Boiled eggs with asparagus soldiers


Asparagus soldiers

As a self-confessed ‘bacon and egg man’, I scoffed at Justine Pattison’s Boiled Eggs with Asparagus Soldiers recipe for breakfast or brunch. But when my wife Ann-Marie, who had bought a load of asparagus in and then did nothing with it, said she was fancying this for a change I duly became the dutiful husband.

And….although it seemed slightly pretentious on my dining room table, there’s no denying this is an enjoyable meal (with or without toast), choose whatever time of day you have it. But personally, I prefer Poached Egg, Smoked Salmon and Spinach when I fancy a more luxurious treat. Continue reading “Boiled eggs with asparagus soldiers”

Cauliflower (and chicken) Pilaf


Cauliflower pilaf

Some dishes don’t turn out as well as they look in a book and sadly Cauliflower (and chicken) Pilaf from the Hairy Dieters was a disappointment to me. Undoubtedly, some of this was down to ‘user error’. I used a stick blender rather than the recommended food processor to blend my cauliflower rice which was a complete disaster. Pomegranate seeds, which you can buy in packs from supermarkets, were a poor substitute for an actual pomegranate, and my son couldn’t get to grips with removing some of the whole spices in the dish which aren’t supposed to be eaten.

Overall, both cooking and eating this after a day at work proved stressful, partly due to my own incompetence and also a lack of patience – it proved far too faffy and the suggested 30 minute time to have this on the table seems unrealistic. I wouldn’t write this recipe off entirely, there are a lot of powerful flavours within it, so perhaps you’ll fair better than me if you try it. Continue reading “Cauliflower (and chicken) Pilaf”

Chicken Chasseur with celeriac purée


chicken chasseur

Chicken Chasseur is a French classic dish which slowly cooks chicken, tomatoes and white wine in one pan. You may also have heard it referred to as ‘Hunters Chicken’. In this healthy version, The Hairy Dieters suggest serving it with celeriac puree as a lower-cal alternative to mashed potato.

Overall, it worked pretty well, apart from me having to use red wine instead of white because I’d downed a bottle of white wine the night before whilst bemoaning everything associated with COVID-19. In my hazy state, I figured that my teenage son Will wouldn’t notice if I substituted celeriac for his preferred mash as the juices and sauce would mask the taste. It was a case of wishful thinking due to celeriac having such a distinctive flavour and Will’s palette being more sensitive than a vegan on Facebook. Continue reading “Chicken Chasseur with celeriac purée”

Crispy Turkey Chinese Wraps – who needs aromatic duck?


Chinese turkey wraps

I absolutely love aromatic crispy duck from my local Chinese takeaway, however it’s so high in calories that I have to give it a wide berth to avoid becoming, well, wider! Crispy Turkey Wraps from Pinch of Nom is therefore an inspired low-calorie alternative to duck which tastes surprisingly authentic.

I was a little overzealous in reducing down the sauce which made it thicker than intended. Next time, I’ll follow Pinch of Nom’s tip to reheat with a couple of tablespoons of water to loosen. This is a perfect meal to throw together for lunch and is easy-peasy to make. Continue reading “Crispy Turkey Chinese Wraps – who needs aromatic duck?”

Southern-Style Jambalaya – a one-pan feast from Louisiana


Southern style jambalaya

Southern-Style Jambalaya, heralding from Louisiana USA, not Essex, is a proper feast from the Hairy Dieters that combines loads of protein and vegetables in one-pan. It contains some of my favourite food – chicken, chorizo and prawns, and pays homage to some lesser regarded items such as celery and green peppers which help to bulk this filling meal out.

While there a lot of ingredients in this, a number of them are spices, which you’ll use over and over again if following a healthy eating plan. And even if you’re not, just make this anyway because it tastes absolutely fantastic. Continue reading “Southern-Style Jambalaya – a one-pan feast from Louisiana”

Chilli Salad Bowls – ‘pick and mix’ with tacos


Chilli salad bowls

I’ve recently started buying 750g packs of minced beef from a butcher to make the likes of Rich and Meaty Bolognese, Chilli Con Carne and Enchiladas for my family. The quality of the produce (in comparison to supermarkets) is superior, but it invariably leaves me with a quandary over to what to do with any remaining mince. Sure, I could freeze it, but instead I decided to have a bash at making Chilli Salad Bowls from the Hairy Dieters for an alternative ‘pick-and-mix’ lunch.

