Buckwheat Burgers – only 92 calories each

IMG_0333I was surprised to realise that I hadn’t written up this recipe before now! Buckwheat is a fantastic whole food, a seed rather than a grain, and good for people who are trying to avoid gluten. As well as being rich in complex carbohydrates, it is also a useful protein source, and as we are trying to encourage each other to include more plant-based protein in our diet, this is a great food to discover, if you aren’t already familiar with it.

Buckwheat burgers are simple to make, cheap and delicious to eat. They make a great vegan fast day meal. They are splendid stuffed into a piece of pita bread, with or without salad, tomato sauce or whatever other dressings you may fancy. They help to keep you warm all day in winter if you have one for breakfast. Try one with a fried egg, mushrooms and toast! Or have one or two for an evening meal with rice and vegetables.

Mostly, buckwheat gets used as a flour here in France, to make galettes de Sarrasin. You may also come across it as soba noodles. Although it is also called blé noir (black wheat) it is not related to wheat at all.

But I am not going to use flour, I am going to start with whole buckwheat groats.

Buckwheat Groats

These ones are already roasted (kasha grillé), but if yours are not, they can be easily toasted in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Keep shaking the pan so that the groats move around and get evenly heated and just start to turn a little darker. This improves the flavour.

Then they need to be roughly ground. The easiest way to do this is in a food processer, blender or grinder, but I guess you could do them in a pestle and mortar for you arm exercises…. You want to have some texture, not create a fine flour. A few pulses in a good blender will suffice.

IMG_0314

Next, put into a bowl and add boiling water and mix with a fork, until the mixture holds together. If it is too dry, it will be crumbly.

IMG_0317

Cover and leave this to rest for a few minutes, to cool and absorb the moisture. Then form into a smooth ball, adding a little more water if necessary.

Put onto a floured board (using some buckwheat or wholewheat flour) and roll into a fat sausage shape.

IMG_0320

Slice into 8 rounds, about 1cm thick, dusting with flour as you make them.

IMG_0329

These are then fried in a little oil until nicely browned on both sides. Then pour some tamari soy sauce into the pan and let them sizzle, flipping them over and adding a little more tamari if needed. This gives the crust a lovely savoury flavour.

IMG_0330

A super vegan low calorie meal, suitable for a 5:2 fast day: 2 burgers and a heap of stir fried veggies will be less than 300 calories. Include some chopped nuts, sunflower or sesame seeds or a tahini dressing to increase the protein content.

You can freeze them uncooked – open freeze and then wrap individually. Defrost before cooking.

Really, very little effort and it is hard to figure out why they aren’t better known! I think this way of making them is much more successful and tasty than boiling the grains, or pre-soaking them. 

Buckwheat Burgers

  • 1 cup / 170 grams buckwheat groats – 567 kcals
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil – 120 kcals
  • 1 tbsp tamari – 15 kcals
  • 10g buckwheat flour – 33 kcals

Makes 8 burgers
Per burger: 92 kcals
Carbs 16g Protein 3g Fat 3g

Celery and Stilton Soup – and Easy Garlic Breadsticks

dscf6344

We love a bit of Stilton cheese with a glass of port over Christmas, but now it is dry January and the remains of the cheese need using up. Of course, you can use another blue cheese or strongly flavoured cheese for this.

To go with this I have baked some Easy Garlic Breadsticks. Yes, breadsticks means breadsticks 😉 (if you didn’t see this epsiode of HIGNFY, go to about 19:50 and see Maureen Lipman doing a Mrs May..) It is rare for us to eat white bread, but this is such a great way of making croutons! A half sized, ready to bake baguette makes 6 sticks and they keep quite well wrapped in foil, or leftovers can be broken up for use as a croutons for soups or salads. I first made them during one of our photography courses, and they were a great hit (you’ll find them in my Focus on Flavour book). Conversation stoppers though, as you can’t hear anything over the crunch…  I like them with a Caesar salad too.

I’ve included some golden paste in the recipe – you really don’t notice the flavour of turmeric, but it adds a lovely golden colour. I like to include it as often as I can in cooking, especially if I haven’t had it in yogurt for breakfast.

A bowl of this soup (145 kcals)  with one or two breadsticks (91 each) makes a lovely lunch or can be part of a fast day meal.

[yumprint-recipe id=’43’][yumprint-recipe id=’44’]

Golden tangle pie

Golden Tangle PieContinuing with my theme of using turmeric in more dishes and making delicious, healthy, well balanced meals…

When you are cutting back on starchy carbs, but not cutting them out altogether, a little filo pastry can provide a fantastic (and also quick and easy) topping for a pie. 

