Prawns with Tomato & Feta


Prawns and feta – can you think of a more random combo?

Prawns with tomato & feta from BBC Good Food sounds totally random, and it is. But I decided to give this a go as it was about the only meal I could make with what I had left in the fridge. I love prawns and I love feta, but together? Hmm, I’m not sure.

As a quick meal though it did the job, although it’s an expensive snack if serving between 2 people. For cheaper, arguably tastier alternatives, I’d opt for warm green bean and feta salad, prawn pasta salad and quinoa, prawn and mango salad.

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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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Cheesy Leeks on Toast


This is way better than bog-standard cheese on toast IMO

Leeks? Tick. Cheese? Tick. Cheesy Leeks On Toast from Pinch of Nom…….? Massive tick! I had my reservations before making this, but what a simple and lip-smacking brunch / lunch meal it turned out to be with some mustard dolloped on top.

Providing you use appropriate Parmesan and Cheddar cheese, this meal is suitable for vegetarians. I must confess, I wasn’t familiar with what xanthan gum is, but it’s a thickening agent most typically used in baking that you can buy in some supermarkets – I got mine from Tesco. You could use cornflour as a substitute, but it won’t thicken and bind the ingredients as well.

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Monte Cristo Sandwich


Just make a ham and cheese toasty and be done with it

Monte Cristo Sandwich is Pinch of Nom’s lower-calorie take on the French classic, croque monsieur. Or, in my attempt, a crap cheese and ham toastie with a few extra ingredients. I like the fact that sandwiches don’t have to be off limits when you’re on a ‘diet’, but I don’t like the potential food wastage making this involves – 3 spinach leaves, 1 cherry tomato, ½ a spring onion. It was enough to get my knickers in a twist wondering about what to do with the leftovers!

I don’t think it helped that I burnt it and singed my hand when trying to flip the sandwich over, but then again I am clumsy personified at times in the kitchen. Pinch of Nom suggest having this for breakfast, I think it’s better suited to brunch or lunch.

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Cobb Salad with blue cheese dressing


NO ONE is going hungry after eating this

Cobb Salad from Justine Pattison is an amazing, belly-busting US salad which will provide a filling lunch as well as a main evening meal. It’s great with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or a blue cheese dressing which you can make in a couple of minutes using light mayo, buttermilk or fat-free natural yoghurt, white wine vinegar, Roquefort cheese (or any blue cheese will do) and a dash of salt and pepper.

Struggling to remember the ingredients? As Justine says, just think ‘Eat Cobb’ – egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon and beetroot. My mouth is watering just typing this! One of the most satisfying, healthy salads you’re likely to have.

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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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Buffalo Skins


Buffalo Skins is suitable for vegetarians, honest

You tend to think of loaded potato skins as being really unhealthy and invariably they are. In contrast, Buffalo Skins from Pinch of Nom are a revelation – just 68 calories per spud, really tasty and these can be enjoyed by vegetarians, too.

This recipe went down well with my wife, son and daughter who is a vegan. Personally, I wasn’t happy with my execution of it. Some of the sweet potatoes were still hard after 10 minutes in the microwave, so as the book suggests it’s a good idea to check and, if necessary, leave them in for longer. And as a result of the potatoes being hard, it was trickier to scoop out the flesh which in the end made for a frustrating exercise.

If you love the concept of this, check out Pinch of Nom’s first book as they have a calorie friendly bacon and potato skins recipe in it, which I’ve yet to try but it looks great. Alternatively, cajun sweet potatoes by Jamie Oliver is a doddle to make, even for me.

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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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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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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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Cajun Dirty Rice – a filthy feast for less than 300 calories!


This is so good, you’ll love it.

I’d become a little bored of my favourite healthy eating recipes and was in need of some inspiration. The Pinch of Nom series of books (Pinch of Nom and Pinch of Nom Everyday Light) have been a breath of fresh air and contain some novel recipes that I haven’t come across in other ‘diet’ books.

One of ‘Nom’s’ most celebrated dishes within their huge online community is Cajun Dirty Rice. Now I can see why. This amazing meal packs so much variety of different ingredients, all for less than 300 calories. Phenomenal. Who doesn’t love meat, vege and rice in one belly-busting bowl?

You will have various ingredients leftover so here’s what you can do with them. For peppers, check out menemen, warm griddled vegetables with halloumi or sweet and sour chicken. For mushrooms and bacon go for tagliatelle carbonara or halloumi and smoky bacon hash. No leftovers, no waste. 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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Cajun Sweet Potatoes


Just 83p per portion – SWEET!

