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Fast cook recipes

The Fast (or 5:2) diet continues to grow in popularity. Michael Mosely shared the benefits with us in his Q&A and then his webchat, and we've already brought you some great ideas for food for Fast days.

Now there's a brand-new collection of low calorie recipes in Fast Cook by Mimi Spencer. 

We're delighted to be able to share some of our favourites hot off the presses (as it were). Delicious food that's fast to cook - and perfect to sustain you through Fast days. And don't forget, you can find plenty of diet support from fellow gransnetters on our forums.

Skinny spag bol | Fast fish pieVeg tagine with herbed couscousFatoush salad | Prawn laksa

Skinny spag bol

spag bolCalorie count per portion: 180
Serves 4

A family classic, but here the GI count has been lowered and the fibre has been raised by bumping up the veg. Add mixed spices to your bolognaise sauce, if you'd like an authentic Italian touch.




  • Cooking oil spray
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 400g lean minced beef
  • 1 400g tin cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 200ml beef stock, or boiling water with an Oxo cube
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 tsp Marmite
  • 200g mushrooms, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ tsp mixed herbs



  • Spray a large pan with a little oil, then fry off the meat until browed and set aside in a separate bowl. This is an important stage as the sugars from the meat will lend your bolognaise colour and flavour.
  • Add onion, celery and pepper to the pan and cook gently for 2-3 minutes until softened.
  • Add mushrooms, herbs, mixed spice, tomatoes and tomato purée and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  • Add browned mince and courgette, together with the stock and Marmite.
  • Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes - longer if possible to enrich the sauce. Check seasoning and servce.

Suggestion: instead of pasta, serve with steamed broccoli and cauliflower florests (+30-35 cals per 100g) or veg 'noodles', stir-fried ribbons of courgette, carrot and leek (+35 cals per 100g).

Fast fish pie

fish cakesCalorie count per portion: 233
Serves 4

Swap dense mash for light-weight filo - you'll get a tasty, filling fish pie that comes in well under the Fast Day calorie count.




  • Cooking oil spray
  • 250g skinless white fish fillet, cut into chunks
  • 1 250g bag spinach leaves
  • 250g skinless smoked haddock fillets, cut into chunks
  • 200g half-fat créme fraîche
  • 300g cooked king prawns
  • Handful of fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 sheets filo pastry
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lemon juice


  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly spray an oven proof dish with oil.
  • Pierce spinach bag and microwave on full power for 90 seconds. Remove from bag and squeeze out as much moisture as possible (press it between kitchen paper), and use the dry spinach to line the ovenproof dish.
  • Mix the créme fraîche with herbs, mustard, lemon juice, fish and prawns. Season and spoon over the layer of spinach.
  • Spray filo sheets with a little oil, then scrunch them and place on top of the fish mix.
  • Bake for 25-40 minutes until filo is crisp.
  • Other things you might like...

Suggestion: add a couple of halved hard-boiled eggs for an extra bump of protein (+40 cals per portion). You can also add chopped watercress to the fish mixture, or a handful of frozen peas.

Fast Day tip: filo pastry generally demands a liberal brushing with melted butter. Here I've used cooking oil instead to cut down on calories - use sparingly and work fast; filo has a habit of drying out if you hang around.

Veg tagine with herbed couscous

tagineCalorie count per portion: 311
Serves 4

Swap dense mash for light-weight filo - you'll get a tasty, filling fish pie that comes in well under the Fast Day calorie count.




Ingredients for the tagine

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 parsnips, approx. 500g, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 small butternut squash, approx 500g, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 tsp ground coriander 
  • 500ml vegetable stock, or boiling water and vegetable stock cube
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 75 dried apricots, chopped
  • 2 galric cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp harissa paste
  • 1 499g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Ingredients for the couscous

  • 300g couscous
  • Handful of coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • Lemon zest, to serve
  • Handful of parsley, chopped



  • Heat oil in a tagine or large flame-proof casserole, add onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
  • Add the spices and garlic and cook for a further minute.
  • Add harissa and vegetables, season, and stir well.
  • Pour over the stock, add the apricots and lemon juice and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  • Add chickpeas and continue cooking for 10 minuets more.
  • Prepare couscous as per packet instructions, leaving to stand for 10 minutes, and then fluffing up with a fork and adding pine nuts and chopped herbs. 
  • Serve tagine and couscous in a deep bowl, scattered with coriander and lemon zest.

Fatoush salad

fatoushCalorie count per portion: 242
Serves 4 as a side dish






Ingredients for the salad

  • 1 large romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (and skinned if you prefer)
  • Generous handful of curly parsley, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • Hanful of mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • Handful of dill, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 wholemeal pitta breads, toasted and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 12 radishes, halved

Ingredients for the dressing

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar


Ingredients for the lemon-yoghurt sauce

  • 150g low-fat natural yoghurt
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • ½ tsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Handful of chopped herbs and 1 tbsp seeds to serve - choose from sunflower, sesame, mustard, poppy, pumpkin or use a mix


  • Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. 
  • Prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients and whisking well to emulsify. 
  • In a separate bowl, mix the ingredients for the yoghurt sauce.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients, toss well, then drizzle the yoghurt sauce on top. Add a scatter of seeds and serve with a final flourish of chopped herbs.

Prawn laksa

prawn laksaCalorie count per portion: 400
Serves 2

This spiced Malaysian noodle soup is a proper meal in a bowl and has a fairly generous number of calories to match (but it's worth every last one of them).





  • 150g fine rice noodles
  • 100g prawns, fresh or cooked
  • 2 tbsp laksa paste from a jar
  • 100g beansprouts
  • 400ml half-fat coconut milk
  • 1 pak choi, thinly sliced
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • ¼ cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into fine strips, to serve
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal, a few slices reserved for garnish
  • Handful of fresh coriander leaves, to serve
  • 1 red chilli, halved and deseeded, finely sliced


  • Prepare noodles according to packet instructions and set aside.
  • Heat a large pan, add the laksa paste and 1 tbsp coconut milk. Fry for 3 minutes to release the paste's flavour, then add the rest of the coconut milk, stock, spring onions and chilli. Stir, and simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Add the prawns, beansprouts and pak choi and simmer for a further 3 minutes untl the prawns and vegetables are just cooked. Check seasoning. 
  • Place the prepared noodles in bowls, and cover with the hot soup. Garnish with delicate strips of cucumber, a little more finely sliced spring onion and coriander leaves.