stop reading the news

I mean, within reason – still keep the occasional eye for the bigger headlines: is Trump dead yet, when can we get back to shenanigans and firkytoodling, when can I get 5G in my local area and has the price gone up due to lockdown? But otherwise, what is there to say? At the start of this I was feverishly (poor choice of words, granted) reading the news for updates and all you see is woe and misery, plus Priti Patel, a sneer given sentience and an expenses account at Jigsaw. Nobody needs that negativity in their life. Stop reading it, and this just becomes a fancy stay-at-home holiday. You can’t complain about getting wet if you keep going out in the rain, after all.

Do something you’ve been unable to do before

With most of us having the obligation of going into work not looking like Worzel Gummidge halfway through the 12-step programme, we’re now afforded an amazing opportunity to experiment with our looks without judgement from those we shouldn’t care about. For example, a good friend of mine is letting her roots come in so she can turn her hair grey, something I’ve been badgering her about for ages. For my part, I’m growing out my beard, and have successfully navigated the difficult period of looking like someone you’d throw pennies at to keep me away, into the luxurious Saul from Homeland beard that I’ve been craving.

I’ve even got quite a bit of grey in there, which makes me look terribly distinguished, albeit it’s probably only spilt Activia. I’m longing for the days when art galleries reopen and I can walk around stroking my beard and saying hmm, quite, but what of the human nature?

Write a list of all the shite you’ve been putting off

Not saying you should actually do anything on there, but there’s a grim satisfaction of seeing all the chores and tut you’ve been putting off. However, if you’re feeling as keen as mustard, break each chore down even further into smaller targets, and work on them. For example, I’ve been wanting to learn a new language for years. Years! So I’ve paid for a course of lessons. Don’t get me wrong, that’s as far as I’ve got (and indeed, am going to get) but it did make me feel better just ticking off a tiny bit of progress.

Speaking of progress…

Meet your new diet assistants – order a new twochubbycubs planner!

The time to ourselves has given us plenty of time to finalise our diet planner – which is available to order now! The planner has 26 slimming recipes, all of our nonsense, inspirational quotes (written by me, so you can really guess how they go), weekly challenges, 10 pages per week to complete AND, best of all, colouring in pages to keep you distracted featuring us! And look how bloody adorable they are. Even I went ‘aww’ and my heart is made of granite.

You can order it here (it’ll open in a new window), and I heartily promise you’ll love it!

OK, there’s probably more I can write, but frankly, I need the loo so let’s barrel out this bacon and butternut squash dahl and be done.

bacon and butternut squash dahl

The ingredients for bacon and butternut squash dahl, with Paul guest-starring.

bacon and butternut squash dahl

Serve your bacon and butternut squash dahl with warmed pittas

bacon and butternut squash dahl

Finally, an easy dish of bacon and butternut squash dahl you can get down pat!

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bacon and butternut squash dahl

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 8 servings

This bacon and butternut squash dahl is a dirt-cheap meal to make - we use our Instant Pot Duo because honestly, it's easy just to chuck everything in and let it do the hard work, but a dahl is equally as happy burbling away on the hob on the lowest possible heat. You can swap the coconut milk for stock if you like, but this serves eight so I wouldn't worry about the syns.

For the base recipe, we adapted a red lentil dahl from A Virtual Vegan, and you can find her excellent recipe right here

If you don't want to fart about with all the spices, just use a tablespoon of curry powder. I won't tell yer ma.

Between eight, this is around 141 calories a portion. And that's including the coconut milk! Shut the front door.

Ingredients

  • one large leek or one large onion, chopped finely
  • six rashers of bacon, chopped finely
    • if you're omitting the bacon, add a pinch more salt
  • one butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1cm chunks
  • 400g red lentils
  • 400ml of light Blue Dragon coconut milk (14 syns, but worth it)
  • two tablespoons of freshly chopped garlic
  • two tablespoons of freshly chopped ginger
  • two teaspoons of garam masala
  • half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • one tablespoon of turmeric
  • one tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a tablespoon of chilli flakes (I like it spicy)
  • good pinch of salt and a lot of pinches of black pepper
  • 750ml of water

Instructions

Instant Pot method

  • press saute, add a bit of oil (not too much, as the bacon will provide plenty) and gently saute the onion and bacon until the bacon is just cooked through
  • add the garlic and ginger and cook for another couple of minutes
  • add the chunks of butternut squash and all of the spices / chilli flakes and cook for a couple of minutes - add a splash of water if it's catching
  • add all the water and have a bloody good root around with a wooden spoon - you want to make sure there's nothing stuck on the bottom of the pan here
  • add the coconut milk, lentils, tomatoes, stir once and pop the lid on
  • seal the vent, select PRESSURE COOK and then programme it to cook for 10 minutes on high pressure
  • once it's done, allow it to vent, give it a stir and allow it to cool

On the hob

  • I mean, you can work it out - saute the bacon and leeks/onion, add the ingredients as above, leave to burble

Notes

Courses cheap dinners

Cuisine instant pot

Yum! Honestly, what a simple recipe. Want more Instant Pot ideas? Sure thing sugar-tits:

Keep going, folks!

J

stand two metres away, we’re coming over

Newsflash for those who can’t be arsed to read all the pretty words below: we’re stumbling through a TV appearance on the James Martin’s Saturday Morning show tomorrow on ITV. You’ll gasp, wince and flutter as we cock up a salad and flirt outrageously with a man we’d both happily chuck each other under the bus for. Anyway.

