presenter Nadia Sawalha is finally happy with her weight - and determined to enjoy her food. She discusses the philosophy behind her latest cookbook, The Greedy Girl's Diet, and shares some mouth-watering recipes.
By Diana Pilkington
In an ideal world, Nadia Sawalha would have banished the word 'diet' from the cover of her latest cookbook.
But, says the author of Greedy Girl's Diet, there are certain rules that must be followed for marketing purposes.
"You need that word so people can find the book," explains the presenter, who won Celebrity Masterchef in 2007.
"But I really believe that if you think you are on a diet, you are going to stuff your face at some point. Unless you can feel like a normal person who sometimes eats a pudding and has a bit too much to drink, you will not succeed."
The 48-year-old says a constant state of "dieting and denial" that resulted in her being obese.
"I did every single diet out there. The Atkins was the worst experience of my life. I call the Dukan diet 'Du-can't' because I don't believe anyone can do it. It was horrendous.
"I tried the grapefruit diet and was constipated like you wouldn't believe. I did all of them, so how come I wasn't thin?"
Eventually, she decided to eat as normally as possible (breakfast and pudding are key components of her day) and simply shave off the hidden calories here and there, as well as eating enough to fuel an active lifestyle. As a result, Sawalha shed three and a half stone and is now a healthy size 12.
"The cookbook is literally about what I ate when I lost weight, and hopefully you can't tell the difference with the recipes. Even my husband lost two stone and we didn't even know he was overweight!
"With spaghetti bolognaise for instance, I wouldn't glug the olive oil to fry the onions in, I would just pour in a tablespoon of olive oil. Most diet books would use a teaspoon of oil. No thank you! I am going to be depressed if I only use a teaspoon of oil."
She declares she is now "very happy" with her size, and determined not to pass an unhealthy mindset about food onto her two daughters.
"I go so far as to say I used to be a total slave. If I added up the years I have lost in time and talking about my weight and thinking about what I should and shouldn't eat, I could have watched every movie ever made and I could have read a thousand books."
Now try these delicious recipes from Sawalha at home...
Beautiful berry pancakes
(Serves 4 - makes 8 pancakes)
125g self-raising flour
2tsp caster sugar
½tsp baking powder
Small pinch of salt
1 egg, separated
150ml skimmed milk
1tsp vanilla extract
Vegetable oil spray
50g blueberries or raspberries
1tbsp icing sugar
Put the flour, caster sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Combine the egg yolk with the milk and vanilla extract in a jug and whisk into the dry ingredients until you have a smooth batter. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until soft peaks form and carefully fold into the batter.
Heat a non-stick frying pan and spray with a thin film of oil. Put a spoonful of the pancake mixture into the pan and sprinkle a few blueberries or raspberries on top. Once you see bubbles forming, flip the pancake and cook on the other side.
Transfer to a warm plate while you finish cooking the rest. To serve, dust with icing sugar and accompany with agave syrup.
Sinless spaghetti bolognaise
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
400g minced turkey or lean minced beef
1tbsp tomato puree
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g mushrooms, chopped
2 bay leaves
200g wholewheat spaghetti
2tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan and fry the onion and garlic over a low heat until soft but not coloured. Add the celery and carrots, reduce the heat and cook until soft.
Remove the veg from the pan, put in the minced turkey or beef and fry over a medium heat until lightly browned.
Return the vegetables to the pan, add the tomato puree and stir for about a minute. Pour in the tomatoes, bring up to the bubble, season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped mushrooms and bay leaves. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions. Drain the spaghetti, toss it with the sauce and grate over the Parmesan.
180g yellow lentils
½tsp ground turmeric
1tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp olive oil
Seeds of ½ pomegranate
75g diced pineapple
4tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
Put the lentils into a saucepan with 700ml water and the turmeric, bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes until tender. Keep an eye on them after 10 minutes to make sure they don't turn into a mush. Drain and turn into a bowl.
While the lentils are still warm, stir in the lemon juice and oil, adding a little salt. Set aside to cool. To assemble the salad, stir in the rest of the ingredients and serve.
Funky fish and chips
4 x 200g haddock fillets
100g fine polenta
1 egg, beaten
10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
½tsp chilli flakes
Zest of ½ unwaxed lemon
A splash of milk
Plain flour, for dusting
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chips:
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
Olive oil spray
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Put your potato wedges onto a large baking tray, spray with oil and season with salt, pepper and a light sprinkling of cayenne. Cook for about 20 minutes, at which point the fish will join them.
To make the coating for the fish, combine the polenta, egg, basil, chilli and lemon zest in a bowl and mix well. If necessary, you may need to add a splash of milk to give a fairly thick batter. Dust the fish with a little flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and dip it into the batter, ensuring it's thoroughly coated. Pop the fish onto a baking tray and bake in the oven alongside the potatoes for about 20 minutes. Serve with mushy peas and good old-fashioned salt and vinegar.
Raspberry and chocolate mousse pots
75g dark chocolate
2 large organic egg whites
1tbsp caster sugar
4tbsp reduced-fat creme fraiche
Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, ensuring the water doesn't touch the bowl. Stir the chocolate until it melts. Once it has melted, set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, using an electric whisk, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Slowly add the sugar and whisk again until stiff.
Place the creme fraiche in a bowl and stir in the cooled chocolate. Gently fold in the egg white mixture. Divide the raspberries between 4 individual pots and top with the chocolate mousse.
Pop into the fridge for 4 hours to set.
:: Greedy Girl's Diet by Nadia Sawalha is published by Kyle Books, priced £14.99. Available now.