Archives for the month of: September, 2012

Butternut squash risotto and beans

Recipe for butternut squash risotto (serves 2)

450g butternut squash
2 tsp oil
1 onion, diced
Ingredients for butternut squash risotto2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup arborio rice
2 tsp white balsamic or white wine vinegar
1 cup stock
few leaves of sage, chopped
freshly ground pepper
20g parmesan

Total calories per serving: 390

Method: Roast the butternut squash at 350°F/180°C. I just put the squash in the oven whole, with a few piercings in the skin. It takes about an hour like that, but if you prefer, you could peel, deseed and cube the squash and cook it that way, which would take less time. I cooked the squash ahead of time, let it cool, then removed the seeds and scooped the flesh away from the skin, ready to put in the risotto later.

Melt the butter and sweat the onions for around five minutes. Stir in the rice and garlic until the rice is coated with the oil, add the vinegar and then gradually add the stock, a little at a time, until the rice is cooked. You might need to add some more liquid (water is fine) to ensure that the rice is fully cooked. Stir in the squash, sage and pepper and keep on a low heat until it is warmed through. Transfer to plates and top with grated parmesan.

The runner beans added another 10 calories to the dish. I managed to hold off eating this until 5.30pm, which I think is a new fast-day record!


Today marks the end of our sixth full week of following the 5:2 way of eating. At the weekend I’ll update our progress in terms of weight loss on the ‘Does it work?’ page so you can see how we’re doing (barring being overtaken by an enormous urge to binge between now and then, I’m thinking it will be good news!). After a bit of experimentation, we seem to have settled on a good way of measuring out the limited calorie allowance of the fasting days: a bowl of nourishing but low-calorie soup for lunch and a more substantial meal with some carbohydrates, a little protein and a lot of vegetables in the evening.

The trick seems to be to delay lunch for as long as possible and then try to do the same with the evening meal in order to avoid going to bed feeling hungry. There’s just something really miserable about trying to sleep on an empty stomach. A year or two ago I interviewed a lady who lived through the Great Depression here and she said that her mother made it a point to feed the children some toast before they went to bed so that they never had to go to sleep hungry. They were often hungry during the day – and the ‘Eat, Fast, Live Longer’ programme noted that life expectancy rates actually rose during the Depression, partly due to people having to live on fewer calories.

Anyway, Day 13. Here’s the recipe for the soup I made today. We had it at 1pm.

Recipe for roasted tomato and summer vegetable soup (serves 4)

Finished soup800g tomatoes, cut into evenly sized pieces
240g courgettes, sliced
2 small red onions, quartered
60g Hungarian hot wax peppers (or jalapenos), halved and de-seeded
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (I put a whole teaspoon in and it was a bit too hot!)
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups/1 litre stock

Total calories per serving: 70

Method: Put the sliced vegetables onto a baking sheet with a few grinds of black pepper and roast at 350°F/180°C for 30 minutes. After that time they looked like this:

Roasted vegetables

(and smelt amazing).

Blend them in a food processor or blender, then stir in the smoked paprika and stock. Heat until warmed through, taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

Day 12 has been our best so far in terms of managing to delay eating. We had the leftover soup from Day 11 for lunch at 1pm. I didn’t start preparing our evening meal until about 4.30, and it took a bit of work so wasn’t ready to eat until 5.30.

Chicken, salad and zucchini fries

Recipe for zucchini fries (serves 2)

300g zucchini/courgettes, cut into batons
25g flour
1 egg white
75g breadcrumbs
25g parmesan, grated
seasoning (salt, pepper, cayenne)

Total calories per serving: 240

Method: Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Have three large bowls ready, one with the flour, one with the egg white and one with the breadcrumbs/parmesan/seasoning. Cover the zucchini batons with flour first, then put them in the egg white (I found it easiest to put them all in at once and stir them with my fingers to get them coated), then into the breadcrumb mixture. Once they are well covered with breadcrumbs, put them on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

While they are cooking, put the salad together:

Recipe for garden salad (serves 2)

100g red pepper, chopped
340g tomatoes, chopped
100g cucumber, diced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Total calories per serving: 55

The cold roast chicken (remains of a Sunday roast) added 75 calories per serving, bringing this meal to a total of 370 per person. For a vegetarian alternative, I would replace the chicken with 60g of feta cheese for the same number of calories and mix it in with the salad.

