Beachside Paella


A standard frying pan won’t do for this, it’s time to bring the ‘big boy’ out

Let’s face it, with tightening restrictions around Covid there’s not a lot to smile about right now. As the nights draw in sun, sand and sea seems a distant memory but food can have a positive effect in lifting your spirits, even if it’s just for an hour or so. I needed a focus to perk me up and Beachside Paella from the Hairy Dieters was just the ticket, washed down with copious amounts of vino (not recommended for the diet). It didn’t trick me into thinking I was in Spain, but it was a welcome distraction from being locked down in Cheshire!

A word of caution, you do need a f***ing huuuuugggggeeee pan to fit all of the ingredients in this mammoth dish. I was a geek and purchased my own paella pan – I got a good one from Amazon for £40, but you can get them cheaper. But why skimp on price? It’s not as if you’re going to Spain anytime soon, right?

As for the taste, I absolutely loved this dish. It says it serves 6 at 358 calories per portion. But I think the reality is that if there’s less than 6 of you the pan is getting cleaned out because it tastes so good. My ears are still ringing from the bollocking I received off my wife for picking the chorizo and chicken leftovers out of the pan and leaving just the rice. Was it worth it? Absolutely! If you want a dumbed-down, non-paella, but equally mighty fine one-pan dish, I’d recommend southern-style jambalaya, also from the Hairy Dieters.

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Chicken & Chorizo Risnotto


This isn’t a risotto but it’s a risotto

Chicken & Chorizo Risnotto from Two Chubby Cubs creates those wonderful, creamy risotto flavours without you having to laboriously stand in front of the cooker waiting for the stock to be absorbed. Don’t let my crap photo fool you, this is a banging evening meal which tastes wonderful and will fill you up.

Importantly, you will need a pan with a lid so you can trundle off for 20 mins while this cooks. I didn’t trust myself to leave this unattended on a medium-low heat without occasionally checking that my food hadn’t stuck, so it did take me a bit longer. Also, if you’re making this for any fussy family members, or a teenage boy, in my case, you may want to serve them it without the addition of the cream cheese. It turns out that while my boy loves cheese, he inexplicably doesn’t like cream cheese! For everyone else, just stir the cream cheese through at the very end as per the recipe’s instructions, then dish up and hey presto, we’re all happy.

If you love risotto type meals, check out chicken and mushroom risotto and sea bass and miso risotto which are awesome low-cal recipes. Or, if you’re wondering what to do with any leftover chorizo, I’d recommend all-in-one spicy pork and rice and southern-style jambalaya which are similarly wonderful.

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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.

Continue reading “Cajun Dirty Rice – a filthy feast for less than 300 calories!”

Sweet and Sour Chicken – a proper ‘fakeaway’


Less than £2 a head and under 300 calories per portion, without rice!

From re-creating your favourite curry to making lower calorie burgers, healthy cookbooks are awash with ‘fakeaways’ these days. And don’t get me wrong, these recipes are welcome and have their place. But try as they might, some of them still don’t hit the ‘spot’, particularly with curries which omit staple restaurant ingredients like ghee to keep the fat content to a minimum. My philosophy is if you’re in need of a blow-out and want to be naughty, then treat yourself to a takeaway, PROVIDING you get back on your diet the next day.

But there are ‘fakeaway’ exceptions which do genuinely (in my opinion) taste like the ‘real thing’. Sweet and Sour Chicken from the Hairy Dieters is one of the more authentic fakeaways I’ve made – I think Chinese takeaways in general are easier to recreate at home based on the required ingredients. This recipe requires only two chicken breasts and will comfortably serve 4 people for less than £2 a head, without rice. The sweet and sour sauce with the pineapple and ginger is to die for!

Serve this in a takeaway carton to your nearest and dearest and see if they notice the difference. Or just serve it them anyway. If you’re interested in fakeways, check out the relevant section on this blog here, and if Chinese floats your boat, Yeung Chow Fried Rice, is another excellent recipe to try, courtesy of Pinch of Nom.

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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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Yeung Chow Fried Rice – fantastic ‘fakeaway’


Yeung Chow Fried rice

Although luscious, Yeung Chow Fried Rice from my local Chinese takeaway will set me back £6 and is rich in calories. In contrast, this slimming, wallet friendly version from Pinch of Nom tastes arguably as good – the only giveaway that this is ‘home-made’ is my shite attempt at julienning a carrot.

