Whether it’s a rich, spicy curry or a creamy, indulgent pudding – most of us find it hard to resist comfort food.
Not surprisingly, it tends to be high in fat, sugar and starchy carbs.
So I’ve given it a healthy makeover, cutting the calories while keeping all the flavour. On Saturday, I shared some of my classic comfort food recipes.
Now, all this week, I’ll be bringing you more scrumptious dishes –from hearty casseroles to divine desserts – you can enjoy without piling on the pounds.
Best ever beef goulash is only 352 calories per serving
● 1.2kg (2lb 4oz) braising steak (ideally chuck steak)
● 1 tbsp sunflower oil
● 2 medium onions, each cut into 12 wedges
● 2 tsp hot, smoked paprika
● 1 tbsp paprika
● 1 beef stock cube
● 2 tbsp tomato purée
● 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
● 1 large red and 1 large yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into roughly 2.5cm (1in) chunks
● Flaked sea salt
● Ground black pepper
● Roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish (optional)
This is the perfect dish to make ahead and freeze.
Frozen in zip-seal bags, it should be reheated thoroughly after defrosting and can be ready to serve in less than 20 minutes.
Add extra vegetables or a small portion of rice and a spoonful of soured cream.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/Fan 150°C/Gas 3. Trim any hard fat from the beef and cut the meat into roughly 3cm chunks. Season well with salt and black pepper.
Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole. Add the steak and fry over a high heat until lightly coloured, turning every now and then. Tip the onions into the pan and cook with the beef for a few seconds.
Sprinkle both paprikas over the meat and crumble the beef stock cube on top. Add the tomatoes and tomato purée. Season with salt and pepper, stir well and bring to a simmer.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 hour. Carefully remove the casserole from the oven. Stir in the peppers, replace the lid and cook for a further hour or until the beef is tender. Garnish with the parsley before serving, if you choose.
You can freeze the cooled goulash in labelled zip-seal bags or freezer-proof containers for up to three months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat thoroughly in a large, wide-based saucepan, stirring gently until piping hot.
Alternatively, reheat from frozen with an extra 200ml water over a low heat until thoroughly thawed. Bring to a simmer, stirring gently until piping hot.
The perfect prawn korma: 225 calories per serving
A brilliant way of making a really creamy but low-calorie curry.
This dish is lovely served with warm naan bread fingers (see tip) or small portions of rice.
If you don’t want to use prawns, add chunks of white fish or cooked chicken pieces instead.
● 2 medium onions, quartered
● 3 tbsp mild curry paste
● 200ml (1/3 pt) cold water, plus 3 tbsp
● 100ml (3½floz) fat-free natural yogurt
● 2 tbsp mango chutney
● 400g (14oz) cooked and peeled prawns, thawed if frozen
● 2 tbsp double cream
● Roughly chopped fresh coriander, to garnish
● Flaked sea salt
● Ground black pepper
Put the onions and curry paste in a food processor and blitz until as smooth as possible.
You may need to remove the lid and push the mixture down a couple of times until the right consistency is reached.
Tip the spiced, puréed onions into a large, deep non-stick frying pan or wok and cook over a medium heat for five minutes, stirring regularly until they begin to soften.
TIP: ADD SOME NAAN BREAD
Ready-made naan bread makes a quick and easy accompaniment. Simply heat as instructed on the packet for about five minutes and cut into fingers.
Half a naan bread will add around 185 calories to your meal
Add the 3 tablespoons of cold water and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the onions are well softened, stirring.
Pour over the remaining 200ml (7 fl oz) water and add the yogurt and mango chutney. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce is thick, stirring regularly.
Add the prawns and double cream and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the prawns are heated through, stirring. Garnish with fresh coriander if you like.
Fab fruity crumble with custard: 220 calories per serving
Serve with spoonfuls of fat-free natural yogurt, lower-fat custard (see below) or a drizzle of honey
A bread-based topping rather than the more traditional high-fat version still makes for a delicious crumble.
It has plenty of crunch but far fewer calories and makes a good breakfast as well as a pudding.
Serve with spoonfuls of fat-free natural yogurt, lower-fat custard (see below) or a drizzle of honey.
● 450g (1lb) Bramley cooking apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
● 4 plums (300g/10½oz), stoned and quartered
● 6 Conference pears, peeled, quartered, cored and thickly sliced
● 10g (¼oz) cornflour
● 25g (1oz) Demerara sugar
● 1 tsp grated lemon zest (around ½ lemon)
● ½tsp ground cinnamon
● 100ml (3½ fl oz) unsweetened apple juice
FOR THE CRUMBLE
● 1 egg white
● 100g (3½oz) porridge oats (not jumbo)
● 50g (1¾oz) white bread with crust removed, torn into small pieces
● 25g (1oz) Demerara sugar
LOWER FAT VANILLA CUSTARD
Pour 350ml (12floz) semi-skimmed milk into a medium non-stick saucepan.
Split a vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape the seeds into the pan (or add 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste).
Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
Put four large egg yolks, 25g (1oz) caster sugar and 1 tablespoon cornflour in a bowl and beat with a metal whisk until mixed.
Pour the warm milk over the egg mixture, whisking until smooth.
Return to the pan and cook over a low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly until the custard is thickened. Do not allow to overheat.
Serves 6. Calories per serving: 89
Preheat the oven to 200c/Fan 180c/Gas 6. To make the filling, place the fruit, cornflour, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon in a bowl and toss together.
Tip the mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish and set aside.
To make the crumble, whisk the egg white with a metal whisk until frothy and add the oats and bread. Stir gently to coat in the egg white.
Pour the juice over the fruit before scattering the crumble on the top.
Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over and bake for 50-60 mins or until the top is golden and fruit soft.
You can freeze the assembled pudding in a freezerproof baking dish double wrapped in foil, for up to three months.
To serve, bake from frozen, adding an extra 20 minutes to the cooking time or until the fruit is soft and the top golden.
Cover with foil if necessary.