Sometimes meals containing the simplest of ingredients can turn out to be the best ones. Bacon, Onion and Potato Bake from Pinch of Nom requires only five base ingredients and is brilliant for using up items in your fridge that may have been hanging around.
Do make sure the foil is fitted tightly around your ovenproof dish and get some decent potatoes, such as Maris Piper, which are better at absorbing liquid – you don’t want this meal to be swimming in stock. Also, note that this recipe uses bacon medallions – if you’ve only got regular bacon rashers, make sure all the fat and rind is removed to keep the calorie count down.
If you love this meal you’ll probably also like pan haggerty lite, which is a similar comfort food classic.
Jamie Oliver includes some excellent suggestions for how to use up leftover salmon in his Save with Jamie Book and Silky Salmon Tagliatelle is a luxurious pasta dish that can be ready in about 20 minutes.
Who has leftover salmon you might ask? Not me, so I pre-cooked some salmon fillets in the oven. But I suppose Jamie is appealing to those who cook 1.5kg (approx.) sides of salmon, so this recipe is a good option to rustle up if you have any leftovers from Christmas. The calorie count for this is quite high, but you can reduce it by only serving 50g of tagliatelle per person rather than the (excessive) 80g.
I might sound like a broken record, but chicken drumsticks are excellent value and make for perfect, hassle-free weekend meals. Invariably once coated in your preferred marinade, all you need to do then is bake them in the oven for about half an hour.
Chipotle Chicken and Slaw from BBC Good Food will appeal to heat freaks, but it’s not too hot to put off those who have more sensitive palettes. The slaw, comprising red and white cabbage, avocado, carrot and lime zest is quite fancy, but there are simpler and cheaper home-made recipes, such as sticky chicken with coleslaw.
Sausage Pasta is the first recipe that I’ve tried from Jamie Oliver’s new 7 Ways book, which celebrates 18 much-loved ingredients with some new ideas for every day of the week. There’s a whole chapter devoted to sausages, but this caught my attention because it uses chipolatas which are cheap and lower in calories.
Sausage and fennel are perfect dance partners and this dish really comes together with the dried chilli flakes, plum tomatoes, tenderstem broccoli and Parmesan. Jamie suggests using dried farfalle pasta, but penne would do the job if you can’t get hold of any.
Lemon Chicken with Honey and Rosemary is the first Gino D’Acampo recipe that I’ve featured on this blog and it’s a cracker from the Italian chef turned celebrity. Lemon, honey and rosemary makes for such a delectable combination and they made the chicken drumsticks and potatoes taste delicious after being slowly baked in the oven.
This is such a simple, wonderfully tasting meal that you can make for less than £1 per head. Chicken drumsticks are fantastic value. The ones from supermarkets are ok, but you’ll get more meat for your buck from a butcher if you can afford it.
Is there anything more comforting than a steaming jacket potato when the weather is cold and crappy? The Hairy Dieters include recipes for baked potatoes in their second (Eat for Life) and sixth books (Make it Easy) and they are a handy option to fall back on when you want something easy, cheap and nourishing to eat.
I tried their no frills Jaunty Jacket Potato with Cheesy Beans Filling andit was just what I needed on a freezing, wet day. A word of caution though to those counting every calorie. In this recipe you only get just over 100g of baked beans per person (based on serving 4), which isn’t a lot. There are approximately 169 calories per 225g potato, and 280 calories in total by adding the beans, light-cheese triangle and spring onions.
You can cook your jackets in a microwave if pushed for time, but I prefer to bake mine in the oven for an hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes so they go nice and crispy, topped with some good quality baked beans, like Branston.
I’m normally up for scoffing prawns, but the Hairy Dieters’ Prawn and Chive Omelette concept didn’t overly appeal to me. Prawns in curries yes, prawns in salads tick, but prawns with eggs… ‘uh-uh’ as the buzzer goes on Family Fortunes. I also think this is quite an expensive meal to make for one person at lunch.
‘Who’s Simon?’ you may ask. Simon was an intern working in the HelloFresh kitchens when he came up with this fish recipe which was duly named after him. Simply Simon’s Sumptuous Sea Bass from Hellofresh is indeed sumptuous and simple, even though you’ll need to be cooking three separate ingredients at once.