Good evening all, your Fearless Leader James here. Apologies for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks, but in my defence, we’ve been super busy: recording stuff for telly, writing the new planner and of course, touching our faces as much as possible in this time of coronavirus. Not a recipe post today but rather one where I want to relay my thoughts, and not just to pilfer those eighty packets of pasta you’ve squirrelled away in your knickers. Tuna bake anyone? Oh you’re nasty.

Someone sent me a message on Facebook asking how I am coping with all the worrying news and scary stats in the media, as someone with previously terrible health anxiety. To give you an idea of what living with health anxiety is like – every headache is a brain tumour. Every shake of the hands is Parkinsons. Stubbing a toe isn’t just an excuse to swear like a sailor but rather a thrilling two day adventure of wondering whether it’ll form a clot in my blood that will then speed its way to my brain stem to sizzle gently and turn me into stupefied mush. It’s not fun. At the worst, I spent more time in an MRI scanner than my own bed – it’s a bad job when the radiologist has to tell you to stop wanking because you’ve forgotten where you are. Apparently it was making the images blurry and they’d never be able to spot the brain-eating amoeba sunbathing on my meninges if I kept on.

Luckily (not least because I was racking up quite the considerable bill at Spire Healthcare) my health anxiety seemed to disappear a couple of years ago. I can’t quite tell you how I did it other than to offer the incredibly blasé ‘I just stopped worrying’, but that’s all I can really say. I distracted myself with pretty things and forced myself to do all the ‘trigger’ activities that I was putting off in case my heart stopped. Said before – busy hands distract a busy mind. So, aside from little wobbles of angst when I remember my mother fed me entirely on cheap Netto beefburgers as a kid (CJD) and I grew up in the combined fug of 40 Lambert & Butler (lung cancer), a roaring coal fire and surrounded by pesticide-soaked fields (emphysema), I’m fine.

So, in answer to the original question: how do I feel? I’m honestly quite laid back about the whole thing. I’m not really an at-risk category, years of sleeping with Paul and pushing his drool off my face in the morning has numbed me to bodily secretions and well, if it is only as bad as the flu for most, it’ll be unpleasant, but doable. If not, something has to kill me, and if it isn’t my current rollercoaster of injudicious living, than why not some fancy pathogens?

However, if I’m absolutely and utterly honest, the health anxiety – though a constant electrical hum – isn’t the issue, but isolation isn’t great. I’m a surprisingly private person for someone who’ll cheerfully describe the last forty knobs he’s seen, and more than happy in my own company, but there’s something about being told you can’t socialise that puts the brakes on things. I’m getting lonely. Paul works in the NHS and so he’s away to work all days which makes for a long day at home for me. I like to chat – people who know me will testify to my ability to fill five seconds of inky silence with ten seconds of burble – and although we can pick up the phone or use video conference, there’s a lot to be said for a face to face chat where you can see people’s reactions and wince as they spray spittle on your corneas. Now, I’m lucky: I have a good circle of close friends, a strong family and a husband who knows when to shut his mouth, rub my feet and make me laugh, but there’s plenty of others out there who don’t have that. If that’s you, see the stuff I post below.

It doesn’t help that it’s my birthday at the weekend, and I’ve finally reached a point where I have to move into the next bracket on the age demographic form, 35-49. I’m not one for worrying about age – from the moment your sperm meets your egg you join the queue for death (nicked that from Private Eye, because I fucking love it) – but I’d have loved to be able to go out and get hammered and celebrate it. Similarly, we’ve had to cancel Berlin (a weekend of filth that I was so, so looking forward to) and our 10-year-anniversary holiday to Disney. Yep, in the grand scheme of things it’s fuck all and I know it’s indulgent to be sad about these things (but sadnesses and joys are individual, not homogenous across mankind), but you know when you are really, really excited for something and the rug gets pulled away? That. Still. Come on, James. There’s people dying in the streets, I know.

Anyway, shush, no navel-gazing, I’ll crack on, and I’ll be reet, but it’s important to be honest about stuff like this at times of crisis, no?

Hell, if you found all that mush hard to swallow, here’s a video version:

View this post on Instagram

For all those suffering with anxiety. ♥️

A post shared by twochubbycubs (@twochubbycubs) on

I know, you’ve got chills. Who knew I spoke so posh?

One thing that does stand out like a shit in a doorway right now is how unbelievably stupid and selfish the tiny minority can be. At the time of writing we’re in a soft lockdown where people have been told they have to stay in their homes and only go out if absolutely necessary. Going to the shops for a full shop is one thing, but going to have a browse around Lidl with your bingo buddies is fucking moronic. We are lucky here at Chubby Towers: my keen eye for a bargain and our staggering obesity means that we had a well-stocked shed and two full freezers before this all kicked off, so we aren’t fretting about running out of food. If that does happen, I fully intend to pop one of Paul’s bingo wings over his gaping maw when he sleeps and then start eating him as winter sets in. That should see me through to about 2034, though I imagine I’ll tire of the taste of Trex and Cerutti 1881 long before then. On the rare occasion that I’ve gone to the shops for essentials I’ve seen the same sights, as indeed we all have, of people greedily filling their trolleys with shite that’ll end up in the rubbish bin when it doesn’t get consumed. Don’t be those people. If you need to stock up then by all means do, but just remember that there are people working tireless, thankless hours who’ll get to the supermarket and have fuck all to reward themselves with. Also, if you’re dealing with someone who is there to help you – be bloody decent and appreciative. Not just checkout staff, but the folks cleaning the store. Driving your buses. Bringing your delivery and handling your post. Bin-men. The police. Call-centre staff on the phone, every last person at the NHS. These people are as scared as we are and they’re dealing with that and trying to help you, and honestly, if I had my way, the second someone spoke out of turn to anyone in a position to help, I’d have their heads staved in and them zipped thrashing into a bodybag before you could say ‘reasonable cause’.

