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

recipe: quick chicken and spinach curry

Here for the super quick chicken and spinach curry and can’t wait until we give you the ingredients so you can look at them and order a takeaway instead? Well I’ll need you to calm your tits, Susan, because there’s the little matter of some blog nonsense to get your laughing gear around first.

As neither Paul or I have any current life outside of looking after our dog, we shall of course go straight to Goomba news. He’s fine: 13 weeks old now, got teeth that could open a tin of corned beef without breaking a sweat and fully capable of scenting a room with the rich smell of shite with the tiniest farts you can imagine. It’s a bad job when I have to ball Paul’s streaked knickers into my mouth and huff just to let my vision clear.

We’ve been able to take him walking for twenty minutes a couple of times a day, which is just the right amount of time for him to pretend he doesn’t need to offload some freight, fuss about on the field and then send a fax right outside the neighbour’s front door when we’re twenty feet away from the house. It took a solid two weeks of training to get him to that point, but we nailed it. And I’ll say this: I still can’t get past the way that he eyeballs us as he does it. I’ve since learned it is because he feels at his most vulnerable when he’s dropping the property value and is looking to me for reassurance. He’s out of luck: I’m usually bent over dry-heaving into my elbow, but this behaviour does go some way to explaining Paul’s need to leave the door open and announce his efforts (“oooh, I don’t half feel lighter, ooooh, when did we have Cheerios, oooh, call the plumber”) when he goes.

I’m sorry, you don’t come to our food blog to read about our dog’s bowel movements, do you? So forgive me for that, although it will doubtless initiate eighty-seven private messages telling me how awful I am for letting the dog poop on grass or not brushing his ears or not rigging up an oxygen tent in the spare room lest his lungs pack in from climbing over the doorstep. Honestly, and I say this with a touch of hyperbole admittedly, I’ve never known an activity elicit such feedback as owning a dog. I could announce tomorrow that I’ve been smacking Paul about and nursing a merry hard drug addiction to less controversy and ire. Which is silly: I’m no good with needles and the thought of making my own dinner leaves me aghast.

It’s not a complaint, though, as people mean well, but it just leaves me paralysed with choice and options. I’m indecisive at the best of times – or am I? – and you must understand that any decision I eventually make is normally backed up by eighteen months of feverish googling and pained expressions as I discover a counterpoint opinion to something I’d finally accepted. But, I know such advice is given with good intent and therefore I can take no real issue with it, even if I do now have four different harnesses for Goomba because each previous one has been debunked to the point you’d think I was strapping him into a brazen bull when I took him out. Honestly, between this and Paul’s tendency to buy fifteen new toys for the dog every time he goes out – he has that poor-kid-to-comfortable-adult character trait where he can’t leave a shop with both arms the same length – we’re about two weeks from declaring bankruptcy.

One cheery update is that we have found an excellent doggy day care centre where Goomba can socialise with other dogs a couple of afternoons a week. Even cuter is the fact that he doesn’t get to go into the big dogs school yet but rather ‘Little Legs’ club because he’s so wee. I had to chaperone Paul on the first day just in case they assumed he was joining as well. I can see now why parents get so anxious and fretful about their children going to school for the first time: would Goomba fit in, would he be bullied, how many tabs do I need to stick behind his ear so they think he’s cool – all the usual presentiments that come with new experiences.

We needn’t have worried. At the induction he was placed with a tiny pug who immediately chased him about the garden for a few minutes until Goomba realised that she wasn’t a threat. Indeed, he did such a volte-face regarding his opinion on this pug that he set about chasing her and then, somewhat embarrassingly, mounted her. There’s something a touch unseemly about discussing payment plans with a trainer whilst your dog is jabbing his lipstick into thin air with a lurid leer immediately over her shoulder. Goomba isn’t a big dog by any means but sexual intercourse between a Springer Spaniel and a Pug is going to be the equivalent of trying to park a bus in a tissue box.

He’s since been back a few times and is absolutely loving it, which is a relief, as it does free up some of my day-time for occasionally remembering to work and to attend to my chores. Thursday was an especially productive day: I had a builder round to look at the side of our house (still covered in paint and varnish from the shed fire) and we mutually agreed that it hadn’t magically disappeared in the five months since someone last came round to look at it. A dishwasher repair man then managed to fix the leak in our dishwasher and Paul and I had a giddy forty minutes of clean plates before realising it was still pissing lemon-scented detergent all over the kitchen floor. I called Goomba in from the kitchen and momentarily thought he’d developed rabies.

Looking sharp, though.

But most exciting of all was the surprise appearance of a group of tree surgeons that I had clean forgotten I’d arranged who had come to remove a couple of dead trees from our garden. Well of course they’re from the garden, they’re not likely to be growing in our utility room now are they. The tree at the back was in danger of falling over and crushing that which I hold most dear – my car – so that was an easy decision, but the tree at the front goes some way to masking us from the gaze of some of our less cheerful neighbours. Though, to be fair, it’s perhaps not that startling that the tree is dying given one of those aforementioned neighbours spends so long staring daggers at us that I’m surprised she hasn’t burned straight through it like Homelander.

Thusly I did get to spend a merry hour watching very talented blokes cutting the tree down and feeding it into the chipper, although they did nix my request to have a go at it myself. Probably wise: I’m an inherently clumsy person and I’d have only ended up tumbling in face-first after tripping over my own shadow. They did such a terrific job and, even better, left without taking payment – the ideal situation. I did agonise for a few moments before calling them back and pressing a bundle of notes into his hands like a nana giving pocket money. The garden seems a lot lighter now, which is handy as it matches my wallet.

And that’s us for now. Before I get to the quick chicken and spinach curry recipe, just a quick word of apology. With us having to look after Goomba so much and get him settled him, we’re very conscious that we haven’t been quite as active about replying to messages and comments as we normally are. If you have contacted us, or tagged us in a story, or made our recipes – we thank you, and apologise for not replying. Happily, we’re back on an even keel now and that ship should right itself shortly. Thank you for persevering with us, I know we’re awful.

Oh – a double apology! My phone is taking absolutely gash photos at the moment. Looking to get it fixed, but yeah, bear with.

chicken and spinach curry

The chicken and spinach curry tastes a lot better than it looks, I swear

chicken and spinach curry

Now you get to see the chicken and spinach curry from a different angle, I do spoil you.

The quick chicken and spinach curry, then!

quick chicken and spinach curry

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

So, a quick chicken and spinach curry - we've done a great number of these over the years but this one is enlivened with some mango chutney and the fact it takes no time at all to cook. I'm sure it would be made all the better by a long, slow simmer but if you're already tearing about like your arse is on fire, rest assured it's all done in around twenty five minutes.

Calorie wise this comes in at (roughly) a modest 665 calories per person (with rice) and the recipe serves four. Freezes well too. We work out calories using Nutracheck's app which is terrific, but please read the notes about that.

This is a Hello Fresh recipe which we have tweaked to make more slimming friendly. Normally we would stick in a referral link here but I can't in all good conscience: we're having serious issues with the quality of Hello Fresh at the moment, with lots of the vegetables turning up already past their best and items missing from each bag. If that improves, we will recommend them once more because lord knows they are convenient, but for now, hold off if you're considering it.

Ingredients

  • 300g basmati rice
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 green chilli
  • 500g diced chicken thighs
  • 4 tbsp korma curry paste (we use Patak)
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 200g baby spinach
  • 400g passata
  • 2 tbsp mango chutney
  • 1 bunch coriander

Instructions

  • bring a large saucepan of water to the boil with ¼ tsp salt
  • when boiling, add the rice and cook for 12 minutes, then drain in a sieve and return to the pan with the lid on until ready to serve
  • meanwhile, finely dice the onion and peel and grate the garlic
  • halve the chilli lengthways, deseed and finely chop
  • spray a large frying pan with a little oil and place over a medium-high heat
  • add the diced chicken and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until golden
  • add the onion and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until softened
  • add the korma paste, garlic, tomato puree and half of the green chilli to the pan, stir and cook for one minute
  • add the passata, 200ml water and crumble in the stock cube, and simmer until thickened (about 6-8 minutes)
  • meanwhile, roughly chop the coriander (stalks and all) - unless you're the sensible sort like me, where you'll scrape it immediately in the bin)
  • add the spinach to the pan a handful at a time and cook until wilted, about 1-2 minutes
  • simmer until everything has reduced slightly, which will take about 3-4 minutes
  • add the mango chutney and half of the coriander to the pan and stir well
  • stir the remaining coriander into the rice and serve along with the curry, and sprinkle over the remaining chilli

Notes

Recipe

  • rice: if you follow our advice to the letter, you'll have perfect rice - but remember rice is a fickle thing indeed - if you measure out enough for four people you'll get enough for nine hundred, or you'll take a look at the end of the boil and see that there's only three grains of rice in there and they're all sticking their fingers up at you
  • feel free to use chicken breast but thighs are so much tastier and worth the insignificant extra calories
  • up the amount of spinach as high as you want too - we love spinach here and could cheerfully double or triple the amount
  • not sure on syns for this - it won't be high, I think the only thing to syn would be the mango chutney and the chicken thighs, so I'd hazard a guess around 4

Books

Recommendations

  • three of our favourite bloggers now have either a book out or a book coming, and we encourage you to support them as much as you can:
    • The Slimming Foodie has a book out now which is full of recipes that'll make your heart sing - good slimming food which, like us, uses proper ingredients rather than crappy pretend recipes - order it here; and
    • Slimming Eats has a book coming out at the end of the year and again, we can't recommend her enough if you want good slimming food that tastes amazing - you can pre-order here
    • Sugar Pink Food also has a recipe book out and lord is she the Queen of food that looks like it shouldn't be good for you but is really bloody stunning - give her a whirl here
  • both Pip (Slimming Foodie), Siobhan (Slimming Eats) and Latoyah (Sugar Pink) are the kindest, most decent people you could hope for when it comes to other bloggers and it really would mean a lot to us if you could support them. They've both been at this for such a long time (like us) and really know their stuff - so go for it!