I’m a bit nervous about trying recipes when no nutritional information is listed, but I estimate that this is around 500 calories all in, and it’s only that high because you are required to use 3 separate tablespoons of olive oil. As easy as HelloFresh’s recipe kits and meal plans are to throw together, I do find the recipes in their book to be quite carb heavy. However this dish tasted outstanding – the flavours emanating from the garlic, ginger, vine tomatoes, fish sauce and lime juice are superb, complemented brilliantly by the crispy new potatoes and pan-fried, buttery sea bass. Yum, yum, yum.
I know you’re thinking that I’ve lost the plot by including a recipe for an egg salad sandwich on a renowned food blog, well, ‘renowned’ might be a fabrication, but I can explain.
I always thought sandwiches were out when I was on a ‘diet’. Those scary newspapers and magazines had drilled it into me that shop-bought sarnies are full of calories and bad for you. That isn’t always the case, but invariably they do cost a shit load of money when it would be cheaper and easier to make your own at home.
This Egg Salad Sandwich Filling suggestion from Two Chubby Cubs will set you back just under 400 calories and around 80p to make. It tastes bloody amazing too and, if you like, you can use ‘blue eggs’ (such as Bluebell Aurancana) to give it more a golden yellow and yummy texture. If you want something more glamorous in your ‘bap’, the Cubs provide recipes for coronation chicken salad, cheese savoury, tuna crunch and Chinese chicken in their debut book, or check out the sandwiches & wraps section of this blog.
If you’ve got tins of tuna in your cupboard, you’re never far away from being able to make a quick meal whether it’s a sandwich, jacket potato, pasta bake, or in this instance, a tuna and bean salad from Justine Pattison.
There are only 139 calories per serving in this meal (if serving four), so you can afford to give yourself a more generous helping if there’s just two of you. Try to add the balsamic vinegar just before you tuck in, to ensure the salad remains as fresh as possible.
Mince and Vegetable Pie with Tumbled Spuds from the Hairy Dieters is remarkably similar to their cottage pie recipe but has a jazzed up title. Whatever the marketing spiel, this is another hearty, satisfying dish masquerading as a meat and potato pie, which isn’t a conventional meat and potato pie. You know what I mean? Basically, there’s no pastry in it, and it doesn’t come with lashings of mushy peas and gravy, but apart from that…. oh well.
Unlike their cottage pie recipe from their first book, this version from their second book contains a more generous serving size and takes far less time to cook in the oven – double whammy! The only ingredient missing from the two is celery, but like who cares? I followed the Hairy’s alternative suggestion of topping this pie with sweet potato mash rather than plain white potatoes and it worked a treat.
If ‘pies’ are your thing but you want something a bit more imaginative, check out tortilla chilli pie, which as the name suggests is topped with tortilla chips and finished off under the grill.
We’re unofficially entering ‘porridge season’ where freezing cold mornings mean that you can barely feel your toes and fingers after scraping the ice off your car. The Hairy Dieters include a handy ‘Awesome Oats’ section in their second book and I had a bash at trying Banana and Pecan Porridge to warm me up!
I reached four conclusions. 1. This is a lovely, comforting start to your day. 2. Pecan nuts are ridiculously expensive. 3. It’s cheaper to buy sachets of Oat So Simple porridge which actually contain fewer calories than this recipe. 4. Why would you mess about prepping this when you can just pour the contents of an Oat So Simple sachet into a microwavable bowl and ping-ding, a minute later you can be tucking in?
I’m all for advocating the use of fresh ingredients. But practicality, affordability and saving money / time is just as important when sticking to a diet.
I remember the moment of despair. It was 15 March, 24 hours before England was being placed into lockdown. Like most people, my panic set in when confronted with empty supermarket shelves and the inability to get hold of fresh produce. A trip to Home Bargains proved more comforting because at least they still had a few jars and cans of vegetables and pulses at rock bottom prices.
One of my quirkiest buys that day was two jars of white asparagus for £1 each. At the time, I only knew the contents would keep well but didn’t know what I’d end up doing with them! And then came the lightbulb moment of discovering Chicken and Asparagus Quiche from Pinch of Nom. Now of course, you’re meant to use fresh asparagus for this recipe, but my jarred variety worked a treat with some eggs I picked up from a postbox outside a local farm. The owners kindly left fresh eggs in there every day and trusted people to leave the correct amount of money to pay for them. That was a period when lockdown brought out the best in some people and it became a highlight of my hour long walk at the crack of dawn.
