Was it the turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf that brought you here? Well, bless you, it is a wonder and a delight and I promise it’ll leave you happy. But, in a rare case of no admin and no chat, we’re going to get straight to part two of our This Time Next Year story. Why? Because I like gabbing and you like reading. As ever, let me know your thoughts! But if you did want to go straight to the turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf, we won’t hold it against you – just scroll straight to the pictures.
Also: buy our book. I mean here’s a banner and everything.
chapter two: “alreet Davvy pet, we’re still fat”
When you last joined us, we were bright orange, dressed like the Thénardiers and ready to face Davina. Hands held and with strict instruction to walk straight forward, smile like threatened cats and walk over to Davina after a brief pause, the doors slid open, and in we went.
Not quite. See, in my haste to make sure we stopped on the mark, I forgot to watch where my feet were going and clattered my left Dr Marten into the door, knocking it off its track. Cut, go again. I apologised profusely and tried to explain that I can’t move more than two metres without knocking something over, but everyone was terribly kind and reassured me that I hadn’t caused a scene. We all knew that I had, of course, but I styled it out with my best ‘what AM I like’ face that I normally reserve for confessing my affairs or mowing down cyclists. Take two then. The music went, the lights went up and the doors opened again, albeit slightly shakily. Out we strode, pinballing off each other’s fat. Quick pause to give the audience time to clap and for the camera crew to pull back on the focus, then we walked over to the sofa to sit with Davina. I say audience: for the first bit there was only a scattering of production staff sitting on rickety chairs – the applause and the crowd reactions were filmed later and slotted in. It’s a weird feeling having to react as though there’s a few hundred people applauding you when all you have in front of you is a bank of cameras and someone who barely looked up from her Puzzler when we walked in. Anyway.
First comment: that was a very, very flimsy sofa. I know this, because I’ve got it at home. Not the actual sofa from the show, I’m not that quite tight that I’d steal large furnishings from ITV, but it was from made.com and I knew from sitting on it at home that it barely took my weight without protest. Add Paul onto that and it was a recipe for us appearing on It’s Alright On The Night with a pizzicato score highlighting our calamity. However, it didn’t fail us, though I could see a flash of alarm cross Davina’s eye when a large crack sounded when we sat down. His name is Paul.
Second comment: Davina was unutterably lovely. We can’t say a word against her, though I did tell my mother that she was a proper diva, swearing at the runners and kicking off about the temperature of her water. My mother is a huge fan and I live for moments of mischief, but had to put a stopper in that fib when her eyes filled with tears. Never meet your heroes, even by proxy. Davina asked all the right questions, made us relaxed and chatty, and we genuinely forgot about the cameras (which you must understand is a novelty for me, my lips are always puckered in a pre-emptive pout) until the chat was over. We’re talking fifteen minutes at most. We made our pledge a couple of times to camera, Davina was pulled out of our gravitational pull and then we were ushered backstage.
It didn’t end there though. Unbeknownst to us, they wanted to do a bit more filming, and the idea was awful – they wanted to film us standing almost nude on a little rotating platform in front of a green screen, with the idea being that they’d repeat the process at the end of the year and then do a morph of us transforming into our skinnier selves. I was mortified: as previously mentioned, I’m fairly body confident, but I was absolutely not ready to stand in front of ITV in my knickers with my boobs hanging out. Paul was even less keen, but hey, we were committed at this point, so off we trundled to the backstage studio. We were given a robe that didn’t fit to wear whilst they farted about with the camera, and then it was my turn to be filmed spinning around like a whirling dervish. All I can remember thinking is how I wished I’d worn better underwear: unless I’m out for a shag, my underwear looks like something you’d wrestle from the teeth of a rabid dog. I don’t so much get the value out of them as break their spirit.