That’s enough negativity, though. One excellent thing to come out of this enforced isolation and distancing is the way the majority of folk have shown their absolute decency. People providing classes for free, parents creating teaching plans for the kids, Pornhub offering free online filth to all those stuck at home with nothing to look at other than the haggard faces of their brow-beaten partners. Honestly, I’m going to have a right arm like a sausage skin full of basketballs if this lockdown continues. It really cheers me to see people setting up community funds and volunteer groups to help the elderly and the infirm. I’ve been over to slip a ‘we will go get your shopping’ note through our elderly neighbour’s door – but only the one we like, mind you. We shouldn’t have to plug the gaps in society, but it’s not a bad thing that we’re willing to do so. Doubtless that we’re all about to see the biggest storm the country has had to weather in decades, but we’ll get through by helping each other and not being dicks. We always do.

To do our bit, as much as we can, we’re ramping up our social media output, including yours truly trying to do a daily video of nonsense. Not saying it’s entertaining, because modesty prevents me, but if you’re stuck for ideas:

You can always send us a message too, though we don’t guarantee we will reply, but we do try. We’ve also got some decent ideas for stuff to help over the next few weeks.

twochubbycubs will be back properly very soon, with new recipes and more chatter. Stay safe, stay warm and above all else, stay kind, for no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.

J

chernobyl soup: cheap, cheerful and full of flavour

Chernobyl soup: it cooks itself! No, stop it, we won’t have any jokes about Chernobyl in here, this is a tasteful blog. However let me tell you this: the soup looks like something you’d find in a layby nappy, hurriedly thrown from a moving car by some frazzled parents, but it tastes bloody good. If you’re looking for something very quick, cheap and easy, then nip over and I’ll sort you out, and we can have the soup after. It’s a simple enough combination of stock, veg and sausage with paprika. It uses an Instant Pot but fret not – you can make it on the hob just as easy.

Why are we calling it Chernobyl soup anyway? Because it was part of the meal we had at the Chernobyl Power Plant Workers’ Canteen, and so, with the confident ease of someone who has played the up-a-bit-down-a-bit-push game all too often, let’s segue straight to part two of our Ukraine holiday report. Look! A fancy banner approaches – click it to whisk straight to the recipe – and this is a VERY long entry, so I won’t even hold it against you. 

Chernobyl, then. Our holiday package came with a twelve hour tour, which at 5.30am in the morning, pulling on sodden Dr Martens and wishing for death, felt like an awfully long time to stand around looking at dusty, toxic relics from a bygone era – we can do that easily enough by Skypeing Paul’s mother, and she’s only slightly less radioactive. We were up early as we had to be at a random hotel by 7am and we had no idea of the Metro schedule. After spending forty minutes feeling each individual drop of water hit me from the shower, we bustled out, asking the hotel concierge to call us a taxi. He gave us an earnest smile, coughed into his beard and pushed us outside to wait. Perhaps we were cluttering up the lobby or detracting from the entrance to the ‘Gentleman’s Club’, I don’t know. Anyway, we waited for a while until what would turn out to be a recurring theme of this holiday turned up: a car that looked like it was put together by my nephew in a fever dream. Rusted? I could see the petrol flowing through the door. No way were we getting in that, so the next ten minutes were spent stealthily hiding from both the very angry looking taxi driver and the concierge, who seemed bemused that we had disappeared into fat air. We stayed around the corner until the taxi driver drove off in a cloud of toxic blue smoke and the concierge went back to extracting new flavours of phlegm from his lungs. Paul called an Uber Exec in a fit of excitement and thankfully, a car that hadn’t been witness to seventy years of history rolled in, accompanied by yet another beautiful Ukrainian man whose name I’d never learn but whose eyes I’d always remember.

Honestly, long term readers of this blog will know that I have a real thing for taxi drivers – I think it’s simply any lust that allows me to sit down and rest my legs, to be honest – but it’s getting to a point where Paul’s having to pop a meter on and hang a Magic Tree off his knob if he wants to get his leg over.

The driver was cold and efficient and dropped us where we needed to be with a grunt. We gave him a tip of 5, 667,344,667 Ukrainian hryvnia (about £2.10) and sent him on his way. There were several white minibuses all boarding tour groups and of course, the anxiety of having to get on the right bus was overwhelming. Imagine my distress if I’d hopped on the wrong bus only to be taken to a gulag and passed around like life-raft chocolate. After I’d double-checked that this wasn’t happening, and hidden my disappointment from Paul, we climbed aboard. There’s always a worry about shared tour groups that you’re going to get onto a bus and find yourself sandwiched between folks who want to talk to you about Jesus and others who snack with their mouths wide open. Luckily – for the most part, ssh – this was a decent group – and once our tour guide (Cynthia, the doll beloved by Angelica from The Rugrats, electrified, made human and given an action-jackson gilet) jumped on, we were away.

