Pork Cassoulet


Most of the work is done in the oven, but you’ll need to allow about 1 hour 30 mins in total for prep / cooking time

Cassoulet is a classic French dish and Pinch of Nom include a budget-friendly version in their second book using diced pork and beans. Don’t be fooled by my photo – I made this for 3 people and hence my portion size was huge (but still only 444 calories). But if making this for 6,  as Pinch of Nom suggest, then you’ll still be full up if you have it with some healthy mash on the side.

Do try and use vegetable and red wine stock pots to enhance the taste (rather than cheap stock cubes), along with fresh thyme leaves if you can get them, otherwise this Pork Cassoulet dish could taste a tad bland. The Hairy Dieters do an all-singing, all-dancing cassoulet recipe in their first book which includes chicken, gammon and sausages, along with some orange zest and parsley. It’s a beast of a dish, but my son loves it ,so I’ll try and feature it on the blog next month.

If you love French classics, check out other suggestions here.

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Sausage Hash


This looks and feels naughty, but is less than 250 calories per portion if serving between 4 people

Sausage Hash is the first recipe I’ve tried from Lorna Cooper’s Feed your Family for £20 a week book and she also runs a very popular Facebook group based around the same concept. Although I’ve not put Lorna’s budget-saving ideas to the test yet, this particular breakfast dish can be made for less than 50p per portion.

But 2 sausages, 2 tomatoes, an onion and a tin of diced new potatoes (or 4 cooked potatoes) doesn’t stretch particularly far between four people, and I’ll confess that I ended up making this for just me and my teenage son Will when I was feeling hungover one morning! The addition of the grated cheese on top totally hit the spot and I’d have no hesitation in making this again, whether I was feeling delicate or not!

For other comfort-food related breakfasts, check out biker breakfast muffins, breakfast omelette burritos and full english breakfast quiche.

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Cauliflower Cheese Soup


If you think cauliflower is ‘boring’, try this soup and be prepared to change your mind

With the temperatures falling below zero in many parts of the UK, it’s high time I included more soup recipes on this blog. And I can’t think of a better one to start with than Cauliflower Cheese Soup from the Hairy Dieters.

Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable and it tastes exquisite here when blended with cheese, milk and wholegrain mustard for a smooth and creamy finish. The recipe quantities will serve 4 people generously for 233 calories and at just 68p per portion. Forget tinned soup when you can conjure up home-made varieties as good as this. Superb.

For more exotic soup ideas, check out the soup section on this blog here.

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Vegetable Frittata


Don’t fret over a frittata, use any spare veg you have

A turning courgette was my motivation for trying Vegetable Frittata from the Hairy Dieters, but it had already gone off when I finally got round to making it. Now for someone who has to follow every recipe to the letter this represented a major crisis. One glass of wine later, I came to my senses and realised that this was a frittata after all, and the whole premise of a frittata is that basically anything goes when you’re throwing it together.

In the Hairy Dieters’ version, they suggest using courgette, red pepper, red onions, butternut squash, broccoli and green beans, but honestly, just use whatever spare vege you have that needs using up. This is a cheap fall-back option when you’ve got some eggs and vegetables in your fridge but don’t know what to do with them.

Don’t let my appalling cutting skills deter you (by this time I’d had two glasses of wine), this will comfortably serve 4 people with a salad on the side, if you like.

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Tomatoes on Toasted Sourdough


Why pay stupid restaurant prices for bruschetta when you can make it at home?

My local Italian restaurant charges £4.95 for bruschetta, but you can pretty much recreate the classic flavours yourself for about a quid with Justine Pattison’s Tomatoes on Toasted Sourdough recipe and knock it up in 10 minutes. Bravo!

It’s ironic. Prior to lockdown, I could never get my hands on sourdough bread when visiting my local supermarkets. But now I’ve switched to online shopping deliveries I can get this luxury bread and it’s a perfect snack for any time of the day. Just use some good quality olive oil and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar if you’re feeling fancy.

