recipe: fantasia cocktail (salad, but fancy)

A fantasia cocktail awaits you at the end of this retro recipe, which sounds utterly magical until you realise it’s really just a fancy salad. But, having made it, we can confirm that it is both tasty and fairly low in calories. In my new quest to find recipes of old I am inexorably drawn once more to the comfortable, modest busom of Sonia Allison, the utter maniac from the previous retro recipe entry for cheesy bananas on toast. I was going to try out a Fanny Craddock recipe but the book hasn’t arrived so, and you’ll understand this is a sentence I thought I’d never say, I’ll be saving the fanny for later.

What caught my eye about this recipe is the way she presents it: in a giant wine goblet. Now I know there’ll be people out there already mooing and wanting to shake me by the shoulders and say there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not too dissimilar to a prawn cocktail, and listen, perhaps you’re right, but prawns are absolutely gopping so you can shove that argument. No, I’ve never sat down to a plated salad and pushed my tomatoes around with a tittylip and imagined how delicious the meal could be if only I could pour it straight into my mouth or see at a moment how it would look all layered up in my belly.

I suppose we ought to be thankful she hasn’t served the bloody thing on a teaspoon because lord knows she’s tried to do that with most of the other recipes. Teensy tiny mouthfuls of food all served on an array of shiny teaspoons. I’m not suggesting for a moment that she was on the gear but I can’t conceive of any other reason why one might own so many bloody teaspoons. Check the underside for scorch marks, I say. I mean we’ve got three teaspoons to our name and two of those were only recently acquired from a Premier Inn breakfast. Maybe I’m onto something though: maybe this book was at the start of her dangerous slide into addiction and that’s why she ended up doing the Microwave for One book: she’d pawned everything else. Someone ring Cash Converters and see if they’ve got an AGA kicking around from 1982.

Everything that doesn’t fit onto a tiny teaspoon has been stylishly decanted into a seemingly never-ending pile of serving dishes that are shaped like the food they contain. Got a salad that’s heavy on lettuce? Why not impress your guests by serving it in a giant ceramic lettuce leaf! Have you tried serving your eggs from a giant chicken – your visitors will barely be able to eat for laughing uproariously and slapping their legs. Spaghetti bolognese (or spaghetti neapolitan as she rather primly calls it: I bet Sonia voted leave so hard she cracked her pencil in two scratching in the ‘X’) is served in a dish painted with spaghetti as though she is expecting a party of visually impaired folks to turn up unexpectedly and she wants to leave clues. It really is a colossal amount of tat.

Perhaps I’m only jaundiced because it brings back memories of a bloke in Doncaster who I ‘visited’ in my late teenage years. He promised me a rough time and no mercy, what I actually got was gently troubled in his living room. And even that’s stretching it, although you mustn’t worry, it tends to snap back after an hour or so. Anyway, his rough butch exterior didn’t quite marry up with the exhaustive and highly visible collection of Clarice Cliff cookware and plates that he had dotted around his entire house. It was like making love in a nursing home whilst peering through a kaleidoscope and I can’t pretend I had a great time. Mind you, nor did he – at one point I exuberantly kicked a leg out as though I was Edele from B*Witched doing the Riverdance bit from C’est La Vie and knocked a saucer clean off the side table and onto the floor. We agreed there and then that it was perhaps best I left as we were never going to be best friends.

I have no regrets even now: I might have wasted a good chunk of my disposable income on the train tickets but I did steal a fancy looking spoon rest off the side as I departed, so we’ll call that a win. I used it to keep my change in for a couple of years before it was lost – Mother is probably holding onto it so she can sell it at the right moment and nick off to Greece.

But it is certainly an era of cookware that has passed us by. Frankly, unless someone can find me an entire set of those soup bowls that had the recipe emblazoned on the side, I’m happy with that.

Shall we get to the fantasia cocktail then? For the novelty we did indeed serve this up in a wine glass like Sonia suggests, but I don’t think it will impair the flavour too much if you serve it on a plate. Oh and just one further note: Sonia suggests using tongue, but you’d expect that from a goer like her. I can’t bring myself to eat tongue, not least because I know where my own has been, but if you were so inclined you can pick it up in most major supermarkets. Not for me though: I don’t like to think that my food can taste me as I eat it.

fantasia cocktail

Hosting a swingers party? Try this fantasia cocktail to get the conversation started!

fantasia cocktail

Remember, you don’t need to serve it in a glass, a plate will do just fine for your fantasia cocktail

fantasia cocktail

You’ll note I put my key in a bowl for this fantasia cocktail photo – it just seemed somewhat fitting

fantasia cocktail

Prep

Total

Yield 4 glasses of salad

I mean, let's not pretend that this fantasia cocktail is anything more than a salad in a wine glass, but it's a good salad none the less and the homemade dressing actually had a good bit of kick to it. If you were so inclined you could swap out the dressing for a ready made one and no-one would be any the wiser.

We have worked the calories out via the NHS app at roughly 350 calories, but of course it depends on the meats and cheese you use. So do make sure to double check.

Ingredients

  • one large little gem lettuce (a contradiction I know, so feel free to use two little little gems (I ought to explain, that doesn't mean use a tiny lettuce either) (fuck it, use an iceberg lettuce for all I care) (why use lettuce at all - just cos)
    • of course, you're not making a honeymoon salad here, which is lettuce alone
      • get out
  • 225g of small ripe tomatoes (Sonia says use firm tomatoes, but firm tomatoes are always watery and tasteless, so listen to me), sliced fine
  • 225g of chopped cooked chicken
  • 125g of chopped ham or tongue
  • 225g of cucumber, sliced fine
  • 125g of button mushrooms, sliced fine
  • a green pepper, sliced so fine you blow my mind
  • one teaspoon of mixed herbs
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • 125g of mild cheese - we used a mixture of Gouda and Edam

For the dressing

  • six tablespoons of mayonnaise (full fat, mind you)
  • one teaspoon (level) of mustard powder
  • two tablespoons of lemon juice
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Or, controversially, just buy some salad dressing.

Instructions

  • line the bottom of your glasses with lettuce leaves or finely chopped lettuce
  • layer the tomatoes on top
  • season with a bit of salt and pepper
  • add equal amounts of chicken into each glass
  • in a separate bowl, add the sliced cucumber, mushrooms and pepper and douse with the vinegar, herbs and another pinch of salt
  • spoon that mixture on top of the chicken
  • top that with ham and cheese
  • top cat, the indisputable leader of the gang
  • whisk all the dressing ingredients together, thinning with water if needed, and then pour over the top to (in Sonia's words) moisten your ingredients
  • serve, and then present yourself alluringly on the banquette so one of your neighbours can have a go to say thanks for such an amazing dinner
  • get yourself a reputation on the street for being a filthy slattern who steals husbands
  • turn to a life of crime 
  • fall from grace
  • end up making a book of Microwave for One meals

The circle completes!

Notes

Recipe

  • as mentioned, you can swap the tongue for ham
  • after dinner, you can swap the tongue for pork if you're nasty

Books

  • we have a few salads in our second cookbook which is a treasure and contains nothing served in a wine glass other than your dear author's morning gin: order yours here! 
  • the berry cheesy salad we made (well, tried to make) on James Martin is in the first book, and it's really quite delicious: click here to order
  • want some motivation and wish we were there to help assist you with your weight loss - why not try our planner - it's like having us with you only without Paul blowing pastry crumbs all over you: here

Tools

  • I have nothing to really put in here today save for this ABSOLUTELY GIANT WINE GLASS I found on Amazon - I think this would be perfect for the school run, but then that's why I'm not a school bus driver

Disclosure: the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. Which is handy, as Paul's boobs need another layer of scaffolding

Courses salad

Cuisine retro recipes

Now, if you’re in the mood for another salad, may we point you in the direction of our fabulous mixed bean salad? Worth a try!

We could have been stardust.

J

recipe reacharound: salty spicy sweet potato fries

Well, hello there: here for another reacharound? My arms, they ache! But nevertheless, we’re taking a look back to 2017 and updating one of our most popular sides, the salty spicy sweet potato fries! Before we get to the recipe, however, I must update you on how quickly and efficiently Goomba made a mockery of my lovely post about him a few days ago. I must warn you, however: the tale, which I’ll endeavour to keep brief, does contain quite a bit of talk about dog plop. If you’re squeamish, or indeed aware that the meal accompanying this recipe does look a little bit like he’s had a stab at digesting it already, simply boop Goomba’s nose on the photo which I’ve customised for you below and you’ll be whisked straight to the salty spicy sweet potato fries. But, know this: by clicking on his face you’re actually telling him how much you dislike him. I can’t believe you’d be so cruel.

Can you believe they did that? Let’s quickly gossip about them like we used to do on the blog of old. I mean, you clearly can’t trust someone with that level of fussiness in their lives, can you? I bet they couldn’t wait for their dinner, that’s why they clicked. Might as well have come and kicked Goomba right in his nipsy.

