Hello hello! I hope you are all keeping well – cheese and ham boaties await you at the bottom of this blog but I must warn and caution you – please, take a seat first lest your legs go – that today’s blog entry is an awfully long one. See we went off to that Canada place and so a holiday blog follows and you know what I’m like – why take one bottle into the shower when you can take ALL THE BOTTLES. If you’re in the market for a quick, cheap and easy dinner though you will find joy untold in this recipe – so please do scroll until I’ve finished blathering to see it.
OK, if you’re still with me, let’s go!
As you know, I adore writing the travel stories and lord knows it’s been a long time since we have been able to do it. Paul and I travelled to Canada for a month back in 2018 and have ached to go back ever since: it truly is my most favourite place on the Earth. Well, that and the hand car-wash place up in Blyth, but I confess that’s more for the rough-hewn men blundering about with their slick, soapy fingers. It’s hard to drive upside down and with my cheeks poking out the driver-side window but somehow I manage. Canada though: it truly is a country of inexhaustible beauty and surprises and we saw it in the most perfect way, travelling eastwards from Vancouver across the country via trains, planes and automobiles before we ended up in Toronto. Every stop was a delight, every road a wonder. Plus, to tie this to a weight loss blog, there’s parts of Canada where the gravity isn’t as strong as other places on the Earth so those bathroom scales will always be a touch kinder to you. Great for your confidence.
Now because we both ache for times past Paul and I talk of this holiday often, whether it was the time Paul threw his leftover beef stew into the forest behind our campervan in the middle of bear season, the time we decided the best way to combat my fear of turbulent water was to wear a bin-liner and go crashing about the Lachine Rapids of Montreal in a boat held together with duct tape, or perhaps the zip-lining across dizzyingly deep canyons where to this day the sound of ‘aaaaah Paul you absolute cunnnnnnnnn….‘ echoes around the stones. Yet for all the exciting parts, my favourite Canadian memory of all was the night we sat outside our van on the edge of Cowichan Lake, talking and drinking beer with the skies above us awash with stars.
Well, stars and later, smoke, given a good chunk of Vancouver Island had decided to set itself on fire the moment we got off the ferry. I chose not to take that personally.
However, that holiday did end on an unexpected note. We met a bloke for ‘dinner and drinks’ in Calgary who was so taken with my conversational skills (I presume that’s what he meant by great oral) that he flew to Toronto to meet us for the final three days of the holiday. This was fine – we did indeed have an enjoyable time and it was lovely for someone new to have to make pained faces whilst Paul and I shouted at each other – but it did mean we didn’t get to do Toronto the way Paul and I like to approach a new city, that is, walk about and explore and see what happens. I remember standing in a branch of Zara whilst our new friend fussed and minced about trying on coats and feeling unhappy about the holiday ending like it did. To cheer myself up I resolved there and then that Paul and I would return to Toronto ourselves and see what all the fuss was aboot. Then I bought myself a new coat.
Of course, once you’re home and you’ve washed the maple syrup off your knees, such rash promises tend to get forgotten, like when you say you’ll keep in touch with folks you’ve met on holiday and then realise you’d sooner boil your face in a chip pan than listen to their stories without the anaesthetic effect of free hotel liquor. Then something terribly exciting happened: we won a competition. You must understand that this is a miracle in itself: we’ve already won two lotteries between us – me with my looks and Paul with his husband, so we shouldn’t really have expected more. But no, the god of travel and adventure was smiling on us and we won a paid-for trip to a ‘corner of the Earth’ with srprs.me. Incidentally, the god of travel was Hermes, same as the prior name of the parcel company: the absolute irony of naming yourself after the god of travel when the concept of walking down a garden path and knocking on a door is so dizzyingly bewildering to (some of the) couriers never did register with them, did it? That was February 2020 and we were ever so excited to go away.
But of course, no such luck: the world caught COVID and our house caught fire in quick succession and the plans were shelved. We didn’t anticipate srprs.me honouring the competition because lord knows the travel industry has been on its arse for the last two years and quite honestly, had they said it wasn’t going to happen, we would have absolutely understood. But no – they kept in touch, moving the holiday three or four times to accommodate lockdowns and travel restrictions until eventually we settled on a trip at the end of March 2022.
Now, I ought to quickly explain srprs.me to people who are new to the blog or haven’t seen the helpful videos we have done on the process so far. Essentially, they book a surprise holiday for you where you don’t know where you’ll end up – you select a duration and date, star-rating for your hotel, departure airport and any extras and once you’re happy with the price, the agents will take care of the rest. You do not know where you are going until you turn up at the airport and reveal your destination. You can rule out a few cities or, in our case, make a couple of requests – we never want to travel somewhere that isn’t welcoming to LGBTQ+ folks, for example. Plus we wanted somewhere cold if possible, because heat brings out our fussiness. The agents will make sure you have any visa requirements in place and, especially at the moment, they will notify you of what you need in terms of COVID protection too. A week or so before you depart you will be given the forecast for your destination so you can pack accordingly and that, dear readers, is all you will get. We’ve used them a few times before and ended up in Hamburg, Kraków, Bordeaux and Malaga – all in good hotels in the city centre. That, coupled with terrific customer service and the novelty of surprise, make for an excellent adventure.
