As the clocks go back this Sunday, it is easy to start thinking about the cold winter days and feel down! The cold and dark makes us more likely to indulge in unhealthy, high-calorie meals, so-called ‘comfort food’. It’s a familiar situation to all of us; lying in our pyjamas under a warm blanket watching Netflix, a piping hot plate of shepherd’s pie on our lap.
As you all know, I love food and sometimes food should be warm and comforting! By checking your calorie bank account you can indulge in some slightly higher calorie meals which are still balanced and healthy. Eating the right comfort food can also fill you up for longer, making you less likely to snack.
Here are the recipes of three of my favourite comfort food dishes to will fill you up this Autumn/Winter.
1. Spicy Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup
A vegetarian soup perfect for warming you up this Halloween.
CALS: 190 per serving
- ½ butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- ½ small pumpkin, peeled and cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 25 litres vegetable stock
- 150ml low-fat crème fraîche
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- Fresh thyme leaves, to serve
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°c/Gas 6. Put the butternut squash and pumpkin in a roasting tin, drizzle over 1 tbsp of the oil and season. Roast for 25-30 minutes until golden brown, turning occasionally.
- Put the onion in a large pan over a medium heat with the remaining oil and add the carrots, celery and garlic with the curry powder. Cook for 4-5 minutes until softened.
- Add the roasted butternut squash and pumpkin to the pan, then pour over the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
- Purée the soup in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the soup to a clean pan and stir in the crème fraîche. Serve in warm bowls and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and some thyme leaves.
Jane Tip: it’s really annoying to have half a butternut squash and half a pumpkin left over, so it’s a good idea to double up here and make the twice the amount. It freezes really well and you can save it for a rainy day.
2. Beef Massaman
This is one of the first dishes on the Jane Plan menu and is a favourite with Jane Plan clients. It’s the perfect curry to warm you up.
CALS: 423 per serving without rice
693 per serving with rice
- 400ml can low-fat coconut milk
- 4 tbsp massaman curry paste
- 600g beef stewing steak, cut into large chunks
- 450g potatoes, cut into 2.5cm chunks
- 1 onion, cut into thin wedges
- 4 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tbsp palm sugar or soft light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 300g basmati rice
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced, to serve
- 1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180˚c/Gas 4. Heat 2 tbsp of the coconut milk in a large flameproof casserole with a lid over a medium heat.
- Add the curry paste and fry for 1 minute, then stir in the beef and fry until well coated and sealed. Stir in the remaining coconut milk with half a can of water, the potatoes, onion, lime leaves, cinnamon, tamarind, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours or until the beef is tender.
- 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time, cook the rice in a pan of boiling water, according to the pack instructions.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and squeeze the lime juice into the curry, then gently stir. Scatter the sliced chilli on top and serve with the rice and lime wedges.
Jane Tip: if you leave out the rice you can save 180 calories per person.
3. CLASSIC CHILLI CON CARNE
Simply one of my favourite comfort dishes.
CALS: 631 per serving
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 heaped tsp hot chilli powder, or to taste
- 500g lean minced beef
- 300ml beef stock (use a cube)
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- ½ tsp dried marjoram
- 1 tsp sugar
- 400g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 300g basmati rise (see below for a lower-calorie alternative)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes until hot. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper and chilli powder. Stir well then cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the minced beef. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, break up the mince as it fries and browns – make sure you keep the heat hot enough for the meat to brown rather than stew.
- Pour the stock into the pan and add the tomatoes and tomato purée, marjoram and sugar. Season and stir the sauce well. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low until it is gently simmering. Cook for 20 minutes. Check the pan occasionally to make sure that the sauce doesn’t catch on the bottom or isn’t drying out. Add 1-2 tbsp water, if needed.
- Add the kidney beans and simmer for 10 minutes, adding a little more water if it looks too dry. Taste the chilli and adjust the seasoning; add extra chilli powder, if needed.
- Cover the pan, turn off the heat and leave the chilli to stand for 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to mingle. While the chilli is resting, cook the rice according to the pack instructions. Serve the chilli with the rice.
Jane Tip: If you’re wondering why this dish is relatively high in calories, it’s the rice. Without rice, this recipe is only 349 calories, but for many people the dish would not be nearly as delicious this way. As an alternative you could combine it with cauliflower rice and reduce the calorie content, but this is for you to judge by keeping track of your calories.
I hope that these three recipes have given you ideas of comfort food to try this Autumn/Winter, and shown that you can eat good food without it being too high in calories!
If you want more ideas, check out my book The Jane Plan Diet, which has loads of healthy and balanced recipes for all year round.
Have a lovely weekend cooking!