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.
Chicken Tetrazzini from Justine Pattison is apparently an American hybrid recipe. I don’t know what that means but it tastes pretty good, though does require many ingredients and some patience when putting it together.
Creamy chicken, topped with vegetables, breadcrumbs, cheese and spaghetti seems a bit weird to me. But after shoving my lasagne dish under the grill for 5 minutes to crisp up and turn golden brown all was forgiven. I get it now, kind of. This recipe serves 6 for 339 calories per serving, but that’s stretching it somewhat. You might be better dividing this between 4 portions and factoring in the extra calories. Naughty, naughty :-).
My Mexican food week continued with Quesadilla from Pinch of Nom, accompanied by Nom’s Barbecue Potato Wedges which were totally yummy! Getting my teenage son to have vegetarian-based meals can be a challenge, but fortunately he loves pulses and tortilla wraps so convincing him to tuck into this was refreshingly easy.
This simple recipe is going to become a regular in my household and the BBQ wedges are a brilliant dance partner for less than 400 calories in total. Do take care when flipping over your quesadilla to finish them off. Remember, slow and steady wins the race and you don’t have to try a Jamie Oliver style ‘toss’ to impress anyone. Food on your plate is always preferable to food on the floor ;-).
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.
Life is too short to spend ages making a fish pie, in my opinion. So the Hairy Dieters’ Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin recipe is a speedy solution and still contains most of the bells and whistles that you’d expect to find in this classic dish, except for the mash topping.
Get all the ingredients out on the side before you start cooking and read through the method carefully. This isn’t hard to make, but there’s a bit going on and if your brain is fried after a day at work you could become flustered. I had low expectations for this meal but it tasted far better than I imagined and was ready in 30 minutes – a diet friendly version of fish pie on speed, and all for less than 300 calories per portion.
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.
Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dip is a cheap and very cheerful American bar snack from Justine Pattison, which creates the sticky, smoky flavours you know and love for a fraction of the calories (under 400 in this case, with dip).
You can save yourself some time (and hassle) by not attempting to cut each wing into two meaty pieces. Unless you’ve got a really sharp knife, you might find this tricky, so why not just bake the wings hole and allocate 200g to each person, per serving. I enjoyed these wings with a few naughty chippies and the blue cheese dip. I just forgot to include it when taking the photo, but I’d definitely recommend it with some celery sticks to accompany.
Sloppy Dogs is Pinch of Nom’s new take on the hotdog, using pork mince, not the manky, calorific hotdogs you get in jars or at football stadiums (though chance would be a fine thing right now). Not many healthy eating cookbooks feature pork mince, but Pinch of Nom’s two books do which make for a welcome change and this recipe is bangingly good.
Pork mince can be cheaper than beef mince in some supermarkets (notably Sainsburys) and this meal works out as just over a £1 per serving. For those who miss tucking into a tasty, lunchtime sandwich on a diet, this is for you. But be warned, it isn’t called Sloppy Dogs for nothing. The filling is likely to spill out and you will get sauce around your chops, however eat this at home instead of at work and no one will know ha ha. The calorie count is 379 per serving, but not all finger rolls are created equal, so do check the calorie amounts before you buy.
If you love tucking into a bap, wrap, sandwich or toastie (or whatever else you call them), check out monte cristo sandwich, also from Pinch of Nom.
Geeky fact alert. Since lockdown began I’ve not had the same meal twice, which is pretty remarkable even though I say so myself. My motivation was mainly to try different foods and give me more excuses to update this blog. Having said that, Paneer and Pea Curry from the Hairy Dieters is (unsurprisingly) remarkably similar to cauliflower, paneer and pea curry from BBC Good Food which I featured back in May.
So, what’s the difference with this recipe from the Hairy Dieters? Well, apart from the cauliflower and the additional spices, not a lot. But don’t let this detract from what is an excellent, low-cost vege curry which is enriched by the texture and taste of the paneer cheese which is regularly used in authentic Indian curries.
The concept of “cook once, eat twice” is worth bearing in mind when you’re following a diet, as invariably making fresh meals from scratch day-in, day-out can take its toll. Smoked Ham and Courgette Tortilla from Tom Kerridge fulfils this brief perfectly as it can be enjoyed hot or cold, and keeps well in the fridge.
This meal fed my wife and I over consecutive days and is ideal to have for brunch or lunch, depending on your schedule. Like me, Tom Kerridge loves a courgette and you’ll find various recipes featuring this underrated vegetable in his Lose Weight for Good book. But if you need a courgette fix now, check out tagliatelle carbonara, warm griddled vegetables and courgette caponata pasta.