Tools

  • we are getting a few comments that calories that people have worked out on Nutracheck are slightly different to our total and wondering why - the reason is simple - we may use different brands to you. For example, there's a 60 calorie difference between Tesco and Waitrose chicken thighs, presumably because that extra smugness of the Waitrose chicken adds extra
  • to that end, make sure you're adding your recipe as you go along if you use Nutracheck, although if you're happy with the rough estimate, more power to you

Courses evening

Cuisine curry

I think that’s us done for the day, but if you were needing a different curry idea, may I suggest clicking the image below to be taken to another delicious dish?

Stay safe,

JX

driving the NC500: John O’Groats to Durness

I’m so terribly sorry: as usual, life has managed to get in the way of my travel posts, and I know there’s a few people asking for the next bit of my NC500 story. Now, in the small hours of the morning with a snoring dog on my feet and a grumpy husband hopefully choking on his neck-wattle in his sleep, I can at least get a new entry out to you. As usual I will caveat this travel story by saying you know exactly what you’re getting with my writing style, so actually, no caveat at all. Enjoy!

New to this? The previous entries are here:

You rejoin me at John O’Groats, where I woke in my caravan overlooking the sea, forever searching for Benny. Having expected an uncomfortable sleep given the small bed and the fact that I am equally wide as I am tall, I was very pleasantly surprised to wake up utterly refreshed and full of vim. I shook the worst of the pillow-crinkles out of my face, took a shower in the surprisingly roomy bathroom, making sure to use all of the hot water and toiletries to really get the cost benefit from my stay, and then set about tidying up. We’ve discussed at length my insecurities about people thinking I’m an untidy guest and this was no different, though luckily it only takes moments to clean a caravan. I genuinely don’t know why Paul’s mother complains: it must make a nice change from running the hook-a-duck stall.

Having exhausted all that John O’Groats had to offer (I considered paying 10p for a go on the public toilet ride but it was closed for maintenance), I pointed the car west for the next part of my journey, the ninety or so miles along the top of Scotland to Durness, where I had booked a cabin to myself for the next two days. I had no real plans for this trip other than to drive and stop wherever I fancied on the way, and, knowing Durness was a very small village with limited things to do, to stop at Thurso on the way and stock up on some bits to eat. First, however, I wanted to get to the actual highest point of Scotland, Dunnet Head, so on I went.

The roads were like this all the way. Glorious!

Now I’m going to be honest with you here, and you’ll doubtless think I’m a philistine, but I seem to be missing the gene that makes me gasp with wonder when visiting the ‘highest’ or ‘lowest’ of any places. The display boards will breathlessly (makes sense, given the thinner air) advise you that you’re standing at the most Northern tip, but…am I missing something? The sea and the cliffs were majestic, but they were four miles down the road too. I have the same feeling in art galleries: whilst everyone is stroking their beards and making cum-noises, you’ll find me itching to get downstairs and in the gift shop where I can buy a rainbow rubber and look at the dollies. I did have the place to myself which was pleasant: I can imagine it all feels terribly different once the coaches full of shufflers turn up. If it is busy season, I recommend following the tip in my last blog entry and head to Duncansby Head just outside John O’Groats. Speaking of busy, I did spot a cavalcade of motorhomes coming over the horizon and knew then I had to get on the road and in front of them. It seems my early-start-to-beat-the-traffic scheme didn’t have room to accomomdate a quick hand-shandy in the shower of a morning.

Ah yes, the dreaded motorhome. If you read reviews or tales online, you will see the topic crop up over and over. They’re clearly a fun way to do the NC500 but boy are they a bone of contention. See, the majority of the NC500 takes place on twisty, narrow roads with very little opportunity for overtaking if you get stuck behind somewhere slow. Indeed, on the single-track portions of the road (which are bountiful and will, in places, lead to your bumhole chewing open the seat cushion underneath) you may be required to reverse back to a passing place in order to allow oncoming traffic to pass. It’s not an easy drive in a Golf, let alone a set of axles with a Barratt home attached, so you can imagine it just takes one stressy bit of driving, a motorhome to get stuck, and then the roads are blocked. That, coupled with the fact that some motorhomers decide the best way to appreciate the beautiful scenery is to scatter litter and set forth a mini-flood of turds from their septic tank – well, there’s a reputation.

All I will say: if you’re looking to hire a motorhome and never more so than when it’s your first time driving one, be sure to do your research. Take it for a spin around the car park when you pick it up, have a crack at reversing into a bay, make sure the chip pan isn’t going when you swerve around the corner. Far easier to hone your skills on a flat piece of asphalt than it is 1000ft up in the hills with some manic Geordie shouting and bawling behind you because he’s got a box of Magnums melting on the passenger. At some places you will need to deviate off the main route to take a motorhome-friendly route: don’t be a dick and think you know better than the locals. Oh, remember I said that, a little later down the line…

Although I opted to take the car this time, I can see the allure of a motorhome. Back in 2018 when Paul and I did our tour of Canada, we hired a motorhome (more of a converted van to be fair) to drive around Vancouver Island, and it was absolutely brilliant. There’s something super about being able to pull over and make a bacon sandwich at a moment’s notice. It took a good couple of hours to get used to given neither of us had driven anything bigger than a Micra at that point, and Paul had left his powered-by-pixie-dust bumper stickers at home, but we soon got the hang of it and were tootling along at a steady 60mph whilst all our belongings rattled around in the back. I remember driving to one campsite down in Bamberton, parking up, making dinner and sitting outside and just being in absolute awe at the freedom of the whole experience. That was, until two ladies who looked as though they organised dogfights on the sly pitched up in a motorhome the size of a housing estate and told us we were in their spot. We remonstrated that if we were in their spot, could they not just park in our spot which was immediately adjacent, but they were having none of it. We had to pack everything up and drive 10ft down the lane whilst they set about setting up their pitch. All sorts of different compartments popped out the side of their motorhome – little bed on the top, pop-out kitchen, walk-in wardrobe, air traffic control tower, the usual. At one point we caught the eye of one of them whilst she lifted the back of the motorhome up with one arm and realised we were right not to argue.

Of course, us being us, our motorhome experience was never going to be without incident. My favourite involves my husband’s cooking. We had arrived at Crystal Cove campground just outside of Tofino, absolutely knackered from a very long, very slow and very rainy drive. That’s the problem with a driving holiday of course: you never get anywhere because you pull over to gasp at the scenery (you) or to stock up at every fudge shop, grocery store or tat-emporium you pass (us). We had checked in with a friendly chap (it’s Canada, everyone is friendly – it wouldn’t have surprised me if I had been mugged in the street and then driven to the hospital by the attacker in a cloud of polite apology) on the front desk who explained where everything was, cheerily wished us a pleasant stay and then reminded us that we mustn’t leave food out in the evening because they had bears in the woods nearby. Us, as confirmed homosexuals, made a raunchy joke at this (forever in the hope that just one of these bearded lumberjack blokes that are everywhere in Canada would join us in the van) and drove off to our pitch to get some sleep. I woke in the early evening to find Paul outside washing up in the tiny sink round the back of the van. I remember praising him for his proactive stance on keeping the place tidy before I realised he was washing out the little soup pan. Yet, there was no soup to be seen. We’d bought a tin of beef soup a little way down the road and I assumed he’d kept me some aside, but no. No, not Paul: he had been cooking the soup when a giant bug had dropped into the pan from above and, in a fit of Paul-level hysteria, had thrown the soup into the forest beyond.

And yet, despite me explaining that bears seek food out from a great distance and that the rich, meaty smell of shop-bought beef soup may not be the best thing to have immediately behind our bed for the night, he remained entirely non-plussed and unapologetic and indeed, somehow it was my fault for not being awake enough to assist with cooking. You can imagine how such an exchange went down so no further elaboration is needed, save to say had a bear attacked us in the night, he would have needed to wait for us to defrost, given the bed was full of cold shoulder that evening. That, and the noise of me hyperventilating every time I heard a noise outside, such as I was that I was about to have my head clawed entirely away from my neck. Paul slept like a log.

Apology face

Redemption face

Aside from that, and the night where Paul opened the side-door to have a long luxurious midnight wee straight into the woods and then neglected to shut the door properly so we woke up ever-so-slightly more underwater than any reasonable person would like, it was a fantastic experience. We only had one moment of abject terror when it came to driving, and frankly I can’t be held responsible for forgetting to apply the handbrake and having the van roll onto the beach behind us like a mechanical creeper. It could happen to anyone.

