Chicken and Leeks in Blue Cheese Sauce


I have a leek fetish. I could literally eat them every day of the week

Chicken and Leeks in Blue Cheese Sauce is a brilliant weeknight meal from Pinch of Nom, requiring only 5 base ingredients and just 5 minutes prep time. Just what you need after a long day at work.

Chicken and leeks are an excellent combination and this recipe will only set you back 214 calories, meaning you have plenty of leeway to add some mash / new potatoes and/or vege as an accompaniment. If you like this, then try creamy chicken and tarragon pots with rosemary potato wedges which is equally divine.

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Hot and Sour Soup – just 98p per serving


Less than 100 calories and under a £1 per serving

Having dour, tinned soup when on a diet can be enough to send people over the edge. The ‘healthy’ supermarket options are as dull as dishwater, whereas the more interesting varieties are often laden with sugars. Home-made soups, like Hot and Sour Soup from Pinch of Nom, is far more enticing and really good for you at less than 100 calories per serving.

If your fancying a Chinese, why not have this as a starter followed by sweet and sour chicken, yeung chow fried rice or chicken satay? In total, you could have a fakeaway bonanza for less than 500 calories!

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Veggie Tacos


This tastes great, but you will fart afterwards!

Veggie Tacos from the Hairy Dieters is an absolute feast that even hardened meat eaters should try. My teenage son still thinks vegetables are from the devil, but thankfully loves all types of beans so he’ll happily demolish these tacos without protest. There is a fair amount of prep involved beforehand, but you should have some leftovers for the next day as this will serve 4 generously. And if it doesn’t, what are you doing? You’re supposed to be on a diet ;-).

Wondering what to do with the leftover produce? Use the kale to make cajun prawn and kale salad or scrambled cajun eggs with spinach and eggs. For butternut squash, try butternut squash pilaf, beef kofta curry (gorgeous!), curried butternut squash and apple soup or home-made butternut squash tortellini. Right, that should keep you busy! I’m off.

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(Lighter) Chicken Korma


Check out the ‘Fakeaways’ section of this blog for more of your favourites

Chicken Korma from the Hairy Dieters is a family-favourite ‘fakeaway’, perfect for kids or curry wimps who can’t stand a bit of a heat and prefer milder flavours. Even if you like your curries HOT, you’ll still appreciate the variety of spices which make up this recipe. It may seem like a lot of ingredients, particularly if you’re buying them in from scratch, BUT you will return to them again and again.

For some of the more irregular spices, tumeric can be used in sweet potato saag aloo and creamed spinach with eggs, while saffron can be found in cauliflower and chicken pilaf and chicken biryani. Traditional Indian restaurant kormas are calorific as they are loaded with cream, whereas this lighter version only contains 3 tablespoons of double cream and just 294 calories per portion, without rice or naan bread.

Fancying a mild curry with fewer ingredients? Then the nation’s favourite, chicken tikka masala, is for you.

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Cheesy Leeks on Toast


This is way better than bog-standard cheese on toast IMO

Leeks? Tick. Cheese? Tick. Cheesy Leeks On Toast from Pinch of Nom…….? Massive tick! I had my reservations before making this, but what a simple and lip-smacking brunch / lunch meal it turned out to be with some mustard dolloped on top.

Providing you use appropriate Parmesan and Cheddar cheese, this meal is suitable for vegetarians. I must confess, I wasn’t familiar with what xanthan gum is, but it’s a thickening agent most typically used in baking that you can buy in some supermarkets – I got mine from Tesco. You could use cornflour as a substitute, but it won’t thicken and bind the ingredients as well.

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Monte Cristo Sandwich


Just make a ham and cheese toasty and be done with it

Monte Cristo Sandwich is Pinch of Nom’s lower-calorie take on the French classic, croque monsieur. Or, in my attempt, a crap cheese and ham toastie with a few extra ingredients. I like the fact that sandwiches don’t have to be off limits when you’re on a ‘diet’, but I don’t like the potential food wastage making this involves – 3 spinach leaves, 1 cherry tomato, ½ a spring onion. It was enough to get my knickers in a twist wondering about what to do with the leftovers!