Though, I’ll ask that you don’t, because lord knows it looks like a chewed halftime orange at the moment. See, our poor baby has gastroenteritis, which is creating a double worry for me because I have to google how to spell it every single time. Part of me wishes it was rabies: easy to spell and we’d save on the water bill. Either way, from now on and because we’re amongst friends, we’ll refer to him having the shits. He came home from daycare yesterday (a feat in itself, although I knew training him to use a bus would pay off) and totally ignored the wonderful dinner I had carefully prepared for him. He’s on raw food from Rawgeous and I’m not going to lie, there’s been several times when I’ve looked at his dinner and then my own miserable repast and considered swapping them over. I reckon frying and adding black pepper to most of his meals would render them suitable for humans, but he’d probably take my ankles off if I tried.

We chalked down his lack of hunger to the fact he’d probably filled himself up chewing his way through Paul’s Smart car seat cushions (hope he doesn’t get a taste for that, given it’ll be 90% farts and 10% bodily secretions from burly lorry drivers) on the way home. He took himself into his crate for a lie down and most of the evening passed without incident. We’re currently rewatching 24 and almost at the end of series five and things are getting tense: I’m cutting back to 50 cigarettes a day just to get through the episodes in a timely fashion. The current threat is a nerve gas which causes folks to splutter, retch and ultimately die with some fetching pink foam crusting their lips.

Well, Goomba was clearly inspired, and no sooner had the clock started ticking on our fifth episode of the evening when this almighty, eye-watering stench hit us both. I’m telling you now: I could cheerfully stand downwind of a fire at a rendering plant, that the firefighters were tackling by spraying slurry onto from a helicopter, and still consider myself lucky that at least I wasn’t back in that living room. Peering behind the sofa we realised that Goomba had taken it upon himself to open the valves at one end of the living room, walk to the other end, across our hallway, into our bedroom and all around our bed without pausing to nip off. You know in old detective movies (and the stonecutter episode of The Simpsons, which is where I get all my cutting-edge references from) when the detective ties a dripping paint can to the underside of the narc’s car so the drip trail reveals where he is heading? Well imagine that but instead of a dripping paint tray you’re using a cement mixer full of foamy brown coffee. It was everywhere. He’s only a small dog so I assume he had someone take over halfway through. Probably Sola.

Naturally, as a kind and considerate husband, I volunteered poor Paul to clean it up. Which makes me sound like a terrible partner but you have to understand, I absolutely can’t deal with dog poo. I can’t. Not many things make me gip (luckily) but the thought of that actually makes me retch, so that’s Paul’s job unless I’m walking the dog alone and even then I have to hold my breath for the entirety of the picking up exercise. People bump into me in the street and mistake my blue lips as a sign of a lack of fitness and it really isn’t: it’s just me trying not to pass out face-down into whatever sinful mess Goomba has turned his dinner into. Paul set about cleaning up whilst I went to find Goomba, who, bless his heart, looked absolutely terrified (and almost translucent). We’ve never shouted at him and we weren’t going to start now: I can’t get my head around people who punish their dogs for crapping inside. It’s not like they do it deliberately and I’m fairly sure if you accidentally shat yourself in public you wouldn’t expect someone to hit you on the nose with a newspaper afterwards. Unless that’s your kink, and if so, good for you! Dare to dream.

I carried him across the river of stink he had left behind and took him outside to see if there was anything else left in him and, thankfully, there wasn’t anything billowing from that end, but he promptly vomited all over our yard. If he had ran back in and pissed in our wash basket he would have got the full house and won a speedboat, but by this point he was clearly very unwell. We called the emergency vets who, after running us through a questionnaire that by all accounts should have ended with me having the chance to win £1,000,000 with a set of lifelines, recommended that we keep an eye on him. I think she must have sensed our ‘new Dad’ anxiety and upgraded us to bringing him in. Thank heavens, because we were flapping: I was two beats away from faking a heart attack just so we could borrow the air ambulance and Paul had his bank card ready to slap down on the reception desk accompanied with a cry of ‘DO WHATEVER IT TAKES JUST MAKE HIM BETTER’. Springers are notorious for eating anything they find on the floor and although we keep a very tidy home, you never know if he’s managed to find a slipper or a piece of Lego or a load-bearing wall to chew on.

Paul rushed him at top speed to the vets five miles away – took him four hours in the Smart car – whereas I stayed at home so I didn’t distract the vet with my wailing and banging my head on the wall in panic. Happily, the vet decided that the dog hadn’t ate anything he shouldn’t have and clearly just had a stomach bug. I found this out by messaging Paul to ask ‘how is he’ only to get a response of ‘Romanian, bearded, really fit‘. Turns out he was talking about the vet. I ever so gently suggested he concentrates on the dog and he reassured me that pretty much as soon as he got to the vets, Goomba was running around happy as a chip. But of course he was. Long, expensive story short, he’s got the shits, and he’s having to stay inside and feel sorry for himself. I tried tucking him into a spare duvet and sticking This Morning on for him like my mum used to do for me when I was off with pains in my ovaries or whatever I’d made up to get out of PE. He was having none of it, of course, and took himself to his crate to look forlornly at me and choke down some plain chicken.

Oh, the final brown cherry on this heavily-iced cake? Once he had settled in his crate we were getting ourselves ready for bed when we spotted he had also been sick – and significantly so – on our bed. My side too, which hurt. As we hadn’t spotted this earlier it had been given enough time and opportunity to sink through the first duvet, then the second (we sleep with the windows open all winter – we’re like the Bucket family), then the sheet, then the mattress topper and then for good measure, a good way through the mattress. Super! We had to turn the mattress over, which is always terrifying because the sound of 100,000,000,000 tiny screams in the midnight silence is haunting, and then try and cuddle our way through sleeping on the wrong side of the bed with a duvet so thin you could trace the person underneath through it with little difficulty. I woke up at 4am to check Goomba hadn’t shat his arse out again and, upon returning and seeing Paul had cocooned himself in the quilt in my absence, just decided to stay up.

So, readers, it’s been a day. My mother summed it up perfectly when I told her what had happened (and the subsequent £180 vet bill – thank God for insurance):

Fuck me, that’s one expensive shite

Can’t argue with that. You can tell she’s retired now, she’s back to swearing like an angry pirate again.

Right, shall we get to the salty spicy sweet potato fries? All those people who skipped straight here will be back in a moment. Smile and pretend you like them!

Oh hi! Gosh you look pretty. Have you been working out? Shall we have some dinner? Let’s try these spicy salty sweet potato fries!

salty spicy sweet potato fries

Every mouthful of these salty spicy sweet potato fries will leave you winning, we promise

salty spicy sweet potato fries

Do not be tempted to skip the nuts (good advice for a lot of things) – they add texture and flavour to the salty spicy sweet potato fries

salty spicy sweet potato fries

only I…can live forever…in these salty spicy sweet potato fries

salty spicy sweet potato fries

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

These salty spicy sweet potato fries, covered in sticky sauces and nuts (rather like me on holiday), are absolutely bloody amazing and I won't have a bad word said against them. You could probably make this recipe using normal potatoes but if you're going to do that, you might as well come round and tell me you hate me to my face.

We've upgraded the recipe a little as when we first published it, sriracha was a pain in the arse to come by. And to spell. Now you can find it everywhere, and we've swapped the satay and hoisin sauces for their 'dipping' equivalents - much nicer, trust me. They can all be found in your local Tesco'sse'sesse'sses.

Ingredients

  • 1kg of sweet potato fries (we use the McCain Signature ones because they crisp up rather than going to mush)
  • 2 tablespoons of satay dipping sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sriracha or hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of hoisin dipping sauce
  • 40g of roasted salted peanuts, half chopped fine, half chopped coarse
  • three spring onions, chopped 
  • sprinkling of chilli flakes
  • 1kg sweet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp satay sauce (2 syns)
  • 2 tbsp sriracha (1 syn)
  • 2 tbsp hoisin dipping sauce (3 syns)
  • 15g dry roasted peanuts (about 4 syns)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced

Instructions

  • cook your sweet potato fries in the oven until they're nice and crispy and then tip into a bowl
  • tumble them around in the sauces with the finely chopped peanuts and then tip onto a plate
  • top with the rest of the peanuts, spring onion and chilli flakes

Notes

Recipe

  • you can make your own sweet potato fries if you want - slice up a load of sweet potatoes, tumble them in oil, wince because I used tumble, cook in the oven - calories will drop, but honestly for the sake of a quick dinner it's not worth it
  • a good friend of mine got me into crispy chilli in oil and it goes perfect on a dish like this, it's a very savoury, umami flavour rather than chilli - if you've never tried it you are genuinely missing out - you can order it here

Books

  • does it need to be said - book two is still the very best if you're wanting slimming recipes: order yours here! 
  • let's hear it for book one too - the cookbook that started it all: click here to order
  • we've got a planner too: here

Tools

Courses side dishes

Cuisine vegetarian

 

Goodbye forever!

J

recipe: smoky beef wraps

The first thing we need to get out of the way with these smoky beef wraps is whether or not it should be smoky or smokey. To me and my permanently-befuddled mind they both look correct – and listen, I pulled my own smoky beef wrap out of a house fire in the form of Paul once (citation needed) so I have experience but the Internet assures me that smoky is the correct form. Unless someone fancies getting Susie Dent on the blower, we’ll continue with smoky and if I am wrong, well, write me a letter. Christ though, if this was a smoky bologna lasagna recipe I’d probably need to get taken away on a stretcher breathing into a paper bag.

