Skinny Potato Salad – my 200th blog post


Just 155 calories per serving

I thought my 200th blog post would be more imaginative than Skinny Potato Salad from Justine Pattison. But this is a wonderful, simplistic meal in its own right and costs less than 75p per serving to put on your table despite being packed with new potatoes, celery, apple and spring onion with a low-fat mayo dressing.

And when I think about it, that’s what this blog is all about. Giving people access to straightforward, tasty recipes that they can make easily and cheaply at home to keep on track with their diet. Enjoy and thanks to everyone who drops by.

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Chilli Steak Salad


Where’s the chips and onion rings??

I used to think having steak in a salad was a waste. And at over a fiver a head I still do, however there’s no denying that Chilli Steak Salad from the Hairy Dieters is a cracking effort. Don’t forget to leave your steak to rest for a few minutes and strain those lovely meat juices into your salad. The kick from the chilli and the ginger alongside this is delightful!

If you like the sound of this, check out thai beef salad from the Hairy Dieters’ second book, which is also lush lunchtime tucker.

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Tomato, Ricotta and Basil Salad


Don’t worry if you haven’t got a blowtorch. This tastes fantastic, you’ve got to try it!

I like Tom Kerridge so much that I committed the heinous, ‘cheffy’ crime of purchasing a cook’s blowtorch based on his recommendation for making Tomato, Ricotta and Basil Salad. But it did cause me a ‘domestic’ with my wife. I’ll come to that shortly.

According to Tom, “blowtorching the tomatoes may sound fancy but it’s an easy way to fire-roast them for an amazing smoky taste – browning the skins without cooking the flesh.” Well, it is fancy, Tom, but this salad tastes bloody fantastic and the paprika dressing is amaaaazing, so who am I to argue?  

You can pick-up a cook’s blowtorch for less than £12 on Amazon and it can also be used for BBQs and camping trips, if you’re that way inclined. That’s the easy part. The hard part was fitting the gas canister to the blowtorch which led to some colourful language being exchanged in my house. Finally, we figured it out. I say we, but in truth it was my wife who I had accosted from her work. “Couldn’t we have just put the tomatoes under the fucking grill?” she said. Quite.

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Cheeseburger Salad


Under £1.50 per portion and 403 calories. How much would McDonalds and Burger King fare in comparison?

In the words of Two Chubby Cubs, “… we’ve taken all the worst bits of a salad (i.e having a salad) and combined it with something delicious and wonderful (i.e. having a cheeseburger)”. Cheeseburger Salad from the ‘Cubs is a novel contradiction which can complement your healthy eating plan at 403 calories per serving.

I think I was tickled more with the concept than by the taste, although I did enjoy it. Making what are effectively mini meatballs during the lunchtime rush whilst working from home seemed a bit of an unnecessary effort. But of course, you can make this the night before. For me, the unexpected star of this show was the suggested home-made Thousand Island dressing which the Cubs state you can make by mixing together 1 tbsp crème fraiche, 1 tbsp reduced-fat mayonnaise, 1 tbsp natural yoghurt, ½ tsp paprika, 2 tsp mustard, 2 tsp tomato puree and 1 tsp white wine vinegar.

If you prefer your salads to have a bit of ‘beef’ to them, check out thai beef salad and chilli salad bowls.

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Ham Salad Wraps


For freshness, make these wraps on the day you plan to eat them rather than the night before

Wraps are less stodgier than traditional bread ‘sarnies and the added bonus is that you can include more filling in them. Ham Salad Wraps from the Hairy Dieters are just 325 calories and packed with pepper, lettuce, carrot and cucumber which should be enough to satisfy the hungriest of appetites.

If you’re planning on taking these to work but can’t use your employer’s fridges due to Covid, put them in a cool or temperature-controlled bag with an ice pack to keep them nice and fresh before you’re ready to tuck in. Check out the Hairy Dieters’ ‘Eat for Life’ book to get the recipes for tuna and sweetcorn wraps and hot-smoked salmon wraps as well.

