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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 thehealthiest ‘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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
I’ve never been a huge fan of Italian food. I can take or leave pizza and I’ve never understood how some restaurants justify charging upwards of £15 for a bowl of pasta. It’s ironic then that going on a healthy eating plan has enabled me to fall in love with simple, tasty Italian pasta dishes that are quick and economical to cook.
Pasta with clams and bacon from the third instalment of the Hairy Dieters series has become one of my favourites. The photo above might not scream ‘eat me now!’, but don’t let that put you off, the flavour combinations in this recipe are divine and I’d urge you to try it.
Disclaimer: my local supermarkets aren’t posh enough to stock clams so I substituted them for cockles which worked a treat. Clams, cockles or even mussels – see what works for you. But whatever you use, don’t forget to save 50ml of the liquor when draining them as adding this back into the pan makes this sumptuous dish even more yummy.