Where to start? Firstly, if you’re here for the recipe, have a good scroll down and you’ll find a recipe for good old mushy pea curry, which although it does look like someone’s already eaten it for you, is tasty, cheap and slimming. Trust me. If you’re here for the long haul, enjoy the first part of my rambling about our recent few days away in Ireland…
You may remember me mentioning that we had no plans and were planning a last-minute holiday away wherever we could find a cheap deal to a decent place? Well let me tell you – don’t bother. The only available flights were to places which you just know will be full of bald English men with red shoulders reading The Sun and eating full English breakfasts at 4pm. Bleugh. I don’t like flying – the thought of flying somewhere with such little reward just ruled going abroad at last-minute completely out. So, the night before we set off, we booked a holiday cottage in the absolute middle of nowhere in the Ring of Kerry, Ireland, and at 5pm the next day our car was packed, Paul had been picked up and we were on our way in no time at all. I normally hide away the sat-nav for reasons below but intrigue got the better of me as to how far I had to drive and the sat-nav was plugged in and on the dash within ten minutes.
Sat-navs are great in principle but I always end up putting mine sulkily away in the glove box after approximately five minutes. We bought a proper fancydan version in the sales but see, I hate being told what to do when I’m driving and struggle with the authority it commands in the car. I always have good intentions of listening to it and indeed, it’s never failed to guide us where we need to go, but I still have an inherent distrust and because Paul always sides with the sat-nav, it causes arguments. Plus, it only has two male voices, Daniel and Kevin. Kevin is a sarcastic knobhead so he immediately gets turned off but Daniel has been upgraded to this weird breathy version who almost whispers the commands at us like some robotic milk-tray man. I don’t know how appropriate it is to have a semi whilst clumsily navigating around the Bangor ring-road but there you have it.
We arrived in Bangor at around ten and, due to being full of wine gums and other sweets, went straight to bed. We’d elected to stay at a Premier Inn but this is always a mistake – not because they’re uncomfortable, quite the opposite actually – I’ve always had a great night’s sleep at a Premier Inn – but rather I spend all night scheming and plotting about how I might make my money back under their ‘Guaranteed Good Night’s Sleep’ promise. The problem with that is, I’ve always found the staff so nice and disarming that I immediately become charming and submissive and don’t dare mention any perceived problem with the room. Bah. We sped down towards Holyhead in the morning and we were at the dock in plenty of good time to sit and wait in the gales and mist before it was time to board the ferry.
Oh! Before I carry on with the tale, let me mention Paul’s idea of breakfast. As we didn’t have time to hoover up an all-you-can-eat-breakfast at the Premier Inn, I bustled him into Holyhead ASDA with the direction of getting a breakfast snack for us. This is what he came back with.
Haway. In case you can’t make it out, it was a little packet which contained a cheesestring, a wrap so dry I could have shaved my three-day-stubble with it, a sachet of knock-off tomato ketchup and (unlike in the picture above, which I’ve nicked from somewhere to illustrate my post) some sliced rolled chicken. It was unspeakably vile. I opened the packet and I swear it hissed when I pulled the lid back. The car smelt like someone had shit out a corpse on the back seat. We got fifty yards down the road before I pulled over and Paul, now with a considerable flea in his ear, had to dispose of the ‘meal’ in the nearest bin. Honestly Holyhead, get your act together. I had tears in my eyes as we drove past McDonalds to the ferry port, let me tell you. Anyway…
You know what I love about the English? The very second they perceive anyone to be at any sort of advantage to them, they start bitching – and this is compounded if they’ve paid extra. Let me explain. Paul and I paid an extra £10 each way on the ferry to be given priority boarding, disembarkation (is that a needlessly clumsy word or what) and access to the Stena lounge. It is the ferry equivalent of first class and we only bought it because the seats in the lounge looked moderately comfortable and there was promise of free snacks. Accordingly, when we drove into the port, we were asked to drive into one of two ‘Premium’ lanes. We parked up and had the windows down only to hear the whisker-faced woman, putting the Tena in Stena Line, in the Audi (shock! horror!) to my right immediately start bitching to her husband that ‘they had paid extra’ and ‘why where we in the second premium lane and they weren’t’ blah blah. He looked amazingly henpecked. She went on and on and on about the perceived injustice of people boarding ahead of her and only stopped when I put my window back up and we both started laughing at her. I think her mood soured further when we did indeed board first – a whole lane ahead of her – and I gave her and her watery-eyed husband a dainty handwave as we drove past. Stupid old mare that she was – it’s not as if those in Premium were going to sailing over on the fucking QE2 and the rest of the passengers were sailing on a floating door.
Once we were loaded onto the ferry, we dashed up the stairs to be the first couple into the ‘Stena Plus’ lounge. Part of the ‘premium’ booking is access to this lounge which is controlled by a surly miss and a set of glass doors. We had to give our surname and were ushered in to avail ourselves of the free snacks, which consisted of those little packet of shortbread that you get in cheap hotels and a few cans of Diet Coke. There were some bottles of wine available for those who were already shaking and slurring at 9am in the morning, plus tea and coffee. Once they had allowed all of the steerage passengers onboard and shut them behind the metal gates, we were on our way.
