Having lost a significant amount of weight - nearly nine stone - and kept it off, I know losing weight is about so much more than what we eat.
Diet books promise the world and they do deliver, but delivery comes at a controlling price - the following of a strict regime, with no room for error.
'Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight' by Dave Myers & Si King promises the opposite - great tasting food, big on flavour, but low on calories, an intriguing combination. The book accompanies a four-part BBC Two series that sees Si & Dave take a good hard look at what they eat, and the affect it is having on their health. They embark on a series of rigorous tests and begin to rethink & rewrite their recipes, and the result is this book which is full of tasty dishes, you would never guess had missing calories.
As I flicked through it several things caught my eye - first off were the coloured pages at the start of each section with Si & Dave's practical weightloss tips, which to the majority of our takeaway nation are radical, and yet they seem so simple.
These gems include -
'An omlette is the perfect quick meal and can be filled with what you have to hand.'
'Don't skip breakfast. If you don't have time to eat before you leave home, take something with you to work.'
'Fresh fruit juice is high in calories so always dilute juice with water.'
'Don't overdo rice. A serving of about 50g (uncooked) per person is plenty if you are watching calories.'
'A mug of soup makes a great snack.'
Next up the recipes - Scanning through the book over breakfast I immediately decided, it would be no fun cooking these recipes simply for trying, they called out to be shared. A quick telephone call later, and I had a small dinner party organised based on recipes from the 'Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight' by Dave Myers & Si King.
I chose to make, Beetroot Salad with Yogurt & Cumin Seeds, Easy Crispy Chicken, and Sparkling Lemonade & Lime Jelly. These are definitely recipes I will return to again and again, because of their depth of flavour, satisfying taste, their popularity with my guests and myself, as well as the ease of preparation.
The flavours in the salad where impressive. The beetroot brought an earthy taste which complimented the sharpness of the Chicory, whilst the nuts added some crunch, the apples a tart sweetness, the onions brought some depth and the chopped mint and parsley a fresh herby zest.
Tossed in a yogurt dressing made with lime juice, zest and toasted cumin seeds, there was a light sweet spiciness to the salad, that was very morish. I think this dressing would work well as a dip for crunchy veggies, or to bring together a potato salad. It worked really well as a dip for the chicken.
I added some baby roast potatoes, and a broadbean dip, with sliced carrots, which weren't in the book, to our meal.
Slicing the carrots into oblong discs made it easier to get more dip onto them, it was also a refreshing change from chopping matchsticks of carrot, which I always feel takes forever, and looks rather boring. Discs also mean less double dipping!
I roasted the baby potatoes in olive oil, cloves of unpeeled garlic and a bunch of rosemary - really the best way to do any type of roast potatoes baby or otherwise. The garlic gives depth and the rosemary freshness to the flavour.
The chicken, was seriously good. I tweaked the recipe slightly, adding more oregano and Parmesan, and using brown flour, and bread. When it comes to bread and flour, brown is always best and brings a light nuttiness to the dish. I also cut my chicken into goujons, because I think they are more fun to eat, and look better heaped onto a large platter. The bikers suggested toasting the bread first before making it into breadcrumbs, an ingenious idea, because it really brought more crispness to the coating. Dipping the chicken into yogurt, rather than egg or milk, meant the meat got a little bit more tender, and also formed a slightly thicker crust.
The Parmesan brings some chewiness to the chicken crust and as a natural MSG heightens all the other flavours.
I love serving food in big platters where everyone can help themselves, there is something about passing food to each other that heightens the eating and sharing experience.
This chicken & the salad where so good, the leftovers formed a picnic which we brought to the beach the next day and devoured after some surfing.
I served the jelly with some frozen yogurt, bringing twist to the traditional jelly & ice cream. The jelly did look spectactular, with some ohs and ahs when I brought it to the table. I think Jelly is always a festive end to any meal simply because it looks so impressive.
That slightly bulbus mould of quivering, fruit laden jelly never fails to impress, and the lightness of its flavour means that it can be enjoyed after a rich meal.
I think next time I make it I would use elderflower or one of the Evergreen cordials, as opposed to lime & lemon, and I would chop the mint very finely.
The book is colourful, with nice food photography, it is accessible, and the takeaway knowledge can easily be applied to other recipes.
I made a few of the other recipes. The Minted Pea & Feta Omelette, stands out as having a fantastic flavour. I loved how the Biker's suggested getting more taste into the peas, by mixing them with the feta cheese, before sprinkling them over the omelette. I added some Piri Piri spices to my omellette because I love chilli and garlic, and find them to be natural friends with peas, eggs, and feta.
The Chew Cranberry and Apricot bites, are a type of flapjack or breakfast energy bar, sans the butter, and fats, that normally bind them together. Not having the butter meant they were slightly more gummy, than crisp. The marriage of oats, puffed rice, cranberries, and apricots, is one I would like to try in other recipes. If you felt like it you could add some toasted seeds and little pieces of chocolate to the recipe, but then that won't be quite so diet friendly.
Lose weight on a diet and then go back to eating the way you used to and all that weight you worked so hard to lose will, quickly comes back. Lose weight the Hairy Dieters way, is much more likely to be a suggest, because this is a book that encourages you to think about what you are cooking and how. To consider, what you are eating, and think about whether there is a better way to cook that particulary dish, such as the Masala Chicken, which has its skin taken off, or cutting the rind off bacon, or packing a plate with salad, rather than starch or eating crumpets without butter, or making lasagne with leeks instead of pasta.
The dishes do not compromise on taste, but they do compromise on calories! I am now looking for ways to do what the Biker's have done to some of my other recipes. The world does not need another diet book, but it does need books like 'Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight' by Dave Myers & Si King that re-educate, show you can be healthy and eat a great range of food, all packed with flavour. This book is full of food you would actually want to eat, as opposed to the oppressive requirements some diet books make. I am looking forward to book two.
Have you lost weight - what did you cook?
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