100 Calorie Vegetable Soup

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

This is my staple lunch for fast days. At only 100 calories, it leaves plenty of scope for a tasty dinner, (well, 400 calories anyway) and sees me through until then. The other bonus is that it’s simple – and therefore avoids the temptation to go for something easier and more calorific. I used to do this with a teaspoon of olive oil, but since Hannah started Slimming World and we had to get spray oil in, I tried it with that, and it works fine. I replaced the oil calories with some potato for a bit of carb sustinance. The one in the picture has a wild garlic flower on it – but that isn’t strictly necessary.


100 Cal Veg Soup


Weigh them – be strict!

Makes 2 portions

  • 100g Onion, (about a half) finely chopped
  • 100g Carrot (about 1) finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery finely chopped
  • Spray Oil
  • 100g Cabbage
  • 50g Potato (e.g. 1 small salad potato) chopped into fine dice (about 5mm)
  • Vegetable stock cube
  • 1/4 tsp Powdered bay leaf
  • 1 tbs parsley, chopped.


  1. Fill the kettle and turn it on.
  2. Heat a pan and spray it with oil. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Sweat the vegetables for 3 or 4 minutes until slightly softened.
  3. Add 1 litre of boiled water and bring back to the boil.
  4. Add the potato, cabbage, vegetable stock cube and powedered bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes and finish with the parsley
  6. Sup virtuously and look forward to tea time!




Creamy pasta salad with kiln roasted salmon

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Creamy pasta salad with kiln roasted salmon


  • 250g pasta (raw weight) – Penne or shells work well
  • 160g packet kiln roasted or hot smoked salmon
  • 1 tbsp each chopped dill, chopped chives
  • 3 good sized spring onions chopped finely (including green bits if they are fresh) or 1 escahlion shallot, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp lilliput capers
  • 3 gherkins or 6 cournichons, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cucumber, halved, seeds scraped out and chopped into 1cm dice
  • 2 tbsp fat free fromage frais
  • 2 tbsp fat free natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp Dijon or German mustard or 1/2 tsp english mustard powder made into a paste with water
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  1. Boil the pasta according to the cooking instructions in a large pan of salted water
  2. Add shallots/spring onions, cucumber, gherkins, capers and chopped herbs to a large mixing bowl, combine
  3. When the pasta is cooked, drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and cool down the pasta. Leave to drain for a good 5 minutes.
  4. Add the pasta to the ingredients in the large mixing bowl, combine
  5. Add the fromage frais, natural yoghurt, mustard and stir carefully to combine all ingredients. Add the lemon juice. Season to taste.
  6. Separate into two serving bowls, and flake the smoked fish over the top.

Works well with a scattering of finely chopped tarragon
For a vegetarian alternative, replace the salmon with 3 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped

Pan fried salmon and warm puy lentil salad with burnt aubergine

Sunday, July 6th, 2014


This is a flavour explosion. It does take  a bit of time – the aubergine is a bit of a faff, but well worth it. Just make sure you ventilate your kitchen by opening windows and doors and turning on your extractor if you have one (we don’t). Failure to do so will result in a house that smells like a bonfire. Again, this is an Ottolenghi inspired recipe, to be found in Plenty. The method of pan roasting the salmon was taught to me by a very experienced tepanyaki chef who used to cook it nightly in a restaurant called Shiki in Adelaide, and it never fails. Serve it with a chilled bottle of unoaked Chardonnay or a White Burgundy and eat it in the late evening sunshine!

This serves 4


  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 2tbsp good quality red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 200g puy lentils, rinsed
  • 3 small carrots, peeled
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp each of roughly chopped parsley, coriander and dill
  • 2 tbsp fat free natural yoghurt
  • salt and pepper


For the Fish

  • 4 organic salmon fillets, skin on
  • knob of butter
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt & pepper



