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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Cream of Tomato Soup


This is class with the chive cream, don’t miss it out

Spending 45 minutes to make Cream of Tomato Soup 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.

For more super soup ideas, click here.

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Spinach and Paneer Curry


This recipe calls for frozen spinach which needs defrosting and draining

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.

If you like paneer, which is a lower fat cheese that holds its texture well, I’d recommend paneer and pea curry and cauliflower, paneer and pea curry. Guess how the two recipes differ? ;-).

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Rich Beef and Ale Casserole


Remember, the ale or stout goes in the dish, not your gob 😉

I’ve been meaning to make Rich Beef and Ale Casserole from the Hairy Dieters since the beginning of the first lockdown. A bottle of dark ale has sat in my drinks cabinet for almost a year, which for a pisshead like me is quite an achievement! I’m not sure why this recipe kept getting bumped down the list. Maybe it’s due to the lengthy cooking time (over 2 hours) and that our preferred option is a Sunday roast accompanied by mash, carrots and parsnips.

But…. this one-pot casserole is a brilliantly comforting meal, perfect for a winter’s day and your oven will do the majority of the work. With some mash, it will feed six people and both our Mum’s loved it. We are trying to provide them with home-cooked meals when we can as they live by themselves. Do take care to cook the casserole on a low oven temperature (exact method below) and occasionally check to make sure the beef doesn’t dry out.

If you want a variation on this theme, then have a go at spicy Mexican beef, rich beef in red wine or beef massaman curry.

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Chicken and Banana Curry


Please note, this recipe does contain nuts (ground almonds)

I thought I’d tried most Indian-based dishes, but Chicken and Banana Curry from Pinch of Nom is a new one for me. This mild, fruity recipe tastes a bit like a Kashmiri which sometimes contain mango and lychee. Or if you’re ordering from my dodgy local curry house a tin of supermarket fruit cocktail, much to my wife’s annoyance as she expects them to use fresh fruit, which always amuses me. In fairness, her gripe is valid when you’re paying over £7 for a main course per person!

The beauty about Pinch of Nom’s ‘fakeaway’ is that it costs as little as £1.27 per serving to make yourself (without rice or naan) and it’s something a bit different. If mild curries are your thing, check out chicken korma, low-cal chicken tikka masala, chicken biryani and chicken bhuna which are all simple to recreate.

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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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Mega-Eggybread Club Sandwich Stacks


You’ll need to cut this in half, or even in quarter, if you want to get your chops around this

Mega-Eggybread Club Sandwich Stacks from Two Chubby Cubs feels like a proper naughty treat, but it still comes in at under 500 calories so it’s just the ticket for a lazy weekend brunch / lunch.

To ensure your toastie doesn’t disintegrate when you come to fry it, the Cubs recommend that you make it up the night before, tightly wrap it in clingfilm and then chill in the fridge so the ingredients remain pressed together. This ‘sarnie’ is so tasty with the Dijon mustard and smoked cheese and you could even sprinkle over some chilli flakes if you’re feeling brave. I challenge anyone to still be feeling hungry after scoffing this!

If you want an alternative toastie suggestion, then have a look at monte cristo sandwich which is lower in calories but does require more ingredients.

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Pork Medallions with a Chimichurri Sauce


Chimichurri sauce also goes well with steak

I’m so pleased I purchased the Homgeek Mini Chopper & Food Processor. It set me back just £22, takes up minimal space on my working top and I no longer have to haul my large food processor out from the back of the cupboard and try and assemble it. The Homgeek is brilliant for blending sauces in the blink of an eye and proved perfect for this Pork Medallions with a Chimichurri Sauce recipe from Two Chubby Cubs.

The Cubs do wonderfully simple meals, which might not seem all that upon first reading, but many of their recipes are brilliant and, above all, are easy to make. Make sure you use fresh herbs, good quality garlic and olive oil to make the best chimichurri sauce – a little goes a long way to make your pork medallions sing. In the interests of transparency, I used pork loin steaks for this but pork medallions contain less fat. It’s up to you.

