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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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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Sweet Potato Saag Aloo


Just 200 calories per portion and stroppy teenager friendly

Sweet Potato Saag Aloo from the Hairy Dieters‘Go Veggie’ book turned into a really satisfying experience. My teenager Will was mithering for an Indian takeaway and frowned with disappointment when he saw what his old man had served up. “Where’s the meat?”, he asked in irritation.

5 minutes later and his mood had lightened. “This tastes amazing Dad. Can we have it again?” There’s been few greater pleasures during the last few months than being able to change my son’s perceptions about food, particularly when it comes to introducing him to cheap, vegetarian-based dishes. This costs just over a £1 per portion to make.

If you don’t have all the suggested spices in, don’t worry, the Hairy Dieters state you can substitute them for mild curry powder instead, but it won’t taste as good. At just 200 calories per serving, this fab vege-based curry is going to become a regular in my home.

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Cajun Dirty Rice – a filthy feast for less than 300 calories!


This is so good, you’ll love it.

I’d become a little bored of my favourite healthy eating recipes and was in need of some inspiration. The Pinch of Nom series of books (Pinch of Nom and Pinch of Nom Everyday Light) have been a breath of fresh air and contain some novel recipes that I haven’t come across in other ‘diet’ books.

One of ‘Nom’s’ most celebrated dishes within their huge online community is Cajun Dirty Rice. Now I can see why. This amazing meal packs so much variety of different ingredients, all for less than 300 calories. Phenomenal. Who doesn’t love meat, vege and rice in one belly-busting bowl?

You will have various ingredients leftover so here’s what you can do with them. For peppers, check out menemen, warm griddled vegetables with halloumi or sweet and sour chicken. For mushrooms and bacon go for tagliatelle carbonara or halloumi and smoky bacon hash. No leftovers, no waste. Enjoy.

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Courgette Caponata Pasta


A tasty, plateful of vege goodness for under a £1 per serving

I was hoping that the Hairy Dieters’ ‘Go Veggie’ book would become my non-meat bible, however very few recipes caught my eye which I thought would be regulars on my meal planner. Courgette Caponata Pasta was one of them and I was pleasantly surprised by how much flavour is packed into one meal for just 133 calories, or 314 calories based on a 50g serving of pasta (per person, serving 4).

Now before I go on, I’ll say this now. Don’t make this if you hate chopping vege as dicing the onions, peppers and courgettes is time-consuming, unless you’re a proper chef and can have everything prepped in 20 minutes as the Hairy Dieters claim. It takes me 20 minutes to find all the ingredients in my kitchen! Ok, that’s bollocks too, but you get my drift.

If you are willing to persevere with prepping everything, you’ll be rewarded. With or without pasta, this is a gorgeous plate of food thanks to the addition of the cinnamon, lemon zest, chilli flakes, honey and red wine vinegar. If you’re looking for another pasta dish with a kick, check out spaghetti on fire – it is suitable for vegetarians if you omit the bacon.

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Parma Ham Salad


Lunchtime sorted for less than 200 calories

I used to run a mile at the thought of having a salad for lunch, but they’ve really grown on me and Parma Ham Salad is another quick, healthy and filling lunchtime fix from the Hairy Dieters.

There’s lots of low-calorie dressings available in supermarkets, but it’s more satisfying and healthier to make your own – in this recipe the wholegrain mustard combines well with the olive oil and sherry vinegar. The ingredients will comfortably serve 4, but if you’re feeling particularly ravenous, you can have 2 portions for just 348 calories.

Although expensive, you’ll always find Parma ham lurking in my fridge. I love the taste and a little goes a long way, it keeps for ages and it’s very versatile. It’s great in salads like this one, summer pasta dishes packed with vege, or wrapped around fish which can baked in the oven until it’s lovely and crisp. For other fab salad suggestions, click here.

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Chicken Tikka Drumsticks


Just 66p per portion if serving 4 (2 drumsticks each)

I was really looking forward to making Chicken Tikka Drumsticks from Pinch of Nom based on the success of trying some of their other fantastic recipes. Drumsticks are cheap and ideal for weekend lunches and snacks. But I should have known things were not going to work out when my supermarket delivery swapped the red food colouring I’d ordered for purple cupcake colouring! So much for creating authentic looking drumsticks.

