Rich Beef in Red Wine


I’d probably need a loaf of bread to mop up that sauce

Rich Beef in Red Wine from the Hairy Dieters is a little too rich for my palette, but nevertheless is a lower calorie adaption of the French classic dish, beef bourguignon. After 2 hours and 25 minutes of cooking in the oven my patience was waning, but in hindsight I should have put it back in and reduced the sauce down further.

Some dishes are worth the wait, but when watching my weight I want something on my table a bit more pronto. But at least I got to guzzle the remaining wine out of the bottle while becoming increasingly starving. One slower cooking recipe I would wholeheartedly recommend though is lamb tagine. Different meat, different country of origin, different culinary experience entirely. Try it.

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Paneer and Pea Curry


This is great, with or without the addition of cauliflower

Geeky fact alert. Since lockdown began I’ve not had the same meal twice, which is pretty remarkable even though I say so myself. My motivation was mainly to try different foods and give me more excuses to update this blog. Having said that, Paneer and Pea Curry from the Hairy Dieters is (unsurprisingly) remarkably similar to cauliflower, paneer and pea curry from BBC Good Food which I featured back in May.

So, what’s the difference with this recipe from the Hairy Dieters? Well, apart from the cauliflower and the additional spices, not a lot. But don’t let this detract from what is an excellent, low-cost vege curry which is enriched by the texture and taste of the paneer cheese which is regularly used in authentic Indian curries.

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Veggie Tacos


This tastes great, but you will fart afterwards!

Veggie Tacos from the Hairy Dieters is an absolute feast that even hardened meat eaters should try. My teenage son still thinks vegetables are from the devil, but thankfully loves all types of beans so he’ll happily demolish these tacos without protest. There is a fair amount of prep involved beforehand, but you should have some leftovers for the next day as this will serve 4 generously. And if it doesn’t, what are you doing? You’re supposed to be on a diet ;-).

Wondering what to do with the leftover produce? Use the kale to make cajun prawn and kale salad or scrambled cajun eggs with spinach and eggs. For butternut squash, try butternut squash pilaf, beef kofta curry (gorgeous!), curried butternut squash and apple soup or home-made butternut squash tortellini. Right, that should keep you busy! I’m off.

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(Lighter) Chicken Korma


Check out the ‘Fakeaways’ section of this blog for more of your favourites

Chicken Korma from the Hairy Dieters is a family-favourite ‘fakeaway’, perfect for kids or curry wimps who can’t stand a bit of a heat and prefer milder flavours. Even if you like your curries HOT, you’ll still appreciate the variety of spices which make up this recipe. It may seem like a lot of ingredients, particularly if you’re buying them in from scratch, BUT you will return to them again and again.

For some of the more irregular spices, tumeric can be used in sweet potato saag aloo and creamed spinach with eggs, while saffron can be found in cauliflower and chicken pilaf and chicken biryani. Traditional Indian restaurant kormas are calorific as they are loaded with cream, whereas this lighter version only contains 3 tablespoons of double cream and just 294 calories per portion, without rice or naan bread.

Fancying a mild curry with fewer ingredients? Then the nation’s favourite, chicken tikka masala, is for you.

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Fresh Fruit Compote with Home-Made Granola


You’ll never go back to supermarket cereals after sampling this

Ok, so there’s a few ingredients and a fair bit of prep work to do in advance, but Fresh Fruit Compote with Home-Made Granola from the Hairy Dieters offers such a healthy and brilliant start to the day. As most people know by now, granola and muesli supermarket cereals are loaded with sugar, but this home-made version topped with fresh fruit and a dollop of yoghurt is infinitely more satisfying.

It will easily provide 6 servings and the cost, at £1.43 per portion, would be considerably more expensive if you bought this from a coffee / café outlet. If you’re going to embark on a healthy eating plan, why deprive yourself when you can enjoy fresh food as luxurious as this?

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Mussels with Leeks and White Wine


If you’ve never tried mussels before, this is the recipe for you. Divine.

Prior to lockdown, one of my Saturday rituals was having a lazy stroll into town and buying fresh mussels from my local fishmonger. They are one of my favourite seafoods and very cheap at a cost of about £4 for 1kg. The Hairy Dieters feature three mussel-based dishes across their seven healthy eating books (check out Fast Food and Make it Easy for the other recipes), but Mussels with Leeks and White Wine from their first book is the best, in my opinion.

