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Winter warmers that won’t have you piling on the pounds

Jo Romero
Jo Romero
21 November 2012

As the evenings get darker (and colder) it's tempting to crave calorific comfort food. But you can still enjoy satisfying winter foods if you're watching your waistline. Check these out...

Sardine puttanesca
The pasta's not to blame for all the calories in lasagne and carbonara - it's the cheese and cream in the sauces. This punchy tomato-based sauce also contains sardines, which are high in Omega-3 fats. Serves 2.

140g dried spaghetti
120g can skinless, boneless sardines in olive oil
2 chunky garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp capers
quarter teaspoon chilli flakes
handful black pitted olives, sliced in half lengthways
400g can chopped tomatoes
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Put the pasta on to boil. While it's cooking, fry the garlic, chilli flakes and capers in a little olive oil for about 1 minute. Tip in the sardines, with a little of their olive oil if you like, trying not to break up the fillets too much. Finally, stir in the tomatoes and olives and leave to bubble for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the drained pasta and a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley.

Leek, potato and goat's cheese frittata
This frittata is filling, healthy and cheap. Goat's cheese is low in cholesterol but still adds an indulgent creaminess to the dish. Serves 2.

200g new potatoes, washed and cut into 1cm wide slices
1 tsp butter and a drizzle of olive oil
1 small leek, washed and trimmed
4 eggs, beaten
50g soft goat's cheese

Boil the potato slices for 5 minutes, until just tender. Rinse with cold water and pat dry. Meanwhile, thinly slice the leek and gently fry in the butter and olive oil until soft. Add the potato slices and season with salt and black pepper. Crumble half of the goat's cheese into the beaten eggs and pour them into the pan. Give the pan a shake and cook for about 5 minutes. Crumble the remaining cheese over the top and slide the pan under a hot grill. Grill until golden, slice into wedges and serve hot.

Spinach and ricotta flatbread pizza
Ricotta is low in fat and makes a great topping for a pizza. This recipe uses ready-made flatbreads, so it can be whipped up in minutes, too. Serves 4.

2 garlic and parsley flatbreads
200g tin chopped tomatoes
1 small red onion, chopped
handful baby spinach leaves
4 tbsp ricotta cheese
olive oil and black pepper, to serve

Heat the oven to 220ºC. Arrange the flatbreads on a baking tray and scatter over the chopped tomatoes (but not their juice), onion and spinach leaves. Finally, drop teaspoonfuls of the ricotta over the flatbreads, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until the top is golden and the pizzas are cooked through.

Ratatouille-style vegetables with giant couscous
Boost your 'five a day' with this veggie dish served with giant couscous. The couscous is filling, low in fat and high in fibre.

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small aubergine, trimmed and diced
1 courgette, trimmed and diced
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
pinch dried thyme
pinch sugar
100g wholewheat giant couscous

Fry the garlic in a little olive oil until soft and then add the diced and chopped vegetables.
Cook for 5 minutes, until just softened and then stir in the chopped tomatoes, thyme and sugar. While that's simmering, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in another pan and gently fry the giant couscous for one minute, until it starts to turn golden. Pour in 200ml cold water and bring to a simmer, leaving it to cook for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and serve hot, with the couscous.

Turkey and chorizo burgers
We've used lean turkey mince and a little chorizo for these low-fat burgers topped with reduced-fat Swiss cheese. This is great made into 8-9 mini burgers or 4 large ones.

1 medium onion
50g chorizo, chopped finely
500g lean turkey thigh mince
8 mini burger rolls
mayonnaise, rocket and low-fat Swiss cheese, to serve

Finely chop the onion and fry in a little olive oil until soft. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely. In a bowl, combine the turkey mince, chorizo and the cooled onions. Divide into 8 small burger patties and fry in a little olive oil for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally. When they're fully cooked through and no pinkness remains, slide into a bun with a little mayonnaise, rocket and top with a slice of Swiss cheese.

Pan-fried venison steak with red wine
Venison is lean and has a rich flavour which works well with red wine. It also isn't as expensive as you probably think: you can pick up a venison steak for about £3. Serves 2.

2 venison steaks
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp butter
1 tsp plain flour
150ml red wine

Rub the venison steaks with a little olive oil and heat up a dry, non-stick frying pan. Season the steaks with a little salt and pepper and place them in the pan. Fry for about 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Check the steaks are cooked, and then place them on a plate and leave to rest. Add the butter to the pan you cooked the steaks in and sprinkle in the flour. Stir, cooking for about 30 seconds and then pour in the wine. Increase the heat, stirring, until the sauce has thickened. Season the sauce with a pinch of salt and black pepper and serve with the steaks.

Creamy bacon pasta
Just for those moments when only a creamy pasta dish will do. We've used low fat soft cheese instead of the usual double cream and grated cheese. And because it already has a strong cheesy flavour, you don't need to add more cheese on top. Serves 4.

250g dried pasta
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 garlic clove
100g low-fat soft cheese
black pepper and freshly chopped parsley, to serve

Put the pasta on to boil. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a dry non-stick pan gently until just crisp. Drain off the fat that has rendered down from the bacon and grate in the garlic clove. Lower the heat and fold in the soft cheese, along with a grinding of black pepper and a little of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce. Toss the drained, cooked pasta into the sauce and scatter with freshly-chopped parsley just before serving.

Which low-calorie dinners do you enjoy?

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