Cheesy Meaty Parcels


Steak and cheese in a wrap. Divine!

Two Chubby Cubs are masters at devising quick recipes that are surprisingly yummy despite their simplicity. Cheesy Meaty Parcels is the Cubs’ take on steak fajitas with a smear of refried beans over your wrap, which might not look overly appetising, but the flavour is cracking so don’t miss them off!

You don’t need to buy expensive steak for this – thin cut, flank or frying steaks are perfect as you want them to cook quickly when you pan-fry them on a high heat. If you love this, have a go at smoky steak fajitas, fast chicken fajitas and philly cheesesteak.

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Cock and Bull


For an extra bit of indulgence, Pinch of Nom suggest adding a drop of brandy after you have browned the onions and mushrooms

Cock and Bull from Pinch of Nom is a meat eater’s paradise as it combines chicken breast and steak (either sirloin or rump) in one pan with a creamy sauce. I served this with some peas as I felt the meat needed something else to accompany it, beyond the handful of sliced onion and mushrooms which don’t go far between four people. You could add some new potatoes too, but bare in mind that the calorie count is already 436 per serving.

I would make this again but next time would reduce down the sauce as mine was far too runny (user error!). Pinch of Nom just love a creamy sauce and use low-fat cream cheese to make their dishes diet friendly. If you like this, you’ll love creamy garlic chicken and poulet au vinaigre.

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Mongolian Beef


Don’t forget to use low-sodium soy sauce otherwise it will taste way too salty!

I must confess to never knowing that Mongolian Beef is a popular fakeaway recipe amongst slimming club circles. This version from Two Chubby Cubs is a great weekend option when you want to rustle up a treat but don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen if you’ve had a long week at work, managing the kids, or both!

Two points of caution. You need a good non-stick frying pan otherwise you run the risk of your beef strips being welded to it. And make sure you use low-sodium soy sauce and not regular soy sauce otherwise, to quote the Cubs, “you’ll have a mouth saltier than a sailor’s ankle”. I used low-salt soy sauce and still found this a little salty for my liking.

Serve with a small portion of rice. Job done.

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Crispy Chilli Beef


Get all your ingredients, pots, pans etc out in advance, otherwise you’ll be more tempted to ring your local takeaway!

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!

For more fakeaway ideas, click here.

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Crying Tiger Beef


Easy Tiger! Wash your hands thoroughly after handling chillies, if you forget and rub your eyes then you’ll be crying!

Getting me to have steak without chips, mushrooms and onion rings is quite a challenge but it’s good to vary things up, particularly when you’re trying to shift some timber. Crying Tiger Beef from Pinch of Nom is a fancy name for a traditional Thai recipe using thin-cut steak and a tangy, spicy dressing made from coriander, tomatoes, chillies, spring onion, garlic, fish sauce and either lemon or lime juice. As the name would suggest, it certainly packs a punch!

I really enjoyed this having treated myself to some tasty frying steak from my local butcher. It’s worth paying a bit more for quality meat if you can afford to as supermarket steak tends to be shite. My only criticism of this dish is that I’m not entirely sure where it sits – is it a light lunch or an evening meal served with some rice? I opted for the former.

If you like this, then check out the very similar thai beef salad or chilli steak salad.

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Rich Beef and Ale Casserole


Remember, the ale or stout goes in the dish, not your gob 😉

I’ve been meaning to make Rich Beef and Ale Casserole from the Hairy Dieters since the beginning of the first lockdown. A bottle of dark ale has sat in my drinks cabinet for almost a year, which for a pisshead like me is quite an achievement! I’m not sure why this recipe kept getting bumped down the list. Maybe it’s due to the lengthy cooking time (over 2 hours) and that our preferred option is a Sunday roast accompanied by mash, carrots and parsnips.

But…. this one-pot casserole is a brilliantly comforting meal, perfect for a winter’s day and your oven will do the majority of the work. With some mash, it will feed six people and both our Mum’s loved it. We are trying to provide them with home-cooked meals when we can as they live by themselves. Do take care to cook the casserole on a low oven temperature (exact method below) and occasionally check to make sure the beef doesn’t dry out.

If you want a variation on this theme, then have a go at spicy Mexican beef, rich beef in red wine or beef massaman curry.

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Fiery Beef Madras


Use natural yoghurt to cool this down if you’re struggling with the heat. Alternatively, just down a beer.

I’m too much of a wimp to have proper madras from my local curry house, but I adore Fiery Beef Madras from the Hairy Dieters which is a toned down version that even my wary teenage son could stomach. It tastes brilliant.

This isn’t a fast fakeaway – in total it will take about 2 hours to cook from start to finish – so plan ahead and make this on a weekend, and preferably before you crack open a beer or neck some vino, otherwise you’ll be phoning for a takeaway and blowing your diet! Do make sure you cook this on a low oven setting and check it every so often to ensure the beef and the rich tomato sauce doesn’t burn. Similarly, be careful when splitting the chillies from stalk to tip that you don’t dislodge the seeds or your mouth will literally be on fire!

Fancying a different fakeaway? Check out the fakeaways section on this blog for more ideas.

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Mince and Vegetable Pie with Tumbled Spuds


This ‘pie’ is good, but it makes me want a ‘proper’ pie!

Mince and Vegetable Pie with Tumbled Spuds from the Hairy Dieters is remarkably similar to their cottage pie recipe but has a jazzed up title. Whatever the marketing spiel, this is another hearty, satisfying dish masquerading as a meat and potato pie, which isn’t a conventional meat and potato pie. You know what I mean? Basically, there’s no pastry in it, and it doesn’t come with lashings of mushy peas and gravy, but apart from that…. oh well.

Unlike their cottage pie recipe from their first book, this version from their second book contains a more generous serving size and takes far less time to cook in the oven – double whammy! The only ingredient missing from the two is celery, but like who cares? I followed the Hairy’s alternative suggestion of topping this pie with sweet potato mash rather than plain white potatoes and it worked a treat.

If ‘pies’ are your thing but you want something a bit more imaginative, check out tortilla chilli pie, which as the name suggests is topped with tortilla chips and finished off under the grill.

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Minchi


So random, yet so good

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.

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Corned Beef Chilli


Everyone’s got a tin of corned beef lurking in their cupboards somewhere

I’ve always admired Jack Monroe’s passion and determination for campaigning on poverty issues and hunger relief. She’s also a genius at being able to create budget, home-cooked meals out of virtually nothing using staple, canned ingredients. Corned Beef Chilli from her book, Tin Can Cook, is nothing fancy, but it’s an education in demonstrating what you can rustle up using a few tins that may be gathering dust in your cupboard.

Using strong tea as a substitute for red wine was a bridge too far for me, but it goes to show that there’s usually a substitute for something if you use your imagination. This is the second book from Jack I’ve purchased but the first recipe I’ve actually tried. In truth, it was unremarkable in taste but I’m sure they’ll be some hidden gems elsewhere that I’ll eventually stumble across. The recipe states it will serve 6-8, but 6 is more realistic, and even then you’ll need to bulk it out with mash, rice or garlic bread, as I chose to.

I, like many others, take fresh ingredients for granted and, at times, believe they are far superior to cheaper, canned equivalents. But that isn’t necessarily the case, and it’s about time all of us opened our eyes, particularly in times of hardship. If you love corned beef, check out corned beef hash which is a big, comfort food favourite of mine during Winter. Or, if you want a more conventional chilli, have a look at chilli con carne instead.

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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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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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