I’m not a natural dieter. In my fridge is creamy full-fat cheddar and a spare block of salted butter, ready to melt satisfying and rich over toast. I have never embarked in a fad diet, or any kind of diet for that matter, and don’t intend to. I don’t believe that cutting out fats or avoiding carbs will make me any thinner in the long term. It’s more likely to induce a crazed binge a few days (if that) after starting, Call me a cynic.
However. If someone is going to offer me hearty recipes in tangible portions that just happen to be healthy, I’m willing to have a go. Enter Tom Kerridge’s book, Lose Weigh for Less, full of low calorie recipes that feel familiar and achievable. I decided to throw myself in with a selection of recipes to try. As someone who organises meals for the week in eager anticipation, usually with a snack in hand, I happily planned in the mushroom courgette, beef stew, chicken casserole, falafels and of course, I had to try the chicken tikka masala. All meals I know and love: no pressure for these recipes to get it right! Here’s how I got on.
We started with the mushroom courgetti, and I was seriously impressed. Like most people I know, we don’t own a spiralizer, so I was pleased that I could order the courgette pre-cut, and ready to cook. I’m a fan of courgette anyway, so was more than happy to replace the usual pasta with something a bit lighter in this recipe. And it really does go well with the sauce, which is thick and reassuringly creamy, despite the lack of cream. There are plenty of mushrooms and they give an earthy flavour to the sauce, matching perfectly with the freshness of the courgette. While I was a little dubious about using a lighter cream alternative for a creamy sauce, I couldn’t notice an obvious difference, and was really pleased with the result. Plus, at 320 calories per portion, I didn’t feel bad about having a slice of garlic bread on the side. This is definitely one to add to our meatless Monday dinner ideas list!
Moving on, to the two slow cooked meat dishes in the middle of the week, I was looking for full flavours and soft meat & vegetables. Again, I wasn’t disappointed. Though I would say that cooking these after work is a bit of a push (unless you have a slow cooker, I’d recommend doing these on a weekend) they were definitely worth the wait. The chicken casserole is rich and almost creamy. This recipe feels far too indulgent for a weeknight, let alone a diet, yet it is at only 325 calories each. Unfortunately, I was too enthusiastic to tuck straight in rather than take a photo, but take my enjoyment for confirmation that this recipe is well worth trying. In fact, it’s good enough to share with guests (and easy to cook in bulk too!) Serve it with lots of green veg. Blissful.
The beef stew with dumplings is even better. Beef hotpot and dumplings has long been a family favourite in my parents’ home, so I was excited to try this version, especially with the guilt-free dumplings! This recipe is definitely overly ambitious to cook after work. Taking over 2 hours to cook plus prep, it was nearly 10pm by the time we ate, but it was well worth the wait. I spent the cooking time watching the oven timer count down to dinner, silently willing it to go faster as the building scent made my mouth water. And yes,I repeat, it was so worth it. Delicious soft vegetables and meat fall apart in your mouth, surrounded by flavoursome gravy. It also re-heats exceptionally well for a stew, and I enjoyed the leftovers for my lunch the next day, along with the melting dumplings! Not far short of perfect. And at 530 calories per portion, who could say no?
We returned to the vegetarian recipes the next day, with baked falafels. I like to serve falafels simply, with wraps or flatbreads, yogurt, harissa, and lots of crunchy salad, but have never made them myself. The idea of a healthier, baked option really intrigued me and trying this recipe was an easy decision. The flavour packed into these little balls is fantastic, and goes perfectly with my usual serving method. However, the fact that these are baked really does show, and they are definitely drier than their more unhealthy fried cousins. I think for me personally, I’d rather go for fewer of the less healthy option and consider them more of a treat, but don’t let that put you off. The flavour is seriously good, and the crispy edge is a really lovely thing when dunked in a yogurt dip. And at only 75 calories per falafel, you can have a decent portion too!
In our house, Friday night is curry night, so when I saw a chicken tikka masala recipe in Lose Weight for Good, I had to try it. I am a huge curry fan, and am definitely up for trying a healthier version of this takeaway favourite. I love the idea of long-term marinating, baking, charring and then adding the sauce. A bit of love and care in each step, and you’re adding layers of flavour at every stage. And it really shows in the end result. Fresh ginger, garlic and coriander add life and zing, along with ground spices, sweet tomatoes and creamy yogurt. It’s creamy, rich, comforting and spicy. Everything I would want from a tikka masala sauce. It’s really very good, and you need to try it. Serve it with some saffron rice for extra indulgence, and it’s the perfect ‘fakeaway’ to start the weekend with. At only 640 calories in each portion, it’s not going to ruin the diet either! If you don’t try it, you’re crazy.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the recipes. They’re low in calories, yet surprisingly satisfying and indulgent at the same time. I’m going to continue to work my way through the other recipes in the book, and would definitely recommend Lose Weight for Good to anyone trying to eat a bit more healthily, without compromising on flavour and enjoyment.
Have you tried any of the recipes in Tom Kerridge’s book? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below.