Last week, we fasted on Thursday but it was back to Friday again this week, although I made this curry yesterday as I had some free time to pootle about in the kitchen. It’s possibly easier to plan fasting day food on a non-fasting day, but the jury’s still out on that one, as far as I’m concerned. Cooking somehow takes my mind off eating. But I know that probably isn’t true for most people!

Red lentil curry, rice and spinach

Recipe for Red lentil curry with rice and spinach (serves 2)

Ingredients for curry sauce90g/½ cup red lentils
145g/5oz fresh tomatoes, sliced (or halved if they’re small)
1 tsp oil
1 onion, quartered and sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 heaped tsp curry powder
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
90g/½ cup brown jasmine rice
50g spinach, stems removed, shredded

Total calories per serving: 400

Method: Rinse lentils and cover them so that there’s about half an inch of water above them. Bring to the boil and then simmer for around 20 minutes, adding more water if they look like they’re getting too dry (you want a porridge-like consistency). Put a cup of water over the rice in a separate pan and do the same with them – all the water should be absorbed into the rice in 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, warm a frying pan and add the oil and then the sliced onions. Cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and gently browned. Add the spices and garlic and raise the heat, stirring until the scent of the spices is really strong. Then stir in the tomato pieces and cook until they’ve lost their integrity. Hm, that sounds a bit cruel. Basically you just want them to fall apart and release their juices. At this point the curry mixture will look something like this:

Onion, spices and tomatoes

By now the lentils should be done. Stir them into the curry mixture with a little salt, to taste. You can either stir the shredded spinach into the curry and cook briefly until it’s soft, or if you’d rather have it separately, steam the spinach and serve that alongside the curry on the rice.

Like I said, I made the curry part yesterday, so I refrigerated it (in a takeaway container, for that authentic curry look!).

Red lentil curry

One of the good things about making this on a non-fasting day was that I didn’t feel any guilt about tasting the dish to check the seasoning levels!

Despite my filling soup lunch I was still hungry just as early as I was on Day 10, so once more, it was an early supper. The curry tasted great and I feel good and full right now. Suspect I’ll still be hungry when I go to bed, though. 😦

Bean and tomato soup

Back to the soup-for-lunch plan today, as the fruit plan on Day 10 left us ravenously hungry by bedtime. The beans should make this soup filling enough to keep us going until later than we managed on Day 10 and still leave 400 calories for supper. If you’re using dry beans, you need to think about this dish a day in advance so that you have time to soak them.

Recipe for Bean and tomato soup (serves 4)

Haricot beans150g dried haricot beans
1 tsp oil
2 small onions (115g), peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots (100g), diced
½ tsp smoked paprika
250ml tomato sauce (mine was made from blended fresh tomatoes, simmered for an hour or two to concentrate the purée – you could also use blended canned tomatoes)
300ml water or stock
1 tsp cider vinegar
salt and pepper
5g parsley, chopped

Total calories per serving: 75

Method: Soak the beans in water for 24 hours. Drain them, put them in a pan, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil. After ten minutes of boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about an hour or until tender. When the beans are done, blend most of them along with the water they cooked in (for me this made about 500ml of liquid), reserving some of the beans to add whole to the soup.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions, garlic, carrots, and smoked paprika. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are translucent and then stir in the tomatoes, blended and whole beans, and the water or stock (the quantity of water or stock will depend on how much liquid you got from blending the beans and how thick you want the soup: just add what seems right).

Simmer until the carrots are tender (about 20 minutes), then remove from the heat, stir in the vinegar, seasonings, and parsley and serve, putting a little parsley on top for decoration if you feel so inclined. The vinegar and parsley are there for flavour, but also because they can help your body to digest beans if you don’t eat them very often.

The soup felt very filling and hearty. Now to see if it will keep hunger pangs at bay until supper!

My Wednesday workplace offers limited non-fast-food purchasing options, but it does have a microwave oven which means that I’m not restricted to sandwiches or salads for my lunch. Today I made a portable version of eggplant parmesan for lunch, which is light enough in calories to share on this blog as a fasting-day main meal.

Eggplant parmesan in a pot
Recipe for Eggplant parmesan in a pot (serves 1)

1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 small eggplants, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup parmesan
¼ cup basil, shredded

Total calories per serving: 300

PotMethod: Brush the eggplant slices with oil and cook under a hot grill until browned, turning once. Stir the garlic and basil into the tomatoes. Take an empty 500g plastic yoghurt or cottage cheese container and assemble the dish inside it in layers. Mine went: breadcrumbs, tomato, eggplant, parmesan, breadcrumbs, eggplant, tomato, breadcrumbs, parmesan. Keep some of the parmesan back to add to the top of dish before you microwave it. Cover the pot with its lid and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.

