Hunter’s Risotto


Just use 100ml of red wine which will be cheaper than Marsala or Madeira wine

Hunter’s Risotto is Justine Pattison’s take on the well-known French dish, chicken chasseur, which I’ve already featured on this blog from the Hairy Dieters. Personally, I prefer this version from Justine because it includes smoked bacon and mushrooms – two personal fave ingredients of mine.

The recipe calls for the addition of Marsala or Madeira wine, but Justine suggests you could also add sweet sherry, Martini Rosso or even red wine if you prefer. I opted for the latter because invariably we’ve always got red wine in the house, and once the bottle is open…..

If risotto is your thang, have a bash at these less prep-heavy recipes: sea bass and miso risotto, chicken and mushroom risotto or chicken & chorizo risnotto (that isn’t a typo, view the recipe to learn more!). Or, if you want a more conventional pub-meal style dish then hunter’s chicken is for you.

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Hunter’s Chicken


Why is Hunter’s Chicken called Hunter’s Chicken?

Hunter’s Chicken is a British pub classic – chicken wrapped in bacon, cooked in a tomato-based sauce and finished off with melted cheese on top. Mmmmm. Pinch of Nom have created a lighter version using bacon medallions and reduced-fat cheddar and it tastes as good as anything you’ll enjoy in your local boozer.

PON’s recipe comes in at 343 calories, but this doesn’t include any accompaniments. So, in the interests of following UK government advice and turning this into a ‘substantial meal’ (I shouldn’t even joke), I served mine with a few peas and naughty chips. But to keep the calories down, I suggest having it with some green veg and/or a very small portion of healthy mash (using low-fat crème fraiche).

If you’re currently stuck in a tier 3 or tier 4 area and are missing some classic British home-cooked food, check out the pub classics section on this blog here. The only downside is you’ll have to cook them yourself ;-).

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Speedy Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pies


Pie in the sky. This ain’t a pie.

I didn’t find Speedy Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pies from the Hairy Dieters particularly speedy. Nor did they remind me of pies. But apart from that, this chicken and vege recipe is a decent feed and just 267 calories per portion.

The filo pastry topping is a clever, lighter way to create a pie-like crunch when you bite into it, but let’s not get carried away, this definitely isn’t a pie in the conventional sense. I couldn’t be arsed to divide the filling into 4 individual pie dishes – that might have accounted for why it took much longer than the suggested 24 minutes of cooking time to ensure the 500ml of chicken stock had sufficiently reduced down.

Still pining for a pie? Check out mince and vegetable pie with tumbled spuds, cottage pie, or the quirkier tortilla chilli pie.

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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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Full English Breakfast Quiche


Healthier than a ‘fry up’ but it takes a lot longer to make!

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.

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Spicy Sausage Pasta


No amount of Parmesan could rescue this

I’m sure there’s a decent recipe within Spicy Sausage Pasta from Justine Pattison, but I royally screwed it up by not having the correct ingredients in to make it. I couldn’t get hold of any spicy pork sausages (can anyone, from supermarkets?) and used regular pork ones sprinkled with a generous helping of chilli flakes. My back bacon substitute for smoked lardons was also an epic fail, and although a tin of chopped tomatoes in preference to using 3 large ripe tomatoes was more excusable, fresh is always better than tinned equivalents.

The end result, through every fault of my own, was bland and disappointing and it tasted way too tomatoery, if that’s a ‘thing’? I tried to rescue it by dolloping parmesan on top but I wasn’t fooling anyone. Not least my teenage son who charitably said, “It’s nice Dad but I’m full, so I’ll put it in the microwave and eat it later”, where it remained untouched.

The moral of the story here is that while you can get away with some simple substitutes in many recipes, this isn’t one of them, particularly when bolder flavours such as chilli and smoked lardons are required. If you have a go at making this and it turns out well, do let me know :-).