The recipe states that you can use taco shells which are less in calories rather than tortillas, which is exactly the route I took to save on…. prep time, not calories. That would be a crazy idea, right? ;-). To my delight, these went down really well with my wife and teenage son, who loves anything that tastes like Doritos. If you have kids that are similar, then Tortilla Chilli Pie might be the recipe for you. Continue reading “Chilli Salad Bowls – ‘pick and mix’ with tacos”

Rich and Meaty Bolognese – ‘spag bol’ for less than 200 calories


Rich and Meaty bolognese

Rich and Meaty Bolognese, a low-cal take on ‘spag bol’ from the Hairy Dieters, is a brilliant dish which is only 200 calories per portion IF you swap pasta for cabbage. ‘Why would I want to do that?’ you may ask. Well, it depends how serious you are taking your diet and furthermore, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might struggle to get your hands on some pasta right now!

I made this with some well-seasoned cabbage recently and it wasn’t that bad. In fact, I’ll go a step further, I enjoyed it, even if cabbage does make you fart ;-). But it’s a small sacrifice to make to eat something as good and as healthy as this. If you’re wondering what to do with leftover cabbage, give Sticky Chicken a go and use the cabbage to make some home-made coleslaw. You won’t look back! Continue reading “Rich and Meaty Bolognese – ‘spag bol’ for less than 200 calories”

Mediterranean Beef Burgers – get the BBQ / ‘barbie’ on now!


Meditteranean beef burger

There’s a definite knack to making Mediterranean Beef Burgers by the Hairy Dieters, but once you master it you’ll never return to supermarket burgers again. Firstly, follow the recipe carefully and only use a small courgette otherwise your burger will be overpowered by too much of the green stuff! Secondly, after you’ve mixed the ingredients in a bowl, use a stick blender to blend everything together and then form your burgers with wet hands so nothing sticks.

Use good quality reduced-fat mozzarella rather than Cheddar or any other cheese for your topping, and don’t forget to include the sliced tomato, basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar which really enhances the flavour. Finally, cook your burgers gently and slowly in a frying pan, griddle pan or, like me, on your gas barbecue. If you’ve got time, pop them in the fridge to ‘firm up’ before you cook them. If you follow these instructions you’ll be left with a juicy, tasty and, above all, much healthier burger to savour.

Feel free to omit the ciabatta roll to save on calories and replace it with home-made chips if you like. Get the ‘barbie’/ ‘BBQ’ on now!! Continue reading “Mediterranean Beef Burgers – get the BBQ / ‘barbie’ on now!”

Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes


Poached egg balsamic tomaoes

There are many things I’m willing to give up when dieting – booze (ouch), chocolate (ok, if I must), crisps (fine, just fine), sweets (oh for f***s sake!), but bacon and eggs isn’t one of them. Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes from the Hairy Dieters is a world away from a traditional British fry-up, but at only 264 calories per serving it’s a pretty good substitute!

I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes, but drizzling balsamic vinegar over them makes them much more edible, in my opinion. As for adding watercress (as the Hairy Dieters suggest) as an accompaniment, no, that just seems like a bridge too far. Continue reading “Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes”

The best cauliflower & broccoli cheese


Cauli broccoli cheese

The Best Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese from Jamie Oliver, his words not mine, might actually be the best cauliflower and broccoli cheese that you can enjoy when watching your weight! Although I’ll concede, this isn’t a recipe I’ve made very often. But this really is a lovely dish, which is given some additional TLC with the crunchy almond breadcrumb topping (not essential if you want to cut down on calories, but recommended).

Jamie suggests this could be a side dish which can serve 8 people. Personally, I think it lends itself better to serving 4 and my wife and I devoured this for dinner and lunch the next day. If you can’t get your hands on fresh produce, don’t worry, as you can use frozen broccoli and cauliflower which are great alternatives to have as back-ups in your freezer when supermarket shelves are bare. Continue reading “The best cauliflower & broccoli cheese”

Warm green bean and feta salad


Feta with peppers and green beans

Warm Green Bean and Feta Salad from Pinch of Nom might sound like a fairly run of the mill lunch, but don’t dismiss it because of its simplicity. This is a banging low-calorie budget meal, full of flavour with the added kick of the chilli flakes which takes just 10 minutes to make. It’s so yummy.

