Sausage Pasta


You can make this suitable for vegetarians by using veggie sausages (but no need to poach them)

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.

If you like chipolatas, I’d also recommend smoky sausage and beans and sausage and apple bake, which are great comfort food options when you’re struggling for ideas.

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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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Simply Simon’s Sumptuous Sea Bass


Raise a glass to Simon. This might not look flash, but it tastes INCREDIBLE!

‘Who’s Simon?’ you may ask. Simon was an intern working in the HelloFresh kitchens when he came up with this fish recipe which was duly named after him. Simply Simon’s Sumptuous Sea Bass from Hellofresh is indeed sumptuous and simple, even though you’ll need to be cooking three separate ingredients at once.

I’m a bit nervous about trying recipes when no nutritional information is listed, but I estimate that this is around 500 calories all in, and it’s only that high because you are required to use 3 separate tablespoons of olive oil. As easy as HelloFresh’s recipe kits and meal plans are to throw together, I do find the recipes in their book to be quite carb heavy. However this dish tasted outstanding – the flavours emanating from the garlic, ginger, vine tomatoes, fish sauce and lime juice are superb, complemented brilliantly by the crispy new potatoes and pan-fried, buttery sea bass. Yum, yum, yum.

This is an excellent ‘date night’ option if you’re planning on cooking something nice for a loved one as it can be rustled up in half an hour. If sea bass is your thing, I’d also whole-heartedly recommend baked sea bass with peppers and pine nuts and sea bass and miso risotto.

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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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Salmon and Broccoli Tray Bake


This recipe is more practical than imaginative

In my opinion, the best meals are created on the hob (or stove, depending on your lingo). But for convenience, ‘traybakes’ have their place, particularly on weeknights when you’re mentally and physically shattered after being at work. Salmon and Broccoli Tray Bake from the Hairy Dieters is a no-fuss, no-frills recipe but does contain a nice marinade to make it vaguely interesting.

Sorry, I can’t get more excited about this meal. It does what it says on the tin, or the tray rather. I much prefer the Hairy’s salmon with chilli ginger sauce and their Spanish-style chicken bake, which as traybakes go, is pretty awesome.

Salmon fans…. check out the salmon section of this blog for more recipes.

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Creamy Wild Mushroom Courgetti


Everyone needs some courgetti in their life

My two favourite vegetables are courgettes and mushrooms, so when I saw Tom Kerridge’s Creamy Wild Mushroom Courgetti recipe I was excited to try it. This is a wonderful vegetarian dish with a luxurious feel to it, owing to the single cream alternative, porcini and truffle paste and the dried porcini mushrooms. Divine.

Spiralizing courgettes is a genius way to save calories instead of having plain old spaghetti – you can pick up a spiralizer online for less than £20. You might also need to buy the porcini and truffle paste online too as not many supermarkets stock it – it isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. The courgetti with all the other flavours in this dish tastes way better compared to traditional pasta, in my opinion.

I’ve got to hand it to Tom, he really knows how flavours work together. Even the pickiest of meat eaters should enjoy this!

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Lamb, Spinach and Potato Curry


This lamb curry is a brilliant alternative to having chicken

Lamb, Spinach and Potato Curry is the Hairy Dieters’ take on the traditional Indian curry, saag gosht, and what a brilliant fakeaway this is. There are a fair few ingredients to prep here and the recipe takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to cook in the oven, but the end result is simply divine and bursting with flavour.

My son, who usually thinks spinach is something only aliens eat (I explained that Popeye does too), is a big covert of this dish and didn’t complain that there was no rice or naan bread. In truth, it doesn’t need it as the potatoes and tomatoes alongside the lamb are enough to bulk the meal out.

There are just 293 calories per portion in this recipe, which means you can have a couple of cheeky beers on the side and not feel too guilty! If curries are your thing, check out the Fakeaway section of this blog for lots of marvellous ideas.

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Sticky Mango Roasted Salmon


This can be ready in under 20 minutes

With a clever topping you can transform a plain piece of fish into something rather more exciting. Sticky Mango Roasted Salmon from Justine Pattison is a great example. Just a teaspoon of mango chutney and a sprinkling of cumin seeds gave this fish an exotic makeover and the oven takes care of the rest.

