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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Cheeseburger Salad


Under £1.50 per portion and 403 calories. How much would McDonalds and Burger King fare in comparison?

In the words of Two Chubby Cubs, “… we’ve taken all the worst bits of a salad (i.e having a salad) and combined it with something delicious and wonderful (i.e. having a cheeseburger)”. Cheeseburger Salad from the ‘Cubs is a novel contradiction which can complement your healthy eating plan at 403 calories per serving.

I think I was tickled more with the concept than by the taste, although I did enjoy it. Making what are effectively mini meatballs during the lunchtime rush whilst working from home seemed a bit of an unnecessary effort. But of course, you can make this the night before. For me, the unexpected star of this show was the suggested home-made Thousand Island dressing which the Cubs state you can make by mixing together 1 tbsp crème fraiche, 1 tbsp reduced-fat mayonnaise, 1 tbsp natural yoghurt, ½ tsp paprika, 2 tsp mustard, 2 tsp tomato puree and 1 tsp white wine vinegar.

If you prefer your salads to have a bit of ‘beef’ to them, check out thai beef salad and chilli salad bowls.

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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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Thai Beef Salad


Don’t forget to leave your steak to rest

Since lockdown I’ve really got into making freshly made salads at home and Thai Beef Salad from the Hairy Dieters has been one of the best. There’s a bit of chopping, dicing and peeling involved, but you’ll be rewarded for your toil. I did wonder if the quantity of mint and coriander would be too overpowering, but the Thai fish sauce and chilli dressing balances out the flavours beautifully.

If you’re stuck for more salad ideas, check out the section on my blog here. There’s a lot to choose from, but I’d recommend the zingy and colourful quinoa, prawn and mango salad and couscous with roasted roots, honey and goat’s cheese as being the standouts.

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Spicy Mexican Beef


Use tinned chopped tomatoes and frozen regular green beans to make this easier

Spicy Mexican Beef from Two Chubby Cubs rounded off my week of purely Mexican-based dishes with a bit of whimper, rather than the bang I was hoping for. As a recipe it’s not bad and requires minimal effort, but even with the addition of the chipotle paste and chillies it seemed to be lacking something.

I’m not a huge advocate of casserole beef, no matter how long you cook it for, so you may enjoy this more than I did. You can serve this with a small portion of rice, but don’t forget to account for the extra calories and be mindful that each serving on its own is 499 cals.

My favourite slow-cooked beef recipe so far this year has been beef massaman curry which I’d recommend. Wondering what to do with any remaining chipotle paste? Try making speedy turkey chilli and spicy sweetcorn soup which are excellent.

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Smoky Steak Fajitas


You don’t need to buy expensive steak to make this work – frying steak will do the job

Smoky Steak Fajitas from Justine Pattison is a good choice for a fast midweek meal, or especially on a Friday evening after a week at work when you don’t have the energy to cook something which requires any effort. Key to getting this recipe right is heat. Make sure your griddle pan is piping hot before cooking your steak, and it only needs about 1 ½ minutes on each side.

Again, with heat in mind, make sure you cover the cooked steak with a piece of foil, wrapped in a clean towel to keep it warm while you stir-fry the peppers and spring onions. Finally, don’t forget to warm your tortillas through – cold tortillas are yukky!!

Personally, I would have been a bit more brazen with this recipe and chucked in some jalapenos and a spicier variety of salsa, but it’s easy to switch a few ingredients around to meet your preferences! If you like the idea of this, check out fast chicken fajitas which is also a super-quick meal to throw together.

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Rich Beef in Red Wine


I’d probably need a loaf of bread to mop up that sauce

Rich Beef in Red Wine from the Hairy Dieters is a little too rich for my palette, but nevertheless is a lower calorie adaption of the French classic dish, beef bourguignon. After 2 hours and 25 minutes of cooking in the oven my patience was waning, but in hindsight I should have put it back in and reduced the sauce down further.