My only criticism is that the quantities are supposed to stretch to 4 people leaving a very small portion. You’re better off ‘doubling up’ and making this for 2 people instead. The calorie count would still only be 222 per serving. Continue reading “Warm green bean and feta salad”

Hash Brown Breakfast Bake – ‘so boring yet so amazing’


Breakfast bake

I have Pinch of Nom to thank for coming up with this brilliant brunch dish which is so easy and cheap to make for only 189 calories per serving! Hash Brown Breakfast Bake includes potatoes, beans and bacon in one-pan, which is sure to be a big hit with the kids, even if this isn’t conventional ‘hash browns’ from McDonalds. The addition of the onion and garlic granules make this really tasty – my only slight faux pas was that I should have baked it for a little longer to make the potatoes on top go golden and crispier.

My teenage son Will,  normally loathed to try anything other than a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast, absolutely loved this. “Dad, can we have this again please? The ingredients are so boring yet it tastes so amazing”. Thanks Will, I think!

Actually, I’ve done the boy a disservice. He also loves Breakfast Omelette Burritos from the Hairy Dieters, but that recipe requires eggs which are harder to come by right now. So it’s fair to assume that he’ll be tucking into Hash Brown Breakfast Bake more often in the coming weeks. Continue reading “Hash Brown Breakfast Bake – ‘so boring yet so amazing’”

Asparagus, Broad Bean and Bacon Salad


Asparagus, bacon and broad beans

We’re coming into British asparagus season (typically 23rd April to 21st June),  so why not take advantage by making Asparagus, Broad Bean and Bacon Salad from the dieters’ phenomenon that is Pinch of Nom. You can rustle this up quickly, or you can spend a few minutes ‘de-podding’ the broad beans to make it look prettier and taste even nicer (which I didn’t have time to do on this occasion).

Asparagus and bacon go well together, making this low calorie salad ideal for spring or summer lunchtimes. If you’re looking for more asparagus inspired recipes, check out Pasta with Summer Vegetables and Parma Ham from the Hairy Dieters. Continue reading “Asparagus, Broad Bean and Bacon Salad”

Spinach, tomato and feta scrambled eggs


Ramsay eggs

I’ve recently fallen in love with Gordon Ramsay’s Spinach, Tomato and Feta Scrambled Eggs. It tastes unbelievably good, costs under a £1 per portion to make and can be ready in under 10 minutes, requiring just 4 base ingredients.

The ingredients in this recipe are a great combination, but do cook the tomatoes slowly so that they start to caramelise. The added bonus with this breakfast is that it comes in at only 239 calories and provides a great start to your day, with minimum fuss required in the kitchen. If you love eggs in the morning like me, check out Menemen (Turkish Eggs) from the Hairy Dieters and Scrambled Cajun Eggs with Spinach and Kale from Tom Kerridge. Continue reading “Spinach, tomato and feta scrambled eggs”

Baked cod with beans, courgettes and chorizo


Cod Tom Kerridge

Tom Kerridge loves filling portions, even when on a diet, but I found his Baked Cod with Beans, Courgettes and Chorizo somewhat overbearing. Two chunky cod fillets, 3 courgettes, a tin of butter beans, a punnet of cherry vine tomatoes with olives and chorizo, for two people, wow. I ended up making this for three but it still felt like a big meal that was lacking in flavour, despite the cod being left for 2 hours to marinate with the sea salt and the smoked paprika.

There were plenty of leftovers, however interestingly the beans, courgettes, tomatoes and chorizo were so much more tastier the day after. Hmm, maybe the flavour juices intensified after being cooked with the fish. Even so, at a hefty cost of over £6 per portion, it’s a recipe I’m unlikely to return to as I believe these ingredients can be put to better and more frugal use. Continue reading “Baked cod with beans, courgettes and chorizo”

Cajun prawn and kale salad – classic US gumbo dish on a diet


Cajun prawns gumbo

I’m slowly working my way through Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight for Good book (I’d recommend it!). Following the success of Scrambled Cajun Eggs, yesterday I decided to continue with the theme by making Cajun Prawn and Kale Salad. This is apparently a classic US gumbo dish originating from Louisiana.