I don’t think having this with cherry tomatoes is sufficient for a main meal on its own. I added new potatoes to mine, but you could serve it with mash, green vege or even some couscous. Just factor in the extra calories and don’t go daft on the carbs and this quick meal is an ideal midweek dinner option to complement your healthy eating plan.

If you’re looking for similar ideas to lift a piece of salmon, have a look at tandoori salmon with mango salsa and salmon with chilli ginger sauce.

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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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Baked Fish with Chorizo Crust


Mini food processors are great for recipes like this and cheap to buy

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.

If you like this, you’ll probably also enjoy roasted cod with parma ham and peppers and smoky pancetta cod.

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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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Pea and Ham Pasta


If you can’t get hold of lumaca rigate pasta, penne will do

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.

This is a quicker, more affordable alternative to pasta with summer vegetables and parmesan and slightly more luxurious compared to pea and prosciutto pasta. All three recipes taste sublime so take your pick! :-).

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Green Lamb Curry


It made for a nice change to have lamb in a curry instead of chicken

I love lamb, spinach and curries, so when I came across Green Lamb Curry from the Hairy Dieters’ latest healthy eating book (Make it Easy) I was eager to try it. This recipe is a low-cal take on the Indian saag gosht dish, which means nothing to me, but it tastes mighty fine.

This isn’t a curry to make in a hurry – the lamb needs to be cooked for up to 2 ½ hours so it’s beautifully tender and flavoursome – BUT do check it after an hour and then at regular intervals thereafter to make sure it doesn’t dry out. You tend to think of lamb as being fatty, but there are only 267 calories per serving (without rice or naan) in this curry, although the suggestion that it will serve 6 people is somewhat ambitious.

If you’re in need of a curry fix, check out the Fakeaways section on this blog for more mouthwatering meals.  

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Creamy Turkey Autumn Curry


This is different, in a good way

The clocks have gone back, it’s constantly raining and you won’t be able to set foot in your house without a trail of leaves being stuck to your shoes. So why not console yourself by making Creamy Turkey Autumn Curry from Two Chubby Cubs?

This recipe is an interesting Thai-style twist on a conventional, frankly boring, chicken casserole. There’s loads of flavour coming from the chilli, ginger, turmeric, squash, coconut milk and coriander. And I applaud any recipe that gives the humble turkey star billing over chicken. I really enjoyed this.

There are few things I loathe more in the kitchen than prepping butternut squash. However, it is a great ingredient and I’d recommend adding thai-style butternut squash soup, curried butternut squash and apple soup and beef kofta curry to your winter meal plans.

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Spicy Sausage Pasta


No amount of Parmesan could rescue this

I’m sure there’s a decent recipe within Spicy Sausage Pasta from Justine Pattison, but I royally screwed it up by not having the correct ingredients in to make it. I couldn’t get hold of any spicy pork sausages (can anyone, from supermarkets?) and used regular pork ones sprinkled with a generous helping of chilli flakes. My back bacon substitute for smoked lardons was also an epic fail, and although a tin of chopped tomatoes in preference to using 3 large ripe tomatoes was more excusable, fresh is always better than tinned equivalents.

The end result, through every fault of my own, was bland and disappointing and it tasted way too tomatoery, if that’s a ‘thing’? I tried to rescue it by dolloping parmesan on top but I wasn’t fooling anyone. Not least my teenage son who charitably said, “It’s nice Dad but I’m full, so I’ll put it in the microwave and eat it later”, where it remained untouched.

The moral of the story here is that while you can get away with some simple substitutes in many recipes, this isn’t one of them, particularly when bolder flavours such as chilli and smoked lardons are required. If you have a go at making this and it turns out well, do let me know :-).

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Rainbow Trout with Braised Fennel


You could swap the trout for salmon but it would be higher in calories

One of the advantages of living in the arse end of a small Cheshire town is that the locals don’t know how to cook fish, which is a harsh, sweeping generalisation but I’m sticking to it. Towards the end of the day my local Co-op regularly has lots of clearance items of fish at rock bottom prices, including cod, salmon and sea bass. So, when it started stocking rainbow trout I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d pick up a bargain. Two packs, which should have been £8, only cost me £1.80. I make no apologies for being a smug twat.

Off home I gleefully trotted and put the trout in my freezer, where it subsequently resided for 6 months. It turns out I’m as equally clueless when it comes to cooking trout as my local constituents are. But a lightbulb went off in my brain when I came across Rainbow Trout with Braised Fennel from Tom Kerridge. Sadly, my excitement turned to despair due to my poor execution of the recipe. Now whose the smug twat?