Before we get to the recipe there’s the small matter of my usual chatter. I thought I’d give you an update on Goomba, the dog who clearly I don’t love very much because I always forget to update his Instagram. He’s never going to get that Huel x Spaniel collab at this rate, but really, in my defence, setting up an Instagram for a dog was nothing more than a folly on my side. I can barely bring myself to update this blog more than twice a year, documenting every moment of his life was certainly never going to happen. Anyway, he’s past the cute puppy stage so we’ll be trading him in for cigarettes and scratchcards soon enough.

Now before you do actually send us a letter, that’s very much a joke. Six months on and I, for all my puff and bluster, simply could not imagine him not being around. I deferred on getting a dog for many, many years – partly on the grounds of making sure we were financially able to support him, but also, it’s such a big responsibility. I’m someone who doesn’t wear his wedding ring just in case I get a scorch mark pulling it off my finger too quickly if I ever get a better offer. Taking on a dog is a true commitment. Our cats aren’t as tying (though no less loved), given they only seem to come to us when they want feeding or to scratch our faces open for having the temerity to buy the cheap cat-food. Both of our cats are outdoor cats and it isn’t uncommon not to see them for a day or two whilst they go off on their own adventures. It wouldn’t sting quite as much if only Sola didn’t flick the gas on as she exited out the cat-flap.

But, and it almost goes without saying but this is me so I’ll spin it out for 500 words more, I’m beyond glad we took the plunge. We have in Goomba what I consider to be my dream dog (after Beethoven, Hooch from Turner and Hooch and Chance from Homeward Bound) (never Shadow though, always thought he was a sanctimonious old fart) – he’s perfectly trained, always enthusiastic and for the most part, keeps his dog-farts to what I would consider a reasonable level. On the subject of fog-slicers we have learned one key thing since taking the dog on: they absolutely mystify him. If either Paul or myself let a knicker-rattler go in his presence he will sit bolt upright, turn his head in that inquisitive manner Springers are known for and then frown until he believes the danger has passed. Equally, if he’s fast asleep and he accidentally clouds the issue, he will wake with a start and stare at his arsehole in absolute terror, as though he can’t quite believe what has happened. It is genuinely hilarious and luckily, given he lives in a house so full of farts we dare not light a match lest we blow the roof off, he’s always amused.

There’s also the small matter of leaving a room and him treating your return like he hasn’t seen you in months. It does wonders for your confidence that every time you go for a crap and come back he bounds around with his tongue lolling around as though he can’t quite believe you managed such an expedition on your own. His response to Paul returning from work is incredible to see – he hears the tinny whirr of the Smart car at the end of the street and goes to the window to await the sight of Paul clattering over the lawn with the shopping. Then he’s off out the back door like his arse is on fire to greet him at the gate. A day isn’t complete until he’s jumped up and torn a new hole in whatever Sports Direct special coat Paul is wearing that day. Thankfully he has cut back on the weeing when jumping up which is a relief to me, although Goomba did register his delight at going for a drive with Paul the other day by climbing over and taking a long, luxurious sit-down piss all over Paul’s lap. I like to think Goomba is with me in thinking Paul’s aftershave (Cerutti 1881, applied in the same fashion a clown throws a bucket of confetti) is an abomination, but I can’t rule out classic puppy exuberance.

And finally, we have managed to get him past his phobia of water, which is a relief because it was rather embarrassing having him out-camp us by mincing around any puddle like an especially fey horse. We take him to the beach most weekends so he can run around and fill his ears with enough sand to recreate the beach experience at home and Paul absent-mindedly skimmed a stone into the sea. Goomba, previously so water-phobic that I found a leaflet for pet catheterisation in his crate, went steaming in to collect it only to run straight into a not insignificant wave. He promptly disappeared but in the time it took me to loudly scream (I had to, I didn’t have my glasses on to do my traditional Madge from Neighbours ‘HARRRRRROLLLLD‘ joke) he reappeared and swam back. I mean I make it sound like he crossed the Channel, it must have only been about ten metres, but the sheer panic coursing through me in those seconds made me realise how much I did love him so. Put it this way, had the situation escalated, I would have had no compunction about sailing out to rescue him on a face-down Paul. It’s OK, Paul’s naturally buoyant on account of all the hot air. Anyway, once I’d been bought a calm-yerself-down-you-hysterical-slag ice-cream and another for travelling, all was well, and Goomba couldn’t stay out of the water.

You might be thinking, James, surely if the dog is wet it’ll make your fabulous car smell of wet dog? Well now, don’t be silly: we take two cars because there’s no chance he’s going to make my car smell and pittle on the passenger seat. Plus, there’s Goomba to consider too.

Right, from dripping dog to smoky beef – an effortless segue I’m sure you’ll agree. Let’s do these smoky beef wraps without a moment more of paws. PAWS! Do you get it? Because PAUSE as in delay but also PAWS because Goomba is a dog and has paws! That’s it, get the Sunday Times back on the phone, there’s another bestseller incoming!

smoky beef wraps

If you’re wondering, you don’t need to wrap your smoky beef wraps in those blankets they give people who have just finished a marathon, but it helps

smoky beef wraps

This isn’t the first time I’ve had smoky beef wraps this close to my face, either

smoky beef wraps

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 wraps

If you struggle making wraps, please do take a look on Youtube. I'm as cack-handed as they come but once you know the technique, it's a doddle. As with all of our recipes, you can leave bits out of this or add in - the pineapple isn't necessary, but it does add a lovely contrast of flavours. Unless you're like me and slightly allergic.

As usual, we have worked out the calories via the NHS calorie check and your result may be different - different wraps and mince etc will result in a changed amount. Do make sure to work it out yourself or treat it as a rough guide.

Ingredients

  • 400g of lean beef mince
  • four whatever wraps you use
  • two tablespoons of soy sauce
  • one red onion, half finely chopped, other half sliced into thin moons
  • one little gem lettuce
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp of chilli flakes
  • 500g of sweet potato fries (we use McCain's Signature ones because we're so fancy it hurts)
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • four tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • chill sauce for a drizzle inside if you want

Instructions

  • pop your sweet potato fries into the oven and cook until crispy
  • pop the finely sliced onion into the vinegar - it'll take the tang away
  • pop off Sis
  • gently fry off the chopped onion and once softened, add the mince and cook until brown all the way through
  • whilst that's doing that, finely chop your lettuce and pineapple and keep aside
  • once the meat is browned, add the soy sauce, paprika, chilli flakes and pepper, give it a good mix and cook for a minute or two more until a bit sticky
  • once everything is ready, assemble - you want a pile of sweet potatoes, mince, chopped lettuce and pineapple drizzled with some chilli sauce
  • wrap up, eat them, enjoy

Notes

Recipe

  • although we have used sweet potato fries (plain) in the recipe, eagle-eyed folks will spot that we have used our spicy, salty sweet potato fries in the photo - the next recipe reacharound will redo these, but for now, you can find the recipe for those here

Books

  • our Fast & Filling cookbook has delicious recipes coming out of its bum in all honesty, and the reviews are second to none: order yours here! 
  • but we mustn't forget about book one - the book that started it all and every page a delight: click here to order
  • our planner must also be considered, if you're looking for some extra recipes and somewhere to log your successes: here

Disclosure: the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. Which is handy, as we could always use an extension on Chubby Towers.

Courses wraps

Cuisine spicy, smoky

That’s a wrap! But also, speaking of wraps, may I suggest our chicken tikka wraps for a lovely alternative? Well I’m gonna, you’re not the boss of me. Take a look here.

OUT, am I‽

J

recipe: cheesy bananas on toast

The idea of cheesy bananas on toast is either going to have you licking both sets of lips and taking yourself off to the bathroom for some ‘me’ time or dry-heaving into your elbow and taking yourself off to the bathroom to have a calm-down-poo. Either way, you’re getting the recipe right here and right now and for once, I promise, there shall be no prattling on. Straight to business.

Well, no, not quite, I do need to clarify that I haven’t (as variously suggested on Facebook):

  • suffered a head injury (well, he sometimes scrapes it with his teeth, but that’s not important right now);
  • become pregnant (not for the want of trying, but again, that’s not important right now); or
  • given up on life (not whilst I’ve got joy in my heart and a decent life insurance on Paul).

See, in amongst all the free copies of our cookbooks on our shelves, which I absolutely must get round to giving away, we’ve got some proper old classics. Books from a time where it was considered acceptable to suggest rock cakes were for the boys of the family and women shouldn’t occupy their thoughts any further than what to cook Father when he returned from a gruelling 36 hour shift clipping t’children round t’ear down t’asbestos-and-cigarettes mine. There’s a certain homeliness to a lot of the recipes and if it wasn’t for the dangerously high levels of offal in seemingly everything, or the tendency to suspend anything you could possibly imagine in aspic (and mind I haven’t seen good aspic since I deleted my Growlr account), we’d give most of them a go. Indeed, part of the new ideas for the blog is to dig out some long-forgotten gems and hence this banana and cheese beauty was born.