  1. First, to cook the aubergines. Line your grill pan with foil and place the aubergines under a hot grill. Pierce them first, otherwise they might explode! Turn the aubergines while they cook. Believe it or not, Ottolenghi suggests cooking them for an hour. Mine didn’t take that long, (more like 35 mins) but you’re looking for the skins to become completely charred, they should begin to split and the aubergines should pretty much completely deflate. Once this happens, remove from the heat. Slit the aubergines down the centre and scoop out the flesh, being careful to avoid the charred skins.
  2. Place the flesh into a sieve and allow it to drain for at least 15 minutes. You won’t yield much flesh, but don’t worry – the flavour is so intense that you won’t want more than that. Once it’s drained, season with plenty of salt and pepper and 1/2 tbsp of vinegar.
  3. Turn on the oven to 140C (fan)
  4. Meanwhile, during the cooking of the aubergines, get your lentils on. Put the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with plenty of water (don’t salt the water – it makes the lentils go tough. Likewise, the water should be COLD – don’t try and short cut by adding boiling water – you’ll end up with lentils that are cooked on the outside and as hard as bullets inside) Cut one carrot and half a celery stick into large chunks and add to the water. Add the bay leaf, thyme and onion and bring to the boil.
  5. Simmer the lentils on a low heat for around 25 minutes until the lentils are tender. Drain then remove the carrot, onion, celery, bay and thyme from the lentils. Transfer the lentils to a large mixing bowl and add the rest of the vinegar, 2 tbsp of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper; stir and set aside, covering them with foil to keep them warm.
  6. Cut the remaining carrot and celery into 1cm dice and mix with the tomatoes, the remaining oil and brown sugar. Spread out in and ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for about 25 minutes until the carrot is tender, but still firm.
  7. Add the cooked vegetables to the warm lentils, followed by the chopped herbs and stir carefully. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
  8. To cook the fish, season well on both sides with salt and pepper.
  9. Set a large frying pan on a high heat and add a generous knob of butter to the pan and a lug of olive oil. When the pan is hot and the butter begins to foam, add the fish skin side down. Turn the heat down by one notch and do not turn the fish until you can see that it has turned a lighter shade of pink at least half way up the fillet from the skin. This generally takes around 5 – 7 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets.
  10. Turn the fish and squeeze over the lemon juice. Be careful, the pan will spit. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes. The fish is done when it feels firm to the touch, but still yields a bit when prodded.
  11. Remove the fish from the pan and place onto serving plates. Spoon the lentil salad next to it, topped with a pile of aubergine and a dollop of yoghurt.


Asparagus Mimosa

Sunday, July 6th, 2014


This comes courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’ – a favourite recipe book. This is a really delicious recipe and makes a wonderful starter or light lunch. Ottolenghi suggests a scattering of chopped tarragon as an extra, but for us it’s an essential part of the dish and really lifts the flavour. You can make this with or without oil, depending on how vigilant you want to be. When it’s the weekend, I use oil. There’s a lot to be gained from grating a hard boiled egg – try it; you’ll see what I mean.

Serves 2 as a generous starter


  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 250g of asparagus spears
  • 1tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1tsp small capers, drained
  • 1tsp roughly chopped tarragon
  • Maldon sea salt
  • Black Pepper



  1. Put the eggs in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer on a low heat for 9 minutes. Remove them from the pan and plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking further. Remove after a few minutes and leave them to cool down completely. Once they are cool, peel them and set aside.
  2. Bend the asparagus spears so that the woody end snaps off. Discard these ends, but keep them for adding to stock. Place the spears in a large pot of boiling water (not salted) and cook for 3 minutes or until tender. If your spears are a bit fatter, it may take slightly longer.
  3. Drain the spears and arrange them on serving plates. Allow them a couple of minutes to cool slightly. Drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus, sprinkle with the capers and add the salt and pepper.
  4. Top each plate by grating over the egg using a coarse cheese grater. Scatter with chopped tarragon – about a teaspoon between two should do it!


Friday, March 28th, 2014

Chachouka is an Arabic term for ‘mixture,’ but is also a North African spicy red pepper and tomato stew, with eggs baked on the top. It makes a delicious mid-week supper. Serve with a crisp salad, big hunks of crusty bread to mop up the sauce and a nice glass of robust red wine.
Note: Ideally you will need an ovenproof frying pan for this recipe, but if you don’t have one, transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish at step 4.


Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion halved and sliced finely
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
  • ½ tsp hot smoked paprika
  • A pinch of saffron strands
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt & Pepper to season


  1. Begin by heating a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to fry gently for a few minutes before adding the onion. Allow to cook gently for 8-10 minutes until the onoins are soft and slightly caramelised.
  2. Add the garlic and peppers. Continue to cook over a low heat for a further 20 minutes at least, giving the mixture a stir every now and then to ensure it doesn’t burn. The peppers should become soft and wilted.
  3. Now add the paprika, saffron and tomatoes along with their juices as well as some salt and pepper. Cook gently for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4.  Make 4 hollows in the surface of the mixture and carefully crack an egg into each one. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the egg is set and the yolk is still runny.


Dull skies, bright flavours

Friday, March 28th, 2014


The weather has been rotten everywhere in the UK recently. As far as eating healthily goes, it’s not easy to do during the winter when it’s cold and you feel like filling your body with as many carbs as you can get hold of.  It’s even worse when the weather decides to be the wettest it’s ever been or something like that. We’ve lost track of all the stats. Suffice to say, it’s been wet, and morning walks have become mud trudges, swiftly followed by dog baths. On more than one occasion recently, we’ve had to abandon Ludo’s walks entirely, as the lanes around the cottage have become flooded and we haven’t been able to get anywhere.

Anyway, we’ve kept up the fasting since 5th January. (If you have no idea what I’m on about here, have a look at the About Us bit). We consume 500 calories per day on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 1,200 per day on a Tuesday and Thursday. Weekends lend a little more freedom, and we don’t count calories too much on these days, allowing our foodie tendencies (and cravings) a little bit more leg room. These are the days when we can spend hours (literally) deciding what we’re going to eat for dinner. It’s part of the process and even talking about it feels decadent. It’s not unknown for us to start talking about next weekend’s meal on a Monday.

For my first post, then, I’ve decided to share an indulgent recipe – my lemon drizzle cake, which is absolutely called for on a cold, wet day. It’s so comforting that it can’t fail to bring a little bit of sunshine into your life with its vibrant zestiness. For best results, eat with a huge cup of tea in front of an open fire, with a good book. The cake also freezes well, even after you’ve iced it, which is a good thing as you won’t have to eat it all in one go. Although not doing so is a challenge in itself.

Sunshine Lemon Drizzle Cake

sunshine lemon drizzle cake

While scoffing lemon drizzle cake may be infinitely pleasurable, it’s not that healthy. Obviously; it’s a cake. Still, I feel pretty strongly about the idea that eating healthily is about balance and avoiding deprivation. As long as you take in fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight; it’s no more complicated than that. A slice of lemon cake at the weekend won’t hurt you. Abstaining from something completely, will only breed greater, more emphatic desire and will probably cause a binge. Why deprive, binge and then regret? I ate lemon cake during the period when I lost 4 stone, so I’d hate anyone to feel they ‘couldn’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ eat it.

However, in the interest of balance, I wanted to share one of our fast day recipes. Fasting is difficult, there’s no two ways about it, but you can devise some pretty tasty treats for under 400 calories. I don’t believe in following ‘diet recipes’ – it’s that idea of feeling as though you’re being deprived again. What we tend to do, and what we want to share with you in this blog, is what we call recipe engineering…

We have a LOT of cookbooks. Most of these cookbooks include fairly indulgent recipes too, all of which we want to cook…and do!  What we do is sit down with the cookbook, a calculator and a laptop and calculate how many calories are in the recipe and what we can lose (like oil) and add (like veg) in order to maintain the integrity and essence of the recipe as a whole, but engineer it down into the 400 calorie bracket. We aim for 400, because on fast days we eat 100 cals at lunch and then 400 for our main meal.

The following recipe is based on one from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cook book. The recipe is delicious, but it does use a fair bit of oil. We played around with it, dropped most of the oil, replaced it with some cottage cheese and came up with something we really liked. The flavours are bright and zingy against the smokiness of the griddled veg. It’s great for a fast day too, because it looks like you’re getting loads of food on your plate!

Mixed Griddled Veg with Parsley oil and Cottage Cheese

Mixed Griddled Veg with Parsley oil and Cottage Cheese