So it was then that I stood on the rotating platform, arms splayed out like I was pretending to be an aeroplane, the cameras started rolling, and round I went. This bit took at least ten minutes and I was under strict instruction not to lower my arms otherwise the tracking would be knocked out. Have you ever tried to hold your arms up for that long? I was sweating like a glassblower’s arse by minute three and by the halfway point, I had to ask them to stop. At least I was on brand as a fat, lazy fucker. Paul lasted no longer, though he pretended to have an inner-ear infection to abort the spinning. He totally hammed it up when he got off the platform too, lolling around the studio like he was at sea. He only righted himself when he saw a little table of sandwiches nearby, but I had to slap them out of his chubby hands and tell him ‘what would Davina say’ – that would become the recurring theme of the next year. All done, we were sent back to the hotel and, after a moment to decant all the towels in our suitcase, made our way home. We stopped halfway in some grotty Little Chef (or similar) and had beans on toast whilst we took in the commitment we had made. A year. A year to lose ten stone each. That’s quite the commitment, especially to someone like me who doesn’t like to look more than three hours in the future. I do remember the waiter giving us a peculiar look – presumably because the sweat dripping off the both of us from being on the wheel had run through our make-up, leaving us looking her that crawled out of the well in The Ring. We didn’t care. We were excited. We were set. We were determined.
We were at Cadbury World the very next day. See before we had committed to This Time Next Year, we had decided to make 2017 the year of twelve holidays – partly because we were sick of being sat in the house, partly because I wanted some fresh material for the blog and, if we’re honest, mostly because holiday dickings are always the best. The one rule was that each holiday had to be a different ‘experience’ and as part of that, we had paid for a ‘mystery tour’ on a coach. I shan’t bore you with the details – you can read part one here and part two here (they’ll open in new windows) – but I will tell you that I’ve never been so close to smashing the emergency exit open and tumbling myself out into motorway traffic. We ended up at Cadbury World in Birmingham and so the very first video we recorded to Davina in our video diaries (more on that in a moment) was one of us talking about how committed we were whilst the Cadbury mascot appeared in the background and Paul had two Double Deckers sticking out of his shirt pocket. I mean, we had our resolve, but they were giving out free chocolate: we’re only human.
The video diaries – part of the commitment was that we were to do a video once a week, always opening with ‘Hi Davina, it’s week XX on our pledge to lose ten stone each, and we’ve...’ followed by some quick story of our weight loss, any successes, any failures. They would then cherry pick any interesting bits to put together in a compilation to show at the end. By week three we were butchering the intro so much that the production staff called up to tell us off – apparently my effortless humour and deadpan delivery of ‘alreet Davvy pet, we’re still fat‘ wasn’t quite what they were after. We filmed ourselves doing all manner of exciting things:
- sitting on our sofa talking to the camera;
- sitting in the kitchen talking to the camera;
- sitting in the car talking to camera;
- sitting in the garden talking to camera; and
- talking to the camera whilst standing on a set of scales with ‘gasp’ faces
They didn’t say, but there were definitely some hushed meetings behind the scenes at ITV to try and give us our own prime-time show, I just know it. It turns out that when you don’t move much as a rule, creating exciting videos is bloody hard work. A couple of highlights off the top of my head include doing an eighties fitness routine with a DVD of Beverley Callard in a leotard. We covered ourselves in neon paint and did a full recorded twenty minute workout. Thankfully, it never saw the light of day: it was as horrendous as you can imagine. We looked like a Blue Man Group reunion, if the Blue Men had spent their down years bed-bound through crippling obesity. It’s no wonder the roof tiles came loose later that year – forty stone of pure fat thundering around is going to trouble any structural integrity. Still, the neighbours enjoyed it – we’ve never seen Number 2 peer through her curtains with such intensity before. The dry-heaving was a mean touch, though.
Also in the mix were some shots of us swimming, because of course there had to be. That meant Paul holding his breath underwater with a waterproof camera and me diving in like I was jumping from a burning ferry. The sly fucker filmed it in slow motion too, which meant the sight of my body hitting the water and spreading like Baileys poured into lemon juice. They wanted shots from underneath with me swimming over the top of the camera which necessitated Paul sinking to the bottom of the deep end and filming upwards. As previously mentioned, I’m a big lad and it looks terrible – not too unlike when the boat crashes into the harbour at the end of Speed 2. Paul was down there so long he got the bends and had to be taken away in an ambulance. We changed tack the second time around and Paul filmed me from the spectators bit above the pool, but that was a bust too – because I’ve got such a hairy back, I just looked like a roll of discarded carpet slowly bobbing along. Funnily enough, they didn’t use those clips.