Apologies, that was a sidetrack and a half. Where were we? Motorhomes. If you’re doing the NC500, you’ll spend a lot of time staring furiously at the back of them as they meander along the country roads and even more time peering anxiously at the top of blind summits as a Stannah Luxe or a Speedking Aneurysm or a Comet Male-Pattern-Baldness (and for one particularly brilliant moment, a large RIMOR – presumably because he was so close behind me he could stick his tongue up my hoop) trundles over, the owners seemingly blinded to your presence on the road. That’s understandable, the chandeliers probably get in the way. You’ll come to spot that for a good 95% of the time, you’ll see the same three types of occupants:

  • a tiny elderly couple who look like a box of Sun Maid raisins squashed into miniature linen slacks (these are the hard ones to spot, as you can normally only see the fluffs of white hair poking out above the dash) – they’re determined to get where they need to be before Dignitas call and won’t let the fact that their other form of transport is a never-out-of-third-gear Honda Jazz get in the way;
  • a newly married couple, flushed with the smug look of people who only interrupt their lovemaking schedule to post pictures of them doing the finger-claw heart-shape pose in front of every conceivable landmark; and
  • the experienced travellers – they’ve got sun-hats, they’ve got stickers, they’ve got eighteen different ways of telling you you’re going the wrong way at the wrong time with the wrong people, they’ve got a sunny disposition and boy, have they got stories.

Naturally as a bitterly anti-social person who wanted time to himself I avoided them all. If you’re worried that you haven’t spotted one of those three examples on your trip, fret not: simply pull into a layby and wait a few moments for the dust to settle, and a horde of motorhomes will turn up to slough some dumps out onto the grass and thoughtfully adorn the hedges with beskiddered tissues. Actually – a good time to mention this. The only rude person, indeed negative encounter at all, on this trip came via a motorhome. I had parked up in the middle of Arse-End, Nowhere and was thoroughly enjoying the crisp mountain air by filling my lungs with Marlboro smoke. I know, it’s a disgusting habit, but it stops me picking my bum. Naturally, no sooner had my car locked when some tatty old motorhome turns up behind me. This will happen an awful lot, you know: I think it’s nothing more than fear of missing out – people see someone pulled over in a layby and they assume they must be there to look at something interesting, so in they follow. This happened enough times when I stopped for a wee that I considered having some postcards of my cock printed.

As I enjoyed the moment, a young lady stepped out from the motorhome on a cloud of patchouli oil and smugness, and immediately fixed me with a stare. I gave her my most winning smile and she looked at me as though I’d offered up a quick shag and a critique of her shoes. Then, somewhat aggressively, she hooted to her husband that ‘oh it’s laaahveley out here, if only we could enjoy unpolluted air’ and again gave me a look that could have stopped a clock. Realising that she was taking umbrage that I was having a cigarette in a place you’d need to drive for miles to see another person, I nevertheless stubbed it out, but still she persisted staring daggers. I had to have another three cigarettes to calm my nerves whilst they left in a cloud of blue smoke. The fact that she was driving a diesel-belching motorhome which looked as though its last service was by Peter Sutcliffe and was therefore far more deleterious to the surroundings seemed entirely not to register with her. Poor delicate flower. I do hope their tyres didn’t blow out and send them plunging over the cliffs.

Crikey: that was actually a side-track within a side-track, wasn’t it? Let us get back on the road. When I arrived in Thurso I did indeed stop briefly to get groceries, before realising that it was a Saturday and therefore the supermarket was awash with angry looking sorts smacking their children. I bought an entirely sensible eight pack of Monster Ultra and a bunch of bananas. I’ll let you guess which of those got tucked into a side pocket on the door and promptly forgotten about. I can see from TripAdvisor that there’s some terrific things to do around Thurso, but as we were just emerging out of hard lockdown, most were closed. There was North Coast Watersports but I figured that if I turn up there in my bright yellow Fred Perry, they’d think I was taking the piss. I drove on.

What a drive, though. I’m running out of superlatives to describe the NC500 and for that I apologise, but the road hugs the coast for most of the drive, and where it doesn’t, it’s running alongside a loch, and quite honestly every turn and dip of the road reveals a glory anew. For all that I ridiculed the frequent stoppers, this is exactly what you will and ought to do. Greater writers than me will wax lyrical about the beauty and indeed, if you’re bored, have a look on google maps and follow the A838 along. It’s a wonder. I was lucky to have the road largely to myself and, with my music playing and the sea air on my face, I felt brilliant. There’s something unique about the remoteness of Scotland that sings to my soul: I don’t doubt for a second that if twochubbycubs goes tits-up and Paul shuffles off the mortal coil, I’ll end up living up there, eking out a Hannah Hauxwell existence and shouting at motorhomes. Hey, as long as I’ve got my Billie Eilish tapes and 4,000,000 fags, I’ll be grand.

I stopped at a little coffee van called Coast just outside of Thurso, it having been recommended to me the night before. The owner was one of those locals who you just want to stay and chat with for hours: super friendly and immediately picked up on the tiniest sliver of Geordie accent I have. I asked for a beach recommendation and she pointed me down the road to Farr, which worked for me because I could send Paul so many WhatsApp messages about how Farr away I was, so near so Farr, I’ve come so Farr (maybe not the last one, there were sheep about and I don’t need that reputation). We gabbled on at each other and she managed to upsell me a doughnut, which took me all of four seconds to demolish. The coffee, conversation and sugar were all delicious and I said I’d mention her here, though she refused to be in the photo with my giant moon face, so make do.

Luckily, my head not only blocked out the owner, but also a passing coach.

Farr Beach was lovely, as you can see

The fields nearby were full of lambs gambolling about (how do they hold the cards?) and I was joined briefly by a dog-walker with a giant poodle, which, given I didn’t have my glasses on, I mistook for a giant ewe rushing towards me. Gave me quite a fright, I can tell you – must have seen my sheep-shagging joke a bit earlier. Other than that, I had the place to myself, so it was the usual beach-routine: write a mean joke about my husband in the sand, do a Madge Bishop style HAAAAAAROLD into the sea, and then on I went. Passing through the village of Tongue and resisting the urge to buy a fridge magnet, I was hit with overwhelming déjà vu as I passed over the causeway. I texted Ole Vera Stanhope to find out why only to discover that we’d taken the exact same road when I was wee. To be fair, it was hard to see the headrest in front of us when travelling in our parents’ car, given both parents took any moment where they weren’t lighting, smoking or extinguishing a cigarette as a personal affront.

Mother also reminded me that it was nearby where my dad chose to almost kill us rather than give in to someone who wasn’t using the passing places correctly. It transpires that, after a few hours of driving us about, he was short on nerves and patience. I don’t know why: I’m forever a wonderful passenger at the best of times, providing helpful navigation hints and reminders of what the brake is for. Paul loves it: his thin lips convey all I need to know. I can’t imagine that was different back in the day. Anyway, on a single track road no less, we were travelling along at a reasonable lick when another car appeared on the horizon and neglected to pull into the appropriate passing place. As a quick primer, the correct etiquette with a passing place is whoever is closest to a passing place as they approach should duck in. If it is easier to reverse a couple of yards and park, you absolutely should, but never park on the wrong side of the road. My dad, absolutely fuming at this overwhelming injustice, decided the very best thing to do was to drive straight at the other car at great speed. Apparently it was a matter of centimetres before both cars swerved into their respective verges and disaster was averted and his family wasn’t wiped out. I wish I could remember this as vividly as my mother describes it, but I was too busy being hotboxed in the back. Luckily, I haven’t inherited my parents tendencies towards driving recklessly and smoke-choking people in my car.

A little outside of Tongue was Moine House, a derelict house that sits on the outskirts of a giant peat bog. Over the years it has been covered in all sorts of fruity graffiti and is absolutely worth a look if you’re passing by. Top tip: don’t do what I did – I hoisted myself up and through the open window, splitting my jeans in the process, before realising I could have just as easily let myself in through the open door immediately opposite.

She’s been all around the world, but still can’t find her baby. Poor cow.

Then, the road loops around the edge of Loch Eriboll for what was the absolute best drive I’ve ever done. It’s a good twenty-five miles of windy, open road that takes in bits of mountain, loch-side views and forests. The glorious part: you could see well ahead of you and I had it to myself for the most part. At the start of the year I traded in my little shitbucket Citreon for a Golf R and this was the first time I’ve ever been able to drive it like it’s supposed to be driven. Of course, exercise caution: keep an eye on the road and don’t speed, but yep. About ten miles in I became aware of a line of supercars roaring up behind me – apparently you can rent them from Inverness for this exact drive – and I pulled over to let them past. All of the drivers looked exactly like you’d expect – beetroot red faces that you know voted Leave so hard they broke the pencil when they left their cross – but they were having fun. More importantly, I was able to sneak in behind them and drive knowing the road was clear in front.

Amazing.

I won’t lie: I had the best time, but I don’t encourage you to do the same. Remember, the point of the NC500 is to take in the sights and take your time. For this brief but arresting hour, I didn’t do that, but then I was too busy texting Paul to focus on the views in front of me. I’m kidding, of course, we were on a Skype call.