My favourite of all our old books is ‘A Pleasure to Cook’ by Sonia Allison (though, clearly without the steer of a good proof-reader, the spine simply reads ‘A Pleasure to Cook Sonia Allison’ – you’d hope she wouldn’t mind) (thank goodness the book wasn’t called Eating Out) – it’s awash with all sorts of nonsense but the best recipe is for a simple sandwich called ‘The Man About Town’. She’s clearly taken leave of her senses at this point, stuck a bit of bread down with some lettuce and then whacked a full back joint of roast chicken with legs attached on top, before sitting another slice of bread on top. To add to the fanciness she suggests sticking a ‘cutlet frill’ on the end of the legs, which mystified me immensely. My idea of a cutlet thrill is not looking behind me when I walk down an alley at night, but no, turns out it’s those frou-frou paper caps you stick on the end of the bone, like the world’s least-effective condom.

A bit more of a dive into the world of Sonia Allison reveals she was also the author of ‘Microwave for One’ which features possibly the most depressing cookbook cover you can imagine:

I mean, haway. You just want to reach in and tell her everything will be OK, don’t you? I’m not sure what troubles me more: the dinner setting for one, the you-know-it’ll-be-her-fourth glass of pomaine or the fact she has set the microwave across from her on the table so she can stare into the abyss whilst she eats. I imagine it’s how she set her hair. Not going to lie, I absolutely want this book to try and recreate a recipe for this blog, so if you have it at home and you can find it under your eighty-seven cats, please do drop me a line and I’ll happily take it off your hands.

Anyway! Here we find ourselves 600 words in and without a recipe, so let’s get to it.

If you’re going to accuse me of posting this cheesy bananas on toast purely to show off my fancy Le Creuset side-plates you’d be absolutely bang on. 

cheesy bananas on toast

The cheesy bananas on toast is actually genuinely delicious – so please do try!

cheesy bananas on toast

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 2 slices

If you're still not sure, let me talk you through this: sweet and salty go together very well - so it stands to reason that cheese and banana should work. But this absolutely won't work with that crappy plastic cheddar from the corner shop, you need extra mature cheddar, preferably the stuff with tiny salt crystals in. 

If you like all the constituent parts of the recipe, then give it a go. You can sack off the tomatoes if you're a fan - swap them out for chopped chives.

We have worked the calories out via the NHS app at roughly 240 calories, but of course it depends on the size of your banana and the brand of your bread. So do make sure to double check.

Ingredients

  • two slices of wholemeal toast 
  • one medium banana, mashed
  • 25g of extra-mature cheese
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • salt

Instructions

  • listen, I'm not gonna fib - I sort of feel if you need a recipe here, you might need to swap us out for Sonia Allison's Microwave for one, but nevertheless:
    • toast your bread
    • top with mashed banana
    • top with grated cheese
    • top with chopped cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt
    • grill until golden brown, texture like sun

Notes

Recipe

  • controversially, Paul doesn't toast his bread before putting it under the grill, but you must understand that this way lies ruin and should you really trust a man who can watch both players on a tennis match at once? No I think not

Books

  • our second book sold like absolute hot-cakes, which is no surprise when you look at how much we all love a cake - it gets excellent reviews and you can do no better, trust me: order yours here! 
    • a plea: if you have bought any of our books, please do take a moment to leave a review on Amazon, we will love you forever and it helps us out so much
  • the first book is a bit cheaper and still an incredible bible if you're looking to lose weight with delicious recipes: click here to order
  • our planner will help you on your way - loads of space to keep track of your weight loss and lovely pictures of us to be getting on with: here

Disclosure: the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. Which is handy, as us whores must have our trinkets.

Courses breakfast or lunch, I don't care

Cuisine retro

Right, must get on.

It’s not me, it’s you, don’t call me.

J

recipe reacharound: one pot sausage and beans

If you have leftover sausage from our previous recipe for speedy sausage and leek skillet – and listen, we both know that you don’t – then you could chop them up and stick them into this one pot sausage and beans, one of our older classic recipes. This is a recipe reacharound, where we go back to check on the recipes of yore to make sure they’re still up to snuff and to re-photo them. It makes me cringe when I look back at what we used to consider acceptable as a photo – there’s one recipe which we’ve actually taken down because the food looks more like something a surgeon would pull from an infected wound than it does delicious food. But this one pot sausage and beans meal deserves some love and given there’s nothing more to it than frying off sausages and bubbling them in a pan with a few other ingredients, it’s a good place to start.

It’s funny looking back at that old recipe, though – it is one of our older holiday style blog entries from when we took a glamour-filled weekend away in Peterborough. Take a read here, it’ll open in a new tab. It’ll perhaps come as no surprise after reading that if I tell you I haven’t been back. Paul occasionally nips down to remind his fragrant, wonderful mother that he exists and indeed, spent a merry week there not so long ago. He had only been in town twenty minutes before he felt someone reaching into his pockets to try and grab his wallet. Thankfully being married to me and my miserliness has taught him to never let his wallet out of his sight and he was able to shoo away the literal cheeky beggar before he lost out. Being a sensible chap he went to tell a local policeman who looked disinterested and said ‘aye, it happens a lot round here’. Brilliantly reassuring.

You don’t get that sort of apathy from Vera mind, she’d have you down the station and shouting hmm pet in your face before you could even think about calling for a lawyer. It’s to my eternal chagrin that my mother has handed in her cuffs and is no longer a policewoman – 87% of any conversation I have with her is accusing her of being Vera, and that all ends now. Back to calling her Rainie Cross.

Anyway, we mustn’t dawdle – the point of these reacharounds are that they are meant to be snappy redos – so here we are: the one pot sausage and beans for your approval. We served ours on a jacket potato (calories not counted for that) but this does just as well on chips or even on its own, as a kind of super-thick soup. A quick word on the potatoes: if you choose ‘buttery’ potatoes (most supermarkets have them) you won’t need to slather them with butter after. We use Vivaldi potatoes from Sainsbury’s because we know not what we do, but there’s plenty of brands out there. Now, if you’re reading this and thinking what a ‘stupid cow’ I am for suggesting there’s such a thing as a buttery breed of potato I’ll say only this: you’re wrong. You’re so wrong! You don’t even know how wrong you are. But it’s OK, you’re pretty/hung (delete as appropriate).

Mind you, no home-baked potato ever tastes as good as those jacket potatoes that have been sitting in those potato ovens in staff canteens since the turn of the millennium. We used to have one back when I worked (using that term exceptionally lightly, my way into work involved going past a gay sauna and I often came in late – then turned up for work) at One North East and I swear I almost turned into a potato. Because I’m such a people person, and I once lent her my Mach 3 to sort her moustache out, the dinner lady used to save me the biggest potato and throw on a quantity of tuna mayonnaise that you could have comfortably rendered a house with. More than once I had to schedule a meeting with myself in one of the boardrooms just so I could have a doze after lunch. It’s little wonder the Tories shut us down, looking back. Anyway: recipe.

one pot sausage and beans

Served on top of a jacket potato, this one pot sausage and beans is proper filling.

one pot sausage and beans

I do like how the steam looks coming off the one pot sausage and beans here. There’s something hypnotic about it all.

one pot sausage and beans

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 massive dollops

We have changed a couple of things from the original recipe here, namely adding a carton of chopped tomatoes and some chickpeas and removing the Oxo cube, but honestly, something like this can be adapted any way you fancy. We just chucked whatever shite we had kicking around in the cupboard into it.

Paul's top tip for jacket potatoes is an oldie-but-goodie though: pierce all over, put in a massive bowl with a big drizzle of garlic oil and some sea salt, tumble about and then bake in the oven.

As usual, we have worked out the calories via the NHS calorie check and your result may differ - it really depends on the brands of sausages you use. Treat it as a rough estimate.

Ingredients

  • one tin of kidney beans in chilli sauce
  • one large white onion
  • one clove of garlic (minced)
  • four reduced fat sausages
  • one 200ml carton of chopped tomatoes
  • a good glug of worcestershire sauce
  • a little dollop of Marmite if the thought doesn't repel you
  • a tin of chickpeas

Instructions

  • stick your jacket potato in the oven if you're having one
  • about forty minutes before it comes out, fry off the onion in a little oil
  • cook your sausages whilst the onions are frying off, then slice them thinly
  • once the onions are softened, add your garlic and gently fry off for a minute
  • add your beans, chickpeas, glug of worcestershire sauce, Marmite if using and tomatoes
  • simmer for as long as you bloody well dare

Notes

Recipe

  • chuck in a tin of baked beans here instead of the chickpeas and tomatoes and it'll be lovely
  • fancy having your arse remind you that you need to be kinder to it - add a glug of chilli sauce

Books

  • our Fast & Filling cookbook has so many fabulous recipes in I can't even, but there's a tremendous chilli recipe in there if you like beans: order yours here! 
  • of course, twochubbycubs the cookbook is still a wonder in and of itself: click here to order
  • losing weight and flying right - try our planner: here

Disclosure: the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. Which is handy, as us whores must have our trinkets.

Courses sausages

Cuisine dinner time

I know right! All that for 260 calories! Want another potato topper? Don’t we all love. But coronation chicken done our way will warm your cockles! Click here to try that.

Goodbye forever!

J

recipe: super speedy sausage and leek skillet

Super speedy sausage and leek skillet time. Now, in the spirit of openness and honesty, I’m not entirely sure what a skillet is and should probably avoid using it, but let’s roll the dice. All I know is Paul made this for dinner the other day and it was bloody glorious, so here we are.