There may be a few ingredients to initially buy-in, but most of them you’ll use consistently if following a healthy-eating plan. I had an unused pork steak from a pack after making Creamy Pork, Apples and Cabbage, so this seemed like a good way of ensuring nothing went to waste. Continue reading “Yeung Chow Fried Rice – fantastic ‘fakeaway’”

Southern-Style Jambalaya – a one-pan feast from Louisiana


Southern style jambalaya

Southern-Style Jambalaya, heralding from Louisiana USA, not Essex, is a proper feast from the Hairy Dieters that combines loads of protein and vegetables in one-pan. It contains some of my favourite food – chicken, chorizo and prawns, and pays homage to some lesser regarded items such as celery and green peppers which help to bulk this filling meal out.

While there a lot of ingredients in this, a number of them are spices, which you’ll use over and over again if following a healthy eating plan. And even if you’re not, just make this anyway because it tastes absolutely fantastic. Continue reading “Southern-Style Jambalaya – a one-pan feast from Louisiana”

Spicy pork and aubergine curry


Pork and aubergine curry

My recent farm shop delivery was well received but it did throw up some surprises. A green cabbage was substituted for a courgette and butternut squash was swapped for an aubergine. With my OCD-esque food planning menu in tatters, I trawled through my library of cookbooks for inspiration and discovered Spicy Pork and Aubergine Curry courtesy of BBC Good Food.

I’m not a fan of aubergine and would normally use it in a vege curry, or perhaps a moussaka. But there was no way I was going to let it go to waste in times like now. The journey to get to this meal was arduous, but eating it was largely forgettable. It lacked flavour and punch, however the addition of a small portion of basmati rice made it bearable. Unless I’m the recipient of any stray aubergines any time soon this dish is unlikely to feature on my dinner table again. Continue reading “Spicy pork and aubergine curry”

All-In-One Spicy Pork and Rice


All in One spicy pork

All-In-One Spicy Pork and Rice used to be my favourite Hairy Dieters dish, until my youngest son protested that he didn’t like peppers so it’s slipped off the menu in recent times. But through a combination of cravings and tough parental love, this recipe has made a comeback with my trade-off to Will being that I’ll cut the peppers into smaller pieces ;-). The truce is working so far.

This is such a tasty meal. Pork, chorizo, lots of vege and rice with some lovely spices mixed through. Heaven. Try and use pork tenderloin if you can get it as it’s leaner than pork steaks. But the latter is fine – just carefully trim the fat off them.

If you’re looking for another brilliant one-pan pork dish from the Hairy Dieters, try Pork and Black Bean Stew with Salsa. Sooo good! Continue reading “All-In-One Spicy Pork and Rice”

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto


Chicken and mushroom rissotto

If you’re on a tight budget, or simply want to make your ingredients go further, then Chicken and Mushroom Risotto from the Hairy Dieters is an excellent recipe to try. It requires just 2 chicken breasts, half a pack of chestnut mushrooms and the normally calorific creamy risotto rice is made slimming friendly by stirring in a couple of tablespoons of crème fraiche. I’ve never typically gone for traditional risotto-based dishes so I can’t tell the difference, except to the benefit of my waistline!

Reducing the chicken stock is quite a laborious task, but personally I didn’t mind as all you need to do is keep an eye on the pan and it’s not as if you have to faff around doing extra chopping or prep work. A word of warning, the portion is quite small so you might want to bulk it out by adding some green vege. I opted for peas in this instance. Oh, and if you can’t / don’t want to get any expensive wild mushrooms, don’t worry. They do add an extra ‘earthiness’ to the dish but frankly you can take them or leave them.

If you’re wondering what to do with any spare chicken breasts or mushrooms, give Pollo Pasta with Pesto from Justine Pattison a go. Continue reading “Chicken and Mushroom Risotto”

Low-cal chicken tikka masala – worth stripping off for!


Chicken tikka

It’s January. I’m skint and that, combined with my need to sift some post-Christmas ‘timber’, means that Indian takeaways are firmly off the menu for now. Thankfully, low-cal chicken tikka masala from the Hairy Dieters is a brilliant ‘plan B’. In fact, it tastes so good that this could become ‘plan A’ going forward.

