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).
Due to the cost and length of cooking time, I’m quite selective over which lamb dishes I make but Lamb, Rosemary and Sweet Potato Pie from Pinch of Nom’s latest book was a no-brainer. This really is a beautifully tasting pie which contains a great balance of protein, vegetables and carbs, all for just 340 calories per serving (based on serving 6 people).
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.
With some healthier tweaks, you can still enjoy the ‘naughty’ things you love when on a diet. Full English Wraps by Pinch of Nom may not be a traditional breakfast ‘fry-up’, but as it contains bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms and/or beans and tomatoes it’s not a bad substitute.
As ever, moderation is key and to keep the calories to a modest 220 per serving the ‘wrap’ in this recipe is made by cooking an egg on a very low heat. Nom suggest using a medium egg, but as supermarket sizes can vary, for the extra calories you might be better off using a large egg so it fully covers the base of your frying pan and can hold the contents of the wrap without the risk of falling apart.
Breakfast Potatoes from Pinch of Nom is a lighter version of an American brunch dish which you can top with a fried egg (as I did) or some avocado. It’s not the quickest to make, so is probably better suited for a weekend.
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.
Ploughman’s is a pub classic and if you follow Pinch of Nom’s Ploughman’s Platter with Homemade Chutney recipe you can have a lunchtime feast for under 400 calories, which includes a wholemeal roll for the carb fanatics out there.
Nom’s home-made chutney is delectable, but if you want to save yourself 20 minutes shop-bought chutney will suffice. There really is something in this platter for everyone – ham, salad, cheese, fruit, bread – just dig in and this is perfect if you’re someone who prefers buffet style food.
My wife has recently bought a couple of afternoon tea sets from local cafes comprising finger sandwiches and cakes. They’ve been fine, but apart from being dieting busting they’ve cost in the region of £15 a head! In contrast, this home-made platter costs around £2.65 per portion and is kinder to your waistline.
My shoddy photo really doesn’t do justice to Pulled Chicken Baked Sliders from Pinch of Nom. The BBQ chicken, melted cheese in a bun combo transports you into an American diner with the added bonus that this costs less than £1 per head to make. The only thing missing is the fries on the side!
The recipe below is for 9 people (yes, 9), but just scale down accordingly depending on how many you are feeding. There is a long list of ingredients and, although it tastes good, the effort required to make this recipe is disproportionate unless you’ve got copious amounts of time on your hands. From start to finish, this took me about 2 hours, which is way too long to knock together a leisurely weekend lunch.
There are some fabulous recipes in Pinch of Nom’s new book – Quick and Easy. But rather like crispy chili beef (which I featured on this blog last week), some of the prep times are way too ambitious. If you just want a no-faff sandwich or wrap, click here for some ideas.
Who doesn’t love a pasta bake? Well, me actually, but my teenage son Will can eat pasta by the bucket load so I knew Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake from Pinch of Nom would be right up his street. Pasta bakes are a genius way of getting children to sample vegetables without them really noticing – in this case it’s sliced leeks and mushrooms, which go brilliantly with the chicken and the creamy, cheesy sauce.
The calorie count for this dish is just over 500, but you can always reduce it by having less pasta. 300g between 4 people is quite a lot and I find that 50g of pasta per person is sufficient. It’s up to you.
If you’ve got some eggs and odds and sods in your fridge that need using up, shove them in a frittata. Pinch of Nom’s thrifty version uses bacon, potato and spring onions which are a great combo, but chuck in what you like. If you’re after a vege version, check out vegetable frittata. Ideal for brunch or a light lunch with a green salad on the side.
Mushroom fans have I got a treat for you! Courtesy of Pinch of Nom, Creamy Mushroom Bruschetta is a banging breakfast / brunch recipe which looks and tastes naughtier than it is! I just love the combination of creamy, garlicy mushrooms generously piled on top of toasted ciabatta with a hint of basil and fresh chives. Just fantastic!
Pretty food is not always healthy food, but Breakfast Banana Split from Pinch of Nom is goodness personified. The mix of bananas, blueberries, strawberries and cherries is a perfect morning wake-up call, topped with yoghurt and a hint of vanilla and the flaked almonds, which I opted to lightly toast beforehand.
If you’re worried about food wastage / supermarket sell-by dates / cost and don’t want to use fresh fruit just for 10 blueberries, 4 strawberries and 2 cherries, then just buy frozen. That’s exactly what I do and I just take out the quantities of fruit that I need. No stress, no wastage and little difference in overall quality.