Indeed, quite possibly because we were making such a sham of doing our own videos, they sent their own crew up to our house for the day to film us cooking in the kitchen to show off the twochubbycubs angle of our story. Well, for this to work, you need to know how we normally cook in our kitchen. We select a meal, I dispatch Paul into the kitchen with a flea in his ear about making sure it’s delicious, then I spend the time whilst he’s cooking eating chocolate and turning the SONOS off in the kitchen so I don’t need to listen to his awful music. We are very much not a team. But that didn’t matter, they wanted some ‘us’ shots, so we all crowded round into our tiny kitchen – that’s me, Paul, a sound man, a camera guy and a researcher asking us questions – whilst we struggled through cooking Mongolian beef and answering questions. Paul put a knife through his fingernail which meant stopping to plaster his fingers, I got in the way, it was utterly calamitous. None of the camera crew fancied eating the beef either, which was upsetting: blood only adds flavour, after all. They decided to mix it up by having us sat in front of our Mac ‘answering questions from our adoring fans’ but that fell over because the only questions we ever get in our inbox are ‘wear can i find recepeas hun’ and ‘am allergic to air wot can i have’, which makes our brows furrow so much that it’s hard to look cheerful. I’m the absolute master of the cheesy ‘aaaah well’ smile to camera though (if anyone watched The Middle, me and my Paul refer to it as Frankie Hecking), but they wanted more!
So, change of plan again – they crammed us all into our tiny hallway (good natural light) and the researcher, close enough to my face that I could have sneezed and blown his moustache off, asked us questions. Now, you may know this, but it’s very common in ‘reality shows’ for people to be asked a question framed in such a way that their answers are pretty much scripted. For example, they will not ask ‘how do you feel about your weight loss so far’, but rather, ‘would you agree that your weight loss has meant you’re the biggest best person in the world’ – then ask you to repeat part of the question in your answer. It’s why you get so many people on The Apprentice looking like such utter bellends in their bits to camera. That, and they’re total bellends. They asked how we were finding it (easy, but mainly because we weren’t really trying), how had we supported one another (I helped Paul tie his laces of a morning, he lifted up his belly for oral) and where we saw ourselves in the future (McDonalds, day one after filming the last bit).
Oh! I forgot about the fridge. They wanted some shots of the interior of our fridge, which necessitated a quick trip to Waitrose (where we only shop if there’s a chance someone is going to judge our fridge with a clipped sneer) to stock up on all manner of things that looked healthy. They then put a little camera inside the fridge, pressed record and shut the fridge door. The idea was that they would get a selection of shots of the two of us individually opening the fridge, looking happy and joyous and loudly selecting something healthy with a big smug grin on our face. ‘OOOH A PEPPER’ said I, and ‘GOSH LET’S HAVE AUBERGINE CURRY IT’S A TASTE EXPLOSION’ says Paul. Works in principle and not the worst idea. I failed at the first attempt, pulling out a bag of something and then realising I had not one single fucking clue what they were. The first take of me ends with me holding up a bag of what I now know to be cobnuts and saying ‘what the fuck are these? to Paul off-camera. They didn’t use those bits either.
A final roll of the dice saw us all dispatched to a nearby beach to film some outdoor shots. They’d done some research as to good filming locations and selected one just down the road from us, but I didn’t have the heart at this point to tell him that the sand-dunes become a giant cruising ground at night. That’s not even exaggeration for this story, they truly do – you drive along that road at the right time of night and you can see countless gently bobbing heads glinting in the moonlight. It’s beautiful, in a way. However, the sunlight was on our side – just – so I kept schtum. What followed was an hour of filming us tramping along the beach, holding hands, looking wistfully out to sea together. They had us draw a love-heart in the sand at one point, but Paul got in a huff when I stumbled over his initials. It was all terrifically twee (and surprisingly exhausting, filming the same bits over and over whilst walking on sand), but they didn’t use any of that footage either. Presumably because although I’m talking intently to camera, my eyes keep drifting to just behind shot where some old princess was skipping through the dunes with a bottle of poppers.
