recipe: posh frittata with asparagus and smoked cheese

Posh frittata today, and only a quick post mind you, but I did think it was important to try and post a recipe once and a while on this recipe blog of ours. If you’re waiting for the next part of my NC500 story, know that it is coming as soon as I’ve managed to remember where I went and why I spent so much time swearing at things. I’m not kidding: I keep a little electronic notepad on my phone of anything I can think of to write about and one day it seems I forgot to update it bar one succinct entry: ‘fucking motorhomes’. Now, I don’t think I briefly took up mechanophilia on my travels (real thing, look it up) (in Incognito mode: ask your partner how) but hey, Paul was away and my little Golf does have a cute little rear, so who knows? But yes, that’s coming, I promise, but today is all about the posh frittata. You may realise that we do post a lot of quiche recipes here but as readers of the books will know, you can blame my mother and her eighty-seven chickens for that. I’ve got eggs coming out of my arse, and they have to go somewhere.

Speaking of books, may I make a small plea? Amazon reviews really make a difference for us – if you’ve bought the books and would like to leave a review, we’d love you forever. We have some book news coming soon! But in the meantime, here’s a banner to take you straight there

Paul and I have been ratching about the UK a bit of late – I feel it only fair that he is afforded the chance to look at his phone in a different location once and a while – and it feels weird. I’m still not used to seeing large groups of people without thinking they’re all going to be tumbled into a mass grave a few weeks later like the foot-and-mouth cattle. It’s been fifteen months since the start of the first lockdown (I think, my memory of the time is a little hazy) and, all things being well, we’ll be dancing out properly on 21 June. But it all seems so unlikely and alien that it is hard to get excited about it. Plus let’s be fair, the current Government will probably allow us out for an hour, decide that’s quite-enough-of-that-young-lady and then send us back into the cellar for another year or two to stare at our shoes and draw eyes on oranges for company.

That said, I don’t see why anyone is concerned: you’d think coronavirus was over the way so many people are going on. Masks seem to have become an optional part of shopping again* with people wandering around coughing and sneezing with gay abandon. I can take that though: people were gross before coronavirus, this isn’t new. But those idiots, of which I know thousands of words have already been committed to, who walk around with a mask over their chin instead of their mouth and nose do my head in. It’s such a pointless anti-effort that I can only assume they’ve read that coronavirus bursts from their blackheads and they’re saving us all from that.

*you must understand, I have zero interest in you telling me why masks are useless, or why I’m a sheep. That said, if someone can tell me why the word sheep doesn’t seem correct when referring to a single sheep all of a sudden, that would be tremendous: I’ve just spent five minutes trying to remember what the single form is before deciding I’m clearly having a stroke.

I was in Sainsbury’s the other day and a charming wee woman was standing in front of the cherry tomatoes, agonising over the choice of three different varieties as though she was choosing which child to send to the mines. Naturally, as a calm and patient soul, I stood two metres away waiting for her to get her shit together and finally pick, before I noticed she was pulling her mask down over her chin, picking up each punnet of tomatoes and sticking her nose right in to sniff them. She repeated this a fair few times, making sure to catch the dew of the tomatoes on her nose-hair and moustache each time, before my theatrical sighs and foot-tapping clearly spurred her into action and she wandered off. Of course, as a terribly British person I didn’t say a word to her face and instead penned a snotty anonymous tweet about it, then hastened into her spot to check for myself that Sainsbury’s hadn’t started dusting their tomatoes with sniff. I mean, I know it’s a middle-class supermarket, but sadly not. I did make sure to catch up with her later in the store and fart near her head as she was bending down to select something off a lower shelf, so I consider myself the winner.

Of course, the way out of all of this nonsense is vaccination. If you’re anti-vaccination I won’t use this blog to try and change your mind, because personal choice and all that, but I do beg of you that you at least do some proper research into these things before you rule them out. Taking medical advice from someone who has ‘University of Hard Knocks’ on their Facebook profile and ‘none of ur fukin buzniss’ listed as their employer, for example, is never a good idea. No, my point about vaccination is for anyone out there who is worried about having it due to health anxiety, something I’ve talked at inexhaustible length before. As you can imagine, for someone like me who is a fretter, getting injected with something new is always going to mess with my head. But a degree of research beforehand, a stoic sense of ‘well something has to kill me, and I’m not giving him the satisfaction’ and the angst of not being able to immediately tell people I’ve been vaccinated on Facebook got me past my doubts.

For the record, I’ve had both jabs now, and both times the process was amazing. Turned up, was reassured by someone very friendly, less than a minute wait, quick jab in my arm and a nice sit down. I didn’t feel a thing both times, with the second time especially painless – I had to ask her if she was sure it had gone in, which admittedly is something I’m used to. Luckily, she said I was the best she had ever had and we all laughed awkwardly. Due to NHS budget cuts I didn’t get a sticker or a lollipop which naturally I was fuming about, but you make do. After the first jab I felt like crap the day after, but nothing a couple of ibuprofen and wearing Paul into the ground didn’t solve. The second jab gave me a headache, but that gave me the chance to theatrically wail in the bedroom and turn my back to the sunlight which is always welcome. Now, fully vaccinated, I feel tip-top and ready to spend the rest of my days wincing when anyone coughs and reflexively asking people stay three metres away at any given time unless they’re entering me. I know the rule is two metres, but I’m a contrary bitch.

Oh look at that: I was planning on a succinct entry for the posh frittata, and instead I’ve waffled on ever so. But let’s be honest, you expected that as much as I did. Please do get your vaccine, though. Remember, it’s not all about keeping yourself safe, it’s about making it safe for others who can’t.

To the posh frittata, then.

posh frittata

Looks bloody good in the pan, does the posh frittata!

posh frittata

Tried to get a good cheese pull shot of the posh frittata but it was having none of it.

posh frittata

And here is what the posh frittata looks like inside! SO CLASSY

posh frittata: asparagus, spinach and smoked cheese frittata

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 big wedges

The inspiration for this posh frittata came from a book called The Picnic Cookbook which I impulsively bought in a garden centre as an assuagement to my feelings of FOMO - Paul was treating himself to eighty-seven new Yankee Candles and I wanted something. Why he buys those bloody things I don't know: I don't allow them to be burned in the house because they make the place smell like a nursing home, but he likes to collect them. I'll have the last laugh though: when he invariably dies before me I'll cram his piano-box coffin with them and when he goes in the incinerator, the whole of Newcastle will be choked on a miasma of A Child's Wish, Summer Roses and Rendered Fat.

We have made a few changes in this posh frittata - they suggest blue cheese but why would you - and for once, we're leaving out the butter they suggest. You don't need it, and that's that. As with all quiche/frittata recipes you can add all sorts in. Don't be shy. Do read the notes on this one!

This comes in at 375 calories for a massive quarter, or, I believe, syn-free if you use your HEA. 

Also: we cooked ours in our oven-proof frying pan because we couldn't find our silicone tin.

Ingredients

  • 400g of new potatoes - don't need to peel them, but do dice them into fairly uniform chunks
  • 200g of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1cm chunks
  • four fat spring onions, cut into slim chunks
  • a big bag of spinach leaves (150g or so - you know the one, you cook it down and it leaves you with a postage stamp square of spinach)
  • eight large eggs
  • 160g of smoked cheese, cut into dice (your healthy extra of smoked cheese is 40g, if you're on Slimming World)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • preheat the oven to 180 degrees and lightly oil a good quiche tin - there's a link in the notes to the one we use
  • boil the new potatoes and asparagus chunks for a couple of minutes until softened but still with a bit of bite
  • their recipe calls for you to fry off the spring onion, but I don't think you need to do it
  • in a large pan with a dribble of water, and over a medium heat add the spinach leaves and pop a lid on - let the spinach wilt in the heat until it's all done, then finely chop
    • spinach tip - to make sure you get all the water from the spinach, get two equally sized chopping boards and sandwich the spinach between the two - then push down on the chopping board on top so all the water is forced out - then chop it finely, pile it back up and repeat a couple of times - so much easier
  • in a large bowl, crack the eggs and beat them with a good pinch of salt and pepper, add the rest of the ingredients and give everything a bloody good stir
  • slop it into your quiche tin and stick it in the oven for about forty minutes or until a knife pushed into the middle comes out clean
  • if it needs longer and the top is catching, cover it with foil and keep cooking
  • allow to cool and serve with salad

Notes

Recipe

  • you can swap the smoked cheese out for blue cheese as suggested
  • peas make a great addition - throw a couple of handfuls in with the potatoes when they're cooking
  • bacon and chicken can also be added if you desire

Books

  • we couldn't be prouder of our second book: it's technicolour, the recipes are banging and the reviews are amazing: order yours here! 
  • if you're struggling for funds, the first book is a bit cheaper and still utterly glorious: click here to order
  • we've also got a planner: here

Tools

  • we use a smart silicone dish for this posh frittata - this has never failed us once!
  • this freezes perfectly - cut it up, wrap the pieces in foil and take one out the night before for lunch
  • feel free to tip the mixture into several smaller tins to make individual quiches

Courses snacks

Cuisine picnic

Done! And if you’re looking for another frittata recipe, why not click the image below to be taken to another of our favourites?

Stay safe!

J

driving the NC500: Edinburgh to Inverness

Hello! I promise food recipes will be starting soon. Promise. But until then, here’s part two of my NC500 trip! Enjoy all.

If you’re so inclined, you can click here to read the first part of this story of my trip around the NC500. There’s glitz, there’s glamour, there’s a shot of me carrying some milk in a lift that’ll leave you questioning your life choices when you look over at the drab state of your partner. What more could you possibly want? As in the previous entry, I would absolutely love feedback in the form of comments or Facebook messages. This is a ‘new’ thing for me, writing so exhaustively, and I love it – but let me know if I’m going in the wrong direction!

Welcome back. You left me, like I always knew you would deep down, in Edinburgh, tucked up in bed reading my Stephen King novel and missing my husband terribly. Not even kidding: having to bring my own tea, scratch my own feet, shout at myself for brushing my teeth in the wrong key, it was honestly exhausting. I slept like a log, conscious of the fact I had to rise early to beat the traffic warden to my parking space. The night before I had set my usual raft of alarms, spaced out at four minute intervals (purely so I feel like Madonna first thing), and knew that as long as I was up by 7.40am, I could throw my belongings into my suitcase, have a shower and be on my way to slide out of the street with a ‘what-am-I-like’ wave to the traffic warden. Easy.

Not so easy – with the leisurely air of someone who never has to normally get up early unless he’s going on holiday or the house is on fire, I snoozed all of the alarms, choosing to gamble on the old ‘I’ll shut my eyes, I’m awake, it’s just a bit too bright’ routine. I woke with a start at 7.55am, screaming even more so than usual, hurtled out of bed, packed my things and then spent a good five minutes clawing at the door lock like I was a heroine in a Scream movie. ‘They should put some fucking instructions on this stupid fucking lock‘ I bellowed, ignoring the fact that they had indeed put some fucking instructions on the fucking lock and I was just being too hysterical to read them. After a fashion and police intervention I was released and despite arriving at my car mere moments after 8am, red-faced and panting as though I’d shot my bolt in the lift coming down, I was too late – the traffic warden was just popping the ticket under my windscreen wiper. He pointed to the ticket and said ‘parking fine’, to which I replied ‘oh thank you, I try my best’.

I didn’t, and that joke is as old as Paul’s mother and twice as creaky, but I love it. I wasn’t going to argue with the chap: he was doing his job and I had broken the rules, so all is fair. I can’t be done with those who think spitting and swearing at someone for enforcing the rules is good behaviour. I gave him a tinkly laugh, promised to pay it just as quick as I could, then as soon as his back was turned gave him the finger, wished ill upon all he loved and tried to telekinetically push his silly little bicycle into the canal. However, I’m not Carrie, regardless of how often Paul tells me he can see my dirty pillows, so he went away unscathed.

Now, because I do so hate being told off, this whole exchange put me in a bad mood. Knowing that driving when I’m angry is always a bad idea (not because I speed or get aggressive, but simply because I spend so long coming up with the perfect comeback in any fight or argument that I get distracted and stray from my destination) I decided to quickly nip into Edinburgh again to do a bit of shopping and to find something relatively healthy. The shopping part was easy – Edinburgh has an amazing pipe shop and it’s been closed for so long that it was a joy to go scatter money around their counter again. I’m a collector and they had some terrific pieces that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. I spotted that most of Leith Walk was being dug up to either put a tramline in or take a tramline out (honestly, Edinburgh, it’s been that bloody long since it started that frankly I’ve given up trying to follow what’s going on with your trams, though it seems as though they’re on the right lines) and as a result, the whole street was utterly awash with very handsome men in hi-vis gear swearing at each other and doing terribly impressive things with tools.