For other simple ways to ‘pimp up’ your pork, check out sticky pork ‘ribs’ in barbecue sauce, crispy pork schnitzel, mustard pork, pork medallions in BBQ sauce and sticky pork steaks with coleslaw.

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Hunter’s Risotto


Just use 100ml of red wine which will be cheaper than Marsala or Madeira wine

Hunter’s Risotto is Justine Pattison’s take on the well-known French dish, chicken chasseur, which I’ve already featured on this blog from the Hairy Dieters. Personally, I prefer this version from Justine because it includes smoked bacon and mushrooms – two personal fave ingredients of mine.

The recipe calls for the addition of Marsala or Madeira wine, but Justine suggests you could also add sweet sherry, Martini Rosso or even red wine if you prefer. I opted for the latter because invariably we’ve always got red wine in the house, and once the bottle is open…..

If risotto is your thang, have a bash at these less prep-heavy recipes: sea bass and miso risotto, chicken and mushroom risotto or chicken & chorizo risnotto (that isn’t a typo, view the recipe to learn more!). Or, if you want a more conventional pub-meal style dish then hunter’s chicken is for you.

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Pork Cassoulet


Most of the work is done in the oven, but you’ll need to allow about 1 hour 30 mins in total for prep / cooking time

Cassoulet is a classic French dish and Pinch of Nom include a budget-friendly version in their second book using diced pork and beans. Don’t be fooled by my photo – I made this for 3 people and hence my portion size was huge (but still only 444 calories). But if making this for 6,  as Pinch of Nom suggest, then you’ll still be full up if you have it with some healthy mash on the side.

Do try and use vegetable and red wine stock pots to enhance the taste (rather than cheap stock cubes), along with fresh thyme leaves if you can get them, otherwise this Pork Cassoulet dish could taste a tad bland. The Hairy Dieters do an all-singing, all-dancing cassoulet recipe in their first book which includes chicken, gammon and sausages, along with some orange zest and parsley. It’s a beast of a dish, but my son loves it ,so I’ll try and feature it on the blog next month.

If you love French classics, check out other suggestions here.

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Creamy Mustard Mushrooms on Toast with Orange Juice


Mushrooms, wholegrain mustard, cream cheese, chives. Heaven.

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.

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Paprika Chicken


This recipe hails from Romania

Trying to avoid eating peppers on a ‘healthy eating plan’ is a bit like trying to avoid getting wet when you’re outside and it’s raining – it ain’t gonna happen. And it is for that reason that I bypassed making Paprika Chicken from the Hairy Dieters for so long. My teenage son hates peppers, even when I cut them into miniscule pieces, we still have ‘pepper gate’ when he huffs and puffs when shuffling them around his plate at the dinner table.

However, when all I had in my fridge was some peppers and chicken thighs, it was time to bite the bullet. And….. both my wife and my son really enjoyed this meal, despite ‘pepper gate’. So, the moral of the story is…… actually, I don’t know, but perhaps it’s something along the lines of don’t always assume that your kids are going to hate a meal and it’s good to try them with different recipes. I think I’ve just had my Jamie Oliver ‘turkey twizzler’ moment ;-).

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Hit ‘n’ Run Traybaked Chicken


15 mins of prep and then literally just bang everything into the oven and put your feet up

I’m not keen on the naming given to Jamie Oliver’s Hit ‘n’ Run Traybaked Chicken recipe, but both the flavours and the concept (that you can bang the ingredients together in the oven for an hour and put your feet up) is appealing. The flavours from the tomatoes, peppers, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in this come together really well.

You can serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices, or if you don’t trust yourself to be ‘good’, maybe a side salad or a small portion of rice or couscous (as I used) would fit the bill, but factor in the extra calories.

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Sausage Hash


This looks and feels naughty, but is less than 250 calories per portion if serving between 4 people

Sausage Hash is the first recipe I’ve tried from Lorna Cooper’s Feed your Family for £20 a week book and she also runs a very popular Facebook group based around the same concept. Although I’ve not put Lorna’s budget-saving ideas to the test yet, this particular breakfast dish can be made for less than 50p per portion.

