(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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Honey Chilli Chicken


Honey I made the chicken

I was really looking forward to sampling Honey Chilli Chicken from Pinch of Nom but it didn’t quite hit the spot. The honey (2 tbsp) and dark soy sauce (3 tbsp) coating for the chicken is a great concept, but I found the addition of the 2 chicken stock cubes and the garlic granules made this too salty for my tastebuds.

If trying again, I’d probably use only 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce and 1 stock cube. I decided to make a proper side salad to accompany it as Nom’s radishes, spring onions and red chilli suggestion left me feeling a bit ‘so what?’. My favourite chicken-based recipes remain sticky chicken with coleslaw and jerk chicken, the latter which packs a proper punch!

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Beef with Green Peppers in Black Bean Sauce


Less than £2.50 per head, even with sirloin steak!

Who says you can’t enjoy takeaway food when watching your weight? Beef with Green Peppers in Black Bean Sauce from Justine Pattison is a pretty authentic ‘fakeaway’ which is only 225 calories per serving. With the addition of a small portion of rice, you’re looking at 400 calories all in, perfect for keeping your diet on track!

If you fancy having a go at creating more classic Chinese fakeaways, check out sweet and sour chicken and yeung chow fried rice.

Continue reading “Beef with Green Peppers in Black Bean Sauce”

(Healthy) Piri Piri Chicken


Forget Nando’s, this is better and healthier for you

For all the frustration and worry caused by going into lockdown, I never understood why some people made such a fuss about no longer being able to visit their favourite fast food joints. But it prompted some to discover how easily they could recreate their favourite convenience meals at home, and also realise how much these joints were having their pants down in terms of what they were being charged for the quality of food being served – not to mention the higher calories!

Piri Piri Chicken from Justine Pattison is a lighter take on a Nando’s institution and it tastes damn good. But you must remember to follow the golden rules to create the authentic piri piri taste. Firstly, you must marinade the chicken for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight to allow for the flavours to intensify. Secondly, and above all, make sure you use proper hot chillies like red bird’s eye instead of regular ones otherwise your food will be lacking the heat you crave.

This is great with a big side salad or some naughty chippies / potato wedges on the side.

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Satay Burger


Best burger, ever. And ready in under 20 minutes

Satay Burger from Two Chubby Cubs is, quite possibly, the best burger I’ve ever tasted – and that includes the unhealthy ones I’ve demolished from takeaways and pubs over the years. But this home-made burger is only 390 calories and will cost approx £1.36 per portion to send you into food heaven / porn – delete as appropriate.

Normally you associate satay with chicken, so having this with beef made for a welcome surprise. And it tasted even nicer because my wife made it :-). This is proof that you can still enjoy a burger on a diet, but if you’re going to have a treat I recommend you get top-quality beef mince from a butcher instead of from a supermarket.

Most low-fat burgers require you to bulk out the filling with onions and courgettes, and while they taste good, I love the fact that this amazing burger from ‘the Cubs’ requires zero pissing about. Just mix together the soy sauces, peanut butter and lime juice with the beef mince, form into a burger and pop them in a frying pan or griddle pan. From start to finish, you can be savouring this in less than 20 minutes. Why are you still here? Go, go, go!!!

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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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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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Chicken Satay – for under 300 calories!


Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off. This is worth the effort

Chicken Satay from Pinch of Nom’s debut book had long since caught my eye. However, the long list of ingredients (23), some of them more unusual (Alpro coconut drink and powdered peanut butter), meant that it kept slipping off the menu. But eventually I decided to bite the bullet and I’m so pleased I did – this recipe tastes absolutely gorgeous.

You can save yourself some stress by prepping the satay sauce in advance. The chicken stir-fry part cooks quickly and the rest of the time is spent simmering everything in the sauce. Don’t be tempted to use regular peanut butter – 4 tablespoons of the full-fat variety will bump the calories up considerably! I struggled to find low-fat peanut powder, but eventually sourced it from Asda. I believe Aldi and Waitrose sell it as well. It is expensive for what it is, but it’s genuinely worth buying it for this brilliant dish alone.

The calorie count is just 293 per serving. It will serve 6 generously with a small portion of rice. I didn’t bother because, as regular readers will know, I don’t find rice very nice.

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Coconut Prawn Curry – prepped and cooked in under 20 mins!


Perfect for a quick, weeknight curry fix

Coconut Prawn Curry from the Hairy Dieters is a such a simple dish and perfect for a weeknight meal when you’re tired and just want something good to eat that’s quick to cook. From start to finish, you can be tucking into this in less than 20 minutes. Perfect.

The photo doesn’t do the flavours in this recipe justice, and despite using two teaspoons of cornflour the sauce was a little runny, so don’t be tempted to use more than the recommended 200ml of half-fat coconut milk. But all that matters is that it tastes great, and for just 254 calories it will satisfy your hunger cravings so that you don’t need to add any rice to go with it.

