Winter is very much setting in here in Wales and I’ve found the 5:2 diet plan rather hard to stick to when the biting wind is nipping at my heels on the stomp home from work. Bursting through the front door from a blustery day outside, all I really want is a warm cup of tea, teamed with a biscuit or three that’s promptly followed by a hearty stew or gravy based dinner. The thing is, I can’t have that today because I’m attacking the 5:2 diet with a vengeance. After dropping the ball for September and much of October I’m back in the swing of things so I’ll need to rely on my will power to a certain extent. It doesn’t mean I need to abandon the filling and hearty supper though. Having started my day with a classic 5:2 diet breakfast, a warming bowl of porridge topped with a good splodge of spiced apple sauce, I managed to stave off the hunger pangs until this evening. That leaves me with a good 300 cals for supper which is plenty for this healthy Low Calorie Vegetarian Cottage Pie. Here are some tricks, tips and traps to be aware of; you’ll find that non-dieters and non-veggies are all more than happy with this super tasty dish too! Tip. Pack in the Umami Flavour – this is the savoury x-factor of the food world, you might not be able to put your finger on it but it will make your food delightfully moreish. Here I’ve used tomato puree, a tiny bit of marmite and a variety of mushrooms. Trick. Don’t be limited to carby potatoes for the topping – For some reason I seem to have a lot of swede at home so I used that. Butternut squash, carrots or celeriac would also work wonderfully or you could mix through some steamed cabbage for an Irish colcannon topping. Trap. Don’t rely on fat for flavour – I take the butter out of the mash but up the mustard. If you have the calories free then a smattering of a strong cheese ups the treat factor and richness of the dish (an extra tip is to use the small cut on the grater, your cheese will spread much further). 5:2 Diet Recipe: Low Calorie Vegetarian Cottage Pie (226 calories per serving) Serves 4 when teamed with veggies For the Filling: 10 sprays low cal cooking spray (10) 1 onion, finely chopped (40) 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (8) 1 leek (about 70g) finely chopped (40) 250g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped (55) 10g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 100ml boiling water and roughly chopped (35) 1 tbsp tomato puree (15) 1 410g tin green lentils, drained (226) 100g carrot, small dice (41) 1 bay leaf ¼ tsp each of dried rosemary, oregano and thyme 200ml vegetarian stock made with one stock cube, 100ml of water and the mushroomy water from the porcinis (7) ½ tsp marmite (5) Salt and pepper 1. In a non-stick pan, fry up the onion and leeks with the low cal spray for 5 minutes over a medium heat with a pinch of salt. If it starts to stick, splash in a drop of water. 2. When the onions and leeks start to take on a translucent quality, add in the garlic and mushrooms and fry until the mushrooms have reduced down. Again, if it’s sticking, splash in a little water. 3. Now it’s time for the tomato puree, it’s really important that you give it a chance to cook out a little and sweeten. Keep stirring in the hot pan for a couple of minutes to make sure it doesn’t stick and burn. 4. Add the lentils, carrots, herbs, stock and marmite into the pan and bring up to a simmer for 15 minutes to thicken. 5. Check the seasoning and transfer the mix to an oven-proof dish. For the topping: 250g potato (193) 300g swede (114) 30ml semi-skimmed milk (15) 1 ½ tsp wholegrain mustard (14) Salt and pepper 30g Lighter cheddar, finely grated (94) 6. Boil the potato and swede for 25-30 minutes (until soft to the point of a knife) 7. Drain and mash the potato/swede mix, or pop it through a ricer if you want it to be super smooth then mix in the mustard, milk and seasoning. 8. Spread the mash over the pie filling before topping with the grated cheese and popping into an oven on gas mark 6 for 30 minutes (or until nicely golden brown). 5:2 Diet Side Dish: Steamed Broccoli with a zingy tomato and garlic dressing (32 calories per portion) 300g broccoli (102) 1 garlic clove (4) 2 tomatoes (20) 9. Steam the broccoli for 4 -5 minutes until just cooked but retaining a bit of bite (cut the stalks up as well as the florets, they are wonderfully crunchy and far too good for the bin). 10. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in half and deseed and peel the garlic. Finely grate the tomatoes and garlic (with the toms, grate the cut side until all you are left holding is the empty skin). Season with a splash of salt and pepper. You simply douse the hot broccoli with the dressing, making sure it’s all coated. It will soak up all the lovely flavours and it’s certainly more interesting than a plate of plain boiled veg!