Tomatoes on Toasted Sourdough


Why pay stupid restaurant prices for bruschetta when you can make it at home?

My local Italian restaurant charges £4.95 for bruschetta, but you can pretty much recreate the classic flavours yourself for about a quid with Justine Pattison’s Tomatoes on Toasted Sourdough recipe and knock it up in 10 minutes. Bravo!

It’s ironic. Prior to lockdown, I could never get my hands on sourdough bread when visiting my local supermarkets. But now I’ve switched to online shopping deliveries I can get this luxury bread and it’s a perfect snack for any time of the day. Just use some good quality olive oil and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar if you’re feeling fancy.

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Prosciutto Celeriac Salad


These bold flavours will seriously put hairs on your chest

Prosciutto Celeriac Salad from Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients book is bold and punchy, creating so much flavour from the celeriac, mustard, yoghurt and tarragon. I found this recipe a little too overpowering, but that’s just down to my personal taste. It’s certainly memorable for sure and relatively quick to prep if you’ve got the right equipment to finely slice the celeriac.

If you’re wondering what to do with leftover celeriac, have a bash at corned beef hash, chicken chasseur (which also uses tarragon incidentally) or smoked trout salad when the weather is a bit warmer. If you’re a tarragon lover, do check out creamy chicken and tarragon pots with rosemary potato wedges, poulet au vinaigre or smashed-up chicken which all taste sensational.

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Bacon, Onion and Potato Bake


Simple comfort food at its best

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.

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Jaunty Jacket Potato with Cheesy Beans Filling


Less than 50p per serving. Cheap as….. potatoes

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 and it 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.

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Prawn and Chive Omelette


Prawns are the one of the last thing I’d stick in an omelette

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.

If omelettes are your thing, I much preferred minted pea and feta omelette. Or, if prawns and eggs are good in your book, you may find prawn foo yung more appealing. Both recipes are from the Hairy Dieters.

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Tuscan Devil’s Chicken


Just 5 ingredients and perfect as a healthy option for BBQs when the weather is nicer

I’ve no idea why the Hairy Dieters named this recipe Tuscan Devil’s Chicken, presumably it originates from Italy, but it’s perfect hot or cold for lunchboxes or your BBQ when the weather turns nice again.

The only challenge is trying to find a suitable bag to marinate the 5 ingredients in. I initially tried a freezer bag but was a little too overzealous when shaking everything about and it split. Plan B was a carrier bag which was too big. I ended up placing the thighs in a plastic bowl and covering them in clingfilm, which sort of did the trick. A word of warning, do make sure you shake off any excess marinade before you cook them – the last thing you want is a mouthful of peppercorns in your gob. This meal is great with a side salad.

If you’re looking for more lunchtime inspiration with chicken thighs, have a gander at sticky chicken with coleslaw, jerk chicken, smashed up chicken or honey chilli chicken.

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Minted Pea and Feta Omelette


Omelettes are a dieter’s best friend

Omelettes are brilliant for a quick meal and this version from the Hairy Dieters with minted peas and feta cheese is surprisingly tasty with a salad on the side. Prepped and ready in under 10 minutes, under a quid per portion and 382 calories per serving. Job done.

Wondering what to do with any leftover feta? Try mushroom, feta and tomato baked peppers, spinach, tomato and feta scrambled eggs or menemen.

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All-Day Mexican Breakfast


If you like neat and tidy meals, this probably isn’t for you

True but pointless story. In my younger student days, I was once removed from a public house establishment over a row about an ‘all-day breakfast’. It was 8pm, I’d had a couple of beverages and fancied a good old-fashioned ‘fry-up’. “We stopped selling the all-day breakfast sir at 12pm,” said a patronising waiter. He may not have been, I was pissed. “An all-day breakfast should be all day, it’s 8 o’clock, I want an all-day breakfast,” I insisted. It didn’t end well.

Anyway, I digress, but the point of this pointless story is that you can enjoy this All-Day Mexican Breakfast from Jamie Oliver whenever you like, and you only need 5 base ingredients to rustle it up. Eggs and avocado together can be a messy job, as the photo below indicates. My wife likes soft eggs, I like hard, as I was making this I got my wish but I do think this recipe lends itself better to soft / medium cooked eggs. We opted for 2 chillies which made this really hot! So, if you’re not a heat freak, maybe opt for 1 chilli instead.

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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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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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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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Cajun Sweet Potatoes


Just 83p per portion – SWEET!

I’ve been working from home since the middle of March and have enjoyed making fresh breakfasts and the luxury of being able to prep in advance for evening meals. But one area I’ve struggled with is lunchtimes. By this point I’m well into my working day and don’t want to get distracted by having to spend time making another meal from scratch, or turning my kitchen into a mess. And while I could always have a sandwich and a bag of crisps, these aren’t healthy options and can soon breed bad habits.

Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients book is handy for knocking-up decent meals with minimal effort. Cajun Sweet Potatoes may take an hour to cook, but you can simply leave them in the oven to roast while you focus on more important things. Prep time is just 10 minutes – perfect to enable a stress-free lunchtime. Not only that, this meal was really flavoursome but the anti-garlic police may want to use less garlic cloves than the recommended full bulb.

By the way, if you’re looking for a cracking recipe that uses sweet potatoes, look no further than penang chicken and sweet potato curry. So, sooo good, and a brilliant ‘date night’ option.