I’ve been working from home since the middle of March and have enjoyed making fresh breakfasts and the luxury of being able to prep in advance for evening meals. But one area I’ve struggled with is lunchtimes. By this point I’m well into my working day and don’t want to get distracted by having to spend time making another meal from scratch, or turning my kitchen into a mess. And while I could always have a sandwich and a bag of crisps, these aren’t healthy options and can soon breed bad habits.

Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients book is handy for knocking-up decent meals with minimal effort. Cajun Sweet Potatoes may take an hour to cook, but you can simply leave them in the oven to roast while you focus on more important things. Prep time is just 10 minutes – perfect to enable a stress-free lunchtime. Not only that, this meal was really flavoursome but the anti-garlic police may want to use less garlic cloves than the recommended full bulb.

By the way, if you’re looking for a cracking recipe that uses sweet potatoes, look no further than penang chicken and sweet potato curry. So, sooo good, and a brilliant ‘date night’ option.

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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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Chicken Tikka Drumsticks


Just 66p per portion if serving 4 (2 drumsticks each)

I was really looking forward to making Chicken Tikka Drumsticks from Pinch of Nom based on the success of trying some of their other fantastic recipes. Drumsticks are cheap and ideal for weekend lunches and snacks. But I should have known things were not going to work out when my supermarket delivery swapped the red food colouring I’d ordered for purple cupcake colouring! So much for creating authentic looking drumsticks.

But my biggest issue with this meal is that for all the spices it states to use, the end result didn’t particularly taste of chicken tikka. The book does say you can use 2 tablespoons of curry powder instead if you don’t have all the spices which would be less ‘faffy’. This recipe serves 8 but 1 chicken drumstick is never going to fill you up, so I recommend having 2 drumsticks (in total 242 calories with dip) and a side salad.

I’m going to stick with the Hairy Dieters alternative choices – sticky chicken drumsticks and fusion tandoori chicken – which I think have more flavour.

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Tuna Butterbean Salad


This wasn’t even 1 serving and the portion size was ample

Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients book is useful to have around when you’re pushed for time or short of ingredients. I recently tried his Tuna Butter Bean Salad when struggling for inspiration one lunchtime and it did the job.

You may note that the recipe’s weight in grams for the tuna in olive oil and the jar of butter beans are larger than standard sizes. I just used regular tins for both and the serving for 2 people is more than generous. While the concept of ‘5 ingredients’ is handy, it can also be restrictive. This salad felt a little dry and bland towards the end but you can easily ‘tart’ it up by adding a low-fat salad dressing, for example.

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Spaghetti on FIRE


This is the only thing that’s ‘on fire’ about me

Hot as a fever, rattle of bones. I could just taste it, taste it. Yooooouuuuu. Your Spaghetti is on FIRE. Ok, so I doubt Kings of Leon will be adapting the lyrics of ‘Sex on Fire’, but I did chuckle to myself while prepping Spaghetti on Fire from Justine Pattison.

This is a belter of a pasta dish, packed with good stuff (vege), and full of flavour from the smoked bacon and chilli flakes. Adding Parmesan and basil leaves is optional but I’d wholeheartedly recommend doing so to enhance the taste. This frugal recipe is right up there with my favourite pasta dishes, but numero uno for me remains Pasta Puttanesca. Which one is yours?

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Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake


Perfect for the kids to stuff their faces

Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake from Two Chubby Cubs is a proper feast – pasta, bacon, ham, pineapple, mozzarella and (optional) cheddar cheese in one-pot! It’s a cinch to throw together and will comfortably make 6 portions – perfect for feeding the kids over a couple of days or so.

Speaking of kids, this recipe threw up one of my life’s little mysteries. My son Will, who loves Hawaiian pizzas, curiously wouldn’t entertain having pineapple in this pasta bake. Go figure. The Cubs, whose fab debut book is wonderfully entertaining, suggest serving this with a light salad on the side to ‘pointedly ignore’, which I did :-).

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Butternut Squash Pilaf – just 87p per serving


Just 87p per portion – you’re having a pilaf!

Butternut squash is a brilliant vegetable to have in your fridge – it keeps for ages and it’s really versatile. You can roast it for tray bakes, mash it to include as a filling when making fresh pasta or ‘squash’ bruschetta, blend it to make a tasty, buttery sauce or dice it and chuck it in a wok to include in curries.

Butternut Squash Pilaf from BBC Good Food came to my rescue recently when my fridge was bare. I’ve always got some ginger, garlic and rice knocking about and when I found some fruit and nut mix leftover from Christmas I was sorted. I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to buy these ingredients to make this especially, but it was an enjoyable vege curry that had a nice mix of sweet and savoury flavours, plus the heat from the harissa paste. And all this for just 87p – you’re having a pilaf!

If you’re a non-vegan or vegetarian and wondering what to do with any leftover squash, make Beef Kofta Curry – it’s delicious and my favourite recipe of May 2020.

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