Turkey San Choy Bow


There’s something cool about wrapping food in lettuce leaves

I’d previously dismissed Tom Kerridge as a British classics / gastro pub chef but that was doing him a great disservice. As well as succeeding on his phenomenal weight loss journey, Tom’s grasp of low-calorie Asian food and flavours is brilliant, as evidenced in his Lose Weight for Good book.

Turkey San Choy Bow is one recipe I was really keen to try, partly because the name remains me of the Karate Kid and Mr Miyagi shouting, “Daniel san!”. Joking aside, this is a mouthwatering dish and only 260 calories per serving. I love the concept of serving the meat, vegetables and Asian flavours in lettuce leaves – it’s tonnes more satisfying than having rice and better for your waistline.

If you like the concept of this, but are pushed for time, I’d also recommend Justine Pattison’s turkey lettuce wraps. Similarly, if you’ve got beansprouts and water chestnuts leftover, have a go at the Hairy Dieters’ chicken stir-fry.

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Chilli Steak Salad


Where’s the chips and onion rings??

I used to think having steak in a salad was a waste. And at over a fiver a head I still do, however there’s no denying that Chilli Steak Salad from the Hairy Dieters is a cracking effort. Don’t forget to leave your steak to rest for a few minutes and strain those lovely meat juices into your salad. The kick from the chilli and the ginger alongside this is delightful!

If you like the sound of this, check out thai beef salad from the Hairy Dieters’ second book, which is also lush lunchtime tucker.

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(Pork) Chop Suey


You could swap pork for turkey or chicken in this

I think by the time the Hairy Dieters got to their sixth book (Make it Easy) they were running short of ideas. Chop Suey is somewhat similar to chicken stir-fry from their third instalment (Good Eating), except this time pork is used instead of chicken.

Repetition aside, this is pretty good and at only 168 calories per portion you could even double up if you’re hungry. The peppers, broccoli and beansprouts provide enough bulk so that you don’t need rice, which always amazes me how something so bland can be so calorific.

If you’re looking for sassier stir-fry ideas, I’d recommend diet cola chicken and chicken satay from Pinch of Nom, which are lot more imaginative and gorgeous to eat.

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Honey Chilli Chicken


Honey I made the chicken

I was really looking forward to sampling Honey Chilli Chicken from Pinch of Nom but it didn’t quite hit the spot. The honey (2 tbsp) and dark soy sauce (3 tbsp) coating for the chicken is a great concept, but I found the addition of the 2 chicken stock cubes and the garlic granules made this too salty for my tastebuds.

If trying again, I’d probably use only 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce and 1 stock cube. I decided to make a proper side salad to accompany it as Nom’s radishes, spring onions and red chilli suggestion left me feeling a bit ‘so what?’. My favourite chicken-based recipes remain sticky chicken with coleslaw and jerk chicken, the latter which packs a proper punch!

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Beef with Green Peppers in Black Bean Sauce


Less than £2.50 per head, even with sirloin steak!

Who says you can’t enjoy takeaway food when watching your weight? Beef with Green Peppers in Black Bean Sauce from Justine Pattison is a pretty authentic ‘fakeaway’ which is only 225 calories per serving. With the addition of a small portion of rice, you’re looking at 400 calories all in, perfect for keeping your diet on track!

If you fancy having a go at creating more classic Chinese fakeaways, check out sweet and sour chicken and yeung chow fried rice.

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Diet Cola Chicken


Are you a Coca-Cola or a Pepsi fan?

If I told you to pour diet coke over your chicken stir-fry, you’d tell me to do one, right? But wait. Diet Cola Chicken from Pinch of Nom in theory shouldn’t work, but it absolutely delivers. Somehow the geniuses at ‘Nom’ towers determined that pouring diet coke (or Pepsi or other cheap diet cola, I’m not judging) into the pan creates a sticky and sweet sauce that is heaven in a stir-fry. Don’t knock it until you try it!

As with some other Pinch of Nom recipes, you’ll have some odds and sods ingredients left over, so what should you do with them? To use up the peppers, mushrooms and baby corn, I would opt for cajun dirty rice and hot and sour soup. And for the chicken, I’d go for sweet and sour chicken or chicken and mushroom risotto.

