I’m a huge fan of The Hairy Bikers and love watching them on the TV. They are so friendly and down to earth. Their enthusiasm for cooking and enjoying good food always shows through and whenever a new book comes out I always want to buy it. My favourites of their books just has to be their Hairy Dieters series which I use a lot for cooking. I’m on a permanent battle to lose weight- my own fault for loving baking too much but these Hairy Dieters books help massively with meal ideas for the whole family. Not only that but the recipes are REAL food, no fancy fad or trendy ingredients. If I see a recipe with things like chia seeds in them, then they don’t get a look in, sorry!
My family are quite difficult to cater for. My daughter and I eat most things, though some seafood turns my stomach. We would like to cut down on our meat intake and eat more vegetarian food. My husband thinks a meal without meat isn’t a meal and my son is fussy. One week he’ll like fish pie then the next week he doesn’t and he says he’s never liked it. So when there’s something I can cook that EVERYONE will eat, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot!
I feel like that most times I cook from the first of the Hairy Bikers’ diet books. My son adores their chilli and can’t get enough of the curry. But I can’t be cooking chilli and curry every night. I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. A couple of months back the Hairy Dieters brought out book four entitled Fast Food. As they say on the book blurb on the back cover “When you’re hungry you don’t want to wait” and all the recipes are low in calories yet take only up to half an hour to prepare. This really ticks more than one box for me, I’m usually shattered when I get in from work. In the winter we have casseroles in my slow cooker but I needed more inspiration. The recipes were just what I needed.
Fast Food is split up into nine chapters. The first is an introduction with a few ideas and techniques which I think is very useful, as well as tips from the Hairy Bikers themselves. I also liked the menu suggestions given for if you want to have friends round. The second chapter, Breakfast and Brunch features a few ideas for low calorie, yet filling meals. In the past I have used the Hairy Bikers’ ideas for serving porridge and Bircher muesli. This book has ideas for smoothies and granola. I love making granola but I need a healthier version. Also my smoothie blender is broken but when I get round to replacing it I will definitely be making the Apple and Oat Smoothie.
Over the last couple of weeks after coming back from my holiday feeling fat, bloated and lethargic from all the unhealthy food I’d been eating, I thought I’d better get my act together in the kitchen. I got the Fast Food book out and thought we would put some of the recipes to the test.
The first recipe I tried out was the Chicken and Prawn Laksa on p124. I have never tried Laksa before, let alone made it. I saw John Torode making it on a programme about Malaysia and both my hubby and I said we would like to try it. So I was keen to give it a go. Both children were out one Saturday night and it was just me and the hubster. The recipe uses a ready made jar of Laksa paste or there were the ingredients to make up your own. I couldn’t find all the ingredients or the ready made paste in my local Morrisons but instead I found some lemongrass paste. The rest of the ingredients were easily found.
We really enjoyed the Laksa. It was simple to make if you prepped the chicken and the veg beforehand. I forgot to take a photo of it as hubby also says “I don’t want to see my dinner on bloody Facebook!” But you have to believe me, it tasted and looked wonderful. There was too much quantity though as the recipe served 4. Definitely one to do again but not something my son would have.
The day after was a Sunday. Usually on a Sunday lunchtime we don’t eat much if anything as we have a big meal at dinner time. My daughter was working and it was a very hot day. I thought a salad would be perfect but wanted something more exciting and delicious than some limp lettuce and cucumber. The Hairy Dieter’s Seven Layer Salad looked stunning on the eye as well as sounding very tasty. It didn’t require any cooking, just lots of chopping up and either assembling as layers in a bowl or on a large serving platter.
I first had to make a tomato salsa by chopping up tomatoes, red peppers and red onions then mixing them up together in a large bowl with some chopped coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. I then squeezed some lime juice over the top of it. This was time consuming but I wasn’t in a rush, thankfully.
Two other layers just asked for opening up a tin, draining the ingredients then arranging on a plate. A tin of sweetcorn for one and the other was a tin of black beans. I’ve never really bought black beans before though I’ve had them in a Chinese takeaway when I’ve had Beef in Black Bean Sauce. I had some in a salad my sister in law made while visiting her and my brother in Canada recently and they tasted great.
To make the chicken part of the salad I quickly cooked three chicken breasts which had been cut into tiny, bite sized pieces. When these had cooled slightly I went on to the Avocado part of the salad, then went back to the chicken. The chicken was then tossed in a little buttermilk, low fat mayonnaise and white wine vinegar mixture. It was meant to have finely chopped celery added to it but only I like it mixed in with things in our family, so I’ve stopped buying it. The Avocado part of the salad was meant to be one Avocado choppe up with a grated courgette and spring onions and then dressed with lime juice. My family don’t like courgettes so I shredded a Cos lettuce instead and tossed the chopped spring onions and chopped avocado together with the lime juice on top.
We were very impressed with the Seven Layer Salad and my husband had to have more cheese to satisfy his hungry appetite. I found that there was also a portion left over for me to have in my lunchbox the following day.
Another successful meal from the Fast Food Book was the Vegetable Dhal on page 152. This recipe is from the chapter called Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow which includes slow cooker and pressure cooker recipes. I’ve not got a pressure cooker though I remember my mum having one in the 70’s. My slow cooker is my lifesaver in the winter. I chose to test out a pressure cooker recipe but just to cook it normally on the hob. It was a simple Vegetable Dhal which my son said looked like sick! It was simple to make though, as well as being economical.
Another success was the delicious Chilli and Prawn Pasta which ended up having the prawns substituted for something else. I hadn’t got round to getting any more prawns in but I had a packet of Heck Chorizo sausages in the fridge. These ended up being chopped up into little pieces and treated like meatballs. My whole family loved the pasta and even though it had a little kick to it with the chilli, no one minded.
I’ve been really impressed with the Fast Food book. There are a few recipes I wouldn’t make, mainly because they won’t appeal to the fussy eaters in my household but there are plenty I will be trying in the future. We’ve already had the Seven Layer Salad again but this time I used plain leftover roast chicken from the previous day’s dinner.
Love Sam xx