mince and mash (not our porn names)

Sorry, been away – busy attending to a personal issue. All sorted. 

Fireworks night. Yak. I’m a right miserable sod, because I don’t enjoy fireworks night. It’s not that the colours don’t amaze me or the bangs excite me, it’s just I spend the whole time wincing and thinking ‘oooh but what could you have bought with that money?’. It’s the Geordie in me. Plus, everyone else’s fireworks displays are always a bit crap, aren’t they? They certainly are around here – the sky being full of Aldi bangers that pop apologetically 12ft off the ground with less bang and smoke than what my thighs make when I move quickly. We go to the Hexham display, and that’s alright, but I find it’s invariably full of children getting in the way and crying. Honestly, why people don’t just shut them away in a cupboard is beyond me. Perhaps that’s why I can’t have children (well, ethically I shouldn’t, but biologically I can – nothing wrong with my gentleman’s relish, thank you very much). Perhaps we’ve been spoilt – we’ve experienced the fireworks at Disney Orlando, where you experience such a visual and aural overload that you don’t even notice them dipping their hands in your pockets to make absolutely sure you have zero money left. It’s certainly the first and only time I’ve developed sunburn from a fireworks display.

Mind, not that I’d see much now – my eyesight is dreadful. Don’t get me wrong, I can still see Paul if he so much as ventures anywhere near my wallet, even when I’m at work and he’s at home* – but I’ve been finding that my eyes are just getting worse. Nothing exciting, don’t worry, I just use a computer a lot and I’ve been putting off going for an eye-test for ages. See, any kind of test is a minefield when you have health anxiety because an anxious person makes all kind of crazy medical leaps. Eyesight getting worse? That’s because there’s a tumour the size of a rugby ball pressing my eyes flat. Tickly cough? That’ll be polycystic ovaries. Since I’ve adopted a mantra of ‘only worry if it gets worse’, I’ve put off the eye-test for long enough. 

* funny fact for you. I have a lovely picture of Paul and I lying on a bed together when we first started ‘going out’ (oh how I hate that term, but see it’s more polite than putting ‘rutting like dying pigs’). We both look content. My eyes are fixed on the camera I’m holding in front of us. Paul’s eyes are very pointedly and determinedly staring at my wallet, just on show on the table. How I tease him about this even now – if he married me for the money then he’s really done quite poorly. 

Anyway, on Monday, I bit the bullet. I actually went for an eye-test. That might not seem like a lot, but you have to remember how much I hate eye-tests because I’ve had nothing but terrible experiences with them. Take my last one at Boots Opticians, where the whole test was done almost in silence save for the sound of the skin on my cheek blistering under the assault of the opthamologist’s stinky breath. I’m sorry, but if I had a job that routinely involved me getting so close to people that I could give them stubble burn, I’d make damn sure my breath didn’t smell like an sewage outlet. Hell, it’s one thing I’m genuinely paranoid about – I hate the thought of having the type of breath that makes people audibly wince when I yawn or ask me if I had enjoyed the faeces I’d clearly had for dinner. If I know I’m going to the dentist or for an eye-test I spend a good three days beforehand brushing my teeth, swishing mouthwash and sucking menthol mints until it gets to the point where I can’t have a glass of water without my breath freezing it solid like that shrill tart from Frozen.

I have to say though, for once, it was altogether very pleasant, with the good staff at The Big Opticians in Byker putting me at ease. Can’t recommend them enough, and not just because I told the lovely lady serving me all about the blog. I’ve come away with a new pair of Paul Smith that are slightly more rounder than normal (I asked what was suitable for a “fat face”, and such bluntness seems to have worked wonders) and I’m not half as poor as I thought I’d be. Excellent. I asked Paul what he thought and he said I looked like Dame Edna, then immediately backtracked and said they were lovely. That was lucky, because how I would have been chuckling over the divorce papers later on. So that’s my eyes sorted, now I just need to do my hair.

I’m at that difficult stage now where I have to either commit to shaving off all my hair or going for a haircut. And I hate haircuts. It amazes me that they can actually cut my hair given I retreat my head back below my shoulders like a shy tortoise. I can’t stand people touching me, I can’t stand small-talk and I have as much style as a troubling fart, so going to a hairdressers is just awful. I’d sooner get a colonic in the middle of Boots with a group of students grading the look of my bumhole. I get asked what I want ‘doing with my hair’ and I struggle to reply with anything other than ‘cut’. It doesn’t help that I always look great when they whip off the blanket and show me the back of my head, then I blink and my hair immediately looks like something someone’s used to shift a particularly difficult scuff mark off a strip of lino. But I do need to do something with it, given I’ve been told I look like Donald Trump. From a loved one, no less. I know someone who’s not getting anal for at least two weeks. I sometimes wish I had that slightly stereotypical gay trait of being able to look good in any old outfit, but honestly, the only thing that looks put-together and stylish in my wardrobe are the built-in shelves. 

Sigh. Ah well. Tonight’s recipe is a little different. I’m calling it Paul’s Very Special First Meal because it’s a slightly more refined version of the very first meal he ever cooked – mince and mash. Apparently it’s a delicacy where he’s from (Peterborough, not, as you might think, the Eastern Bloc) and his mum used to make it often, though hopefully his version contains less Benson and Hedges ash and more meat. When Paul originally made this for me, it consisted of mash made from potatoes (and not a jot more) served with cooked mince and onion. With nothing else. It looked like something you’d get served for misbehaving in a Turkish prison. Still, I married him, and he’s the one who does most of the cooking now, so it all balanced nicely. This is a dinner that can be infinitely customised – add any old veg you like. We use it to go through all the scabby tins of peas and carrots that we buy on a whim. 

Incidentally, if you were looking for a nickname for the two of us, and twochubbycubs doesn’t quite cut it, ‘Mince and Mash’ should do the trick.

mince and mash

to make mince and mash, you’ll need:

for the mince:

for the mash:

  • however many potatoes you usually use for your mash, but choose a good, buttery potato – or use sweet potato, or use carrots, or use a mixture, or even chuck in some broccoli with your mash – but don’t bloody skin the potatoes
  • a tiny dash of milk
  • lots and lots of pepper

and to make mince and mash, you should:

  • finely dice the onion and garlic and sweat it down in a couple of squirts of spray oil – proper stuff mind, not bloody Frylight (though I mean, use Frylight if you want, but why would you when you don’t need to?)
  • chuck in the mince and cook it quickly until your meat is browned
  • add in the chopped tomatoes, peas, carrots, green beans, cat, TV Times, anything at all – crumble in the stock cube, bit of Worcestershire sauce if you fancy, and leave to simmer away merrily while you make the mash
  • I say make, all you need to do is boil your veg and then mash it roughly, so you get nice chunks and bits of potato peel – you’re lining your stomach with it, not plastering a ceiling, so lumpy is good

Paul prefers his mince watery, I like mine thick enough to leave my spoon standing up straight. Paul also likes to eat this dish with a teaspoon for god-knows-why, although it really just means he spills it down his front and I can’t eat my dinner for tutting and clucking.

Listen, I know it looks like a proper rubbish dinner, but it’s delicious and warming. Having typed it up, I realise I’ve just made a shepherd’s pie, only with the two layers side to side. BLOODY PETERBOROUGH.

Before I go, good news. We’re going to be doing a slow-cooker week starting next Sunday (I think). So, if your slow-cooker is sitting at the back of the cupboard collecting dust, dig it out. If you’re a fan of your whole house smelling like someone’s been farting non-stop for eight solid hours, or you like your dinner almost pre-chewed, you’ll be in your element.