Spicy szechuan beef? Delicious. Coach trip holidays? Awful. If you just want the recipe for spicy szechuan beef, scroll on down to the picture. If you want part two of our awful holiday story, then you’re in luck because look – part two, right away!
When you last left us we were just sliding off a sweaty bus like how corned beef slides straight out of the tin, with an oozing plop. My shirt had been ruined by the blood and brain matter leaking from my ears and Paul was about one sassy remark away from stabbing someone in the eye with a Snickers bar. I’ve never been happier to leave a bus – we could have been touring a fat rendering factory and I’d have skipped off that bus with less relief.
Cadbury World, then. You’d think that as two confirmed fat bastards we’d be walking around a chocolate factory with tented trousers and a quickening heartbeat, but it was crap. It was your typical British experience – far too expensive, far too many people, duff displays, every opportunity to shake some more money from your pockets gladly taken. Our bus arrived for the 1.30pm entrance in good time but we still had to wait for over an hour in a queue full of fractious children and beetroot-necked adults. I asked how long we’d have to wait but realised it looked unseemly pressing for quick entrance to a chocolate factory.
We decided to nip over to the gift shop – I’d heard such wonderful things about this place – that the chocolate was super-cheap, that they practically force-feed you chocolate and other sweets, that you get tugged off using a handful of Crunchies, but no, it was entirely meh. Don’t get me wrong, things were cheap, but I’ve got a Cadbury’s outlet within stroke distance of where I live and it’s cheaper there and I get to look disdainfully at all of the reprobates buying their court suits from the Burtons outlet. We bought a tiny Bertie Bassett doll and a painted plastic duck, handed over altogether too much money to a cashier who didn’t so much look bored as pig sick of her life, and rejoined the throng.
I should make it clear – one good thing – we didn’t have to troop around the factory with the rest of the coach trip. We successfully managed to distance ourselves, although not by the 300 or so miles I would have liked. We could still hear a lot of them quarrelling and snarling in the distance, like chavvy Langoliers.
The queue finally moved forward and we were given four chocolate bars each to be getting on with, with an extra one to apologise for a ‘closed exhibit’. More on that a bit later. I did ask whether we could have a bag only to be met with a look that would stop a clock. Apparently such a thing was beyond the wit of man unless I paid something silly for a fancy tote bag. I don’t want a tote bag, I don’t do yoga. We were left to stuff the chocolate into our pockets (along with the gifts we bought earlier) which meant, given we’d been superheated on the coach, everything immediately melted and made putting my hands in my pockets a terrifyingly shitty experience.
We wandered around the jungle bit which explained where the cocoa came from, we enjoyed the god-bless-them-they’re-trying acting parts and hell, we were both glad of a sit down in the little theatre. Again, though, because we were packed in there like level 999 tetris pieces, it was hard to relax. There’s a bit with big scary signs saying ‘people with heart, back or neck problems should stand up’ which got us both quivering with excitement and hypertension but it amounted to nothing more than the ‘pews’ shaking a bit and making our tits jiggle. You just know there’s hidden camera footage somewhere on xtube of this.
Then…that was it, really. There’s a whole section where you can see the factory and machinery which makes and packages the chocolate but er, it was all closed down. So you’re left squinting at some dusty machines trying to figure out if they splurted the yellow bits into creme eggs or packaged up the Love Hearts. It’s about as exciting as I’m making it sound. Both Paul and I are massive geeks when it comes to production lines and factories, we find them endlessly fascinating, which is lucky as our TV is seemingly permanently tuned to How It’s Made. Nuclear war could be declared and we’d be oblivious, though if you needed to know how they mix paint we’d be cooking on gas.