When you are, remove the lid and carefully invert the pot, squeezing the sides gently to turn out the eggplant parmesan. Sprinkle the spare parmesan over the top and microwave on full power for two minutes.

Then, tuck in!

Another day with no breakfast, and today, instead of having soup for lunch, we just had an apple each. This was after my experience of being away from home back on fasting day 7, when I found that a few items of fruit were a reasonable way of staving off hunger for the day. It’s also a lot easier to pick up an apple than it is to make a bowl of soup, if I’m brutally honest. Otherwise I spend all of my fasting days thinking about food. Who am I trying to kid, I do that anyway! Planning my evening meal and blogging about it here are just about enough to keep me sane.

Butternut squashJust having an apple for lunch gave me 400 calories to play with for our tenth fasting day’s supper. I’m harvesting butternut squash at the moment, and yesterday I roasted three of them in the oven. I used one to make two sweet pumpkin loaves (one of the loaves is still in existence, tempting me from the kitchen as I type), froze the flesh of another one and had about two cupsful from the third, which is what I used for this dish.

Pork with spicy butternut squash and rice bake

Recipe for Pork with spicy rice and butternut squash bake (serves 2)

Ingredients for squash and rice bake100g lean pork (I used the lean meat from some pork chops)*
600g butternut squash (cooked weight)
100g brown jasmine rice
250ml/1 cup water or stock
40g sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 fresh cayenne chilli pepper, diced (or 1 tsp cayenne powder)
2 crushed cloves garlic
salt & pepper

Total calories per serving: 400

Method: Simmer the rice in water or stock until tender (takes about 25 minutes with brown rice). By the time the rice is tender, all the liquid should be absorbed. Combine the rice with the cooked squash, tomatoes, chilli, garlic and seasoning, then bake for 20-30 minutes at 350°F/180°C until warmed through. Meanwhile, grill the pork chops for around 20 minutes, turning occasionally until cooked through, and slice 100g of lean meat from them to serve with the rice and squash bake. Or fry the mushrooms, if you’re doing the vegetarian alternative, and serve them up with the bake.

I love the colours in this dish – like a slice of autumn on a plate!

The rice and squash bake was very filling (almost too filling) – but we were so hungry that we ate this meal at 3.30pm, which probably means that we’ll be starving by bed time. Should have called this post ‘Day 10: high tea’ really. Oh well, I might get these fasting days meals right, eventually…

Mushrooms*A vegetarian or vegan option with the same calories would be to have 100g mushrooms (four medium-sized mushrooms) cooked in a tablespoon of butter or oil

Pureed split peasIt’s a bit of a stretch, putting the recipe for this soup on this blog, as it comes out at 480 calories per serving, so would constitute the only meal a woman on the 5:2 diet could eat on a fasting day, and wouldn’t leave a man a lot of spare calories either. Having said that, it is amazingly filling, so if you are saving all your calories for one meal, then this should keep you satiated until bedtime.

This is a traditional London split-pea and ham hock soup, named for the capital’s own version of the horrendous thick yellow ‘peasouper’ smogs which plagued large cities in the days when everyone burned coal in their fireplaces.

I’d never cooked ham hocks before and you don’t often see cuts like this in the supermarkets here in Canada, so I bought two a few months ago and they’ve been taking up freezer space ever since while I tried to work out what to do with them. Then I noticed Fiona Maclean’s Best of British – London blog post about sharing recipes for London foods and the idea of using the hocks to make a London Particular began to take shape in my head. Fiona’s also sharing recipes for the 5:2 diet, by the way.

The soup is made from very low-cost ingredients (ideal in these austere times!) – I worked out that the total cost per serving today was under $2 (around £1.25), partly because the meat was 30% off.

One branch of my family were impoverished silk weavers in London’s East End in the late nineteenth century and this is probably the sort of cheap and yet cheerful food they would have consumed. I’ve stuck to ingredients which would have been readily available to my London ancestors, so this is a very simple recipe, but no less satisfying for that.