Love me, love me, say that you love me

I opted for a coffee from Artisan Coffee Leith, knowing that I could continue my quest to find a decent alternative to milk in there on this trip around the NC500. I’m experimenting purely because I want to see if I can find a non-dairy version that works for me. You must understand that I’ve tried all sorts: rice milk, coconut milk, double cream, hemp milk, pea milk (how, someone tell me, do you get milk from a bloody pea – I mean I have some idea given past experiences with partners on the small side, but I’d love to know), quinoa milk and almond milk. They’re utterly awful, each and all, but you can’t accuse me of not trying. I think I would get more taste and satisfaction from tipping a sample of Wilko White Emulsion into my coffee. Anyway, I digress: I ordered an oat milk something which was actually really good once I’d blown off the froth off and revealed the teaspoon of coffee lurking at the bottom (my fault for ordering what I did, I’m casting no aspersions) and settled down to pay close attention to the workers in front of me.

A merry half hour was spent there, playing on my phone, drinking my coffee and people watching. Indeed, I was only broken from my ‘how do I become a seat-cushion in a mini-digger’ searching by the appearance of a pug jumping up at my leg. I remember looking down into its face, its eye bulging and nose whistling and leering grin full of love, and realised that I was nothing if not this pug in human form. Take a look for yourself – compare the picture of me above with this lovely photo of the pug that was pawing at me.

Fool me, fool me, go on and fool me

It was perhaps time to move on. Before I do though, may I just take a moment to make a plea to dog-owners. Well, two. I bloody love dogs, would love one of my own – a well-trained Springador to fetch my (new) pipe and (old) slippers, for example – but I do wish owners wouldn’t let their dogs run up to people and start scrabbling at their legs. There’s always the fear that the dog might not be as friendly as expected, not least when it gets a whiff of my gooch and senses a rival, and I always have to do that fruity little half-dance until I’m sure it won’t take my fingers off or leave shitty paw-prints all over my jeans. Even the most placid dogs can turn on a sixpence: we used to have a massive Old English Sheepdog growing up called Shannon. She was terrific, the perfect family dog, tremendous with young kids. That was fortunate in and of itself, given my mum and dad used to leave us with Shannon whilst they went out for the day – it was truly a momentous occasion when she figured out how to put the chip-pan on – and it was all very homely and just-so.

However. We once allowed a cousin of mine to come up from Darlington to stay at our house for a week. Upon alighting from the bus and appearing at the bottom of our drive, Shannon went hurtling down, leapt up and bit her on the arm. As welcomes go, it wasn’t the warmest. It wasn’t a terrible bite, no-one was put down, but my cousin was sent back to Darlington on the next bus home with a bandage on her arm and more fleas in her ear. I like to think Shannon was protecting us from the bewilderingly awful Darlington accent if nothing else. But let that be a lesson to all owners out there: it just takes one moment of panic, or a visitor from Darlington, to ruin your day.

The other plea? You own a dog. You own a puppy. You do not own a pupper or a doggo. As inexplicable bends of the English Language go, these two cutesy-poo slang terms deserve to be cast into the fire, along with those insufferable people who insist on saying they’re going on their holibobs. I’m by no means a language snob, but this absolutely needs to stop before I do time.

And don’t get me started on the bloody Rainbow Bridge.

Anyway! Once I’d returned the pug to its rightful owner, and tried to clean the slug-trails that its little lipstick had left on my trousers, I wandered back to the car, took another moment to fully appreciate my parking fine, smoked furiously for another fifteen minutes and then, finally, I was on the road to Inverness. Travel and adventure was in front of me, nothing but road until my destination.

I managed exactly 9.8 miles towards the NC500 before I was gripped by the panic of leaving a service station unattended (what if the next chance to spend £9.60 on a Jamie Oliver toastie and a Yorkie Duo was days away?!) and had pulled into South Queensferry Services to fill up on petrol. I’m doing myself a disservice here, actually. I hadn’t just pulled in to fill up on snacks but rather I was trying to get into the habit of stopping at a petrol station whenever my car was halfway to empty on fuel. The NC500 gets fairly isolated for large stretches and so it’s never a good idea to let your tank run dry. You’re never that far from somewhere to fill up – you can find a very handy map here showing all the petrol stations along the route – but you don’t want to risk it. This is entirely contra to how I normally approach my driving – I like to coast along on fumes and see how economically I can run the car (unless I’m in a huff, in which case I drive the car like I’ve stolen it – but you don’t want to do that on the NC500 either).

As it happens, the fuel pumps were all taken and I couldn’t face waiting, so I pulled up in front of the shop instead and went inside, a decision absolutely not influenced by the fact there was a total DILF serving behind the counter. I selected some potato salad from the Marks and Spencer’s ‘How much?!’ range, decided against buying any more Monster at this point, and made my way to the till. Those who have been reading my nonsense for a while will know that I am a terrible flirt in both senses of the word – in that I am utterly shameless but also, dreadful at it. However, it seemed to be going so well, with me managing to shoehorn in a reference to my husband and ‘of course he’s letting me do my own thing this week’ with a wink so severe you’d forgive the cashier for leaping over the counter and assuming I was having a stroke. Of course, holiday romances are fleeting things indeed and in no time at all it was time to say goodbye, not least because some lady behind me started shrieking that she had kids in the car. I apologised profusely – for the fact she had children – and we all went our separate ways.

As I made to leave, which involves decanting all of the things from my coat pockets onto the passenger seat and then driving just enough to make sure everything falls down the side into some unreachable void, I happened to look up to spot my petrol-dispensing inamorato waving at me with longing in his eyes. Knowing we would always be what could have been, I showed him my wedding ring (I wear it on a chain around my neck, it’s easier to whip off if things are getting steamy), gave him a confident smile and backed the car out of the space. Thankfully, the good people at VW had fitted my car with a clever emergency automatic brake function, because that’s all that stopped me from reversing straight into a Transit van which had filled the space behind me whilst I fussed about putting my seatbelt on. Turns out he was simply warning me of the hazard rather than seeing me off like a wife saying goodbye to her sailor at sea.

I’m not one to feel shame or embarrassment easily, but you could have honestly lit a cigarette off my flaming cheeks. I pulled my hoodie up and made for the relative safety of the Queensferry Crossing, which, after resisting the urge to dash the car against the barriers, carried me over the Firth of Forth in no time at all. Actually, let’s talk about bridges for a second. All humans have varying degrees of what the French call l’appel du vide, which translates as ‘call of the void’. Put simply, it’s that feeling you have when have an irresistible urge to do something entirely stupid and dangerous to see what happens. For a lot of people, it takes the form of wanting to throw themselves over the edge if they’re standing on a cliff, and in my case, whenever I drive over a bridge I am gripped with the sudden need to turn my car suddenly and career over the side. I mean, I’m never going to do it, not least because I would hate the ignominy of being winched from the river in my own personal sea of empty cigarette packets and ‘solo travelling companions’ that would burst from every conceivable compartment in my car, but the call is always there. I have it to other degrees too. For example, when I’m driving along the motorway, I’m always taken with the thought of picking up my phone, lowering the windows on the driver side and posting it smartly through the gap created, sending it to a clattering shatter on the tarmac. If I pass a drain and I have my car keys in my hand, I have to actively step back from hurling them into the sewers. Every day is an adventure in my swirly-whirly mind.

The drive to Inverness from Edinburgh is quite something, though. You take the M90 for an easy drive up to Perth, then join the A9 which takes you up to Inverness (and you’ll stay on the A9 when you start the NC500 proper) and for the most part, it’s a delight to drive, taking in all manner of little towns and places to stop. Google puts it at around three hours (160 miles) if you absolutely hoof it, but there’s no sport to be had in doing it as quickly as you can. Certainly, when you get up amongst the Cairngorns you’ll be stopping to take pictures as you go. I was spectacularly lucky with this drive (and indeed, for the whole trip) in that I seemed to always be ahead of the other tourists and when I did stop, I had places all to myself. If you’re considering your own NC500 trip, give some very serious thought as to the time you’ll be doing it – early in the season, before the midges and the campervans and the tourists and the shrill people in rustling activewear, may be a more attractive prospect.

Anyway. You may have already gathered that my driving style is never A to B. Rather, imagine you popped a hamster on a table and put a delicious carrot at the other end. You might expect it to make a beeline for the carrot, and that’s most people when they drive. To get the measure of me, imagine you threw a handful of sunflower seeds all over the table. Then set the table on fire, and gave the hamster a line of sugar. Now the hamster is me: I’ll get to the carrot eventually but there’s so many distractions along the way. That’s how you should treat the NC500: have a final destination in mind absolutely, but do stop to take in all of the side sights as you go. I’ll touch on that in another entry.

This is why you shouldn’t rush the NC500 – views like this at every turn

Knowing that I was going to be coming back down the A9 at the end of the holiday, I made a deliberate decision not to stop at every single opportunity and instead, to save some sights for the way back. My first stop – suggested by everyone and their mother on Facebook – was Dalwhinnie, a charming little village about halfway up the journey. There’s not an awful lot to see, but they have a distillery, and like I need any reason to buy booze. I parked up in the empty car park (empty save for a woman who had parked her oversized Mercedes across three bays, which I thought a remarkable feat of driving, and made sure to snidely compliment her on such as I left).  The tour wasn’t open as most businesses were just starting back up, but I spent a happy twenty or so minutes looking around the gift shop and availing myself of their lovely clean toilets before I was accosted by a very friendly lady who asked if I needed help choosing a whisky. I hadn’t planned on buying any, but she was ever so persuasive. My experience with whisky extends to enjoying a happy night or two drinking with a good friend a few weeks previous (having never enjoyed it before) but I styled it out before panicking and selecting the first bottle I could reach. Clearly my knowledge and experienced impressed her ever so and I was out of the door, fifty quid lighter, with a bottle of something golden which will sit in our bookcase until time immemorial.

Maybe the real gift were the friendships I made along the way on the NC500

As I returned to the car I noticed it had started snowing. Super! Messages on Facebook were veritable portents of doom, with people claiming I’d get no further than the snow gates and have to turn back. Naturally, as a born fretter, I had to spend another twenty minutes checking the roads ahead were clear, but this worked in my favour as just as I was rejoining the road I spotted, quite possibly, the most handsome man I’ve ever seen filling up his car with petrol. I’m not ashamed to tell you that I daintily and calmly spun the car a full 180 degrees just so I could go back and gawp. This blog may do me the disservice of painting me as a permanently frisky, leering pest but I assure you that I’m not normally so coltish: perhaps it was the mountain air? But he was stunning, he truly was. Imagine a Viking, but not one of these modern sorts who grow a beard and think they’re sailing the Gokstad via a penny-farthing-repair-shop. He looked as though he’d dropped straight through a wormhole in time and I was utterly smitten. As he drove away I knew that my life would never again feel complete. But still we press on. Turns out the snow was a load of nothing, incidentally – the road was clear all the way to Inverness, with the sun shining bright for most of the journey.

A couple of other notable stops – I stopped at the Ralia Cafe a little further up for a break and the best spiced dahl I’ve ever had in my life, before buying some trinkets from their gift shop. Then, conscious of the fact I hadn’t managed to fill the car since leaving Edinburgh, I pulled into a petrol station a little further up. I stood at the petrol pump, nozzle in the car, and waited for them to turn the pump on. And waited. And waited. I’m not sure if they thought I was standing there simply to soak in the sights of their Londis shop, but despite making eye contact across the forecourt, nothing was forthcoming. I had to replace the nozzle and drive off, a trifle bemused, but let that be another reminder: fill up when you can, lest you find yourself short in a petrol station where the flow of fuel is treated as an optional extra. I pressed on, spotted a sign for the Highland Wildlife Centre, and decided on a whim to go and visit.

Forgive the food shot, but honestly, this was delicious. If you need a stop on your way to the NC500, give Ralia Cafe a go!

I was pulling in when a good friend of mine decided to call for a catch-up. Reception in the Highlands is very spotty and he had been trying to catch me all day, so when he finally got through to tell me his stories, he was full of vim. So full of vim indeed that he decided that, as I was pulling over to talk to the parking attendant, he would start yelling across my car speakers that he was trapped in my boot and could someone please send help as a matter of urgency. I tried to style it out by muting him, but instead managed to switch the audio to my Spotify which immediately started blaring Abba at the poor bemused bloke who was trying to direct me to the ticket office. Given I was possibly the first customer of the year I’m sure he’ll remember me.

As for the Highland Wildlife Centre – it was certainly interesting, but had I known it was a zoo (not sure what I was expecting to be fair) I wouldn’t have gone. The animals are clearly well-looked after and the staff were endlessly cheerful, but there’s something awfully depressing about seeing a polar bear scratching around on a Scottish hillside. Not for me, though I know that they do some incredible conservation work – that’s one for you to square.

They did have gorgeous Scottish wildcats though, which they are breeding ahead of releasing them back into the wildcat. Sola could still chin them though.

View of the Cairngorns

Mountains everywhere, and we aren’t even on the NC500 yet!