I knew I was arriving at Durness when I started seeing signs for ‘COCOA MOUNTAIN’ and thought it was awfully kind of them to put out a welcome banner. I know I made a similar joke a couple of entries ago, but suck it up. I’d heard tremendous things about Cocoa Mountain and was very much looking forward to the ‘best hot chocolate you’ll ever have hun bab xoxox’ and so, as I was an hour or two early to check in at my accommodation, the lovely Aiden House B&B, I parked up and walked the mile or so to the factory. They make chocolates by the way – I perhaps should have explained earlier. After forgetting to get groceries in Thurso I thought I’d be able to at least stock up on fudge and sweet things to see me through. However, I was met with a sign saying they were shut. I think, had you been within a five mile radius, you could actually hear my heart break. And listen, you think that’s disappointing? I only learned as I was leaving Durness a couple of days later that a gay German porn-star lived there. Probably for the best though, I’m not svelte enough to get away with being a peeping tom.

And that heartbreak is as good a place as any to leave this. I feel I ought to apologise – I’m conscious that my tale of Scotland featured two sidetracks into unnecessary territory, but if you think of my writing style as a metaphor for the NC500 itself, then it all makes perfect sense, no? And plus, leaving it here will rile up the owners of Aiden House something chronic because they’ll be itching to see what I write about them. Spoiler: it’s wonderful, of course.

I promise not to leave it so long.

Jx

recipe: curried banana soup

Curried banana soup I hear you cry – though I’d ask you to keep the noise down because Goomba has just been out for a tom-tit and he’s very volatile. One loud noise and his training will be set back two weeks and he’ll be back to pooing on the utility room floor with a glint in his eye that just screams ‘you wanna dance, bitch’. For a dog of ten weeks he’s got an awful lot of attitude and a very efficient bum, I can tell you. But hear me out on the curried banana: as long as you use good madras powder (the type that may suggest putting a roll of Andrex in the fridge for after), the sweetness of the banana and the cream cut with it to make a very flavourful, surprising dinner. If the thought of it still turns your stomach, then at least this is only the smallest of blog entries to work through with pursed lips. We are, after all, a food blog.

But of course I am going to talk about the dog for a moment more, given I’ve now become a dog-sitting shut-in (and there’s an assemblage of syllables you don’t want to mix up) and therefore have nothing else to talk about. We’re almost at the end of the week following his second jab and are very much looking forward to going out, though I am braced for the onslaught of people coming over and fussing him and giving me their sage advice on how to raise him. You have to understand that although I am a fairly social being at the best of times, when someone ambushes me first thing in the morning when my eyes are still stuck together and I’m dry-heaving my way through picking up his droppings, my responses will be quite curt.

One lady, who I have never met before in my entire life and who looked as though her ears were still ringing from the Big Bang, came to our gate the other morning to tell us that Goomba must be muzzled outside (in our own garden, no less) and that we mustn’t be afraid to beat him in order to establish dominance. I laughed in her face, but thought better than to mention that such a strategy hasn’t worked in the fifteen years I’ve been with Paul and that he still leaves empty milk bottles on top of the bin instead of inside it. I understand that everyone has an opinion and they’re welcome to it but she wouldn’t have enjoyed it if I’d knocked on her door and suggested a couple of ways she could make her moustache frame her face better.

That said, if anyone has some tips on how to get cats used to a new dog, I’d welcome them. Bowser isn’t arsed, he just hisses and sends the dog packing, but Sola is a different beast entirely. She’s already a very skittish cat – she won’t allow you to pick her up under any circumstances and the closest you’ll get to affection is her showing off her anus as you take a bath – and seems to be quite put out. We’re fussing her the best we can (telling her we hate the dog really, leaving Mein Kampf playing on Audible as she sleeps) but she is spending most of her time in her box atop the kitchen cabinets. Lots of online guides say she will come round in her own time and it’ll just take one swipe at his nose for her to draw a line. That’s fine, but they haven’t met Sola – she won’t use her claws, but instead a shiv she’s whittled from a toothbrush. Tough times ahead.

Anyway, I said this would be a quick and easy entry (my favourite) so let us not linger amongst the dogchatter and get straight to the curried banana soup. First thing I want to say is: it’s really hard to make a white bowl filled with yellow gloop to look exciting in a photo. The book we adapted this from suggested serving with sweet potato crisps and indeed, I went to Lidl especially, but I ate them on the drive home. Once a chubby cub, always a chubby cub. You’ll note that this recipe uses butter and single cream and still comes in under 300 calories.

curried banana soup

Curried banana soup: tasty, I promise

curried banana soup

I had to turn up the brightness to try and salvage the photo, hence this curried banana soup looking almost radioactive

curried banana soup

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

So if you trust us enough to try this curried banana soup, please note a couple of things: we use butter and single cream in this recipe, and it still comes in under 300 calories for a lunch. If you're on Slimming World, you'll need to swap your butter for olive oil (though if you use Frylight, I'll do time) and you could maybe swap the single cream for some Philadelphia. I dunno anymore. Frankly, you're better off synning the ingredients, but we've been saying that for years and do you listen? Do you bugger!

We worked this out at around 295 calories per serving.

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • one teaspoon of garlic paste
  • one large white onion, chopped
  • one heaped tablespoon of madras powder
  • 120g of basmati rice
  • 1200ml of chicken stock
  • 250g of single cream
  • two decent sized (ripe) bananas
  • squirt of lime juice

Instructions

  • gently fry the onion in the butter until the onion is golden and soft
  • stir in the garlic paste and cook for a minute more
  • add the curry powder and stir
  • add the rice and chicken stock and cook for around twenty minutes on a simmer, until the rice is cooked through
  • add the cream and bananas and blend the absolute dickens out of it using a hand-blender, but do be careful you don't burn yourself
  • serve with a squirt of lime juice and those crisps you bought and ate in the car

Notes

Recipe

  • the banana needs to be ripe - you want those bananas that you're saving for the banana bread that you'll never make
  • we're using garlic paste because it's handy but you could just mince a clove of garlic if you don't have the paste - but then again, you could do a lot of things if you just believed
  • this very well may be a soup that you have right there and now - it'll certainly get 'gloopy' if you leave it to sit, but if that happens, just eat it through gently and you'll be cooking on gas

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

Tools

Courses soup

Cuisine like I said, soup

Whilst we are on the topic of soups that look like hot-arse but taste good, here’s another soup for you to try: spinach, pea and ham thick soup! Click it to go straight there, and you can find all of our other soup recipes here.

Enjoy!

J

I hate myself for saying it, but, good lord, here’s a pupdate

I can’t sleep. The house fire will burn me. So instead of fretting, I thought I’d do some writing and let you all know what’s going on.

It’s a funny thing: I don’t think of the house fire that often anymore, and for someone who is as risk-averse as I usually am, the fact I’ve compartmentalised that minor trauma is quite something. You’re talking, after all, about a man who butters his crumpets the wrong way up because he once read an article a decade since in which someone described the prion-ravaged brain as being a sponge of tiny holes and couldn’t shake the image afterwards. But still, my irrationalities bubble like aspirin in a glass of water , and so I find myself wide awake at 2am writing because someone nearby had a bonfire in their garden and the smell of it lingering on the night air freaked me out.

Now, I can lie there telling myself that there’s nothing in the garden that could burn. I can reassure myself that we have four connected smoke alarms and if the dog does so much as a hot fart, it’ll sound like a prison escape. I can run over the various scenarios where the smoke is something totally innocuous like a garden fire or a BBQ or Paul’s thighs chafing as he brushes his teeth before bed. But it does no good: I need to get up, prowl around my house in my knickers and (new one, this) run the sprinkler for a few minutes to make sure everything is soaked.

Such an indulgence wouldn’t necessarily have me up more than ten minutes, but see, as previously mentioned, our living situation has changed somewhat in the last week. See, not content with having one saucer-eyed bumble who stares at me adoringly as I serve his dinner up, I decided to break the promise I made in book two, give in, and get Paul a dog: Goomba. He’s called that because he’ll be the first thing I accidentally step on when I start a new morning. Because of Goomba, any trip into the living room past 1am becomes a bewilderingly loud and exciting moment for the dog, and he takes a while to settle back down.

Here he is, ‘helping out’

It’s absolutely Paul’s dog, of course. I’m entirely non-plussed about him. He might be the cutest Springer Spaniel puppy that you’ll ever meet, but I wouldn’t know, because I’m terribly stoic and unfazed about it all. Sure, there might be videos of me rolling around on the floor laughing whilst he chews every part of my face he can get his tic-tac-teeth onto. There’s almost certainly a good hundred photos of me cradling him like a baby and blowing raspberries on his belly and fussing him with a level of adoration that I’ve never afforded to my poor put-upon husband in the fifteen years we’ve been together. But it’s all a sham, I swear it.

See, Paul has wanted a dog ever since we’ve been together, but I’ve always been rational about it. We needed to be able to be around during the day to look after him and we needed to be financially comfortable in case of any emergencies. That’s me being sensible. Paul, forever penny wise but pound foolish, didn’t care for that, and it’s always been a sticking point. Why, for example, can I spend £3 on name-brand toothpaste, if he couldn’t have a dog that’ll need feeding twice a day for fifteen years? Many discussions were had and I always promised that when the time was right, I’d give in. That time is now. Naturally, I martyred myself terribly when the time came and I am absolutely keeping ‘getting Goomba’ in the bank for the next time I want to do something expensive and reckless. Which will probably be tomorrow morning knowing me, although it is getting late.