Before we start: if you’re just starting out on your diet and you want our book, it’s currently at time of writing £8 on Amazon or 99p on Kindle – that’s a steal! Click here to order that.

Speaking of Paul, it’s our anniversary tomorrow – twelve years of marriage. We’re not planning on getting gifts for one another because who needs that extra level of administration in their lives (plus Paul’s birthday is 8 January, and Valentines is the month after, so frankly that’s all my goodwill spent), however Google reliably informs me that the gifts for twelve years are silks and pearl. That’s easy then: I’ll blurt on his neck and dab it off after with a silk handkerchief. No wonder he looks so young!

Google also suggests that twelve years is almost 4400 days, which is just a bewildering amount of time, not least because Paul must have spent a good two thirds of them moaning at me for piddling on the bathroom floor, snoring too loudly or not observing the sanctity of our marriage. A stickler for the rules, always. But see I remember when I was young and six weeks felt like an eternity, or the weeks leading up to Christmas passing like cold treacle. You could throw a stone and hit the edge of what I considered my future. I could never imagine such a horror as being 25, let alone 36, and yet here I find myself, wincing at 95% of my Spotify Suggestions for being too ‘loud’ and making thankful ‘oooh‘ noises when we approach a particularly comfortable looking bench when out walking the dog.

You know when it hit home though? We were at our mates for New Years Eve and when the clock hit midnight and the big London firework display was kicking off, Paul turned to me and said ‘we should go next year’. Not sure why, if he wants loud explosions and pyrotechnical effects he only needs to step into our back yard, but he has said the same thing to me every year for twelve years now, save for the night I spent crying into the toilet whilst I tried desperately not to pebbledash the wall behind me thanks to some undercooked chicken. And every year we agree we will do it and then we put it off and at this point the only way I’ll see it is if they tip me into the Thames after my acid cremation. That’s what Paul and I have decided on by the way: rather than burning the body after death they dissolve you in acid and flush you down the toilet, though I imagine it’s a shade more glamorous than that. Makes sense: I lived through the foot and mouth crisis and I know what 1,100kg of beef smells like when it’s on fire. I’m doing you a favour.

This may read like I’ve got a touch of melancholy and I really haven’t – I’m actually quite content with my position in time – I can grow a salt and pepper beard and continue my slide into being a Daddy, for one. I own two pairs of slippers (padded for inside and waterproofs for outdoors) and smoke a pipe, so I’m halfway there already. But I have realised that time is hurtling by without a care for my procrastinations and I absolutely need to pull my socks up and course correct all the things I’ve been letting slide. This is as close to a ‘new year new me’ post that I parodied in the last entry but here we are. There’s a bit in Bridget Jones where she gives up smoking and shaves her legs in the bath and that’s where I am now, and if that just so happens to lead to me getting knobbed by Daniel Cleaver then that’s all the better. I always thought he was the better choice: Mark Darcy was such a wet weekend. Controversial but true.

To that end, after I’ve finished typing this up, I’m going to book a hotel for New Years Eve in London – if anything, the cost will give Paul and I something to moan about until we hit the thirteenth anniversary: the present for that is fur. That’s easy, he can fall asleep on my chest and spend the morning coughing up my chest hair.

Before we get to the recipe, I just wanted to set out how the blog is going to work going forward. Because this is now my full time job – Christ – I’m probably going to update it more than four times a year. As part of that, although most of the recipes will continue to be low calorie, we’ll also be posting other stuff that we’re cooking. For example, one of my (nineteen) resolutions of the year is to learn how to bake bread, because that is the rock and roll life I lead now, but I’ll be sticking those online as I go. I’m not going to promise that each recipe will come with the usual 2,000 words about absolutely nothing relevant, but it should mean that I get a chance to write more. In reality, I’ll probably update three times and then take up swimming. But, a boy can dream.

The super speedy sausage and leek skillet, then.

speedy sausage and leek skillet

As you can see – the speedy sausage and leek skillet doesn’t look like much, but it tastes good!

speedy sausage and leek skillet

The speedy sausage and leek skillet freezes surprisingly well, but don’t be adding the fried egg before you freeze it, obvs

super speedy sausage and leek skillet

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

One of those recipes which you can throw together without really thinking, which is always a plus in these workaday world. We have worked out the calories via Nutracheck and of course, they are a rough estimate: it all depends on what sausages you use, as some are more calorific than others. We've used Tesco reduced fat sausages for this but feel free to swap it out. This recipe is based on a Gousto recipe that we tried during the Christmas holiday and we've gussied it up a smidge to make it a bit more slimming. As is our way!

Ingredients

  • two medium leeks
  • four large eggs
  • 800g of potatoes - we use Vivaldi potatoes from Sainsbury's because we think we're better than you
  • 8 reduced fat sausages
  • 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • a bunch of chives, finely sliced

Instructions

  • slice the leeks in half lengthways, then slice horizontally into little half-moons
  • dice the potatoes (skin on) into small cubes
  • place the diced potatoes into a large pan and cover with boiling water, sprinkle in a little salt and bring back to the boil over a high heat
  • cook for 10-15 minutes until tender, then drain
  • return the pan to the hob over a medium-high heat and spray with a little oil
  • add the leeks to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened
  • meanwhile, score each of the sausages with a sharp knife and remove the skins (chuck the skins in the bin, or  give to a hungry dog)
  • add the sausage meat to the pan and stir regularly for 5-6 minutes, breaking them up with the spoon as you go
  • once the sausages are cooked, add the potatoes back to the pan and cook for another 6-8 minutes
  • stir through the mustard and then add half of the chives to the pan, stir again, and serve onto plates
  • put the pan back over a medium heat and add a little more oil
  • crack the eggs into the pan and cook or 2-3 minutes
  • serve the eggs over the hash and sprinkle over the remaining chives

Notes

Recipe

  • if you're buying fresh chives, make sure you stick the rest of the plant in a wee pot on the windowsill and water it from the bottom - don't let those bastards at Big Chive get you down
    • they really know their onions, after all
      • oh do one
  • if you're not arsed about the calories, swap the sausages for higher fat beasties and you'll be living the dream
  • doubly so if you add chopped chorizo in with the sausage meat, just saying

Books

  • our Fast & Filling cookbook has been out for a year now and still gets excellent reviews: order yours here! 
  • the original cookbook is also a delight and if you're wanting a good place to start, it's here: click here to order
  • and if you're on a diet, you can track your progress using our diet planner: here

Tools

  • the mandolin slicer that we always recommend is currently cheap on Amazon and absolutely worth a few quid - though please exercise caution with those fingertips of yours - you can buy it here

Disclosure: the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. Which is handy, as us whores must have our trinkets.

Courses dinner

Cuisine one-pot

Easy! If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial than the speedy sausage and leek skillet then can we recommend our one post sausage and boston beans served on top of a jacket potato? Because it’s fancy, just like you. Click the photo below to go straight there, though the updated recipe will be posted in a few days!

All our love etc

J&P

new year new me hun xoxox

Urgh: let me make one thing as clear as possible. If Paul or I ever slip into one of those slight mental breaks where we ever consider a ‘NEW YEAR NEW ME’ post, accompanied by some hokey jpeg of a two pairs of footprints walking on a beach, then we give you permission to clatter us about the head until blood trickles from our ears and you’re content we’re in pain no more.

Thing is, I was going to call the post ‘the twochubbycubs comeback’ but then you’d all expect me to say something crass like ‘and I’m not referring to my holiday breath‘ and going forward, we’re just not going to be that type of blog. I mean that’s an out and out lie, of course, we know what sells and it isn’t videos of Paul looking wistfully into the distance telling us his boring work stories.

I think the last time we updated the blog I’d just handed in my notice to concentrate on doing this blog full-time, which is both terrifying and exciting all the same. Being a kind and generous soul who didn’t want to lose his Christmas bonus, I completed three months, handed back my office chair and woke up last Thursday to realise that goodness me, I’m actually going to have to put some effort in here. This is an entirely alien concept to me, given I half-arse everything I do, including half-arsing. So really, I’m only at quarter-arse when you think, though perhaps you should stop thinking about my arse so much, young lady. Luckily Christmas arrived to interrupt my existential crisis and plus I’m locked in a sisyphean battle with LinkedIn who won’t allow me into my account to do the one thing I’ve been waiting to do FOR TEN YEARS: change my profession from ‘trademark whore’ to ‘Full Time Author / fannies about with the press releases’. Raging.

Speaking of Christmas though – and I mention this as it will inform a lot of the blog content for the year ahead – I did manage to successfully overcome fifteen years of letting my husband down with what I (modestly) believe is the best gift ever. See, at the start of 2021, Paul had returned to almost being as wide as he was tall. Given he’s only 2ft 3″ and sleeps in an empty box of Cooks Matches, it doesn’t take much, but even so. He was a very unhappy man, burying his tear-sodden face in whatever takeaway slop he could order. Even someone as self-concerned as myself couldn’t miss the fact he was down in the dumps. We had a frank and honest chat where he told me he would lose the weight through the year, and to his absolute credit, he has. He’s skinnier now than when he was on This Time Next Year breathing Snickers-fumes into Davina’s immaculate hair. Part of our chat was me getting him to write down everything he’s always wanted to do but never felt able to do, whether through feeling self-conscious or because they don’t make a harness big enough for his fat arse. He made the list and I, in the absence of ideas on what to buy a man whose most interesting hobby is picking his belly-button, stole the list back in November. Since then I’ve managed to book him the opportunity to do every single thing on that list in the year ahead and managed to do it in such a romantic way that it hides the fact I really wanted to do most of them myself and this gives me a perfect excuse.