The rest of the afternoon was spent making my way to my accommodation for the night and after many stops to get out of my car, put my hands on my hips and say ‘oooh but isn’t it lovely’, I arrived at the Macdonald Drumossie Hotel, which you can take a look at here. It’s perched up on a hill above Inverness and looked really quite something on the photos. Knowing I would be back in Inverness in so many days, the plan was to eat dinner there and get my head down early. I was checked in by a very breezy and efficient receptionist and given a room on the third floor, which is always fun when you’re carrying eight years worth of luggage with you. The hotel itself was perfectly fine, even if it did have a touch of the Overlook about it. I was pressed to make a dinner reservation as it was ‘very busy’. I deferred this invitation, thinking I could pop down a little later (and then promptly fell asleep, missing dinner entirely) – but here’s the thing. From the end of that conversation to me departing the next morning, I didn’t see a single soul. It’s like she checked me in and then went home for the day. Despite wandering around the grounds, popping out to Inverness to pick up supplies, nipping out for smoke breaks, there was no-one else there. It was genuinely unsettling – walking through a seemingly abandoned hotel at midnight isn’t good for the nerves. The room was very ‘old school hotel’ – very comfortable, but nothing which would indicate it was 2021. I didn’t mind: I enjoyed a tiny bath, threw my clothes everywhere and spent a happy minute or two dismantling the kettle.

Before I finish, can we take a moment to agree that hotels who use the room key to keep the lights on need a telling off? Every time I left the room I was required to take my key, a proper old fashioned key with a heavy tag so you didn’t lose it, which immediately plunged the room into darkness. This wouldn’t have been so bad had the corridors outside been lit up, but seemingly they had forgotten to pay the electricity bill because I left the room into more pitch black mystery. It was very much an adventure trying to make my way to the lift with only the tiniest of emergency lighting strips to guide the way, I can tell you. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for a fumble in a dark corridor on holiday, but I’ve normally on my knees through choice in that situation. After a final adventure outside, I returned to my room, popped Question Time on, realised our local Conservative MP was on there flapping her bewhiskered jowls about, realised I didn’t need more anguish in my life, and went to sleep.

That’s a good place to leave it, I feel. The NC500 starts properly in the next entry! I’m terribly conscious of the fact I’ve prattled on ever so, but I love having a story to tell, and this is a great outlet for my writing. Again, would love to hear your thoughts! Regular readers, food recipes are coming back this week, I promise!

Stay safe, all.

J

driving the NC500: prelude

This is a very special episode of twochubbycubs. 

In a break from the regular blogging (when did that start?) I am going to walk you through my recent adventures around the North Coast 500. Honestly, a man gets tired of finding new and exciting ways to make a kilo of mince interesting, and sometimes it is all you can do to strike out on your own. So, settle back in your comfy chair, slip your Compeed pads off your trotters and listen to me gab in your ear about my travels. Recipes are due to restart this week, but you know, I just want to write.

First, what is the North Coast 500? Ah that’s easy, it’s 288 miles of road going around Cornwall. Can you imagine? We went to Cornwall once – even visited Lands End, don’t you remember – and it was pleasant enough, but it wasn’t Scotland. That’s what drew me to the North Coast 500 (NC500 going forward) – it’s a 500 mile or so circular trip around the top of Scotland, starting and ending in Inverness. It takes you around some utterly breath-taking places and is considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the world. You can do it as quick as you like – some people spread it over three to five days, some take a fortnight – you do you. There’s a whole bank of B&Bs, campsites, hotels, yurts, shepherd huts, caravans and wild camping opportunities to make the most of. It’s beautifully romantic and perfect for couples.

So, naturally, I left Paul behind. Which sounds awful until I explain the timeline of this whole trip. I read an article about the NC500 on Monday. By Thursday, I was on the road. I am lucky enough to have a job which allows me to work flexible hours and a boss who is an absolute delight. Paul on the other hand needs to be around at certain times so alas, couldn’t join me. I did think about postponing it but he was very keen for me to go away. Presumably so he can piss on the toilet seat himself, I don’t know. Either way, we agreed that I could go off gallivanting by myself (he stressed that bit unusually loudly, not sure why) and he would stay and make sure the cats didn’t torch the house. He’s a good egg.

Actually, let me expand on that. He really is, and I am uniformly rotten to him on here and our social media, but how many husbands cheerfully go into work every single day to allow their partner to go carousing around the NC500 on a moment’s notice? He jokes that he’s glad of the peace and I’m sure he is, but I do know his day doesn’t sparkle without me around to moan about him not making my tea quick enough. He would do anything for me and expects nothing back. So, to Paul: thank you. I’m sorry I call you names on here, but you really mustn’t make it so easy. But thank you, I love you really, there’s a reason why we’re approaching fifteen years together and it isn’t just because I’m excited for a crystal anniversary gift.

Bleurgh, enough schmaltz. So there I am, with a week or so ahead of me with nothing planned. No accommodation booked, no trip route mapped out, no places to visit. If you research NC500 you are told in no uncertain terms that you must book your accommodation well in advance because everything is always snaffled up super quick. However, I don’t like being told what to do: if a fireman shouted at me to jump out of a burning building, I’d stay in and burn rather than respond to his curt tone. You might call that being contrary, but if you did I’d tell you to fuck off.

Two things in my favour though: Scotland had just opened up from its latest lockdown AND I have flexibility, no kids, pink pound and a sassy sense of doing as I please on my side. So planning was easy – choose a few places to stay, drive no more than 100 miles a day – and stop whenever I fancied on the way. Piece of piss.

However – I do not encourage this. This, unless you’re very lucky, will not work with you on the NC500. Places do get booked up very quickly and no more so than ever than these days when people are reluctant to travel abroad. I used hotels.com, AirBnB and the North Coast 500 website to decide where to go. Do your research!

Hark at me getting the red pen of death out. At some point, I’ll circle back onto these blog posts and add a fancy banner and a map, but now, all you need to know is that come Thursday, I was anxiously wondering how I could terminate a work phone call without it looking terrifically obvious I had somewhere to be, had thrown two suitcases full of garish clothes into my car and emptied Paul’s testicles before he set out for work. You must understand that he walks funny if you don’t: he’s like the boiler from The Shining, and not just because he leaks rusty water after you tinker with his valve. I had originally planned to drive up to Inverness that day (the NC500 both begins and ends in Inverness, as you would perhaps expect a circular drive to do so) but it was kicking into the afternoon before I was likely to get away, so I went onto AirBnB and selected a reasonably central apartment (their words, not mine) in Edinburgh which boasted floor to ceiling views of the city. Well, who could resist the opportunity to introduce oneself to Scotland that bending down naked to pick up my socks and showing off my bumhole to Edinburgh would afford? Not I. £89 for one night and the promise of chocolates left all over the place to snaffle. Deal. You can take a look here.

With one last kiss for the cats and eighty-seven checks of the house to make sure I hadn’t accidentally left a chip pan smouldering in a drawer or set the bathroom tiles on fire, I was ready to go – after a twenty minute goodbye conversation with one of three good sets of neighbours we have, of course. The others didn’t say a word, merely stared owlishly from their windows, lost in their internal angst over who may get my parking space. I gave them a cheery two-fingered wave as I clattered out of the street, and was on the road.

Well, in theory. The drive from where I live up into Edinburgh is an easy 115 miles straight up the A1 and, taking into account my need to stop and empty the crisp packets from the passenger seat once and a while, I was hopeful to arrive for about 5pm, which would give me more than enough time to fuss all the cushions, decant their toiletries into my suitcase and stare wistfully over to Arthur’s Seat. However, I managed to get four miles up the road before realising that I’d left my work laptop at home. As I said, work were being incredibly supportive of my whim – they always are – but even they would probably suck their teeth at me going off-grid for a fortnight without so much as a promise that I’d bring back some shortbread. Work essentials reacquired, and a few moments of pause where I double-checked I hadn’t absent-mindedly plugged the Instant Pot in and filled it with fireworks, I really was off.

NC500

 Destination: somewhere North of here

The original plan was simply to shoot straight up the A1, but here’s the thing – it’s a terribly boring drive for the most part and one that I do almost every month. I considered taking the A68 up through Jedburgh which offers far better views and a chance to pose by the England/Scotland border rocks. One of our most treasured photos of each other is us standing there, Paul with chocolate on his face and me with a full-on erection that I’m trying desperately to hide under my hoodie. We were young, in love and full of the giddy spontaneity that being together for fifteen years knocks straight out of you. Deciding that I couldn’t re-enact that picture on my own without ending up on a register, I instead chose to drive up to Wooler and cut over to the A1. Besides, the road would take me near a bookshop that I’d been meaning to visit for a while, and frankly, after twenty minutes of driving, I needed to rest.

Mindful of the fact I didn’t want to deviate without good cause, I rang ahead to the bookshop to enquire whether or not they had the particular book I wanted in stock. After enough time passed to make me wonder whether he had gone to print a fresh copy for me, the chap came back and excitingly told me that they did indeed have the book and I could pop along at my earliest opportunity to pick it up. Excellent! The only books I had bought for this trip was a Stephen King novella, a book about how to deal with psychopathic behaviour and a book all about how to survive in prison, none of which exactly lent themselves to reading comfortably in a restaurant by myself without the chef locking away the knives ‘just in case’. After twenty minutes or so of staring at the back of a logging lorry and twenty minutes of swearing at the driver, I pulled into the bookshop to pick up my book. It would be a matter of moments, surely?

No. Having introduced myself as the bloke who had called twenty minutes ago, the chap behind the counter denied having put the book aside, or indeed, having the book at all. I explained that we had talked on the phone only minutes earlier, an act which he also seemed incredibly surprised by. So surprised in fact that he doubled down on his denial and instead chose to tell me we hadn’t talked on the phone at all. I can’t deny I wasn’t hurt: I have a voice that lights up a room, albeit because most people rise to their feet and start looking for the exit, and I thought our telephone tête-à-tête had been full of gay laughter and memorable exchange. I was insistent that I hadn’t had a mild psychotic break and that I had absolutely spoken to him – I recognised the way his nose whistled when he was thinking – but his pained face told me not to explore the topic any further and I left, book-less and almost an hour behind schedule. I may have accidentally knocked a plant-pot off his windowsill as I departed. I was off to an excellent start with my mission to charm all I came across.

Speaking of those I’ve come across previously, heading into Edinburgh was a veritable storm of salacious offers, filthy messages and photos that aren’t nice to talk about. See, the last time I was in Edinburgh properly was for Bearscots, which is a fabulous event where every gay man who has a credit account with Jacamo goes to gawp at others just like him. This was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID which I think we can all agree was the cruellest consequence of the pandemic. Paul and I had a merry old time there when we went, not least because I got to wear a leather kilt and have people coo at my back hair. That’s understandable, it is magnificent: I look like a wet ham joint that rolled behind the cooker. I’ve kept in touch with lots of people I met there and when I mentioned I was going up, my phone went off like a widow’s marital aid. However: this was to be a holiday all to my own, and I mostly keep my hand on my ha’penny these days, so I politely declined the lot. Mind, I hadn’t realised at that point exactly how long I’d be away from Paul’s church-bell-ringing touch, so perhaps I’d been a little hasty. Live and learn.

That point about the ‘on my own’, though. I confess something to you now – for the days before I left I was incredibly anxious about striking out on my own. I’ve been with Paul for almost fifteen years now and haven’t spent much time away from his heaving busom, and for those rare occasions I do, I usually have something else to distract me, like work. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my own company, though: I’ve always been a fairly independent person and, growing up in the country, used to making my own fun. But regular readers also know I suffer with two tendencies which would play on my mind: health anxiety and endless catastrophising. Unless I keep on top of both, I can find myself lost in lurid scenarios where my heart bursts from mild exercise or I knock my head getting out of the car and Judy Mallett my way off the face of the Earth. Anchored to my usual safety measures – Paul, the cats, even twochubbycubs to some extent – I’m fine, because they serve as distractions. But me, alone, with just my thoughts and all the Billie Eilish songs I could muster? Could be a different story. That said, a couple of years ago I made the decision to do anything I was scared of should the opportunity arise because frankly, the alternative is never living. Far better to try something and fail than sit at home and wonder what if. Which, in my case, usually goes ‘what if that fluttering eyelid is actually a brain stem tumour, James – what if?’ More on that later.

Finding the apartment was no trouble at all, but finding somewhere to bloody park was. The listing had reassured me that parking would be a doddle with plenty of free parking space outside, but this simply wasn’t the case, with yellow lines everywhere. I drove up and down that cobbled street so many times that I almost brought myself to orgasm. I did sit and wait whilst an elderly couple fussed and struggled into their car in the vain hope that they were about to free up a parking space, but they were clearly one of those pairings who drive somewhere, take out their egg sandwiches and sit enjoying the view over their dashboard until the sweet caress of death takes them away. There was one other space – a tight little parallel park job between cars whose owners had clearly parked up with blindfolds on – and I thanked the good people at VW for installing park assist on my new car. However, I was so delayed trying to figure out how it worked that by the time I had started backing into the space, an Uber Eats driver had shot into the space before me and missed my back bumper by a whisker.