This is a really gutsy salad with bold flavours that fill you up for only 220 calories. I didn’t have all of the recommended ingredients to hand and had to make do with standard king prawns rather than raw tiger prawns, a regular red chilli instead of Scotch Bonnet and I omitted the celery. That did save me a couple of quid in costs, but in contrast the end result wasn’t as good had I followed this recipe to the letter. When life returns to ‘normal’ I’ll be giving this another go. Continue reading “Cajun prawn and kale salad – classic US gumbo dish on a diet”

Scrambled Cajun eggs with spinach and kale – great with hot sauce!


Cajun eggs

If you like to (literally) kickstart your day with a bang, Scrambled Cajun Eggs with Spinach and Kale from Tom Kerridge offers a great spicy wake-up call. I’d never previously been a fan of kale having used it as an accompaniment for soups, but it works brilliantly with eggs and adding a dollop of hot sauce (optional) at the end takes this to a whole new level!

I’m not entirely sure what Tom means when referring to using a ‘light single cream alternative’. So I included some half-fat crème fraiche when making mine, though I’m not sure it needs it. Tom isn’t shy with using bold flavours in his books so I’m looking forward to working my way through his diet friendly recipes. Continue reading “Scrambled Cajun eggs with spinach and kale – great with hot sauce!”

Spicy pork and aubergine curry


Pork and aubergine curry

My recent farm shop delivery was well received but it did throw up some surprises. A green cabbage was substituted for a courgette and butternut squash was swapped for an aubergine. With my OCD-esque food planning menu in tatters, I trawled through my library of cookbooks for inspiration and discovered Spicy Pork and Aubergine Curry courtesy of BBC Good Food.

I’m not a fan of aubergine and would normally use it in a vege curry, or perhaps a moussaka. But there was no way I was going to let it go to waste in times like now. The journey to get to this meal was arduous, but eating it was largely forgettable. It lacked flavour and punch, however the addition of a small portion of basmati rice made it bearable. Unless I’m the recipient of any stray aubergines any time soon this dish is unlikely to feature on my dinner table again. Continue reading “Spicy pork and aubergine curry”

Carrot, sweet potato and coriander soup


carrot and coriander soup

Having struggled to get a supermarket delivery due to the current COVID-19 challenges, I was very grateful to receive a mixed vegetable box from a local farm shop. Within it was a whopping 2kg of carrots and I was determined not to waste a single one of them. Step forward, Carrot, Coriander and Sweet Potato Soup from Justine Pattison.

One pan of this made 6 portions for only 108 calories per serving. It tasted lovely and is so cheap to make – perfect for our budgetary constraints right now. I bet you’re desperate to know what I used the remaining carrots for? No? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. Pan Haggerty Lite, Lean Lamb Hot Pot, a lighter Spaghetti Bolognese by the Hairy Dieters and Prawn Pasta Salad. Continue reading “Carrot, sweet potato and coriander soup”

Lean lamb hot pot


Lean lamb hotpot

There are now over 50 recipes on this blog so it was high time that I featured one containing lamb. Lean Lamb Hot Pot from the Hairy Dieters is a comforting meal that is simple to put together, and although cooking this takes up to 1 hour and 45 minutes (do keep an eye on your pan so it doesn’t stick!), the oven does most of the work.

Given the relatively high cost of good quality lamb, and the time it takes to braise the meat, outside of a traditional Sunday dinner lamb rarely features on my menu. But the benefits of being on ‘lockdown’ (if I can label it in this way!) mean that l can make stews like this now that daily life as we know it is less chaotic.

Though naturally higher in calories compared to beef and chicken, it is possible to eat a nourishing meal including lamb for under 500 calories so you can stay on track with your diet. Both the Hairy Dieters and Justine Pattison in her ‘Without the Calories’ series of books feature a variety of lamb recipes so check them out. I’ll try and get round to featuring some of them on here eventually. Continue reading “Lean lamb hot pot”