But 2 sausages, 2 tomatoes, an onion and a tin of diced new potatoes (or 4 cooked potatoes) doesn’t stretch particularly far between four people, and I’ll confess that I ended up making this for just me and my teenage son Will when I was feeling hungover one morning! The addition of the grated cheese on top totally hit the spot and I’d have no hesitation in making this again, whether I was feeling delicate or not!

For other comfort-food related breakfasts, check out biker breakfast muffins, breakfast omelette burritos and full english breakfast quiche.

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Creamy Garlic Chicken


Low-fat cream cheese and chicken is a wonderful combination

After my car crash attempt at making Asian pork meatballs, I needed to bring my ‘A game’ back to the kitchen and Creamy Garlic Chicken from Pinch of Nom was just the tonic. This is so easy to make and tastes amazing with a few new potatoes and/or some veg to go with it.

Low-fat cream cheese is a dieter’s best friend and can give otherwise bland tasting dishes a more luxurious feel. For other ideas, check out chicken and leeks in blue cheese sauce, one-pot creamy leek & sausage bake, chicken & chorizo risnotto and poulet au vinaigre.

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Asian Pork Meatballs (with char siu ketchup)


These meatballs tasted far better than they looked, honest

As the photo shows, I made a right balls-up of making Asian Pork Meatballs from Pinch of Nom. But I’m sharing with you the error of my ways as there’s a really interesting recipe here which could be brilliant providing you give it some TLC.

My biggest faux pas was that I used a large courgette rather than a small /medium one and then failed to get rid of the excess moisture / liquid – you can do this by ringing out the grated courgette using a clean tea-towel. It’s really important you do this, otherwise your meatballs will turn to mush when you come to form them and will be too fragile to cook in a frying pan. I tried to rescue mine by cooking them in the oven which kind of worked…. just, but the end result would have been so much better had I followed the recipe properly.

As the method states, try not to touch the meatballs for 5 minutes when cooking them through or they’ll easily disintegrate in the pan. You can serve them as a light lunch / starter with the char siu ketchup, or have them with a small bed of fine egg noodles or spaghetti for a main meal. But don’t forget to factor in the extra calories, a small nest of noodles will add about 170.

For other meatball recipes, check out chipotle turkey meatballs, Swedish meatballs in gravy, beef kofta curry and Transylvanian meatballs with garlic sauce.

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Pan-Fried Firecracker Salmon


Great with a few spuds and/or vege / salad

I don’t think I could ever go back to just eating plain fish, spuds and vege. Thankfully, with scrumptious marinades like Pan-fried Firecracker Salmon from Two Chubby Cubs you don’t have to. The ginger, chilli powder and siracha give this recipe plenty of ‘attitude’, but my normally heat averse teenage son accepted the challenge and duly cleaned his plate, so do give this a try even if you don’t like it hot.

For some other brilliant ways to give salmon an exciting makeover, check out sticky mango roasted salmon, tandoori salmon with mango salsa and salmon with chilli ginger sauce. All three taste amazing and are a doddle to cook.

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Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip


You could use this recipe for a BBQ when the weather is nice

It’s really easy to bring plain chicken to life with some spices or a marinade. Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip from the Hairy Dieters is a healthy, flavoursome twist on boring chicken and chips.

Don’t worry if you don’t have / or don’t want to buy cumin, paprika, thyme, oregano and cayenne pepper to make the spice rub – just use some regular cajun spice / seasoning which will create roughly the same effect. You can then use the cajun seasoning to make cajun dirty rice, cajun sweet potatoes, cajun prawn and kale salad or scrambled cajun eggs with spinach and kale. Basically, your cajun spice won’t go to waste! ;-).

Note, you can have this dish with a few home-made chips, the emphasis being here on a few to keep the calorie count low. The suggested portion size isn’t the biggest (boooooo!), so I’d recommend serving this with a green salad on the side, or some home-made coleslaw as I did – see sticky pork ‘ribs’ in barbecue sauce for the recipe.

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