Spanish chicken stew

Hello hello! Gosh, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to abandon you! My other site Railway Weddings has been monopolising my time a bit, plus we’ve just been away to the fairytale island of Aero in Denmark for a wedding where the food and wine never stopped flowing. Now however, I’m back in rainy, cold Edinburgh and in need of some warming – but non-fattening – comfort food.

spanish chicken stew 3

I picked up a lovely chorizo in Waitrose on special offer so I was trying to think of something to make the most of that – and lo, the Spanish chicken stew was born! Hope you enjoy it.

5:2 recipe: Spanish chicken stew – 400 calories

Ingredients – serves 4

  • 400g M&S skinless and boneless chicken thighs: 540 calories
  • 150g red pepper, chopped: 39 calories
  • 130g Unearthed Chorizo Spicy Sarta Ring, sliced: 660 calories
  • 50g red lentils (dry): 159 calories
  • 6 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped: 133 calories
  • 1/2 large Spanish onion, sliced: 30 calories
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika: 20 calories
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornflour: 17 calories

spanish chicken stew


  • Fry the chorizo in an oven-proof pan until it goes crispy and starts to release its lovely paprika-flavoured oil. Remove with a slotted spoon leaving the oil in the pan.
  • Add the chicken thighs and brown on all sides, then remove from the pan and put to one side with the chorizo.
  • Add the onions and smoked paprika to the pan and cook slowly until softened, then throw in the chicken and chorizo, along with the pepper, lentils, tomatoes and a good slug of water. Stir well then cook in a medium oven for around half an hour.
  • Once the time’s up, take the stew out of the oven and have a look – if the sauce is still very liquid, drain it over a saucepan, add some cornflour and cook until thickened before adding back to the stew pan.

This is perfect served on its own but if you do have spare calories, a hunk of fresh bread or small portion of rice would go nicely too.

Braised lentils with red wine

Brrrrrr. Well I don’t know about where you are, but autumn has well and truly arrived in Edinburgh. The temperature has dropped, the mist is rolling in, the rain is lashing down and the jumpers are back on! So, it’s out with the salads and in with warming, comforting dishes.

Puy lentils are a big favourite of mine. Not only are they incredibly healthy (and very pretty!) but they make for a really robust meal, and can be combined with so many other things. This is my basic recipe for braised lentils, which goes perfectly served with sausages – particularly Toulouse or Tuscan ones if you can get them.

This recipe is very easy to adapt too – try slicing up a chunk of chorizo and frying it with the onions and carrot, then the lentils will soak up all of that deliciously smoky and spicy paprika oil to make a simple and tasty rustic stew. Serve that with a hunk of bread to mop up the juices – gorgeous!

Braised lentils with red wine – 245 calories (413 with 3 Good Little Sausages)

Puy lentils and sausages

Ingredients – serves 2

  • 100g Puy lentils (dry): 345 calories
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped: 25 calories
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped: 23 calories
  • 1 cube Dorot garlic: 5 calories
  • 75ml red wine: 51 calories
  • 1 Kallo vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 500ml water
  • 2 bay leaves: 2 calories
  • 4 sprays Frylight: 4 calories


  • Fry the onions and carrot for five minutes then add the garlic. Cook for another five minutes until vegetables are soft.
  • Add the dry lentils and stir until they’re fully mixed in, then add the red wine.
  • Let that simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the stock and the bay leaves.
  • Leave to simmer for 30-35 minutes, until lentils are soft. Remove bay leaves before serving.

PS If you’re having this on a feast day, I can recommend serving this with a big dollop of mash. If you’re fasting though, that would break the 500-calorie barrier so best just stick to the sausages!

PPS Once again, my photography skills let me down so this is someone else’s picture of Puy lentils and sausages. I can assure you that mine looked just like this though – and yours will too!