By the way, this fab Diet Cola Chicken recipe is only 217 calories per serving. You can serve it with rice but there is so much packed into this I don’t think it needs it. One more thing. This cooks relatively quickly once all the ingredients are prepped. The book says the prep time is 10 minutes, but not even Jamie Oliver on coke could get everything ready in that time. Or, maybe he could, but unless you’re Speedy Gonzalez with a knife I’d allow for the extra time. As good as this is, quick it aint.

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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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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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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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Sea Bass and Miso Risotto


Looks can be deceiving. This is sooo good with hot sauce drizzled on top

Whether baking it in the oven, or briskly pan-frying it, fish is ideal for quick and flavoursome weeknight dinners whilst being very diet friendly to boot. Sea Bass and Miso Risotto from Pinch of Nom is a case of ‘looks can be deceiving’.

At first glance, it looks like plain old fish and rice. But adding the miso paste gives this meal a tasty twist, and if you drizzle some Siracha or hot sauce over the top of the bass  (as Pinch of Nom suggest) your plate is catapulted into a whole new dimension. My wife and son love it which gives me a lot of pleasure as a mediocre but willing home cook.

This recipe is straightforward to make but you do have to keep a close eye on things so the risotto doesn’t stick to the pan. And make sure your frying pan is also sufficiently hot before you add the sea bass fillets. They literally only need about 5 minutes to perfectly cook through. If you love sea bass, check out baked sea bass with peppers and pine nuts, or pan-fried cod with Asian dressing is another really easy and quick fish dish to prep.

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Sweet and Sour Chicken – a proper ‘fakeaway’


Less than £2 a head and under 300 calories per portion, without rice!

From re-creating your favourite curry to making lower calorie burgers, healthy cookbooks are awash with ‘fakeaways’ these days. And don’t get me wrong, these recipes are welcome and have their place. But try as they might, some of them still don’t hit the ‘spot’, particularly with curries which omit staple restaurant ingredients like ghee to keep the fat content to a minimum. My philosophy is if you’re in need of a blow-out and want to be naughty, then treat yourself to a takeaway, PROVIDING you get back on your diet the next day.

But there are ‘fakeaway’ exceptions which do genuinely (in my opinion) taste like the ‘real thing’. Sweet and Sour Chicken from the Hairy Dieters is one of the more authentic fakeaways I’ve made – I think Chinese takeaways in general are easier to recreate at home based on the required ingredients. This recipe requires only two chicken breasts and will comfortably serve 4 people for less than £2 a head, without rice. The sweet and sour sauce with the pineapple and ginger is to die for!

Serve this in a takeaway carton to your nearest and dearest and see if they notice the difference. Or just serve it them anyway. If you’re interested in fakeways, check out the relevant section on this blog here, and if Chinese floats your boat, Yeung Chow Fried Rice, is another excellent recipe to try, courtesy of Pinch of Nom.

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Thai Green Chicken Curry – Tom Kerridge style


Thai green chicken curry

I’m a fan of Tom Kerridge, but on occasion I do think he makes his recipes unnecessarily faffy or ‘cheffy’. After a day at work I almost sacked off making his Thai Green Chicken Curry when looking at the long list of ingredients and method to make it. In the end, I used chicken breasts (which I diced and stir-fried for a couple of minutes first) instead of pissing about poaching a chicken crown and cutting off the meat. This saved some precious time in the kitchen.

As for the end result, well fair play to Tom, like most of his meals this did taste very good and the serving size was huge. I did make the mistake of substituting the 100ml full-fat coconut milk for 200ml half-fat coconut milk, mainly because I had a half-tin lurking in my cupboard and couldn’t see the point in opening a regular sized tin to only use 100ml. But this did make the curry runnier and as a consequence of having to simmer for longer some of the vege went soft. Would I eat this meal again? Yes, definitely. Would I make it again? Pass.

If you’re wanting a Thai curry fix, the Hairy Dieters do a simpler version for approx 150 calories less here. Continue reading “Thai Green Chicken Curry – Tom Kerridge style”

Turkey Lettuce Wraps – 158 calories per serving!


Turkey lettuce wraps

Turkey Lettuce Wraps from Justine Pattison reminds me of going to a Chinese restaurant with my parents as a kid. I loved spare ribs, prawn toast and seaweed but they took a back seat when I discovered mince meat wrapped in lettuce leaves – it was even yummier with the added advantage that it didn’t leave me with barbecue sauce smeared all over my chops, fingers and shirt.