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Spicy Bacon and Tomato Pasta


You only need a small portion of pasta as the yellow pepper and broccoli bulk it out

I’d forgotten how good Spicy Bacon and Tomato Pasta is from the Hairy Dieters. It’s great hot or cold, so invariably I used to prep it the night before and take it into work for lunch the next day. Since I’ve been working from home for the last seven months some of my lunchtime meals have been more extravagant, but it’s good to go back to basics and save some time in the kitchen!

Check the packaging (or review the nutritional information online) to make sure your tomato and basil sauce has no more than 6g of fat per 100g – I buy the little stir-in pots from Dolmio (150g) which are a rip-off, but they taste good and some are low-fat. If you’re on a budget, use regular broccoli cut into small florets rather than tenderstem.  This is a good meal to introduce kids to vege. My teenage son is too pre-occupied with the pasta, sauce and bacon to notice that I’ve included some diced yellow pepper in there ;-).

Love simple and quick low-cal pasta dishes? Check out tagliatelle carbonara, prawn pasta salad, simple tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad and pea and prosciutto pasta.

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Mexican Caesar Salad


This is a classy salad, bursting with fresh ingredients

Mexican Caesar Salad from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Save with Jamie’ book is a sumptuous treat for lunch or a light evening meal which has got a little bit of everything in it. Containing 17 ingredients and at over £2 a head I’m not sure how this can be classed as a budget meal though, Jamie.

But aside from the cost, this salad tastes great and will satisfy your hunger cravings that you’ll work up whilst prepping it! If you want a slightly cheaper and lighter version, check out chicken caesar salad from the Hairy Dieters. Or, if neither of these appeal, then have a gander at cobb salad from Justine Pattison which has become a favourite of mine.

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Spicy Sweetcorn Soup (with bacon or tofu)


Meal in a bowl

Spicy Sweetcorn Soup is a slightly misleading title from the Hairy Dieters as it includes bacon. But don’t despair if  you’re vegetarian. The bacon is cooked separately and only added to the soup at the end. For a vegetarian version, use veggie stock and add firm smoked tofu which you can crisp up, as per the Hairy Dieters’ suggestion.

Whether you include the bacon or not, this is a cracking ‘meal in a bowl’ containing onion, red pepper, sweet potato, sweetcorn and coriander, spiced up by the chipotle paste. This soup can be enjoyed anytime of year, but it really comes into its own when the cold weather sets in. If you’re a fan of home-made soups, check out some other suggestions here.

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Cobb Salad with blue cheese dressing


NO ONE is going hungry after eating this

Cobb Salad from Justine Pattison is an amazing, belly-busting US salad which will provide a filling lunch as well as a main evening meal. It’s great with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or a blue cheese dressing which you can make in a couple of minutes using light mayo, buttermilk or fat-free natural yoghurt, white wine vinegar, Roquefort cheese (or any blue cheese will do) and a dash of salt and pepper.

Struggling to remember the ingredients? As Justine says, just think ‘Eat Cobb’ – egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon and beetroot. My mouth is watering just typing this! One of the most satisfying, healthy salads you’re likely to have.

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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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One-pan cooked breakfast


A healthy ‘fry-up’ for 87p per serving

I love the concept behind Justine Pattison’s One-Pan Cooked Breakfast. A traditional ‘fry-up’, made healthier by cooking the ingredients in the oven, for less than a quid per portion with minimal washing up.

But in reality this recipe is a bit of a faff to make, and I nearly made Will late for school and me late for work by not reading the cooking method properly. When I put food in the oven I don’t want to worry about it until it’s ready to bring out. However, my patience was tested with this meal because it involves about 5 different stages – stir this, turn that, do the hokey cokey and you turn around….

Maybe I’m being pedantic (said no one to me, ever) but I prefer Scrambled Egg with Bacon and Mushrooms or Pan-fried Bacon with Poached Egg and Balsamic Tomatoes for speed and simplicity.

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Creamy Scallops with Bacon


Where’s Wally? Spot the scallops to win…… I don’t know

Oh dear, where do I begin? Creamy Scallops with Bacon from Justine Pattison turned into a ‘date night’ disaster for me recently. The first red flag was that my brilliant local fishmonger was temporarily closed due to COVID-19, prompting a rush of blood as I naively ordered frozen scallops from a supermarket. The difference ibetween fresh, quality scallops and frozen supermarket ones is night and day.

