Sunday, 12 February 2012

Change4Life Supermeals Challenge Day 14 and some conclusions

On the last day (Day 14) of my Change4Life Supermeals Challenge I cooked fabulous fish pie. I have been cooking all the recipes in the Change4Life Supermeals booklet, which is part of a Welsh Government initiative to help people prepare quick, easy and healthy meals on a limited budget.

Before my concluding thoughts, there’s the fish pie (recipe below) to consider. The recipe specifies a piece of Coley as the fish content. If money is very tight this would do, but I feel a mixture of white and oily fish is needed to make a fish pie worth the effort. Luckily, the tip for this recipe suggests you look out for fish pie mix from the fresh fish counter, which is cheap to buy. My fish pie mix came from Ashton’s fishmongers in Cardiff’s indoor market, and contained some salmon, tuna and at least three types of white fish.

I must admit I did break out the butter (for the first time during this challenge!) for the white sauce (rather than use low-fat spread), and also included a few halved hard-boiled eggs that happened to be in the fridge. We all enjoyed this one.

With the fairly large square pie dish I used, the potato amount specified was just enough to cover the fish mix, and I would usually add a bit more mash than this to make a thicker top (it’s not the most expensive component after all).

All 14 of these recipes worked for us. We preferred some more than others, obviously, and there were comments about it getting a bit samey, which was partly due to the sequence in the book (which I worked through in order).

One feature of all the recipes is that the children (aged 8 and 15) left empty plates. This is a result. In fact, the recipes are easy enough for this to also be a good recipe book to give to an older child to get them started on cooking. They could learn something about healthy food along the way.

None of the recipes lists salt as an ingredient. There should be enough salt in the food already, argues the booklet. I was surprised that I did not think any of the 14 recipes needed extra salt, and this will probably make me think more careful about the use of salt in dishes.

None of the recipes calls for sugar to be added. Only in one case - the sweet and sour sauce - did I miss any additional sweet component. I liked the way fruit was used, for flavouring and as a natural sweetness, for example, apples in the pork dish and the vegetable curry. This could have been taken further as a tip (e.g., dried apricots, pears, oranges).

We have a relatively low-fat diet normally, and therefore had no problems with the low-fat ingredients and lack of fatty foods. If I had done this challenge during the summer I am sure I would have noticeably lost weight, but the intense cold during the past fortnight had me reaching for the cake tin between meals. So, no discernible loss in weight!

Some of the recipes also lacked a bit of spice for me, but that was easily remedied, for instance, with a bit of chilli.

The recipe book has helped us keep grocery costs down over the past fortnight. This is because we have stocked up on basics for these recipes (e.g., pasta, rice, tins of tomatoes, tomato puree, tins of butter/cannellini beans, stock cubes, carrots and other standard vegetables, and cheaper cuts of meat and fish). We have not bought the more expensive ingredients that push up the grocery bill.

We (2 adults and 2 children) have been keeping scores throughout the challenge, and I can now reveal that the most popular Change4Life Supermeal recipes are, in reverse order, [dramatic Masterchef-style pause here]:

5. quick pitta pizzas (Day 2)

4. sensational spaghetti bolognese (Day 11)

3. 10-min chicken noodle dinner (Day 3)

2. hearty vegetable soup (Day 8)

1. easy vegetable curry (Day 13)

The dishes loaded with the freshest vegetables came out on top in our case. It might be worth noting that the vegetables came from our local greengrocer and a vegetable box scheme, and were quality produce (though, in line with the recipes, not breaking the bank). In comparison, the meat used in these recipes was not top quality (for cost reasons). An alternative strategy therefore would be to have meat less often, but go for something of better quality (e.g., organic free range chicken).

The Change4Life Supermeals recipe booklet aims to help you plan quick, easy meals on a limited budget. I think the booklet succeeds in this aim. It would be particularly useful for people who suddenly, for whatever reason, find they have to shop and cook for a family (or just themselves) on a reduced income.

fabulous fish pie
The ingredients: 700g potatoes peeled and diced, 425ml 1% fat milk, 25g low-fat spread, 25g plain flour, 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional), 100g frozen peas, ground black pepper, 300g Coley fillet (thawed if frozen) skinned and in chunks, 25g reduced-fat mature cheese grated.

The method: Preheat oven. Boil potatoes, drain and mash with 2 tbsp milk. Use rest of milk, spread and flour into saucepan and bring to boil, stirring continuously, stir in parsley. Place chunks of fish in ovenproof dish, pour sauce over, then top with mashed potato and then cheese. Bake in oven 25-30 mins until top is brown. Serve with steamed or boiled broccoli.

319 kcals per portion.


  1. i tried the fish pie and thought it was going to be a disaster bland and boring but no it was yummy and will feature some time soon in our weekly shop havent ried the veggies dishes as only me in our house likes them

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