She explained a few things: we were to buy snacks en-route because, obviously, nowhere to buy them in the Exclusion Zone. We had to try for a tom-tit at the petrol station because you really don’t want to be flaring your bumhole in the wild open air (she phrased it better, admittedly) and the toilet facilities were ropey. Don’t pick anything up. Don’t eat the berries. Buy some wet-wipes for your hands and dog treats for all the wild dogs that have set up home. We then had to sign a very official looking document (well sort of – the Ukrainian flag still had ‘shutterstock’ printed across it where they’d lifted it from google images, but top marks for theatre) to say we understood the risks of entering the Exclusion Zone and that we would be subject to punishment if we broke any of the rules. One of those rules? Don’t enter any abandoned structure. Just remember that. After twenty minutes, we pulled into the petrol station. I wish I could tell you the name because it was hilarious but I’d get wrong. So I can’t.

Whilst Paul busied himself trying to work out the coffee machine I took the role of class swot and went for a shite, bought my snacks and wet-wipes and then went outside to stand by the bus. Well no, I wanted to smoke, and as nonchalant as the Ukraine seemed to be about health and safety, I didn’t fancy sparking up in a petrol station. Oh and I know I shouldn’t smoke, but something has to take the bitterness of my words away. Luckily, my COPD-Club of One became three with the addition of two other Northerners, Vicky and Natalie. It took me a while to understand they were from the UK because with their strangled vowels and hissing sibilants I’d just assumed they were local engineers here to fix the bus. We bonded immediately over the sight of a dog and Paul’s ashen face at trying to drink a takeaway coffee consisting entirely of milk foam and cherry syrup, and then we were on our way. It was a good hour drive and I could tell Paul was itching to chat excitedly, so I shut my eyes and listened to my Billie Eilish tapes.

I can’t get enough of her, by the way. Imagine being eighteen and having a Bond theme out? The only thing I was responsible for at eighteen was an especially virulent outbreak for gonorrhoea. Well, it was the noughties after all.

An hour or two passed with very little to look at outside of the window save for the oncoming traffic, which the bus driver seemed to be taking a personal affront against given he was driving on both sides of the road at once. After twenty minutes of wincing, I nodded off, only for Paul to shake me from my slumber when we reached the first control point, where we told not to take pictures under any circumstances. There were a few burly mean-looking blokes hanging around so I’d cracked the emergency exit and slithered off like Tooms before our guide had finished telling everyone to behave. Our passports were checked, some tat was bought (I bought a gas mask, for reasons, not realising it was to fit a child – I look like one of those videos on Youtube where people put elastic bands around a watermelon when I wear it) and we were cleared to go exploring.

I should say at this point: we were given little Geiger counters to clip on, but at no time are you really in any major danger as long as you’re sensible. I did start clicking like the girl from The Grudge at one point but that was deliberate to shit Paul up.

This video, from the recent Chernobyl docudrama, explains what happened – and honestly if you’ve got ten minutes, watch it – amazing acting and you’ll never feel more like you could run a nuclear powerplant. Alternatively, cut to the ten minute mark, absolutely terrifying:

Now, since the reactor went boom, there were two exclusion zones set up – one 10km around the plant and another 30km. Both are safe for a day as long as you’re not snorting lines of dust, but you do have to be careful. You can’t explore yourself and must stay with a tour guide. Our tour started in a little village in the 30km zone, with us all tramping off the bus to walk around. Of course, it is eerie – a whole village lost to the forest – and we took some shots, walked around respectfully and went back to the bus. That was just a taster. Someone on the bus asked whether or not the dogs you see roaming around were the same dogs from thirty years ago and we all had to politely ball our fists in our mouth to stop laughing. Bless her, though I do like the idea of an irradiated Cujo wandering around looking for some glowing Bonio. That was a whistle-stop tour and the bus drove us to the next destination: the plant itself.

Perhaps you might not think it interesting to spend an hour looking at a power-plant, but in all honesty, the tour was captivating – we stood just outside the Containment Chamber which houses the incredibly radioactive remains of Reactor 4 and it’s mind-blowingly huge – an incredible piece of engineering when you consider it’s the largest man-made moveable object in the world. After Paul. Our tour guide showed us pictures of how it used to look and how it looked after the explosion and usually I zone out at stuff like that but she was terrific – and standing in front of something so destructive was genuinely terrifying. Brrr.

We drove on, with the next stop being Pripyat, the town built for the families of the workers of the powerplant. 50,000 people lived here in what looked to be a gorgeous town – then in the two days following the explosion, those who didn’t die were evacuated. This number rose as the Exclusion Zone grew to over 300,000. The bus turned a corner and we were on the Bridge of Death, where residents of the town gathered to watch the fire in the distance, all of them not knowing that they were watching their lives burn out in front of them. Everyone on the bridge died within days, captivated by the electric blue smoke pushed out by the reactor burning. The bus didn’t stop, which was entirely the right decision, and we parked up in the centre.

