Black Bean and Butternut Chilli


Loads of ingredients, loads of flavour

A fair amount of effort goes into Black Bean and Butternut Chilli from Tom Kerridge, but what an imaginative and substantial vegetarian chilli this is. Cutting out the tortilla chips topped with the sour cream, spring onions and avocado (as I did) takes this meal down to a more palatable 406 calories, however if you’re serving this to guests you might want to keep them in for a proper vege feast.

If you’ve got any spare butternut squash, have a pop at butternut squash pilaf or home-made butternut squash tortellini if you’ve got plenty of time to yourself, or your Christmas visiting relatives are annoying you.

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Tomatoes on Toasted Sourdough


Why pay stupid restaurant prices for bruschetta when you can make it at home?

My local Italian restaurant charges £4.95 for bruschetta, but you can pretty much recreate the classic flavours yourself for about a quid with Justine Pattison’s Tomatoes on Toasted Sourdough recipe and knock it up in 10 minutes. Bravo!

It’s ironic. Prior to lockdown, I could never get my hands on sourdough bread when visiting my local supermarkets. But now I’ve switched to online shopping deliveries I can get this luxury bread and it’s a perfect snack for any time of the day. Just use some good quality olive oil and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar if you’re feeling fancy.

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Giant Baked Beans


Do as I say, not as I do. Come back Branston baked beans, all is forgiven

I’ve blogged previously about how lockdown has made me attempt strange things in the kitchen. From making my own muesli (which had some merit) to my car-crash attempt at trying home-made baked beans, which cost me two hours of my life and reputation to my son that I won’t get back.

So when I saw Pinch of Nom’s Giant Baked Beans recipe which could be ready in 15 minutes, I was ready to dust myself down and try again. Unlike the Hairy Dieters’ version, ‘Nom doesn’t require you to piss about soaking dried beans overnight. Just two tins of butter beans (between 4) will do the trick and then all you need to do is douse them in passata, Worcester sauce, balsamic vinegar, paprika, onion granules, mustard powder, granulated sweetener and, finally, salt and pepper.

This wasn’t any hardship for me because I have more spices than pairs of socks in my house. However, based on the end result I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to get them just to make this, when you could just crack open a tin of baked beans and be done with it. I find passata quite overpowering so the taste didn’t float my boat, although I did put them on top of a crap piece of bread. This is the last time I try and be a smart arse when it comes to baked beans. Now where did I put my tins of Branston?

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Thai-Style Butternut Squash Soup


This tastes suuuppperrrr

I mentioned earlier this month that I’ve gone through lockdown without making the same meal twice. But paneer and pea curry was stretching it last week, and Thai-style Butternut Squash Soup from Tom Kerridge is also tenuous, given I made curried butternut squash and apple soup at the back-end of March. But this Tom Kerridge recipe is great, so let me off?

So, what’s the difference? Well, actually it’s pretty obvious. Thai flavours are very distinct and the lemongrass and chillies really give this a punchy flavour, whereas the curried apple and butternut squash soup flavours are more subtle. Both soups are fantastic, even though I find ‘squash’ a pain in the backside to prep.

As the nights draw in, I’ll feature some more soups on this blog. But for now, you can check out the current ones here. Oh, and if you’re wondering what to do with the remaining 200ml of coconut milk, try coconut prawn curry or turkey keema peas.

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Sweet Potato Saag Aloo


Just 200 calories per portion and stroppy teenager friendly

Sweet Potato Saag Aloo from the Hairy Dieters‘Go Veggie’ book turned into a really satisfying experience. My teenager Will was mithering for an Indian takeaway and frowned with disappointment when he saw what his old man had served up. “Where’s the meat?”, he asked in irritation.

5 minutes later and his mood had lightened. “This tastes amazing Dad. Can we have it again?” There’s been few greater pleasures during the last few months than being able to change my son’s perceptions about food, particularly when it comes to introducing him to cheap, vegetarian-based dishes. This costs just over a £1 per portion to make.

If you don’t have all the suggested spices in, don’t worry, the Hairy Dieters state you can substitute them for mild curry powder instead, but it won’t taste as good. At just 200 calories per serving, this fab vege-based curry is going to become a regular in my home.

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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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Black-eyed peas and greens from the US!


Spring greens

Introducing more vegetarian based dishes is an excellent way to add balance to your diet and reduce your calorie intake. I’d happily eat meat seven days a week and the thought of eating more ‘greens’ seemed initially alien to me. However, there are lots of excellent vegetarian and vegan meals so I’d urge even the most passionate meat eaters to give them a try.

Black-eyes peas and greens from the Hairy Dieters was a good starting point for me. I love all types of beans, and pulses are a nutritious and cheap way to bulk out meals and fill you up. This dish apparently originates from the southern regions of the United States, so I’d be interested if any American readers can vouch for its authenticity.

I was amazed by how much I could eat for only 207 calories per portion, and while there are more imaginative vege-based dishes out there, as a week-night meal this fulfilled the brief perfectly. The Hairy Dieters recommend accompanying this meal with some corn bread – you’ll find the recipe in their ‘Fast Food’ book. Continue reading “Black-eyed peas and greens from the US!”

Avocado on toast for under £1 per portion!


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When I was a lad, a smart fitting suit and a dollop of decent aftershave was enough to impress the ladies. But times have changed. So boys, if you want to woo the woman of your dreams, get yourself down to the supermarket, pick up some avocados and rustle up this Avocado on Toast recipe from the Hairy Dieters’ ‘Go Veggie’ book.

Joking aside, it’s become really fashionable to eat avocado for both men and women and celebrity chefs, such as Jamie Oliver, have produced endless recipes for this increasingly popular fruit (avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable, by the way). The Hairy Dieters’ take on avocado on toast is really tasty with the cherry tomatoes mixed with lemon zest and vinegar (I used balsamic) topped with a dash of hot sauce and sprinklings of paprika. Yum.

This is a perfect breakfast or brunch dish which is very quick to make. Get yourself some good quality bread, sourdough is perfect, and tuck in. This is a real treat to eat for yourself, or better still, make it for someone you love.
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