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

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Sweet and Sour Chicken – a proper ‘fakeaway’


Less than £2 a head and under 300 calories per portion, without rice!

From re-creating your favourite curry to making lower calorie burgers, healthy cookbooks are awash with ‘fakeaways’ these days. And don’t get me wrong, these recipes are welcome and have their place. But try as they might, some of them still don’t hit the ‘spot’, particularly with curries which omit staple restaurant ingredients like ghee to keep the fat content to a minimum. My philosophy is if you’re in need of a blow-out and want to be naughty, then treat yourself to a takeaway, PROVIDING you get back on your diet the next day.

But there are ‘fakeaway’ exceptions which do genuinely (in my opinion) taste like the ‘real thing’. Sweet and Sour Chicken from the Hairy Dieters is one of the more authentic fakeaways I’ve made – I think Chinese takeaways in general are easier to recreate at home based on the required ingredients. This recipe requires only two chicken breasts and will comfortably serve 4 people for less than £2 a head, without rice. The sweet and sour sauce with the pineapple and ginger is to die for!

Serve this in a takeaway carton to your nearest and dearest and see if they notice the difference. Or just serve it them anyway. If you’re interested in fakeways, check out the relevant section on this blog here, and if Chinese floats your boat, Yeung Chow Fried Rice, is another excellent recipe to try, courtesy of Pinch of Nom.

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Beef Massaman Curry


Beef massaman curry

At times, lockdown has sent us all a little crazy. Ann-Marie’s moment of madness came when she decided to order a 25kg bag of potatoes from a farm store to ensure we didn’t run out. Now that’s a serious amount of carbs right there! Undeterred, I began furiously fanning my recipe books for meals with potatoes and came across Beef Massaman Curry from Justine Pattison’s excellent ‘Takeaway Favourites’ book.

The recipe requires 500g of potatoes, not 25kg, but hey it’s a start. But what about the taste? Pretty good actually, although I was unable to get my hands on any kaffir lime leaves so swapped in some lime zest. I also didn’t bother with the chilli peanuts suggestion – in hindsight a mistake as I definitely would have preferred more heat in this.

But with all of the proper ingredients I’ll definitely make this Thai curry again as I’m in no danger of running out of spuds! Speaking of spuds, you don’t need rice or naan in this recipe which despite the lengthy cooking time is a doddle to make as it just does its thing in the oven. Continue reading “Beef Massaman Curry”

Five-Minute Pizza – it only takes 5 minutes!


Five-Minute Pizza

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!”

Thai Green Chicken Curry – Tom Kerridge style


Thai green chicken curry

I’m a fan of Tom Kerridge, but on occasion I do think he makes his recipes unnecessarily faffy or ‘cheffy’. After a day at work I almost sacked off making his Thai Green Chicken Curry when looking at the long list of ingredients and method to make it. In the end, I used chicken breasts (which I diced and stir-fried for a couple of minutes first) instead of pissing about poaching a chicken crown and cutting off the meat. This saved some precious time in the kitchen.

As for the end result, well fair play to Tom, like most of his meals this did taste very good and the serving size was huge. I did make the mistake of substituting the 100ml full-fat coconut milk for 200ml half-fat coconut milk, mainly because I had a half-tin lurking in my cupboard and couldn’t see the point in opening a regular sized tin to only use 100ml. But this did make the curry runnier and as a consequence of having to simmer for longer some of the vege went soft. Would I eat this meal again? Yes, definitely. Would I make it again? Pass.

If you’re wanting a Thai curry fix, the Hairy Dieters do a simpler version for approx 150 calories less here. Continue reading “Thai Green Chicken Curry – Tom Kerridge style”

Turkey Lettuce Wraps – 158 calories per serving!


Turkey lettuce wraps

Turkey Lettuce Wraps from Justine Pattison reminds me of going to a Chinese restaurant with my parents as a kid. I loved spare ribs, prawn toast and seaweed but they took a back seat when I discovered mince meat wrapped in lettuce leaves – it was even yummier with the added advantage that it didn’t leave me with barbecue sauce smeared all over my chops, fingers and shirt.

As a replica dish, this recipe is superb and only 158 calories per serving. So quick, so easy and so scrumptious it has been one of my favourite lunches of lockdown. I can serve and enjoy it hot with my wife and son at the table where we can pick at the food and help ourselves. Enjoy. Continue reading “Turkey Lettuce Wraps – 158 calories per serving!”

Beef kofta curry – gorgeous meatballs in a butternut squash sauce


Beef kofta curry

Most people love a good meatball and by using extra lean mince you can easily incorporate them into your healthy eating plan. There are lots of reduced calorie meatball recipes around, but Beef Kofta Curry from Pinch of Nom has recently become one of my favourites.