I don’t think it helped that I burnt it and singed my hand when trying to flip the sandwich over, but then again I am clumsy personified at times in the kitchen. Pinch of Nom suggest having this for breakfast, I think it’s better suited to brunch or lunch.

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Gammon and Pineapple Stir Fry


Gammon in a stir fry? Wonders never cease

I had some gammon leftover after making campfire stew and was scratching my head as to what to do with it. After doing some digging online, I stumbled across Gammon and Pineapple Stir Fry on the Diabetes UK website.

I wouldn’t associate gammon with a stir-fry, or being suitable for people with diabetes, but at only 174 calories per serving, and 6.4g of fat, 8.3g of sugars and 1.80g of salt, this fits the brief for a quick and healthy meal that is suitable for all. As for the taste, I loved it, mainly because I’m OCD about food waste and we had all of the ingredients to hand. On the other hand my wife was non-plussed, which I guess means we’re not having it again ;-).

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Campfire Stew


Try making this around a camp fire, I dare you

Requiring approximately 20 ingredients, Campfire Stew from Pinch of Nom is a meal that you’ll never make over a campfire. But sarcasm aside, this is one hell of a pot full that can be made in the oven, a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. Below is the oven method (which can take up to 3 hours), but you’ll find the other methods in Pinch of Nom’s debut book.

Some of you might better know this dish as ‘Cowboy Stew’. Whatever you call it, it’s not one you forget because there is literally something in this meal for everyone. The melt in your mouth gammon, the beans, the varieties of vegetables and the subtle spices. An absolute feast, and all for just over 400 calories. Once all the ingredients are in a casserole dish, all you need to do is check every 30 minutes or so to make sure it isn’t drying out and give things a stir, but mine contained plenty of liquid at the end of the cooking time.

You rarely see gammon based recipes in healthy eating cookbooks, so Campfire Stew made for a welcome and satisfying change. If you want an alternative gammon recipe, check out gammon with parsley sauce, which was too random for me but you might like it.

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Cobb Salad with blue cheese dressing


NO ONE is going hungry after eating this

Cobb Salad from Justine Pattison is an amazing, belly-busting US salad which will provide a filling lunch as well as a main evening meal. It’s great with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or a blue cheese dressing which you can make in a couple of minutes using light mayo, buttermilk or fat-free natural yoghurt, white wine vinegar, Roquefort cheese (or any blue cheese will do) and a dash of salt and pepper.

Struggling to remember the ingredients? As Justine says, just think ‘Eat Cobb’ – egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon and beetroot. My mouth is watering just typing this! One of the most satisfying, healthy salads you’re likely to have.

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Smoky Pancetta Cod


One pan, ready in 15 minutes

Smoky Pancetta Cod from Jamie Oliver might not be cheap, but it only uses 5 base ingredients and is one of the best midweek dinners I’ve made that can be ready in just 15 minutes. Seriously, when’s the last time you rustled up a meal as quick and as good as this, for less than 350 calories per portion?

I used prosciutto instead of pancetta based on what I had in my fridge, but you could also use smoked bacon or parma ham. Any white fish will also do, so just use whatever you can get your hands on. If you like the concept of cod being wrapped in something, check out roasted cod with parma ham and peppers which takes a bit longer to cook but is equally a brilliant evening meal.

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Fresh Fruit Compote with Home-Made Granola


You’ll never go back to supermarket cereals after sampling this

Ok, so there’s a few ingredients and a fair bit of prep work to do in advance, but Fresh Fruit Compote with Home-Made Granola from the Hairy Dieters offers such a healthy and brilliant start to the day. As most people know by now, granola and muesli supermarket cereals are loaded with sugar, but this home-made version topped with fresh fruit and a dollop of yoghurt is infinitely more satisfying.

It will easily provide 6 servings and the cost, at £1.43 per portion, would be considerably more expensive if you bought this from a coffee / café outlet. If you’re going to embark on a healthy eating plan, why deprive yourself when you can enjoy fresh food as luxurious as this?