But my biggest issue with this meal is that for all the spices it states to use, the end result didn’t particularly taste of chicken tikka. The book does say you can use 2 tablespoons of curry powder instead if you don’t have all the spices which would be less ‘faffy’. This recipe serves 8 but 1 chicken drumstick is never going to fill you up, so I recommend having 2 drumsticks (in total 242 calories with dip) and a side salad.

I’m going to stick with the Hairy Dieters alternative choices – sticky chicken drumsticks and fusion tandoori chicken – which I think have more flavour.

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Turkey Keema Peas


Turkey isn’t just for Christmas

Indian-based Keema dishes are typically made with lamb or beef, but the Hairy Dieters’ wonderful Turkey Keema Peas recipe uses turkey thigh mince which contains around 7% fat and just 270 calories per serving. Using turkey breast mince (approx. 2%) would make it even more diet-friendly, although more expensive. The Hairy Dieters suggest serving this with a small portion of rice, regular or cauliflower, but I think this is sufficiently filling on its own. Plus, I personally think rice is totally overrated and a waste of calories which you could use instead for…. BOOZE ha ha!

By incorporating more vegetables and using cheaper types of meat (chipolatas, pork mince, skin-on bone-in chicken thighs etc), you can still stay on track with your diet while sticking to a strict budget. At around £2 a pack for 500g from most supermarkets, turkey thigh mince is a brilliant low-cost option. You could also use it to make turkey burgers or a turkey chilli.

I’m loving getting reacquainted with turkey again and judging by the views on this blog, so are you, by trying more recipes with this underrated, often forgotten (outside of Christmas) cut of meat. If you’re wondering what to do with the remaining coconut milk, why not make Coconut Prawn Curry?

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Coconut Prawn Curry – prepped and cooked in under 20 mins!


Perfect for a quick, weeknight curry fix

Coconut Prawn Curry from the Hairy Dieters is a such a simple dish and perfect for a weeknight meal when you’re tired and just want something good to eat that’s quick to cook. From start to finish, you can be tucking into this in less than 20 minutes. Perfect.

The photo doesn’t do the flavours in this recipe justice, and despite using two teaspoons of cornflour the sauce was a little runny, so don’t be tempted to use more than the recommended 200ml of half-fat coconut milk. But all that matters is that it tastes great, and for just 254 calories it will satisfy your hunger cravings so that you don’t need to add any rice to go with it.

If you’re in need of a curry fix, check out the ‘Fakeaways’ section on this blog.

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Pork Medallions in BBQ Sauce


Serve with mash, sweetcorn and/or green vege

The sauce within the Hairy Dieters’ Pork Medallions in BBQ Sauce recipe is gorgeous – red wine vinegar, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and orange juice – creating that lovely barbecue flavour effect. In fact, it was so nice that I was worried about reducing it down too much and in the end my sauce (as the photo indicates) was a tad too runny.

I don’t think this recipe represents a meal on its down, and as per the Hairy Dieters’ recommendation I bulked this out with some sweet potato mash and sweetcorn. My teenage son Will is a big fan of this dish and it’s an easy way to get him to eat vege when he’s ‘distracted’ by the meat and sauce ;-).

If you love BBQ related coatings, check out Sticky Chicken with Coleslaw – another big hit with the kids!

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Baked haddock, spinach and egg pots


Ideal for a lazy Sunday brunch

Baked haddock, spinach and egg pots from the Hairy Dieters has been a recipe I’ve never got round to making. It doesn’t work as a weekday breakfast for me, and if buying fresh haddock from a supermarket I never know what to do with any leftovers.

However, I recently purchased packs of frozen fish on offer from Iceland (cod, haddock and tuna steaks) and one lazy Sunday brunch later this meal was back on the agenda because I could take out of the freezer what I needed. Smoked haddock can be an acquired taste, but I enjoyed this and would have it again. I do prefer the Hairy Dieters’ other baked recipes though – Baked Eggs with Mushroom Filling and Baked Eggs with Chorizo Filling.

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Poulet au Vinaigre – oooh la la!


