Spiced Mango Pork Steaks


By deliberately burning these pork steaks under the grill I was demonstrating my vulnerability

Whoever said pork steaks were ‘boring’ was bang on the money. But with a few spices and a smidgen of imagination they can be transformed into something rather edible. Spiced Mango Pork Steaks by Justine Pattison is one example and this recipe is brilliant for getting nervous / inexperienced cooks into the kitchen.

Making this couldn’t be easier, providing you don’t get distracted watching a football match and leave your pork steaks under the grill for too long (ahem). Serve with new potatoes / mash and some vege, but not that shite microwave in a bag affair, ok?

For variations on this theme, check out pork medallions with a chimichurri sauce, sticky pork ‘ribs’ in barbecue sauce, crispy pork schnitzel with potato salad, mustard pork and sticky pork steaks with coleslaw.

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Lemon and Blueberry Baked Oats


This tastes more like a pud IMO.

I recently had to return to the office for a day and with all kitchen facilities out of bounds due to Covid, I was a bit stumped as to what I could eat. I then had the brainwave of making Lemon and Blueberry Baked Oats from Pinch of Nom. Oats slowly release energy which help to keep hunger at bay for longer, and as the calorie count for this is on the high side at 440 per serving, I figured I might skip lunch rather than have to go out and buy something from a shop.

My masterplan involved getting up at the crack of dawn to bake the oats in the oven, wrap them in foil and then drive to the office where they would still be warm for when I arrived. Genius (ish). But what about the taste? Well….. it was very lemony, as you’d expect, which is fine if you like lemon (I prefer subtle hints of lemon). It also tasted more like a dessert, which is fine if you like desserts, but I’m indifferent towards them and certainly don’t want a pudding for breakfast! So my cunning plan was a bit of a bust.

For ease, I much prefer overnight porridge with juicy berries or crushed berry layered yoghurt.

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Crying Tiger Beef


Easy Tiger! Wash your hands thoroughly after handling chillies, if you forget and rub your eyes then you’ll be crying!

Getting me to have steak without chips, mushrooms and onion rings is quite a challenge but it’s good to vary things up, particularly when you’re trying to shift some timber. Crying Tiger Beef from Pinch of Nom is a fancy name for a traditional Thai recipe using thin-cut steak and a tangy, spicy dressing made from coriander, tomatoes, chillies, spring onion, garlic, fish sauce and either lemon or lime juice. As the name would suggest, it certainly packs a punch!

I really enjoyed this having treated myself to some tasty frying steak from my local butcher. It’s worth paying a bit more for quality meat if you can afford to as supermarket steak tends to be shite. My only criticism of this dish is that I’m not entirely sure where it sits – is it a light lunch or an evening meal served with some rice? I opted for the former.

If you like this, then check out the very similar thai beef salad or chilli steak salad.

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Pizza Pronto


Home-made pizzas are a great cure for lockdown boredom. They taste brilliant, too

Its never been more tempting to order in pizza for a treat during lockdown. But the cost, not to mention the calories, can be damaging to your bank balance and waistline. Justine Pattison’s Pizza Pronto is a brilliant home-made pizza option when you’re looking to cut back but still want something that tastes ‘naughty’.

Tortilla wraps are key to keeping the calories down, and while they clearly taste different to traditional thin / thick crust pizzas, providing you load them with your favourite toppings I bet you won’t even care! As for the toppings, in moderation anything goes here – wafer thin ham / prosciutto, chorizo / salami, pitted green olives / pitted black olives. Hell, you could even swap chopped tomatoes for passata and mozzarella for reduced-fat mature cheddar cheese. Whatever ingredients you’ve got in, chuck them on.

If you want a more ‘no-frills’ home-made pizza option, then go for five-minute pizza which literally does take 5 minutes to prep. And who knows, If you get your family / loved ones involved in making them it might even help to alleviate lockdown boredom. Win-win!!

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Chilli Prawn Pasta


Can you REALLY justify buying a bottle of vodka just for including 50ml of it in this recipe? Yes, yes you can

The Hairy Dieters include two types of Chilli Prawn Pasta recipes within their six healthy eating books. I opted to make the one from their fourth Fast Food book because you can include 50ml of vodka in it. Now, what to do with the remaining bottle? Wahahaha ;-). For reference, you’ll find the other recipe in their more recent ‘Make it Easy’ book.

