Pea, Mint and Ham Soup


The crispier the ham, the better

A few staple ingredients is all it takes to rustle up Pea, Mint and Ham Soup from the Hairy Dieters in less half an hour. The ham garnish made with a hint of honey and wholegrain mustard is the star of the show here, lifting plain old soup into something more memorable. For more soup ideas, click here.

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Porridge with Spiced Plums


Don’t eat the star anise!

The Hairy Dieters has an ‘Awesome Oats’ section in their second book and after enjoying banana and pecan porridge from it I decided to try Porridge with Spiced Plums. This recipe was similarly delightful – the creamy, warm soothing oats topped with fruit and a hint of spice from the star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg (optional). Wonderful.

When I used to commute to Birmingham (prior to the pandemic), grumpy office workers would queue to pay £2.50 for a bang average bowl of porridge from a café. This infinitely better version from the Hairy Dieters works out at roughly 60p per portion. That’s proper awesome oats!

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Pork Stroganoff


This also works well (arguably better) with beef. See link to the beef version below

The Hairy Dieters reckon you can prep and cook Pork Stroganoff in 15 minutes. Really? Then I reckon I’m Gordon Ramsay. Well, obviously I’m not, as this took me about 30 minutes in total. Still pretty quick, but I wish cookery books would be more accurate with some of their timings!

Regular readers and fans of the Hairy Dieters might recall their beef stroganoff recipe from their second book (Eat Well for Life) which uses steak (or leftover beef from a Sunday roast dinner in my case). I think this stroganoff recipe suits beef better than pork, but it’s still an enjoyable, calorie-friendly midweek meal. Serve with some greens and/or a small portion of rice.

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Coronation Chicken Salad


Just 233 calories per serving for this tasty low-fat twist

Coronation chicken can be very high in calories but the Hairy Dieters have come up with a substantial low-fat salad version which is bursting with flavour. The sauce for the coronation chicken is made by combining low-fat Greek yoghurt, curry powder and mango chutney and tastes fantastic.

The portion size is more than generous, but you can bulk it out with some new potatoes or even put the ingredients in a wrap. For some more great salad suggestions, click here. Or if you just want a calorie friendly coronation chicken sandwich, see here.

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(Lighter) Crispy Duck with Pancakes


Wok the duck? Just 300 calories per serving

Aromatic crispy duck from my local Chinese takeaway is my all time favourite, even though they can’t be arsed to shred the duck for me when I’m paying them big bucks as a loyal customer. A bit too loyal in my case ;-). Anyway…. in their Crispy Duck with Pancakes version, the Hairy Dieters have created a much lighter fakeaway option which isn’t a bad imitation of the real thing.

You can get good quality duck breasts from Sainsburys, but if I was making this again I’d shred the meat and the spring onions and cucumber much more finely to make them sit more comfortably in the pancakes. Overall, not a bad effort, but given the cost of duck breasts I don’t think my Chinese takeaway is in danger of losing my business anytime soon!

For more fab fakeaway ideas, click here.

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Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce


Use lean pork or beef mince, or a combination of both. This is awesome!

I’ve been making Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce from the Hairy Dieters since their inaugural book was published in 2013 and can’t believe I’m only getting round to featuring it on the blog now. This is a brilliant, classic meatball dish which is perfect for a low-calorie diet providing you use 5% fat mince and go easy on the pasta!

Sure, there are fancier meatball recipes around, and I feature some of them on the blog here. But for sheer simplicity and taste, this one is hard to beat. If you’re not the best chopper and worried about your meatballs falling apart when you cook them in the pan, combine the ingredients and blitz them in a food processer – It will then be easier to form them into small meatballs.

And if you can be arsed, use electronic scales to weigh each meatball so they are the same size. You don’t want a loved one / family member kicking off that you’ve had a bigger portion than them ;-).

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Chilli Prawn Pasta


Can you REALLY justify buying a bottle of vodka just for including 50ml of it in this recipe? Yes, yes you can

The Hairy Dieters include two types of Chilli Prawn Pasta recipes within their six healthy eating books. I opted to make the one from their fourth Fast Food book because you can include 50ml of vodka in it. Now, what to do with the remaining bottle? Wahahaha ;-). For reference, you’ll find the other recipe in their more recent ‘Make it Easy’ book.

The vodka is optional by the way, so don’t worry if you haven’t got any, or don’t want to go to the expense of buying in a bottle especially just for this . The meal will still taste great regardless, but the addition of the vodka will bring more depth of flavour to the sauce and balance out the sweetness of the red pepper and the passata.

For other seafood-based pasta recipes, have a look at spaghetti with broccoli & anchovies, spaghetti with prawns and courgettes, pasta with clams and bacon or pasta puttanesca. Or if seafood isn’t your thing, you’re bound to find a more appealing pasta recipe here.

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(Lighter) French Toast


Less than a £1 per serving for this plate of pleasure

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!

If you love fruit-based breakfasts / brunches, I’d also recommend fresh fruit compote with home-made granola, which takes longer to prep but is equally gorgeous.

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Hot-smoked Salmon Wraps


Expensive, but bloody lovely

One of the occupational hazards of running this blog is that I feel compelled to cook meals at lunchtimes to include a variety of recipe ideas, when really all I want to eat is a bog-standard bloody sandwich. But perhaps I’ve been missing the point, both for me and for you.

Sticking to a healthy eating plan is hard. Recipes need to be imaginative enough to capture someone’s interest, delicious to eat, yet simple enough to ensure they remain on track. I think Hot-Smoked Salmon Wraps from the Hairy Dieters fulfils this brief, despite hot-smoked salmon being frightfully expensive.

But this is a fantastic treat, quick and easy to pull together and every mouthful of this wrap is to be enjoyed. For other similar ideas, I’d recommend smoked trout salad (you can use hot-smoked salmon). Or, to quote me, ‘if you just want a bloody sandwich’, check out this section of the blog for some simple ideas.

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Rich Beef and Ale Casserole


Remember, the ale or stout goes in the dish, not your gob 😉

I’ve been meaning to make Rich Beef and Ale Casserole from the Hairy Dieters since the beginning of the first lockdown. A bottle of dark ale has sat in my drinks cabinet for almost a year, which for a pisshead like me is quite an achievement! I’m not sure why this recipe kept getting bumped down the list. Maybe it’s due to the lengthy cooking time (over 2 hours) and that our preferred option is a Sunday roast accompanied by mash, carrots and parsnips.

But…. this one-pot casserole is a brilliantly comforting meal, perfect for a winter’s day and your oven will do the majority of the work. With some mash, it will feed six people and both our Mum’s loved it. We are trying to provide them with home-cooked meals when we can as they live by themselves. Do take care to cook the casserole on a low oven temperature (exact method below) and occasionally check to make sure the beef doesn’t dry out.

If you want a variation on this theme, then have a go at spicy Mexican beef, rich beef in red wine or beef massaman curry.

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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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