Fish in a tomato sauce with olives (+ a veggie version!)

Since the end of March (following 5 days of what can only be described as obscene gluttony at Disneyland Paris) I have been on a diet. But not a crazy, impossible-to-follow, ‘Lose 25 lbs in 2 Days!’ diet, an actual healthy eating and exercise plan that is working for me. I know! It’s a miracle. I’ve done every diet under the sun in my 24 years on this earth, the worst probably being the ill-fated Dukan diet which I followed last summer, consisting of a week of only eating meat, yogurt and 2 spoonfuls of Oat Bran a day to keep me regular. I lost weight but I was unhappy, grumpy and most importantly, famished! Crazy times.

My new savour is a little app called My Fitness Pal. Basically you download it to your phone (you can also access it on computers and it updates your account simultaneously on both, very clever) and enter your height, weight, how much you’d like to lose etc etc and it gives you a plan with a certain number of calories to eat per day. You log your food every day and also whatever exercise you do. I am constantly amazed by the almost incomprehensible database of food that MFP holds. You can type in almost any brand of almost any food and someone, somewhere will have logged the calories. Kind souls. You can also create recipes by typing in all the ingredients and how many people it serves and MFP will calculate the calories per serving size. What I love about MFP is the incentive it gives you to exercise! If I’ve eaten most of my daily calorie amount but really want a KitKat after dinner, I know I can go for a little walk, log it on the app and I will be rewarded with an ‘extra’ 100 or so calories to enjoy a treat. Saying that, most days I am coming in under my calories due to increased exercise and making better food choices and I often don’t ‘eat back’ my exercise calories. This is a hotly debated subject on the MFP forums and makes for interesting reading. I find I am losing weight without eating my exercise calories so I’ll probably stay doing that.

I’ve lost 11 pounds since the end of March so I’m really pleased and definately going to continue using the app. I’m not saying it’ll work for everyone but I’ve recommended it to quite a few friends and family and they all seem to love it! It really works for me as I have always found keeping a food diary to be really effective and with MFP, instead of jotting it all down every night in a notepad as I did when I was younger I can update my diary wherever I am on my iPhone.

*I realise I sound like I work for MFP and may be getting paid for this post but I legit don’t, just sharin’ the love!

So there will probably be quite a few healthier, low calorie blog posts coming up from food I’ve been experimenting with to stay within my daily limit. I love that nothing is ‘forbidden’ too, I can eat whatever I want as long as it fits or I do extra exercise to make it fit! I love food and I can’t imagine holding back when it comes to restaurant meals or special occasions and that is why MFP is probably working so well for me. Basically that is my way of saying there’ll still be the odd caloric behemoth on here as sometimes only a deep fried Mars bar will do the job!

*never actually had a deep fried Mars bar but that is the first example that popped into my head. Worryingly.

So, one such low calorie meal was dreampt up by me the other week when I fancied something for dinner that incorporated fish, olives, tomato sauce and a cheesy breadcrumb crust. I could not for the life of me find a recipe that ticked all these boxes so I decided to just wing it. The result was delightful! I also made a veggie version for my darling boyfriend which also turned out surprisingly well.

It was a super easy dish and came together in about 15 minutes, perfect for busy weeknights when all you really want to do is get a plate of food on your lap as quickly as possible so you can watch at least 3 episodes of Dexter before bed. Or is that just us?

I started with my meaty and veggie cooking stations. Does anyone else who cooks for a vegetarian do this? I have one meaty dish, one veggie dish, one meaty cooking utensil, one veggie cooking utensil etc etc all the way down to teaspoons for tasting. Can’t be having any cross-contamination! The basis of the veggie dish was the beautifully anemic fake chicken fillets, courtesy of everyones favourite vegetarian food supplier, Quorn. We both actually really enjoy these, once they have some flavour added to them. They don’t look so hot straight out the oven though let me tell you…

The basis for my one was originally going to be cod fillets but I panicked at the price in Sainsburys and instead opted for two of the finest pollock fillets, about £1.80 which I thought was astonishingly reasonable. I pan fried the fillets with lots of salt and pepper and they looked wonderful, if slightly rugged (I was paranoid they’d stick to the pan with my scant amounts of diet-sabotaging olive oil.)