Our tour guide made a very stern face and told us we weren’t, by law, allowed to explore the buildings – partly out of respect, partly out of the fact they are unsafe structures, partly because they’re radioactive. If we were seen by the police who patrol the area we would be tossed back out with a flea in our ear. So, very clearly, if she saw us exploring inside the buildings, the tour would stop. Lucky, then, that she followed up this strict message by saying she would stay outside and do her paperwork, and if we wandered off…

So we explored five main points: the swimming pool, the school, a block of high rise apartments, the fairground and a nursery. I won’t go into all of them bar to tell you the common theme – imagine if someone pressed pause on an entire city. Everyone had to leave everything behind, soaked in radiation, and despite promises about returning, never could. You’re walking through a ghost city and it’s one of the must vaguely unsettling feelings I’ve ever felt. For example, in the high-rise buildings, you can walk up all twenty floors (and we did, with Paul gasping the entire way) and walk into people’s flats to see snapshots of their lives left to the dust: board games halfway played, pots left on the cooker, beds half-made and photos of loved ones cracked and fallen. It’s safe – so far as walking around buildings that haven’t been maintained for thirty years can be – but it’s absolutely haunting. When I’m uneasy or anxious I get an ache at the bottom of my back like someone is pressing on my spine and that feeling never left me. The faint taste of metal was a distraction though.

There’s so many photos out there of the various places you can visit so I won’t put my own up here, but have a look at our Instagram shots for a selection:

The floor full of children’s gas-masks was what got me though – tears actually welled up in my eyes when I realised that I shouldn’t have paid £20 for one from the gift shop and instead, just lifted one from here. Quick going over with a wet-wipe, job done.

One thing slightly irritated me – in quite a few places, you could tell things had been set up to make it ‘creepy’ – dolls with gas-masks on, faces half-buried in the soil. Chernobyl is dark tourism in its purist form – you don’t need to make a spectacle of it. Says the two lads who paid to tour it. That’s a fine looking high horse, fella.

We spent about two hours touring Pripyat and then it was back to the power-plant where we would join the current workers on site for lunch. We had another radiation check before going in – climb inside a little scanner, press your hands and wait for the beep – and then took a place in the queue (after I managed to fall up the stairs in my haste to get fed – they probably thought the reactor was having another wobbly when they felt the tables shake). We were warned that the ladies serving were miserable and christ, were they right – I’ve never been served lunch with such malice. I wanted to ask if I could swap my rye bread for a brown bun but it wouldn’t have surprised me if the bewhiskered babushka had pulled me over the counter and held me face down in the soup until my legs stopped kicking.

Lunch wasn’t bad mind – a little salad which I left because I’m not vegetarian, a soup which looked like someone had already digested it for me but tasted wonderful (see recipe below), a breaded (I think) piece of pork (I think) served on sticky rice (I think) and a lovely little muffin that I keep under my tongue even now so I can have a few more stabs at chewing it. This sounds like I’m being mean for the sake of it, and I am being facetious, certainly, but it honestly wasn’t bad at all. I made the mistake of scooping some mustard up off and putting it in my soup, not realising that this wasn’t mustard but something that must have been scrapped off the side of the blown reactor. Hot? I didn’t want to lose face, though ironically I did lose face as it burnt through my cheek. We made our way back to the bus, stopping (the group) to pet all the dogs milling around the plant and stopping (me) to smoke with all the workers in the vain hope I’d be squirrelled away as the office entertainment.

Next stop was something I hadn’t expected – a stop at the DUGA radar installation and the accompanying secret Soviet base. I adore stuff like this – incredible feats of engineering built for menace. I tried to take a photo to try and encapsulate the sheer size and freakery of this place and failed – it’s 500ft tall and half a mile long of tarnished metal, long-silent wires and rusting joints. At some points, you can stand under it and look up and it is all you can see. I’ve mentioned my phobia of dams before – part of that phobia is that dams look so unnatural and man-made set in usually beautiful countryside. This was the same with the DUGA station – so unnatural, so weird. That phobia of large structures is called megalophobia and I can’t deny that as excited as I was to see it, that little knot of anxiety was back in my spine. You can hear it creaking in the wind which is unsettling enough, and knowing it needs to come down soon but has to be taken apart by hand due to the radiation…nope. It was used to listen out for ballistic missile launches – I can’t help but think if Comrade Paul Anderson had his hands on it, he’d be using it to check my WhatsApp. Brrr.

The rest of the tour involved lots of little stops at various points – the working town where the current workers live (had to check we hadn’t turned off and ended up in Gateshead for a hot second), the memorial to the fallen, the little robots they attempted to use to shift the burning, highly radioactive graphite off the roof. The radiation was so intense that the robots only worked for moments before cutting out – they had to send humans up onto the roof to do what the robots couldn’t. Think on that for a second: so radioactive it fries a robot, so they sent these ‘bio-robots’ onto the roof instead. One minute to chuck as much rubble over the side as you can, and that’s you done, never to serve again. Fall over onto the graphite and you’re dead. Brush against it, and you’re dying. The thought of having to do something so intense made my spine hurt again: you’re talking to the man who fell up the stairs on his way to get soup, remember.

Though I have a confession: throughout the tour the guide kept telling us we would get a chance to meet the Roberts who helped with the clean-up exercise. I thought it was going to be a meet and greet of two blokes called Robert and spent a while on Wikipedia trying to work out who she could mean. Nope. Robots. I was a trifle disappointed.