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Lemon Chicken with Honey and Rosemary


Mamma Mia this is good! And for less than £1 per head!

Lemon Chicken with Honey and Rosemary is the first Gino D’Acampo recipe that I’ve featured on this blog and it’s a cracker from the Italian chef turned celebrity. Lemon, honey and rosemary makes for such a delectable combination and they made the chicken drumsticks and potatoes taste delicious after being slowly baked in the oven.

This is such a simple, wonderfully tasting meal that you can make for less than £1 per head. Chicken drumsticks are fantastic value. The ones from supermarkets are ok, but you’ll get more meat for your buck from a butcher if you can afford it.

Want more drumstick ideas? Have a butcher’s at chicken tikka drumsticks, sticky chicken drumsticks and fusion tandoori chicken. Wondering what to do with any spare rosemary? Creamy chicken and tarragon pots with rosemary potato wedges have got your name on it!

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Jaunty Jacket Potato with Cheesy Beans Filling


Less than 50p per serving. Cheap as….. potatoes

Is there anything more comforting than a steaming jacket potato when the weather is cold and crappy? The Hairy Dieters include recipes for baked potatoes in their second (Eat for Life) and sixth books (Make it Easy) and they are a handy option to fall back on when you want something easy, cheap and nourishing to eat.

I tried their no frills Jaunty Jacket Potato with Cheesy Beans Filling and it was just what I needed on a freezing, wet day. A word of caution though to those counting every calorie. In this recipe you only get just over 100g of baked beans per person (based on serving 4), which isn’t a lot. There are approximately 169 calories per 225g potato, and 280 calories in total by adding the beans, light-cheese triangle and spring onions.

You can cook your jackets in a microwave if pushed for time, but I prefer to bake mine in the oven for an hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes so they go nice and crispy, topped with some good quality baked beans, like Branston.

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Egg Salad Sandwich Filling


Get some decent bread for your sarnie, unlike me

I know you’re thinking that I’ve lost the plot by including a recipe for an egg salad sandwich on a renowned food blog, well, ‘renowned’ might be a fabrication, but I can explain.

I always thought sandwiches were out when I was on a ‘diet’. Those scary newspapers and magazines had drilled it into me that shop-bought sarnies are full of calories and bad for you. That isn’t always the case, but invariably they do cost a shit load of money when it would be cheaper and easier to make your own at home.

This Egg Salad Sandwich Filling suggestion from Two Chubby Cubs will set you back just under 400 calories and around 80p to make. It tastes bloody amazing too and, if you like, you can use ‘blue eggs’ (such as Bluebell Aurancana) to give it more a golden yellow and yummy texture. If you want something more glamorous in your ‘bap’, the Cubs provide recipes for coronation chicken salad, cheese savoury, tuna crunch and Chinese chicken in their debut book, or check out the sandwiches & wraps section of this blog.

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Awesome Oats – Banana and Pecan Porridge


Porridge pimped-up, like it doesn’t need to be

We’re unofficially entering ‘porridge season’ where freezing cold mornings mean that you can barely feel your toes and fingers after scraping the ice off your car. The Hairy Dieters include a handy ‘Awesome Oats’ section in their second book and I had a bash at trying Banana and Pecan Porridge to warm me up!

I reached four conclusions. 1. This is a lovely, comforting start to your day. 2. Pecan nuts are ridiculously expensive. 3. It’s cheaper to buy sachets of Oat So Simple porridge which actually contain fewer calories than this recipe. 4. Why would you mess about prepping this when you can just pour the contents of an Oat So Simple sachet into a microwavable bowl and ping-ding, a minute later you can be tucking in?

I’m all for advocating the use of fresh ingredients. But practicality, affordability and saving money / time is just as important when sticking to a diet.

