I promised myself that I’d try and eat more fruit in 2022, however I remain rebellious towards the ‘good stuff’. Finding a sensible substitute for a bacon or sausage butty is a tough gig, but it’s got to be done if you want to cut out unnecessary calories, or sheer greed in my case.
Shakshouka or Shakshuka, depending on which spelling you go with, is an egg-based recipe originating from Turkey. There are many variations of it, but I decided to try this version from Two Chubby Cubs having tried a previous adaption from Pinch of Nom. You certainly won’t go hungry or skint after eating it at a cost of about 85p per serving.
I found including two tins of peeled plum tomatoes was a little rich for my liking, so if you’re of a similar disposition maybe just try one tin and see how you get on? Even with using full-fat feta, there’s only 200 calories per serving if splitting it between four people, or 400 cals between two if you kid yourself that you’re ‘going to skip lunch’.
And if this floats your boat, make sure you have a bash at making Menemen – a similar Turkish eggs related dish in the Hairy Dieters’ series of books which remains my personal favourite.
Due to the cost and length of cooking time, I’m quite selective over which lamb dishes I make but Lamb, Rosemary and Sweet Potato Pie from Pinch of Nom’s latest book was a no-brainer. This really is a beautifully tasting pie which contains a great balance of protein, vegetables and carbs, all for just 340 calories per serving (based on serving 6 people).
Summertime is around the corner and the warmer weather normally leads to lighter, fruiter-based breakfasts. But old habits die hard and if you can’t survive without having eggs in the morning, Spinach, Mushroom & Chorizo Frittata from Two Chubby Cubs is a great solution.
This recipe is 411 calories, so why not make it for a weekend brunch and stick to more ‘grab and go’ breakfasts during the week? I must say, I really enjoyed this indulgent, filling meal. Eggs, chorizo, mushrooms & spinach, sprinkled with parmesan and finished off under the grill. Oh yes!
With some healthier tweaks, you can still enjoy the ‘naughty’ things you love when on a diet. Full English Wraps by Pinch of Nom may not be a traditional breakfast ‘fry-up’, but as it contains bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms and/or beans and tomatoes it’s not a bad substitute.
As ever, moderation is key and to keep the calories to a modest 220 per serving the ‘wrap’ in this recipe is made by cooking an egg on a very low heat. Nom suggest using a medium egg, but as supermarket sizes can vary, for the extra calories you might be better off using a large egg so it fully covers the base of your frying pan and can hold the contents of the wrap without the risk of falling apart.
Breakfast Potatoes from Pinch of Nom is a lighter version of an American brunch dish which you can top with a fried egg (as I did) or some avocado. It’s not the quickest to make, so is probably better suited for a weekend.
Green Eggs & Fam from Two Chubby Cubs is essentially ‘creamy’ scrambled eggs and bacon on toast with a few snipped chives on top. Quirky recipe title aside, it might not look fancy, but it requires just five ingredients to conjure up a really satisfying brunch dish.
The ‘creamy’ eggs are created by folding through some ricotta cheese which gives them a gorgeous light texture. The Cubs recommend topping this with a few drops of brown sauce and a grind of black pepper. Amazing!
You can reduce the calorie count for this by using medium eggs and lean back bacon or bacon medallions. Or just say ‘sod it, it’s only 400 calories’ and tuck in ;-). For more brunch ideas, click here.
Ploughman’s is a pub classic and if you follow Pinch of Nom’s Ploughman’s Platter with Homemade Chutney recipe you can have a lunchtime feast for under 400 calories, which includes a wholemeal roll for the carb fanatics out there.
Nom’s home-made chutney is delectable, but if you want to save yourself 20 minutes shop-bought chutney will suffice. There really is something in this platter for everyone – ham, salad, cheese, fruit, bread – just dig in and this is perfect if you’re someone who prefers buffet style food.
My wife has recently bought a couple of afternoon tea sets from local cafes comprising finger sandwiches and cakes. They’ve been fine, but apart from being dieting busting they’ve cost in the region of £15 a head! In contrast, this home-made platter costs around £2.65 per portion and is kinder to your waistline.
A cooked breakfast for less than 150 calories per serving? You better believe it thanks to Justine Pattison’s All-in-One Breakfast, which is conveniently cooked in the oven to save on the washing up afterwards!
The concept of this recipe is great, but getting the execution right can be faffy when it comes to prising the egg from the baking tray. Low-calorie cooking spray by definition might save calories compared to using oil, but I still find it irritatingly inadequate at preventing ingredients from sticking. One tip Justine advises is to use really fresh eggs as they won’t spread so far across the pan when broken.
If you’ve got some eggs and odds and sods in your fridge that need using up, shove them in a frittata. Pinch of Nom’s thrifty version uses bacon, potato and spring onions which are a great combo, but chuck in what you like. If you’re after a vege version, check out vegetable frittata. Ideal for brunch or a light lunch with a green salad on the side.
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!
I recently had to return to the office for a day and with all kitchen facilities out of bounds due to Covid, I was a bit stumped as to what I could eat. I then had the brainwave of making Lemon and Blueberry Baked Oats from Pinch of Nom. Oats slowly release energy which help to keep hunger at bay for longer, and as the calorie count for this is on the high side at 440 per serving, I figured I might skip lunch rather than have to go out and buy something from a shop.
My masterplan involved getting up at the crack of dawn to bake the oats in the oven, wrap them in foil and then drive to the office where they would still be warm for when I arrived. Genius (ish). But what about the taste? Well….. it was very lemony, as you’d expect, which is fine if you like lemon (I prefer subtle hints of lemon). It also tasted more like a dessert, which is fine if you like desserts, but I’m indifferent towards them and certainly don’t want a pudding for breakfast! So my cunning plan was a bit of a bust.
There are many variations of French Toast but some can be particularly high in calories. This awesome lighter version from the Hairy Dieters is under 300 calories and less than a £1 per serving! But best of all, this tastes unbelievable and so indulgent with the apple compote, cinnamon, maple syrup, Greek yoghurt and blackberries dolloped over a slice of eggy bread. Pure heaven!
Mega-Eggybread Club Sandwich Stacks from Two Chubby Cubs feels like a proper naughty treat, but it still comes in at under 500 calories so it’s just the ticket for a lazy weekend brunch / lunch.
To ensure your toastie doesn’t disintegrate when you come to fry it, the Cubs recommend that you make it up the night before, tightly wrap it in clingfilm and then chill in the fridge so the ingredients remain pressed together. This ‘sarnie’ is so tasty with the Dijon mustard and smoked cheese and you could even sprinkle over some chilli flakes if you’re feeling brave. I challenge anyone to still be feeling hungry after scoffing this!
If you want an alternative toastie suggestion, then have a look at monte cristo sandwich which is lower in calories but does require more ingredients.
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.
Shakshuka is a classic middle eastern breakfast using eggs that is suitable for vegetarians and can be made in one-pan. You’ll find lots of versions of it online, but I opted to try this filling recipe from Pinch of Nom. If you like a bit more spice, you might want to be more generous when adding the cumin and chilli powder – I’d even argue it’s a tad bland if you don’t.
I love having eggs in the morning and my personal favourites are menemen (Turkish Eggs) and masala omelette, which are cheaper to make and pack in way more flavour in my opinion.
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.
I’m normally up for scoffing prawns, but the Hairy Dieters’ Prawn and Chive Omelette concept didn’t overly appeal to me. Prawns in curries yes, prawns in salads tick, but prawns with eggs… ‘uh-uh’ as the buzzer goes on Family Fortunes. I also think this is quite an expensive meal to make for one person at lunch.
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.
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.
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.