Here I have layered some softened leeks and mushrooms, followed by chopped cooked turkey, and pieces of cooked ham, topped with a creamy sauce with added golden paste. Then taking one sheet of filo per person, I cut each sheet into small squares and scrunched these up to cover the top of the dish. Sprayed or brushed very lightly with olive oil, then baked in a hot oven for about 20 – 25 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Tangle Pie

This would work equally well with fish or lentils, in fact there are probably hundreds of different possibilities! This is one of my favourite things to do with the Christmas leftovers – I put up a picture last year, but here is the recipe, complete with calorie counts.

Tangle Pie

My luxury version comes out at
Per serving:
490 kcals 25g Fat, 28g Carbs, 38g Protein
You could reduce this by 100 kcal per portion by using all semi-skim milk and swapping the cheese for a tsp of tamari soy sauce. So a delicious fast day main dish at only 390 kcals! Counts would be similar if you used about 100g of white fish or cooked lentils per person, instead of the meat. Calorie counts in brackets.

[yumprint-recipe id=’42’]

Thai Salmon Patties with Pickled Vegetable Ribbons <250kcal

Thai Salmon Patties with Pickled Vegetable RibbonsI was reminded of these when a member of the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet group on Facebook asked for a fishcake recipe that didn’t require the use of breadcrumbs or mashed potato. I can’t wait for our next 5:2 fast day to do them again! Pickled vegetables are quite a thing now, turning up regularly on Masterchef as an accompaniment. It’s a great way of adding some zingy flavour without a lot of calories.

Thai Salmon Patties with Pickled Vegetable Ribbons

I had always thought that fish cakes needed potato or something to hold them together, but not so, these work beautifully. I like to make them small so that they cook quickly and the centre stays moist and pink. 

I’ve usually done the fish patties with salmon, but they would work equally well with any firm white fish or tuna or swordfish.

As an alternative to rice wine vinegar, try apple cider vinegar. I use maple syrup as it mixes in easily, but you could use coconut sugar or raw brown sugar instead. A little sweetness adds to the complexity of flavours.

Cucumber and carrots are obvious candidates for pickle, but you could use courgettes, beetroot, cauliflower or fennel as alternatives and slices of red onion instead of spring onion.

Serves 2

  • 250g salmon fillets 244 kcals
  • 2 tsp grated root ginger 4 kcals
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaf
  • 1 tsp Thai red curry paste 10 kcals
  • 1 tbsp Tamari soy sauce 16 kcals
  • 1 tsp maple syrup 12 kcals
  • 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar 6 kcals
  • 1 carrot 26 kcals
  • 1/2 cucumber 18 kcals
  • 2 spring onions 10 kcals
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil 120 kcals

Put the salmon, ginger, coriander, Thai curry paste and Tamari into a food processor and whizz until the fish is minced. With damp hands, form into 6 patties. Keep them cool while you prepare the vegetables.

Mix the vinegar and maple syrup in a bowl.

Peel the carrot and cucumber into long strips or ribbons and cut the spring onion into long slivers. Add to the bowl and toss together well.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the patties for a couple of minutes on each side, until just cooked through.

Serve immediately with the vegetable pickle.

Per serving: kcals 228
Carbs 12g Fat 11g 7g

For a main meal, also serve some steamed broccoli and wilted spinach.

Thai Salmon Patties with Pickled Vegetable Ribbons

This recipe is in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life, available on Amazon in kindle or print format.

Upside Down Fish Pie

This is dish I have made lots of times now. It is very forgiving of quantities, of the type of fish, of the herbs in the gremolata. You can peel the potatoes or not, use big or small ones, use red, white or spring onions, use whole small or larger halved tomatoes, or even some tinned or frozen tomatoes… It’s a great dish for preparing ahead, up to the stage where you add the fish for the final cooking time; so it works well for a dinner party with friends, all you need to serve alongside is perhaps a fresh green salad or lightly steamed green veg. I have served it on a fast day by using smaller pieces of fish and being mean with the olive oil and potatoes! It is quite substantial and satisfying. For a lower-carb version, you could swap potatoes for slices of summer squash.

Tip: I keep a bag of frozen breadcrumbs in a ziploc bag in the freezer, which makes it really easy just to grab a couple of handfuls to sprinkle over the top of a dish like this – it adds a great texture and saves the fish from drying out.

_MG_5159

Upside Down Fish Pie with Gremolata

This recipe has evolved from a recipe that I spotted in “delicious” magazine, where the potatoes are on the bottom and there are breadcrumbs sprinkled on the top. I particularly like it with salmon, but it works brilliantly with cod, haddock or for a real treat try it with sea bass.