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Chicken and Asparagus Quiche


Less than 90p per portion, without salad

I remember the moment of despair. It was 15 March, 24 hours before England was being placed into lockdown. Like most people, my panic set in when confronted with empty supermarket shelves and the inability to get hold of fresh produce. A trip to Home Bargains proved more comforting because at least they still had a few jars and cans of vegetables and pulses at rock bottom prices.

One of my quirkiest buys that day was two jars of white asparagus for £1 each. At the time, I only knew the contents would keep well but didn’t know what I’d end up doing with them! And then came the lightbulb moment of discovering Chicken and Asparagus Quiche from Pinch of Nom. Now of course, you’re meant to use fresh asparagus for this recipe, but my jarred variety worked a treat with some eggs I picked up from a postbox outside a local farm. The owners kindly left fresh eggs in there every day and trusted people to leave the correct amount of money to pay for them. That was a period when lockdown brought out the best in some people and it became a highlight of my hour long walk at the crack of dawn.

As for this recipe, it just goes to show that you don’t need calorific pastry to make a decent, affordable quiche. Served with a side salad, this is a handy lunchtime option which should last you over 2-3 days when refrigerated afterwards, depending on how many people live in your house.

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Spicy Black Beans with Feta and Avocado


I wonder what English street food would be? Can of lager and a bag of crisps?

Spicy Black Beans with Feta and Avocado is Gordon Ramsay’s take on Mexican street food. He recommends that you serve this with ‘tostadas’ (see below), which is tortilla wraps shallow-fried in vegetable oil. I decided I was going to be good and refrained, which in hindsight was probably a mistake as I felt the recipe needed something else to bring it all together. Not that I’d tell Gordon this to his face, otherwise it would be a recipe for disaster!

Although more graft and ingredients are involved, I personally prefer veggie tacos from the Hairy Dieters which also uses black beans.

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Pineapple Fried Rice


This is brilliant for using up odds and sods in your fridge

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.

If you’re wondering what else you can do with a pineapple, have a bash at sweet and sour chicken, gammon and pineapple stir fry or the Cubs’ equally delectable ham & pineapple pasta bake.

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Masala Omelette


This will definitely kick-start your morning!

I love curry in a morning but I’m usually dipping a spoon into a takeaway carton as part of my hangover cure from the night before. Fortunately, you don’t need to get pissed up to enjoy Masala Omelette from the Hairy Dieters – a teriffic twist on a boring omelette which might blow your head off if you’re liberal with the spices and don’t deseed your chilli. Go on, I dare you!

This might not look particularly appetising, but the taste is certainly memorable for all the right reasons. And at only approx 76p per portion and less than 200 calories, it won’t impact your wallet or waistline either.

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Cooling Cucumber and Avocado Soup


Where’s the poppadoms?

There are few things more dangerous in life than incurring the wrath of your mother-in-law. Fortunately I get on with mine very well, however she can be known for her ‘persistence’. To keep herself occupied during lockdown, she started growing her own cucumber, rhubarb and potatoes and would proudly leave her hoards on our doorstep. Which is great, except I hate cucumber and have no interest in making puddings which also makes the rhubarb somewhat redundant. But pointing this out was always going to leave me on a sticky wicket.

“Have you done anything with that cucumber yet???” became one of our regular lockdown conversations. I was running out of excuses. In mad panic upon realising she was coming round, I furiously fanned my recipe books until I stumbled across Cooling Cucumber and Avocado Soup from Justine Pattison. A recipe more suited for a blazingly hot summer’s afternoon than a wet and wild autumn day, but fuck it, this would have to do in a crisis.

As for the end result…. we absolutely hated it and could only manage about four spoonfulls between us. But this was about ‘taking one for the team’ and making others feel appreciated, which is perhaps no bad thing right now. My supply of cucumbers has also stopped, too.

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Sweet Potato & Halloumi Bake


All this for around 80p per serving!

If you’ve got some ‘odds and sods’ lurking in your fridge Sweet Potato & Halloumi Bake from Two Cubby Cubs is a good way to use them up, plus it’s so cheap to make at less than £1 per serving. Once you’ve prepped everything, you can literally throw the ingredients in the oven to bake for 45 minutes before adding some grilled, sliced halloumi just before the end.