The vodka is optional by the way, so don’t worry if you haven’t got any, or don’t want to go to the expense of buying in a bottle especially just for this . The meal will still taste great regardless, but the addition of the vodka will bring more depth of flavour to the sauce and balance out the sweetness of the red pepper and the passata.

For other seafood-based pasta recipes, have a look at spaghetti with broccoli & anchovies, spaghetti with prawns and courgettes, pasta with clams and bacon or pasta puttanesca. Or if seafood isn’t your thing, you’re bound to find a more appealing pasta recipe here.

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Pasta Arrabbiata


Can’t cook, won’t cook? At around 50p per portion there’s no excuse for not making this easy pasta dish

I frown when I hear people say ‘they can’t afford to cook’, or worse, ‘I can’t afford to buy healthy, fresh food’. There’s a difference between being genuinely skint, as opposed to not knowing how to cook from scratch. The lines between both statements often get blurred.

Pasta Arrabbiata from Pinch of Nom is a really easy and affordable vegetarian recipe to get even the most nervous and sceptical of cooks into the kitchen. It can be rustled up for about 50p per serving in 30 minutes. Arrabbiata sauce is a traditional Italian, spicy sauce made from garlic and dried chilli peppers. This recipe requires 1 tsp of chilli flakes, but heat freaks might want to up the ante by finely dicing a normal red chilli to give it more of a kick.

If you’re looking for more imaginative vege-based pasta dishes, try courgette caponata pasta or spaghetti on fire (swap the bacon for something vege, or leave it out completely). Or for something a bit quirkier, go for creamy wild mushroom courgetti which, you’ve guessed it, uses courgettes as an equivalent to pasta. For all other pasta recipes, click here.

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(Lighter) French Toast


Less than a £1 per serving for this plate of pleasure

There are many variations of French Toast but some can be particularly high in calories. This awesome lighter version from the Hairy Dieters is under 300 calories and less than a £1 per serving! But best of all, this tastes unbelievable and so indulgent with the apple compote, cinnamon, maple syrup, Greek yoghurt and blackberries dolloped over a slice of eggy bread. Pure heaven!

If you love fruit-based breakfasts / brunches, I’d also recommend fresh fruit compote with home-made granola, which takes longer to prep but is equally gorgeous.

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Coronation Chicken Sandwich Filling


Who would have thought that coronation chicken could be healthy?

Coronation Chicken, if bought from a supermarket, can be really unhealthy. But this alternative sandwich filling suggestion from Two Chubby Cubs is much kinder to your waistline and tastes sensational.

Once your chicken is cooked, it’s just a case of mixing together light mayo, mango chutney and a dash of curry powder together and sprinkling over a few sultanas. Yummy! For more fast sandwich and wraps ideas, check out the relevant section on this blog here.

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Oven-baked Risotto with Smoked Salmon and Peas


Cooking a risotto in the oven? Wonders never cease

Most people love eating risottos, but few love making them because of the laborious cooking process due to standing in front of a cooker stirring and gradually adding stock zzzzzzz. Pinch of Nom’s Oven-baked Risotto with Smoked Salmon and Peas takes the monotony away as most of the recipe can be cooked in the oven on a low setting. Genius and my Mum loved it, always a bonus!

For another less faffy risotto dish, take a peak at chicken and chorizo risnotto. Or for more conventional recipes, try hunter’s risotto, chicken and mushroom risotto and sea bass and miso risotto.

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Creamy Mustard Chicken


Shiitaking the piss? If you have someone in your family who doesn’t like mushrooms, try them with a fancier variety like shiitake, oyster or forestiere

I’d been meaning try to Creamy Mustard Chicken from Jamie Oliver ever since buying his ‘5 ingredients’ book, but my son’s refusal to entertain mushrooms placed this on the backburner. However, I decided to buy some fancy shiitake ones and slice them thinly which thankfully he was prepared to stomach without protest. Progress or just a fluke?

This meal is very quick to make but it does need something else to accompany it. I used up some spare sweetcorn but green veg would work well, or even some cheeky mash if you’re not watching your weight. For other ‘5 ingredient’ inspiration, click here for other ideas.