Words were exchanged, and fiery ones at that. He pointed out my lack of indicating, I enquired whether he thought I was sitting in the middle of the road to rest my clutch. Luckily, in his haste to criticise my driving skills, he forgot to monitor his own and ever so gently, but oh so delightfully, reversed into the car behind. I bade him a cheery goodbye at that point, and you must understand that my smirk at his misfortune was entirely accidental, and drove off a little further down the street, noticing that I could park on the single yellow lines as long as I was out of the apartment by 8am. As I planned to get on the road first thing this wasn’t an insurmountable problem so I left my car, waited for the angry Uber driver to disappear over the horizon, cursed the fact I had packed so much, and made my way to the apartment.

Can’t complain about anything – I even managed to take the best photo I’ve taken of myself in years in the lift on the way up too. It’s the little things.

NC500

Unapologetically slutty.

The apartment was spotlessly clean, was equipped with everything you could need and they had indeed left Lindt chocolate everywhere, though this did give me a moment of panic that I wouldn’t spot one in the bed, sleep on it and leave it looking like I’d performed a dirty protest in the night. Which was silly in retrospect, because I’d always just use the towels for that. I have to say, I love staying in an AirBNB – for the most part, they’re so much more homely than a hotel and full of nods and winks to the owners’ personalities. For example, this one was full of charming little tchotchkes that even I liked, which is quite something as I’d happily live in the white room that Betina and Max created in Absolutely Fabulous if I could. However, due to the fact you are rated as a guest, there is a pressure to leave the place looking absolutely spotless lest your AirBNB profile is ruined by ‘left a skidder like a landslide on the toilet pan’ or something equally distasteful. I like to try and leave it exactly how I found it so it almost looks like no guest has been it at all, though the fetid combination of my shoes and flatus always give the game away.

NC500

There was the small matter of the creepy haunted doll that would slash my throat if I blinked.

I decided to try and have an early night given I had a long drive to Inverness to start the NC500 in the morning (not actually that long, but there’s so many places to stop on the way) but stepped out for an evening walk in the hope I’d tip my calories back into a deficit. Edinburgh in the early evening just reminds me how much I want to live there (well, no, I want to live in Glasgow, it’s like Edinburgh but you do seem less likely to be accosted by chinless gap-yah students trying to pull you to see their two-person eight-hour comedy act on the Richmond Bread Riots). I did a little bit of shopping, then decided to head back for the night, keen to get away in the morning before everyone else and, most importantly, before the traffic warden had a chance to do his worst. I had the first of many disappointing showers on this holiday then retired to a bed that felt slightly unusual, not least because I wasn’t being gently tipped to a snoring, farting hippo by the cruel force of gravity.

NC500

Adventure beyond.

That seems like an excellent place to leave it. I hope this gives you an idea as to how these trip reports are going to be – you’ll get about 300 words of useful content and the remainder will be me waffling on about absolutely nothing. But: I’ve got some tales to tell, and we’re off! Part two soon. Would always love your feedback!

J

recipe: roasted vegetable and lentil jumble

Roasted vegetable and lentil jumble: if the thought of a vegetarian dish leaves you shaking and pulling at the hairs on your arm at the thought of a meal without meat, then have a bloody word with yourself young lady. This is delicious. A wonder. A treat, if you prefer. We weren’t convinced on lentils but a friend of mine has seemingly been making a lentil dish for the last twenty-eight weeks and honestly, hearing the word lentils over and over and over and over – well, something sunk in. But anyway, whisht yer gob, I’ve got things to say.

A couple of pieces of housekeeping before we get to the chat and the recipe. Firstly, I need to show you this:

james and paul

We wanted something for the house that represented our twochubbycubs story – and also, I want something to show Paul when he says that he doesn’t make stupid faces when I want to take a photo of him. We asked local artist and mega-DILF Tom Owen to come up with what we would look like in the future (me forty years, Paul forty minutes) and this is what he came up with – and we adore it. He’s really captured everything you need to know about us: Paul does the cooking and has a face that could stop a clock, I’m the one behind him holding a knife with scant regard for anyone’s welfare and setting his hat on fire for giggles. If you’re looking for something unique, or some stunning prints for your home, please do give Tom a follow on Instagram – the fact that he’s fit as all outdoors is, for once, not swaying my recommendation of what an absolute legend he is. Honestly, give him a follow and check out his work: he deserves every single success.

The other piece of house news is this:

a big garish light of our logo

What better way to celebrate being back in the house than to have your logo created in neon almost two metres across and attached to your otherwise very Hun-grey kitchen wall? We wanted something to finish the kitchen off, and after trying a fire, what else was there? We hadn’t appreciated quite how bright it is – if I turn it on, my cigarettes light themselves before I get a chance to fumble them out of the packet. Also, as you pull into the street, you see the word CUBS light up in glorious neon as clear as day. It’s like we’re running a gay nightclub and I adore it. I am conscious that, should the days ever commence when we get trade over, we’ll need to turn it off – don’t want to run the risk of my gobbling lips becoming the focus of our next cookbooks. Though I promise that if such a thing does happen, we’ll call the book ‘Easy to Swallow’.

Anyway, that’s enough of me and my braggadocio ways: let’s turn to the important matter: I’ve had a haircut! Now I know what you’re thinking, James, you’re beautiful as you are, and any haircut is going to be as irrelevant as chiselling a more defined six-pack into Michelangelo’s David. And naturally you’re right, but you must understand that this represents a major point in my (and I feel I speak for the nation here, too) fuck-off-COVID journey. Before someone sneezed and the world wiped spittle off its face, I used to go for a haircut once a week. It was my one slight indulgence, amongst the myriad of others. That hour spent in a chair trying not to look at myself in the mirror was one of peace, serenity and wondering whether the fact my barber had just rested his balls on my hand whilst he set about threshing my ear-hair was a mistake or a come-on. I looked forward to it. Hopefully they did too, though I imagine there was an element of despair that they’d spent an hour shaping my beard and plucking my nose hair and setting my eyes on fire and giving me a sick-fade-bro only for me to look down into my wallet to get a tenner out and look back up with a face that looked like a boiled egg rolled in the contents of a hoover bag. Seriously, my hair grows so quickly that it’s a genuine surprise that my eyelashes don’t dreadlock together when I blink.

Of course, with COVID restrictions, health anxiety and my general apathy to moving away from my computer chair it was always going to be an exercise in nerves, and certainly, it didn’t get off to a good start when I peered into the window and spotted my normal barber had either died or called in sick. I’m not one for dramatics so let’s assume he’s died of a broken heart. However, in his place was another chap with brown cow-like eyes and altogether too much FM-World-Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male and what can I say, I’m literally a sucker for a man who could pin me into a barber’s chair and hold a blade to my throat. He actually didn’t even give me a choice, he shouted ‘bossman’ at me through the window and beckoned me in.

He did a cracking job too – I like to tell them to do whatever they want (in the forever vain hope it’ll lead to shenanigans) and then, after a bit of small talk, shut my eyes and drift off. I’m not one of those socially awkward people who can’t handle a conversation with a stranger and one of my favourite things to do is change my profession every time I go in and see how long I can carry on the ruse for (which got me into trouble once when I had to bluff my way through real estate law). But, at the same time – and especially now people are wearing masks –  I can’t make out what people are saying, and even more so when you’re looking into their earhole. So there’s a lot of ‘pardon’ and ‘excuse me’. Plus, I do hate being asked for my opinion on something whilst someone is holding a straight-edge razor to my lips. I’m an animated story-teller at the best of times so if you ask for my opinion on whatever hot-topic is in the news at the moment, I’m liable to come out looking like him out of Hannibal who cut his lips off. Luckily, conversation stalled as soon as he asked about my girlfriend and I laughed gaily and told him about my twenty-stone husband. You don’t know him, he’s standing behind 30-stone-Paul.

Despite me nuking the conversation by confessing to being a touch light in the loafers, he didn’t skimp on the attention and a wonderful hour was had by both. He had to ask me to stop polishing my glasses under the blanket a couple of times but that’s standard. I do hate the last five minutes though – you think he’s done, and suddenly there’s a lotion being slapped on the shaved bits, or some bright blue unguent scooped from a bottomless jar slathered into your hair. I made to get out of the chair so many times that he must have thought I’d developed an essential tremor. Turns out the final flourish was to hold the mirror up behind me so I can look at what he’s done to the back of my head. I’m mystified by this: he’s cut all the hair off, what is he going to do if I shriek and say it’s not what I wanted? Run a Pritt-Stick over and try and sweep my back hair upwards? Anyway it doesn’t matter, he could have written ‘yer ma’s a tart’ on the back of my skull in bright pink Sharpie and I’d still smile like Julia Roberts accepting her Oscar and say what a terrific job he’s done.

Naturally, I didn’t miss a chance to embarrass myself, lest you were concerned that my return to normal society had gone without calamity. When it came to paying I asked how much I owed and he mumbled ‘forty’ from under his mask. I was aghast and with all the polite Britishness that I so embody, I replied with a ‘how fucking much?’, doing a full clutching my heart theatrics whilst I did. He clarified that it was fourteen pounds, which in retrospect did seem altogether more reasonable, and I paid and cut a quick dash. Tune in next week to see how else I can make a tit of myself, won’t you?

Oh! Thinking about it, I don’t think I was so out of line being shocked by the price. The barbers does have a photo of Drake in the window and frankly, if he can lure multi-millionaire Canadian rappers to Bedlington, then he must be shit-hot.

Speaking of shit-hot, shall we do this recipe? I can confirm that this roasted vegetable and lentil jumble is a thing of beauty. You might be looking at it thinking that it’s going to leave you farting like a brewery horse and indeed, that’s correct, but trust me with this one: it really is tasty.

roasted vegetable and lentil jumble

Oh I know, for a roasted vegetable and lentil jumble that looks pretty damn good doesn’t it?

roasted vegetable and lentil jumble

If you’re stuck for a lunch idea, try this roasted vegetable and lentil jumble – it keeps ever so well! But don’t keep it waiting too long though: everything has a limit.

roasted veg and lentil jumble

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

Yeah as I was saying in the paragraph before where I always forget that I need to write this bit too, it's a thing of beauty. With all roast vegetable dishes you can add any old shite into this: it's not a taxing matter to make it your own. Also: if you're thinking that's a lot of cheese and perhaps you should cut back, then frankly if that is the case, then you can go to hell. More cheese, always. It serves four.

A reminder that we're all about calories now: but if you're still following SW, you'll find the syns are low enough! We use the NHS calorie checker to work it out - so it's a rough estimate!

Oh we drizzled it with basil oil (olive oil mixed with basil - Internet readers hate us!) because we're that kind of wanker now.

Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines - 120 calories 
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 red onions
  • 250g baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 100g harissa paste
  • 160g reduced fat feta cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch of coriander (see notes)
  • 2 tins of lentils
  • 1 handful of flaked almonds (optional)
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 vegetable stock cube

Instructions

  • first, preheat the oven to 200°c
  • chop off the ends of the aubergines and then slice in half
  • slice each half into four long strips, then cut widthways into roughly 3cm chunks
  • chop the sweet potatoes into 2cm chunks (no need to peel)
  • peel the onions and roughly slice one, then chop the other into wedges
  • add the sweet potatoes, aubergines and onion wedges to a large baking tray and spray with a little oil
  • drizzle over the harissa paste and mix well by hand until everything is well coated, then spread out into an even layer (use two trays if you need to)
  • bake in the oven for thirty minutes. At the halfway point turn the veg and add the tomatoes to roast for the remaining time
  • meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over a medium heat (dry, no oil) and add the almonds
  • cook for a few minutes until toasted, approximately 2-3 minutes, then tip out into a bowl
  • next, squeeze the juice from the lemon into a bowl with the coriander, a pinch of salt and 2 tbsp of olive oil, and mix well
  • put the frying pan back over a medium-high heat and spray with a little oil
  • add the sliced onions to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally
  • add the garlic and cumin to the pan and cook for another minute, then add 150ml cold water to the pan and stir well
  • crumble in the stock cube and stir again, and leave to cook for a minute
  • drain and rinse the lentils and add to the frying pan, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat
  • add the roasted veg to the pan and stir until everything is mixed
  • serve onto plates, crumbling over the feta and sprinkling with the almonds, and finally finish with the herby drizzle

Notes

Recipe

  • we think coriander is rank, and if you do too then you're our kind of person. Feel free to do what we did and swap it out for a basil instead, it's just as tasty (if not better)
  • not a fan of feta? Goats cheese or even dollops of philadelphia will do the trick here - and might save you some calories too 
  • lentils are cheap, tasty and bloody brilliant at making dinners go further. If you're not a fan please do give this a go, we reckon we're about to change your mind!
  • we've used some oil for the dressing and reckon it's worth it, but if you really are being tight with the syns feel free to chop the basil up and simply sprinkle it on top. We won't judge you!

