We all know how the Hairy Bikers are, don't we? You know, the Geordies who have hair and a liking for pies. Well they went on a diet and lost a shit load of weight and, quelle surprise, they released a book on the back of it all (along with a TV series).
As I'm currently trying to lose a few (quite a few) pounds I thought it might be a good idea to cook from this book this week. It begins with a short section packed with tips but the majority of this book is dedicated to recipes.
I kicked off the week with a purely vegetarian dish; mushroom, feta and tomato baked peppers. It was a pretty simple dish and the stuffing of feta and mushrooms was good and had a slightly creamy texture. With a simple side salad the dish was suitably filling yet only 401 calories per portion.
Roasted cod with Parma ham and peppers was probably my favourite dish this week. It's something that I've never had (cod is expensive to cook at home and I would never order this when eating out), but I enjoyed it. The Parma ham kept the fish moist and the peppers and courgettes completed the dish (and only 224 calories). I did skip the breadcrumbs and Parmesan (I was only using half the listed ingredients as cooking for two rather than four and I was not faffing around to make 5g of breadcrumbs).
The last dish I made was Spanish style chicken bake, except it was Spanish style pork bake as I was faced with the option of buying expensive free range chicken breasts or freedom food British pork medallions and the pork won out on price. It was tasty and I liked the fact that the dish relied on the juices of the tomatoes rather than any fat when roasting the veg, but I think it was a bit heavy on the potato side and I would stick more peppers in next time. Having said that, it was a tasty use of 370 calories.
So what did I think? Well, it's ok. There's nothing ground breaking in there. A lot of it is just simple food, along the lines of what I cooked this week, with the carbs omitted or reduced. For instance there's a chicken and ham pie that is a casserole with a lid of scrunched up filo pastry, a spicy bean and vegetable stew (I think I first made one of these when I was a student!), a risotto with only 150g of rice to go between 4 people and a few 'fakeaway' curries that look quite similar to any other homemade curry just without any rice. I think the most ridiculous recipe is the cajun spiced chicken with potato wedges and chive dip as there are 8-10 wedges to go between four people. Come on guys! The dish is only 284 calories - switch the potato for sweet potato and have more. Even if this recipe was doubled up there would still be less than 600 calories on the plate!
Most disappointing of all is the vegetables and salads section. A chilli salad bowl can hardly be called a salad when it's mince and a bit of lettuce served in a tortilla, good basic mixed salad is... basic and warm griddled vegetables is impossible as nobody I know has a griddle pan large enough to cook 2 red peppers, 3 courgettes and an onion at the same time (and we've all been roasting our med veg for years anyway). Having said that fennel and orange salad with harissa dressing sounds like a goer.
So, although the book aims itself at people who love food and want to lose weight, I'm not so sure. I think it works for families who want easy, familiar meals and need some help with portion control. As for me, I was eager to get stuck into the interesting flavour combinations that Hugh uses in Veg! See, dieting, for me, isn't about cutting back, but changing what I eat... so skipping the rice with a curry isn't going to work, but eating a plate full of fresh vegetables prepared in interesting ways with new flavour combinations is.
Come on then, I know that this is a popular book... what do you all think to it?