I should say at this point: we aren’t getting paid to promote srprs.me – just personal experience.
So it was then, after three weeks of putting ourselves in a strict lockdown because frankly if either of us had caught COVID before our holiday I’d have set the world on fire, our holiday was nearly upon us. Two days before departure we were given the chance to hand over £200 between us for the opportunity of doing a COVID test of which we had boxes of at home but this was different because it was Official and Government-approved and definitely not a money making racket, oh heavens no. Don’t get me wrong, the person doing the test was ever so polite, but if I’m paying someone £200 to shove stuff up my nose I expect at least a handie after. Anyway, pipe down James, now isn’t the time to get into that. COVID test clear, and devastation abound that they never called for coffee, we were all set. We dropped my car in the long-stay parking at Newcastle, making sure to note the fact we were parked a couple of miles south of Carlisle, and made to check-in. We would find out our final destination the next day at Heathrow which necessitated a quick flight down the day before, given the only surprise occurring if srprs.me had flown from Newcastle would have been the plane dropping us back off at our house.
Every picture we take together now I look like Paul’s Dad – here I am dropping him off for footie practice with *checks notes* Almirante Brown
Newcastle Airport is a funny place: it always feels spectacularly empty and desolate yet still manages to have queues for the obvious things: security checks, buying a pint in the airport bar, the stottie and string vest exchange. Today was no different save for the fact the British Airways self-check-in kiosks weren’t working and they had drafted a check-in agent to manage the one open desk. Let it be said he was a delight to deal with but he seemed utterly mystified by each person approaching his desk, as though he had only sat down to tie his shoelaces and had somehow been roped into doing a shift. As a result each encounter took approximately four years and the queue didn’t so much stand still as quietly rot. At one point we all joined together to sing someone Happy Birthday and were gearing up to help deliver a queue-baby when we were called forward.
I’ll say this: nothing makes you look more suspicious and curious than answering the ‘where are you flying to’ question with ‘oh I don’t know, we’re going to get a text at the airport with further instructions tomorrow’. That’s probably why I was patted down so thoroughly in security – it can’t just be my devastating good looks, after all.
I do always enjoy the flight to London with British Airways though – it’s a very short flight with barely enough time to gaze out of the window and wonder how they’ve got the nerve to serve what is effectively a fun-size packet of crisps. They took away the free food a couple of years ago to much consternation, then reinstated it recently in tiny miniature form in the interests of improving service. It is a welcome touch, it really is, but I’ve never had crisps served to me in instalments. Paul, a man so wee he described his height as ‘throwable’ on the shag profile that lured me into him, must have felt like a giant. I ate his crisps too, naturally, for we simply can’t have him being spoiled. Cabin crew with British Airways are always utter treasures though, although I do sometimes wonder about the chap we managed to offend on our previous Vancouver flight by asking for his advice on the gay scene. Call it an inkling but the exceptionally dramatic flounce and hurried mince-off suggested we weren’t entirely on the wrong track with our suspicions he would be the right person to ask such an innocent enough question of.
We barely had enough time to take four layers of skin off our lips from the coffee they served (don’t worry, I didn’t waste it – I popped it into the seat pocket in front to give it a chance to cool down enough for my flight back the week after) before we had landed at Heathrow and collected our suitcases, pausing momentarily to argue about whether to get a taxi to our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn at Terminal 2. The argument was short as Paul had spotted a bus service to Terminal 2 which would ‘doubtless’ drop us off near to the hotel and I just needed to ‘trust him’ because he ‘knew what he was doing’ and I was being a fusspot for wanting to get a taxi.
It won’t surprise you at all to learn that this didn’t happen. After a wonderfully exhilarating tour of various cargo warehouses, back roads and catering depots – and you must understand I did welcome the chance to check my car was alright – Paul gamely leapt to his feet at Terminal 2 and alighted the bus, with me making very loud noises of disapproval behind him. I’d spotted our hotel on the drive and it was very clear that we were getting off far too early. Terminal 2 was closed. Our hotel was a good fifteen minute walk along roads and through car-parks and for one arresting moment, across the main bus lanes, and please do imagine how good-spirited and jolly our conversation was as we made our way there.