I then heated up a mixture of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, onions, garlic, oregano and sliced black olives until it was simmering nicely. I divided the mixture and ladled half on the Quorn fillets and half on the pollock fillets which were laying pretty in two ceramic dishes.

Finally I covered each version with a mixture of breadcrumbed WeightWatchers bread (only 50 calories a slice!) and finely grated cheddar cheese. I baked each dish for about half an hour until the breadcrumbs were browned and the sauce was hot throughout. I wasn’t too fussed on cooking times as obviously the Quorn and pollock was cooked beforehand so it was mainly a case of heating it all through.

We served the baked dishes with cubed potatoes cooked in a tiny bit of olive oil and lots of salt and pepper and oregano which turned out amazingly. Each dish made two generous servings – 2 Quorn fillets for Ben and 1 quite large pollock fillet for me.

These potatoes. Oh my lord.

The verdict? Delicious! The crunchy, browned breadcrumbs with the salty olives and rich tomato sauce worked together perfectly. It was really filling and I was pleased I’d chosen pollock once I found out they were 81 calories per fillet! That, my friends, is a calorie bargain. According to my calculations, one serving of the meaty (fishy?) version (minus the potatoes) was 280 calories. Add in the potatoes and you have a delicious, filling meal for around 450 calories. Obviously you could do without the cheese which would knock off about 100 calories but then it really would just be fish, tomatoes and olives and I think we all deserve slightly more than that. As long as you only use 30 grams of cheddar (and don’t eat another 30 grams while you’re cooking) the dish will remain low calorie.

We heated up the other halves in the oven the next day and we found them to be even nicer as the flavours had all mingled together in quite a pleasing way. Yum!

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Mediterranean Tofu Scramble

I wanted to make something nice for dinner based around one key ingredient – tofu. We have cooked with tofu a few times but I’m keen to start using it a bit more as I’m getting sick of all the Quorn products; there’s so much that can be done with tofu that it’s a lot more versatile. Plus, it’s delicious! I found a delicious sounding recipe on Post Punk Kitchen (Puttanesca Tofu Scramble) that called for very few ingredients so I decided it would be the perfect easy Thursday night dinner. We already had peppers, tomatos and onions so I just nipped to Sainsburys and grabbed tofu, olives and a bit of an impulse buy of feta cheese.

We’ve never pressed our tofu before cooking with it and I decided this was the night to try! It was really easy to do; we opened and drained the tofu (we used Cauldron Firm) and put it on a dinner plate on top of a few sheets of kitchen towel. We then topped it with another plate and a load of heavy cooking books. When we returned 20 minutes later a good amount of liquid had been squeezed out and the tofu had a firmer, spongier appearance. Marvellous!

Drinks in hand (it had been a long day…) we then started chopping the ingredients.

I chopped one red onion, one red pepper, olives and a handful of plum tomatoes. We then sautéed the onion first with some chopped garlic before adding the chopped tofu. After the tofu had started to brown and crisp up a bit on the edges we added the peppers, tomatoes and seasoning (basil, oregano, salt, pepper.)

Next time we make this I think we’ll chop the tofu again into smaller chunks so that they cook quicker (slackers!)

When the tomatoes and peppers were at a level of softness that satisfied me, we added the sliced olives and finally the feta. I was umming and ahhing about whether to add the feta into the pan or just on top at the end but I’m so glad we added it in! Some of the smaller chunks melted fully, binding all the ingredients into a kind of salty, cheesey blanket, while the bigger pieces remained valiantly whole, delicious when unexpectedly muscling in on the odd forkful.

We served the ‘scramble’ with some sun-dried tomato couscous which really was the perfect accompaniment. This was a really delicious, easy dinner that came together in no time, we’ll definitely be making it again!