Do take the trouble to marinate the chicken overnight if you can as the flavours, particularly the ginger, intensify which makes the end result really satisfying. Personally, I left the salt out of this dish because I’m not a fan and I don’t think the recipe needs it but see what you think. Please note, the calories listed below DO NOT include rice or naan. A small piece of bread satisfies me when mopping up the sauce and the dish will still come in at under 500 cals.

Prep does take a while but this is a doddle to make. The only ‘health and safety’ precaution I need to make is to momentarily ‘strip off’ when blending the sauce with a stick blender as I tend to get it all down my top and up the walls if I’m not careful. It’s not just me, right? Continue reading “Low-cal chicken tikka masala – worth stripping off for!”

Chicken biryani- a flavour-bomb fakeaway


chicken biryani

When compiling a list of my favourite Indian curries that I wanted to try as a ‘fakeaway’, Chicken Biryani didn’t immediately spring to mind. But I’m so glad I decided to make this reduced-calorie version from the Hairy Dieters as it’s literally bursting with flavours which made for a fabulous surprise.

Some healthy eating books regularly throw in the claim ‘this is better than a takeaway’ almost to the point of it becoming a cliché, however this was exactly the conclusion I came to after demolishing this chicken biryani meal. There a lot of ingredients, but as long as you follow the method to the letter it will turn out brilliantly.

A lot of ‘fakeaway’ recipes give you the calorie count for the meal WITHOUT rice, so if you’re not careful what seems like an ultra healthy dish on paper can be potentially misleading. This chicken biryani meal INCLUDES rice and comes in at just under 400 calories (based on serving 5 people) so you don’t need to worry whether this is a healthy choice for your diet! Continue reading “Chicken biryani- a flavour-bomb fakeaway”

Chicken and broad bean pilaf


Broad beans

Chicken and broad bean pilaf from the Hairy Dieters contains a wonderful mix of flavours – chicken, vegetables, rice, spices and herbs which combine together to form a really satisfying dish for just 310 calories. And despite the long list of ingredients it’s very cheap and simple to make in just one pan.

This meal can be rustled up in under half an hour but definitely plan ahead by getting the chicken thighs marinating and ‘double-podding’ the broad beans, which can be a labour of love. If you’re vegetarian, or planning to have a ‘meat-free Monday’, you can leave out the chicken and still enjoy a brilliant recipe for only 218 calories. Continue reading “Chicken and broad bean pilaf”

Chicken Bhuna – fab ‘fakeaway’!


Chicken bhuna

You’ll find lots of cracking Indian ‘fakeaway’ dishes throughout the Hairy Dieters’ books and Chicken Bhuna is right up there with the best of them. In fact, if my 13-year old son didn’t despise peppers I’d probably make this more often than I do. Perhaps it’s time to show the boy some tough love and make him eat this belting curry more often? I digress…

I really like the simplicity of this recipe. Unlike the majority of Indian dishes which require lots of spices, this one only uses mild curry powder and garam masala. The addition of the fresh ginger, garlic, chopped tomatoes and chilli powder work their magic to produce a fantastic sauce and hey presto, job done.

The calorie count is 305 calories but do keep in mind this is WITHOUT including rice and/or naan bread. But if you do succumb to these extras this meal is still far healthier than a standard takeaway, and a damn site cheaper and dare I say it, tastier too! Continue reading “Chicken Bhuna – fab ‘fakeaway’!”

Chilli con carne – healthy pub comfort food


Chilli con carne

Who doesn’t love a chilli as the evenings start to draw in? Chilli Con Carne from the Hairy Dieters’ first book is tasty and a doddle to throw together. The high number of required ingredients may be off-putting to some, particularly if you’re not used to cooking from scratch, however if you’re committed to eating healthy, fresh food then most of the items will become store-cupboard staples which you’ll regularly need for other recipes.

Do be mindful that the calorie count is 302 per serving WITHOUT rice, which can easily add another 100-150 calories depending on how generous you are. Personally, about three tablespoons of rice is sufficient for me as I’m not a big fan. I’m also happy to just have the chilli with a side salad and a low-fat dressing.

The recipe does serve five at a push, with your chosen accompaniment. For me, it made x2 chilli and small portions of rice, x2 jacket potatoes with chilli con carne filling and leftover chilli with a side salad for lunch. If you’re a bit ‘chillied’ out, then why not freeze individual portions and save them for days when you have less time to cook? Continue reading “Chilli con carne – healthy pub comfort food”