So, 2022 will be what we are cheesily (how many syns) calling the Year of Paul. And you know, for all the treacle-thick mushiness of the name, that’s a year that is so, so overdue. For all that I razz him out on here, and take the endless piss out of him in the books, he goes into work each day so I can now work from home following my dream. What this means for the blog is that after a year and a half of not being able to do much together thanks to COVID, we’re now going to have all sorts of opportunities which in turn will create more entertaining blog posts. Though I’ll give you a sneak preview of the skydiving entry: it’ll just be me screaming for a solid one minute. Oh and I’ll probably not go into too much detail about the colonic.

To accompany the blog entries will be far more regular recipes – all slimming friendly as before – and once I finally break and get a new phone, far more interesting videos and all that stuff. Now that this is my full-time job, I can’t coast along anymore! All that kicks off in the New Year, and we’re excited to get started. Thank you for sticking with us whilst we totally forget about the fact we run a slimming blog, by the way!

Here’s to new beginnings!

Mwah!

J&P

PS: did someone say book three coming soon? Surely not!

recipe: double gazpacho (we promise it’s good)

You know what breaks my wee little heart? Knowing that this double gazpacho is delicious but also knowing that not one soul will give it a try because, in the inimitable words of my husband: ‘does it not need to go in the microwave, it’s soup’. I get it, but I’m going to need you to trust me on this, especially given it’s a low-calorie delight. The double gazpacho that is, not my husband. He’s about as far away from low calorie as I am being able to wrestle an elephant to the floor with slippery hands. Still, we persevere, and should any of you grow some hairs on your chest and fancy giving this a go, do let me know. It combines a nice tomato soup with a cooling cucumber soup – and no cooking! But before we get to the double gazpacho, a little update because, as you may have guessed, we haven’t died.

Though we have been ill – Paul is currently knocked sideways with his COVID booster, which means I’m having to run around after him which in turn means I’m the real victim here. Curiously his main symptom is a dull pain in both of his substantial arsecheeks, which he is confident has nothing to do with the fact he sat on his arse all day yesterday moaning about his pains. I can’t complain too much however, he looked after me for two weeks whilst I coughed my way through a chest infection. That wasn’t much fun. Don’t fret, it wasn’t COVID, but just a recurring infection which antibiotics and steroids kept putting a dent in and not quite finishing off. Still, it managed something which puberty, heavy smoking and deep-throating never did – lowered the pitch of my voice. I’ve never sounded so butch: I called the dog in from the garden and I swear I heard at least three sets of knickers drop damply to the floor. That’s perhaps the only plus point in what was a grim few days – I hadn’t realised how much I enjoyed breathing without sounding like I’m starting a tractor engine in the middle of my chest. And who knew that the simple act of bending over to pick up Goomba’s latest spoiling of the Ambassador could be made that more exciting by having my lips turn grey? Every day an adventure.

Usually when I’m ill I become an absolute crepehanger with my health anxiety and every cough becomes an opportunity to diagnose myself with something just awful. Mental health takes a nosedive and Paul gets helicoptered in as my Rational Voice (no love, that’s not blood in your phlegm, it’s a Skittle) and it all becomes very fraught. Well, I had a private week or so of that but then decided enough was enough and instead, just embraced the fact it really is just a chest infection and I’d get better. Doctors know more than my google search, after all. But that does mark a considerable shift in my health anxiety, something which another good friend pointed out the other day and something which I haven’t really considered lately. I’ve plopped out several entries on health anxiety over the years and so I shan’t go back into it now save to say, if you’re suffering with it, take comfort in the fact that I have it under control to the degree that I didn’t blue-light myself down to our local hospital for self-demanded tests. I joke, but there was a time I was sliding in and out of an MRI machine more often than I was my husband. Things get better, and we’ve always got Goomba to cry into.

Mind, that said: things they don’t warn you about when you take on the responsibility of looking after a dog: having to trim the hair growing around his lipstick which has matted together with wee. It looked like a lemon-dipped niknak was attached to his undercarriage and I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore, not least because he was leaving my jeans look acid-washed when he jumped up at me in the morning. You’ve never known anxiety until you’ve had to wait until your last coughing spasm has finished and he’s asleep enough not to bark at you for approaching his nethers with a pair of kitchen scissors. I have to tell you, I’ve done a cracking job – thinking of giving him a mohawk around his nipsy and a racing stripe – I think you’ll agree that’ll look pretty sharp.

Similarly, Goomba has now moved to the stage where anything more than a weak breeze makes him excitable and out pops his knob. I’ve had dogs before and so know what to expect but even I got a start the first time I spotted it lolling about like a melted fun-size Wham bar. When I announced this on Facebook (always an error) I was regaled with grim stories of it getting stuck and needing manual assistance to go back in. One lady suggested putting sugar on it as though it was a push-pop. Fuck that, he’ll be at the vets for anything like that. We’ve got excellent pet insurance anyway, so he’ll probably get a happy finish thrown in.

And, completing this grim Goomba ternary of news, we’re also learning that Springer Spaniels will eat absolutely everything they can get their noses into. We’ve lost a remote control, an Xbox controller, a plate (he didn’t eat that, he just carried it outside and left it in the garden as some sort of critique on our kitchenware) and my personal favourite – almost an entire party bag of Flaming Hot Wotsits. That backfired, literally, on him though – he was left with a flaming hot wotsit of his very own and spent a good portion of the evening outside in the garden spraying what looked like weaponised Tango out of his jail-purse. He sat on the grass after and I swear steam came up.

Aside from all of that, he’s in rude health and bringing joy to our lives every day.

In other news: I’ve handed my notice in at my actual job in order to pursue twochubbycubs full-time, which is simultaneously giving me the fear and excitement. I’ve worked in my current job in law for over ten years and can genuinely say I thoroughly enjoy it, but now is the time to take a gamble and become the thing I’ve wanted to be for years now: single. I jest, I’ve always wanted to be an author and now that twochubbycubs is doing alright, it’s time to roll the dice. That’s good news for you lot, as it means I’ll have the time to write blog posts and do some cooking and finally get round to all the little chores that I just couldn’t possibly find the time to do in the 144 free hours I have a week. I will be sad indeed when I finally hand in my photocopier pass and comfortable ergonomic chair but, here’s to new things in the future and all that.

And finally, we’ve got some cracking blog material coming up – I had a charming couple of days in Blackpool (thrills AND spills) a couple of weeks ago and Paul and I just spent a terrific weekend in Hamburg which I’m sure I can eke 6,000 words out of the flight over. We’re also heading back to Copenhagen in December to revisit the bits we couldn’t do last time as we were both classed as shipping hazards.

You know what deserves to get out and about again, though? Your soup bowl. So why not do exactly that and get this bloody double gazpacho made.

double gazpacho

Not hosting a dinner party where you’re hoping to get your box punched in by a hot neighbour? Then you don’t need to make the double gazpacho look so fancy

double gazpacho

Have a good read of the notes for this double gazpacho, there’s lots you can do here!

double gazpacho (cucumber and tomato soup)

Prep

Cook

Total

This takes moments to make, and there's plenty of notes in the recipe to consider. Key thing with this is to taste as you go - especially the tomato sauce, it needs a good glug of salt.

This recipe is one of Antonio Carluccio's classics and we adore it. His book - Vegetables - is absolutely worth a pick up if you're trying to cut down your meat intake. But please, I've been trying to do that for years, yet man-love finds a way.

We work all of our recipe calories out using Nutracheck - remember your calorie count may be different depending on what brand of ingredients you use and all that, so calorie count is a rough guide only!

Ingredients

  • two large cucumbers, peeled and cut into chunks
  • two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh dill (see notes)
  • three tablespoons of double cream
  • one carton of chopped tomatoes with basil (390g)
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves with a few more to scatter on the top because you're filth
  • one little white onion, roughly chopped
  • one tablespoon of decent olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • blitz the cucumber, dill and a good pinch of salt and pepper until smooth
  • mix in the cream and then pop it in the fridge to cool
  • blitz the tomatoes with the basil, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper until smooth
  • pour the cucumber soup into a dish first and then carefully pour the tomato soup into the middle
  • decorate with basil and more oil if you're that way inclined

Notes

Recipe

  • we've used store-bought chopped tomatoes here for nothing other than speed - if you have the time, you'll find it so much nicer if you use some good-quality cherry tomatoes for the tomato part of this soup
  • and listen, you: don't be keeping your tomatoes in the fridge, get them in a bowl on the windowsill, they should never be cold
  • swap out the chopped tomatoes and basil for chopped tomatoes and chilli, and if you fancy, add a chopped red chilli in with the tomatoes - at least the cucumber will soothe your leather-doughnut as it comes out
  • worth buying fresh herbs for this - repot the dill into an old can and water from the top to keep it going - basil should be placed on a saucer and watered from the bottom - it'll keep going for ages

Books

  • our second book has been out for months now and it still gets excellent reviews - if you're after some new idea, this is the book for you - plus it's funny: order yours here! 
  • that's not to say book one is anything other than a ceaseless delight - 100 slimming recipes that doesn't feel like a diet: click here to order
  • and if you're on a diet, you can track your progress using our diet planner: here

Tools

Courses soup, lunch

Cuisine Italian

Beautiful! Honestly, if you’re put off by the idea of cold soup, you mustn’t: give it a go. It’s dirty cheap to make too! Whilst we’re on a roll with the veggie soups, why not try this beetroot and tomato soup? Click the picture to be taken to the recipe!

