When you’re scraping frost from the car windscreen and watching gritters out on the roads, the idea of a salad isn’t going to set the heart racing, even on a fast day. While our mantra of ‘mostly plants and proteins’ means that salads are one of the pillars of eating on the Fast Diet, these chilly days demand something more warming. Here’s a week of menus, two breakfasts and two suppers, which should do the trick. Again, the calorie content is approximate based on experience rather than measurement – so weigh your ingredients to hit the magic numbers.
Breakfast: Kippers, followed by half a grapefruit
There is great power in a humble kipper – full of good fats and packed with protein. Little wonder they are an increasingly popular breakfast staple: last year, sales were up by 80 per cent at Sainsbury’s, while Tesco sold 150,000 in the first three months of last year. There’s about 125 calories in a kipper fillet, so it makes an ideal, satiating fast-day breakfast. Michael is a big fan.
To cook with no smell, place in a dish, add a slice of lemon, cover with Cling Film and microwave for two and a half minutes. You could serve with wilted spinach and a poached egg if this is your ‘main’ fast day meal. Or have half a pink grapefruit as a sweetener afterwards (around 50 calories).
Supper: Beetroot and Bramley Soup
The idea for this brilliantly warming soup came from my friend Alex Renton who made it for me one chilly autumn lunch-time at his home in Edinburgh. I loved it so much that I made it for the brilliant cook Allegra McEvedy, who asked to use it in her Guardian column. Here’s her version in its entirety. This makes plenty – probably about six fast-day servings. Maybe miss out the butter, or swap for a low-fat alternative such as Flora Cooking Spray (not the same flavour, sorry, but we are skimming calories here). Similarly, make your stock from a veggie bouillon cube, and have low-fat rather than full-fat Greek yoghurt. The star anise is vital!
‘Takes 30 mins once beets are roasted (which takes around an hour and a quarter). Leftovers last for 3-4 days in the fridge.
550g/5 medium raw beetroots – whoppers take a lot longer to cook
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 bramleys, peeled and quartered
1 litre stock, light chicken or veg
2 star anise
1 tsp caraway or cumin seeds
Few splodges Greek yogurt
Salt & pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C /400F/ gas mark 6.
- Put the beetroot on baking tray with 1cm-deep water. Cook for 1-1½hrs until a knife meets with little resistance, then take them out and run under cold water for a couple of minutes until cool enough to peel.
- Put a wide, thick-bottomed pan on the heat and melt the butter in it, along with the spice seeds.
- Over a medium heat, sweat the onions – taking care not to let them colour – with the spices, keeping a lid on.
- Slice the core out of the apple quarters and chuck them in with the onions.
- Cut the peeled beets into roughly inch-sized pieces (it’s going to get blitzed) and toss into the pot.
- Pour on the stock, whack the heat up, drop the star anise in and put the lid back on. Season.
- Once boiled, turn down heat and simmer for 15 mins. Pick out the star anise and chuck away, then blitz the soup with a blender until pureed. Serve with chopped chives and Greek yoghurt and a spoon.’
Breakfast: Chive Scrambled Eggs with a hint of Nutmeg
An easy one, this. Everyone knows how to scramble an egg, and how they like it done. The idea here is simply to lend extra flavours and dimensions to a classic – on other days, you might want to add a scant grating of parmesan (a little goes a long way), some shards of smoked salmon, a handful of fresh coriander. I like a little tomato and chili relish on the side… Forego the toast. You can have that tomorrow.
Supper: O’Kelly Fish
I first wrote about this quick recipe in my book 101 Things to Do Before you Diet – and it remains a firm fast-day favourite in our house. I think it owes something to Jamie Oliver (all in one pan, super easy, super tasty), but over the years it has altered with each outing. Here’s my most recent take.
I’ve always called O’Kelly Fish, by the way, because I first had it in the kitchen of our friends the O’Kellys, who live in the South Downs surrounded by children and chickens. The dish is wholesome and hearty, great for gangs of people, but with no carbs. This should make enough for a family of four.
- Blanch a packet of green beans and a pack of thin asparagus for a minute of so in boiling water. Broccoli works too. Drain and place in an oven-proof pan.
- Lay four or five vines of cherry tomatoes on top, add a little olive oil, salt, fresh-ground pepper and plenty of lemon juice. Plenty. Maybe two lemons. Chuck in the husks. If your calorie count allows, throw in some black olives.
- Place a fillet of seasoned salmon per person on top of the veggies. Add any herbs you fancy – coriander is nice; chili flakes are a good idea.
- Oven roast at 200 degrees for 20 minutes or until fish is just cooked.
The tomatoes and lemon will have made a wonderful juice, to spoon over the fish once served.