Paprika Chicken


This recipe hails from Romania

Trying to avoid eating peppers on a ‘healthy eating plan’ is a bit like trying to avoid getting wet when you’re outside and it’s raining – it ain’t gonna happen. And it is for that reason that I bypassed making Paprika Chicken from the Hairy Dieters for so long. My teenage son hates peppers, even when I cut them into miniscule pieces, we still have ‘pepper gate’ when he huffs and puffs when shuffling them around his plate at the dinner table.

However, when all I had in my fridge was some peppers and chicken thighs, it was time to bite the bullet. And….. both my wife and my son really enjoyed this meal, despite ‘pepper gate’. So, the moral of the story is…… actually, I don’t know, but perhaps it’s something along the lines of don’t always assume that your kids are going to hate a meal and it’s good to try them with different recipes. I think I’ve just had my Jamie Oliver ‘turkey twizzler’ moment ;-).

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Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip


You could use this recipe for a BBQ when the weather is nice

It’s really easy to bring plain chicken to life with some spices or a marinade. Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip from the Hairy Dieters is a healthy, flavoursome twist on boring chicken and chips.

Don’t worry if you don’t have / or don’t want to buy cumin, paprika, thyme, oregano and cayenne pepper to make the spice rub – just use some regular cajun spice / seasoning which will create roughly the same effect. You can then use the cajun seasoning to make cajun dirty rice, cajun sweet potatoes, cajun prawn and kale salad or scrambled cajun eggs with spinach and kale. Basically, your cajun spice won’t go to waste! ;-).

Note, you can have this dish with a few home-made chips, the emphasis being here on a few to keep the calorie count low. The suggested portion size isn’t the biggest (boooooo!), so I’d recommend serving this with a green salad on the side, or some home-made coleslaw as I did – see sticky pork ‘ribs’ in barbecue sauce for the recipe.

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Cauliflower Cheese Soup


If you think cauliflower is ‘boring’, try this soup and be prepared to change your mind

With the temperatures falling below zero in many parts of the UK, it’s high time I included more soup recipes on this blog. And I can’t think of a better one to start with than Cauliflower Cheese Soup from the Hairy Dieters.

Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable and it tastes exquisite here when blended with cheese, milk and wholegrain mustard for a smooth and creamy finish. The recipe quantities will serve 4 people generously for 233 calories and at just 68p per portion. Forget tinned soup when you can conjure up home-made varieties as good as this. Superb.

For more exotic soup ideas, check out the soup section on this blog here.

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Vegetable Frittata


Don’t fret over a frittata, use any spare veg you have

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.

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Speedy Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pies


Pie in the sky. This ain’t a pie.

I didn’t find Speedy Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pies from the Hairy Dieters particularly speedy. Nor did they remind me of pies. But apart from that, this chicken and vege recipe is a decent feed and just 267 calories per portion.

The filo pastry topping is a clever, lighter way to create a pie-like crunch when you bite into it, but let’s not get carried away, this definitely isn’t a pie in the conventional sense. I couldn’t be arsed to divide the filling into 4 individual pie dishes – that might have accounted for why it took much longer than the suggested 24 minutes of cooking time to ensure the 500ml of chicken stock had sufficiently reduced down.

Still pining for a pie? Check out mince and vegetable pie with tumbled spuds, cottage pie, or the quirkier tortilla chilli pie.

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Fiery Beef Madras


Use natural yoghurt to cool this down if you’re struggling with the heat. Alternatively, just down a beer.

I’m too much of a wimp to have proper madras from my local curry house, but I adore Fiery Beef Madras from the Hairy Dieters which is a toned down version that even my wary teenage son could stomach. It tastes brilliant.

This isn’t a fast fakeaway – in total it will take about 2 hours to cook from start to finish – so plan ahead and make this on a weekend, and preferably before you crack open a beer or neck some vino, otherwise you’ll be phoning for a takeaway and blowing your diet! Do make sure you cook this on a low oven setting and check it every so often to ensure the beef and the rich tomato sauce doesn’t burn. Similarly, be careful when splitting the chillies from stalk to tip that you don’t dislodge the seeds or your mouth will literally be on fire!

