Welcome to a bumper helping of recipes from my new book Save Money Good Diet, which is all about eating healthily for less.
For a big part of my life I worked in top hotels and restaurants living the cooking dream, and achieving a coveted Michelin star. Later I opened a brasserie serving relaxed, easy food for which you didn’t need to dress up. It was fun, lively and very busy. Many of our regular customers preferred to eat there rather than at the more formal restaurant, and eventually I decided I wouldn’t concern myself with Mr Michelin and would instead crack on with simple, tasty food. I have never looked back.
I have cooked on the telly for the best part of 25 years. I have never had a problem cooking with low-cost prepared ingredients – name me a chef who doesn’t use frozen peas or tomato ketchup! At first the food purists (and certain well-known chefs) accused me of ‘selling out’. Even now I get the odd kicking on social media. But it didn’t deter me. Although I never compromise on flavour, I will always look for ways to save money and make cooking easier.
For the book I have tried to cook everyday meals more healthily and with less money. I have cut down the calories, salt, fat, oil and sugar. I have also sought to reduce the amount of meat or fish protein, not only because we don’t need as much as we think, but also because it’s cheaper to use tasty alternatives.
Save Money Good Diet isn’t a diet book: it lets you cook and enjoy food with a nod to being healthier and more prudent. As my wife once said to me about the Michelin-star experience, ‘I don’t want to worship the Great Food God.’ Hear, hear to that! Oh, and by the way, the year I got my Michelin star, I cooked the head inspector a frozen, defrosted chicken and a sponge pudding with custard (made from powder) for dinner. I rest my case!
Phil Vickery’s Save Money Good Diet recipes
A great breakfast or brunch dish, this feta, mint and courgette frittata can be made the day before and gently reheated in a moderate oven or microwave. I tend to add watercress, but rocket and spinach also all work well. For a really healthy option you could add all three. I use a small amount of feta to give it a delicious kick.
Having just returned from Mexico, I had to have a recipe for refried beans in here somewhere. I just love the texture and flavour they add to a dish. You can make your own, but that can take quite a long time with soaking and cooking, so I normally buy canned.
A true classic, but with reduced calories and salt, plus a smaller portion size. Removing half the meat protein and adding cooked lentils is a great trick and really works well. A good tip here is to use a smaller but deeper baking dish, so you will end up with a deeper end result. This lasagne can be made in advance and frozen, then defrosted and cooked at a later time. If you take that route, make the meat sauce slightly wetter to allow for absorption by the raw pasta sheets.
Leg or brown meat on turkey makes better burgers because the meat is juicier. Breast meat is fine, and is extremely good for you, but needs more attention and can cook dry. I have a couple of great tricks to avoid this: add a little mayonnaise to keep the burger beautifully juicy and tasty; and dust with a little cornflour to trap the juice in the burger. Serve these juicy turkey burgers with a salad side of rocket, cucumber, pepper and tomato.
The recipe title may sound like an oxymoron, but you know what I mean. This is quite a nice alternative to a meat version, and it’s always good to bring some changes to the potato topping. I add yeast extract instead of Worcestershire sauce; you could also add a little brown miso paste to help develop the flavour profile if you like, though take care as it can be quite salty.
In this recipe, instead of using all rice, I replace with cauliflower ‘rice’ – cauli ground in a processor to resemble grains. It works really well. Be sure to cook the cauliflower as in the method, to drive off some of the moisture. Plus, despite halving the egg yolks in the omelette, you won’t notice the difference.
A little sauce goes a long way here, so I’ve halved the meat content but added more vegetables to compensate for the bulk loss. The sauce will coat the spaghetti perfectly, saving you money and calories. You can add a little finely grated parmesan cheese, if you like, at the end. I use a microplane grater, which makes 20 grams look and go a long way!
I love simplicity and this dish is a perfect example of how simple cooking can be a real winner. You have not only your five vegetables for the day but also a small amount of protein, bulked out by the veg. Personally, I leave the skin on the chicken, but you can remove if you want to reduce more calories, or just want a lower-fat dish.
I love chow mein, especially the Singapore version with curry spices and chilli. Here I’ve tried to add as many textures and flavours as possible, while cutting down on the overall protein, salt and fat content. You can pack it out further with more vegetables if you prefer and omit any meat protein altogether. I cook this in two batches then mix them both together; it also freezes well.
I got quite a bit of flak when I did this recipe on the telly, but I’m not really sure why. I was told it wasn’t real cooking and that it was ‘not cheffy enough’, but I absolutely disagree. It just goes to prove that simple, everyday ingredients can work extremely well if put together carefully.
I cooked this specially for Mr Redknapp when he appeared on This Morning having won I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! That was the food he missed the most while in the jungle. If you have any leftover roll, wrap it in clingfilm and chill in the fridge. When needed, slice while cold then warm gently in a microwave on medium power.
A nice easy chocolate recipe here: I use 70 per cent cocoa chocolate but 90 per cent can be used if you want a darker, richer taste. I have reduced the sugar content to only 100 grams in total. I add a little extra melted chocolate to pour over and a light dusting of icing sugar, which are all optional. A small spoonful of reduced-fat crème fraîche can also be served alongside.
When I was little, we pretty much lived on canned fruit such as pears, peaches and fruit cocktail with evaporated milk. At school, we had a cherry pie made using canned cherries that was one of the few puddings I liked. I do rather like good-quality canned cherries; in a pie they work well.
The addition of bananas gives these flapjacks a lovely soft texture and delicious flavour. Using the natural sweetness of the fruit means that you can use less sugar. The banana also helps to make the resulting flapjack nice and moist, meaning you can use less butter.
Common sense costs
Included in the book are healthier – and cheaper – versions of the nation’s top ten dishes: for example the Lasagne and Spaghetti Bolognese. The cost of these dishes and all the others quoted are ballpark sums based on Tesco prices at the time of the book going to press, rounded up or down. The cost is for the entire dish, not individual portions. Today’s selections range from around £1.25 to around the £5 mark. Suppliers, ingredients and brands vary widely so these are guideline estimates only and cannot be guaranteed.
BUY THE BOOK WITH 20 PER CENT OFF
Save Money Good Diet by Phil Vickery will be published by Kyle Books on 30 May, price £14.99. As well as brilliant recipes, there’s useful advice on eating healthily on a budget from nutrition therapist Ian Marber and every dish comes with a full nutrition breakdown. To order a copy for £11.99 until 2 June, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.