Recipe for London Particular soup (serves 4)

2 ham hocks (mine were unsmoked, but smoked would have been even better, if you can find them)
2 cups yellow split peas
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled

Total calories per serving: 480

Method: Cover the hocks with water, bring to the boil and cook over a low heat for 2 hours. Strain off the liquid and keep it for cooking the peas. Rinse the split peas and then put them in a pan with a litre of the reserved water from the hocks, the onion and the carrots. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 45 minutes or until the peas are soft.

Shredded ham hock meatWhen it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat from the hocks with your fingers, removing the skin and any fatty bits, and set aside. I found that the two hocks yielded 300g of meat. It should be very tender and fall easily off the bones.

Purée the pea mixture in a blender, then stir in the shredded meat and season to your taste. With unsmoked hocks you will need more salt than you would with smoked ones.

London Particular soup

Can you imagine walking through fog that colour? Nice in your mouth, not so good in your lungs!

Potatoes are something I’ve avoided so far on fasting days, as they carry a lot of calories. But I fancied fishcakes today, so I thought I’d try replacing some of the potato with pumpkin, as a lighter-but-still-bulky option and see how they worked out. With ratatouille as a side dish, this meal worked out at 380 calories.

Recipe for Haddock and pumpkin fishcakes (serves 2)

Mini-pumpkin and potatoes240g haddock fillets
200g potato
100g pumpkin flesh (cooked weight)
salt & pepper
50g fresh breadcrumbs
spray of oil

Total calories per serving: 260

Method: Peel potatoes and boil until tender. Cook the haddock fillets (mine were frozen – I steamed them over the potatoes for 10 minutes or so). Break up the fish and mash the potatoes, combining them with the pumpkin flesh. Stir in the salt, pepper and parsley, then when cool enough to handle, form into four cakes and coat in breadcrumbs. At that point mine looked like this:

Formed fishcakes

If you’re not cooking them straight away, place on parchment paper or foil, cover with cling wrap and keep in the fridge. The cakes are already fully cooked, so just need reheating, which can be done in a frying pan, under the grill/broiler or in the oven. Give the pan you use a light spray of oil to stop the cakes from sticking. I baked mine at 350°F/180°C for about 20 minutes.

With the fishcakes I served ratatouille.

Recipe for Oven-baked ratatouille (serves 2)

Ratatouille ingredients400g tomatoes
100g zucchini/courgette
200g eggplant/aubergine
150g onion
2 cloves garlic
spray or two of olive oil
fresh or dried herbs

Total calories per serving: 120

Method: Slice the onion, zucchini and eggplant into chunks, crush the garlic and combine them all in an oven-proof dish. Spray with a little olive oil and roast for 45 minutes at 350°F/180°C. Cut the tomatoes up into large-ish pieces (if they’re big) and add them to the dish with the herbs (if you’re using them – I added thyme and oregano at this point). Cook for another 30 minutes, stirring the vegetables after 15 to mix the tomatoes’ juices through the other vegetables. I stirred in some basil at the end of the cooking time.

After that the ratatouille looks like this:


And the finished dish (which was delicious and satisfyingly filling!):

Fishcakes with ratatouille

Coronation chicken was a dish developed in 1953 for the celebrations around Queen Elizabeth II’s, um, coronation (surprise!). This meal is inspired by that, but a low-calorie version, using 0% fat yoghurt instead of mayonnaise. Mmmm, mayonnaise… Maybe tomorrow…

Recipe for Coronation chicken and vegetable wrap (serves 2)

Ingredients for Coronation chicken wrap80g 0% yoghurt
1 tbsp curry powder
180g roasted chicken breast, diced
40g salad greens
40g sweetcorn, steamed and cooled
25g tomatoes, diced (I used oven-dried cherry tomatoes*)
1 flour tortilla

Total calories per serving: 400

Method: Mix the curry powder into the yoghurt and stir in the diced chicken breast. Then it’s just a case of assembling all the other ingredients on the tortilla and topping off with the chicken:

Building the wrap

There’s a lot of filling, so it’s actually quite hard to get the wrap closed!

Finished wrap

At 400 calories, this takes me just slightly over 500 for the day with the 110 calorie soup I had for lunch. But I don’t think there’s a 5:2 diet police officer who is going to come round and slap my wrist.

Is there?!

*These are very easy to make, although require a fair amount of patience as they take a long time to dry. The Pick Your Own site has  comprehensive instructions. In this dish, the dried tomatoes give a great little kick of concentrated tomato sweetness.