Aromatic crispy duck from my local Chinese takeaway is my all time favourite, even though they can’t be arsed to shred the duck for me when I’m paying them big bucks as a loyal customer. A bit too loyal in my case ;-). Anyway…. in their Crispy Duck with Pancakes version, the Hairy Dieters have created a much lighter fakeaway option which isn’t a bad imitation of the real thing.
You can get good quality duck breasts from Sainsburys, but if I was making this again I’d shred the meat and the spring onions and cucumber much more finely to make them sit more comfortably in the pancakes. Overall, not a bad effort, but given the cost of duck breasts I don’t think my Chinese takeaway is in danger of losing my business anytime soon!
I’ve mentioned it before on this blog that it’s easier to create authentic, calorie-reduced Chinese takeaways compared to Indian counterparts. Crispy Chilli Beef from Pinch of Nom’s latest book (Quick and Easy) is a case in point. If you follow Nom’s tip (buy the book) to leave it until the last minute to add the beef strips to the sauce they will stay crispy for a bit longer. I was pleasantly surprised by how realistic our crispy beef turned out.
The authenticity and cost to make this dish – approx £2.60 per portion (considerably less compared to what you’d pay from a takeaway) are the positives. The negatives are the ball ache in terms of how long this recipe takes to make and that your kitchen will resemble a bombsite afterwards. I felt quite overwhelmed by the long list of ingredients involved and subsequent clean-up job required. Pinch of Nom’s stopwatch, which suggests only 10 minutes of preparation is required, must be faulty! Or, I’m just woefully shite in the kitchen.
While this dish undoubtedly tastes good (though I’d use a smaller red pepper if making again), fakeaways need to be more than just about recreating the likeness of your favourite takeaway and cutting down on the calories. They’ve got to be simple enough and quick to make, otherwise you may as well give yourself a night off and ring for a fucking takeaway yourself! By the time I’d sat down to make this, I was already frazzled, more so than the crispy beef on my plate!
As the photo shows, I made a right balls-up of making Asian Pork Meatballs from Pinch of Nom. But I’m sharing with you the error of my ways as there’s a really interesting recipe here which could be brilliant providing you give it some TLC.
My biggest faux pas was that I used a large courgette rather than a small /medium one and then failed to get rid of the excess moisture / liquid – you can do this by ringing out the grated courgette using a clean tea-towel. It’s really important you do this, otherwise your meatballs will turn to mush when you come to form them and will be too fragile to cook in a frying pan. I tried to rescue mine by cooking them in the oven which kind of worked…. just, but the end result would have been so much better had I followed the recipe properly.
As the method states, try not to touch the meatballs for 5 minutes when cooking them through or they’ll easily disintegrate in the pan. You can serve them as a light lunch / starter with the char siu ketchup, or have them with a small bed of fine egg noodles or spaghetti for a main meal. But don’t forget to factor in the extra calories, a small nest of noodles will add about 170.
Squid dishes on a diet tend to be off-limits because they are typically deep fried, but this Salt and Pepper Squid with Yuzu Mayo recipe from Tom Kerridge cleverly uses breadcrumbs to create a similar effect for only a fraction of the calories.
Due to my local fishmonger being closed because of the Covid tier restrictions, I had to make do with frozen squid rings from a supermarket, but as a seafood fan I still enjoyed this with the kick of the vibrant yuzu mayo to go with it. Speaking of yuzu, unless you live near a Waitrose or a specialist Chinese supermarket you might struggle to get hold of yuzu juice, however it’s easy to buy online if you don’t mind waiting.
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.
Have you ever procrastinated over what to do with roast beef dinner leftovers? If so, what’s wrong with you ;-)? Instead of being greedy and helping yourself to seconds, thirds or fourths (how big was your joint??), instead you can turn them into a nutritious meal that will feed your family during the week.
Minchi from the Hairy Dieters is an usual mish-mash of flavours and textures which originates from the region of Macau in China. But this is more like a cross between a curry and a hash on top than a conventional Chinese takeaway. And as random as the combination of ingredients might seem, they make for a surprisingly delicious dish. I used leftover roast beef, but you can make this even cheaper if you use 250g of minced beef.
If you’re looking for other leftovers inspiration, check out beef stroganoff or if you want a more conventional hash, you can’t go wrong with corned beef hash, also from the Hairy Dieters.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Who says you can’t enjoy takeaway food when watching your weight? Beef with Green Peppersin 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 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!
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.
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.
“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 thehealthiest ‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”→
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”→