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Hot-smoked Salmon Wraps


Expensive, but bloody lovely

One of the occupational hazards of running this blog is that I feel compelled to cook meals at lunchtimes to include a variety of recipe ideas, when really all I want to eat is a bog-standard bloody sandwich. But perhaps I’ve been missing the point, both for me and for you.

Sticking to a healthy eating plan is hard. Recipes need to be imaginative enough to capture someone’s interest, delicious to eat, yet simple enough to ensure they remain on track. I think Hot-Smoked Salmon Wraps from the Hairy Dieters fulfils this brief, despite hot-smoked salmon being frightfully expensive.

But this is a fantastic treat, quick and easy to pull together and every mouthful of this wrap is to be enjoyed. For other similar ideas, I’d recommend smoked trout salad (you can use hot-smoked salmon). Or, to quote me, ‘if you just want a bloody sandwich’, check out this section of the blog for some simple ideas.

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Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon Bagel


I could easily eat two of these!

Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon Bagel from Pinch of Nom’s new book (Quick and Easy) is just divine. The flavours are a match made in heaven and these bagels can be enjoyed any time of day – breakfast, brunch or lunch, or even as a snack if you’ve got the munchies! Make sure you get bagel thins though to keep the calories down, alternatively just use half a standard bagel if you can discipline yourself to be good. Personally, I couldn’t!

For other brilliant brunch ideas, you must try scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and the breakfast of kings – poached egg, smoked salmon and spinach. If you’re procrastinating over what to do about any spare dill (it’s ok if you’re not, I’m just sad), then fusion tandoori chicken, Swedish meatballs in gravy and broad bean / chicken and broad bean pilaf are for you!

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Cream of Tomato Soup


This is class with the chive cream, don’t miss it out

Spending 45 minutes to make Cream of Tomato Soup might seem pointless when you can just crack open a tin of Heinz or Baxters, but can we please all agree that tinned soup is shite and loaded with salt? This home-made version from Justine Pattison is ace with a swirl of chive cream and less than 150 calories per serving.

For more super soup ideas, click here.

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Spinach and Paneer Curry


This recipe calls for frozen spinach which needs defrosting and draining

I found Spinach and Paneer Curry from Tom Kerridge faffy to make and the taste a tad overbearing. But it’s certainly a substantial and distinctive meat-free curry, which you can have with or without rice.

If you like paneer, which is a lower fat cheese that holds its texture well, I’d recommend paneer and pea curry and cauliflower, paneer and pea curry. Guess how the two recipes differ? ;-).

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Rich Beef and Ale Casserole


Remember, the ale or stout goes in the dish, not your gob 😉

I’ve been meaning to make Rich Beef and Ale Casserole from the Hairy Dieters since the beginning of the first lockdown. A bottle of dark ale has sat in my drinks cabinet for almost a year, which for a pisshead like me is quite an achievement! I’m not sure why this recipe kept getting bumped down the list. Maybe it’s due to the lengthy cooking time (over 2 hours) and that our preferred option is a Sunday roast accompanied by mash, carrots and parsnips.

But…. this one-pot casserole is a brilliantly comforting meal, perfect for a winter’s day and your oven will do the majority of the work. With some mash, it will feed six people and both our Mum’s loved it. We are trying to provide them with home-cooked meals when we can as they live by themselves. Do take care to cook the casserole on a low oven temperature (exact method below) and occasionally check to make sure the beef doesn’t dry out.

If you want a variation on this theme, then have a go at spicy Mexican beef, rich beef in red wine or beef massaman curry.

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Chicken and Banana Curry


Please note, this recipe does contain nuts (ground almonds)

I thought I’d tried most Indian-based dishes, but Chicken and Banana Curry from Pinch of Nom is a new one for me. This mild, fruity recipe tastes a bit like a Kashmiri which sometimes contain mango and lychee. Or if you’re ordering from my dodgy local curry house a tin of supermarket fruit cocktail, much to my wife’s annoyance as she expects them to use fresh fruit, which always amuses me. In fairness, her gripe is valid when you’re paying over £7 for a main course per person!