We kept walking in the vain hope we’d find something to do. There’s an outdoors bit with a big 4D cinema, which I’m sure would have been just amazing only there was a massive queue (gasp) and we needed to be back on the Boat of Charon by 4pm. So, that was that. We queued up to experience the Cadabra (a little too close to cadaver if you ask me, although that seems fitting given we were bored to death) ride where you sit on a little guided car and experience the thrills of 90s animatronics whirring by. It was like being at Disney, only not at all. We deliberately pulled the most miserable faces we could when the camera went off which at least gave us a chuckle when we bought our photo at the end of it (£10, which I was overjoyed to pay).
Now, here’s the thing. I’m kvetching about the cost of stuff here because it’s a blog post and we have to try and be faintly entertaining, and the moaning about money is part of our schtick. But we hide it very well when talking to staff or other people because christ, no-one likes a proper moaning minnie. The reason I mention this is because we ‘made a friend’ – the very second we gave up and sat outside to wait for the bus, another traveller made a beeline for us with his face full of woe. He then spent the next five minutes moaning at us about what a waste of money the trip was, how ripped off he felt, how it was the worst thing he’s ever experienced in his life. You know when someone looks as though their face hasn’t seen a smile for a good few years? This was him. The type of guy to complain if you hung him with a new rope.
Oh and I just couldn’t be arsed. Let me put this in perspective – if he paid anything like us, the whole journey – bus travel, hotel stay, dinner, breakfast, a trip to Cadbury World and a trip to a safari park would have cost less than £80 for the whole weekend. The way he was going on you’d think the driver had co-signed him on a fucking mortgage and made him buy the bus. I feigned explosive diarrhoea and we left him to his sobs. I can’t abide it. I know I’m a negative nancy but by god I put a good fake face on when needed. The fact that we had to hide from him meant that we had to hide in the toilets for a good twenty minutes and then, when 4pm rocked around, we sprinted onto the bus before he had a chance to give us the old watery-eyed gaze.
The hour long trip to the hotel was as bad as the six hours that preceded it. Kids screaming, this time sugared off their tits. Parents arguing. The couple in front continuing to give me enough reason to contemplate running screaming to the front of the bus, grabbing the steering wheel and driving us straight into the Gas Street Basin. Thankfully, we pulled into our hotel before I completely lost control. There was more awed oohing that I can ever imagine has happened before as our eyes fell upon the Birmingham Airport Holiday Inn.
We all checked in, moving like cattle at the slaughterhouse. I asked about dinner, expecting a couple of hours window forus to drift downstairs and get something to eat, only to be told that all of the coach party would be eating in the same place – a meeting room away from the main restaurant at 6pm sharp. I retorted whether they expected us to wear an orange jumpsuit to complete the prison feel but it fell on uninterested ears. We slinked to our room – perfectly pleasant – and had a lie down until 6pm. We decided to brave it.
We lasted less than a minute. We opened the door to the meeting room, saw everyone sitting in rows like Hogwarts: The Borstal Years, was pushed out of the way by someone with more make-up than sense carrying four blue WKDs, then we turned on our heel and fucked off. No way was I going to top the day by listening to people smacking their lips and clacking their teeth as they snaffled from the trough.
Stuck with nothing to do and no change of clothes for a decent night on the town, we decided to spend the rest of the night in the room watching Eurovision on the tiny television, which was shite. We ordered room service: a burger, a pizza, some dips, a bottle of Coke and a bottle of house white wine. £75. I hadn’t realised that I was paying someone to press the fucking grapes. Our room grew steadily hotter thanks in no small part to the air-conditioner which couldn’t have blown the froth off a cappuccino and at 11, we called down for a fan. Nineteen years later a small fan was brought to the room.
Naturally, the fan had a fucking blade missing, meaning it was unbalanced and when turned on it clattered and scattered all over the table. It would have been quieter to build a wind turbine. I asked for another fan, another was brought – this one didn’t work. Didn’t switch on. I called down for a third fan and finally a working fan arrived. Pfft.
