Chilli Prawn Pasta


Can you REALLY justify buying a bottle of vodka just for including 50ml of it in this recipe? Yes, yes you can

The Hairy Dieters include two types of Chilli Prawn Pasta recipes within their six healthy eating books. I opted to make the one from their fourth Fast Food book because you can include 50ml of vodka in it. Now, what to do with the remaining bottle? Wahahaha ;-). For reference, you’ll find the other recipe in their more recent ‘Make it Easy’ book.

The vodka is optional by the way, so don’t worry if you haven’t got any, or don’t want to go to the expense of buying in a bottle especially just for this . The meal will still taste great regardless, but the addition of the vodka will bring more depth of flavour to the sauce and balance out the sweetness of the red pepper and the passata.

For other seafood-based pasta recipes, have a look at spaghetti with broccoli & anchovies, spaghetti with prawns and courgettes, pasta with clams and bacon or pasta puttanesca. Or if seafood isn’t your thing, you’re bound to find a more appealing pasta recipe here.

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Oven-baked Risotto with Smoked Salmon and Peas


Cooking a risotto in the oven? Wonders never cease

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!

For another less faffy risotto dish, take a peak at chicken and chorizo risnotto. Or for more conventional recipes, try hunter’s risotto, chicken and mushroom risotto and sea bass and miso risotto.

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Hot-smoked Salmon Wraps


Expensive, but bloody lovely

One of the occupational hazards of running this blog is that I feel compelled to cook meals at lunchtimes to include a variety of recipe ideas, when really all I want to eat is a bog-standard bloody sandwich. But perhaps I’ve been missing the point, both for me and for you.

Sticking to a healthy eating plan is hard. Recipes need to be imaginative enough to capture someone’s interest, delicious to eat, yet simple enough to ensure they remain on track. I think Hot-Smoked Salmon Wraps from the Hairy Dieters fulfils this brief, despite hot-smoked salmon being frightfully expensive.

But this is a fantastic treat, quick and easy to pull together and every mouthful of this wrap is to be enjoyed. For other similar ideas, I’d recommend smoked trout salad (you can use hot-smoked salmon). Or, to quote me, ‘if you just want a bloody sandwich’, check out this section of the blog for some simple ideas.

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Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon Bagel


I could easily eat two of these!

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!

For other brilliant brunch ideas, you must try scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and the breakfast of kings – poached egg, smoked salmon and spinach. If you’re procrastinating over what to do about any spare dill (it’s ok if you’re not, I’m just sad), then fusion tandoori chicken, Swedish meatballs in gravy and broad bean / chicken and broad bean pilaf are for you!

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Spaghetti with Broccoli & Anchovies


Keep an eye on the breadcrumbs!!

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.

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Tuna Crunch Sandwich Filling


Nowt fancy but does the job when you’re pushed for time

January is always a tough month. But add a new national lockdown and home-schooling a teenager into the mix and lunchtimes are somewhat fraught in my household, as they are for many people who currently work from home.  So Tuna Crunch sandwich filling from Two Chubby Cubs is a good option if you want a quick, no-frills dinnertime option on the table which will appease the whole family.

The Cubs are a bit loose on the exact quantities of ingredients, so their estimate that this sarnie equates to 322 calories per serving will vary depending on what bread and fillings you opt for. I had two slices of basic white bread and my filling comprised of a tin of tuna in spring water, a chopped green pepper and some finely diced red onion, sprinkled with a dash of balsamic vinegar. But really, anything goes so just use whatever decent salad ingredients you happen to have.

For more fast sandwich and wraps ideas, check out the relevant section on this blog here.

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Salt and Pepper Squid with Yuzu Mayo


Try and use fresh squid from a fishmonger if you can

Squid dishes on a diet tend to be off-limits because they are typically deep fried, but this Salt and Pepper Squid with Yuzu Mayo recipe from Tom Kerridge cleverly uses breadcrumbs to create a similar effect for only a fraction of the calories.

Due to my local fishmonger being closed because of the Covid tier restrictions, I had to make do with frozen squid rings from a supermarket, but as a seafood fan I still enjoyed this with the kick of the vibrant yuzu mayo to go with it. Speaking of yuzu, unless you live near a Waitrose or a specialist Chinese supermarket you might struggle to get hold of yuzu juice, however it’s easy to buy online if you don’t mind waiting.

If you love light seafood lunches, check out cajun prawn and kale salad (also from Tom Kerridge) and quinoa, prawn and mango salad which are wonderful too.

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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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Tuna and Bean Salad


Ready in under 15 minutes

If you’ve got tins of tuna in your cupboard, you’re never far away from being able to make a quick meal whether it’s a sandwich, jacket potato, pasta bake, or in this instance, a tuna and bean salad from Justine Pattison.

There are only 139 calories per serving in this meal (if serving four), so you can afford to give yourself a more generous helping if there’s just two of you. Try to add the balsamic vinegar just before you tuck in, to ensure the salad remains as fresh as possible.

For other tuna ideas, check out tuna and sweetcorn cheat’s jackets, tuna niçoise wrap, tuna butterbean salad and simple tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad.

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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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Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes


Don’t judge until you’ve tried it, and for under a £1 per serving, you can’t afford not to

Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes from the Hairy Dieters might seem like an odd combination. However, for 250 calories per portion it is packed full of bold flavours coming from the lemon zest, capers, nutmeg and basil, making it something of a surprise, and all for just 90 pence per portion!