As a replica dish, this recipe is superb and only 158 calories per serving. So quick, so easy and so scrumptious it has been one of my favourite lunches of lockdown. I can serve and enjoy it hot with my wife and son at the table where we can pick at the food and help ourselves. Enjoy. Continue reading “Turkey Lettuce Wraps – 158 calories per serving!”

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”

Yeung Chow Fried Rice – fantastic ‘fakeaway’


Yeung Chow Fried rice

Although luscious, Yeung Chow Fried Rice from my local Chinese takeaway will set me back £6 and is rich in calories. In contrast, this slimming, wallet friendly version from Pinch of Nom tastes arguably as good – the only giveaway that this is ‘home-made’ is my shite attempt at julienning a carrot.

There may be a few ingredients to initially buy-in, but most of them you’ll use consistently if following a healthy-eating plan. I had an unused pork steak from a pack after making Creamy Pork, Apples and Cabbage, so this seemed like a good way of ensuring nothing went to waste. Continue reading “Yeung Chow Fried Rice – fantastic ‘fakeaway’”

Pan-fried Cod with Asian dressing – just 199 calories!


Pan fried cod and asian dressing

If you’re looking to introduce more fish into your diet, Pan-fried Cod with Asian Dressing from Justine Pattison is an excellent place to start. At only 199 calories per serving, it’s so healthy and this meal is a cinch to knock together.

The Thai dressing provides some welcome punch when poured over the fish and vegetables and this recipe is perfect for spring and summer midweek evenings, when you want to rustle something up in 10 minutes and then chill. The vege literally only needs 2 minutes in the pan as you want it crunchy, so don’t be tempted to over boil it. Continue reading “Pan-fried Cod with Asian dressing – just 199 calories!”

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?”

Chicken stir-fry – 20 ingredients for under 200 calories


Chicken stir-fry

A LOT goes into Chicken Stir-Fry from the Hairy Dieters, 20 ingredients in fact, yet surprisingly this comes in at just 196 calories per portion. That’s because it’s full of the good stuff (vegetables) and other stuff which helps to bulk the meal out (water chestnuts and beansprouts) but doesn’t necessarily add a lot of flavour.

The addition of the soy sauce, rice wine, chicken stock, curry powder and sesame oil did up the ante somewhat for my critical tastebuds, but it still didn’t run my local takeaway close in terms of flavour. However to add perspective, if you want a healthy, filling weeknight dinner for under 200 calories then this is one to try. Continue reading “Chicken stir-fry – 20 ingredients for under 200 calories”

Fusion Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks for only 84p per portion!


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Fusion Tandoori Chicken from the Hairy Dieters is one of my favourite weekend lunches. Chicken drumsticks are very cheap and this recipe is great because the marinade and subsequently the oven does all the work which allows you to get on with other things.

The only fiddly bit is removing the skin off the drumsticks but some good kitchen scissors makes this relatively painless, and be prepared to get messy when massaging the marinade into the cuts but trust me, it’s worth it!

I like a bit of heat so I’m quite generous with the chilli powder (up to you) and if I can’t be arsed to go out and buy some fresh dill (which is preferable) I use the dried herb out of a jar instead which does the job. This meal is ideal with an accompanying salad, or some rice or wedges if you’re feeling a bit naughty. But you’re supposed to be on a diet so this blog would take a dim view of you if you did ha ha! Continue reading “Fusion Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks for only 84p per portion!”

Ginger chicken with udon noodles – Wagamama on a diet!!


Ginger chicken with udon noodles

The Hairy Dieters’ might get all the adulation for their healthy eating recipes but Justine Pattison is an absolute legend and I’d urge you to buy her Without the Calories series of books. Ginger chicken with udon noodles is from Justine’s ‘Takeaway Favourites’ book and OMG this recipe is absolutely amazing – try it, try it, try it!

This is a great Friday night dish to produce as it can be ready in about 20 minutes and is very quick to cook once you have prepped all the ingredients. The only fiddly bit is trimming the fat off the chicken thighs, but this is a doddle if you’ve got a good pair of kitchen scissors.

So tuck in, close your eyes and imagine you’re in Wagamama! And better still, this belter of a ‘fakeaway’ dish is only 475 calories! Who says you can’t enjoy top-notch food on a diet? Continue reading “Ginger chicken with udon noodles – Wagamama on a diet!!”