I haven’t posted for a while. A combination of doing volunteering work, my Dad passing away and securing a new job has zapped my energy and enthusiasm. But as if I didn’t know already, the scales confirmed that I need to get back with it and maybe in doing so life will become more enjoyable.
I rarely get excited about a soup recipe – home-made versions are better for you and lower in calories compared to saltier tinned equivalents, but can still lack taste. However, Mexican Street Corn Soup from Pinch of Nom did capture my imagination and I was thrilled with the end result. The chopped green chilli and chilli powder give it plenty of ooomph and there’s a nice balance of flavours along with the red pepper, sweetcorn, potato and feta. This is one soup dish that I’ll return to again and again, plus it’s only approx 70p per serving to make and 199 calories (not 99 as printed by the Sun newspaper when plugging PON’s latest book earlier this year).
The Hairy Dieters has an ‘Awesome Oats’ section in their second book and after enjoying banana and pecan porridge from it I decided to try Porridge with Spiced Plums. This recipe was similarly delightful – the creamy, warm soothing oats topped with fruit and a hint of spice from the star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg (optional). Wonderful.
When I used to commute to Birmingham (prior to the pandemic), grumpy office workers would queue to pay £2.50 for a bang average bowl of porridge from a café. This infinitely better version from the Hairy Dieters works out at roughly 60p per portion. That’s proper awesome oats!
Cooking with tinned ingredients has become more popular since the pandemic due to supermarket shortages and people needing to eat more frugally after sadly losing their jobs or livelihoods. Thankfully, you can still eat healthily and imaginatively with tinned goods and Three-Bean Cowboy Stew from Two Chubby Cubs is a belly-busting vegetable stew which you can make for less than £1 per head.
You’ll need a few fresh ingredients and dried herbs (see below) to make the tins sing, but nothing out of the ordinary. This dish might not look particularly appetising, however it’s tasty and will provide 6 generous portions which those with big appetites can serve with a small portion of rice.
Cowboy stew is best known to contain meat, so if you’re looking for a meat-based alternative check out campfire stew which uses gammon.
You might think Easy Sun-dried Tomato Pasta from Two Chubby Cubs isn’t up to much from my photo, but think again. This flavoursome, quick vege pasta recipe is one of my favourite dishes of 2021 so far. It’s so simple, yet so tasty despite requiring just seven ingredients, and costs just 40p per serving. Superb!
Breakfast Potatoes from Pinch of Nom is a lighter version of an American brunch dish which you can top with a fried egg (as I did) or some avocado. It’s not the quickest to make, so is probably better suited for a weekend.
Mushroom fans have I got a treat for you! Courtesy of Pinch of Nom, Creamy Mushroom Bruschetta is a banging breakfast / brunch recipe which looks and tastes naughtier than it is! I just love the combination of creamy, garlicy mushrooms generously piled on top of toasted ciabatta with a hint of basil and fresh chives. Just fantastic!
Pretty food is not always healthy food, but Breakfast Banana Split from Pinch of Nom is goodness personified. The mix of bananas, blueberries, strawberries and cherries is a perfect morning wake-up call, topped with yoghurt and a hint of vanilla and the flaked almonds, which I opted to lightly toast beforehand.
If you’re worried about food wastage / supermarket sell-by dates / cost and don’t want to use fresh fruit just for 10 blueberries, 4 strawberries and 2 cherries, then just buy frozen. That’s exactly what I do and I just take out the quantities of fruit that I need. No stress, no wastage and little difference in overall quality.
I frown when I hear people say ‘they can’t afford to cook’, or worse, ‘I can’t afford to buy healthy, fresh food’. There’s a difference between being genuinely skint, as opposed to not knowing how to cook from scratch. The lines between both statements often get blurred.
Pasta Arrabbiata from Pinch of Nom is a really easy and affordable vegetarian recipe to get even the most nervous and sceptical of cooks into the kitchen. It can be rustled up for about 50p per serving in 30 minutes. Arrabbiata sauce is a traditional Italian, spicy sauce made from garlic and dried chilli peppers. This recipe requires 1 tsp of chilli flakes, but heat freaks might want to up the ante by finely dicing a normal red chilli to give it more of a kick.
Spending 45 minutes to make Cream of TomatoSoup might seem pointless when you can just crack open a tin of Heinz or Baxters, but can we please all agree that tinned soup is shite and loaded with salt? This home-made version from Justine Pattison is ace with a swirl of chive cream and less than 150 calories per serving.
I found Spinach and Paneer Curry from Tom Kerridge faffy to make and the taste a tad overbearing. But it’s certainly a substantial and distinctive meat-free curry, which you can have with or without rice.
Mushrooms on toast by Jamie Oliver is one of the most popular breakfasts on this blog. But this alternative BBC Good Food version using light cream cheese sauce tastes even better, in my opinion.
Avoiding butter keeps the calorie count down and the Beeb suggest serving Creamy Mustard Mushrooms on Toast with a small glass of orange juice. A quick and healthy vegetarian brekky which tastes divine.
With the temperatures falling below zero in many parts of the UK, it’s high time I included more soup recipes on this blog. And I can’t think of a better one to start with than Cauliflower Cheese Soup from the Hairy Dieters.
Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable and it tastes exquisite here when blended with cheese, milk and wholegrain mustard for a smooth and creamy finish. The recipe quantities will serve 4 people generously for 233 calories and at just 68p per portion. Forget tinned soup when you can conjure up home-made varieties as good as this. Superb.
For more exotic soup ideas, check out the soup section on this blog here.
A turning courgette was my motivation for trying Vegetable Frittata from the Hairy Dieters, but it had already gone off when I finally got round to making it. Now for someone who has to follow every recipe to the letter this represented a major crisis. One glass of wine later, I came to my senses and realised that this was a frittata after all, and the whole premise of a frittata is that basically anything goes when you’re throwing it together.
In the Hairy Dieters’ version, they suggest using courgette, red pepper, red onions, butternut squash, broccoli and green beans, but honestly, just use whatever spare vege you have that needs using up. This is a cheap fall-back option when you’ve got some eggs and vegetables in your fridge but don’t know what to do with them.
Don’t let my appalling cutting skills deter you (by this time I’d had two glasses of wine), this will comfortably serve 4 people with a salad on the side, if you like.
As the old saying goes looks can be deceiving, and when it comes to Mushroom and Leek Pasta from Gordon Ramsay it’s definitely a case of the calories being deceiving. There is no nutritional information listed in Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course book and I made the mistake in thinking that any dish containing mushrooms and leeks must be good for you, right? Wrong.
The addition of the fresh lasagne sheets, double cream and ciabatta sent the fat content spiralling to, I estimate, approximately 839 calories per serving. Fuck me, as Gordon would say. If this recipe appeals to you but you’re worried about messing up your diet, ditch the bread and use only 4 fresh lasagne sheets between 2 people which will bring the calorie count down to about 627 per serving. Alternatively, using dried lasagne sheets will bring the calories down further if you’re willing to compromise on flavour.
This actually tastes really good but there are more diet friendly pasta recipes out there which include leeks, mushrooms and tarragon, such as smashed-up chicken, which uses low-fat crème fraiche instead of cream and only a small portion of pasta instead of lasagne sheets.
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.
Shakshuka is a classic middle eastern breakfast using eggs that is suitable for vegetarians and can be made in one-pan. You’ll find lots of versions of it online, but I opted to try this filling recipe from Pinch of Nom. If you like a bit more spice, you might want to be more generous when adding the cumin and chilli powder – I’d even argue it’s a tad bland if you don’t.
I love having eggs in the morning and my personal favourites are menemen (Turkish Eggs) and masala omelette, which are cheaper to make and pack in way more flavour in my opinion.
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’sTomatoes 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.
Is there anything more comforting than a steaming jacket potato when the weather is cold and crappy? The Hairy Dieters include recipes for baked potatoes in their second (Eat for Life) and sixth books (Make it Easy) and they are a handy option to fall back on when you want something easy, cheap and nourishing to eat.
I tried their no frills Jaunty Jacket Potato with Cheesy Beans Filling andit was just what I needed on a freezing, wet day. A word of caution though to those counting every calorie. In this recipe you only get just over 100g of baked beans per person (based on serving 4), which isn’t a lot. There are approximately 169 calories per 225g potato, and 280 calories in total by adding the beans, light-cheese triangle and spring onions.
You can cook your jackets in a microwave if pushed for time, but I prefer to bake mine in the oven for an hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes so they go nice and crispy, topped with some good quality baked beans, like Branston.
I know you’re thinking that I’ve lost the plot by including a recipe for an egg salad sandwich on a renowned food blog, well, ‘renowned’ might be a fabrication, but I can explain.
I always thought sandwiches were out when I was on a ‘diet’. Those scary newspapers and magazines had drilled it into me that shop-bought sarnies are full of calories and bad for you. That isn’t always the case, but invariably they do cost a shit load of money when it would be cheaper and easier to make your own at home.
This Egg Salad Sandwich Filling suggestion from Two Chubby Cubs will set you back just under 400 calories and around 80p to make. It tastes bloody amazing too and, if you like, you can use ‘blue eggs’ (such as Bluebell Aurancana) to give it more a golden yellow and yummy texture. If you want something more glamorous in your ‘bap’, the Cubs provide recipes for coronation chicken salad, cheese savoury, tuna crunch and Chinese chicken in their debut book, or check out the sandwiches & wraps section of this blog.
My two favourite vegetables are courgettes and mushrooms, so when I saw Tom Kerridge’sCreamy Wild Mushroom Courgetti recipe I was excited to try it. This is a wonderful vegetarian dish with a luxurious feel to it, owing to the single cream alternative, porcini and truffle paste and the dried porcini mushrooms. Divine.
Spiralizing courgettes is a genius way to save calories instead of having plain old spaghetti – you can pick up a spiralizer online for less than £20. You might also need to buy the porcini and truffle paste online too as not many supermarkets stock it – it isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. The courgetti with all the other flavours in this dish tastes way better compared to traditional pasta, in my opinion.
I’ve got to hand it to Tom, he really knows how flavours work together. Even the pickiest of meat eaters should enjoy this!