Want more potato-based lunchtime recipes? Check out buffalo skins, cajun sweet potatoes or spicy turkey sweet potatoes. Alternatively, to use up any remaining halloumi, have a bash at warm griddled vegetables or halloumi and smoky bacon hash. Don’t say I don’t look after you ;-).

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Skinny Potato Salad – my 200th blog post


Just 155 calories per serving

I thought my 200th blog post would be more imaginative than Skinny Potato Salad from Justine Pattison. But this is a wonderful, simplistic meal in its own right and costs less than 75p per serving to put on your table despite being packed with new potatoes, celery, apple and spring onion with a low-fat mayo dressing.

And when I think about it, that’s what this blog is all about. Giving people access to straightforward, tasty recipes that they can make easily and cheaply at home to keep on track with their diet. Enjoy and thanks to everyone who drops by.

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Spicy Bean Burgers with Lime and Coriander Mayo


You don’t need a bun for these, but don’t forget the lime and coriander mayo!

Spicy bean burgers from Justine Pattison were a welcome surprise, and I say this as a hardened meat eater who would have previously dismissed veggie burgers as tasting of ‘cardboard’, or another tired cliché. But let’s be fair, I’ve tasted some frankly awful veggie burgers in other healthy eating recipe books, however despite their appearance Justine’s possessed bags of flavour owing to the chipotle paste, coriander and lime zest.

In fact, these are so good that you don’t need to add extra calories by having these burgers in a bun. Just some nice salad (little gem lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes) and the accompanying, rather splendid lime and coriander mayo (see below) do the trick. And all for less than 200 calories and under a £1 per serving. Perfect for a ‘meat-free’ Monday or any day, for that matter.

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Mexican Breakfast


Answers on a postcard – what makes this dish ‘Mexican’?

You may notice a few more Mexican recipes finding their way onto this blog in the coming days. That’s because I was supposed to go on holiday to Cancun this summer before the world imploded due to Covid. In an attempt to cushion the blow, I thought it would be quirky to have a complete week dedicated to Mexican food. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time….

Kicking the week off was Mexican Breakfast from Justine Pattison. I’m not entirely sure what makes this ‘Mexican’, surely it needs more than the introduction of a tortilla wrap (which I didn’t bother with)? But anyway, for less than £1 per portion this was a decent brunch fix, although not as authentic as all-day Mexican breakfast from Jamie Oliver, which in truth I didn’t enjoy as much.

If you like the concept of cooking eggs in a pan, then personally menemen (a Turkish recipe) from the Hairy Dieters gets my vote all-day long.

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Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes


Don’t judge until you’ve tried it, and for under a £1 per serving, you can’t afford not to

Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes from the Hairy Dieters might seem like an odd combination. However, for 250 calories per portion it is packed full of bold flavours coming from the lemon zest, capers, nutmeg and basil, making it something of a surprise, and all for just 90 pence per portion!

I tend to order courgettes on autopilot in my weekly supermarket deliveries, regardless of whether I plan to use them or not, so always tend to have some hanging around in my fridge. This recipe is perfect for using them up, but if it doesn’t float your boat, then try spaghetti on fire or tagliatelle carbonara.

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Tuna and Sweetcorn Cheat’s Jackets


This is a great standby option when you’re hungry but struggling for inspiration

Food snobs may disagree but who doesn’t love a jacket potato? Justine Pattison’s Tuna and Sweetcorn Cheat’s Jackets uses new potatoes instead of proper jackets, but it still tastes great and is ready in half the time. Such a simple and cheap meal to make and only 206 calories per serving.

If you’ve got any new potatoes lurking in your fridge that need using up, try halloumi and smoky bacon hash, Spanish-style chicken bake or creamy chicken and tarragon pots with rosemary potato wedges.

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