I tend to order courgettes on autopilot in my weekly supermarket deliveries, regardless of whether I plan to use them or not, so always tend to have some hanging around in my fridge. This recipe is perfect for using them up, but if it doesn’t float your boat, then try spaghetti on fire or tagliatelle carbonara.

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Tuna and Sweetcorn Cheat’s Jackets


This is a great standby option when you’re hungry but struggling for inspiration

Food snobs may disagree but who doesn’t love a jacket potato? Justine Pattison’s Tuna and Sweetcorn Cheat’s Jackets uses new potatoes instead of proper jackets, but it still tastes great and is ready in half the time. Such a simple and cheap meal to make and only 206 calories per serving.

If you’ve got any new potatoes lurking in your fridge that need using up, try halloumi and smoky bacon hash, Spanish-style chicken bake or creamy chicken and tarragon pots with rosemary potato wedges.

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Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin


Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin is fish pie to me and you

Life is too short to spend ages making a fish pie, in my opinion. So the Hairy Dieters’ Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin recipe is a speedy solution and still contains most of the bells and whistles that you’d expect to find in this classic dish, except for the mash topping.

Get all the ingredients out on the side before you start cooking and read through the method carefully. This isn’t hard to make, but there’s a bit going on and if your brain is fried after a day at work you could become flustered. I had low expectations for this meal but it tasted far better than I imagined and was ready in 30 minutes – a diet friendly version of fish pie on speed, and all for less than 300 calories per portion.

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Prawns with Tomato & Feta


Prawns and feta – can you think of a more random combo?

Prawns with tomato & feta from BBC Good Food sounds totally random, and it is. But I decided to give this a go as it was about the only meal I could make with what I had left in the fridge. I love prawns and I love feta, but together? Hmm, I’m not sure.

As a quick meal though it did the job, although it’s an expensive snack if serving between 2 people. For cheaper, arguably tastier alternatives, I’d opt for warm green bean and feta salad, prawn pasta salad and quinoa, prawn and mango salad.

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Mussels with Leeks and White Wine


If you’ve never tried mussels before, this is the recipe for you. Divine.

Prior to lockdown, one of my Saturday rituals was having a lazy stroll into town and buying fresh mussels from my local fishmonger. They are one of my favourite seafoods and very cheap at a cost of about £4 for 1kg. The Hairy Dieters feature three mussel-based dishes across their seven healthy eating books (check out Fast Food and Make it Easy for the other recipes), but Mussels with Leeks and White Wine from their first book is the best, in my opinion.

Leeks and white wine are a fabulous combination, and adding the mussels to the bowls with the creamy sauce is just begging to be mopped up with a piece of crusty bread. If you’re watching your calories go easy on the bread though, if you can. And if you can’t, well, your belly is going to be very satisfied and that’s what food should be about.

I love to have these on Saturday afternoons, washed down with the rest of the white wine. Heaven.

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Prawn Foo Yung


This is why Chinese takeaways will never go out of business

“Can I have Prawn Foo Yung?” said no one, ever, when ordering from a Chinese takeaway. But this low-calorie version from the Hairy Dieters is one of the healthiest ‘fakeaways’ you can have at just 264 calories per serving. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but nor can anyone else because no one chooses prawn foo yung, right?

I apologise if I’ve offended any “foo yungers” reading this. What is this recipe like and how did it find itself on my table? Well, it was Friday evening, there wasn’t a lot in my fridge and I was fancying something quick and easy to rustle up. I had some leftover cabbage after making home-made coleslaw to accompany Sticky Chicken earlier in the week, and as part of my ‘no food waste’ crusade I was determined to make it go further. I’ve usually got some eggs, carrots and prawns in the fridge and hey presto, possibly the dullest Chinese fakeaway was created in less than 20 minutes.

On the positive side, this takes less than 5 minutes to cook once you’ve done the required bit of prep work. It tastes pretty ok as prawn and eggs go, and you can have it on the table in a flash. An imperfectly perfect Friday night meal so you can stay on track with your diet and not resort to calling Just Eat.

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Creamy Scallops with Bacon


Where’s Wally? Spot the scallops to win…… I don’t know

Oh dear, where do I begin? Creamy Scallops with Bacon from Justine Pattison turned into a ‘date night’ disaster for me recently. The first red flag was that my brilliant local fishmonger was temporarily closed due to COVID-19, prompting a rush of blood as I naively ordered frozen scallops from a supermarket. The difference ibetween fresh, quality scallops and frozen supermarket ones is night and day.

My second, even bigger faux pas, was buying a larger cauliflower to make the creamy puree. In doing so, the sauce completely overwhelmed any chance of tasting, let alone finding, the bacon and the scallops. But they were in there, even if the photo suggests I’m lieing.

When I’ve calmed down I’ll give this another bash using a much smaller cauli (500-700g only). But if this was a ‘first date’ I’m not sure Ann-Marie would have been inclined to grant me a second one ha ha!

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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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Coconut Prawn Curry – prepped and cooked in under 20 mins!


Perfect for a quick, weeknight curry fix

Coconut Prawn Curry from the Hairy Dieters is a such a simple dish and perfect for a weeknight meal when you’re tired and just want something good to eat that’s quick to cook. From start to finish, you can be tucking into this in less than 20 minutes. Perfect.

The photo doesn’t do the flavours in this recipe justice, and despite using two teaspoons of cornflour the sauce was a little runny, so don’t be tempted to use more than the recommended 200ml of half-fat coconut milk. But all that matters is that it tastes great, and for just 254 calories it will satisfy your hunger cravings so that you don’t need to add any rice to go with it.

If you’re in need of a curry fix, check out the ‘Fakeaways’ section on this blog.

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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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