I haven’t posted for a while. A combination of doing volunteering work, my Dad passing away and securing a new job has zapped my energy and enthusiasm. But as if I didn’t know already, the scales confirmed that I need to get back with it and maybe in doing so life will become more enjoyable.
I rarely get excited about a soup recipe – home-made versions are better for you and lower in calories compared to saltier tinned equivalents, but can still lack taste. However, Mexican Street Corn Soup from Pinch of Nom did capture my imagination and I was thrilled with the end result. The chopped green chilli and chilli powder give it plenty of ooomph and there’s a nice balance of flavours along with the red pepper, sweetcorn, potato and feta. This is one soup dish that I’ll return to again and again, plus it’s only approx 70p per serving to make and 199 calories (not 99 as printed by the Sun newspaper when plugging PON’s latest book earlier this year).
Cock and Bull from Pinch of Nom is a meat eater’s paradise as it combines chicken breast and steak (either sirloin or rump) in one pan with a creamy sauce. I served this with some peas as I felt the meat needed something else to accompany it, beyond the handful of sliced onion and mushrooms which don’t go far between four people. You could add some new potatoes too, but bare in mind that the calorie count is already 436 per serving.
I would make this again but next time would reduce down the sauce as mine was far too runny (user error!). Pinch of Nom just love a creamy sauce and use low-fat cream cheese to make their dishes diet friendly. If you like this, you’ll love creamy garlic chicken and poulet au vinaigre.
Cooking with tinned ingredients has become more popular since the pandemic due to supermarket shortages and people needing to eat more frugally after sadly losing their jobs or livelihoods. Thankfully, you can still eat healthily and imaginatively with tinned goods and Three-Bean Cowboy Stew from Two Chubby Cubs is a belly-busting vegetable stew which you can make for less than £1 per head.
You’ll need a few fresh ingredients and dried herbs (see below) to make the tins sing, but nothing out of the ordinary. This dish might not look particularly appetising, however it’s tasty and will provide 6 generous portions which those with big appetites can serve with a small portion of rice.
Cowboy stew is best known to contain meat, so if you’re looking for a meat-based alternative check out campfire stew which uses gammon.
When purchasing a new cook book I always familiarise myself with the recipes and any particular ingredients that the authors frequent. In Pinch of Nom’s case, they’re big fans of pork, mushrooms and low-fat cream cheese, so I regularly keep these items in my fridge in case I need a ‘plan B’ recipe in the event of ‘plan A’ going out of the window.
Dijon Pork was indeed a ‘plan B’ recipe when I discovered that the vege stew I’d originally earmarked was going to take 2 hours. Our survey said, “Uh-uhh!”. But in the end I’m so pleased I tried this recipe as pork and mustard in a low-fat cream cheese sauce are a top combination! Although the cooking time is 50 minutes, over the half the time is taken up by just simmering the ingredients in a pan until the sauce thickens. Serve with a small portion of rice.
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.
Justine Pattison has provided a slimming friendly version of the classic French Onion Soup recipe which will feed 6 people for less than 50p a head! There is something really comforting about this soup and the extra cooking time to slowly cook the onions (don’t let them burn!) is worth the wait.
Justine recommends using the nuttiness of Gruyere cheese to put on the thin baguette slices, but any hard cheese will do. And if you can’t get your mits on a baguette as I couldn’t, then thin slices of garlic bread are a good substitute but do factor in the extra calories.
A cooked breakfast for less than 150 calories per serving? You better believe it thanks to Justine Pattison’s All-in-One Breakfast, which is conveniently cooked in the oven to save on the washing up afterwards!
The concept of this recipe is great, but getting the execution right can be faffy when it comes to prising the egg from the baking tray. Low-calorie cooking spray by definition might save calories compared to using oil, but I still find it irritatingly inadequate at preventing ingredients from sticking. One tip Justine advises is to use really fresh eggs as they won’t spread so far across the pan when broken.
Most people love eating risottos, but few love making them because of the laborious cooking process due to standing in front of a cooker stirring and gradually adding stock zzzzzzz. Pinch of Nom’s Oven-baked Risotto with Smoked Salmon and Peas takes the monotony away as most of the recipe can be cooked in the oven on a low setting. Genius and my Mum loved it, always a bonus!
Spending 45 minutes to make Cream of TomatoSoup might seem pointless when you can just crack open a tin of Heinz or Baxters, but can we please all agree that tinned soup is shite and loaded with salt? This home-made version from Justine Pattison is ace with a swirl of chive cream and less than 150 calories per serving.
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.
Despite barely leaving the house, having no social engagements or work commute costs, January has been a tight month financially for us. Intending to finish 2020 with a bang after what had been the shitest year on record, we went overboard on buying generous family Christmas gifts and enough ‘naughty’ food and booze we could consume. I guess I’m fortunate that we were able to do so in the first place.
But this month we’ve been ‘skint’, so I’ve tried to go back to ‘basics’ by making cheap, healthy meals. Spaghetti with Broccoli & Anchovies from BBC Good Food is entirely forgettable, however at around 62p per serving it’s a wonderfully affordable option when you want a thrifty pasta dish.
I loved it, mainly because I had all of the ingredients in. My wife hated it, mainly because I burnt the breadcrumbs. I pointed out she was nitpicking and that they were merely ‘well done’. But yeah anyway…. keep an eye on the breadcrumbs and don’t burn them, ok? If you love pasta and are wondering what to do with any leftover anchovies, then pasta puttanesca is the absolute dish to go for and is also cheap to make.
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…..
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.
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 ;-).
I’m not keen on the naming given to Jamie Oliver’sHit ‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.