Middle Eastern Moussagna

Yes, you read that right – moussagna! I wanted to use up the few leftovers we had for dinner tonight – all part of my new economical, resourceful make-do-and-mend, 50s housewife drive – so I ended up creating some weird moussaka, risotto and lasagna hybrid, flavoured with harissa. Yup, sounds pretty strange doesn’t it? But you know what? It was actually delicious. Even Mr Fast Days, who was looking frankly quite scared when I put it on the table, said it was good and cleaned his plate right up! So, should you ever want to repeat my food experiment, here’s how I did it:

Middle Eastern Moussagna – 342 calories


Ingredients – serves 2

  • 2 portions stuffed pepper filling: 394 calories
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • 1 aubergine, sliced very thinly lengthwise: 110 calories
  • 1 courgette, sliced very thinly lengthwise: 18 calories
  • 50g Cathedral City Lighter Mature Cheddar, grated: 156 calories


  • Lay the aubergine and courgette slices on a baking tray, brush with the harissa paste, and cook in a hot oven for around 10 minutes until softened, turning once.
  • While that’s cooking, heat the leftover rice mixture in the microwave until it’s PIPING hot!
  • When everything’s ready, it’s time to start layering. Spoon a third of the rice into a baking dish. Top with a layer of aubergine, then more rice, then the courgette, the rest of the rice, and the last of the aubergine slices.
  • Sprinkle the cheese on top of that and bung it back in the oven for around 15 minutes. When it’s golden brown and bubbling, you can dig in. Enjoy!

PS Apologies for the terrible picture. The dish was so steamy the camera wouldn’t focus properly!

PPS I’ve given the site a bit of a spruce up – let me know what you think of its new look!




Skinny lamb and spinach kofta

These spicy kofta are really easy to make and, at only 36 calories each, fit in perfectly to a 5:2 menu. We had them with a big helping of salad with feta and olives, a dollop of reduced fat hummous and some home-made tomato toast (just toasted sourdough bread, piled high with finely chopped tomatoes and spring onions and left just long enough for the juice to soak into the bread – yum!). All that came to just over 400 calories, so you could easily have it as a fast day meal.

I got 9 kofta out of this mix, but you might get more (or less). To make it easier for you, the calories count of the whole mixture is 324 – just divide that by however many kofta you make.

5:2 recipe: skinny lamb and spinach kofta – 36 calories each

Skinny spinach and lamb kofta

Ingredients – makes 9 (or more/less!)

  • 150g lean lamb mince: 249 calories
  • 40g frozen chopped spinach, defrosted: 10 calories
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped: 23 calories
  • 2tsp harissa paste: 12 calories
  • 1 cube Dorot ginger: 5 calories
  • 5g frozen chopped garlic: 6 calories
  • 1tsp ground cumin: 8 calories
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander: 5 calories
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon: 3 calories
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes: 3 calories


  • Put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and squish it all together with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  • Form into meatball or kofta shapes, place on a pre-heated baking tray and cook for around 25 minutes.
  • Halfway through cooking time, check the kofta – if there’s a lot of juice/fat in the tray, tip it away and dry off the tray.

Diet update

Just a quick post to fill you in on what I’ve been doing lately.

As most of you know by now, I’ve given up on the Fast Diet for now. I gave it a good go for seven months, but it just wasn’t working for me. I wasn’t losing weight and fasting eventually began to feel like punishment. I couldn’t see the point of carrying on – after all, isn’t it the definition of stupidity to keep doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results? I’m sure it was Einstein or someone equally clever who said that.

So, I had a couple of weeks where I just ate what I wanted, including 4 days in London which included 2 days at the magnificent St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, during which we were plied with free gourmet food and drink practically 24 hours a day. Needless to say I put on a fair few pounds over those two weeks and last Monday, decided that something had to be done.