Books

  • we couldn't be prouder of our second book: it's technicolour, the recipes are banging and the reviews are amazing: order yours here! 
  • if you're struggling for funds, the first book is a bit cheaper and still utterly glorious: click here to order
  • we've also got a planner: here

Tools

  • no fancy tools needed for this one, but of course it wouldn't be a recipe without us mentioning our most favourite kitchen gadget - the Microplane. It's almost like it makes the garlic melt away! 

Courses lunch

Cuisine vegetarian

Want some more veggie recipes? You’ll find loads by clicking here and, if I may suggest this beauty? Click the picture to go straight to it!

sautéed mushrooms

Stay safe and well, all.

J&P

recipe: the filet-o-fish but done so well

Fauxlet-o-fish though, am I right? Hello? Because it’s not actually the McDonalds filet-o-fish (and surely fillet, no?) because that would be trademark infringement and the last thing I want is an angry clown turning up in a tiny car to shout at me for indiscretions. Because yes, you guessed it, I’ve already got that in the form of my husband. I’ll be here all night, try the veal!

Though, Christ, don’t, because I don’t want snippy letters telling me off for promoting veal. Learned that lesson when I posted a recipe for rabbit and had to hurtle to my car under a coat every time I left the house in case someone threw a can of red emulsion at me. I mean it wouldn’t have been the worst thing, I never need an excuse to buy another fur coat, but you try getting splashes of Dulux Garnet out of block paving. It’s a nightmare.

James Anderson would like to make it clear that he supports neither the fur or the veal industry and asks that you respect his privacy and wishes at this difficult time.

You ok though, aside from my shite opening prattle giving you pause? I do hope so. It’s a glorious day today: Easter weekend which means we’re all fat from too many Easter eggs and we can’t go to the big Tesco to get Gaviscon because Jesus came back. The sun is shining which means Sola can sit on the window-sill and lick her nethers in full view of the neighbours, which I hope is an extension of my own passive-aggressive behaviour towards most of them. Don’t blame her: I’d do it if I could, but I reckon she’d scratch me if I tried.

James Anderson would further like to apologise for the above joke and acknowledges that he still has a long way to go when it comes to decent behaviour and polite discourse.

I’m fairly convinced she’s trying to commit suicide anyway. Paul, in a fit of whimsy and style that betrays the fact he grew up spending half of his waking days hiding behind the sofa from variously the local Provi agent, the rougher of his circus-worker family or indeed, his mother’s attempts at cooking, went onto eBay and bought us a salt pig. You have to understand that this is a big thing for him: Paul’s entire contribution to us rebuilding Chubby Towers has been to tut at me for buying nice things and to gasp like a drowning man when another parcel turns up. But he’s the cook (not a typo, but really it is) in our relationship and whores must have their trinkets so on he goes.

I see no need for it. It’s pretty enough, but what benefit does it serve other than to clutter up the kitchen? However, I married him so I’m stuck for now. Sola loves it though – the last few mornings I’ve wandered into the kitchen to find sea salt flakes all over the counter and her looking sheepish in the corner. Takes after her dad. And what can I do? I can’t put it away up high because Paul’s already standing on an upturned shoebox to reach the cooker. I’m just thankful she has a fresh water fountain to hand, though let’s not pretend this isn’t her next cruel trick to try and bankrupt me at the vets. More fool her: I’ll put her down. That’s right, put her down on the floor because a cat mustn’t be on the worktops.

James Anderson would like to stress that he has no intention of having his cat put to sleep and indeed, would like to remind readers that he rescued her from a car-park in Blyth. She’s already known what it is to suffer and he shan’t be adding to it.

I do enjoy Easter though, even if Paul has forsaken me by not buying me an Easter egg this year. For a man who can’t go to the bottom of the garden without returning, full Augustus Gloop style, with a slab of chocolate you could club a seal with, he’s let me down. Normally we give each other a Hotel Chocolat Ostrich Egg because we’re decadent bitches and giving each other expensive fripperies is the only joy we have in life, but not this year. I haven’t had so much as a Creme egg. Which makes sense because they’re utterly vile now that Cadbury have replaced the chocolate with ‘chocolate cocoa mix’ and it tastes as far away from chocolate as I do from skinny. He’s got until the end of the day to redeem himself otherwise he’ll get a cold shoulder to go with his lamb one.

One thing I miss about not being able to work in the office with colleagues is my easter egg hunt that I’ve done a few times. Way back when I hid a few caramel eggs around colleagues desks and it really brought us together. Next year I was given a budget to hide 200 eggs around the open plan office and I had the very best time sneaking in at 4am and secreting eggs wherever I could (not Sticky Vicky style, mind, back then I was well-behaved and would have struggled getting so much as a Mini-Egg past my knockhole). Naturally I didn’t keep track of how many I’d hidden but everyone seemed to find one and it was all very jolly. A few turned up after a couple of weeks and my own personal favourite came when one of our real estate lawyers went to a client meeting six months later, opened one of those giant tubes they keep building plans in and had three Creme Eggs tumble out across the boardroom desk. Alan Sugar would have been proud. Well no, he would have called them a blaaahdy liability from the comfort of his built-up chair, but still.

Anyway, enough dawdling. Let us turn to the recipe for the filet-o-fish. I actually only had a filet-o-fish from McDonalds for the first time a few weeks ago. I’ve always avoided them as I’m not a fan of fish, but thought I’d give it a whirl in the spirit of trying new things and, if I’m honest, sheer spite at Paul because he wanted a burger but kept fiddling with the settings in my new car and so didn’t deserve one. They’re really good! I mean, they’re not a taste explosion by any means, but given they’re usually freshly cooked when you order them, they’re tasty enough. The delay in trying a filet-o-fish should be of no surprise to regular readers anyway: I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t have McDonalds until I was 15. I actually lost my bumginity before my McDonalds one. Both featured a Grimace and a ballpit, but I won’t tell you which I preferred.

A note on the photos by the way: we’re moving towards showing the calories per recipe going forward. We will still work out the syns in the recipe, but we’re a bit more about calories these days in line with our books. I know! A mourning nation weeps and wails…

The filet-o-fish – it’s so much better than the McDonalds one. Really is!

We like a brioche bun for the filet-o-fish, but you can swap it out for sadness if you prefer.

Look at that man. You’d smash that filet-o-fish all over, wouldn’t you? Hussy!

filet-o-fish - but Slimming World friendly, thank you very much

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 2 servings

Let's do the filet-o-fish then. The McDonalds original uses a white bun, pollock fish shaped into a square, a slice of cheese from 1977 and some tartare sauce. We've kept close to the original, but forgive us for using a brioche bun: we just don't have time for using whatever postage sized stamp breadbun SW are allowing this week. If you want to lower the syns, use a different breadbun. 

The filet-o-fish from McDonalds comes in at 14.5 syns and let's be honest, you can normally shave with them they're that dry. This, even with the fancy bun and shop-bought (and slightly tinkered with) tartare sauce, is exactly the same syns. Knock 8 syns off if you use a normal breadbun. Heathen.

 

Ingredients

  • two egg
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 4 white fish fillets (we used cod)
  • 4 brioche buns (around 8 syns each, if you use the ASDA ones, but swap out for your HEB if you want)
  • a thick slice of cheese from your HEA allowance
  • 100g panko (25g each - 4.5 syns)
  • 4 tbsp tartare sauce (2 syns each)

Instructions

  • preheat the oven to 180°c and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper
  • vigorously whisk together the egg and flour in a bowl and set aside
  • sprinkle the panko out onto a plate or shallow dish
  • carefully dredge the fish through the batter and let any excess run off
  • gently push each of the fish fillets into the panko and sprinkle any over the top, until well covered, then place on the baking tray
  • bake in the oven for 12 minutes, then place one (half) slice onto the top of each, and bake for another 3 minutes
  • slice the buns and spread with tartare sauce, and add the fish

Notes

Recipe

  • as discussed, swap out the breadbun for a healthier one if your life is devoid of joy
  • you can make your own tartare sauce but it's an absolute clit-on, and syn wise, to get a decent sauce you'll actually end up using more
  • we've styled this on the McDonalds Filet-o-Fish that uses half a slice of cheese per burger, but if you want the whole slice then treat yourself
  • to make this ever so slightly healthier you can omit the flour from the batter, but it really does give a better result and is only a quarter of a tbsp each, so we say keep it in

Books

  • we couldn't be prouder of our second book: it's technicolour, the recipes are banging and the reviews are amazing: order yours here! 
  • if you're struggling for funds, the first book is a bit cheaper and still utterly glorious: click here to order
  • we've also got a planner: here

Tools

  • you don't need anything fancy for this recipe, so what to put here
  • how about the blooper you see in the background: order that right here
  • like our colourful Le Creuset plates - of course you do, we're style icons up there with Les Dennis and Janice Battersby - you can order those right here too - though, they're out of stock at the time of writing

Courses fish

Cuisine fish like I said

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving

Calories 525

% Daily Value

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

You want more fish recipes? Yeah well listen lady, this is neither the time nor the plaice. But here’s a classic lunch idea. Just click it and be transported back to a time when Paul and I could go on holidays without wondering if he would cough his lung out.

filet-o-fish

Ignore old Aunt Rhody hidden in the picture there. We don’t talk about her anymore.

Love you all, you know.

J

recipe reacharound: curry loaf reloaded

Well hello! Normally I’d apologise for the delay between posts but not time time, no way: the last time I updated we were about to move back to Chubby Towers, and now? We’re back, and it’s all very exciting. More on that a moment!

Today’s recipe is one of our reacharounds, where we look at the abominations that were our early recipes and update them for a more modern take: and for this one, we’re going right back to the very beginning, not least because that’s a very good place to start. It was 2014 when we first posted this and honestly, looking at that style we used to have makes me cringe so hard I’m no longer circumcised. I’m not sure why we eschewed capital letters back then, or providing proper ingredient lists, or presented our food in such a cackhanded fashion. But thank goodness we’ve changed.

Curry loaf is one of those things that are held up in highest regard amongst Slimming Worlders, possibly because it’s so easy to cook, possibly because they’re always at bloody taster nights, possibly because it has ‘loaf’ in it and us dieters start bubbling at the lips at the thought of being allowed bread. Who can say? Either way, a curry loaf is just a combination of various vegetables, some microwave rice (leftover rice also works, but none of us got to where we are by leaving leftovers – most of us barely leave the pattern on the plate because we’re so feverishly finishing our food), eggs and a chickpea dahl. Chickpea dahl is an absolute arseache to find these days so we’ve done a few swaps, and if you’re in a rush to get to the food, just scroll straight to the curry loaf photos and be done.

It’s funny though, looking so far back at the old stuff when we are, for the want of a far less hyperbolic turn of phrase, at the start of a new chapter for us. Being back at home is terrific, although I miss terribly the excitement of settling down for a wank and then having housekeeping rattling the door and trying to get in. I’ve tried to recreate it by bundling Paul into the alarm cupboard and locking the door, but his mewling cries about spiders just proved more of a distraction. Plus, it’s Paul, leave him unfed for more than twenty minutes and he’ll start chewing at his own arms in the hope of righting the calorie deficit. Our house wasn’t destroyed in the fire, but pretty much everything needed replacing or redoing, and all the rooms are now blank canvases for my fits of whimsy and it’s great. For example: no house truly needs a toilet brush that looks like a cherry, but we do, even if very good friends grouse about it. But then some very good friends’ lavatories look like the one out of Trainspotting, so they can respectfully sod off. We have some plans for the outdoor bit and our kitchen is far more suitable for filming in, so you can expect some fresh twochubbycubs content soon enough. Well, that, or onlyfans, and I ask that if you do want to pay good money to watch me eating name-brand crisps in my off-brand knickers whilst I scratch at my balls with a bristle brush, you get in touch privately.

Of course, the best thing about being home is simple: we have our cats back, though it was very much an exercise in winning their trust back. We were lucky that they both escaped the fire unharmed (though watching Sola trying to hustle out of the cat-flap with a box of Cooks Matches wedged in her jaw did arouse suspicion) and we were able to house them just up the road with a friend. However, they had to become house cats for ten months, as we couldn’t bear the thought of them plodding back to our house and scratching at the door to be let in to no avail. That would be no problem for Sola, the older one, but Bowser is very much an outdoors cat and if he hasn’t had his four fights with the neighbourhood cats he tends to get a little fussy. I’m not one for sentimentality, I’m not, but when we used to drive back to check on progress at the house I couldn’t bear to turn around at the top of the street in case I saw them looking forlornly at the window like the widows of men lost at sea. I say that as though Sola wouldn’t have spent the ten months learning how to stick her middle finger up.

