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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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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(Low-cal) Eggs Benedict


These are genuine chives out of my garden and not blades of grass that I’ve put on my plate to try and impress you 😉

I’m a serial food menu planner and waste copious amounts of time writing out my weekly meal plans only to change them again, and again, and again. Eggs Benedict from Justine Pattison has been on my list since lockdown, but it kept getting bumped due to me having a lack of confidence in myself to pull it off. That, and also because I get in a proper flap in the kitchen when more than one pan is on the go.

There’s a lot going on with this recipe, your kitchen will resemble a bombsite afterwards, and it does require some TLC to ensure the eggs don’t scramble and nothing sticks to the pan. But…. give it a try, I was delighted with the end result and the low-cal hollandaise sauce was gorgeous! This is a perfect Sunday brunch dish and a real treat!

I haven’t had eggs benedict since being dragged into a phone booth style café when sight-seeing in Covent Garden ten years ago. Two portions set me back about £20 and I’m guessing the calorie count was significantly higher than the 320 per serving in Justine’s slimming friendly version, which only costs about £2.45 per portion in comparison!

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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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Tex Mex Toad-in-the-Hole


What would Speedy Gonzalez make of this?

Tex Mex Toad-in-the-Hole from Justine Pattison is about as Mexican as me growing a tash and donning a sombrero. But let’s just go with it because it’s a quirky little recipe and a funky twist on the traditional toad-in-the-hole.

If you can’t get hold of spicy pork sausages (and I couldn’t find any supermarkets that stock them), improvise by lobbing in a generous sprinkling of chilli flakes over regular sausages in your roasting tin. And don’t be tempted to open your oven door once the tin is in there otherwise your batter won’t rise!

Andale andale arriba arriba, which translates (loosely) to hurry up and give this recipe a try!

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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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Minted Pea and Feta Omelette


Omelettes are a dieter’s best friend

Omelettes are brilliant for a quick meal and this version from the Hairy Dieters with minted peas and feta cheese is surprisingly tasty with a salad on the side. Prepped and ready in under 10 minutes, under a quid per portion and 382 calories per serving. Job done.

Wondering what to do with any leftover feta? Try mushroom, feta and tomato baked peppers, spinach, tomato and feta scrambled eggs or menemen.

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All-Day Mexican Breakfast


If you like neat and tidy meals, this probably isn’t for you

True but pointless story. In my younger student days, I was once removed from a public house establishment over a row about an ‘all-day breakfast’. It was 8pm, I’d had a couple of beverages and fancied a good old-fashioned ‘fry-up’. “We stopped selling the all-day breakfast sir at 12pm,” said a patronising waiter. He may not have been, I was pissed. “An all-day breakfast should be all day, it’s 8 o’clock, I want an all-day breakfast,” I insisted. It didn’t end well.

Anyway, I digress, but the point of this pointless story is that you can enjoy this All-Day Mexican Breakfast from Jamie Oliver whenever you like, and you only need 5 base ingredients to rustle it up. Eggs and avocado together can be a messy job, as the photo below indicates. My wife likes soft eggs, I like hard, as I was making this I got my wish but I do think this recipe lends itself better to soft / medium cooked eggs. We opted for 2 chillies which made this really hot! So, if you’re not a heat freak, maybe opt for 1 chilli instead.

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Smoked Ham and Courgette Tortilla


Tortilla is just a fashionable word for quiche

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.

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Hot and Sour Soup – just 98p per serving


Less than 100 calories and under a £1 per serving

Having dour, tinned soup when on a diet can be enough to send people over the edge. The ‘healthy’ supermarket options are as dull as dishwater, whereas the more interesting varieties are often laden with sugars. Home-made soups, like Hot and Sour Soup from Pinch of Nom, is far more enticing and really good for you at less than 100 calories per serving.

If your fancying a Chinese, why not have this as a starter followed by sweet and sour chicken, yeung chow fried rice or chicken satay? In total, you could have a fakeaway bonanza for less than 500 calories!

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Monte Cristo Sandwich


Just make a ham and cheese toasty and be done with it

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.

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Cobb Salad with blue cheese dressing


NO ONE is going hungry after eating this

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.

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Prawn Foo Yung


This is why Chinese takeaways will never go out of business

“Can I have Prawn Foo Yung?” said no one, ever, when ordering from a Chinese takeaway. But this low-calorie version from the Hairy Dieters is one of the healthiest ‘fakeaways’ you can have at just 264 calories per serving. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but nor can anyone else because no one chooses prawn foo yung, right?

I apologise if I’ve offended any “foo yungers” reading this. What is this recipe like and how did it find itself on my table? Well, it was Friday evening, there wasn’t a lot in my fridge and I was fancying something quick and easy to rustle up. I had some leftover cabbage after making home-made coleslaw to accompany Sticky Chicken earlier in the week, and as part of my ‘no food waste’ crusade I was determined to make it go further. I’ve usually got some eggs, carrots and prawns in the fridge and hey presto, possibly the dullest Chinese fakeaway was created in less than 20 minutes.