I’ve mentioned it before on this blog that it’s easier to create authentic, calorie-reduced Chinese takeaways compared to Indian counterparts. Crispy Chilli Beef from Pinch of Nom’s latest book (Quick and Easy) is a case in point. If you follow Nom’s tip (buy the book) to leave it until the last minute to add the beef strips to the sauce they will stay crispy for a bit longer. I was pleasantly surprised by how realistic our crispy beef turned out.
The authenticity and cost to make this dish – approx £2.60 per portion (considerably less compared to what you’d pay from a takeaway) are the positives. The negatives are the ball ache in terms of how long this recipe takes to make and that your kitchen will resemble a bombsite afterwards. I felt quite overwhelmed by the long list of ingredients involved and subsequent clean-up job required. Pinch of Nom’s stopwatch, which suggests only 10 minutes of preparation is required, must be faulty! Or, I’m just woefully shite in the kitchen.
While this dish undoubtedly tastes good (though I’d use a smaller red pepper if making again), fakeaways need to be more than just about recreating the likeness of your favourite takeaway and cutting down on the calories. They’ve got to be simple enough and quick to make, otherwise you may as well give yourself a night off and ring for a fucking takeaway yourself! By the time I’d sat down to make this, I was already frazzled, more so than the crispy beef on my plate!
I recently had to return to the office for a day and with all kitchen facilities out of bounds due to Covid, I was a bit stumped as to what I could eat. I then had the brainwave of making Lemon and Blueberry Baked Oats from Pinch of Nom. Oats slowly release energy which help to keep hunger at bay for longer, and as the calorie count for this is on the high side at 440 per serving, I figured I might skip lunch rather than have to go out and buy something from a shop.
My masterplan involved getting up at the crack of dawn to bake the oats in the oven, wrap them in foil and then drive to the office where they would still be warm for when I arrived. Genius (ish). But what about the taste? Well….. it was very lemony, as you’d expect, which is fine if you like lemon (I prefer subtle hints of lemon). It also tasted more like a dessert, which is fine if you like desserts, but I’m indifferent towards them and certainly don’t want a pudding for breakfast! So my cunning plan was a bit of a bust.
Getting me to have steak without chips, mushrooms and onion rings is quite a challenge but it’s good to vary things up, particularly when you’re trying to shift some timber. Crying Tiger Beef from Pinch of Nom is a fancy name for a traditional Thai recipe using thin-cut steak and a tangy, spicy dressing made from coriander, tomatoes, chillies, spring onion, garlic, fish sauce and either lemon or lime juice. As the name would suggest, it certainly packs a punch!
I really enjoyed this having treated myself to some tasty frying steak from my local butcher. It’s worth paying a bit more for quality meat if you can afford to as supermarket steak tends to be shite. My only criticism of this dish is that I’m not entirely sure where it sits – is it a light lunch or an evening meal served with some rice? I opted for the former.
I frown when I hear people say ‘they can’t afford to cook’, or worse, ‘I can’t afford to buy healthy, fresh food’. There’s a difference between being genuinely skint, as opposed to not knowing how to cook from scratch. The lines between both statements often get blurred.
Pasta Arrabbiata from Pinch of Nom is a really easy and affordable vegetarian recipe to get even the most nervous and sceptical of cooks into the kitchen. It can be rustled up for about 50p per serving in 30 minutes. Arrabbiata sauce is a traditional Italian, spicy sauce made from garlic and dried chilli peppers. This recipe requires 1 tsp of chilli flakes, but heat freaks might want to up the ante by finely dicing a normal red chilli to give it more of a kick.
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!
Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon Bagel from Pinch of Nom’s new book (Quick and Easy) is just divine. The flavours are a match made in heaven and these bagels can be enjoyed any time of day – breakfast, brunch or lunch, or even as a snack if you’ve got the munchies! Make sure you get bagel thins though to keep the calories down, alternatively just use half a standard bagel if you can discipline yourself to be good. Personally, I couldn’t!
I thought I’d tried most Indian-based dishes, but Chicken and Banana Curry from Pinch of Nom is a new one for me. This mild, fruity recipe tastes a bit like a Kashmiri which sometimes contain mango and lychee. Or if you’re ordering from my dodgy local curry house a tin of supermarket fruit cocktail, much to my wife’s annoyance as she expects them to use fresh fruit, which always amuses me. In fairness, her gripe is valid when you’re paying over £7 for a main course per person!
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.