Leeks and white wine are a fabulous combination, and adding the mussels to the bowls with the creamy sauce is just begging to be mopped up with a piece of crusty bread. If you’re watching your calories go easy on the bread though, if you can. And if you can’t, well, your belly is going to be very satisfied and that’s what food should be about.

I love to have these on Saturday afternoons, washed down with the rest of the white wine. Heaven.

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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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Grapefruit, Avocado and Bacon Salad


154 calories, just 5 base ingredients, ready in under 20 minutes

Grapefruit, Avocado and Bacon Salad from the Hairy Dieters is best enjoyed immediately after you’ve made it, as the ingredients can go soggy if you leave them in a lunch box. The tangy flavours and the contrast in textures make this really interesting but be warned, prepping the grapefruit and avocado can be a messy job!

You can buy pre-prepped grapefruit segments in cans or cartons, which I might opt for if making this again. It’s not that I’m bone idle (honest), my knife skills are just crap and the grapefruit was butchered by the time I’d finished with it.

If you love zingy salads like this, I’d whole-heartedly recommend quinoa, prawn and mango salad, also from the Hairy Dieters.

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(Healthy) Cottage Pie


A healthy take on a British pub classic

I tried every possible excuse to put off having Cottage Pie from the Hairy Dieters, but after an overexuberant supermarket shop I happened to have every ingredient in to make this. So, what was the problem? I dunno, it just didn’t excite me, plus the notion that this would serve 6 to 8 people seemed somewhat fanciful. 6 is a stretch, but 8 is just not funny when you’re hungry.

“You’ve turned into a food snob,” said my wife. “It’s not that, I just can’t be arsed spending up to two hours in the kitchen,” was my retort. Ok, 2 hours is me being flippant as most of the cooking time is done on the hob and finished off in the oven.

But what about the taste? Do you know what, this is actually a really good, hearty meal. If someone served me this, I’d be delighted, however the prep and length of cooking time is a bit of a slog so I won’t be in a hurry to endure this again. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives on ‘traditional’ pub classics, I’d opt for Rich and Meaty Bolognese, Chilli Con Carne or Sausages and Rich Onion Gravy which require less fuss to rustle up and offer more generous portion sizes.

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Turkey Chilli with Cauliflower ‘Rice’


Name me a worse fad than cauliflower ‘rice’

I can’t get enough of turkey at the moment, and I love a chilli, so making Turkey Chilli with Cauliflower Rice from the Hairy Dieters seemed like a no-brainer. A lot of spices go into this and the chipotle paste adds some further heat. However, one thing I couldn’t taste was the dark chocolate, so you might want to up the quantity (the recipe states 15g) but remember that you’ll also need to up the calorie count from 300!

Cauliflower ‘rice’ has become fashionable but still seems a pointless aversion to me. But undoubtedly it does keep the calories down compared to proper rice. If you’re seeking a quicker, arguably tastier alternative, check out the Hairy Dieters’ Speedy Turkey Chilli from their Make it Easy book.

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Turkish Turkey Flatbreads


Turking the piss – ready in under 20 mins and less than £1 per portion (if serving 4)

Turkish Turkey Flatbreads from the Hairy Dieters is a quirky and deceptively filling snack / lunch. It’s a bit like a spicy Turkish slice of pizza, not that I’ve ever tried Turkish pizza before but hopefully you know what I mean! Even if you don’t, give this a go because it’s really scrumptious and ready in a flash.

Pine nuts are very expensive for what they are, so I don’t they are essential for this recipe. But if you’re wondering what to do with the rest, try making Baked Sea Bass with Peppers and Pine Nuts which is a gorgeous dinner. As for any leftover turkey mince, then Speedy Turkey Chilli or Turkey Lettuce Wraps are great options.

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Sweet Potato Saag Aloo


Just 200 calories per portion and stroppy teenager friendly

Sweet Potato Saag Aloo from the Hairy Dieters‘Go Veggie’ book turned into a really satisfying experience. My teenager Will was mithering for an Indian takeaway and frowned with disappointment when he saw what his old man had served up. “Where’s the meat?”, he asked in irritation.