I couldn’t be arsed to use a cook’s blowtorch to char the trout and therefore overcooked it in the oven to compensate. I completely forgot to add the crème fraiche at the end and my fennel tasted of fennel, which is fine if you like fennel, but I found the taste somewhat overpowering. I also should have podded my broad beans but again, I couldn’t be arsed.

Sometimes you get out of something what you put in, and I wasn’t as committed to making this dish when it came down to it. It would turn out better if I tried it again, but at nearly £5 a portion (full price) I don’t think I’ll bother. One final thing, the portion size is huge for 2 people, I split it between 3 and it would even stretch to 4.

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Chipotle Turkey Meatballs


Don’t worry about the chipotle chilli flakes, they are not that hot!

I’ve loved experimenting with some new turkey recipes over the last six months and Chipotle Turkey Meatballs from Pinch of Nom is right up there with the best. There’s the perfect balance of heat from the chipotle chilli flakes and the smoked paprika which go well with the rich flavour of the passata. Yuummmeeee!!

If you love a meatball, and most people do, check out beef kofta curry (also from Pinch of Nom, which is exquisite), Swedish meatballs and Transylvanian meatballs. There’s a meatball out there for everyone.

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Turkey San Choy Bow


There’s something cool about wrapping food in lettuce leaves

I’d previously dismissed Tom Kerridge as a British classics / gastro pub chef but that was doing him a great disservice. As well as succeeding on his phenomenal weight loss journey, Tom’s grasp of low-calorie Asian food and flavours is brilliant, as evidenced in his Lose Weight for Good book.

Turkey San Choy Bow is one recipe I was really keen to try, partly because the name remains me of the Karate Kid and Mr Miyagi shouting, “Daniel san!”. Joking aside, this is a mouthwatering dish and only 260 calories per serving. I love the concept of serving the meat, vegetables and Asian flavours in lettuce leaves – it’s tonnes more satisfying than having rice and better for your waistline.

If you like the concept of this, but are pushed for time, I’d also recommend Justine Pattison’s turkey lettuce wraps. Similarly, if you’ve got beansprouts and water chestnuts leftover, have a go at the Hairy Dieters’ chicken stir-fry.

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Beachside Paella


A standard frying pan won’t do for this, it’s time to bring the ‘big boy’ out

Let’s face it, with tightening restrictions around Covid there’s not a lot to smile about right now. As the nights draw in sun, sand and sea seems a distant memory but food can have a positive effect in lifting your spirits, even if it’s just for an hour or so. I needed a focus to perk me up and Beachside Paella from the Hairy Dieters was just the ticket, washed down with copious amounts of vino (not recommended for the diet). It didn’t trick me into thinking I was in Spain, but it was a welcome distraction from being locked down in Cheshire!

A word of caution, you do need a f***ing huuuuugggggeeee pan to fit all of the ingredients in this mammoth dish. I was a geek and purchased my own paella pan – I got a good one from Amazon for £40, but you can get them cheaper. But why skimp on price? It’s not as if you’re going to Spain anytime soon, right?

As for the taste, I absolutely loved this dish. It says it serves 6 at 358 calories per portion. But I think the reality is that if there’s less than 6 of you the pan is getting cleaned out because it tastes so good. My ears are still ringing from the bollocking I received off my wife for picking the chorizo and chicken leftovers out of the pan and leaving just the rice. Was it worth it? Absolutely! If you want a dumbed-down, non-paella, but equally mighty fine one-pan dish, I’d recommend southern-style jambalaya, also from the Hairy Dieters.

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(Pork) Chop Suey


You could swap pork for turkey or chicken in this

I think by the time the Hairy Dieters got to their sixth book (Make it Easy) they were running short of ideas. Chop Suey is somewhat similar to chicken stir-fry from their third instalment (Good Eating), except this time pork is used instead of chicken.

Repetition aside, this is pretty good and at only 168 calories per portion you could even double up if you’re hungry. The peppers, broccoli and beansprouts provide enough bulk so that you don’t need rice, which always amazes me how something so bland can be so calorific.

If you’re looking for sassier stir-fry ideas, I’d recommend diet cola chicken and chicken satay from Pinch of Nom, which are lot more imaginative and gorgeous to eat.

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