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Thai Beef Salad


Don’t forget to leave your steak to rest

Since lockdown I’ve really got into making freshly made salads at home and Thai Beef Salad from the Hairy Dieters has been one of the best. There’s a bit of chopping, dicing and peeling involved, but you’ll be rewarded for your toil. I did wonder if the quantity of mint and coriander would be too overpowering, but the Thai fish sauce and chilli dressing balances out the flavours beautifully.

If you’re stuck for more salad ideas, check out the section on my blog here. There’s a lot to choose from, but I’d recommend the zingy and colourful quinoa, prawn and mango salad and couscous with roasted roots, honey and goat’s cheese as being the standouts.

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Mexican Caesar Salad


This is a classy salad, bursting with fresh ingredients

Mexican Caesar Salad from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Save with Jamie’ book is a sumptuous treat for lunch or a light evening meal which has got a little bit of everything in it. Containing 17 ingredients and at over £2 a head I’m not sure how this can be classed as a budget meal though, Jamie.

But aside from the cost, this salad tastes great and will satisfy your hunger cravings that you’ll work up whilst prepping it! If you want a slightly cheaper and lighter version, check out chicken caesar salad from the Hairy Dieters. Or, if neither of these appeal, then have a gander at cobb salad from Justine Pattison which has become a favourite of mine.

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Crispy Pork Schnitzel with Potato Salad


This can be a messy job, so why not get the kids involved and make it fun?

Crispy Pork Schnitzel with Potato Salad from the Hairy Dieters is a substantial meal that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner. I always thought schnitzels – which are traditionally thin, breaded and pan fried cutlets made from veal – originated from Poland, but it turns out they herald from Austria. You learn something new every day…

Schnitzels can be unhealthy as they are typically pan fried in oil, but this lighter version requires them to be baked in the oven. With the whopping side salad of potatoes, onion, celery and apple, the Hairy Dieters’ recipe comes in at only 406 calories per portion. I won’t lie and say you can’t tell the difference between this and having the real thing, but the low-cal alternative still tastes good.

A word of warning. If you can’t stand your kitchen getting messy, then give this meal a wide berth. You’ll have plates, cutlery and messy hands from making the coating for the schnitzels. However, if you’ve got children who are showing an interest in cooking why not get them involved? You could even get them to wash up afterwards for a full 360 degree culinary experience, ha ha!

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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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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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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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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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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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Simple Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad


Simple Tuna pasta salad

I’m sure everyone reading will identify with this…there are some days when you just can’t be ARSED to make a healthy meal but still want to stay on track with your diet. It can be all too tempting to make a carb-loaded sandwich, or buy a calorific meal from a supermarket. Simple Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad from the Hairy Dieters was created for such occasions.

By definition it’s simple and quick to pull together, it’s filling yet still under 200 calories, and, well, that’s about it. Of course, part of the motivation for maintaining our diets is creating appetising, visually appealing recipes. But sometimes when willpower is severely lacking you’ve just got to stay on track, either with a bog-standard pasta salad or with a humble jacket potato. As for this salad, it tastes pretty good, but I would recommend bulking it out with some gem or romaine lettuce to stretch the servings to four. Continue reading “Simple Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad”

Couscous with roasted roots, honey and goat’s cheese


Couscous with roasted roots

I previously believed that parsnips and carrots only belong with a Sunday roast. But after sampling Justine Pattison’s delightful Couscous with Roasted Roots, Honey and Goat’s Cheese salad that opinion has firmly been revised.