The jewel in this recipe’s crown is the butternut squash based sauce. It adds a real depth of sweetness to the curry which also includes regular curry powder, tomato puree and garlic. You can enjoy this meal with or without rice, but don’t forget to add on the additional calories if you do and only have a small portion – a 125g serving of rice will set you back a whopping 173 calories! As I can take it or leave it, my portions of rice are typically 35g to 50g max.

Butternut squash is a fantastic vegetable which can keep for ages in your fridge. You only need 225g for this recipe, so you’ll have plenty leftover. If so, why not give Home-made Butternut Squash Tortellini or Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup a try? Continue reading “Beef kofta curry – gorgeous meatballs in a butternut squash sauce”

Yeung Chow Fried Rice – fantastic ‘fakeaway’


Yeung Chow Fried rice

Although luscious, Yeung Chow Fried Rice from my local Chinese takeaway will set me back £6 and is rich in calories. In contrast, this slimming, wallet friendly version from Pinch of Nom tastes arguably as good – the only giveaway that this is ‘home-made’ is my shite attempt at julienning a carrot.

There may be a few ingredients to initially buy-in, but most of them you’ll use consistently if following a healthy-eating plan. I had an unused pork steak from a pack after making Creamy Pork, Apples and Cabbage, so this seemed like a good way of ensuring nothing went to waste. Continue reading “Yeung Chow Fried Rice – fantastic ‘fakeaway’”

Cauliflower (and chicken) Pilaf


Cauliflower pilaf

Some dishes don’t turn out as well as they look in a book and sadly Cauliflower (and chicken) Pilaf from the Hairy Dieters was a disappointment to me. Undoubtedly, some of this was down to ‘user error’. I used a stick blender rather than the recommended food processor to blend my cauliflower rice which was a complete disaster. Pomegranate seeds, which you can buy in packs from supermarkets, were a poor substitute for an actual pomegranate, and my son couldn’t get to grips with removing some of the whole spices in the dish which aren’t supposed to be eaten.

Overall, both cooking and eating this after a day at work proved stressful, partly due to my own incompetence and also a lack of patience – it proved far too faffy and the suggested 30 minute time to have this on the table seems unrealistic. I wouldn’t write this recipe off entirely, there are a lot of powerful flavours within it, so perhaps you’ll fair better than me if you try it. Continue reading “Cauliflower (and chicken) Pilaf”

Crispy Turkey Chinese Wraps – who needs aromatic duck?


Chinese turkey wraps

I absolutely love aromatic crispy duck from my local Chinese takeaway, however it’s so high in calories that I have to give it a wide berth to avoid becoming, well, wider! Crispy Turkey Wraps from Pinch of Nom is therefore an inspired low-calorie alternative to duck which tastes surprisingly authentic.

I was a little overzealous in reducing down the sauce which made it thicker than intended. Next time, I’ll follow Pinch of Nom’s tip to reheat with a couple of tablespoons of water to loosen. This is a perfect meal to throw together for lunch and is easy-peasy to make. Continue reading “Crispy Turkey Chinese Wraps – who needs aromatic duck?”

Mediterranean Beef Burgers – get the BBQ / ‘barbie’ on now!


Meditteranean beef burger

There’s a definite knack to making Mediterranean Beef Burgers by the Hairy Dieters, but once you master it you’ll never return to supermarket burgers again. Firstly, follow the recipe carefully and only use a small courgette otherwise your burger will be overpowered by too much of the green stuff! Secondly, after you’ve mixed the ingredients in a bowl, use a stick blender to blend everything together and then form your burgers with wet hands so nothing sticks.

Use good quality reduced-fat mozzarella rather than Cheddar or any other cheese for your topping, and don’t forget to include the sliced tomato, basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar which really enhances the flavour. Finally, cook your burgers gently and slowly in a frying pan, griddle pan or, like me, on your gas barbecue. If you’ve got time, pop them in the fridge to ‘firm up’ before you cook them. If you follow these instructions you’ll be left with a juicy, tasty and, above all, much healthier burger to savour.

Feel free to omit the ciabatta roll to save on calories and replace it with home-made chips if you like. Get the ‘barbie’/ ‘BBQ’ on now!! Continue reading “Mediterranean Beef Burgers – get the BBQ / ‘barbie’ on now!”

Chicken stir-fry – 20 ingredients for under 200 calories


Chicken stir-fry

A LOT goes into Chicken Stir-Fry from the Hairy Dieters, 20 ingredients in fact, yet surprisingly this comes in at just 196 calories per portion. That’s because it’s full of the good stuff (vegetables) and other stuff which helps to bulk the meal out (water chestnuts and beansprouts) but doesn’t necessarily add a lot of flavour.

The addition of the soy sauce, rice wine, chicken stock, curry powder and sesame oil did up the ante somewhat for my critical tastebuds, but it still didn’t run my local takeaway close in terms of flavour. However to add perspective, if you want a healthy, filling weeknight dinner for under 200 calories then this is one to try. Continue reading “Chicken stir-fry – 20 ingredients for under 200 calories”