Throughout the tour we spoke with the various folks on the bus with us – some were more engaging than others – and we made friends with the previously mentioned Natalie and Vicky, and then later Reiss and Sharlette (which made for an awkward moment when they both said that’s not how you spell my name when I was trying to find them on Facebook), a lovely couple who had come along on the same flight, with the same company, having watched the same documentary as us. I’ll circle back to these lovely four in the next blog entry but haven’t we come a long way since Paul and I pretended to be Armenian so that we didn’t have to make small-talk on a previous tour?

And that’s it – the driver got us all back on board, we cleared the checkpoint and then he cranked up the heating so we all fell asleep. I woke myself up with a fart so noxious (and I pray, silent) you’d be forgiven for thinking I was smuggling rubble back with me. It’s OK, I shut my eyes and went back to sleep with the lullaby of dry-heaving behind me to whoosh me to sleep.

So: would I recommend it? Absolutely. I knew Paul would enjoy it because he’s always been a fan of desolation, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Your experience will depend entirely on the skill of your tour guide – ours was incredible, the right balance of humour, knowledge and pathos – and we tipped her well. The bus – awash with jokes and jibes about radiation on the way there – was silent coming back. They played a video of what the town was like on the drive back, which was an especially timely touch. It’s fascinating to see an entire town held in a time bubble and utterly incomprehensible to realise what an evacuation on that scale would actually mean. It was almost so much worse, too – had the core hit the water pooled underneath the reactor, almost all of Europe would have been rendered uninhabitable by the subsequent nuclear explosion.

As a footnote: the official Soviet death-count for Chernobyl, as of today: 31. Official studies actually put the numbers up near 90,000.

And there’s me grumbling about my weak shower.


To the Chernobyl soup, then. If you have an Instant Pot this is truly the work of minutes, but if not, fear not: you can make it on the hob just as easy. This makes enough for four servings of Chernobyl soup, which I really ought to call veg and sausage soup, but hell. To the recipe!

chernobyl soup

Yeah I should have cleaned that bowl first. But I was too busy playing with my gas-mask.

chernobyl soup chernobyl soup

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Chernobyl soup: veg, sausage and paprika

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 massive bowls

I love recipes like this - get a load of stuff from the supermarket, tip it in and set it away. Done in half an hour, just like your partner.

We apologise to the good folk in the Ukraine for this bastardisation of what is probably a staple recipe, but heck it's good.

You can make this syn free by omitting the smoked sausage but don't - it's worth those couple of syns, trust me.

By the way, do you hear the people sing? 

Ingredients

  • one packet of vegetable soup mix (the fresh chopped swede, potato, onion and carrot, already chopped - or feel free to chop your own) (600g)
  • 100g of Mattessons Reduced Fat smoked sausage, chopped into tiny chunks (8 syns)
  • fat-free bacon, as much as you like, cut into chunks
  • a teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • one litre of good vegetable stock or bouillon
  • one tablespoon of wholegrain mustard (1/2 syn, but you can shove that up your pumper if you think we're counting it)

Calorie wise, based on 100g of fat-free bacon, this kicks in at about 175 calories. And it's dead filling as owt divvent ya knaa.

Instructions

Using an Instant Pot? But of course you are, you're a very sensible sort and you know it's the best pressure cooker out there. So:

  • hit the saute button, add a little oil, tip your bacon and sausage in first followed by the paprika and vegetables, and saute for about five minutes, giving everything a good stir
  • once done, add the stock and mustard, seal it up and set it away on manual for about ten minutes 
  • vent, serve, applause, tears

Don't have an Instant Pot? Shame on you. But the same as above - stick it in a big old pot, saute for a little bit, add stock and cook.

Notes

Courses soup

Cuisine twochubbycubs like how

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving

Calories 175

% Daily Value

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Canny! Of course, as with all our soups, you can chuck any old shite in, but the core recipe is as above. Enjoy!

Want more ideas for soup and using your Instant Pot? Oh my sweet hairy child, we’ve got you covered in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. Click either button to crack on.

soupsmall 

Ta,

Jasmine and Pauline

We’re both CHEAP and AVAILABLE

Just a flash blog post – just to let you know that our cookbook is available for only £9.99 from Amazon! If you’ve been sitting on the fence or if you want to sort something for Mother’s Day, birthdays and all that jazz – why not treat yourself?! We’ll promise it’ll be totally worth it! We’ve got over 1,900 5* ratings so you know it’s all the good stuff. Just click the image below to be transported right there!

…and as always, a massive thanks from us to all of you – whether you’re a reader of the blog, bought the book or considering it – we couldn’t do it without you!

P & J

chicken kiev and a trip to Kiev – sparkling originality

Howdo! Told you we’d be back with a bang, and this cheesy chicken kiev is something to behold. Might look a bit like a diseased foof but hey. We’ve been having a chitter-chatter amongst our various holidays about whether or not we should be aiming for low-syn / no-syn dinners in light of the blossoming success of the book and blog and you know what, nope: we are going to continue exactly as we are! Our food has always been about spending a few points / syns / calories and enjoying it – so here we go! A chicken kiev recipe and a load of sass!

First, a bit of admin!

Our cookbook continues to soar and sell and we couldn’t be happier – remember you can pick it up in most major supermarkets and bookshops and there’s always Amazon if you get stuck – if you have been so kind as to buy it, please consider leaving us a review on Amazon – we want to get to 2,000! You don’t need to have bought it on Amazon to review it either!