Some dishes are worth the wait, but when watching my weight I want something on my table a bit more pronto. But at least I got to guzzle the remaining wine out of the bottle while becoming increasingly starving. One slower cooking recipe I would wholeheartedly recommend though is lamb tagine. Different meat, different country of origin, different culinary experience entirely. Try it.

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Philly Cheesesteak


Get stuck in!!

I’m really feeling the love for classic US dishes right now and Philli Cheesesteak from Pinch of Nom is another belter. Steak, cheese and onion in a ciabatta roll – what’s not to like? If you’re not a fan of mushrooms and/or peppers leave them out.

You can use whatever steak you like, but remember you only need 150g (based on serving 2 people) and this is going in a sandwich, so don’t go out and buy fillet. Quick-cook beef sizzler steaks are ideal, however the quality from supermarkets can vary. I get my steak from a local butcher so this meal really felt like a naughty lunchtime treat yet it’s less than 400 calories per serving.

If you love your ‘butties’, check out sloppy dogs and monte cristo sandwich, also from Pinch of Nom.

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Swedish Meatballs in Gravy


You don’t need to go to IKEA to enjoy meatballs, although it might be quicker

I’ve never been to Sweden, or to Ikea for that matter, so I can’t vouch for the authenticity of Justine Pattison’s Swedish Meatballs in Gravy. But meatballs can be quite fatty and Justine’s dish comes in at a much more diet friendly 324 calories per serving. So with a small portion of mash you’re looking at about 500 calories all in. Impressive, although I wish healthy eating cookbooks would factor in the extra calorie counts to include accompaniments – you’re hardly going to scoff these meatballs on their own!

This isn’t a quick meal to prepare, so I recommend making this on a weekend. Despite the level of effort involved, the end result was enjoyable, with the ‘gravy’ particularly flavoursome. My only gripe was that it tasted too much of dill, which is a strong tasting herb even if you’re only using 15g of it. I also should have reduced the gravy down a little as the sauce was a bit runny.

If you’re buying bigger packs of beef and pork mince, you will have some produce leftover. I’ll give you some ideas as to what other meals you can make on this blog in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

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Satay Burger


Best burger, ever. And ready in under 20 minutes

Satay Burger from Two Chubby Cubs is, quite possibly, the best burger I’ve ever tasted – and that includes the unhealthy ones I’ve demolished from takeaways and pubs over the years. But this home-made burger is only 390 calories and will cost approx £1.36 per portion to send you into food heaven / porn – delete as appropriate.

Normally you associate satay with chicken, so having this with beef made for a welcome surprise. And it tasted even nicer because my wife made it :-). This is proof that you can still enjoy a burger on a diet, but if you’re going to have a treat I recommend you get top-quality beef mince from a butcher instead of from a supermarket.

Most low-fat burgers require you to bulk out the filling with onions and courgettes, and while they taste good, I love the fact that this amazing burger from ‘the Cubs’ requires zero pissing about. Just mix together the soy sauces, peanut butter and lime juice with the beef mince, form into a burger and pop them in a frying pan or griddle pan. From start to finish, you can be savouring this in less than 20 minutes. Why are you still here? Go, go, go!!!

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(Healthy) Cottage Pie


A healthy take on a British pub classic

I tried every possible excuse to put off having Cottage Pie from the Hairy Dieters, but after an overexuberant supermarket shop I happened to have every ingredient in to make this. So, what was the problem? I dunno, it just didn’t excite me, plus the notion that this would serve 6 to 8 people seemed somewhat fanciful. 6 is a stretch, but 8 is just not funny when you’re hungry.

“You’ve turned into a food snob,” said my wife. “It’s not that, I just can’t be arsed spending up to two hours in the kitchen,” was my retort. Ok, 2 hours is me being flippant as most of the cooking time is done on the hob and finished off in the oven.