We decided to bring them back with a week between them in order to allow them to re-acclimatise to the new house without winding each other up. Bowser was brilliant: immediately fussing about us and then retiring to our bedroom to casually shed as much hair as he can all over our new bed. He doesn’t seem to go out as much, but then maybe he’s just observing the COVID guidance. Sola was far more effort: although the initial reunion between us was slightly less hysterical than I anticipated, that’s mainly because she’s grown too fat to run away at speed. She was always such a lithe cat back in the day – now she looks like a teapot when she sits. Watching her trying to lick her nipsy (we don’t have Sky anymore, so gotta watch something) is quite the sight. We’re putting her on a calorie controlled diet. Anyway: she let us pick her up (which she would never do) and carry her home, where she immediately took one look at our newly grey and very hun walls and disappeared under the sofa, where she remained for a good couple of days.

However, as philosopher Daisaku Ikeda said according to the google search for patience quotes I just did to make this blog entry sound more clever, ‘with love and patience, nothing is impossible’. Well, I’m the master of patience (I’ve waited fourteen years for the light of love to leave Paul’s eyes, and still here we are) and also fantastic at pss-pss-pssing, and now she’s back to her normal self. That is, she will meow loudly at me every morning until I move to stroke her, then turn her back on me to show she considers me to be subhuman scum. She’s easily won around with a little baggy of catnip and a fuss, mind, so perhaps we aren’t so different after all.

So: reunited, and it feels so good, and Chubby Towers is complete once more. We have smoke alarms in each room which all bellow at us in unison if we so much as snuff out a candle without using a fire blanket. Speaking of fire blankets, Paul bought one for the kitchen but given it was £3.99 and they have misspelled blanket as blaknet on the box, I’m not especially convinced it’ll do us the world of good if the fire demands a sequel. But we’re home and it is marvellous. Even the neighbours seem pleased to see us save for one miserable old fart who ignored my cheery wave, electing instead to scowl at me. But then he always has a face that suggests he’s just discovered blood in his urine, so I shan’t take it to heart.

To the curry loaf then.

curry loaf

The ingredients for the curry loaf – chop, mix, go.

curry loaf

Curry loaf all cooked!

Curry loaf sliced and ready to go!

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.

If you want to try your hand at a different loaf, may I suggest our chicken and ham picnic loaf? Just click the image below to be taken straight there!

chicken and ham picnic loaf

J (and Paul) (and Bowser) (and Sola)

recipe: crispy chilli beef and coriander noodles

Now just look here a minute would you? Crispy chilli beef is an utter misnomer right from the off on a slimming blog because in the absence of fat to fry in, they don’t get very crispy. They don’t melt in your mouth like a pocket full of church chocolate and they do have a bit of a kick, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But still: if you’re after crispy chilli beef and coriander noodles, and bless you, you must be if you’ve started reading, this will still tickle your pickle.

We’re taking a tiny wee break from the This Time Next Year story this week because it’s A MILESTONE. Sadly not a millstone, that’s my husband and his fat ankles hanging onto our marriage like a sailor in a rough sea, but a milestone in that this will be the very last blog entry from Chubby Towers Adjacent: we are going home! We are! It were all round ASDA, it must be true! Short of the roof developing COVID or the rubble bursting into flame, we are due to be back in our own bed in a matter of days.

And we’re beyond excited. Understand this: it’s now been just shy of ten months since we last hurtled out of our home in a blaze, no pun intended, of polyester and partial nudity. Ten months since I sat in the garden and cried like a bitch whilst Paul tried to wrap me up in a duvet whilst simultaneously hiding the worst of the jizzle-streaks from the neighbours. The original plan was for our insurers to put us up in a hotel until they found a short-term let, but then the world caught a cough and we got fussy about not being able to have the cats with us. We’ve ended up staying exactly where they put us on the first night and you know, it actually hasn’t been bad at all. One small kitchen, a living room and an air-conditioned bedroom.

Don’t get me wrong. I miss the excitement of having a bath at home, reaching behind to grab the shower gel and being accosted by Sola showing how much she loves me by presenting her puckering asterisk-anus at me like a child might show off a drawing they did at school. She does seem inordinately pleased with it, I’ll say that. I’ve missed the wall of ashen faces staring at me as I take the wrong bin out on the wrong day outside of the pre-approved hours. I know at least one neighbour must have been having sleepless nights due to not having my car to tut at, ‘accidentally’ key or covet with his mackerel eyes. All that and more to come when we return, at least.

But the hotel won us round. At first we felt like Alan Partridge and Lynne (you won’t get a coconut if you correctly guess which is which) and lockdown meant it was just us, a few select other guests and the staff and because, in the absence of anything other to do than prime my lungs for COVID, I was outside at the smoking shelter so often they put up a plaque. I am awash with bonhomie at the best of times but faced with the same faces for weeks on end, I would usually cave and give up leaving the room rather than making awkward small-talk. Not with this lot. I’m not writing this in the hope that I get a few IHG points, I promise, but you just couldn’t wish for better staff. Given what a shite year we’ve all been through they have, without exception, been utterly wonderful. Imagine how hard it must be to muster up a polite smile at the sight of me stumbling out of the lift of a morning, face like an unmade bed and my belly spilling over the top of my ‘yoghurt’ stained jeans. They never faltered! I can barely speak to Paul without acidity until around 11am, but there they are, all round the clock, always smiling and professional. They’ve made a frobly-mobly year halfway decent, and you’ll find no better in Newcastle.

Tell you what we won’t miss though: the agony of having to clean the room before housekeeping get here. I know from chatting with staff that they see some unseemly sights working in a hotel but it’s just not in me to leave a beskiddered toilet pan for someone else to clean up. Especially as living with Paul tends to mean you’ll need a pneumatic drill and some strong prayer to get the worst of it. I’m used to it now, the same way that one may get used to a wart on a finger or a haemorrhoid, but no-one else needs that in their lives. Also, the slight angst of knowing that someone is going to look at your rubbish as they empty it and silently tut at the amount of sweet wrappers, fag packets and none-name-brand beans has meant I’ve been responsible for taking the rubbish out most days. To be honest, I’m thinking about getting a pinny and a name-badge and putting in a shift.

Actually, not the worst idea, because that would give unprecedented access to the very best feature of this hotel: it is absolutely and utterly awash with tradies and men who ‘ave a babby at ‘ome but t’wife durnt do it like she used to’. Honestly, if I was single I’d be lollipop-thin, completely white behind the eyes and have lips whittled down to my teeth. Thankfully, Paul’s harsh ways and bewilderingly keenness to maintain the sanctity of our marriage has put paid to any indiscretions, but, let me tell you: it’s been hard. Many times over. Every day I stand at the window like Miss Havisham, waving goodbye with doleful eyes to another departing Network Rail van, only for another one to come barrelling under the security barrier ready to spill another quintet of gas engineers or some other such treat.

Our house then. It is ready to receive us, with a fancy new bathroom and an upgraded kitchen. We’ve painted all the walls a ‘bright’ shade of grey, if only to make a mockery of all of my hun-rhetoric of late. There’s new carpet and a robot or two to sweep up the crumbs. We’ve got new pillows to pluck at whilst we struggle to sleep thinking every snap, crackle and pop is the house bursting into flame again. Luckily, we know the pillows are remarkably comfortable simply by virtue of them being the exact same ones as the pillows they have here. Funny that: see also the bath-towels and a quarter-tonne of dishwasher tablets. It’s a mystery! So, off we go. Back to Chubby Towers and goodbye to Staybridge Suites in Newcastle, with particular (but not discerning) goodbye to the lovely Caterina, Nola, Dave, Paul, Philip, Jason and honestly, everyone. Too many names to mention. And this is getting indulgent now, so stop. Sssh.

Let’s do the crispy chilli beef and coriander noodles. That’s crispy chilli beef and coriander noodles, you know, for the sake of the SEO. I must apologise for the shite photography: Paul took the pictures and as he is from a town where electricity was dispensed 50p at a time and inbreeding was encouraged, he doesn’t know how to use the AUTOMATIC focus on a camera. It’s not surprising. His eyes permanently look like he’s anguishing over a Magic Eye puzzle, though I suppose we mustn’t be too scornful.

crispy chilli beef

You deserve someone so much better than anyone who puts coriander on their crispy chilli beef, mind.

crispy chilli beef

I mean, you would, wouldn’t you: our crispy chilli beef?

crispy chilli beef and coriander noodles

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

So, then, crispy chilli beef and coriander noodles! This has gorgeously rich beef mince with some gorgeous, carby noodles on the side. Perfect if you're in the mood for a takeaway. Fool yourself that it's basically a salad by sprinkling some coriander on top, though know that we will forever judge you and never invite you to our famous candlelight suppers.

As you've just read and no doubt are sick of us mentioning by now, we've been trying out recipe kits while we're in the hotel as we've limited space and equipment, and frankly, I can't be arsed to go shopping. We've recently made the switch from Hello Fresh to Gousto as so many of you were recommending them, and so far we haven't been disappointed! This is another recipe ripped off lovingly inspired by those folk at Gousto, but made slightly healthier. If you fancy giving them a go, use our referral link to send some dosh our way and get 50% off your first box, and 30% off your first month. 

Ingredients

  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 red chillis
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 30g fresh root ginger
  • 5 spring onions
  • 250g fine egg noodles
  • 2 carrots
  • 8 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce (8 syns)
  • 30ml toasted sesame oil
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 60ml rice vinegar
  • 10g sesame seeds (optional)
  • 20g coriander

Instructions

  • chop the tops and bottoms off the carrots, peel and then grate
  • peel and finely grate the ginger and garlic
  • peel and finely chop the shallots
  • cut the chillis in half and scrape out the insides, then finely chop
  • next, heat a large saucepan over a high heat and spray with a little oil
  • add the mince to the pan and cook for about 4 minutes until browned
  • meanwhile, trim and roughly chop the spring onions
  • chop the coriander finely (including the stalks)
  • add the grated carrot to the mince and cook for another three minutes, stirring frequently, and then boil the kettle
  • pop the egg noodles into a pan and cover with boiling water until submerged, then bring to a boil over a high heat. Cook the noodles for 1-2 minutes until tender, then drain (reserving a cupful of the water) and put back into the pan, and set aside
  • add the garlic, ginger and chilli to the mince and cook for one minute
  • add the sweet chilli and half of the soy sauce and cook for another 3-4 minutes
  • place the noodles back over a medium heat add the spring onions, remaining soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil and stir well until combined, then remove from the heat and set aside. Add a splash of the reserved water if it needs loosening a bit
  • serve the beef with the noodle, and garnish with the coriander and sesame seeds

Notes

Recipe

  • if, like us, you think coriander is fucking rank feel free to leave it out
  • if you like things a bit stickier, try using dark soy sauce in this - it works a treat
  • no shallots? an onion is fine!
  • if you're a total fanny when it comes to spiciness you can reduce or even leave out the chilli, it's still good

Books

  • 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!

Tools

  • mince that garlic and ginger in no time with one of these microplane graters. It's our No. 1 kitchen gadget!
  • give the pan a good coating of oil with a mister – this is what we use

Cuisine chinese

Hungry for more?

Yeah whatever

J

recipe: turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf

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.

turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf

This turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf is a one-pot dish by the way, perfect for you as a lazy slattern!

turkish-style lamb bulgur pilaf

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

Prep

Cook

Total

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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

Notes

Recipe

  • 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

Books

  • 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!

Tools

Courses dinner

Cuisine twochubbycubs

Looking for more one-pot dinners? Bless you!

Enjoy, or so help me God Susan

J

recipe: curried sprout risotto – no, seriously, hear us out

Curried sprout risotto: I can already hear you all gasping and dry-heaving into your mailboxes. And yet, you mustn’t: the sprout may be a little ball of farts, but cooked well and with flavour, it makes for a lovely, soft, oniony dish. If your only sprout experience comes from Christmasses past where your mother put them on to boil a day or two after Easter, then I beg you to reconsider. Here, we’ve turned it into a risotto and served it with spicy jerk chicken from our newest cookbook – and that’s exactly what this should be used for: a base. Bit first, a couple of bits of admin as ever, then the curried sprout risotto recipe is all yours, I swear it.

Firstly, thank you to everyone for buying our book – it’s still doing so well and frankly, having an extension put on the house where I can smoke expensive cigars and type out my stories like Lynda La Plante has never seemed so possible. Please keep sharing your photos, reviews, telling your friends etc. For all those that haven’t yet got it, it’s available right here on this link!

Secondly, I apologise, but this is a long, long entry! It occurred to me the other night that we haven’t done a good ‘writing’ post in such a long time. So, here we go – but please, if you are hungry, scroll down to the recipe! If you honour me by reading it, I would absolutely love your feedback and comments. Don’t be shy! Here we go.