Fancying a different fakeaway? Check out the fakeaways section on this blog for more ideas.

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Jaunty Jacket Potato with Cheesy Beans Filling


Less than 50p per serving. Cheap as….. potatoes

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 and it 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.

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Prawn and Chive Omelette


Prawns are the one of the last thing I’d stick in an omelette

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.

If omelettes are your thing, I much preferred minted pea and feta omelette. Or, if prawns and eggs are good in your book, you may find prawn foo yung more appealing. Both recipes are from the Hairy Dieters.

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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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Awesome Oats – Banana and Pecan Porridge


Porridge pimped-up, like it doesn’t need to be

We’re unofficially entering ‘porridge season’ where freezing cold mornings mean that you can barely feel your toes and fingers after scraping the ice off your car. The Hairy Dieters include a handy ‘Awesome Oats’ section in their second book and I had a bash at trying Banana and Pecan Porridge to warm me up!

I reached four conclusions. 1. This is a lovely, comforting start to your day. 2. Pecan nuts are ridiculously expensive. 3. It’s cheaper to buy sachets of Oat So Simple porridge which actually contain fewer calories than this recipe. 4. Why would you mess about prepping this when you can just pour the contents of an Oat So Simple sachet into a microwavable bowl and ping-ding, a minute later you can be tucking in?

I’m all for advocating the use of fresh ingredients. But practicality, affordability and saving money / time is just as important when sticking to a diet.

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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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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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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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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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Tuscan Devil’s Chicken


Just 5 ingredients and perfect as a healthy option for BBQs when the weather is nicer

I’ve no idea why the Hairy Dieters named this recipe Tuscan Devil’s Chicken, presumably it originates from Italy, but it’s perfect hot or cold for lunchboxes or your BBQ when the weather turns nice again.

The only challenge is trying to find a suitable bag to marinate the 5 ingredients in. I initially tried a freezer bag but was a little too overzealous when shaking everything about and it split. Plan B was a carrier bag which was too big. I ended up placing the thighs in a plastic bowl and covering them in clingfilm, which sort of did the trick. A word of warning, do make sure you shake off any excess marinade before you cook them – the last thing you want is a mouthful of peppercorns in your gob. This meal is great with a side salad.

If you’re looking for more lunchtime inspiration with chicken thighs, have a gander at sticky chicken with coleslaw, jerk chicken, smashed up chicken or honey chilli chicken.

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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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Chicken Jalfrezi


This is affectionately known as ‘Chicken Jalfrazzled’ in my house

If you prefer your curries to have a bit of a kick to them, Chicken Jalfrezi from the Hairy Dieters is for you. If serving to children, you might want to deseed the chillies to scale down the heat, or you could leave them in – they’ve got to learn sometime ;-).

There are just 279 calories per portion in this recipe, WITHOUT rice or naan. And while it might not taste as good or as authentic as from your local curry house, you’ll still be satisfied with the end result. Check out the ‘Fakeaways’ section of this blog if you’re fancying recreating your favourite curry where you’ll find recipes for tikka masala, bhuna, biryani and more!

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Spicy Bacon and Tomato Pasta


You only need a small portion of pasta as the yellow pepper and broccoli bulk it out

I’d forgotten how good Spicy Bacon and Tomato Pasta is from the Hairy Dieters. It’s great hot or cold, so invariably I used to prep it the night before and take it into work for lunch the next day. Since I’ve been working from home for the last seven months some of my lunchtime meals have been more extravagant, but it’s good to go back to basics and save some time in the kitchen!

Check the packaging (or review the nutritional information online) to make sure your tomato and basil sauce has no more than 6g of fat per 100g – I buy the little stir-in pots from Dolmio (150g) which are a rip-off, but they taste good and some are low-fat. If you’re on a budget, use regular broccoli cut into small florets rather than tenderstem.  This is a good meal to introduce kids to vege. My teenage son is too pre-occupied with the pasta, sauce and bacon to notice that I’ve included some diced yellow pepper in there ;-).

Love simple and quick low-cal pasta dishes? Check out tagliatelle carbonara, prawn pasta salad, simple tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad and pea and prosciutto pasta.

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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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