Hunter’s Risotto


Just use 100ml of red wine which will be cheaper than Marsala or Madeira wine

Hunter’s Risotto is Justine Pattison’s take on the well-known French dish, chicken chasseur, which I’ve already featured on this blog from the Hairy Dieters. Personally, I prefer this version from Justine because it includes smoked bacon and mushrooms – two personal fave ingredients of mine.

The recipe calls for the addition of Marsala or Madeira wine, but Justine suggests you could also add sweet sherry, Martini Rosso or even red wine if you prefer. I opted for the latter because invariably we’ve always got red wine in the house, and once the bottle is open…..

If risotto is your thang, have a bash at these less prep-heavy recipes: sea bass and miso risotto, chicken and mushroom risotto or chicken & chorizo risnotto (that isn’t a typo, view the recipe to learn more!). Or, if you want a more conventional pub-meal style dish then hunter’s chicken is for you.

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Pork Cassoulet


Most of the work is done in the oven, but you’ll need to allow about 1 hour 30 mins in total for prep / cooking time

Cassoulet is a classic French dish and Pinch of Nom include a budget-friendly version in their second book using diced pork and beans. Don’t be fooled by my photo – I made this for 3 people and hence my portion size was huge (but still only 444 calories). But if making this for 6,  as Pinch of Nom suggest, then you’ll still be full up if you have it with some healthy mash on the side.

Do try and use vegetable and red wine stock pots to enhance the taste (rather than cheap stock cubes), along with fresh thyme leaves if you can get them, otherwise this Pork Cassoulet dish could taste a tad bland. The Hairy Dieters do an all-singing, all-dancing cassoulet recipe in their first book which includes chicken, gammon and sausages, along with some orange zest and parsley. It’s a beast of a dish, but my son loves it ,so I’ll try and feature it on the blog next month.

If you love French classics, check out other suggestions here.

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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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Hit ‘n’ Run Traybaked Chicken


15 mins of prep and then literally just bang everything into the oven and put your feet up

I’m not keen on the naming given to Jamie Oliver’s Hit ‘n’ Run Traybaked Chicken recipe, but both the flavours and the concept (that you can bang the ingredients together in the oven for an hour and put your feet up) is appealing. The flavours from the tomatoes, peppers, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in this come together really well.

You can serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices, or if you don’t trust yourself to be ‘good’, maybe a side salad or a small portion of rice or couscous (as I used) would fit the bill, but factor in the extra calories.

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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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Shakshuka


This is a very generous portion and should keep you going for hours

Shakshuka is a classic middle eastern breakfast using eggs that is suitable for vegetarians and can be made in one-pan. You’ll find lots of versions of it online, but I opted to try this filling recipe from Pinch of Nom. If you like a bit more spice, you might want to be more generous when adding the cumin and chilli powder – I’d even argue it’s a tad bland if you don’t.

I love having eggs in the morning and my personal favourites are menemen (Turkish Eggs) and masala omelette, which are cheaper to make and pack in way more flavour in my opinion.

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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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Bacon, Onion and Potato Bake


Simple comfort food at its best

Sometimes meals containing the simplest of ingredients can turn out to be the best ones. Bacon, Onion and Potato Bake from Pinch of Nom requires only five base ingredients and is brilliant for using up items in your fridge that may have been hanging around.

Do make sure the foil is fitted tightly around your ovenproof dish and get some decent potatoes, such as Maris Piper, which are better at absorbing liquid – you don’t want this meal to be swimming in stock. Also, note that this recipe uses bacon medallions – if you’ve only got regular bacon rashers, make sure all the fat and rind is removed to keep the calorie count down.

If you love this meal you’ll probably also like pan haggerty lite, which is a similar comfort food classic.

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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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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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Spicy Black Beans with Feta and Avocado


I wonder what English street food would be? Can of lager and a bag of crisps?

Spicy Black Beans with Feta and Avocado is Gordon Ramsay’s take on Mexican street food. He recommends that you serve this with ‘tostadas’ (see below), which is tortilla wraps shallow-fried in vegetable oil. I decided I was going to be good and refrained, which in hindsight was probably a mistake as I felt the recipe needed something else to bring it all together. Not that I’d tell Gordon this to his face, otherwise it would be a recipe for disaster!

Although more graft and ingredients are involved, I personally prefer veggie tacos from the Hairy Dieters which also uses black beans.

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Pineapple Fried Rice


This is brilliant for using up odds and sods in your fridge

When I kid myself that I’m going to be ‘good’, I often buy fresh fruit which sits in my fridge until it goes off. Thankfully, pineapple keeps very well so when I have a crisis of conscience I can rustle up Pineapple Fried Rice from Two Chubby Cubs which has lots of flavour from the soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, chilli flakes and lime.