I didn’t want to go back to fasting again, so instead I went back to old faithful My Fitness Pal, asked it to calculate how many calories I needed if I wanted to lose 1.5lbs a week. The answer was a scarily low 1290, but I’ve managed to stick to that so far (and still have a glass or two of wine in the evenings!) so I’m pretty pleased with myself. I also resolved to go for at least one long walk a day, and convince my other half to come too. We’ve both been good about that too, walking on average just over 10,000 steps a day – around 5 miles.

The result of all this hard work? I’ve lost a pound a day. Yep, you heard right – ONE POUND A DAY! That’s way more than I ever lost doing the Fast Diet.

I don’t really know what this means. I’m loathe to say I’ve found the solution for me because bodies are funny things, and weight can fluctuate for no apparent reason sometimes. But I will be very, very happy if I can keep losing weight on this (surprisingly manageable) regime.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!


5:2 recipe: Fig, gorgonzola and walnut salad

It was such a gorgeous sunny day yesterday, I really fancied something summery to eat. When I spotted fresh figs in Tesco for £1 a packet, my mind was instantly taken back to a wonderful salad I had in Lisbon last year – a huge bowl of rocket mixed with about 20 fresh figs and a good sprinkling of walnuts, finished with a honey and olive oil dressing. My version uses butterhead lettuce for its milder flavour and gorgonzola, for an extra creamy, cheesy hit. Delicious – especially with a glass (or two) of fine Portuguese rosé!

5:2 recipe: fig, gorgonzola and walnut salad – 240 calories

Fig, gorgonzola and walnut salad - 240 calories

Ingredients – serves 1

  • 1 medium fig, sliced: 37 calories
  • 1/2 pack Tesco butterhead salad: 13 calories
  • 10g walnut pieces: 70 calories
  • 20g gorgonzola: 62 calories
  • 10g M&S balsamic dressing: 58 calories


  • Fill a plate with the lettuce, lay the sliced figs here and there, scatter the walnut pieces over the top and pour over the dressing.
  • Break/chop the gorgonzola into small pieces and spread them around the salad.
  • Eat and enjoy!

PS If you have extra calories to play with, a slice or two of pancetta crisped up then crumbled over the salad would finish it off nicely.






Jerk chicken with ginger beer – the evidence!

So, a couple of weeks ago, I posted a new recipe – jerk chicken with ginger beer. Trouble was, it was so delicious that Jools and I polished it off before the camera got a look in! At the time, I promised you a picture next time I made it, so here it is, in all its glory.

jerk chicken

This one’s a wee bit of a variation on the original recipe – I used diced breast rather than thighs, just because it was what I happened to have in the freezer, but I would definitely use thighs again next time. The breast is just a bit too dry in this.

Also, last time I made proper rice and peas, with coconut milk, kidney beans and Scotch bonnet chillis. This time, I just did brown basmati with sweetcorn mixed in, as I’m trying to use up what’s in the cupboards rather than buying new stuff all the time. It was OK, but rice and peas is definitely better.

Anyway, it was still pretty damn delicious so I hope you give it a go yourselves. 🙂

NEW: perfect fast diet snack food

I may not be following the fast diet anymore – for now at least – but I did promise you that I would keep posting recipes and keeping my eye out for fast-day friendly food.

Well, I think I’ve just found the perfect on-the-go snack for you!

Leafing through my free weekly Waitrose paper just now, I see that they’ve introduced the ‘Snack Egg’, a ready shelled hard boiled egg.


They come in single packs, with a special ‘absorbency patch’  to stop that horrid sulphurous smell that eggs sometimes produce.

At 70p (52p until 28 August), it’s not a particularly economical snack. After all, you can buy half a dozen raw eggs for not much more than that, but if you’re out and about and need a quick, low-cal protein boost, you can’t do much better.

They don’t have them in my local Waitrose yet, and I can’t see them on the website either, but keep your eyes open – they should be in all stores soon.

What do you think – good idea or a waste of money?