Next, we’re down in Southampton filming something secret at the end of the month and there’s two book signings lined up – please do come along and get your book signed, we promise to be filthy!

Right – before we get to the recipe, a long holiday entry to endure! If you’re in a rush for the chicken kiev, click the banner and be whisked straight there!

Gosh, it’s been a while since I typed out a holiday entry (and I’m more than aware that I have Hamburg to finish, ssh) but in the spirit of efficiency, I’m going to barrel this one nice and fresh. I’m actually typing a good chunk of this out on the aeroplane home, trying desperately not to incur the wrath of the poor bloke sat between us who has been trying to complete a level on his motorbike game for the last hour or so. Oh Bohuslav, love, if you’re reading this over my shoulder, let me have a stab. Like so many of my men, you’re pulling out a fraction early. Anyway, let’s start with the detail.

See, Paul and I have been together almost thirteen years now, and Valentine’s Day is always a bloody nightmare – it falls six weeks after Christmas and four weeks after Paul’s birthday, and trying to come up with something unique and special is an absolute pain in the arse. Paul, however, has been ‘good’ (for good, read ‘endlessly forgiving of my indiscretions and nonsense’) to me this last year, and I wanted to get him something decent. It was only after finishing Sky Atlantic’s recent Chernobyl docudrama that I remembered he had always wanted to visit Chernobyl and so, after a cursory moment of trying to find a cheap deal, I had us booked onto a package with travelcenter.uk which included flights, hotel and a twelve hour tour for a very reasonable £360 or so. I presented him with the detail and he was over-the-moon – I was seeing his face light up in a way that no amount of low-level radiation could ever do. He explained that Chernobyl had always been on his bucket list and wasn’t I a brilliant husband for arranging it. Naturally, I accepted this high praise with full modesty and grace and elected not to tell him I’d only really booked it because I wanted my back doors smashed in by any of the number of muscly Adidas-clad sentient frowns that appeared on google when doing my research into the Ukraine. He didn’t need to know that bit.

With his Valentines present sorted, I eagerly awaited mine. I got nowt. Not even a card. I smiled through the tears, increasingly used as I am to the disparity of effort.

Now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room, and I don’t (for once) mean my bouncy beloved. We’ve been asked two questions on our social media channels which demand an answer, namely why would we choose to visit a country not exactly known for its gay rights and then, why visit Chernobyl? The first is a tricky one – we don’t normally go places where we aren’t welcome – and the Ukraine political situation is genuinely horrifying to us as gay men – but unlike countries like Jamaica (where we’d love to go, but would never be welcome), there’s only one Chernobyl – and to get there, unfortunately, you do need to go via Kiev. We choose our holidays sensitively but our hand was forced on this one, and I’ll circle back to this point a little later. As to why visit Chernobyl? Far easier. I married a massively polluting, noxious pile of slag – when do you ever get a chance to visit its twin? To the holiday, then.

Normally I spend ages waffling on about our trip to the airport, but this time, I’ll keep it short. As we weren’t flying to Magaluf, Bristol or Ibiza, we couldn’t fly from Newcastle, and so our journey necessitated flights from Manchester and a car journey. I was still ‘tired and emotional’ from a week of excess before so it was up to Paul – in his new black Smart car, no less – to drive us to Manchester. The arse-end of Storm Ciara made it an arresting car ride, with Paul barely needing to touch the accelerator, instead allowing us to be blown all the way there. Wouldn’t be the first time. I was a quiet, considerate passenger, keeping my shrieking and fitful crashing of phantom passenger-side brake pedals to a minimum. I’ll say this, though: Mancurians – you’re lovely, but you absolutely can’t drive. Here’s a clue: when you’re changing lanes, try flicking the indicators on. I appreciate it’ll mean you looking up from your Love Island repeats on ITV Player, but go on, give it a go. Four separate times I came within a whisker of cheating on Paul simply by virtue of having the Smart rammed so far into the back of someone’s car that I could have whispered ‘it only hurts for a bit’ into the driver’s ear. Arses.

We arrived at the fabulously appointed (cough) Holiday Inn Express at around 11pm and Paul immediately set about shaving his head with the clippers he had brought from home. Halfway through I hear the bzz-bzz-bzzz of a set of dying clippers and a plaintive mew from the bathroom. He had cut about a third of his hair before the clippers had run out of juice. That’s fine, get the charger, but wait no – Paul had left the charger at home on account that the clippers ‘looked fully charged’. I silkily enquired as to when he had acquired the impressive ability to ascertain electrical charge of an object just by glancing at it, and what this meant for the Terminator franchise going forward, but was met with a volley of indignant ranting. Faced with the horrific thought of cutting about the Ukraine with someone who’s head looked like a wet egg rolled disinterestedly in pubic hair, I leant him my Mach 3 and gave him a skinhead. To be fair, he looked pretty fit with it, but it then meant I couldn’t sort my own hair out – something that wouldn’t have been so critical if I hadn’t still been sporting a mohawk that my best mate had clumsily cut into my hair in an act of alcohol-soaked mischief. I can make a mohawk work when everything else on my face is neat and tidy, but for the remainder of the holiday I looked like I’d stumbled early out of rehab. Ah well.

