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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Chilli Steak Salad


Where’s the chips and onion rings??

I used to think having steak in a salad was a waste. And at over a fiver a head I still do, however there’s no denying that Chilli Steak Salad from the Hairy Dieters is a cracking effort. Don’t forget to leave your steak to rest for a few minutes and strain those lovely meat juices into your salad. The kick from the chilli and the ginger alongside this is delightful!

If you like the sound of this, check out thai beef salad from the Hairy Dieters’ second book, which is also lush lunchtime tucker.

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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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Ham Salad Wraps


For freshness, make these wraps on the day you plan to eat them rather than the night before

Wraps are less stodgier than traditional bread ‘sarnies and the added bonus is that you can include more filling in them. Ham Salad Wraps from the Hairy Dieters are just 325 calories and packed with pepper, lettuce, carrot and cucumber which should be enough to satisfy the hungriest of appetites.

If you’re planning on taking these to work but can’t use your employer’s fridges due to Covid, put them in a cool or temperature-controlled bag with an ice pack to keep them nice and fresh before you’re ready to tuck in. Check out the Hairy Dieters’ ‘Eat for Life’ book to get the recipes for tuna and sweetcorn wraps and hot-smoked salmon wraps as well.

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(Lighter) Moussaka


You can make this in 6 individual pots, or one big dish which is far less ‘faffy’

Moussaka beats a lasagne any day for me, and this gorgeous, lighter version from the Hairy Dieters is only 323 calories per portion. That’s based on using lean lamb mince though which you can pick up 500g packs containing 10% fat from Sainsbury’s, whereas most other supermarkets sell packs at 20% fat. Check the packaging before you buy (I’ve always wanted to say that).

The long list of ingredients may indicate that this recipe is tricky, but get everything out on the side before you start cooking and it’s relatively simple to make. But if you can, use a deeper, smaller dish as opposed to a larger, shallow dish so it’s easier to layer everything before you bake it in the oven.

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Thai Beef Salad


Don’t forget to leave your steak to rest

Since lockdown I’ve really got into making freshly made salads at home and Thai Beef Salad from the Hairy Dieters has been one of the best. There’s a bit of chopping, dicing and peeling involved, but you’ll be rewarded for your toil. I did wonder if the quantity of mint and coriander would be too overpowering, but the Thai fish sauce and chilli dressing balances out the flavours beautifully.

If you’re stuck for more salad ideas, check out the section on my blog here. There’s a lot to choose from, but I’d recommend the zingy and colourful quinoa, prawn and mango salad and couscous with roasted roots, honey and goat’s cheese as being the standouts.

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Spicy Sweetcorn Soup (with bacon or tofu)


Meal in a bowl

Spicy Sweetcorn Soup is a slightly misleading title from the Hairy Dieters as it includes bacon. But don’t despair if  you’re vegetarian. The bacon is cooked separately and only added to the soup at the end. For a vegetarian version, use veggie stock and add firm smoked tofu which you can crisp up, as per the Hairy Dieters’ suggestion.

Whether you include the bacon or not, this is a cracking ‘meal in a bowl’ containing onion, red pepper, sweet potato, sweetcorn and coriander, spiced up by the chipotle paste. This soup can be enjoyed anytime of year, but it really comes into its own when the cold weather sets in. If you’re a fan of home-made soups, check out some other suggestions here.

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Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes


Don’t judge until you’ve tried it, and for under a £1 per serving, you can’t afford not to

Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes from the Hairy Dieters might seem like an odd combination. However, for 250 calories per portion it is packed full of bold flavours coming from the lemon zest, capers, nutmeg and basil, making it something of a surprise, and all for just 90 pence per portion!

I tend to order courgettes on autopilot in my weekly supermarket deliveries, regardless of whether I plan to use them or not, so always tend to have some hanging around in my fridge. This recipe is perfect for using them up, but if it doesn’t float your boat, then try spaghetti on fire or tagliatelle carbonara.

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Crispy Pork Schnitzel with Potato Salad


This can be a messy job, so why not get the kids involved and make it fun?

Crispy Pork Schnitzel with Potato Salad from the Hairy Dieters is a substantial meal that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner. I always thought schnitzels – which are traditionally thin, breaded and pan fried cutlets made from veal – originated from Poland, but it turns out they herald from Austria. You learn something new every day…

Schnitzels can be unhealthy as they are typically pan fried in oil, but this lighter version requires them to be baked in the oven. With the whopping side salad of potatoes, onion, celery and apple, the Hairy Dieters’ recipe comes in at only 406 calories per portion. I won’t lie and say you can’t tell the difference between this and having the real thing, but the low-cal alternative still tastes good.

A word of warning. If you can’t stand your kitchen getting messy, then give this meal a wide berth. You’ll have plates, cutlery and messy hands from making the coating for the schnitzels. However, if you’ve got children who are showing an interest in cooking why not get them involved? You could even get them to wash up afterwards for a full 360 degree culinary experience, ha ha!

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Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin


Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin is fish pie to me and you

Life is too short to spend ages making a fish pie, in my opinion. So the Hairy Dieters’ Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin recipe is a speedy solution and still contains most of the bells and whistles that you’d expect to find in this classic dish, except for the mash topping.

Get all the ingredients out on the side before you start cooking and read through the method carefully. This isn’t hard to make, but there’s a bit going on and if your brain is fried after a day at work you could become flustered. I had low expectations for this meal but it tasted far better than I imagined and was ready in 30 minutes – a diet friendly version of fish pie on speed, and all for less than 300 calories per portion.

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