But what about the taste? Do you know what, this is actually a really good, hearty meal. If someone served me this, I’d be delighted, however the prep and length of cooking time is a bit of a slog so I won’t be in a hurry to endure this again. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives on ‘traditional’ pub classics, I’d opt for Rich and Meaty Bolognese, Chilli Con Carne or Sausages and Rich Onion Gravy which require less fuss to rustle up and offer more generous portion sizes.

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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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Steak Pizzaiola


The steak is really on there, somewhere

If I was a prisoner on death row (disclaimer: I have no plans to be) then I’d choose steak, chips, mushrooms, onion rings with an accompanying peppercorn sauce for my last meal. Except I’m not on death row, and I can’t have steak when on a ‘diet’, or so I thought.

It turns out you can have steak in moderation, providing that you serve it with a low-cal sauce or a side salad. I’m not convinced that’s a fair compromise, but I decided to give Steak Pizzaiola a try from the Hairy Dieters. I figured the ‘pizzaiola’, tomato based sauce would be a hit with my son, who just like his old man, loves his steaks.

Actually, this did turn out quite well, although I decided early on that a few supporting salad leaves just wasn’t going to cut it so I added some naughty chips on the side. The diet police can lock me up and throw away the key. The quantity of hard cheese, just 25g, didn’t really add that much flavour for the extra cooking time, so you may wish to leave it out and save a whole 23 calories and 5 minutes of your life. I’m actually getting grumpy as I’m typing this because I want a proper steak dinner!

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Beef Massaman Curry


Beef massaman curry

At times, lockdown has sent us all a little crazy. Ann-Marie’s moment of madness came when she decided to order a 25kg bag of potatoes from a farm store to ensure we didn’t run out. Now that’s a serious amount of carbs right there! Undeterred, I began furiously fanning my recipe books for meals with potatoes and came across Beef Massaman Curry from Justine Pattison’s excellent ‘Takeaway Favourites’ book.

The recipe requires 500g of potatoes, not 25kg, but hey it’s a start. But what about the taste? Pretty good actually, although I was unable to get my hands on any kaffir lime leaves so swapped in some lime zest. I also didn’t bother with the chilli peanuts suggestion – in hindsight a mistake as I definitely would have preferred more heat in this.

But with all of the proper ingredients I’ll definitely make this Thai curry again as I’m in no danger of running out of spuds! Speaking of spuds, you don’t need rice or naan in this recipe which despite the lengthy cooking time is a doddle to make as it just does its thing in the oven. Continue reading “Beef Massaman Curry”

Beef kofta curry – gorgeous meatballs in a butternut squash sauce


Beef kofta curry

Most people love a good meatball and by using extra lean mince you can easily incorporate them into your healthy eating plan. There are lots of reduced calorie meatball recipes around, but Beef Kofta Curry from Pinch of Nom has recently become one of my favourites.

The jewel in this recipe’s crown is the butternut squash based sauce. It adds a real depth of sweetness to the curry which also includes regular curry powder, tomato puree and garlic. You can enjoy this meal with or without rice, but don’t forget to add on the additional calories if you do and only have a small portion – a 125g serving of rice will set you back a whopping 173 calories! As I can take it or leave it, my portions of rice are typically 35g to 50g max.

Butternut squash is a fantastic vegetable which can keep for ages in your fridge. You only need 225g for this recipe, so you’ll have plenty leftover. If so, why not give Home-made Butternut Squash Tortellini or Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup a try? Continue reading “Beef kofta curry – gorgeous meatballs in a butternut squash sauce”

Beef Stroganoff – a great way to use up leftover meat from a Sunday roast


Beef stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff from the Hairy Dieters ticks so many boxes. Any meal with steak feels like a treat, you can have this on the table in under 20 minutes and for less than 300 calories per portion if you enjoy it on its own without rice.