I’m about to tell you a story that I haven’t put to paper, for reasons each more inexplicable and bewildering than the last (I forgot), and will subsequently detail over four blog entries. It was a simpler time: Brexit was confirmed but we all thought it would disappear as elegantly as a magician’s trick on an ill-lit stage. There was nothing more infectious troubling the world than my laughter. Paul’s face wasn’t the haggard shell that haunts me now as I drift off to sleep. Our cats were young, with full bellies and bad attitudes and, in Sola’s case, ovaries: something she’s never quite forgiven us for taking away. It was 2017, we had returned from a mortifying trip to Copenhagen (where Paul shat out an egg with me dying of fremdscham at the side, and of course, the time I used chøc-a-bløc in a blog recount of our holiday, a writing standard I don’t think I’ve topped since) and were just settling down to ignore our ever increasing obesity when I received a text from a friend. It wasn’t the usual ‘you best go get checked love, it’s dripping from the end’ text either – it was, for the want of a less hyperbolic phrase – a text that changed our lives.

It’s here that we start the story of the time we went on This Time Next Year.

chapter one: “oh, so much cum”

Copenhagen, for all the laughs and jolliness the holiday recaps portrayed, was an awful holiday. It was the first time we’ve ever been away where we weren’t able to enjoy ourselves properly. We were simply too fat: we’d reached a critical mass where going on rides was a no-no. Eating in public was an exercise in embarrassment and self-consciousness. We couldn’t walk across the city – a city known for beautiful, lithe people, mind you – without worrying about what people thought and whether our ankles would make it. Older readers may remember a bit in the Vicar of Dibley where Geraldine, laden with three Christmas dinners, hops into a taxi which takes her about fifty yards down the road. We did pretty much that one evening, bellies so bloated that we got a taxi what would take a reasonable person three minutes to walk. I’ve always been fairly body confident but that was the absolute first time where my weight was making me miserable. Paul took a photo of me over dinner (presumably taking a census of the bread rolls that were left for later interrogation) and I look like two people cosplaying as a bearded horse. I’m literally widescreen. Paul was equally fat and equally as miserable. We rowed constantly, both unhappy with ourselves and taking it out on the other.

I mean, you’d struggle to run me up a flagpole, wouldn’t you?

Now, you must understand, us arguing on holiday is almost a tradition, though it’s usually over me opening my legs like the gates on a level crossing whenever a passing bearded Daddy-type walks past. But these were absolute humdingers, and for comparison, Paul once left for the airport to fly home from Hamburg after we had a ruckus in a backstreet gay bar. That’s not a euphemism. The only thing that stopped him actually flying home (after spending hundreds on a ticket) was the fact he’d forgotten to strop back to the hotel first and pick up his passport. So holiday arguing is de rigueur and normally, once we’ve cried into a few pastries over breakfast, we’re fine. Not this time. Things came to a head on the final night: me throwing stuff around the room, him shouting and bawling like his arse was on fire and his hands were in mittens. Realising that – for once, I wasn’t in the wrong, we had a good chat about what had happened, and confessed to each other how unhappy we were with how far we’d let ourselves go. Such a dramatic revelation was tempered a little by the fact we were sharing a giant Toblerone from the airport at the time – though perhaps it tells you of our greed that we bought a Toblerone from our departure airport as opposed to one from our returning airport.

But what could we do? We knew how to lose weight: we ran twochubbycubs at that point and dieting wasn’t some elusive mystery. Calories in vs calories out. But it’s all such a bore, isn’t it, if we’re honest. We’d had eight or so years at this point, attending Slimming World classes and developing piles on the plastic chairs and wishing for death as Sandra and Enid and Derek and Elsie and Sandra again all recounted their tales of how they couldn’t shit and birthday parties where they ‘had been really good and just sucked an ice-cube‘ all night. That’s not being good, that’s wasting an opportunity. The only thing that was sticking for us was cholesterol in our arteries, clad on the sides like seams of fridge-cold butter. We couldn’t bear the idea of another twelve months of standing in someone else’s verruca-prints and discussing Muller Lights. But without a class, what is there? The frightening prospect of taking responsibility for our own actions, and I think the fuck not. Never have, never will.

Then, as I say, we got a text. My good friend Sarah – someone I had worked with for a few years and made such an impression on that she knitted a fabulous little Bobomb for our house – had seen a calling card for a show on ITV called ‘This Time Next Year’ and sent it over. The premise was astoundingly simple: you turn up, pledge you are going to do something dramatic within a year, Davina McCall smiles and asks you lots of questions, then you disappear behind a door. This part is filmed but not aired at the time of recording. A year later, you come back, walk back out of the door and Davina has a scream and everyone claps and you’re briefly the star of ITV prime-time. Then, through the magic of editing, they splice the two films together and make a show of it so it looks as though you disappear behind a door and then come straight back out again a changed man. Or men, in our case. If you look on discussion forums discussing the first series you get numbskulls actually thinking the ‘change’ has happened there and then, as though Dumbledore was putting in a nightshift at Celador and just magicked away your fat. I mean, it’s surely not the most taxing of concepts, but to look at digitalspy back in 2017 you’d think the viewers were being tasked with cracking Gödel’s completeness theorem using only a broken abacus and six of their webbed fingers.

Realising that this was an opportunity we may never get again – and once I’d explained the gist of the show to Paul through discussion, then animation, then puppets and finally one of those ‘pick a number’ folding papers people used to make in school to choose their boyfriends – I emailed the production company. Sensing that one look at our humourless faces may send us straight to Deleted Items exile, I tried to make our application as funny as I could, describing myself a ‘spherical Geordie prone to shrieking’ and Paul as a ‘lighthouse in M&S slacks’. I also attached a couple of photos of the two of us, including that awful one I mentioned above. We must have caught their eye as we received a call a couple of hours later – first with a researcher who asked us lots of questions about whether we had been on TV before (me, no, but Paul yes, being wheeled in a pram through some flood water and throwing himself in front of the Chief Executive of the local council’s car during a pension strike) (not on the same day), whether we had been in trouble with the law and why we would be a good fit. A couple of Skype interviews followed that where we were asked what we wanted to pledge – we both said we wanted to lose four stone each.

Four stone! In all honesty, we could have both spared twelve stone a pop and still rarely have felt the cold. I genuinely can’t remember the exact weight, but I know I was over 26 stone and Paul 25 stone. The researchers went away and discussed with the production company and came back to make us an offer: lose ten stone each. Quite the upgrade but, faced with the very real possibility of us joining together like little globs of mercury when we made love, we agreed. Contracts were signed, confidentiality clauses agreed, and a date set for a week or two in the distance where we were to travel to London to film the ‘before’ portion of the show. We barely had time to get nervous, but you better believe we made the most of that week, wanting to be the heaviest we could possibly be when we got on the scales before the year of dieting commenced. We’re talking ordering two separate takeaways of an evening, grabbing a McDonalds every time we went for the paper, that sort of sluttish behaviour. And oh, it was glorious: a week dedicated to fattening ourselves up like Christmas turkeys. It wouldn’t have come as a surprise to me if I had walked in on Paul brushing his teeth with a Cadbury’s Flake. The night before filming we drove down to the cheery little Premier Inn in Borehamwood where we were all stationed and we stopped at every single services on the way. That’s ten, for the record, and we snacked at each one. By the time our little Micra pulled in at the hotel two of the tyre pressure warnings had come on. We were, quite literally, bursting at the seams: the fly on my elasticated jeans had come open for reasons, unusually, not relating to my traditional ‘welcome to the roads of Britain’ blowjobs I hand out to lorry drivers with especially consonant-heavy first names.

We slept fitfully: partly the worry of being filmed the next day, partly the angst of not knowing whether we would be able to squeeze in a Premier Inn breakfast before our taxi picked us up at 7.30am. You mustn’t worry: we did, and did so handsomely, knowing this would probably be the last ‘unhealthy’ meal for a very long time. Our taxi came and whisked us to Elstree, where we were given a fancy BBC badge (ITV were borrowing their studios) and made to wait in the security guard office until someone came and picked us up. They forgot about us. Paul didn’t seem to mind as he spent most of the time anxiously looking out of the window in the hope of seeing his teenage wank-fantasy Martin Fowler strolling up to set. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he had left the show in 2007 – it was just nice to see Paul with some light behind his eyes. A runner eventually noticed that the security guard’s hut was full of fat people and came to whisk us to the green room in a blur of yahs and small-talk. Actually, that’s doing her a disservice, she was utterly lovely and put us at ease immediately. I remember seeing a Holby City ambulance and being amazed by how run-down everything looked behind the scenes, though I suppose the BBC mustn’t be seen to be splashing the cash on paint and decent carpets in these times of austerity.

Our green room was immediately behind the set and although we had arrived first, we were to be the fourth story filmed. This meant spending most of the day making small talk with people. Now, I’m excellent at small talk and can cheerfully chat away to most folks without a pause, but this was different. The people in the green room were absolutely terrific but they had all such important stories: someone was wanting to face the outdoors again after a fire had left her with significant burns. There was a couple who were trying one last bout of IVF before giving up on being parents after years of unsuccessful attempts. A young boy with artificial legs who wanted to play a proper game of football. Actual heroes, laughing and smiling away and all hiding their nerves with too many cups of the free (and bloody awful) coffee. We felt like shams: we were there because we’d eaten too many sandwiches over the course of our married life and neglected to move enough to counter it. But the camaraderie was great and though I’ve forgotten their names (and cut me some slack, it’s 50/50 on whether I remember to breathe out these days), I won’t forget how we all relaxed one another and cheered when each pairing disappeared off to make-up, wardrobe and then onto filming.

Our time came soon enough. Another brief chat with one of the production staff who ran through the questions we would be asked, where to stand on stage, how to definitely not say fuck or bugger and don’t do it as a joke because fuck me, that bugger is tired, that sort of thing. Then into wardrobe where they pressed the clothes we brought from home and stuck a sanitary towel in our underarms to stop us sweating. I’m a big guy, I asked for a maxi-flow. The clothes thing – they wanted us to bring our own clothes because they knew we’d look awful in them, so when the big reveal happened later and they had dressed us with decent, stylish clothes, it would look so much better. That’s why, if you watch the video, we are wearing dreadful polyester shirts picked straight from the two-pack pastel selection from ASDA. Then straight into make-up which I absolutely fucking loved, not least because the chap doing my make-up was a gorgeous, massive bear, camp as tits and utterly indiscreet. I got asked for my number somewhat surreptitiously (don’t worry, so did Paul, what a cad) and he described his previous visits to the North in glorious technicolour as he powdered my face: ‘oh but there was SO MUCH CUM‘. I had to ask him to calm down because I was laughing so much my foundation was falling off like Tango-coloured snow.

When they had finished making us look halfway presentable (which involved turning us a very, very orange shade which is then cancelled out by the studio lights) we were sent back into the corridor, ready to be installed behind the doors waiting for the big moment when they slid open and revealed our corpulent, crumpled selves to Davina and the audience. However, you know my husband: he can’t pass a toilet without some sort of crisis and as a result, piped up that he just needed a wee. No problem, he was dispatched to a nearby lavatory and I took up waiting outside. He was gone mere moments before we heard a crash and a sound not unlike a cow being branded by a farmhand with an essential tremor. I poked my head round to find him lying on the floor like a piss-soaked turtle – he’d rounded a corner a bit too sharpish and fell over at the urinal. With little time to spare and a face as red as a freshly-slapped arse, he was whisked to wardrobe where, with not enough time to change his clothes, they went over him with a hair-dryer and pushed him back out. We like to think it was water on the floor from a leaking urinal, but he stank like a city-centre back-alley. Davina wasn’t crying with emotion that day, it was pure ammonia fumes.

Clothes smartened, make-up touched up, mics fitted and refitted when they realised my belly was accidentally turning off the mic-pack when I sat down, we were taken to the back of the stage. I can’t remember anything that the runners were saying at that moment and was instead concentrating on making sure I was standing on the right side of Paul and holding his slightly scented hand to keep us both calm. My own bumhole was chewing out the seams of my pants, but no time for panic.

The lights went up, the doors slid open, and in we went.

More on that next time!


Goodness, that was a LOT of text, wasn’t it? But see, when I have something I like writing about, it flows like a poo half an hour following consumption of a newsagent egg sandwich. To the curried sprout risotto, then!

See, the curried sprout risotto isn’t as bad it sounds!

Well no, maybe it looks poo, but it’s tasty!

curried sprout risotto

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

Normally with a risotto we throw everything in the pan and let it bubble away on its own with the lid clamped tightly over it. Not this time. Possibly due to my swirling contemplativeness, I found much merit in standing by the hob stirring the buggery out of it whilst looking sadly at the kitchen tiles. Either way will work though, I suppose it just depends on your ankles.

Take a look at the notes: I've added a few ideas to liven it up if you wanted to push this into a main all of its own.