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Mussels with Leeks and White Wine


If you’ve never tried mussels before, this is the recipe for you. Divine.

Prior to lockdown, one of my Saturday rituals was having a lazy stroll into town and buying fresh mussels from my local fishmonger. They are one of my favourite seafoods and very cheap at a cost of about £4 for 1kg. The Hairy Dieters feature three mussel-based dishes across their seven healthy eating books (check out Fast Food and Make it Easy for the other recipes), but Mussels with Leeks and White Wine from their first book is the best, in my opinion.

Leeks and white wine are a fabulous combination, and adding the mussels to the bowls with the creamy sauce is just begging to be mopped up with a piece of crusty bread. If you’re watching your calories go easy on the bread though, if you can. And if you can’t, well, your belly is going to be very satisfied and that’s what food should be about.

I love to have these on Saturday afternoons, washed down with the rest of the white wine. Heaven.

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Prawn Foo Yung


This is why Chinese takeaways will never go out of business

“Can I have Prawn Foo Yung?” said no one, ever, when ordering from a Chinese takeaway. But this low-calorie version from the Hairy Dieters is one of the healthiest ‘fakeaways’ you can have at just 264 calories per serving. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but nor can anyone else because no one chooses prawn foo yung, right?

I apologise if I’ve offended any “foo yungers” reading this. What is this recipe like and how did it find itself on my table? Well, it was Friday evening, there wasn’t a lot in my fridge and I was fancying something quick and easy to rustle up. I had some leftover cabbage after making home-made coleslaw to accompany Sticky Chicken earlier in the week, and as part of my ‘no food waste’ crusade I was determined to make it go further. I’ve usually got some eggs, carrots and prawns in the fridge and hey presto, possibly the dullest Chinese fakeaway was created in less than 20 minutes.

On the positive side, this takes less than 5 minutes to cook once you’ve done the required bit of prep work. It tastes pretty ok as prawn and eggs go, and you can have it on the table in a flash. An imperfectly perfect Friday night meal so you can stay on track with your diet and not resort to calling Just Eat.

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Buffalo Skins


Buffalo Skins is suitable for vegetarians, honest

You tend to think of loaded potato skins as being really unhealthy and invariably they are. In contrast, Buffalo Skins from Pinch of Nom are a revelation – just 68 calories per spud, really tasty and these can be enjoyed by vegetarians, too.

This recipe went down well with my wife, son and daughter who is a vegan. Personally, I wasn’t happy with my execution of it. Some of the sweet potatoes were still hard after 10 minutes in the microwave, so as the book suggests it’s a good idea to check and, if necessary, leave them in for longer. And as a result of the potatoes being hard, it was trickier to scoop out the flesh which in the end made for a frustrating exercise.

If you love the concept of this, check out Pinch of Nom’s first book as they have a calorie friendly bacon and potato skins recipe in it, which I’ve yet to try but it looks great. Alternatively, cajun sweet potatoes by Jamie Oliver is a doddle to make, even for me.

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Grapefruit, Avocado and Bacon Salad


154 calories, just 5 base ingredients, ready in under 20 minutes

Grapefruit, Avocado and Bacon Salad from the Hairy Dieters is best enjoyed immediately after you’ve made it, as the ingredients can go soggy if you leave them in a lunch box. The tangy flavours and the contrast in textures make this really interesting but be warned, prepping the grapefruit and avocado can be a messy job!

You can buy pre-prepped grapefruit segments in cans or cartons, which I might opt for if making this again. It’s not that I’m bone idle (honest), my knife skills are just crap and the grapefruit was butchered by the time I’d finished with it.

If you love zingy salads like this, I’d whole-heartedly recommend quinoa, prawn and mango salad, also from the Hairy Dieters.

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Chicken Satay – for under 300 calories!


Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off. This is worth the effort

Chicken Satay from Pinch of Nom’s debut book had long since caught my eye. However, the long list of ingredients (23), some of them more unusual (Alpro coconut drink and powdered peanut butter), meant that it kept slipping off the menu. But eventually I decided to bite the bullet and I’m so pleased I did – this recipe tastes absolutely gorgeous.