5 minutes later and his mood had lightened. “This tastes amazing Dad. Can we have it again?” There’s been few greater pleasures during the last few months than being able to change my son’s perceptions about food, particularly when it comes to introducing him to cheap, vegetarian-based dishes. This costs just over a £1 per portion to make.

If you don’t have all the suggested spices in, don’t worry, the Hairy Dieters state you can substitute them for mild curry powder instead, but it won’t taste as good. At just 200 calories per serving, this fab vege-based curry is going to become a regular in my home.

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Jerk Chicken


Don’t wimp out! Use scotch bonnet chillies instead of regular chillies for this

Since the pandemic, I’ve never spent as much time in the kitchen and in truth I’ve become a little jaded recently. I needed to rediscover my motivation and Jerk Chicken from the Hairy Dieters has me feeling the love for food again.

This recipe is mouth-wateringly good. Do take the time to marinate the chicken thighs for at least 2 hours, but ideally overnight, to allow the flavours to intensify. And unless you’re really ‘anti-heat’, make sure you use scotch bonnet chillies, instead of regular, boring chillies. You WILL notice a difference, but it WILL be worth it. Embrace the heat! 🙂

My teenage son Will is still in ‘training’ when it comes to appreciating spices. The poor boy’s eyes were watering while he was eating this, but he loved the taste so much that he kept going until he cleaned his plate. That’s my boy! You can serve this with a side salad, or a small portion of rice or couscous. Want something a little tamer? Ok….. try Sticky Chicken with Coleslaw instead.

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Salmon with Chilli Ginger Sauce


This is great with new potatoes / mash, or vegetables / stir-fry veg

Any page in a cookbook that is battered is testament to how good the recipe is. Salmon with Chilli Ginger Sauce, from the Hairy Dieters’ first book, is literally covered in stains because I make it so often at home.

It’s not even a difficult or a ‘messy’ meal to make, I guess I’m just prone to being clumsy in the kitchen. You might question whether it’s worth purchasing a jar of stem ginger in syrup if you’re not into baking, but even if you’re not, I’d get it for the purposes of this meal alone as it will keep in your fridge for a while.

The chilli ginger sauce with the dark soy sauce, orange juice and zest is mouthwatering. The Hairy Dieters suggest serving this with some rice or potatoes, and some vegetables. I prefer to serve it with just a pack of stir-fry veg to keep the calories down. This is a really quick, satisfying and delicious meal. Enjoy!

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Courgette Caponata Pasta


A tasty, plateful of vege goodness for under a £1 per serving

I was hoping that the Hairy Dieters’ ‘Go Veggie’ book would become my non-meat bible, however very few recipes caught my eye which I thought would be regulars on my meal planner. Courgette Caponata Pasta was one of them and I was pleasantly surprised by how much flavour is packed into one meal for just 133 calories, or 314 calories based on a 50g serving of pasta (per person, serving 4).

Now before I go on, I’ll say this now. Don’t make this if you hate chopping vege as dicing the onions, peppers and courgettes is time-consuming, unless you’re a proper chef and can have everything prepped in 20 minutes as the Hairy Dieters claim. It takes me 20 minutes to find all the ingredients in my kitchen! Ok, that’s bollocks too, but you get my drift.

If you are willing to persevere with prepping everything, you’ll be rewarded. With or without pasta, this is a gorgeous plate of food thanks to the addition of the cinnamon, lemon zest, chilli flakes, honey and red wine vinegar. If you’re looking for another pasta dish with a kick, check out spaghetti on fire – it is suitable for vegetarians if you omit the bacon.

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Parma Ham Salad


Lunchtime sorted for less than 200 calories

I used to run a mile at the thought of having a salad for lunch, but they’ve really grown on me and Parma Ham Salad is another quick, healthy and filling lunchtime fix from the Hairy Dieters.

There’s lots of low-calorie dressings available in supermarkets, but it’s more satisfying and healthier to make your own – in this recipe the wholegrain mustard combines well with the olive oil and sherry vinegar. The ingredients will comfortably serve 4, but if you’re feeling particularly ravenous, you can have 2 portions for just 348 calories.