It really has been a week, though. We picked him up on Sunday, with me ever-so-slightly out of sorts after a breath-taking week away visiting friends. He’s been raised with seven other puppies and was already toilet trained and anxiety free. His beautiful mum saw him off, with me trying not to feel freaked out by her giant dog nipples. Look, I know it’s perfectly natural and all part of the areola of life but it gave me a flashback to the pre-Paul whorishness days where I once had an encounter with a big hairy bloke who took his t-shirt off to reveal nipples that looked like burnt runner beans and who then implored me to ‘suck Daddy’s tits’. I didn’t so much suckle as dry-heave and sob into his belly-button.

Anyway, I digress. We got him home (the dog, not the daddy) and honestly, he’s been as good as gold. He’s eating well, only peed on the carpet once (and that was Paul’s fault for daring to do some work) and is responding well to training. Indeed, the only struggle has been nights. In a wild change from my youth where, much like Adrian Mole’s Dog/New Dog, our dog used to sleep in the coal cellar, we’ve decided to crate Goomba overnight. For the dogless, this simply means popping him in a giant crate at bedtime with his favourite blanket, a load of toys and treats, and placing a blanket over the top like one might do with a cussing parrot. After a slight adjustment, the dog becomes used to sleeping in the crate and the owners can sleep safe in the knowledge that he’s not chewing his way through the electrics or watching Crufts After Dark on the forbidden Sky channels.

The thing is, you have to be firm here when crating the dog: if the puppy learns that crying will bring his owners back he will do it endlessly, whereas a bit of tough love will yield rewards untold and a dog who is happy to go into his crate for a vet visit or an overnight in the kennels.

Like butter wouldn’t melt.

So it was, on the first night, that I spent a good fifteen minutes lecturing Paul that he had to be cruel to be kind and that, although the medicine is harsh, the patient requires it. I even backcombed my beard and put on some pearls for that line. Paul’s as soft as starjelly whereas traditionally, I’m the hard-faced cow in the relationship, so I thought it would be no bother. We popped the light off and settled down to sleep.

Well, that determination lasted two minutes. Goomba, despite having plenty of experience sleeping through in a crate overnight at his birth home, was having none of this chicanery, and started howling and wailing and crying and barking and yapping the very moment our heads touched the pillow. He doesn’t strike me as a spiteful dog but I’m fairly sure that if his paws could operate a rotary dial, he’d have been calling us on our mobiles at 3am to sob dramatically down the line from the living room.

The sound of Goomba’s plaintive cries elicited emotions I never knew I had: compassion, empathy, love, protectiveness. It was Paul who had to hold me back from rushing into the living room scattering apologies before dashing to the 24-hour garage to get Goomba a box of Celebrations to make up for my frankly appalling behaviour. I fell asleep with my fist in my mouth that night. Since that night he’s been getting better each time – a bit of crying when he first goes in and then accepting the position (and frankly, that’s a routine I get a lot when it comes to bedroom activity) – and a solid sleep through can’t be too far away. We’re taking it in turns to get up at 4am to make sure he can go out for a wee. We’re good like that.

So, the nights are long, I’m not sleeping very well and each day I look more and more like I’ve been fucked hard and put away damp. I am full of admiration for all those people who thought having a baby was a good idea, I truly am. I know there’s endless love on offer at the end of this but see there’s endless love in my dreams and it normally comes in the form of a bearded plumber whose wife doesn’t touch him since the kids came on the scene. Wrestling myself out of bed at 4am to watch a puppy curl out a poo that defies the rules of physics (how does a 6kg puppy who eats 150g of puppy food a day manage to crap out a shite that looks like one of those draught excluders my nana used to put behind her front door?) isn’t even in the top ninety reasons I’d get out of bed for. Hell, going back to the house fire for a moment, even that night I had to make a conscious decision whether to save the cats, wake Paul and run out or to turn over and hope it burned out of its own accord like a forest fire. I think I made the right choice.

But that’s honestly the only wrinkle and easily overcome and entirely expected, so we can’t complain. In fact, I’ll let you in on the most obvious of secrets: I absolutely adore him. He’s only been at Chubby Towers seven days and already I can’t imagine him not being here. There are times when I walk into the living room and can’t see the floor because it looks like someone ramraided Pets at Home and brought all the toys home, taking care to slobber on the most garish ones. But that angst is countered by how inutterably happy he is to see me, wagging his tail like he’s trying to put out an oil fire because he’s so overjoyed that I’ve returned from brushing my teeth. Sometimes I realise (with a touch of sadness) that the simple act of going out for a night-time drive has been nixed because we’ll need to find someone to look after him, but then that’s all forgotten thanks to the sight of him taking exception to a grey shoe and growling furiously at it for ten minutes. Even now, as I type this with my eyes falling shut, he’s sat on both my feet ever so quietly snoring and kicking his legs at some imagined foe. Which is handy: he’s keeping my feet warm and saves me having to put the heating on – I’d only fret about it bursting into flame in the loft.

Oh, actually, no: the best thing is far more simple: the look of utter contentment on Paul’s face. The man is giddy, and I’m all for it. For all that I tease and mock my husband on here, he deserves the world for all that he does for me, and this little (pretend) acquiescence on my side is but a tiny thank you.

Look at the time: he’s gonna be fussy in the morning. Goomba too.

Mushy now, and the hour is late: I’ll wrap up, with one final yarn.

We had our first trip to the vets earlier today, which was an exercise in who’s-a-good-boy behaviour (the dog, Paul), the most careful driving I’ve ever done in my life (me, kept it to a modest 87mph) and downright arseholery (the vet receptionist). Visiting the vets is always going to be slightly traumatic for all involved, but holy-hell was this visit made all the worse by the attitude of the young lady on the front desk. After explaining to me in a tone that suggested we’d never be friends that only one person was allowed into the waiting room at any given moment and perhaps I could sit outside (the perhaps seemed as optional as breathing), she then took severe umbrage at me doing exactly that – sitting outside the room – and yelled that ‘did I not understand her instruction‘ and that I must leave the building at once.

Now, forgive my conceit for a moment, but I praise myself on two things: a keen ability to follow instruction (when mental faculties are not impaired) and an endless desire to be polite to anyone in a customer facing role. I bit my tongue almost clean in half holding back a sarcastic reply (it was only concern for Goomba that did that, mind) and went outside. Perhaps if this particularly special dolt used her head for something other than somewhere to rest her teeth, she would have thought to pop a sign on the door.

Even then, you can almost guarantee it would be a design disaster: a Publisher poster in size 32 Comic Sans with a dog-bone border around it with ‘Apologise for any inconvenience’ at the bottom.

Can you tell I’m still sore about it? Between that and paying £45 for the dog to get a load of drugs blown up his nose (I’m being doubly ripped off), it wasn’t a fun experience. I will be changing vets to our local surgery in the morning: they at least have the good grace to smile and make pleasant chit-chat as you fork over your house deeds in payment for them sticking a finger up your cat’s bum. Which, in retrospect, seems a little peculiar given Sola was only in having her teeth cleaned.

Anyway. I will say goodnight, and I hope you’re all keeping well. I promise that normal twochubbycubs  behaviour will resume shortly. We have recipes and messages to reply to and things to post, but at the moment, it’s finding the time between prising Lego out of Goomba’s gums and eating fast food fast to stop him snaffling it.

It is, you may say, a dog’s life.

Jx

PS: he has his own Instagram account. Because of course we’re that type of couple. Follow here.

Goomba | twochubbycubs’ dog (@twochubbyspup) • Instagram photos and videos

 

recipe: chicken and rhubarb stew

I hope by now that you trust us enough to take a gamble on a recipe if we recommend it: this chicken and rhubarb stew demands this of you. Most people use rhubarb for tarts or crumbles, but if those tarts fancy a savoury dish, what can you offer? Try this chicken dish. The astringent nature of the rhubarb is tempered by being cooked low and slow with some honey and chicken and the end result is something approaching a hot and sour sauce. Please, read the recipe and try it: rhubarb is everywhere at the moment and it’s always nice to try something new. But before we get to the chicken and rhubarb stew, we do, but of course, have a blog post to slog through. If you’re itching to get straight to the chicken and rhubarb stew, then just scroll to the recipe photos (and get some Canesten on that itch, you utter jezebel).

Mind, we didn’t have a choice when it came to cooking with rhubarb: we don’t grow it, but our neighbours have an allotment and by all accounts, they’re over-run with the stuff. So much so that I was sitting on our settee a couple of nights ago when the letterbox clattered and a long pink stalk came poking through. Our neighbour was posting his spare rhubarb, which was very thoughtful, but it didn’t half remind me of the time when we used to have a ‘special access door’ installed for our gentlemen visitors.  Glory days indeed! We lost that contraption in the house fire – it was either save that or save the cats and although a box of matches fell out from under Sola’s tail as she hurtled out, I feel I made the right choice. Probably for the best, the black hallway carpet was starting to look like a badly-tuned television channel towards the end.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about our lickerish indiscretions of old: I’m here to make an official twochubbycubs announcement. We were going to take an advert out in The Times but this seemed like an easier route: we’d be lost amongst the ridiculous birth and marriage announcements. I did once see a Rafferty Rocket in there, mind you, though you’ll never convince me that isn’t the name of a sex toy you’d order from wish.com.