Serves 4

  • 500g red skinned potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced 352 kcals
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced 44 kcals
  • 2 tsp olive oil 80 kcals
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, halved 16 kcals
  • 25g sundried tomatoes, sliced 64 kcals
  • 4 fish fillets 844 kcals
  • 1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced 4 kcals
  • 8 slices of lemon 16 kcals
  • 60g wholewheat breadcrumbs 144 kcals
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 120 kcals

For the Gremolata

  • 6 marinaded anchovy fillets, chopped 24 kcals
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped 8 kcals
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 120 kcals
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • A bunch of parsley leaves, chopped 4 kcals
  • Preheat the oven to 180c (fan).

Brush a roasting tin with oil, then add the potatoes, onions into a roasting tray, drizzle with the remaining oil, season with salt and pepper and then mix together.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and dried tomatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes, by which time the potatoes should be nearly cooked through.

Mix the breadcrumbs with the olive oil in a plastic bag and shake to mix.

Put the fish fillets on top, decorate with lemon and chilli slices and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top.

Bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the Gremolata by whizzing all the ingredients in a food processor to make a sauce.

Serve with the Gremolata drizzled over.

Per serving: kcals 460
Carbs 51g Fat 21g Protein 20g

If you have started the meal with a salad or a vegetable dish, there is no need to serve anything else with this, but a crisp green salad, some wilted spinach or steamed broccoli make a good visual contrast.

This recipe can be found in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life, available from Amazon in print or kindle format.

12 Super Soups – for fast days or any day

Italian Vegetable Soup Spicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup _MG_5269-2 Tuscan Zucchini Soup Mushroom and Celery Soup Spring Minestrone Soup Hot and Sour Chicken and Mushroom Soup Watercress Soup Carrot and Coriander Soup butternut squash soup _MG_3080 Simple Vegetable Soup

I love soups! They are a great way of filling up before your main course, or make a perfect lunch. They can showcase all kinds of vegetables and elevate them to become star ingredients. They are a great way of increasing your veg intake, so helping you to have more fibre and get your five-a-day.

I make my own stock quite often, but if not, a good quality bouillon powder or cube is perfectly acceptable – especially on a fast day, the extra salt can be very helpful at balancing your electrolytes, so keeping headaches and light-headedness at bay.

Most of these soups are easy to prepare and quick to cook and can be simmering gently while you get on with making a main dish. I often make a larger quantity than I need and freeze leftovers for another day.

Vary your textures, from a clear broth such as in Hot and Sour Soup, to a hearty chunky soup such as the Spicy Chickpea and Spinach, with a variety of smoother textures in between. A stick blender is a really useful but inexpensive tool that helps to make smooth soups easily, right in the pan, without extra washing up.

Make the most of herbs and spices to add flavour and depth – a little sprinkle at the last minute is appealing to the eye as well as to the palate. Try a grating of strongly flavoured cheese, such as parmesan, a spoonful of pesto, a few toasted slivers of almonds, a swirl of yogurt, finely chopped fresh herbs, some drops of chilli sauce or some freshly roasted and ground spices.

Here they are, in order of calorie counts and with links to the recipes.

12 Super SoupsPhotosNumber of Calories
Mushroom and CeleryMushroom and Celery Soup36
WatercressWatercress Soup60
Hot and Sour (Tom Yum)Hot and Sour Chicken and Mushroom Soup76
Moroccan Cauliflower with AlmondMoroccan Cauliflower Soup87
Tuscan ZucchiniTuscan Zucchini Soup89
Carrot and CorianderCarrot and Coriander Soup97
Bargeman's Tomato_MG_5269-2110
Caribbean Butternut Squashbutternut squash soup120
Italian VegetableItalian Vegetable Soup124
Spicy Chickpea and SpinachSpicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup150
Spring MinestroneSpring Minestrone150
Click on the links above for the recipes

All the recipes are in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life, available on Amazon in kindle and print editions

Salmon Stuffed with Pine Nuts and Herbs <200 calories

Salmon Stuffed with Pine Nuts and HerbsSalmon is one of my go-to ingredients for a fast day, when I focus on “mainly plants and protein” and I always have some fillets in the freezer. This recipe makes a good change from my usual technique of putting it on a pile of sliced vegetables and wrapping it in paper parcels. I will defrost the fish first.

This recipe is in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life, but as I had included it in this week’s meal plan, and highlighted the photo, I thought I should share it here.

The original idea came from a New Zealand cook, Annabel Langbein, from her excellently-titled 2003 recipe book “Cooking to Impress without Stress”. 

You can use walnuts instead of pine nuts and vary the herbs. I plan to serve it with a spoonful of tsatsiki (greek yogurt with salted, drained, finely chopped cucumber and mint), but it would be lovely with a chilli and tomato salsa or on a non-fast day, a hollandaise sauce would be super.

A rainbow of steamed seasonal vegetables and perhaps a few baked mushrooms add visual appeal, flavour and plenty of fibre. Today we will be having swiss chard and carrots, plus some slivers of raw vegetables – my new kitchen gadget, a super-duper Mandolin, is going to be put to use! 