Stay safe!

J&P

recipe: cheesy eggy crumpets

Listen I’m going to level with you: I have spent upwards of eighty-seven seconds trying to come up with a more alluring name than ‘cheesy eggy crumpets’ because frankly, that sounds like something you’d go to the doctor and get a cream prescribed for. And I should know, I’m at the doctors that much of late that they’ve given me a loyalty card. I’m one visit away from a free colonoscopy and I can’t wait. But, in my defence, the title of the recipe conveys exactly what these are and whilst I could doubtless gussy things up with a sexy adjective or two, I’m not about that life. If you like eggy-bread and you’re not a total trypophobic fanny like me, then these crumpets will make for a good breakfast. Or indeed, brunch: it’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it’s a damn good meal!

But, as is our way, we couldn’t possibly get straight to the recipe for these cheesy eggy crumpets because I’ve got something to say. See, I’ve been gallivanting: once I realised that the dog was small enough to shut into a kitchen drawer and quiet enough so as to not wake the neighbours with his howling, freedom was once more mine. As someone who gets itchy feet if his car hasn’t clocked 1000 miles in a week, it’s been a tense few weeks. I had a couple of days holiday to use up with work and, as my dear husband was toiling at work himself, I trotted off to visit Manchester with my mate. For the ease of your reading, I shall henceforth refer to him as Paul: for that is his name. Imagine a dystopian Humpty Dumpty fell into an extruder and you’re most of the way there with the visual.

Ever fearful of driving in strange cities, I set off for Manchester eight days before I was due and made it to the city centre Premier Inn with four hours to spare. Unusually for me, I navigated almost entirely without incident and therefore have nothing to report. I did have to leave my car in one of those car-parks which almost guarantees you’ll return to your car to find four skid-marks where you had previously parked, though I can cheerfully tell you the only skidmark actually came the next day when I went to pay. Premier Inn were courteous enough to give me a room overlooking a gushing canal lock which did wonders for my other phobia of water and machinery, but I was won over by the fact it had a fancy coffee machine to play with. I do love a nespresso – a thimble full of bitterly strong coffee and the chance to flood the serving tray – I enjoyed both. I watched The Chase, picked my bum and then went to find my mate.

Usually, if it was me and my husband, you’d be treated to a 2,000 word recap of the lift down to the reception and another 6,000 words, delivered eight months later, on the time Paul tied his shoelaces. But, forever ringing the changes, I’m going to keep the minutia to myself and tell you the standout points.

The Escape Van

Long-time readers will know that we bloody love escape rooms and so when I found an escape room that comes to you, it had to be done. The premise is simple: a converted Transit van parks near to your accommodation, you get locked inside and you have sixty minutes to escape. I clearly misread the instructions given I turned up with my own cable-ties and bag of sweets but nevertheless, the games-Master was marvellous in the face of our shrieking. Of course, me being me, I pointed out that when the van door was pulled open, the logo of THE ESCAPE VAN became ‘APE VAN’ and fell into fits of giggles. He did mention that others had brought this to his attention but most went for the cleaner option. He shut us in and we spent a merry time solving clues and figuring out how to escape. It was a bloody clever use of space with some very efficient puzzles, although of course all of the fun tactile ones I got to enjoy watching being solved from the sidelines: I’m forever the deuteragonist in my own story, me. We solved the room with many minutes to spare after a true Flowers for Algernon moment by Paul and, despite the host’s warning that we must be careful when we escaped as we were parked in traffic, we hurtled out without a care in the world. Seven people died in the resulting pile-up but we were winners and that’s the most important thing. We took a picture – me holding a giant D, which seemed appropriate – and went on our way. I thoroughly recommend it if you’re looking for something different in Manchester – you can book it here

Drinking

We went for drinks (the first time in ages for me) and apparently it went well. I wouldn’t know.

TSP1992: Man to Man: Another Night of Rubbish on the Telly – Random Thoughts

I do know that I had a mouthful of chicken tikka wrap (not a euphemism) at 2.30am to counter the eight ciders and other alcohol sloshing around in my stomach and then had to stand swaying in front of the hotel room toilet for a few moments on the verge of throwing up. Clearly, the wrap was off. Luckily a couple of Renés and I was right as rain.

Escape Reality – Auron

Next day, after breakfasting handsomely (as you’d expect) we farted about a bit and then waddled off to our next escape room. This one came with a twist: they’d built two identical escape rooms and, assuming the other team of strangers was up for it, you could choose to ‘race’ the other team to see who would get out first. As an extra deliciousness, each time you solved a puzzle in your room, a light would go on in their room, which ramped up the pressure. As two competitive people – though I’d say I’m the most competitive of course – we were desperate to go up against another team. However, the family that had arrived the same time as us were new to escape rooms. Of course, being gallant and kind, we immediately lied and said we had barely done two escape rooms ourselves, lulling the poor sods into a false sense of security. They agreed and the race was on.

Well. We had seven lights on by the time one of theirs flickered to life (and even that went unlit again, as though they’d reconsidered solving the puzzle and decided to leave it for later). We absolutely rinsed the game, finishing in twenty eight minutes flat: our fastest ever completion (and to be fair, it does usually take me a while, though I’m getting quicker as the cold nights set in). We’d done so well we’ve ended up on their leaderboard in a photograph that looks like a promo shot for Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away. Part of me feels terrible for our perfidiousness, yes, but again, we had fun. Rumour has it that the family are still there, crushed by their own defeat, scratching at the door to be let out. Bit like Goomba. You can try your luck here.

Bowling at The Dog Bowl

Before leaving for Liverpool we went for a quick game of bowling at The Dog Bowl and I’m pleased to say that despite neither of us being able to bowl or indeed move in a fashion that doesn’t suggest we need an ambulance calling, we both did very well. It was a draw – probably technically he won on points, I won on style. I love people watching at places like this and seeing the competitive bowlers taking it super seriously – all thin-lipped and furrowed brows and tiny macho fist-pumps. Pfft. I’m just thankful when I topple over a pin without knocking someone out in the process. We ordered a pizza on their fancy app without realising we would need to wait for the wheat to be harvested so they could, in turn, set about making the pizza dough. It still wasn’t a terrible pizza when it arrived nine years later and you know, if they had used more than three matches to cook it, it could have been magical. The staff were lovely, mind you.

As we were leaving we spotted a Dance Dance Revolution machine in the corner and it just had to be done. It’ll come as no surprise when I tell you that I simply can’t dance. At all. I move in such a way that those nearby gasp and look to my feet to ensure I haven’t stepped onto some exposed wiring. And yet, here’s the thing: I would absolutely, utterly, totally love to learn. Paul (mine) can’t think of anything worse than guiding me gracefully around on the dancefloor (presumably the time we had to move a double settee into our spare bedroom put him off such endeavours for life) so it’ll remain a longing that is never quenched. But, God loves a trier, and despite Paul (friend) being equally as rotund and flatfooted as me, we gamely give the machine a spin. Three tracks later his ankle had gone, I was hyperventilating into my chins and Metrolink had to take their evening service off. I wish I could say we’d chosen some complex track which would trouble even the best dancer, but I remain unconvinced that we had even moved away from the ‘Insert Token’ screen.

Cluefinders – The Tomb (Liverpool)

Thankfully, I had a chance to rest my ankles and my eyes immediately after as I drove us to Liverpool, where we picked up Paul’s husband Martin. Imagine (again) a dystopian Humpty Dumpty shrunk to the size of the tittle on a handwritten ‘i’ and you’re most of the way there with those visuals too. With him popped safely into the glove box I drove us down to our final escape room: The Tomb by Cluefinders. We’ve previously done their other two rooms and they were absolutely magnificent: really bloody clever and surprising rooms with inventive puzzles. This room was no different and possibly my favourite: mild spoilers ahead though, so skip to the next paragraph if you’re planning on doing it yourself. There’s a moment in this room which requires you to get on your hands and knees (imagine my discomfort) and crawl somewhere else. That’s fine if you’re a slender young thing, but not when you’re either: morbidly obese and wearing jeans designed for catwalk models who eat twice a year (me), nearly always taller than the room you’re standing in and boasting knees with the structural integrity of aerated water (Paul), or old enough to be around when they first built the pyramids and therefore in a position to be distracted by anachronisms (Martin). That said, we did make an excellent team and once we’d finished shouting, being shouted at or swearing at each other via a volume you might use if you were trying to alert a passing helicopter to your presence on a deserted island, we made it out of the room with minutes to spare.