We woke bright and wheezy the next morning and made our way to the airport, way ahead of schedule. For once, it was the right decision – the security halls at Manchester Airport were absolutely rammed thanks to couples disappearing off for romantic breaks. You couldn’t move for people making moony faces at their beloved or kissing in that ‘look everyone, we have sex’ way that is for everyone else’s benefit. My boots, coat and suitcase all raised alarms and I was selected for a grope, so can’t complain, though I was hoping (as it was Valentines) he might have given me his number after effectively giving me a handy in the search for illicit substances. As it was, no idea why my boots and suitcase set off the alarms – presumably fashion related – but my coat contained four separate lighters. I tried to style it out by saying I was a one-man-tribute to Cirque du Soleil but he was having none of it.

Flight was with Ryanair and I can’t fault it – Paul had forgotten his headphones and was looking to me to keep him entertained, and I genuinely hope he liked the sight of me face-down in Star Trek: Picard for the journey. He cheered himself up by ordering a coffee and setting away with the task of spilling the tubes of milk all over his legs, and then dozed on my shoulder. Can’t recall any particularly exciting turbulence.

Unusually for Ryanair, they landed us at an airport in the same country as our destination, although things were complicated by the lack of a metro straight to the city centre. I’d read about tourist taxi scams on the flight over and, now officially part of The Real Hustle team, I spent a good ten minutes handwaving and no-no-noing at all the offers of taxis that came over. Normally I’m not so fussy but these cars looked as though they’d been parked outside the reactor when it went kaboom, and I’m sorry, but I do like living. Luckily, Uber has made it to the Ukraine, and a driver was promptly dispatched.

And, oh my word. Fit? This bloke, with his name like an explosion at the Boggle factory, was stunning. Bright blue eyes that had seen, caused and relished in death, black hair I’d be picking from my teeth for weeks after. He spoke no English – and quite right too – and we all squeezed into his Honda Menace in a thick sea of sexual tension. He kept looking in his rear-view mirror, presumably to work out why my mouth was hanging open and spittle was pooling on my moobs, and it was all I could do not to reach over, open Paul’s door and tumble him out, then beg a long life with a man who would never show me intimacy. By the time we arrived at the hotel I’d learned the Ukranian for ‘I’m on PrEP mate, it’s fine’ and started arranging the tablecloths for our wedding, but he simply gave us a curt nod and was on his way, ready to break more hearts. Sigh. I blame Paul.

Our hotel – ‘Tourist Hotel Complex’ – looked fairly swish from the outside and we were checked in with lovely smiles and warm wishes. We had chosen a twin room in a fit of worry and panic and so were given a room on the ninth floor. My god. It was…basic. I’m not one for fancy hotel rooms, given we mainly just spend our time in there sleeping off booze or entertaining the locals, but this looked like a hostel you’d see a messy murder taking part in. No, that’s mean – imagine your nana’s spare room that she keeps for best. Lots of rickety pine, magic-eye wallpaper and fussy bits. The bathroom was tiny with the lavatory tucked neatly into a corner in such a way that to have a tom-tit meant folding your legs up like an accordian. You may remember, I’m 6ft 2″ tall and not that far off wide.

Worse though – the shower. The one thing I really do need is a powerful shower to blast away the snail-trails and harsh living, but this, this was dire. I had enough time between the drops of water hitting me to dry off and cut my toenails. I’ve never had a shower where I’ve had to move to stay wet. To add insult to injury, there was about two minutes of tepid water before it started sputtering and went cold. I was foaming, but mainly because there wasn’t enough water to get rid of the body-wash nestled in my chest hair. Harrumph.

Now, this is getting a trifle long, and for that I apologise. We will revisit this next week! But now, time for a chicken kiev! I know that is an incredibly obvious first choice for a Ukraine recipe but I can’t see that we’ve done one before – so let’s try and make a decent slimming chicken kiev! Let’s go!



chicken kiev chicken kiev

a good old slimming chicken kiev

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 2 kievs

Look, we're fat, we can't be arsed trying to make it look pretty. It's a baked chicken breast, we're not miracle workers. You can serve it with chips, salad or glitter from your bum. Up to you. The recipe makes enough for two kievs.

Ingredients

  • two large chicken breasts
  • 50g of Philadelphia Garlic and Herb (4 syns)
  • 25g of golden breadcrumbs (4.5 syns)
  • if you like it super garlicky, add a teaspoon of garlic paste (syn free)
  • an egg

Instructions

  • I mean, can you take a guess here, poppet?
  • preheat the oven to 200 degrees and get yourself a good non-stick tray
  • cut a big fancy gash in the side of your chicken and stuff it with half of the Philadelphia (you're making two, remember) and smidge a bit of garlic in there if you're using it
  • fold the gash lips over themselves a bit
  • beat the egg and dip the chicken in
  • roll it around in the breadcrumbs
  • bake in the oven until cooked through

Notes

  • you COULD save syns and calories by using your own breadcrumbs from your healthy extra, but don't, just don't - this is as close to a proper kiev as you can get
  • you COULD also use Quark and garlic but for goodness sake, get a grip

If you want more recipes like this, buy our cookbook! You can order it now and it’ll be with you soon – click here! There’s also a Kindle version for immediate reading!

Courses dinner

Cuisine Ukranian

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving

Calories 415

% Daily Value

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Enjoy! More chicken recipes? Have a look at our huge chicken index right here!

poultry

J&P