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 ;-).
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.
Jamie Oliver includes some excellent suggestions for how to use up leftover salmon in his Save with Jamie Book and Silky Salmon Tagliatelle is a luxurious pasta dish that can be ready in about 20 minutes.
Who has leftover salmon you might ask? Not me, so I pre-cooked some salmon fillets in the oven. But I suppose Jamie is appealing to those who cook 1.5kg (approx.) sides of salmon, so this recipe is a good option to rustle up if you have any leftovers from Christmas. The calorie count for this is quite high, but you can reduce it by only serving 50g of tagliatelle per person rather than the (excessive) 80g.
Sausage Pasta is the first recipe that I’ve tried from Jamie Oliver’s new 7 Ways book, which celebrates 18 much-loved ingredients with some new ideas for every day of the week. There’s a whole chapter devoted to sausages, but this caught my attention because it uses chipolatas which are cheap and lower in calories.
Sausage and fennel are perfect dance partners and this dish really comes together with the dried chilli flakes, plum tomatoes, tenderstem broccoli and Parmesan. Jamie suggests using dried farfalle pasta, but penne would do the job if you can’t get hold of any.
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 andit 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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently purchased the Homgeek Mini Chopper Food Processor and Meat Grinder and its been a gamechanger for recipes like Baked Fish with Chorizo Crust from the Hairy Dieters – a simple way to liven up a regular piece of cod or haddock with a tasty topping.
My regular ‘big boy’ food processor is lurking at the back of a cupboard – it’s a pain in the arse to get out, assemble, clean and put back. To get round the lack of storage space in my kitchen, I tried buying a stick blender, which is ideal for blending soups but not for blitzing harder foods. Fortunately, the Homgeek came to my rescue and this meal turned out perfectly. It’s great with mash and some vege – the Hairy Dieters have some fab mash ideas towards the back of their second book – Eat for Life.
Tom Kerridge is the absolute don when it comes to flavours and his simple Pea and Ham Pasta dish totally hits the spot. This recipe will feed two very generously, and given that it’s 585 calories per portion you might want to stretch this between three servings, as I did with my wife and son who loved it.
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.