You can save yourself some stress by prepping the satay sauce in advance. The chicken stir-fry part cooks quickly and the rest of the time is spent simmering everything in the sauce. Don’t be tempted to use regular peanut butter – 4 tablespoons of the full-fat variety will bump the calories up considerably! I struggled to find low-fat peanut powder, but eventually sourced it from Asda. I believe Aldi and Waitrose sell it as well. It is expensive for what it is, but it’s genuinely worth buying it for this brilliant dish alone.

The calorie count is just 293 per serving. It will serve 6 generously with a small portion of rice. I didn’t bother because, as regular readers will know, I don’t find rice very nice.

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(Healthy) Cottage Pie


A healthy take on a British pub classic

I tried every possible excuse to put off having Cottage Pie from the Hairy Dieters, but after an overexuberant supermarket shop I happened to have every ingredient in to make this. So, what was the problem? I dunno, it just didn’t excite me, plus the notion that this would serve 6 to 8 people seemed somewhat fanciful. 6 is a stretch, but 8 is just not funny when you’re hungry.

“You’ve turned into a food snob,” said my wife. “It’s not that, I just can’t be arsed spending up to two hours in the kitchen,” was my retort. Ok, 2 hours is me being flippant as most of the cooking time is done on the hob and finished off in the oven.

But what about the taste? Do you know what, this is actually a really good, hearty meal. If someone served me this, I’d be delighted, however the prep and length of cooking time is a bit of a slog so I won’t be in a hurry to endure this again. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives on ‘traditional’ pub classics, I’d opt for Rich and Meaty Bolognese, Chilli Con Carne or Sausages and Rich Onion Gravy which require less fuss to rustle up and offer more generous portion sizes.

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Tandoori Salmon with Mango Salsa


Goodness on a plate

Tandoori Salmon with Mango Salsa from Pinch of Nom is just perfect for summer evenings when you want to tuck into something healthy and fresh without stuffing your face. You only have to look at your plate to know that this is a well balanced meal, bursting with flavour from the spices which coat the salmon and the tangy salsa.

I had some broccoli leftover in my fridge which I used to bulk this out, but you can use any small serving of steamed veg if you’re feeling peckish. This is a great salmon-based dish but my personal favourite is still Salmon with Chilli Ginger Sauce. Both would make excellent additions to your healthy eating plan.

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Turkey Chilli with Cauliflower ‘Rice’


Name me a worse fad than cauliflower ‘rice’

I can’t get enough of turkey at the moment, and I love a chilli, so making Turkey Chilli with Cauliflower Rice from the Hairy Dieters seemed like a no-brainer. A lot of spices go into this and the chipotle paste adds some further heat. However, one thing I couldn’t taste was the dark chocolate, so you might want to up the quantity (the recipe states 15g) but remember that you’ll also need to up the calorie count from 300!

Cauliflower ‘rice’ has become fashionable but still seems a pointless aversion to me. But undoubtedly it does keep the calories down compared to proper rice. If you’re seeking a quicker, arguably tastier alternative, check out the Hairy Dieters’ Speedy Turkey Chilli from their Make it Easy book.

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Turkish Turkey Flatbreads


Turking the piss – ready in under 20 mins and less than £1 per portion (if serving 4)

Turkish Turkey Flatbreads from the Hairy Dieters is a quirky and deceptively filling snack / lunch. It’s a bit like a spicy Turkish slice of pizza, not that I’ve ever tried Turkish pizza before but hopefully you know what I mean! Even if you don’t, give this a go because it’s really scrumptious and ready in a flash.

Pine nuts are very expensive for what they are, so I don’t they are essential for this recipe. But if you’re wondering what to do with the rest, try making Baked Sea Bass with Peppers and Pine Nuts which is a gorgeous dinner. As for any leftover turkey mince, then Speedy Turkey Chilli or Turkey Lettuce Wraps are great options.

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