This is my fave recipe of June, bar none

Poulet au Vinaigre from Pinch of Nom is absolutely gorgeous and has become one of my favourite meals of lockdown. The recipe is a low-cal version of a French classic dish, yet despite tasting beautifully creamy, is only 197 calories per serving due to using low-fat cream cheese (without vege and/or mash). Aren’t they clever?

I served this with some savoy cabbage, but any green vege will do. Chicken, tarragon and white wine is such a fab combination. If you can’t get enough of it, check out Creamy Chicken and Tarragon Pots with Rosemary Potato Wedges from the Hairy Dieters – another one of my favourites.

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Spaghetti on FIRE


This is the only thing that’s ‘on fire’ about me

Hot as a fever, rattle of bones. I could just taste it, taste it. Yooooouuuuu. Your Spaghetti is on FIRE. Ok, so I doubt Kings of Leon will be adapting the lyrics of ‘Sex on Fire’, but I did chuckle to myself while prepping Spaghetti on Fire from Justine Pattison.

This is a belter of a pasta dish, packed with good stuff (vege), and full of flavour from the smoked bacon and chilli flakes. Adding Parmesan and basil leaves is optional but I’d wholeheartedly recommend doing so to enhance the taste. This frugal recipe is right up there with my favourite pasta dishes, but numero uno for me remains Pasta Puttanesca. Which one is yours?

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Home-Made (smoky bacon) Baked Beans


I think I’ll stick to using regular cans of baked beans

Supermarket shopping during the pandemic has been challenging, particularly if you don’t feel comfortable stepping foot into stores. Getting hold of your favourite brands can also be problematic and my son Will has particularly missed his barbecue baked beans. I’ve tried to explain to him that some things are more important, but he’s a teenager ;-).

So, to avoid a household ‘crisis’ I decided to try making Home-Made Baked Beans from the Hairy Dieters. They suggest using dried haricot beans and soaking them overnight, or using 2 400g cans of cooked beans. I chose the latter because spending up to 2 hours to prep beans when I could just open a regular can, even in lockdown, seemed ridiculous. If you opt for using canned beans, in total it will take you about 40 minutes to make this.

Will’s verdict on my smoky bacon beans was soul destroying. “They don’t really taste of barbecue Dad”. “Thanks son”. But the cheeky youth had a point – they were a little bland. The following day I was more liberal with the paprika and black treacle and the leftovers did taste more authentic. But, for the time and effort devoted to make them, I think the ungrateful boy is just going to have to wait until things return to normal.

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Roasted Cod with Parma Ham and peppers – just 224 calories!


A great way to introduce children to eating fish

I absolutely love Roasted Cod with Parma Ham and Peppers from the Hairy Dieters. It’s a meal you can enjoy at any time of year and requires minimal effort as it’s cooked in two stages in the oven. This allows you to get on with something else, such as quaffing down a glass of wine or a gin and tonic 😉 as this filling recipe is only 224 calories.

It’s also a good recipe to introduce children to eating fish, as proved by my sceptical teenage son, Will. Roasted fish and vege didn’t float his boat, however wrapping the cod with a piece of parma ham suddenly made it socially acceptable for him and he scoffed it without protest. Result.

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Speedy Turkey Chilli – just 252 calories per serving!


Speedy turkey chilli

Aside from feeling obligated to eat it at Christmas, I never used to bother with turkey except for using the leftovers from the joint to make a pissed-up turkey curry on Boxing Day. But I’ve come to appreciate that this super-healthy meat (often containing just 2% fat) is a fantastic alternative to chicken and should be a regular fixture in my diet.

Speedy Turkey Chilli from the Hairy Dieters’ Make it Easy book is both speedy and easy to throw together, and just 252 calories per serving (without rice, I used a small portion here). This recipe only requires 300g of turkey mince as you get plenty of additional protein and fibre from the black beans and sweetcorn. Surprisingly, it doesn’t actually contain any chilli – instead you get the heat from the chipotle paste which I absolutely love!

If you’re wondering what to do with any remaining turkey mince, Turkey Lettuce Wraps and Turkey Burgers and Chips are brilliant options to stretch your budget further. Continue reading “Speedy Turkey Chilli – just 252 calories per serving!”