On the positive side, this takes less than 5 minutes to cook once you’ve done the required bit of prep work. It tastes pretty ok as prawn and eggs go, and you can have it on the table in a flash. An imperfectly perfect Friday night meal so you can stay on track with your diet and not resort to calling Just Eat.

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One-pan cooked breakfast


A healthy ‘fry-up’ for 87p per serving

I love the concept behind Justine Pattison’s One-Pan Cooked Breakfast. A traditional ‘fry-up’, made healthier by cooking the ingredients in the oven, for less than a quid per portion with minimal washing up.

But in reality this recipe is a bit of a faff to make, and I nearly made Will late for school and me late for work by not reading the cooking method properly. When I put food in the oven I don’t want to worry about it until it’s ready to bring out. However, my patience was tested with this meal because it involves about 5 different stages – stir this, turn that, do the hokey cokey and you turn around….

Maybe I’m being pedantic (said no one to me, ever) but I prefer Scrambled Egg with Bacon and Mushrooms or Pan-fried Bacon with Poached Egg and Balsamic Tomatoes for speed and simplicity.

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Grilled mushrooms with scrambled eggs on toast


Useless fact: did you know there are only 18 calories per Portobello mushroom?

People love or hate mushrooms but I’m definitely in the former camp! Grilled Mushrooms with Scrambled Eggs on Toast in DK’s Cook Healthy & Quick book uses the Portobello variety, which are coated with chopped parsley and olive oil and then baked in the oven.

They are the perfect accompaniment to a slice of toasted wholemeal bread and some scrambled egg and chives. If you share my adulation of ‘shrooms, check out Mushrooms on Toast by Jamie Oliver which is equally simplistic to make.

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Baked haddock, spinach and egg pots


Ideal for a lazy Sunday brunch

Baked haddock, spinach and egg pots from the Hairy Dieters has been a recipe I’ve never got round to making. It doesn’t work as a weekday breakfast for me, and if buying fresh haddock from a supermarket I never know what to do with any leftovers.

However, I recently purchased packs of frozen fish on offer from Iceland (cod, haddock and tuna steaks) and one lazy Sunday brunch later this meal was back on the agenda because I could take out of the freezer what I needed. Smoked haddock can be an acquired taste, but I enjoyed this and would have it again. I do prefer the Hairy Dieters’ other baked recipes though – Baked Eggs with Mushroom Filling and Baked Eggs with Chorizo Filling.

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Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon – don’t forget the chives!


Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

There’s something luxurious about having smoked salmon for breakfast or brunch, it’s super quick to prepare and won’t set you back £10 or more from a café if you make it at home. Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon from the Hairy Dieters recommends serving it with half an English muffin to keep the calories to 354 per portion. Personally, I can’t see the point and think the eggs and smoked salmon are sufficient on their own for less calories.

But one thing I don’t think should be optional is serving this meal with freshly snipped chives. I love them, even if I invariably end up wasting half the packet. While this recipe is good, my favourite remains Poached egg, smoked salmon and spinach – truly the breakfast of kings! Continue reading “Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon – don’t forget the chives!”

Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes


Poached egg balsamic tomaoes

There are many things I’m willing to give up when dieting – booze (ouch), chocolate (ok, if I must), crisps (fine, just fine), sweets (oh for f***s sake!), but bacon and eggs isn’t one of them. Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes from the Hairy Dieters is a world away from a traditional British fry-up, but at only 264 calories per serving it’s a pretty good substitute!

I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes, but drizzling balsamic vinegar over them makes them much more edible, in my opinion. As for adding watercress (as the Hairy Dieters suggest) as an accompaniment, no, that just seems like a bridge too far. Continue reading “Pan-fried bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes”

Spinach, tomato and feta scrambled eggs


Ramsay eggs

I’ve recently fallen in love with Gordon Ramsay’s Spinach, Tomato and Feta Scrambled Eggs. It tastes unbelievably good, costs under a £1 per portion to make and can be ready in under 10 minutes, requiring just 4 base ingredients.

The ingredients in this recipe are a great combination, but do cook the tomatoes slowly so that they start to caramelise. The added bonus with this breakfast is that it comes in at only 239 calories and provides a great start to your day, with minimum fuss required in the kitchen. If you love eggs in the morning like me, check out Menemen (Turkish Eggs) from the Hairy Dieters and Scrambled Cajun Eggs with Spinach and Kale from Tom Kerridge. Continue reading “Spinach, tomato and feta scrambled eggs”

Scrambled Cajun eggs with spinach and kale – great with hot sauce!


Cajun eggs

If you like to (literally) kickstart your day with a bang, Scrambled Cajun Eggs with Spinach and Kale from Tom Kerridge offers a great spicy wake-up call. I’d never previously been a fan of kale having used it as an accompaniment for soups, but it works brilliantly with eggs and adding a dollop of hot sauce (optional) at the end takes this to a whole new level!

I’m not entirely sure what Tom means when referring to using a ‘light single cream alternative’. So I included some half-fat crème fraiche when making mine, though I’m not sure it needs it. Tom isn’t shy with using bold flavours in his books so I’m looking forward to working my way through his diet friendly recipes. Continue reading “Scrambled Cajun eggs with spinach and kale – great with hot sauce!”