The beauty about Pinch of Nom’s ‘fakeaway’ is that it costs as little as £1.27 per serving to make yourself (without rice or naan) and it’s something a bit different. If mild curries are your thing, check out chicken korma, low-cal chicken tikka masala, chicken biryani and chicken bhuna which are all simple to recreate.

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Spaghetti with Broccoli & Anchovies


Keep an eye on the breadcrumbs!!

Despite barely leaving the house, having no social engagements or work commute costs, January has been a tight month financially for us. Intending to finish 2020 with a bang after what had been the shitest year on record, we went overboard on buying generous family Christmas gifts and enough ‘naughty’ food and booze we could consume. I guess I’m fortunate that we were able to do so in the first place.

But this month we’ve been ‘skint’, so I’ve tried to go back to ‘basics’ by making cheap, healthy meals. Spaghetti with Broccoli & Anchovies from BBC Good Food is entirely forgettable, however at around 62p per serving it’s a wonderfully affordable option when you want a thrifty pasta dish.

I loved it, mainly because I had all of the ingredients in. My wife hated it, mainly because I burnt the breadcrumbs. I pointed out she was nitpicking and that they were merely ‘well done’. But yeah anyway…. keep an eye on the breadcrumbs and don’t burn them, ok? If you love pasta and are wondering what to do with any leftover anchovies, then pasta puttanesca is the absolute dish to go for and is also cheap to make.

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Tuna Crunch Sandwich Filling


Nowt fancy but does the job when you’re pushed for time

January is always a tough month. But add a new national lockdown and home-schooling a teenager into the mix and lunchtimes are somewhat fraught in my household, as they are for many people who currently work from home.  So Tuna Crunch sandwich filling from Two Chubby Cubs is a good option if you want a quick, no-frills dinnertime option on the table which will appease the whole family.

The Cubs are a bit loose on the exact quantities of ingredients, so their estimate that this sarnie equates to 322 calories per serving will vary depending on what bread and fillings you opt for. I had two slices of basic white bread and my filling comprised of a tin of tuna in spring water, a chopped green pepper and some finely diced red onion, sprinkled with a dash of balsamic vinegar. But really, anything goes so just use whatever decent salad ingredients you happen to have.

For more fast sandwich and wraps ideas, check out the relevant section on this blog here.

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Mega-Eggybread Club Sandwich Stacks


You’ll need to cut this in half, or even in quarter, if you want to get your chops around this

Mega-Eggybread Club Sandwich Stacks from Two Chubby Cubs feels like a proper naughty treat, but it still comes in at under 500 calories so it’s just the ticket for a lazy weekend brunch / lunch.

To ensure your toastie doesn’t disintegrate when you come to fry it, the Cubs recommend that you make it up the night before, tightly wrap it in clingfilm and then chill in the fridge so the ingredients remain pressed together. This ‘sarnie’ is so tasty with the Dijon mustard and smoked cheese and you could even sprinkle over some chilli flakes if you’re feeling brave. I challenge anyone to still be feeling hungry after scoffing this!

If you want an alternative toastie suggestion, then have a look at monte cristo sandwich which is lower in calories but does require more ingredients.

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Pork Medallions with a Chimichurri Sauce


Chimichurri sauce also goes well with steak

I’m so pleased I purchased the Homgeek Mini Chopper & Food Processor. It set me back just £22, takes up minimal space on my working top and I no longer have to haul my large food processor out from the back of the cupboard and try and assemble it. The Homgeek is brilliant for blending sauces in the blink of an eye and proved perfect for this Pork Medallions with a Chimichurri Sauce recipe from Two Chubby Cubs.

The Cubs do wonderfully simple meals, which might not seem all that upon first reading, but many of their recipes are brilliant and, above all, are easy to make. Make sure you use fresh herbs, good quality garlic and olive oil to make the best chimichurri sauce – a little goes a long way to make your pork medallions sing. In the interests of transparency, I used pork loin steaks for this but pork medallions contain less fat. It’s up to you.

For other simple ways to ‘pimp up’ your pork, check out sticky pork ‘ribs’ in barbecue sauce, crispy pork schnitzel, mustard pork, pork medallions in BBQ sauce and sticky pork steaks with coleslaw.

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