Paul, to his credit, does usually have a decent sense of navigation and if he makes a mistake, will hold his hands up and admit to it, but not this time: he had pressed his lips so thin it was like someone had drawn his mouth on with a Sharpie and there was no chance of contrition. Once we had checked in to our hotel (making the lady on the desk feel awkward when I requested a good divorce lawyer in response to her breezy ‘can I get you anything else’) we were heading to the lifts when we saw our original bus swoosh past reception. I made to helpfully point this out to Paul but he seemed especially keen to read the lift maintenance record and wouldn’t meet my gaze.
The dinner that saved a marriage
A Ploughman’s lunch in the hotel bar melted the frost between us and we slept very well indeed, this time getting a taxi back to the airport in the morning lest our marriage shattered under the strain of more mishap. After standing outside vaping so much that they had to take two runways out of service, it was time to reveal our destination. On previous trips srprs.me have sent a scratchcard with a code hidden underneath – once the time to unlock your holiday came up, you’d reveal the code, input it into the website and your destination would reveal itself. They’re fancier now: you have to draw an outline of a top hat to unlock it on the app. I let Paul, my very own top-hat, do this, but his forever-slick-with-butter fingers couldn’t do it. We tried every way we could think of before it popped and revealed Toronto as our destination.
We were delighted! We had an inkling we were going to Canada based on the weather reports and our requirements for it to be a gay-friendly place, but even so – very exciting! Unfortunately the ‘surprise selfie’ that the app takes when it reveals the destination is not one for the photo book – I had a giant coffee covering my face and Paul is pulling an expression that if you walked into a room and saw him sat in a chair with this face on, you’d send for an ambulance. Every part of his face looked like it was arguing with its equivalent point on the back of his head. We hastily completed our ‘So You’re Coming to Canada, Ay’ visa requirements (dead easy) and went to check in at the Air Canada desks.
The face of someone who just LOVES not having any control
Catastrophe: the self check-in kiosks weren’t working, and I don’t know if you can remember what the queues were like at Heathrow a few weeks ago, but it made the Newcastle check-in queue look like a line for people wanting to be punched in the bollocks by a disagreeable rhino. If we had all spontaneously started doing the conga we’d have been a shoo-in for the Guinness World Records. We were alright – we had nothing but time – but watching people get increasingly fraught and rude with the airport staff who were doing their best made for a stressful experience.
One braying, hooting family in particular kept loudly announcing that they had a very important skiiing holiday (holidaaaaah) to attend and simply must make their flight, as though everyone else in the queue had just joined it on the off-chance of getting a rosette at the end for good behaviour. When passengers from our flight were called to jump the queue we were given the chance to walk past them and you best believe I took the opportunity to look at them with a ‘I just can’t believe how lucky we are‘ smile. I know it doesn’t do to wear your spitefulness on your sleeve but I do hope a bottle of talcum powder had burst open in her rucksack when they went through security.
Security itself was fast and efficient and thanks to the previous queue at check-in, we didn’t need to wait about to board. The last time we had flown from Heathrow we were off to Tokyo and I had somehow managed to ignore the amount of time it would take to get from the fancy airport lounges to the departure gate, meaning we had to do a full Home Alone-esque sprint through the airport to catch our flight. It’s the little mishaps like that of my own that remind me that I mustn’t be too harsh on Paul. We were flying (as a strict one-off and only because we had so many Avios points) in first class that day anyway so they would have held the plane I’m sure, and if not, the pilot would have nipped back to pick us up. No such luck with our Air Canada flight though: we were sat in economy, in the middle of a row of four. I did have a slight panic as I get claustrophobic if I’m penned in, but luckily we had an absolute DILF on either side so that made climbing over them that much easier. He did touch Paul’s hand at one point and apologised for being married once Paul had ‘gone for some peanuts’ for the eighth time.
The flight was uneventful but very comfortable – about seven hours which by the time you’ve had your dinner, watched a couple of movies and had a doze, passes in no time. I did miss having a window to gaze out of – I love looking down at the world below and imagining all of those people looking up and wondering where we are going. Plus I wanted to check my car was still where I had left it as we flew over Greenland, but no such luck.
The highlight for me on any long-haul flight is the food: there’s something about being served two trays of food (as Paul doesn’t like to eat on an aeroplane as he can get a bit poorly) that utterly delights me. I like never knowing whether to start my meal with a breadbun you could buff scratches out on a car with or a tiny bottle of warm water. Do you leave the salad right at the start or keep it to one side to leave it later? The hot meal was pasta for Paul and a chicken dish for me but once you peeled back the foil and poked inside with a fork, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a difference. I’ve never known food exist in such duality – it was both overcooked and undercooked at the same time. But listen: this sounds like I’m bellyaching, and I’m not: I bloody LOVE aeroplane food and ate the lot. Paul’s lack of appetite didn’t extend to leaving me his chocolate orange ganache however and you best believe his Sharpie-mouth was back when I suggested such a rich treat would be ill-advised for his delicate tummy. Nevermind. They did come round a few hours later to give us a vegetable pasty that they’d been storing on top of the landing gear but even that was delicious, once I’d gummed it like a rusk.