Personally, if serving this between 3 people I don’t think you need to add a rice or mash accompaniment, but if serving between 4 you will need something else to bulk it out with – I’ve had it with some mashed carrots before which did the job. If you’re looking to save on costs (as I was in this instance), why not make this with leftover meat from a joint of beef after a Sunday dinner. It’s a great way to make your budget stretch further and will still taste the business. Continue reading “Beef Stroganoff – a great way to use up leftover meat from a Sunday roast”

Chilli Salad Bowls – ‘pick and mix’ with tacos


Chilli salad bowls

I’ve recently started buying 750g packs of minced beef from a butcher to make the likes of Rich and Meaty Bolognese, Chilli Con Carne and Enchiladas for my family. The quality of the produce (in comparison to supermarkets) is superior, but it invariably leaves me with a quandary over to what to do with any remaining mince. Sure, I could freeze it, but instead I decided to have a bash at making Chilli Salad Bowls from the Hairy Dieters for an alternative ‘pick-and-mix’ lunch.

The recipe states that you can use taco shells which are less in calories rather than tortillas, which is exactly the route I took to save on…. prep time, not calories. That would be a crazy idea, right? ;-). To my delight, these went down really well with my wife and teenage son, who loves anything that tastes like Doritos. If you have kids that are similar, then Tortilla Chilli Pie might be the recipe for you. Continue reading “Chilli Salad Bowls – ‘pick and mix’ with tacos”

Rich and Meaty Bolognese – ‘spag bol’ for less than 200 calories


Rich and Meaty bolognese

Rich and Meaty Bolognese, a low-cal take on ‘spag bol’ from the Hairy Dieters, is a brilliant dish which is only 200 calories per portion IF you swap pasta for cabbage. ‘Why would I want to do that?’ you may ask. Well, it depends how serious you are taking your diet and furthermore, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might struggle to get your hands on some pasta right now!

I made this with some well-seasoned cabbage recently and it wasn’t that bad. In fact, I’ll go a step further, I enjoyed it, even if cabbage does make you fart ;-). But it’s a small sacrifice to make to eat something as good and as healthy as this. If you’re wondering what to do with leftover cabbage, give Sticky Chicken a go and use the cabbage to make some home-made coleslaw. You won’t look back! Continue reading “Rich and Meaty Bolognese – ‘spag bol’ for less than 200 calories”

Mediterranean Beef Burgers – get the BBQ / ‘barbie’ on now!


Meditteranean beef burger

There’s a definite knack to making Mediterranean Beef Burgers by the Hairy Dieters, but once you master it you’ll never return to supermarket burgers again. Firstly, follow the recipe carefully and only use a small courgette otherwise your burger will be overpowered by too much of the green stuff! Secondly, after you’ve mixed the ingredients in a bowl, use a stick blender to blend everything together and then form your burgers with wet hands so nothing sticks.

Use good quality reduced-fat mozzarella rather than Cheddar or any other cheese for your topping, and don’t forget to include the sliced tomato, basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar which really enhances the flavour. Finally, cook your burgers gently and slowly in a frying pan, griddle pan or, like me, on your gas barbecue. If you’ve got time, pop them in the fridge to ‘firm up’ before you cook them. If you follow these instructions you’ll be left with a juicy, tasty and, above all, much healthier burger to savour.

Feel free to omit the ciabatta roll to save on calories and replace it with home-made chips if you like. Get the ‘barbie’/ ‘BBQ’ on now!! Continue reading “Mediterranean Beef Burgers – get the BBQ / ‘barbie’ on now!”

Enchiladas – Tex-Mex treat on a diet


Enchilladas

With my summer holiday to Mexico looking increasingly unlikely, I decided to console myself by making Enchiladas from the Hairy Dieters. Did it cheer me up during lockdown? Well, no, not really, but did it taste lovely? Hell yes.

In essence, this is an adapted chilli con carne recipe, pimped up by placing it in tortillas which you can top with whatever goodies you like, within reason, as we’re supposedly watching our calories right now (wahahaha). I’m a bit heavy-handed with salsa and jalapenos, but you can top yours with crème fraiche, guacamole and/or sour cream. Fill your boots, I mean tortilla. Continue reading “Enchiladas – Tex-Mex treat on a diet”