We all bid goodnight to one another at that point. It had been a fun day indeed and we learned ever so much about filming and cameras and drones and boom-mics. Paul and I sat on the bench by the beach for a bit and realised that, in all honesty, we hadn’t been taking things as seriously as we ought to and that this was month four and we had only lost a token amount. We needed to up our game. We needed to try harder, otherwise the whole thing was a sham. We agreed to really knuckle down, to work together to hit our goal. Paul mentioned that we should head back, and I told him I’d make my own way home after I’d collected my thoughts. I arrived back a couple of hours later, brushing the sand off my knees and elbows, and together, we came up with a plan to get us to the end. We were going to do this.
OR WILL WE? Spoilers, we sort of do, but that’s for next time.
Now that’s quite enough of your schtick young lady. Let’s do the bloody recipe for turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf and get it out of the way.
This turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf is a one-pot dish by the way, perfect for you as a lazy slattern!
And you don’t need to jizz all over the turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf, but maybe it helps?
one-pot turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf
Yield 4 servings
Two things to take away from this dinner, please. You can get 10% fat lamb mince from Tesco, or any decent butcher. You can use the normal stuff too if you like, just remember to syn it. Swap it out for beef if you prefer.
And, more importantly, this is a ONE-POT dinner - sound the alarms! That'll save your busting thighs now won't it?
Oh and technically it's 1.25 syns a portion. But go away.
- 500g 10% fat lamb mince
- 4 tomatoes
- 10g mint leaves
- 2 red peppers
- 260g bulgur wheat
- 4 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 beef stock cube
- 2 tsp sumac (see notes)
- 2 tbsp baharat (see notes)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 160g fat-free natural yoghurt
- preheat the oven to 200 degrees
- heat a large, oven-proof casserole dish over a medium-high heat (or use a frying pan) and spray with a little oil
- add the lamb mince to the pan along with the oregano, bay leaves and baharat and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently
- meanwhile, slice the top off the peppers, remove the core and slice into rings, and slice the tomatoes into wedges
- add the peppers and tomato to the pan and give a good stir
- put the dish in the oven, uncovered, and cook for fifteen minutes (if you're using a pan, tip into an ovenproof dish)
- dissolve the stock cube and tomato puree in 400ml of boiling water, stir, and set aside
- when ready, remove the dish from the oven and stir through the bulgur wheat and tomato stock
- cover with a lid or foil, and cook in the oven for another 15 minutes
- remove the dish from the oven and leave to stand covered for another ten minutes
- strip the mint leaves from the stems and roughly tear into smaller bits
- fluff up the bulgur and serve onto plates
- drizzle or dollop on the yoghurt and sprinkle over the mint leaves
- finally, sprinkle over the sumac
- nah, we'd never heard of baharat either - if you can't find any just use equal parts cinnamon, paprika and ground cumin
- the sumac is optional - if you can't find any a little bit of lemon zest will do the trick
- beef mince also works well in this one - cook in exactly the same way
- absolutely loving all the kind words from you about our amazing new cookbook - please leave a review or order yours here!
- our first slimming cookbook can be also ordered of course – full of 100+ slimming recipes, and bloody amazing, with over 5000 5* reviews – even if we do say so ourselves: click here to order
- our new diet planner is out and utterly brilliant – you can order it here – it'll keep you going through the next six months!
Looking for more one-pot dinners? Bless you!
- one pot super quick cheat’s lasagne (syn free)
- chicken and mushroom one-pot paella (syn free)
- one pot chicken and lentil dinner (syn free)
- actifry or one pot lamb tagine (syn free)
- chicken dopiaza (syn free)
- spicy dynamite baked beans (syn free)
- minestrone soup (syn free)
- roast pork in a chard and chickpea stew (syn free)
- one pot pork and rice stew (syn free)
- creamy chicken and vegetable soup (syn free)
- absolutely perfect chilli (syn free)
- instant pot spaghetti bolognese (syn free)
- aubergine and cherry tomato curry (syn free)
Enjoy, or so help me God Susan