Although expensive, you’ll always find Parma ham lurking in my fridge. I love the taste and a little goes a long way, it keeps for ages and it’s very versatile. It’s great in salads like this one, summer pasta dishes packed with vege, or wrapped around fish which can baked in the oven until it’s lovely and crisp. For other fab salad suggestions, click here.

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Steak Pizzaiola


The steak is really on there, somewhere

If I was a prisoner on death row (disclaimer: I have no plans to be) then I’d choose steak, chips, mushrooms, onion rings with an accompanying peppercorn sauce for my last meal. Except I’m not on death row, and I can’t have steak when on a ‘diet’, or so I thought.

It turns out you can have steak in moderation, providing that you serve it with a low-cal sauce or a side salad. I’m not convinced that’s a fair compromise, but I decided to give Steak Pizzaiola a try from the Hairy Dieters. I figured the ‘pizzaiola’, tomato based sauce would be a hit with my son, who just like his old man, loves his steaks.

Actually, this did turn out quite well, although I decided early on that a few supporting salad leaves just wasn’t going to cut it so I added some naughty chips on the side. The diet police can lock me up and throw away the key. The quantity of hard cheese, just 25g, didn’t really add that much flavour for the extra cooking time, so you may wish to leave it out and save a whole 23 calories and 5 minutes of your life. I’m actually getting grumpy as I’m typing this because I want a proper steak dinner!

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Tuna Nicoise Wrap (surprise)


Who needs wraps anyway?

Even Ray Charles would be able to spot my deliberate mistake when making Tuna Nicoise Wrap from the Hairy Dieters – I left out the wrap and just had this as a salad. I know, what a rebel. Not because I was having a “I’m being good” day, I’m just not a fan of bread and didn’t feel up to messing about trying to cram the ingredients into a wrap – for me, they never hold together or look as neat and tidy as the cookbooks show.

But as a salad, I absolutely love this. It’s really tasty, the ingredients will stretch to two people as a light lunch, or you could add another tin of tuna and spring water and it would still be a lighter alternative to having a wrap. So, that’s a wrap.

If you like simple salads, check out tuna and butterbean salad, simple tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad or chicken caesar salad. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous or creative check out the salad section on this blog for some banging suggestions.

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Lamb Steaks with Mint and Broad Beans


Give this recipe the TLC it deserves and you’re in for a treat

Lamb Steaks with Mint and Broad Beans from the Hairy Dieters is an exquisite dish that seems somewhat out of place in their ‘Fast Food’ book – recipes which supposedly can be prepped and cooked in 30 minutes. It is somewhat stretching the truth to say you can create this in half an hour. In fact, it’s total bollocks.

But this is a fantastic recipe which will turn out perfectly as long as you give it some TLC. Firstly, marinate the lamb for more than 10 minutes (I marinated mine for a couple of hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon) and secondly, although you don’t have to, I’d recommend ‘de-podding’ the broad beans as they taste and look better with the skins taken off. This is a labour of love though!

I’m so pleased I took the time to make this meal and it went down extremely well in my household. If you’re wondering what to do with the remaining broad beans, try chicken and broad bean pilaf and leave out the chicken for a vegetarian friendly version.

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Turkey Keema Peas


Turkey isn’t just for Christmas

Indian-based Keema dishes are typically made with lamb or beef, but the Hairy Dieters’ wonderful Turkey Keema Peas recipe uses turkey thigh mince which contains around 7% fat and just 270 calories per serving. Using turkey breast mince (approx. 2%) would make it even more diet-friendly, although more expensive. The Hairy Dieters suggest serving this with a small portion of rice, regular or cauliflower, but I think this is sufficiently filling on its own. Plus, I personally think rice is totally overrated and a waste of calories which you could use instead for…. BOOZE ha ha!

By incorporating more vegetables and using cheaper types of meat (chipolatas, pork mince, skin-on bone-in chicken thighs etc), you can still stay on track with your diet while sticking to a strict budget. At around £2 a pack for 500g from most supermarkets, turkey thigh mince is a brilliant low-cost option. You could also use it to make turkey burgers or a turkey chilli.

I’m loving getting reacquainted with turkey again and judging by the views on this blog, so are you, by trying more recipes with this underrated, often forgotten (outside of Christmas) cut of meat. If you’re wondering what to do with the remaining coconut milk, why not make Coconut Prawn Curry?

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