See, an announcement is always going to be one of four things, isn’t it:

  1. Paul has finally tired of being slagged off something rotten on here, pulled his size three socks up and set off to storm out the front door*, hoping to get there within two days with his tiny bandy legs
  2. we’re releasing a third book full of more amazing recipes, wit and comedy
  3. we’re having a baby
  4. we’re getting a new pet

* Actually, to be fair to him, I’m the ‘storm out and slam the front door’ one in the marriage. The last time I did this I slammed the door so hard it cracked the wall all around the front door. Worse, we have a novelty emergency money box affixed to the wall next to the door which looks like one of those ‘in an emergency, smash here’ boxes where they keep the fire hammer on trains. As the door clattered this fell off the wall, sending a lovely cascade of pound coins showering to the kitchen floor. It’s difficult to maintain a surly face when it feels as though the house itself celebrated your departure by cashing out like a jackpot spin in Las Vegas. Anyway. Where were we? Ah yes, why those four scenarios are just silly.

Well:

  1. Paul knows where his bread is buttered, and given his immoderation towards calorie intake, that’s more than likely a full loaf of Toastie Thick hidden in his rucksack which is hanging in the hall: he’ll never leave. He lives for my bi-annual compliment, that boy
  2. can you imagine us doing such a thing – don’t you think you’ve had enough? Mind, never say never…
  3. there’s more chance of me eschewing cock for good than ever entertaining the idea of having a bawling poo-machine littering our slightly-singed carpet, thank you

So, that really just leaves number four, doesn’t it? Well, in that case…

goomba

Meet Goomba, our incoming Springer Spaniel puppy!

See, long-time readers of the blog (and occasional readers of the books, where I swore blind we would never get a dog) will know we have wanted a dog for ages. Well, no, Paul has wanted a dog since time immemorial – the only pets he was allowed growing up were the more resilient dickies in his unwashed hair – and I’ve always been the sensible one saying no because we work full-time away from home.

But now, with the relative success of the books and the fact that coronavirus has meant working from home for me, we’re in a position to finally give a dog the life it deserves. We’ve spent the last few months applying to take in a rescue dog, getting our hopes raised and dashed over and over by charities that never got back to us or decided, for whatever reason, we weren’t suitable. That’s their prerogative of course, and far better they are choosy with rehoming because the last thing any rescue dog needs is more upheaval, but even so it has been an incredibly demoralising process. I think a stumbling block was trying to find a dog that was accustomed to living with cats: doubly so when you consider that 50% of our feline contingent spends her days plotting ever more horrible ways to kill us. It says a lot that I could empty Sola’s cat carrier one day and remain entirely unsurprised to find a gun in there. The only reason she hasn’t killed us in our sleep is surely because she can’t reach the cupboard to get her cat food out herself. The second she learns how to operate the portable stepladders we have in the garage, we’re fucked.

So, mainly because I could see how much Paul wanted a dog, I set about finding a puppy and, in an especially serendipitous moment of canine oestrus excitement, a good friend’s bitch gave birth to eight puppies at just the right moment I was looking. I don’t mean I was actually looking when she gave birth – I imagine it would look like pushing a guinea pig through a loose pack of ham – but I was ever so excited. I arranged everything and, would you believe, managed to keep the entire process secret until the moment we drove up to pick our dog from the litter. That really is something, you know: I’m as appalling at keeping secrets as Paul is efficient at unveiling them. I’m probably the only husband to sit down ashen-faced and confess to an extra-marital indiscretion before the blood has even pooled in my nethers. He was terribly excited, and this isn’t a man who excites easily: he could win £100,000 on a scratchcard and still complain he’s got silver fingernails. But it was genuinely lovely to see his enthusiasm.

Picking was difficult because of course all puppies are tremendous and wonderful, but we spotted one particular puppy who had taken one look at us and decided to reverse himself under the sofa. After a little reassurance and a quick piss on the floor, Paul was ready, and he chose the shy puppy that had hidden away. And, readers, honestly: take one look at his gorgeous wee face, with that smudge marking on his nose, and tell me Paul made the wrong choice? We already had the name picked out – all of our pets have Nintendo related names (Luma, Sola, Bowser) and Goomba was the perfect fit for this one. I mean I wanted to call him Keith, but Paul said no, the poor sport. Dogs with human names will never not be hilarious to me.

So, that’s our news. I think you’ll agree it was a corker. Goomba joins us late in July, and if you think we’re going to be one of those couples who talk about their dog all the time: you’re right. I’m even thinking of going all in and changing the email subscription title to pupdates. Yeah, you like that, don’t you? Ahem.

Shall we get to the business of chicken and rhubarb stew then? Let me say one thing before we get to it: taking a picture of chicken and rhubarb stew and making it look at all sexy and tasty is an impossibility. It’s a brown slurry. But readers, you just need to believe.

chicken and rhubarb stew

There, a chicken and rhubarb stew: it won’t win any awards, but it’s damn tasty!

chicken and rhubarb stew

Served with rice, this chicken and rhubarb stew is way under 500 calories: it doesn’t take Vera to work that one out. Pet.

chicken and rhubarb stew

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

This chicken and rhubarb stew uses rhubarb to make an almost sweet and sour sauce, and it's beautiful for it. Even if you're not a fan of rhubarb I implore you to try it: if you like plum sauce for example, this will be a winner. This is a recipe you'll need to taste as you go along, adding honey if it needs to be a bit sweeter.

This chicken and rhubarb stew came from a blog called whereismyspoon - I encourage you to go take a look, although reading it on a mobile is a chore due to the video adverts. I know we all have to do what we have to do to get through life, but please, bloggers: video adverts which you can't get rid of - especially ones with music - can get in the sea. That aside, there's some delicious recipes on there. We've tweaked this slightly to our tastes.

This comes in at 280 calories per serving and makes enough for four. Serve it with a decent portion of rice and it'll still be under 500 calories too. Syn wise? Probably quite low, but Slimming World syn honey don't they? Even so, I doubt it's more than two syns a pop. Calorie counts are approximate, using Nutracheck.

Ingredients

  • eight boneless and skinless chicken thighs (don't use breast, you want the slightly gamier taste of thighs here)
  • 400g peeled, chopped rhubarb
  • two large white onions
  • two teaspoons of garlic paste
  • one teaspoon of turmeric
  • one tablespoon of black pepper
  • one tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 750ml of chicken stock
  • five tablespoons of honey
  • four tablespoons of lime juice

Salt to taste. But not too much, you.

Instructions

  • you'll need a good casserole dish - see notes
  • fry the chicken thighs on both sides for a few minutes on a high heat until golden brown, then remove
  • lower the heat a little and then, in the oil used for the chicken, add the chopped white onion and allow to soften and go slightly golden, before adding the pepper, garlic paste and turmeric
  • give everything a stir and cook for a minute more 
  • add the rhubarb and tomatoes, give everything a good stir
  • add the stock, honey and lime juice, stir
  • add the chicken back to the pan
  • bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer
  • allow to bubble away gently for as long as you can - we cooked ours for ninety minutes, only occasionally deigning to stir the contents every now and then
  • do taste as you go along - add more lime if it's a bit too sweet and more honey if it's a bit too sour - rhubarb is a tricky thing, but don't forget it'll mellow as it cooks
  • serve with rice to applause and declarations of love

Notes

Recipe

  • this freezes really, really well, so feel free to double up the amounts and batch cook
  • this would absolutely work in a pressure cooker - follow the steps until simmering, and then cook on high for about 15 minutes then release
  • please don't be tempted to use chicken breasts, I can't stress that enough people

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

Tools

  • gonna talk to you about casserole dishes - we have had the same Le Creuset pot now for nine years and use it weekly, and it has never failed us: I can feel confident recommending to you that if you have the spare cash, it's an investment worth making - Amazon often have them on sale here
  • if you're using fresh limes, top tip - roll them under the palm of your hand for a little bit, and then pop in the microwave for five seconds - you'll get so much more juice out of them. Failing that, use one of these even if it does look a little like a tool a doctor would be struck off for using on you

Oh! Bonus tip. Don't chuck your shredded lime out once you've got the juice from it - pop it in a dish with some water covering it, then microwave for about three minutes. CAREFULLY remove the dish when done. But the steam will loosen all the dirt on your microwave, making it easy to wipe clean. Eee, I'm like Kim Woodburn, aren't I?

Courses dinners

Cuisine chicken and other stuff I dunno what to put here I never do get off my back jeez

Looking for something a bit more traditional to use up your rhubarb? Try this – click the image to go straight to the recipe!

Goodness, we used to take some bloody low-res photos back in the day, didn’t we?

Until we all meet again, stay safe and well,

Jx

special announcement: the new book is £6 on Amazon!