5:2 recipe: Harissa stuffed peppers

Hello – I’m back! Jools and I have been away in London for a long weekend to celebrate his birthday. And lucky us – we got to stay in the incredibly swanky St Pancras Renaissance hotel because I won a competition! You can read a full review of our amazing stay here. It was the most wonderful two days ever – but unfortunately not good for the waistline. We were given access to a private club where you could help yourself to breakfast, afternoon tea, pre-dinner canapes, and wine and spirits – FOR FREE!!!!

Free afternoon tea (with wine!) at the St Pancras Renaissance
Free afternoon tea (with wine!) at the St Pancras Renaissance

Needless to say, we took full advantage of this and ate our own body weight in delicious freebies for two whole days. Then of course, there were a good few social occasions – meeting friends for drinks, lunch and dinner. Add that all up, and I’m guessing I piled on a few pounds. But it is just a guess, because I haven’t weighed myself and don’t intend to either. I’m just going back to sensible eating and not worry about it.

And talking of sensible eating, here’s a new fast diet recipe for you – enjoy!

Harissa stuffed peppers – 306 calories

peppers 2

Ingredients – serves 3

  • 4 peppers (red, yellow or green): 184 calories
  • 1/2 small onion: 15 calories
  • 50g lean pork mince: 77 calories
  • 50g extra lean beef mince: 62 calories
  • 5 medium mushrooms: 20 calories
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree: 5 calories
  • 3 tsp harissa paste: 18 calories
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan, grated: 43 calories
  • 8 sprays Fry Light: 8 calories
  • 1 bag Boil In the Bag basmati rice: 482 calories
  • 1 cube Dorot garlic: 5 calories


  • Spray a large pan with oil and brown the mince until nicely coloured.
  • Finely chop the onion, mushroom and one of the peppers and add to the mince along with the garlic.
  • Cook over a medium heat for around 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
  • Halve the other peppers and take out the seeds and membrane. Cook them in simmering water for around 10 minutes then place in an oven dish.
  • Meanwhile, cook the rice and, when ready, stir into the mince mixture.
  • Add the harissa, tomato puree and a glug of water if it’s looking dry.
  • Spoon the mince into the hollows of the peppers and sprinkle with the Parmesan.
  • Cook in a hot oven for around 15 minutes then serve straight away.

Tomorrow I’m making the jerk chicken with ginger beer, and I promise I’ll remember to take a photo this time! Hope you’re all getting on well with your fasting. 🙂

The fast diet – the results

Hello! Regular readers will have noticed that I haven’t posted a fast day menu for well over two weeks, although I have still been adding the odd 5:2 recipe. The reason for this absence is simple: I got utterly fed up with fasting.

For seven months, 2 days a week, I faithfully followed the rules of the fasting diet (with the odd slip-up) but got nothing in return. I didn’t have more energy, I didn’t feel healthier and I certainly didn’t lose any weight. In an effort to change this, I tried counting and restricting calories on feast days but that didn’t work either. Fast days began to feel like a punishment so two weeks ago I made the decision to have a break.

In those two weeks I’ve lost more weight than I did in two months of fasting.

Amazing eh? And inexplicable. But I’m not going to analyse it too deeply. I’m just going to carry on eating as I have over the last two weeks and see what happens. If my weight starts creeping up, maybe I’ll give the fast diet another try. In the meantime, I will keep creating and posting fast day recipes so do please keep reading!

There is also another reason why this blog has been a bit quiet lately. My lovely fiancé and I have been working on a new website. Railway Stays is all about luxury rail travel, historic railway hotels and vintage, retro train-themed weddings – think Agatha Christie, Art Deco, Brief Encounter and the sheer old-fashioned romance of the railways (he proposed to me on the Orient Express to Paris!).

I said YES!
I said YES!

I’d love it if you popped over to our new site and had a look – leave us a comment over there and let us know what you think!

But do keep checking back here too – I’ll be posting new recipes soon along with any good 5:2 ready meals and products I find. Happy f(e)asting to you all 🙂