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Sausage and Apple Bake


Super, simple, scrumptious

Good-quality chipolatas, made from unspiced pork, are cheap but pack in loads of flavour so are a handy option to keep in your fridge or freezer. Sausage and Apple Bake, from Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients book, utilises chipolatas brilliantly in this one-pan dish with honeyed parsnips and caramelised onions. It will seem like a LOT of parsnips but the strips do reduce down.

I recently had this with gin on a balmy spring evening outside, and while it might be better suited to a cold autumn evening, I love recipes that I can just bang in the oven to do their thing while I sit back and relax. The fat content in this recipe is quite high if you’re watching your weight but still comes in at under 500 calories.

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Tuna Butterbean Salad


This wasn’t even 1 serving and the portion size was ample

Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients book is useful to have around when you’re pushed for time or short of ingredients. I recently tried his Tuna Butter Bean Salad when struggling for inspiration one lunchtime and it did the job.

You may note that the recipe’s weight in grams for the tuna in olive oil and the jar of butter beans are larger than standard sizes. I just used regular tins for both and the serving for 2 people is more than generous. While the concept of ‘5 ingredients’ is handy, it can also be restrictive. This salad felt a little dry and bland towards the end but you can easily ‘tart’ it up by adding a low-fat salad dressing, for example.

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Seared Sesame Tuna with crunchy green veg


Seared Sesame Tuna

The key to successful dieting, apart from focus and willpower, is being able to make easy, tasty and healthy meals in a few minutes with only a handful of ingredients. Seared Sesame Tuna from Jamie Oliver fulfils this brief brilliantly and is lip-smackingly good to eat!

The tuna steaks literally only need to be cooked for 1½ minutes on either side, or longer if you don’t like seeing any pink bits. Similarly, you want the sugar snap peas and spring onions to have some crunch, so don’t cook them for longer than 2 minutes otherwise you’ll cremate them. Fresh tuna steaks are expensive, but frozen varieties (I got mine from Iceland in the above pic) are much cheaper and ideal for producing quick weeknight winners.

You’ll find this recipe, and others like it, in Jamie’s ‘5 ingredients’ book. Ironically, this recipe requires 8 ingredients but Jamie classes salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar as core base ingredients. Ok, I’ll agree on salt and cooking oil, but red wine vinegar….. hmm. If you want to save a few calories, be less frivolous with the sesame seeds. Continue reading “Seared Sesame Tuna with crunchy green veg”

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”

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”

Scrambled egg with bacon and mushrooms – healthy English ‘fry-up’


scrambled eggs and bacon

Given the current difficulties in sourcing ingredients, my blogs for the foreseeable future will be less imaginative, or feature mushrooms because that’s the only produce I can get my hands on in decent quantities! Scrambled egg with bacon and mushrooms from the Hairy Dieters won’t win any prizes for originality, but as a healthier, toned down version of an English ‘fry-up’ this meal is a great weekend breakfast treat. Best of all, you can have it ready in under 10 minutes at a cost of less than a quid per portion.

Traditional fry-ups can typically exceed 1,000 calories, whereas this recipe comes in at a more modest 337 and it fills you up too. Reducing the (rather generous) quantity of butter to make the scrambled egg will further cut the calories. Continue reading “Scrambled egg with bacon and mushrooms – healthy English ‘fry-up’”

Herby chicken traybake – frugal feeding


Herby chicken traybake

Ok, so as the photo shows I’ve unceremoniously burnt my potatoes, so why am I publishing this? Well, I want this blog to be honest, down-to-earth and, above all, relevant. These are frugal and uncertain times we find ourselves in so Jamie Oliver’s Herby Chicken Traybake fits the bill when we can no longer pick and choose what we want to eat.

This recipe uses just 5 base ingredients and can be prepped in less than 10 minutes. Chicken legs are cheaper than breast and I had some potatoes lurking at the bottom of my fridge and a lonely lemon. It wouldn’t be my first choice of meal, but it was probably one of the most satisfying ones I’ve made recently, even if my spuds were a little too ‘well done’. Continue reading “Herby chicken traybake – frugal feeding”

Crushed Berry Layered Yoghurt – perfect on a ‘5:2’ day


berry yoghurt

If you’re following a ‘5:2’ diet plan, you’ll know how difficult it can be to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner within a limit of 600 calories on a ‘2’ day. So what are your options? Skip breakfast and struggle through until lunchtime, invariably reaching for the snack jar around 11am, or try and get something light and healthy inside you first-thing?

A piece of fruit is always an option but if, like me, you love yoghurts why not combine both options by having Crushed Berry Layered Yoghurt from Justine Pattison? You can pick up cheap bags of frozen mixed fruit from supermarkets which are great to have on stand-by for busy mornings and it means you’re not wasting any fresh produce either – just take out what you need. Of course, you could just buy some ready-made yoghurts, but some can be higher in sugar and calories than you think so I prefer to make my own.

I like to use ramekins for these fruit-topped yoghurts and keep them in the fridge, where they’ll last for 3 days. If you’re a fan of this simplistic health-kick, check out Justine’s Without the Calories – Quick and Easy book where you’ll also find a recipe for Cherry and Chocolate Chip Muesli. Continue reading “Crushed Berry Layered Yoghurt – perfect on a ‘5:2’ day”