Forgive the short intrusion (said that before so many times in my life) (sigh) but this is a pretty big deal! Amazon have our new cookbook for £6 delivered if you’re a Prime member, today and possibly tomorrow. It’s the cheapest it has ever been and I doubt very much it’ll come back down. If you’re not a Prime member, you can sign up for a free trial and then cancel it in a couple of days if it isn’t for you. Either way: if you’ve been after our cookbook, this is the time to buy. 100 amazing recipes, all of our sass, some blistering nudes, it’s got everything. Alsatians, the lot. Click the massive picture below to order!

Now, if you already have the book, please do us a favour and spread the word! Stick it in your facebook groups, that sort of thing, and we’ll love you forever and ever!

driving the NC500: Inverness to John O’Groats

NC500

Welcome back, everyone. With apologies for the slight delay, but with an agreeable tone that we can still be friends and also appreciate the fact you’re not reading this eight years after the event like my usual holiday entries, I present to you part three of my solo trip around the NC500. If you’re new to this, that’s fine, just relax and I’ll be gentle, and of course you could take a moment to avail yourself of the previous entries:

They’re both hilarious, blistering accounts that will make you laugh, cry and evaluate your life choices (according to my mum) and, in much the same vein as this entry, I would love to know your thoughts. Comments, messages, knickers sent in the mail, whatever you like. Is it too detailed? Not detailed enough? You want to see more photos? Let me know! But for now, get a coffee, shut your gob and enjoy. I’ll caveat this one as usual by saying that this isn’t your usual travel blog where someone waxes lyrical about stormy seas and windswept vistas, but rather concentrates on the minutiae for altogether too many words and with too much personal detail.

On that note, the morning began with me doing exactly that – concentrating on the minutiae in bed, having pre-empted my eighty-seven alarms and managed to wake at the crack of dawn. In the absence of the usual twenty stone of farting gristle I have lying next to me, who will gamely offer to lend an orifice as long as I make him breakfast after, I had to sort myself out. And readers, I did, and once I had scattered a half billion little versions of me all over the place (imagine being one of those for a second: you burst into being ready to go find an egg, and instead you’re left gasping for air amongst a forest of chest hair and Lotus Biscoff crumbs – it’s no life, this) I squelched to the shower, ready to wash off my sin and face the day.

Except, no. As previously referenced, showering in Scotland seems to be an abstract possibility: every single shower (bar one) I ended up with would have struggled to extinguish a lit match. This one was by far the worst – I turned it on, fiddled with the knob and received nothing but a splutter for my trouble. THEN I HAD A SHOWER AYOOOOOOO. No, shush, don’t be silly, but I would have been wetter had I stuck the bit where Mufasa dies in the Lion King on Youtube and used my tears to work up a lather. A far from ideal situation when you’ve got body hair like me – my stomach looked as though someone had drowned a cat in PVA glue. I dabbed the best I could with the towel they provided (I say towel, I assume it was an off-cut from the master towel they kept locked away), got dressed, sat on the edge of the bed to listen to my stomach crinkle under my t-shirt, then went to breakfast.

In keeping with yesterday’s theme of there being no-one in the hotel, I breakfasted entirely alone, save for the very attentive and slightly frazzled waiter. I was confused as to why he seemed so harried given I was the only one in the breakfast room, but an answer revealed itself moments later. Having politely and warmly taken my breakfast order, fussed about with the coffee and presented an entirely charming image at 7am in the morning, he went into the kitchen and seemingly started a ferocious argument with half of Scotland about the fact the boiler was broken. I’m not one to listen to other’s drama: it was all I could do to gum my toast lest the crunch I made from chewing it drowned out an important detail. Still, explains the crap shower. Breakfast was delicious – I’ve seen some snotty comments about the fact they use those ‘terrible pink cylinder’ sausages but I’m all for it. If I’m having a fried breakfast I want mush and fat and grease on my chin, not a lecture about how they source the bacon from pigs that have a fortnightly bus-trip out to National Trust properties to discuss culture. Not enough toast, but then there’s never enough toast. Until the day I’m gazing at my beloved across a table upon which a rotary toaster and at least four different loaves of bread has been placed, I’ll never be truly happy.

I went back to the room, picked up my things, emptied their ‘welcome tray’ into my bags and made for the car. As with previous drives, getting on the road early and putting some miles in would give me the chance to stop wherever I wanted, and I thoroughly recommend you do the same thing. It frees up your evening too, which in my case was very important because would they even air The Chase if I wasn’t there bellowing the answers at home? The road is 120 miles along the A9 and A99 and will give you the first opportunity to see what the NC500 is about, given it hugs the coastline for most of the drive and gives you several chances to test the clutch in your car and the swearing in your vocabulary. It’s terrific. I had accommodation booked at John O’Groats with a check-in available at 5pm so I had all the time in the world. But first, some progress please.

I managed 5.4 miles. Spot the recurring joke in these travelogues yet? In my defence, I was being told – nay, instructed – that I must stop at a Harry Gow bakery and try a dream ring. Spotting a turn-off for a takeaway Harry Gow, I bustled in and got myself one. Now here’s the curious thing: despite having tried one, despite having a photo in front of me eating it, I still can’t quite remember exactly what it is. My best guess is a sweet bun cut in half, filled with cream and glazed. Either way, it was delicious and once the sharp pains in my right shoulder had subsided, I was glad to have tried one. Now, I know what you must be thinking – where’s the obvious joke? Well, readers, if you think I’m that predictable, you’re absolutely right: it certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve smashed a cream ring in whilst parked up in a layby, and nor was it the first time I’ve ever driven away from a bank of lorries with my lips glazed. Sigh. Sometimes I feel trapped by my own reputation.

nc500

You wish you were this classy: me smashing a Dream Ring on the NC500

Leaving Inverness exposed the first issue with this trip and one that you must bear in mind: mobile reception. It’s absolutely gash. I’m with Three and for most of the trip going forward until I got back to Inverness, the signal was patchy at best and more often than not, non-existent. This came to light when my friend called for a catch-up and I had to sensitively ask if he had developed a stutter in my absence. So if I may offer up a tip: download the relevant Google Maps section for your trip whilst you have Wifi so you don’t get lost, make sure you have a few Spotify lists downloaded to your phone, and then chuck it in the back and forget about it. It’s actually a nice feeling, being cut off, but if you’re dependent on your phone for work, you will absolutely struggle. You can check the strength of your signal right here, so you can.

First pit-stop, after about thirty miles of driving, was the charming little seaside town of Dornoch (and just up the road, the village of Embo). My boss, once she had recovered from the shock of me asking for yet more time off to gallivant, had earnestly told me that I must visit. For once, I did what I was told, and was very glad to have done so. The beach was utterly magnificent – miles upon miles of pristine sands and blue water and, even better, I had it mostly to myself. There’s that setting off early point again, and it’s one I am going to keep repeating because it made such a difference. There’s a little car park right by the beach and good clear paths (part of a golf course) along the sands if you aren’t up to walking on the beach. I took some photos that I’d never look at again, wrote my name and number in the sand with a shell in case I did a Harold Bishop and set off walking. I’m a terrible walker – very much the type of muttonhead who will cast out in one direction, forget to check the tides and wonder why I’m suddenly cut off from the shore and in dire need of rescue – but I was confident the tide was heading out, so cracked on.

NC500

The beach at Dornoch on the NC500

I had the faint memory of Embo being nearby so decided to walk there – forgetting because of course I did that I would need to walk back – and although my feet were aching at the end of it (just over 6 miles) it was a lovely morning out. More sensible folk would elect to take a coat and a bottle of water but not me, I bravely ploughed on with two cans of Monster in case of emergency. But honestly, there’s something quite terrific about an early morning beach walk, especially when the beach isn’t full of shitting dogs and parents smacking their beetroot-faced children. Even better when you can caterwaul along to Cher and nobody but the odd passing dog-walker can pass judgement. I think I may have took a wrong turn at Embo – it seemed as though it was just a caravan park so I didn’t explore – but the round trip is one I recommend.

As I returned to the car alongside the golf course I reminded once more that there is no sport more responsible for questionable fashion choices than golf. I mean, I genuinely don’t understand it. I’m not one to judge anyone’s sartorial choices – I look as though I wandered into the ASOS warehouse with my arms open and eyes shut – but I’ve never seen so many awful pastel trousers, ill-fitting Ben Sherman shirts and smugly self-satisfied smiles. We recently had cause to stay in an actual golf resort and the only good thing I can say about all the men walking around was that it must be nice to be so confident that you can match the volume of your trousers to the volume of the voice you use to rah-rah to your business colleagues. We had a balcony room which overlooked the golf course and could hear every word of their oneupmanship and gasconade and it was a genuine fucking torture. No wonder their wives were off shagging their personal trainers.

Please, if you’re a golf player, remember the rule of twochubbycubs: if we’re slagging something off, we aren’t talking about you. Mind, if you are a golf player, you’ll probably be talking about yourself anyway, so swings and roundabouts.

Once back in Dornoch I took the opportunity to look around the town and buy a keepsake to stick in our games room. Again, Facebook came through with suggestions and peer pressure sent me to the welcoming arms of Tartan Creations. I’m starting to become aware that if people on Facebook had suggested taking up heroin I’d have had a belt around my arm quicker than you could say ‘least it’s not round my neck’. Nevertheless, it was a good suggestion and Yvonne and James entertained my nonsense for a good ten minutes before I bought a pillbox to keep my multivitamins in and admonished the Anderson tartan. If I may be serious for a moment: one of the best parts of this holiday was chatting to the various little businesses around the NC500 who were all gearing up to welcome people back after what must have been a bloody shite year thanks to COVID. If you do visit, make sure you visit these businesses: buy a trinket, or a coffee, or something. Businesses need it.