Chicken? Pasta? Beef or cow?
We did have an exciting landing though! It had been snowing a little and very windy at Toronto Airport and we were advised the approach might be a little bumpy. As it happens, it wasn’t, but the pilot didn’t so much land the plane as throw it on the runway and hope for the best. We bounced, skidded and came to a stop with more than one scream, very much like our annual ‘I suppose we had better, if only to run the pipes through’ tender lovemaking we reserve for our anniversary. Of course, as someone who has watched at least four episodes of Air Crash Investigation per week whilst not doing the ironing, I knew this was perfectly routine when there is a risk of slipping on the runway – they land ‘hard’ to make sure contact is made. I explained all of this to the lovely chap sitting next to me as I lifted my teary face from the nape of his neck. Paul’s thin lips were back.
Readers, we were in Canada! And what better place to leave this first entry. I do promise to come back and finish this one because – as you can probably tell by the 3,400 essay about our Canada trip where we have only been in Canada for one sentence of it – I adore writing these. If anything, it’s just nice to have a written account we can look back in a couple of years from our respective homes on opposite sides of the world and reminisce. I’ll be back.
Hiya – y’alright? Got everything you need? If you jumped straight to this bit then well, here’s your recipe and I hope you choke on your cruelty. I jest I jest, do buy our books.
Here we find the cheese and ham boaties all stacked up – lovely
We serve our cheese and ham boaties with beans and a bad attitude
Put chilli sauce or pickle in your cheese and ham boaties for a taste ADVENTURE
Yeah that’s the cheese and ham boaties money shot right there!
cheese and ham boaties (490 calories)
Yield 8 boaties
'ere! I were talkin' and I were talkin' FURST!
I can't tell you how easy these are to make - well I can, it would be a gash blog entry if I couldn't, but if you're looking for something cheap and easy to make then these are the badgers. Customise them to your heart's content - we used shredded ham hock because we had some leftover from a previous recipe. Add extra veg into the mash. Triple the amount of cheese. Hoover the roof! We don't care or mind.
OH! Mustard added is a treat too.
Anyway enough pre-amble: the calories here are for two 'boaties' and as ever, approximate. Your mileage may vary. See the tips bit.
- one packet of the soft stand and stuff El Paso boat thingies you can get some the supermarket, you get eight in one pack and they're smaller than you think
- three large potatoes or a good quantity of leftover mash
- one egg
- two large onions, diced fine
- one teaspoon of garlic puree
- salt and pepper
- 100g shredded ham hock or chopped ham chopped finely, hence the chopped, see
- 125g of extra mature cheese
- make the mash up - either reheating leftovers or chopping your tatties and mashing when soft, making sure to add an egg yolk into the mash with plenty of salt and pepper
- fry off your diced onion in a little oil until softened and golden, adding the garlic a minute or two before the end
- mash everything together - cheese, ham, potato and onions, until well-mixed, but keep some cheese aside to throw on the top
- or do as we do, and just add more cheese - all the cheese, all of it
- pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
- in an oiled baking tray, stack your taco shells and then carefully spoon the mixture inside
- top with the remaining cheese and drizzle with hot sauce if you like
- cook in the oven until the cheese is crunchy on the top
Serve with beans or a salad. Or eat six at once and blame the dog for getting up on the worktop when Paul goes to get an extra one.
- these are perfect for freezing - once they have cooled, take them off the baking sheet, wrap them in foil and pop them in the freezer - they'll need a good thirty minutes in the oven when you go to reheat, or let them defrost overnight and cook for a few minutes or in the microwave
- they're also delicious cold
- twochubbycubs: Dinner Time is our new book and it's out in two weeks and we can not wait for you to see it - it is honestly our funniest, more delicious book yet - you can pre-order here!
- twochubbycubs: Fast & Filling is awash with over 100 tasty, speedy meals for all occasions, all under 500 calories and so bright it'll make your eyes boil: order yours here!
- twochubbycubs: the cookbook is our first book and there's no first child syndrome here - it's the perfect book to start you off: click here to order
- we also have a gorgeous planner to assist with your weight loss: here
- nothing sticks to our non-stick baking sheet - expensive yes, but so am I - this will bring you endless delight, we promise
Disclosure: the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. Which is handy, as it is Goombella's birthday this week and whilst I was content getting him a new chew toy, Paul has decreed he needs to take dog-friendly cakes into work. Called Wuffins. As someone who loves saving money, I'm cross. As someone who loves a pun, I am delighted!
Courses evening meals
Cuisine as I said, evening meals
Well, I think that’s where we can leave this. If you’re after more recipes, please do take a look through our recipe index. It’s achingly out of date but there really is a treasure trove on there!
Know that they’ll be loved.