A word of warning. The recipe calls for 700g of cooked rice. That equates to about 250g of uncooked rice. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of serving this with 700g of uncooked, otherwise your daily calorie count will be well and truly screwed. Personally, I think about 40g of uncooked rice per person is more than sufficient.

If you’re wondering what else you can do with a pineapple, have a bash at sweet and sour chicken, gammon and pineapple stir fry or the Cubs’ equally delectable ham & pineapple pasta bake.

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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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Creamy Turkey Autumn Curry


This is different, in a good way

The clocks have gone back, it’s constantly raining and you won’t be able to set foot in your house without a trail of leaves being stuck to your shoes. So why not console yourself by making Creamy Turkey Autumn Curry from Two Chubby Cubs?

This recipe is an interesting Thai-style twist on a conventional, frankly boring, chicken casserole. There’s loads of flavour coming from the chilli, ginger, turmeric, squash, coconut milk and coriander. And I applaud any recipe that gives the humble turkey star billing over chicken. I really enjoyed this.

There are few things I loathe more in the kitchen than prepping butternut squash. However, it is a great ingredient and I’d recommend adding thai-style butternut squash soup, curried butternut squash and apple soup and beef kofta curry to your winter meal plans.

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Giant Baked Beans


Do as I say, not as I do. Come back Branston baked beans, all is forgiven

I’ve blogged previously about how lockdown has made me attempt strange things in the kitchen. From making my own muesli (which had some merit) to my car-crash attempt at trying home-made baked beans, which cost me two hours of my life and reputation to my son that I won’t get back.

So when I saw Pinch of Nom’s Giant Baked Beans recipe which could be ready in 15 minutes, I was ready to dust myself down and try again. Unlike the Hairy Dieters’ version, ‘Nom doesn’t require you to piss about soaking dried beans overnight. Just two tins of butter beans (between 4) will do the trick and then all you need to do is douse them in passata, Worcester sauce, balsamic vinegar, paprika, onion granules, mustard powder, granulated sweetener and, finally, salt and pepper.

This wasn’t any hardship for me because I have more spices than pairs of socks in my house. However, based on the end result I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to get them just to make this, when you could just crack open a tin of baked beans and be done with it. I find passata quite overpowering so the taste didn’t float my boat, although I did put them on top of a crap piece of bread. This is the last time I try and be a smart arse when it comes to baked beans. Now where did I put my tins of Branston?

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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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Rainbow Trout with Braised Fennel


You could swap the trout for salmon but it would be higher in calories

One of the advantages of living in the arse end of a small Cheshire town is that the locals don’t know how to cook fish, which is a harsh, sweeping generalisation but I’m sticking to it. Towards the end of the day my local Co-op regularly has lots of clearance items of fish at rock bottom prices, including cod, salmon and sea bass. So, when it started stocking rainbow trout I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d pick up a bargain. Two packs, which should have been £8, only cost me £1.80. I make no apologies for being a smug twat.

Off home I gleefully trotted and put the trout in my freezer, where it subsequently resided for 6 months. It turns out I’m as equally clueless when it comes to cooking trout as my local constituents are. But a lightbulb went off in my brain when I came across Rainbow Trout with Braised Fennel from Tom Kerridge. Sadly, my excitement turned to despair due to my poor execution of the recipe. Now whose the smug twat?

I couldn’t be arsed to use a cook’s blowtorch to char the trout and therefore overcooked it in the oven to compensate. I completely forgot to add the crème fraiche at the end and my fennel tasted of fennel, which is fine if you like fennel, but I found the taste somewhat overpowering. I also should have podded my broad beans but again, I couldn’t be arsed.

Sometimes you get out of something what you put in, and I wasn’t as committed to making this dish when it came down to it. It would turn out better if I tried it again, but at nearly £5 a portion (full price) I don’t think I’ll bother. One final thing, the portion size is huge for 2 people, I split it between 3 and it would even stretch to 4.

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Turkey San Choy Bow


There’s something cool about wrapping food in lettuce leaves

I’d previously dismissed Tom Kerridge as a British classics / gastro pub chef but that was doing him a great disservice. As well as succeeding on his phenomenal weight loss journey, Tom’s grasp of low-calorie Asian food and flavours is brilliant, as evidenced in his Lose Weight for Good book.

Turkey San Choy Bow is one recipe I was really keen to try, partly because the name remains me of the Karate Kid and Mr Miyagi shouting, “Daniel san!”. Joking aside, this is a mouthwatering dish and only 260 calories per serving. I love the concept of serving the meat, vegetables and Asian flavours in lettuce leaves – it’s tonnes more satisfying than having rice and better for your waistline.

If you like the concept of this, but are pushed for time, I’d also recommend Justine Pattison’s turkey lettuce wraps. Similarly, if you’ve got beansprouts and water chestnuts leftover, have a go at the Hairy Dieters’ chicken stir-fry.

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