Drizzling olive oil and honey over the veg makes them taste divine, and you get extra flavour from the chicken or vegetable stock and the chilli flakes, plus a contrast in texture from the beetroot and goat’s cheese. This one-pot dish really takes you on a culinary journey and the end result is a colourful and filling plate of food that tastes superb for both vegetarians and obstinate meat eaters. Continue reading “Couscous with roasted roots, honey and goat’s cheese”

Chilli Salad Bowls – ‘pick and mix’ with tacos


Chilli salad bowls

I’ve recently started buying 750g packs of minced beef from a butcher to make the likes of Rich and Meaty Bolognese, Chilli Con Carne and Enchiladas for my family. The quality of the produce (in comparison to supermarkets) is superior, but it invariably leaves me with a quandary over to what to do with any remaining mince. Sure, I could freeze it, but instead I decided to have a bash at making Chilli Salad Bowls from the Hairy Dieters for an alternative ‘pick-and-mix’ lunch.

The recipe states that you can use taco shells which are less in calories rather than tortillas, which is exactly the route I took to save on…. prep time, not calories. That would be a crazy idea, right? ;-). To my delight, these went down really well with my wife and teenage son, who loves anything that tastes like Doritos. If you have kids that are similar, then Tortilla Chilli Pie might be the recipe for you. Continue reading “Chilli Salad Bowls – ‘pick and mix’ with tacos”

Warm green bean and feta salad


Feta with peppers and green beans

Warm Green Bean and Feta Salad from Pinch of Nom might sound like a fairly run of the mill lunch, but don’t dismiss it because of its simplicity. This is a banging low-calorie budget meal, full of flavour with the added kick of the chilli flakes which takes just 10 minutes to make. It’s so yummy.

My only criticism is that the quantities are supposed to stretch to 4 people leaving a very small portion. You’re better off ‘doubling up’ and making this for 2 people instead. The calorie count would still only be 222 per serving. Continue reading “Warm green bean and feta salad”

Asparagus, Broad Bean and Bacon Salad


Asparagus, bacon and broad beans

We’re coming into British asparagus season (typically 23rd April to 21st June),  so why not take advantage by making Asparagus, Broad Bean and Bacon Salad from the dieters’ phenomenon that is Pinch of Nom. You can rustle this up quickly, or you can spend a few minutes ‘de-podding’ the broad beans to make it look prettier and taste even nicer (which I didn’t have time to do on this occasion).

Asparagus and bacon go well together, making this low calorie salad ideal for spring or summer lunchtimes. If you’re looking for more asparagus inspired recipes, check out Pasta with Summer Vegetables and Parma Ham from the Hairy Dieters. Continue reading “Asparagus, Broad Bean and Bacon Salad”

Cajun prawn and kale salad – classic US gumbo dish on a diet


Cajun prawns gumbo

I’m slowly working my way through Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight for Good book (I’d recommend it!). Following the success of Scrambled Cajun Eggs, yesterday I decided to continue with the theme by making Cajun Prawn and Kale Salad. This is apparently a classic US gumbo dish originating from Louisiana.

This is a really gutsy salad with bold flavours that fill you up for only 220 calories. I didn’t have all of the recommended ingredients to hand and had to make do with standard king prawns rather than raw tiger prawns, a regular red chilli instead of Scotch Bonnet and I omitted the celery. That did save me a couple of quid in costs, but in contrast the end result wasn’t as good had I followed this recipe to the letter. When life returns to ‘normal’ I’ll be giving this another go. Continue reading “Cajun prawn and kale salad – classic US gumbo dish on a diet”

Quinoa, prawn and mango salad – seductive treat!


Mango prawn salad

Quinoa, prawn and mango salad from the Hairy Dieters is one of the more expensive healthy eating recipes I’ve made, but it’s an absolute treat to devour and so worth the extra cost and effort. The marinated prawns and mango are a match made in heaven, you get the ‘nuttyness’ from the quinoa and the zing and heat from the mango chilli dressing. This is one seductive salad!

You might be tempted to ‘double up’ as this is only 200 calories per serving, however I recommend you don’t as one portion is more than filling enough. Diet or no diet, this colourful, flavoursome lunch packs a brilliant punch. Continue reading “Quinoa, prawn and mango salad – seductive treat!”