Rob Lipsett's clean and lean turkey burgers, pasta salad and mini frittatas
Just what you need for January — Rob Lipsett’s quick, healthy recipes are high on flavour, low on fat.
Thai pork lettuce cups
I was on holiday in Thailand recently and loved the fresh flavours of the food there. Even if it's cold and raining in Dublin, this dinner takes me back to the beaches of Kho Tao. I like to keep this carb-free by serving the pork in lettuce cups, but you could have it on top of some boiled basmati rice or thin rice noodles if you need something more substantial.
Coconut oil cooking spray
450g pork mince
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
Pinch of caster sugar
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint, basil or coriander (or better yet, a mix of all three)
2-3 heads of baby gem lettuce, broken into individual leaves
4 cherry tomatoes, finely diced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
½ cucumber, seeds scooped out and finely diced
½ fresh red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced (optional)
1. Heat a few spritzes of the coconut oil cooking spray in a large non-stick frying pan set over a high heat. Add the pork and cook, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes, until cooked through and all the liquid has evaporated.
2. Put the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl and whisk together, then add to the pork and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the fresh herbs.
3. To serve, put a spoonful of the pork in individual baby gem cups. Top each one with small amounts of the cherry tomatoes, spring onions, cucumber and chilli (if using) to make the perfect bite.
Light mayonnaise; baby gem or butterhead lettuce leaves; 1 ripe avocado, peeled, stoned and sliced; ½ red onion, peeled and thinly sliced into rings; 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
Creamy chicken, pea & pesto pasta salad
Portion this up into airtight containers and stash them in the fridge, ready to have on hand for a few days' worth of lunches. A word of warning though: be sure to let the cooked chicken, pasta and peas cool down completely before adding them to the yoghurt pesto sauce, otherwise any residual heat can make the yoghurt turn a bit clumpy.
2 large chicken fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g wholewheat fusilli or penne pasta
250g frozen peas
300g low-fat Greek yoghurt
3-4 tbsp shop-bought pesto
100g pine nuts
Fresh basil leaves, to garnish (optional)
1. To poach the chicken, put the fillets in a medium-sized saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water, then season the water with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Set the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is completely cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and allow to cool completely, then cut into small bite-sized pieces.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions, then drain and allow to cool completely.
3. Bring a separate medium-sized pan of salted water to the boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes, then drain and run them under the cold tap to lock in their bright green colour. Allow to cool completely.
4. Put the yoghurt and pesto in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the cooled chicken, pasta and peas along with the pine nuts and stir until everything is coated with the creamy pesto sauce. Add a little more yoghurt or pesto (or both) if you want more sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then garnish with fresh basil leaves (if using).
Mini frittatas with bacon, spinach & cheddar
These can be served warm, at room temperature or cold, making them a perfect grab-and-go protein hit for any time of the day.
Olive oil cooking spray
100g baby spinach
3 slices of bacon
4 egg whites
Freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
50g low-fat Cheddar cheese, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Your best option for making sure the frittatas come out of the cases easily is to use a silicone 12-hole muffin tin or line a regular muffin tin with silicone cases. If you don't have either of those, use paper muffin cases and give each one a spritz of the spray oil. Set the muffin tin on a baking tray to make it easier to put in the oven later on.
2. Put a large frying pan on a high heat. Add a few spritzes of the olive oil cooking spray, then add the baby spinach and cook for 2 minutes, until it has wilted right down. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the spinach to cool, then transfer to a chopping board and give it a rough chop.
3. Put a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add a few spritzes of the oil, then add the bacon and cook for 5 minutes, turning it over halfway through, until cooked. Transfer to a chopping board and trim away and discard the fatty rind, then cut the bacon into small pieces.
4. Put the eggs and egg whites into a medium-sized bowl and season with pepper - you won't need any extra salt because the bacon and cheese are already very salty. Whisk together, then stir in the spinach, bacon, spring onions and cheese.
5. Transfer the egg mixture to a large jug to make it easier to pour into the muffin tin. Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 holes. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the frittatas have puffed up, the eggs are set and the tops are starting to turn golden brown.
6. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the paper cases to help loosen the frittatas before peeling away the paper, but be prepared for them to stick to the cases, especially on the bottom. They might look a little ragged, but they'll taste great. (If you're using silicone cases, they should come out easily.) Garnish with thinly sliced spring onions if eating right away.
7. Allow any leftovers to cool completely on the wire rack before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
Turkey mince is a versatile lean protein, but let's be honest, it can be pretty dry and bland. I give these burgers a boost by mixing in some light mayo.
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
400g turkey mince
100g fresh breadcrumbs
2 spring onions, white and green parts finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
6 pitta breads or burger buns, to serve
Shop-bought frozen sweet potato fries, to serve (optional)
1. If you're serving the burgers with shop-bought frozen sweet potato fries, get them going first - cook according to the packet instructions.
2. Put the egg and mayo in a medium-sized bowl and whisk together, then add the turkey mince, breadcrumbs, spring onions and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together until just combined, but the trick here is to handle the burgers as little as possible so that they don't toughen up. Divide into six equal portions and form into burgers. If you're using pitta bread, make sure the burgers are a small enough size that they'll fit into them.
3. Heat a few spritzes of the olive oil cooking spray in a large non-stick frying pan set over a medium heat. Add the burgers and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until completely cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, put the pittas or burger buns on a baking tray and toast in a hot oven for a few minutes. If using pittas, when they're cool enough to handle, cut a slit into the top and open it out to make a pocket that will fit the burgers.
5. Serve the burgers in the pitta breads or burger buns with any of the optional extras you like and the oven-baked sweet potato fries on the side.
Chocolate & almond energy bites
You could give these a Nutella vibe by using finely chopped hazelnuts and hazelnut butter instead of the almonds and almond butter.
30g finely chopped almonds
1 x 30g scoop of chocolate protein powder
3 tbsp almond butter
2 tbsp honey
4 tsp almond milk
A pinch of salt
A small handful of goji berries (optional), to decorate
1. Put everything except the goji berries in a food processor or blender and blitz until it comes together into a ball. If you think it looks a bit dry, add another teaspoon of milk and blend again.
2. Line a small 17cm x 25cm baking tray with cling film, then transfer the mixture from the food processor to the lined tray. Using damp hands or the back of a spoon that you've run under the cold tap, press the mixture down firmly in an even layer that takes up only half the tray. Scatter over the goji berries (if using).
3. Put the tray in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, until the slab has set firm. Alternatively, you could roll them into balls instead.
4. Using the cling film, lift the slab out of the baking tray onto a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, cut into bite-sized pieces about 2.5cm square.
5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or a month in the freezer.
Smoky sweet potato & chickpea stew
This vegetarian stew is a great option for Meatless Monday, but you could bulk it out with some extra protein, such as cooked shredded chicken, cooked chopped ham or pan-fried cubes of chorizo.
Olive oil cooking spray
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp harissa or chilli powder
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
500ml vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
Crusty bread, to serve
1. Heat a few spritzes of the olive oil cooking spray in a large saucepan set over a medium-low heat. Add the onion, cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is completely softened. Add the garlic, smoked paprika and harissa or chilli powder and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute more.
2. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and stock.
3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are completely tender.
4. Serve in bowls garnished with the fresh coriander or parsley and a hunk of crusty bread on the side to mop up all the stew.
Extracted from The Rob Lipsett Game Plan by Rob Lipsett, with photography by Bríd O'Donovan, published by Penguin Life, priced €20.