[yumprint-recipe id=’38’]

Moroccan Cauliflower Soup – 90 calories per serving

Is there anything that cauliflower doesn’t lend itself to? So many wonderful ways of using this vegetable! Here is one of my favourites, combining the kick of harissa and warm fragrant spices along with the nuttiness of almonds. The recipe came originally from the BBC Good Food site, which has lots of super ideas, but theirs was much higher in calories. I have used less oil and made the soup less dense, so that it is ideal for a fast day. Beware of the harissa! It can be fiercely hot if you aren’t used to it, so you might want to start with a smaller quantity and taste before adding it all. For a milder kick, you could use a chilli sauce, such as Cholula.

Moroccan Cauliflower Soup

This recipe can be found in my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life, available in kindle and print editions from Amazon, worldwide.

[yumprint-recipe id=’37’]

A Fast Day Meal Plan, with porridge for breakfast

Winter TreeOn a chilly day, you might like to start a fast day with porridge, which is low-GI and can help keep you feeling full for a remarkably long time. Make the porridge using water and add a little soya or semi skimmed milk when serving, if you like – or have a chopped prune instead (20 calories per prune), which can be helpful for your digestive system.

Simple Vegetable Soup

I’ve included my Simple Vegetable Soup again, which is a fast day standby for me. I always have a packet of ready prepared chopped vegetables in the freezer, so it is a quick and easy soup to make when you are hungry, with 100g of vegetables, a tsp of stock powder and 250ml of water – bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes and whizz with a stick blender to vary the texture.  If you choose not to have breakfast, you could have a more substantial soup instead.

Smoked Haddock with Poached Egg and wilted Spinach

Again, main course is really simple and doesn’t take long to prepare, so this menu is ideal when you have had a busy day. You could use frozen fish and frozen spinach too, so as long as you have some fresh eggs, this is something that can be prepared entirely from what you have in store. No excuses!

Mocha Dessert

For dessert, it is easy to use fromage blanc or greek yogurt as the basis and vary the flavours with some simple additions. Here I have used the classic combo of coffee and chocolate, but you can experiment with different essences, fresh or dried fruits, snipped candied peel, chopped toasted nuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon… lots of possibilities and it doesn’t take much to give it a bit of added zing. I find it helps to make a meal feel complete, and it doesn’t need any sugar (though I did add a little honey to the mocha dessert, as it can be helpful to getting a good night’s sleep after a fast day).

You’ll find the recipes for this dinner here or in my book, 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life, which is available in kindle and print editions from Amazon worldwide.

Fast Day Menu with Breakfast and Dinner
Breakfast
Make up your porridge using water
15 / 20g of Porridge Oats (55/70), with 50ml soya milk (20)
Dinner
Simple Vegetable Soup_MG_0303Mocha Dessert 105 kcals
Simple Vegetable Soup (70)Smoked Haddock with 1 or 2 Poached Eggs on a bed of Wilted Spinach (210/285)Mocha Dessert (105)
Total Calories for the day 460/550

Spicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup – 150 kcals per serving

Here’s a warming and satisfying soup that works well for a fast day or as a lunch or supper any day. This one is is my book 5:2 Healthy Eating for Life (available on Amazon worldwide in print or kindle editions).  

Spicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup

I used sunflower oil for sautéing the onions, but coconut oil would be great for this. You can vary the green vegetables according to what’s available – I’m going to try this next time with some of my home-grown kale. You could use any canned beans, but I love the almost nutty flavour of chickpeas. For a non-fast day a swirl of coconut cream on top and some slivers of toasted coconut would be lovely.

Spicy Chickpea and Spinach Soup

Serves 4

  • 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil 60 kcals
  • 1 onion, chopped 44 kcals
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped 4 kcals
  • 2.5 cm root ginger, finely grated 9 kcals
  • 1/2 fresh green chilli, finely chopped 4 kcals
  • 1 litre vegetable stock 24 kcals
  • 2 large carrots, chopped 58 kcals
  • 400g can of chickpeas, drained 339 kcals
  • 150g spinach leaves, washed and shredded 35 kcals

For the garam masala

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds 8 kcals
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds 5 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric 4 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper 3 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder 3 kcals
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 3 kcals

Heat the oil in heavy pan over low-medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli for a few minutes, until the onion starts to become translucent and soft.

Add the garam masala and cook for another couple of minutes, until the spices are fragrant – add a splash of water if necessary to stop them burning.

Add the stock and carrots, bring to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the carrots are tender.

Add the chickpeas and then whizz a little with a stick blender, making sure to leave some nice chunky bits.

Add the spinach and cook for a few more minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Serve in warmed bowls.

Per serving: kcals 150
Carbs 23g Fat 4g Protein 7g