Ingredients

  • one large white onion
  • 200g of baby sprouts
  • one clove of garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt and curry powder
  • around 800ml of good quality or so help me God I'll do time vegetable stock
  • 200g of risotto rice

Instructions

  • chop the onion finely
  • with the sprouts, cut off the stems, remove a couple of the other layers and then chop finely into lovely little lunules
  • gently sweat off the onion and chopped sprouts in a little oil until the onions have gone lightly golden
  • add the curry powder, garlic and salt and cook for a moment or two more
  • add the risotto rice and stir it through so all the grains are moistened (eww) and then add a ladle of stock at a time, cooking on medium, allowing the liquid to almost disappear before adding another ladleful
  • keep stirring until the rice is cooked through
  • serve with whatever you want

Notes

Recipe

  • if you wanted to add meat, cubed bacon lardons added with the garlic would be a good choice, but don't add extra salt
  • we served ours with our jerk chicken from the book - rub and cook

Books

  • 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!

Tools

Courses risotto

Cuisine twochubbycubs

Enjoy! Want more risotto recipes? Sure!

Mwah!

J

roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta

Well hi! Now I know you’ve come here for the roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta, and who could blame you? It’s stunning, it’s brave, it’s fabulous, but then so are your twochubbycubs. And whilst we would love to give you that roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta without delay, that’s not our style. If you’re champing at the snatch for the recipe then just scroll down to the photos, as ever, and it’s right there, a roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta ready for your lunches or evening meals. Wondering if I can shoehorn roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta into an opening paragraph in any other ways? Well, there’s one more.

The admin first: thank you, oh so very much thank you, to everyone who has been buying our books and cooking our delicious recipes! Even better, this time around you’re going crazy on social media posting the results of your toil in the kitchen. You need to know that there’s no greater pleasure than seeing eighty-seven chicken alfredos when I open my Instagram feed. It breaks up all the photos of fat men pouting in their knickers but does make having a quick hand-shandy that bit more difficult: I’m usually starving by the time I’ve slicked my knuckles. If you’re on Instagram, make sure to tag us into your stories and shots – we see them all and try to comment where we can, and it really does make things worth doing! We do love you all. If you’re loving the book, please do leave us a review on Amazon, it all helps – and you can buy it below if you’re a bit slow.

Now, today’s writing is actually an excerpt from our ‘about us’ page, which we noticed we hadn’t updated since 2016. You can read the full story of us right here or indeed, wait until the more salacious details hit The Daily Sport. 2016 seems like so long ago, it really does: the things we thought we’d never do: release a cookbook, travel the world, drop our knickers in lorry-parks. When we updated the page it didn’t send a post email out to everyone, and because I demand attention, I’ve decided to include the bit about each other below.

twochubbycubs: James (the writer)

We have experimented with each writing the other’s bio, but frankly, Paul doesn’t put the same level of sass into mine that I desire and so, I’m writing my own. My name is James, I’m 35, six foot two and described, entirely by my own making, as a walking B-Side Pet Shop Boys lyric. Growing up I wanted to be a pilot (but was scared of flying and came from a village where they still scream at the metal dragons when they fly over), a vet (until I put my hand up a sheep’s vagina, though I must stress it was a consensual and monitored situation: I was helping a friend deliver a lamb), an actor (still keeping that one in the bank) and a writer. I’ve always wanted to write ever since a teacher back in middle school graded my mock English Language SATS at a never-before-seen-in-our-school grade 8 – the sense of pride I felt never left me, though I’ll confess to Ms Westgarth (my favourite ever teacher) right now that the piece of fiction I submitted was almost a word for word recap of The X-Files Movie. It feels good to get that off my chest.

My favourite colour is blue (eyes, humour and the lips of my lovers), my favourite band is Muse (too many angsty teenage break-ups involved me sniffling into my long hair to the sounds of Unintended), I’m submechanophobic, mildly trypophobic and a dreadful hypochondriac. I hold my breath when I get in a lift to see if I can make it all the way to my desired floor without passing out. I’m a firm believer in being open about my mental health and long-time readers will know that for all the mettle in my writing, if I’m struggling, I’ll talk about it, because not enough people do. I have four regrets in life with only one that I’ll discuss here: I spent far too much of my life worrying what people think of me. If I could spread one message it would be one of loving yourself, and not in the masturbatory way – though that’s just marvellous too. My confidence now is a relatively new thing and stems entirely from realising that I genuinely don’t give a fuck what the average person in the street thinks I look like, an epiphany that came too late to stop me turning down all sorts of fun situations, both debauched and wholesome. If I could speak to my younger self it would only be to reassure him that he wasn’t a gargoyle and to encourage him to cut his hair short a bit sooner. Nowadays, although admittedly I am prone to periods of introspection when the right person says the wrong thing, I just don’t care. Try it – focus only on those that matter.

Heavy stuff, but then, so am I – I’ve battled with my weight all my life, alternating between one extreme to the other as a hairy Schrödinger’s Fat. When I’m skinny I miss my belly and when I’m fat I miss my toes. At the time of writing I’m back at the stage where you’d deliberate over getting into a two-man tent with me, but I’m happy enough with that. I’m rarely cold and I’m told my gently bobbing boobs are wonderful to sleep upon, plus, I’m now at the age where I can grow a beard, get a paw-print tattoo and market myself as a bear in the gay world. That’s where the cubs part of twochubbycubs is from, by the way – a cub is a young, hairy gay bloke.

I suppose, given I’m now handing over to Paul for his bit, a little about the other, better half of me. I rag Paul out something terrible on here, always making jibes about his weight or his laziness or his inability to order food without embarrassing himself or his insistence on voiding his bowels whenever we go anywhere or his silly rollerskate car or the fact he owns eighteen lumberjack shirts of varying shades of green and blue or the terrifying truth that his mother looks like Zelda from Terrahawks eight months into a meth addiction or the fact he still can’t tie his laces properly and ducks them into the side of his shoes or even that he literally only listens to Tracy Chapman or the small detail of his whistling nose when he sleeps or, whilst we’re here, the fact he chuckles to himself in deep slumber whenever he breaks wind and let’s not forget whilst we’re on a roll the slight vexatiousness of his incapability of making a decision and for good measure can we please talk about the fact he will nod agreement to anything I say and then say what afterwards the same way my nana used to or even the little way he gets himself literally addicted to Sinex Micromist leaving our bedside table awash with camphoric vapour, but I truly can’t imagine a life without him. He rolls (usually buttered) with all my verbal punches and not a single day goes by without him making me laugh. He’s a good egg, both metaphorically and physically, though I take pains not to let any of you know lest you steal him away.

JX

twochubbycubs: Paul (the cook)

Oh bloody hell, my go. Okay, well, I’m Paul – 34, five foot something and I guess you could describe me as the brains, body and face of the blog. I’m much more a ‘behind the scenes’ kind of guy so as much as you might see James pouting away on the feed, I’m lolloping around there somewhere, likely scraping out the crispy bits from the bottom of the Actifry and grinding multivitamins into his tea. As you’ve probably heard us say loads of times I’m the ‘cook’ and do most of the ‘recipe development’ if we’re going to go all fancy-dan about it. I make the stuff, then James goes on and makes everything look pretty, and serves it all directly into your brain. I think it’s a perfect partnership that works amazingly well, even if I do spend 20% of my time trying to bore a hole into the back of James’ head with my eyes for not using bin liners.

I grew up in a boring little village practically in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sugar beet and burning pig carcasses. Growing up I wanted to be a wrestling team’s ‘relief’ but Connexions didn’t have a leaflet for that, so instead I went with my second choice to work doing the lights for travelling concerts. Of course, being me and scatty and mashed on 20/20 I ended up doing fairly tedious admin jobs until I found a job I actually love doing. Favourite colour? Green. Favourite singer is of course my Tracy Chapman. Voice of angel and the only woman I’d turn for.

As you may be able to tell I’m really quite shy so talking about myself doesn’t come easily. I work full-time in a hospital doing all sorts of things that are tremendous fun but will make your eyes glaze over if I explained it to you. All you need to know is that I look just as dumpy in a pair of polyester scrubs as I do in real life. Imagine an apple crumble poured into a sandwich bag. I suppose I’m a bit more stoic and practically-minded than James – I tend to just get on with things whereas he’ll dream up ideas. Again, together, I reckon we make it work really well. We’re excited to see where twochubbycubs go from here. It’s amazing but a weird feeling to think that just a few years ago we were pulling together these blog posts to share with you all – taking photos on an old iPad in our shitty beige kitchen on our black Wilkos dinner plates. Some of our early stuff makes me cringe so hard my urethra burns, but then going through them it’s brilliant to see how we developed and grew into what we are now. It’s like an html version of marking your kids height on a doorframe.

We might not be the biggest or the best, but damn it, I reckon we do alright – and if you’re reading this I hope you do too! I started all of this not being a confident cook at all – I could barely cook a tin of beans – but just gradually, over time, the more I did the basic things like chopping an onion (without lopping off a fingertip) and searing some beef (without it becoming cremated) we got a bit better and a bit better. To think that we’ve now got cookbooks is something I NEVER would have thought would happen. But here we are! Cooking is something that had never really been of any interest to me and most definitely wasn’t anything that came naturally. The blog was borne out of James’ need to write (and my need for him to be away from under my feet) so to share the labour I’d agree to at least attempt to cook, while he wrote the spiel around it and so the cookery part was pure necessity. Having twochubbycubs means that I’ve been able to learn, entirely from scratch, a brand new skill, and I’m so grateful for it. I’m hoping I get to also grow a heaving bosom like wor Nigella.

Unlike James I’ve been fat all of my life, never really venturing outside of the ‘obese’ category until recently when we went on This Time Next Year. After always being a big boy I find it really difficult to get out of the mindset and bad habits. Having this blog and all of our various challenges over the years has allowed me to find a good routine that works for me, and although I’m not perfect at sticking to it I’m getting better. At the very least, I know exactly what *doesn’t* work for me which is about half the battle. A combination of lockdown, long COVID, living in a hotel and just general ennui means I’ve fallen off the wagon quite a bit, but I’m working back to get to where I was. Learning where you go wrong and getting back on track is all part of the process.

So, yes. That’s me. You won’t see or hear much of me but I am here, beavering away! You’ve got a much better bit of eye candy in James anyway so enjoy it as much as I do. He’s got a lovely arse. For all that we bicker sometimes he’s the cherry to my Lambrini and I couldn’t be without him and twochubbycubs just wouldn’t be here without him and his genius ideas, and actually being the one that gets things from our hob out there to you, which he does almost single-handedly. And for that, I have now almost forgiven him for giving me the clap on our first date.

PX


Still with us and haven’t managed to bring your dinner up yet? Here’s us through the ages!

OK, that’ll do pig, that’ll do. If you want to read the full article and have some time to spare, take a look here.

Let’s do the recipe then: I present roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta!

roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta

roasted pepper, chorizo and mushroom pasta

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 2 massive portions

If you wanted to make this a veggie recipe (and syn free), you could easily leave out the chorizo. We add chorizo to everything because we're filthy slatterns and honestly I'd brush my teeth with it if I didn't think my dentist would bang me out for it.

Paul doesn't like mushrooms as a rule but is absolutely fine with them in this.

This is another recipe from Hello Fresh that we've adjusted slightly for Slimming World. We're using Hello Fresh whilst our house is being rebuilt and honestly, we love it. If you want to give them a shout follow this link and you'll get £20 off, and also send £20 our way too! We're back home within a month - our own recipes will resume soon - but this way we don't need tonnes of space in our hotel room for all the kitchen bits!

Ingredients

  • 150g of mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 200g of spaghetti
  • two large red peppers, sliced thinly
  • one tsp of garlic puree
  • 50g of chorizo, diced (6 syns)
  • one tbsp of tomato puree
  • one tin of chopped tomatoes with garlic
  • bunch of chives, chopped
  • 100ml of water with a vegetable stock cube in it 

Instructions

  • heat the oven to 200 degrees
  • pop the pepper slices in a bowl with a little bit of oil, tumble them about and then spread onto a tray for the oven, coating with a good dash of salt and pepper - roast them for twenty minutes, turning halfway
  • meanwhile, cook your spaghetti until cooked and drain
  • in a large frying pan (no oil, use the chorizo oil), cook the mushrooms and chorizo until the mushrooms are softened and golden brown and the chorizo cooked
  • add the garlic, tomato purees, tomatoes and stock
  • simmer until thick and glossy, about five mins
  • add the roasted peppers and cooked pasta and stir like the absolute buggery - you want everything coated
  • serve, topping with cheese (if you want) and the chives

I know, we're fabulous.

Notes

Recipe

  • leave out the chorizo if you want a veggie or syn free version
  • swap chives for chilli flakes if you prefer heat
  • add sundried tomato paste if you want to ramp up the tomatoey-ness of it - I don't know it's that is a word, but I don't care, so you crack on young lady

Books

  • our new cookbook is getting rave reviews but then, of course it is: 100 slimming recipes to help you save time and feed your family - order yours here! 
  • our first slimming cookbook can be also ordered now – 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!

Tools

Courses dinner

Cuisine Italian I guess, but who can say?

Snazzy!

Want more pasta recipes? Sure thing sugarboobs:

Swallow that!

J