As for this recipe, it just goes to show that you don’t need calorific pastry to make a decent, affordable quiche. Served with a side salad, this is a handy lunchtime option which should last you over 2-3 days when refrigerated afterwards, depending on how many people live in your house.
In my opinion, the best meals are created on the hob (or stove, depending on your lingo). But for convenience, ‘traybakes’ have their place, particularly on weeknights when you’re mentally and physically shattered after being at work. Salmon and Broccoli Tray Bake from the Hairy Dieters is a no-fuss, no-frills recipe but does contain a nice marinade to make it vaguely interesting.
My two favourite vegetables are courgettes and mushrooms, so when I saw Tom Kerridge’sCreamy Wild Mushroom Courgetti recipe I was excited to try it. This is a wonderful vegetarian dish with a luxurious feel to it, owing to the single cream alternative, porcini and truffle paste and the dried porcini mushrooms. Divine.
Spiralizing courgettes is a genius way to save calories instead of having plain old spaghetti – you can pick up a spiralizer online for less than £20. You might also need to buy the porcini and truffle paste online too as not many supermarkets stock it – it isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. The courgetti with all the other flavours in this dish tastes way better compared to traditional pasta, in my opinion.
I’ve got to hand it to Tom, he really knows how flavours work together. Even the pickiest of meat eaters should enjoy this!
Lamb, Spinach and Potato Curry is the Hairy Dieters’ take on the traditional Indian curry, saag gosht, and what a brilliant fakeaway this is. There are a fair few ingredients to prep here and the recipe takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to cook in the oven, but the end result is simply divine and bursting with flavour.
My son, who usually thinks spinach is something only aliens eat (I explained that Popeye does too), is a big covert of this dish and didn’t complain that there was no rice or naan bread. In truth, it doesn’t need it as the potatoes and tomatoes alongside the lamb are enough to bulk the meal out.
There are just 293 calories per portion in this recipe, which means you can have a couple of cheeky beers on the side and not feel too guilty! If curries are your thing, check out the Fakeaway section of this blog for lots of marvellous ideas.
Spicy Black Beans with Feta and Avocado is Gordon Ramsay’s take on Mexican street food. He recommends that you serve this with ‘tostadas’ (see below), which is tortilla wraps shallow-fried in vegetable oil. I decided I was going to be good and refrained, which in hindsight was probably a mistake as I felt the recipe needed something else to bring it all together. Not that I’d tell Gordon this to his face, otherwise it would be a recipe for disaster!
Although more graft and ingredients are involved, I personally prefer veggie tacos from the Hairy Dieters which also uses black beans.
With a clever topping you can transform a plain piece of fish into something rather more exciting. Sticky Mango Roasted Salmon from Justine Pattison is a great example. Just a teaspoon of mango chutney and a sprinkling of cumin seeds gave this fish an exotic makeover and the oven takes care of the rest.
I don’t think having this with cherry tomatoes is sufficient for a main meal on its own. I added new potatoes to mine, but you could serve it with mash, green vege or even some couscous. Just factor in the extra calories and don’t go daft on the carbs and this quick meal is an ideal midweek dinner option to complement your healthy eating plan.
At 498 calories per serving and taking an hour to make, Full English Breakfast Quiche from Two Chubby Cubs is a tad heavy and labour intensive to work as a weekday brekky. But as a lazy weekend brunch….. now you’re talking. The beauty about quiches is that as long as you’ve got eggs pretty much everything else goes. And pretty much everything goes into this – cherry tomatoes, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, spring onions and cheese.
I was slightly nervous about flipping my quiche over at the end, but thankfully everything went to plan and the quiche finished up on my plate and not the kitchen floor! I used a large, glass pyrex quiche dish and it was fine, but the Cubs recommend that you use a 23cm ( 9 inch) deep-dish silicone cake tin for this to make it easier to get the quiche out when you come to portion it up.
When I kid myself that I’m going to be ‘good’, I often buy fresh fruit which sits in my fridge until it goes off. Thankfully, pineapple keeps very well so when I have a crisis of conscience I can rustle up Pineapple Fried Rice from Two Chubby Cubs which has lots of flavour from the soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, chilli flakes and lime.
A word of warning. The recipe calls for 700g of cooked rice. That equates to about 250g of uncooked rice. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of serving this with 700g of uncooked, otherwise your daily calorie count will be well and truly screwed. Personally, I think about 40g of uncooked rice per person is more than sufficient.