But what makes this room even better – and indeed the other two rooms we’ve done here – was the staff. Dannie was our host (and I hope I have the spelling right, though I can’t stand in judgement here: love James, Jaymes, Jamie, Jay, Jimbolina, Jfonzmes, Keith) and she was that perfect mix of knowledgeable, funny and genuinely interested in what we had to say. To her credit she managed to mask the crippling anxiety she must have been feeling when we all squeezed onto the Chesterfield sofa in the waiting room, our faces looking as they do like the three stages of an off-the-books medical trial. Lots of escape rooms are franchise models and there’s nothing wrong with that – I’m yet to experience a bad host – but these more individual places need as much support as they can get, especially when the rooms are as top-tier as these ones. If you’re in Liverpool I urge you to give them a go – they’re down on the docks and, if you follow the diversions currently in place around the roadworks, it should only take you eighty-seven weeks to get there.

Oh, and final note: all of the escape rooms were incredibly hot on COVID precautions, with plenty of sanitiser kicking about and the wearing of masks. Paul sneezed in one of the rooms and we had to beg the host not to have him taken around the back and shot like Old Yeller.

You can check out their rooms and make a booking here – tell them I sent you. You won’t get a discount but you can ask them to dish the gossip on how terrific I smell in real life.

And that’s that! That was my trip away and it was very good fun. And with my typical lack of care towards keeping things punchy, we’re up over the 2,000 word mark again. I’m sorry! Let me placate you by sharing the recipe for cheesy eggy crumpets without a moment more of delay.

cheesy eggy crumpets

Top your cheesy eggy crumpets with whatever: here I used gigantic beans and bacon

cheesy eggy crumpets

That’s how good they look unadorned, these cheesy eggy crumpets of mine!

cheesy eggy crumpets

This is what I mean in the recipe when I say leave the cheesy eggy crumpets to soak!

cheesy eggy crumpets

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 crumpets

Well hi! Look: I'm going to base the calorie count on two crumpets - it's then up to you to top it with whatever you like. In this case, I did a couple of rashers of back bacon on the grill before I did the crumpets so there's a bit of bacon fat mixed in, but if you're all about the clean lifestyle, do things separately. This recipe makes enough for two people to have two crumpets each. Obvs.

Don't forget to check the notes on this one - I've got some ideas!

Ingredients

  • four sourdough crumpets 
  • two large eggs 
  • 100g of jalapeno Philadelphia
  • salt and pepper
  • chilli flakes if you want your ring troubled

We work all of our recipe calories out using Nutracheck - remember your calorie count may be different depending on what type of cheese / crumpet you use and all that, so calorie count is a rough guide only! We work this out as 395 calories for two crumpets.

Instructions

  • I mean...guess?
  • beat the eggs with a good pinch of salt and pepper, the Philly and some chilli flakes if you're using
  • pack the crumpets into a small dish and pour the egg over - longer you leave them to sit (flipping every now and then) the more they'll absorb
  • when it comes to cooking, I cooked ours in a George Foreman grill until crunchy - the same effect can be done in a frying pan or under the grill
  • serve with whatever you want - they're perfectly fine on their own mind!

Notes

Recipe

  • use whatever soft cheese you want - I just went spicy
  • if you want to make this even dirtier, grate extra mature cheddar into the egg wash too or sprinkle it on top when you grill

Books

  • book two of ours has so many amazing recipes you'll need to hoy a towel down - it's slimming food but tastes so damn fine: order yours here! 
  • book one remains a joy to behold too, and a bit cheaper: click here to order
  • if you need help tracking your weight loss well we have just the thing - our diet planner: here

Tools

Courses breakfast

Cuisine twochubbycubs

Looking for something more substantial for breakfast? Have a go at our summer breakfast hash – click the picture to go straight there!

summer breakfast hash

Stay safe, all

JX

Oh, let’s just pre-empt it:

James Anderson would like to make clear that at no time is he left to only do tedious puzzles in escape rooms. Indeed, he is apparently known for dashing straight to the ‘exciting’ puzzles and treating the boring things like reading information, finding keys or working as a team as a mere afterthought in the endless, glittery excitement that make up his waking moments. Although the author disputes these claims, he is happy to clarify matters in the interest of honesty, truth and preventing a telling-off that ends with him being called a stupid cow or a variant thereof.

Oh and for good bloody measure:

James Anderson would like to remind those readers who are sitting there with a Wotsit-stained finger waiting to call the RSPCA once Homes under the Hammer has finished that he of course did not leave Goomba alone in the cupboard at any time. He pushed the two cats in there with him for company.

recipe reacharound: lovely loaded wedges

Well hello! Here for the lovely loaded wedges? But of course you are, you’re someone of excellent tastes, save for those cheap shoes and moustache. Praise be though, because this recipe is a reacharound – that is, we’ve taken a recipe from way back when on the blog, wiped its bum and gussied it up and, more importantly, worked out the calorie content. Because we’re that type of blog.

The original recipe – found here – is tasty enough but the photo does rather look like we cooked dinner on the elephant’s foot at Chernobyl. Long-time readers, you know what’s coming here, but won’t it be a delightful surprise for everyone else. A giant, molten, hazardous pile of hot slag, Paul is often found in the kitchen making this. Recycle a joke? Me? Never!

Reading that post from 2016, where I was twisting my gob about having to pay council tax…I didn’t know I was born, honestly. Our council tax (same property, mind you) has risen by a smart £350, and boy do we see the benefit of it. For example, we’ve now got more bins than we have things to put in them: one for glass, one for recycling, one for garden waste, one for Paul’s awful shirts – the list is endless. Well no, there’s only the general waste bin to include but for the sake of hyperbole, we’ll leave that out. Still, it does give us the joyful sight of the more senior neighbours all trying to out-do themselves to get their bin out first on collection day. I had to get up at 5am the other day to afford Goomba a chance to call his agent and there was one game old girl pulling her heaving bin to the kerb, dressed in her nighty. I let her get her bin into place and claim gold, then waved a cheery good morning, but she was too busy sitting on the pavement clutching her chest and shouting help. I told her I didn’t need any and left her to it.

But you know, I can take all of these annoyances if they just sped up collecting bulky waste. I’ve had two mattresses and an old armchair sat in our garage since April, and the earliest date they can send some burly blokes to hurl it into the back of a van is late September. I appreciate that logistically they have to send eight men tethered together in a human chain lest one of them falls into my mouth but even so. Even then we have to leave it outside all day which I don’t like the thought of: both of our mattresses look like sponges that God used to clean a combine harvester. They’re well used (mattresses shouldn’t squelch) to the point where we’ll probably be embroiled in a paternity test nine months later from random ladies walking past. Hell, if I drive to the tip at a modest speed with a screen showing some choice pornography in the rear view window, the mattresses will probably slosh their own way there.

I’d write a letter of complaint to my local MP but unless I put on a free buffet and some press photographers, there’s no chance of her turning up to assist. I will refrain from naming her – not least because if I say her name three times she may appear to tell me why schoolchildren should starve at lunchtime to build their spirit – but she’s as useless as balls on a dildo.

Anyway. Enough twisting. Let’s get to the lovely loaded wedges, shall we? They’re a thing of beauty, you’ll agree. Or so help me God.

lovely loaded wedges

Top your lovely loaded wedges with whatever you like. Or, top me, but we’ll need to discuss logistics first

lovely loaded wedges

It’s the same dish of lovely loaded wedges but turned a different way: magic!

lovely loaded wedges

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

This serves four people a normal portion or, if you're like us and the thought of being hungry eight days from now is a terror, two. Adjust the ingredients accordingly.

And, look, this isn't anything especially fancy and can be customised to your heart's content. Add whatever toppings you like: fried onions work, as do jarred peppers, as does enough cheese to make sure you don't need to stock the pond for a week or two. You could even reduce the amount and serve it with hot-dogs, but then you could do a lot of things if you had the money.

Finally, we work all of our recipe calories out using Nutracheck - remember your calorie count may be different depending on what type of cheese you use and all that, so calorie count is a rough guide only!

Ingredients

  • 800g of Maris Piper potatoes cut into wedges
  • one beef stock cube
  • 100g of extra mature cheddar
  • two teaspoons of olive oil (use flavoured if you have it)
  • bunch of spring onions
  • one pack of bacon medallions (or normal bacon, but this is a rare occasion when you're fine without the fat)
  • 25ml of ranch dressing (we use Newman's Own) 
  • 25ml of hot sauce (we use Frank's Red Hot stuff)
  • chilli flakes

Instructions

  • pop your wedges into a bowl with the oil and the crumbled beef stock cube and tumble them around, making sure everything is coated, then:
    • cook for about twenty five minutes on 200 degrees until soft; or
    • whack them in the Actifry until they're golden
  • cook the bacon off under the grill and chop finely
  • chop the spring onion, green and white
  • once the wedges are done, arrange them on a tray if not done already, top with the sauce, cheese, dressing and chilli flakes
  • add more cheese, we both know you

Notes

Recipe

  • as mentioned, you can chuck anything on here
  • minced sausage fried off would be lovely

Books

Courses wedges

Cuisine twochubbycubs

And that’s your lot – I’ll thank you to stay out of my affairs.

Want something else to do with your potatoes? Try this potato salad below!

slimming world bbq

Goodbye forever!

J