Pinch of Nom Everyday Light cookbook review: Accessible and relatable, with some ingredient swaps that are downright bizarre

Pinch of Nom 
Does the second best-selling Pinch of Nom cookbook live up to the hype? Credit: Matt English

In March last year, the first Pinch of Nom cookbook became the fastest-selling non-fiction book since records began in 1998. Now, the authors have released a second, Everyday Light (£20, Bluebird).

Why the hype? In 2016, chef Kate Allinson and restaurateur Kay Featherstone – who are both on their own weight-loss journeys – shared online recipes for slimming food, inspired by WeightWatchers (WW) attendees who found cooking a challenge.

Their social media following has reached tens of thousands and their food blog is the UK’s most visited.

THE APPROACH

It promises quick, everyday dishes under 400 calories that don’t taste like “bland” diet food (instead, think creamy vegetable bakes and piri-piri roast chicken). It’s not trying to be cheffy or fashionable: low-fat soft cheese, sugar substitutes and low-calorie cooking spray are shopping staples.

Pinch of Nom founders Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone Credit: Matt English

Its seven chapters include “fakeaways”, batch cooks and snacks, sides and sweet treats, developed using feedback from novice cooks via Facebook and accessible to those less than kitchen-confident. Pinch of Nom is WW and Slimming World compatible but not affiliated.

THE RECIPES

I chose crying tiger beef “fakeaway” as an alternative to a Thai delivery for two, fishcakes from the “quick meals” chapter and cherry cola pulled pork from “stews and soups”, to feed a hungry crowd of six.

Melt-in-the-middle fishcakes

My attempt at the Pinch of Nom fishcakes, right, didn't turn out quite as well as hoped Credit: Matt English; Madeleine Howell

With an oozing filling of Babybel and US-style squeezy cheese, the fishcakes, right, didn’t bind particularly well fried and oven-baked as written. Low-calorie the cheese may be (the waxed snack has 70 calories, and is a good source of calcium and protein) but to me the texture was off and the flavour too mild compared with my usual cheddar.

I’d as happily have had the mash with chives, smoked haddock and a side salad, than have gone to the effort of fashioning a meagre portion of potato mix around grated Babybel.

Cherry cola pulled pork

Pinch of Nom's cherry cola pulled pork  Credit: Matt English; Madeleine Howell

I’m not sure fizzy drinks can be “healthy”, but I was intrigued by the promise of smoky, sweet pulled pork, aspartame and all – with options for oven, pressure cooker or slow cooker: after all, Nigella Lawson’s ham in Coca-Cola is a classic. The BBQ sauce is easy with garlic and onion granules. I was pleasantly surprised by the moreish results. With steamed veg, almost a full meal.

Crying tiger beef

Pinch of Nom's crying tiger beef "fakeaway", left, and my home-made version, right Credit: Matt English; Madeleine Howell

Speedy as promised: steak medallions marinated in soy and Worcestershire sauce with a tasty, spicy-as-you-like Thai-style dressing of fish sauce, coriander, chilli and lime. Ideal for satisfying beef cravings, but the lack of carbohydrates left me craving a snack later. Thai dressings use palm sugar to balance spice, but this has two teaspoons of artificial sweetener: I used Canderel, but would rather have left it out.

THE VERDICT

I’m not convinced the focus on calorie count alone delivers consistently delicious or nourishing home cooking – although the authors consulted a registered nutritionist.

The food is relatable, but some ingredient swaps (like Chinese chicken with orange squash) are downright bizarre. Simple dishes such as lemon and pepper chicken tagliatelle don’t sound too bad, but I found the 1 cal cooking spray a turn-off before I started. Pass me the olive oil instead.