And good lord, what a crossing. We were warned by the captain (via the ship’s loudspeaker, not personally – I mean we’d only paid an extra tenner and that had to cover the forty cans of Pepsi that I’d secreted away into my rucksack) that the crossing was going to be rough due to the strong winds and turbulent seas, and he wasn’t kidding. The Stena Plus lounge is situated at the front of the ferry and the waves were cresting over the top of the prow as it bobbed up and down. It was awful – it was all I could do to eat my cooked breakfast and fret about whether I’d put the handbrake on, envisioning my car rolling around on the car deck and the weight of our car-snacks causing a frightful Herald of Free Enterprise incident. It was a long four hours – I spent most of it snaffling snacks and gambling in the arcades. Oh and another moan! If you have kids, you don’t automatically have the right to use any machine you want or to have people who are altogether more sensible than you to get out of the way just so your crusty-faced little shitmachine can ‘have a go at driving’. I know, awful, but some pompous little knobhead with a bristly-little tache and his child took a look into the arcade, saw Paul and I playing Mario Kart Arcade Edition and said to his child ‘DON’T WORRY DARLING, YOU’LL BE ABLE TO HAVE A TURN ON THESE KIDS MACHINES WHEN THESE FULLY GROWN MEN HAVE FINISHED’. Honest to God, fully grown men. It was all I could do not to pick up his child and toss him into the Irish sea. I wouldn’t mind but we all know that children don’t actually play the machines, they just sit making silly noises and taking up space. Frankly, parents should be made to lock their children in the car and they can spend the ferry crossing on the car-deck, well out of the way. The ferry journey passed, eventually.
Now we managed to get all the way to the Ring of Kerry via Holyhead, a ferry and seemingly eight years of twisty roads absolutely fine and without incident, and we were a mile away from our cottage when it all went wrong. We arrived at the right ‘area’ and that’s where we were told to switch off the sat-nag (typo intended) and open up the owner’s own directions which would guide us merrily to our cottage in enough time to get the hot-tub going and allow us an hour to flick disdainfully through her CD collection and make snide comments about her glassware.
Well, did they fuck. For a start, she had worded the directions as though as we were in Lord of the Rings, all ‘go over the brow of the hill and make a turn (which direction? which hill?)’ and ‘drive on until you feel a chill’. They were crap. You need to understand how remote the area was – imagine in the pitch black trying to find a remote cottage with not so much as a blinking light anywhere to be seen. It took us three hours – THREE HOURS – of steaming around the countryside along farm tracks screaming and swearing at the perceived injustice of it all. I like to think what the poor horse in the field nearby thought of it all when he saw our car appearing over the crest of a hill for the eightieth time and the last few syllables of a swearing tirade against the Irish, Tom Tom, cottages, Citroen, Enya and Guinness as we sped past. No wonder he got his revenge later in the holiday (that’ll be in part 2).
Completely lost and on the verge of driving the car into a peat bog and setting it on fire, we found an isolated little cottage with a light on and knocked on the door. Now imagine that. You’re a lady, alone, cooking your evening meal, when two burly bald blokes come mincing up your track and braying on the door asking for directions to ‘Cum Bag’ (which was our approximate pronunciation of the name of the cottage, which was in Gaelic). The poor lass probably thought she was starring in her own Vera adventure. She took an age to find directions but eventually, helpfully, she sent us on our way. Buoyed with confidence, we shot off and within five minutes we’d taken another wrong turn, driven the car up a forty-five degree incline into a farmer’s field and were left spinning the car around in the mud in the pitch black, with Paul outside of the car bellowing directions on where I should reverse and me unable to hear him as I was revving the engine so hard out of sheer, unadulterated anger. Haha. Just to add a cherry on top of this my reverse sensors were blaring away making out there was an obstacle behind me until we realised it was mud on the sensor.
Aaah. We headed back to the road, sulked for a good fifteen minutes and then decided to go back to the start and try following her directions one final time. We were at the cottage, parked up and steaming, within ten minutes. God knows how, why or what we were doing wrong, but we managed it without a hitch. I was fizzing and it seems like a good point to stop the tale and move onto the recipe…
Mushy pea curry. Yes, I know, it sounds revolting, but most people will eat a chickpea dahl and this is quite like that. I’ve added chicken, somewhat unnecessarily, but that’s me all over. It’s syn free and you’ll be able to get a good few chapters of my book completed as you sit on the thunderbox firing this out for the next two weeks.
to make mushy pea curry, you’ll need:
two tins of mushy peas, one tin of baked beans, a few mushrooms, a tin of chopped tomatoes, two onions, three garlic gloves (minced), a chicken breast, a red pepper, 1tsp of hot chilli powder and two tbsp of curry powder, as hot as you like. You’ll also need a decent pan. You’ll also need a drop of oil and some salt.
For the rice, you’ll need long-grain white rice. Duh.
to make mushy pea curry, you should:
- slice the onions nice and thin – use a mandolin! My mandolin has dropped again in price – now only £10, and it’ll save you hours. Plus, who needs the end of their fingers anyway? EH?
- do the same with the pepper
- cut the chicken up into small pieces and the mushrooms into slices
- put the tiny drop of oil into the pan and chuck the onion, mushroom and peppers in there with a bit of salt, and on a medium heat, leave them to sweat down a little
- after ten minutes or so, pull maybe a quarter of the onion/pepper out and set it aside in a dish – you’ll use this for your rice;
- throw the chicken into the hot pan and cook it hard and fast on a high heat;
- now throw in everything else (bar the rice and the quarter of the onion mix, obviously) and mix well – leave it to simmer for half an hour or so
- for the rice, add a cup full of rice (literally a cup full – take a cup out of the cupboard, fill it with rice, tip that into a pan with the onion/pepper you set aside, using the same cup add two cups of water into the pan, bring to the boil, turn it down to simmer and leave it for around fourteen minutes – covered with a tight-fitting lid – on a gentle simmer. Tasty, fluffy rice
- serve when thickened and tasty!