We spent the night tossing and turning in the sticky heat and, at around 4am, we both kicked off the duvet, sat upright in bed and decided we were going to go home. We would hire a car in the morning and drive back in air-conditioned comfort. Soothed by this thought, we fell into a fitful sleep.
In the morning we went down and told the driver that we had been called urgently back to work – he was really quite lovely – but even seeing the coach sent Paul into violent tremors. Once we knew that we were free the morning became all the more sweeter. We went for all-you-can-breakfast in the hotel restaurant which was very tasty and marred only slightly by the fact there was a bodybuilding competition on at the hotel and thus it was full of preening peacocking men strutting around in vests and mooing on about egg-white omelettes.
Paul and I enjoyed a bit of mischief when this very well-to-do fart sat down on the table next to us and started harrumphing about our giant stack of food. He was, but of course, a Daily Mail reader, so we sat and exaggerated our liberal viewpoints – going on about how wonderful immigration is, how terrific Corbyn will be as a leader, how they should fund the NHS until money pours from the drip stands – and he went more and more red in the face as we continued. Paul kicked me under the table when I started waxing lyrical about how fantastic Europe is lest it proved too much for the poor chap and he pitched forward angrily into his beans.
Full, we Ubered our way to Birmingham Airport, made our way to the Hertz exchange and picked up a Qashqai. The lovely lady (and I’m not being sarcastic, she was charm personified, especially when faced with our dour faces) wouldn’t let me haggle though, even when I worked in a ‘family death’ and ‘having to cut our holiday short’. Bah. We drove back in no rush, enjoying a good singalong, and realised that our holidays will only ever work when it’s just us vs the world.
Coach trip, done. Now let’s never talk about it again. Common decency prevents me mentioning the company we used but actually, they were the only part of the holiday that worked well, so fair play.
Right, shall we get to some spicy szechuan beef, then? A doddle to make, low in syns and you can add all sorts of other veg in. The recipe makes enough for four. Let’s do this.
to make spicy szechuan beef you will need:
- 400g beef (steak, diced or strips will do you just fine)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp cornflour (1 syn)
- 2 tsp chilli flakes
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 green pepper
- 1 red pepper
- 1 large carrot
- 500g rice noodles
- 3 spring onions, sliced
for the sauce
- 1 tbsp sriracha (½ syn) (it’s hot sauce_)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp honey (2½ syns)
- 2 tsp cornflour (2 syns)
- 1 tsp sesame oil (2 syns)
Our hampers have beef strips in – but actually, here’s a switch: you can now choose what you want to go in your hamper – so if you’re not a fan of beef, say (unlike me), hoy some more chicken in there. Up to you. To help you, we’ve updated our Musclefood page so it has all of the syn values on there – click here for that – it’ll open in a new window.
to make spicy szechuan beef you should:
- make sure the beef is sliced into thin strips – if you’re already using stir fry strips they’re fine as they are. diced beef will be best cut in half (it also makes it go further!)
- place the beef in a large bowl
- mix together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chilli flakes and cornflour in a bowl and pour over the beef – allow to marinade while you prepare the rest of the ingredients
- thinly slice the red and green pepper and garlic (or just use the chopped stuff if you can’t be arsed) and pop into a bowl
- peel and grate the carrot and place in the bowl with the peppers and garlic
- next, mix together all of the sauce ingredients together in a jug
- cook the noodles according to the instructions, drain and then rinse with cold water to stop them cooking – keep aside until you need them later
- next, heat a large frying pan over a medium high head and add a little oil
- add the beef and cook for a few minutes until only a little pink remains
- add the peppers, garlic and carrots to the pan and cook for a few more minutes
- add the sauce to the pan and cook until thickened slightly and everything is well coated
- add the noodles to the pan and stir to mix (bit of a faff-on, mind – use a couple of forks to pull the noodles apart and get it well mixed)
- serve and sprinkle over the spring onions
Done and done! Looking for more fakeaway recipes or stuff to do with your meat? Aren’t we all. Click the buttons!