Prawns with tomato & feta from BBC Good Food sounds totally random, and it is. But I decided to give this a go as it was about the only meal I could make with what I had left in the fridge. I love prawns and I love feta, but together? Hmm, I’m not sure.
Chicken and Leeks in Blue Cheese Sauce is a brilliant weeknight meal from Pinch of Nom, requiring only 5 base ingredients and just 5 minutes prep time. Just what you need after a long day at work.
Chicken and leeks are an excellent combination and this recipe will only set you back 214 calories, meaning you have plenty of leeway to add some mash / new potatoes and/or vege as an accompaniment. If you like this, then try creamy chicken and tarragon pots with rosemary potato wedges which is equally divine.
Leeks? Tick. Cheese? Tick. Cheesy Leeks On Toast from Pinch of Nom…….? Massive tick! I had my reservations before making this, but what a simple and lip-smacking brunch / lunch meal it turned out to be with some mustard dolloped on top.
Providing you use appropriate Parmesan and Cheddar cheese, this meal is suitable for vegetarians. I must confess, I wasn’t familiar with what xanthan gum is, but it’s a thickening agent most typically used in baking that you can buy in some supermarkets – I got mine from Tesco. You could use cornflour as a substitute, but it won’t thicken and bind the ingredients as well.
Monte Cristo Sandwich is Pinch of Nom’s lower-calorie take on the French classic, croque monsieur. Or, in my attempt, a crap cheese and ham toastie with a few extra ingredients. I like the fact that sandwiches don’t have to be off limits when you’re on a ‘diet’, but I don’t like the potential food wastage making this involves – 3 spinach leaves, 1 cherry tomato, ½ a spring onion. It was enough to get my knickers in a twist wondering about what to do with the leftovers!
I don’t think it helped that I burnt it and singed my hand when trying to flip the sandwich over, but then again I am clumsy personified at times in the kitchen. Pinch of Nom suggest having this for breakfast, I think it’s better suited to brunch or lunch.
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.
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!
Although I don’t mind washing up (it keeps my hands soft!), I do get irritable when having to use lots of pots and pans at the same time in the kitchen, particularly when I’m unfamiliar with a recipe. So the concept of Justine Pattison’s ‘Without the Calories – easy one pot’ book was appealing.
Chicken and Ham Wok Lasagne caught my eye within it because I was intrigued as to how realistic it could be to create a ‘lasagne’ using one pan. It was refreshingly simple, even if there’s a few ingredients to prep and get out on the working top before you start cooking. But above all this recipe tastes great too and while it might not be conventional, it’s effective when you can’t be arsed to make a proper lasagne. Actually, I can never be arsed to make a proper lasagne.
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 toenhance 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?
Five-Minute Pizza from the Hairy Dieters really does only take five minutes to make, and by using a large flour tortilla wrap instead of a pizza base it comes in at only 250 calories per portion. Pizza traditionalists might turn their noses up at this, but let’s face it, if you’re regularly ordering from Dominos or Papa Johns you’re less likely to be watching your weight.
My teenage son loves this recipe and it makes for a quick weekend lunch – I definitely recommend garnishing it with some rocket, a drizzle of balsamic and/or a few olives for additional flavour. My wife had the audacity to claim that my pizza in the picture above was ‘burnt’. I politely told her it was ‘rustic’ ;-). Although she did correctly label my attempts to cut the pizza as ‘shite’. “Why didn’t you use the pizza cutter?” she said. “I did” was my reply.Continue reading “Five-Minute Pizza – it only takes 5 minutes!”→
It’s a long and not particularly interesting story, but I recently ended up with three cauliflowers in my fridge with little clue as to what to do with them. My initial get ‘out of jail’ idea was to use them to make a batch of cauliflower rice, but actually I can’t stand cauliflower rice and feel rage every time I try to make it. Cauliflower is supposed to have crunch, so when I stumbled across Cauliflower, Paneer and Pea Curry from BBC Good Food I was sold.
This turned out to be an excellent vege meal. Paneer is similar in texture to halloumi and is used in a lot of curries – both are really useful options to have in your fridge. The recipe states to use ‘rapeseed’ oil, but bog standard vegetable oil will do. You can serve this with rice (but not cauliflower rice, eh) or naan bread but don’t forget to account for the extra calories.