My second, even bigger faux pas, was buying a larger cauliflower to make the creamy puree. In doing so, the sauce completely overwhelmed any chance of tasting, let alone finding, the bacon and the scallops. But they were in there, even if the photo suggests I’m lieing.

When I’ve calmed down I’ll give this another bash using a much smaller cauli (500-700g only). But if this was a ‘first date’ I’m not sure Ann-Marie would have been inclined to grant me a second one ha ha!

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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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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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Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake


Perfect for the kids to stuff their faces

Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake from Two Chubby Cubs is a proper feast – pasta, bacon, ham, pineapple, mozzarella and (optional) cheddar cheese in one-pot! It’s a cinch to throw together and will comfortably make 6 portions – perfect for feeding the kids over a couple of days or so.

Speaking of kids, this recipe threw up one of my life’s little mysteries. My son Will, who loves Hawaiian pizzas, curiously wouldn’t entertain having pineapple in this pasta bake. Go figure. The Cubs, whose fab debut book is wonderfully entertaining, suggest serving this with a light salad on the side to ‘pointedly ignore’, which I did :-).

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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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Halloumi and Smoky Bacon Hash


Halloumi and smoky bacon hash

I’m somewhat reluctant to try recipes that require the use of small quantities of several ingredients because I end up procrastinating over what to do with half a pepper, or two-thirds of a bag of spinach in this case. However, I decided to try Halloumi and Smoky Bacon Hash from Pinch of Nom, as due to COVID-19, I’m doing bigger online grocery shops because I don’t want to physically enter a store.

As a consequence, I had the majority of items in to make this, and I’m glad I did. It’s a versatile dish – I had it for lunch, but you could enjoy it for breakfast or brunch. I can’t get enough of halloumi, bacon and mushrooms, and the rest of the ingredients made for a really enjoyable meal topped with a fried egg!

If, like me, you’re wondering what to do with leftover produce – use the halloumi and pepper in Warm Griddled Vegetables, the bacon and mushrooms can go towards Tagliatelle Carbonara, while the spinach, cherry tomatoes and eggs can be used to rustle up Spinach, Tomato and Feta Scrambled Eggs. And hey presto, no food wastage! Continue reading “Halloumi and Smoky Bacon Hash”

Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes


Poached egg balsamic tomaoes

There are many things I’m willing to give up when dieting – booze (ouch), chocolate (ok, if I must), crisps (fine, just fine), sweets (oh for f***s sake!), but bacon and eggs isn’t one of them. Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes from the Hairy Dieters is a world away from a traditional British fry-up, but at only 264 calories per serving it’s a pretty good substitute!

I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes, but drizzling balsamic vinegar over them makes them much more edible, in my opinion. As for adding watercress (as the Hairy Dieters suggest) as an accompaniment, no, that just seems like a bridge too far. Continue reading “Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes”

Hash Brown Breakfast Bake – ‘so boring yet so amazing’


Breakfast bake

I have Pinch of Nom to thank for coming up with this brilliant brunch dish which is so easy and cheap to make for only 189 calories per serving! Hash Brown Breakfast Bake includes potatoes, beans and bacon in one-pan, which is sure to be a big hit with the kids, even if this isn’t conventional ‘hash browns’ from McDonalds. The addition of the onion and garlic granules make this really tasty – my only slight faux pas was that I should have baked it for a little longer to make the potatoes on top go golden and crispier.

My teenage son Will,  normally loathed to try anything other than a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast, absolutely loved this. “Dad, can we have this again please? The ingredients are so boring yet it tastes so amazing”. Thanks Will, I think!

Actually, I’ve done the boy a disservice. He also loves Breakfast Omelette Burritos from the Hairy Dieters, but that recipe requires eggs which are harder to come by right now. So it’s fair to assume that he’ll be tucking into Hash Brown Breakfast Bake more often in the coming weeks. Continue reading “Hash Brown Breakfast Bake – ‘so boring yet so amazing’”