I pointed the car North and decided, for once, to keep driving – I had planned to stop at Whaligoe Steps but read online that it was shut whilst they strengthen the stones – apparently they were sick of people walking all over them. Boom! You can imagine how distraught I was at having to skip a 360-step climb, can’t you? I did stop for a moment in a little nearby harbour town to catch my breath and managed to clatter my head off a harbour wall – my first and only injury of the trip.

NC500

That’s really quite something for me, mind you, I’m tremendously accident prone. I once misjudged my own doorstep leaving the house and pitched myself head-first into the front lawn. My masculine scream of terror would have given the neighbours something to laugh at, though, which saved them looking for another source of comedy for a couple of years. I tittered when I drove through a town called Occumster – I presumed they had put out a welcome sign for me – and I spent an hour or two looking around Wick for something to do. There wasn’t anything I fancied aside from taking in the world’s shortest street, Ebenezer Place. It’s just over 2m long, you know, and I can’t in all good conscience neglect to tell you that it took a matter of moments to see everything it had to offer. To give you a sense of perspective as to my struggles to find something to do, the shortest street experience is rated #9 on ‘best things to do in Wick’ on Tripadvisor, with second place being a distillery. Stuck, I asked people for ideas of things to do and the unanimous verdict was ‘leave‘. Harsh, Scotland.

But leave I did, after a quick stop at the local Lidl to pick up some groceries for my overnight stay. John O’Groats is another fifteen miles or so up the road and it is a curious approach – the landscape gets more remote as you drive, save for the occasional coach of tourists passing you in a spray of rainwater. John O’Groats is known as the most Northerly point of the mainland United Kingdom – it isn’t, that belongs to Dunnet Head just up the road – but it has a gift shop and an easily accessible road, so make do. For the record, Land’s End gets touted as the bottom of England, which it isn’t. It is, however, awful. At least the Visitor Centre is – I’m still bitter.

I pulled into the car park at around 4pm and cognisant of the fact I was meeting my host at 5pm, I decided to mooch about and see what is on offer. Not a lot is the honest appraisal: if you’re heading here expecting thrills and spills, you’ll be sadly disappointed. There’s a few shops, a small harbour and a couple of coffee places. But, that’s the charm of somewhere like this – there’s no need to make it flashy or have crappy arcades everywhere, and it’s all the better for it. I did take a picture of the famous sign, of course, and had a walk along the front to look at the brightly coloured houses which looked over the water to Orkney. Realising that I was running out of footpaths and not fancying slipping around on the rocks, I wandered back to the car park and into Stacks, a lovely little coffee shop selling proper coffee and all sorts of terribly deliciously gooey pieces. I told myself it was just going to be a coffee but I walked out of there with a brownie the size of a paving slab. It was scrumptious and although I planned to save some for later, I scoffed the lot sat in my car. What can I say? I’m a greedygobblegannet! Yesss.

NC500

Having time of my life on the NC500 (I really was)

One thing John O’Groats does have is one of those gift shops which is rammed full of things you wonder could ever sell. I’m not taking the piss here – I promise – but has anyone ever wandered into a shop and felt they needed to buy a shortbread tin decorated with a picture of the Queen, a CD collection of Beatles B-Sides but imagined by a bag-and-pan-pipes duo, or a three foot cow made of coir, or any other number of genuinely baffling keepsakes? I say it all with love: I adore a good mooch around, and was thankful for all the distraction. Here’s the thing though: it’s all for naught, because you can no longer buy those giant pencils with the rubber on the end that every kid in school used to get when they went away on holiday. Maybe just our family, actually, we were told it was a good gift. But then I was also told if I picked at my bellybutton my arse would fall off, so who can say?

I bought a postcard, was told I couldn’t use contactless unless I paid a small fee, so immediately bought myself a tin of Queen-branded shortbread to take me over the limit. That’s how they get you! Another NC500 tip though: carry coins in your car. I use my phone for everything and there was a couple of occasions when it came to parking and needed coins and it was a ballache, so think on. If you’re proactive like me, you’ll schedule a weekly trip to the shops in your partner’s car so you can take all of their changes instead. Think on.

I could see my accommodation – a caravan on the beachfront – from the car, and the owner who I had agreed to meet bustling around outside, so went over to meet her. I’m always really quite nervous meeting new people – especially those that are going to be hosting me – but after a few moments of conversation with Caroline I was completely at ease. I promised not to set fire to the caravan and we mutually agreed that I would get rid of the tougher skidders I’d invariably leave in the toilet, and she was on her way, leaving me to explore the caravan all to myself. It was lovely! Booking a caravan to myself was always going to be a gamble: our previous adventures to a caravan park had left me a little jaundiced – but this was smashing. Very clean, tonnes of hot water, several beds to choose from. I made myself a coffee, ate all of the biscuits that Caroline had thoughtfully left out for me, and got to work checking all the cupboards and switches to see what they did. I can confidently say that if I had the money and inclination, I’d cheerfully live in a caravan, and I know Paul would be on board because to him and his shortarse build, it must be like living in a normal sized house. If you were looking for somewhere to stay for an evening, you’ll find no better than Caroline’s caravan, and you can book it for yourself right here. Hell, you can even read my little review for more details.

It stands to reason that I would enjoy a caravan holiday, thinking about it. Back when I a child we used to take caravan and camping holidays all the time and indeed, it was in a caravan that I took my first steps. There’s a photo floating around at my parents of me standing at a caravan door with a face like a smacked arse – my parents had ducked out for a few minutes leaving me with my nana and as they left, I toddled to the door to see where they were going. Knowing my childhood I was probably experiencing nicotine withdrawal from not being around the fug of smoke that accompanied my parents at all times, but even so. Flash forward a good many years and I spent a couple of weeks a year holidaying with my mate at his family caravan in Montreuil-sur-Mer. I can’t remember much of that save for the fact I once got absolutely mashed on French weed, freaked out and was calmed down by my friend asking me to tell him all the recent Bad Girls storylines. That was a great holiday mind – the same holiday where I finally cropped my long hair off (after setting it on fire a few weeks previous) and walked straight past my mother in the airport who didn’t recognise me without my happening and fresh Severus Snape locks. To be fair, I didn’t recognise her either: she’d decided to get rid of her moustache for the summer.

Anyway, back to the present. I sat and typed up my stories, had a cold tin of soup (I was too scared to figure out how the gas hob worked: I didn’t want to accidentally torch the place or suffocate in my sleep, so I thought it best to leave it) and watched Coronation Street. Well, tried to, but as wank as it sounds, my eyes kept being drawn to the beach outside and I realised I wanted to be back outside. I’d spotted a road up to a viewpoint as I was driving into town so I hopped in the car and made my way – slowly, lots of sheep – up to Duncansby Head. I can’t recommend this enough. From the car park is a lovely walk across the fields to some of the most dramatic cliffs I have ever seen and with dusk coming in, it was just beautiful.

nc500

The view to the cliffs – possibly one of my favourite points on the NC500

NC500

Dusk over Orkney

I sat and watched the sea for a bit, gave Paul a call to make sure he hadn’t died, then watched the sun go down. It was magical, and it only got better as the stars started blinking in. There’s absolutely zero light pollution up there and a blanket of stars was my reward for sitting on the grass for a couple of hours. I didn’t want to go back to the caravan, but even my arse gets numb in the end. After a final mooch around the harbour in the dark, and conscious of the fact I had another early start in the morning, I went ‘home’ and prepared for bed.

Now, I don’t scare easily, but even I was a little nervous about being out in the middle of nowhere (sort of) in a caravan with patchy mobile signal. A friend of mine had encouraged me to watch Under the Skin that night – naturally I didn’t but I had read the Wiki synopsis about how she kills people in Scottish caravans – so I was a smidge on edge. But good news – since the house fire, I’ve been given sleeping tablets for the very rare occasion I can’t sleep and thankfully, I’d remembered to bring one. I’m a total blurt when it comes to swallowing pills so I had to go and fetch a glass of water to chase it down but in doing so, I managed to drop the pill on the floor where it bounced, rolled and promptly disappeared into those little floor vents. Super. I did swear an awful amount and then realised that such anger would serve no real purpose, so slunk back to bed.

I was just dozing off when I heard a woman’s voice shouting ‘BENNY’ right outside the window. Over and over and over, in various pitches. It was surreal and didn’t abate for a good ten minutes (mind nor did I, she had wrecked the moment) and I was just on the cusp of flinging open the window, probably to certain doom, and shouting ‘Agnetha, Björn and Anni-Frid, any other bloody questions’ when I heard the scratch of tiny paws and her Benny came back to her. Drama solved, I drifted off to sleep, and can honestly say it was one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time. All that fresh Scottish air, it really gets to you.

And that, readers, is where I shall leave it for now. If you’ve enjoyed it, please do let me know. Otherwise, see you soon!

J