Truth about takeaways

From traditional fish and chips, Chinese takeaways, home-delivered pizzas and kebabs to the national dish of Indian curry, takeaway meals have a long history in Great Britain.

Pepperoni pizza

Unfortunately, we may not always choose wisely when we go for a takeaway, too often ending up with a high-calorie meal that's ultimately unsatisfying and soon leaves us looking forward to the next snack. An excess of calories from meals and snacks can contribute to unwanted weight gain, an effect that too many people in Great Britain are suffering from.

Those extra calories soon add up when we succumb to the likes of the following:

  • a 'super-size meal' with extra French fries
  • extras such as garlic bread and the extra-large size pizza with additional toppings like cheese and pepperoni
  • fried rice and extra dishes when we choose Chinese food
  • the extras such as parathas, poppadums, samosas and bhajis when a takeaway Indian meal takes our fancy
  • large portions of battered fish from the ever-popular chip shop
  • too much meat and not enough vegetables in takeaway kebabs

Turkey kebabsIndulging in the occasional takeaway is fine, but these meals are seldom as balanced and nutritious as they could be. As a healthier alternative, why not make takeaway-style meals at home instead? The recipes below take hardly any time at all to cook and provide a nutritious, balanced diet - and they may just satisfy those takeaway cravings!

Takeaway-style recipes

Traditional fish and chips
Serves four

In a time when we're all trying to keep track of our fat intake, deep-fat fryers are becoming less of a kitchen necessity. You don't need a deep-fat fryer for this recipe, which makes use of big chunky chips which absorb less fat.

For the chips
4 large potatoes
50ml vegetable oil for frying

For the fish
4 thin fillets of haddock, washed and with any obvious bones removed
1 egg
50g (2oz) plain flour
100ml (1/4pt) semi-skimmed milk

Method for the chips: scrub the potatoes and cut into large-sized chips. Pat with a clean tea towel to dry. Preheat the vegetable oil in a deep pan to 82C (180F), or until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds when added to the oil. Add the chips and fry until golden brown.

Method for the fish: meanwhile make a batter by beating together the milk, egg and flour. In a separate frying pan, preheat the vegetable oil in a deep pan to 82C (180F), or until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds when added to the oil. Dip the fish into the batter and add to the hot oil. Turn the fish and cook until the batter is evenly cooked, golden-brown and puffy.

Pizza with beef
Serves four

This is a wonderfully filling pizza topped with lean beef. It's easy to vary the toppings by adding whatever vegetables take your fancy.

200g (1/2lb) lean beef mince
100g (4oz) onions, chopped
50g (2oz) mushrooms, sliced 50g (2oz) red pepper (1/4 average), sliced
50g (2oz) green pepper (1/4 average), sliced
50g (2oz) yellow pepper (1/4 average), sliced
1 large pizza base
50g (2oz) chopped tomatoes
50g (2oz) low-fat cheddar cheese

Method: dry-fry the mince for five minutes. Drain off any fat that escapes. Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook for three to four minutes. Mix in the mushrooms and most of the peppers (reserve some peppers for decoration). Place the chopped tomatoes over the pizza base and pour over the beef mince mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and decorate with the remaining pepper rings. Bake in a hot oven for ten minutes until brown and the cheese has melted. Serve with a jacket potato and side salad.

Real beef burgers
Serves four

This dish shows how wonderfully easy it is to make your own burgers. You can vary the meat and swap the beef for lean pork mince and add grated apple instead of (or as well as) the onion. Delicious.

450g (1lb) lean minced beef
2 tbsp of tomato puree
50g (2oz) finely chopped onions
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 large beef tomato, cut into 8 thin slices or 4 thick slices
1 small green pepper, cut into rings

Method: Place all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and mix well. Divide the mixture into four and shape into burgers. Place under a pre-heated grill for five minutes, turning with a spatula to cook on both sides. Ensure the beef is thoroughly cooked to your liking. To serve, place burgers inside large, seeded bread buns, topped with the tomato slices and the pepper rings and lettuce, with coleslaw and potato wedges on the side.

It's a wrap
Serves four

This makes eight substantial and tasty wraps, which are great alternatives to takeaway kebabs. They're ideal for picnics and snack lunches, and they freeze well.

200g (1/2lb) lean pork mince
100g (4oz) onions, chopped
50g (2oz) chopped tomatoes (tinned are fine)
100g (4oz) mixed peppers, finely sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
50g (2oz) mushrooms, finely sliced
50g (2oz) carrots, grated
100g (4oz) cooked couscous - try a tomato-flavoured packet
fresh coriander, chopped
8 tortillas

Method: dry fry the mince with the onions until cooked. Add peppers, tomatoes, tomato puree and mushrooms and cook for four minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the coriander, the grated carrots and the cooked couscous. Place the mixture into the tortillas and wrap into packets. Reheat in an oven. Serve with a large green side salad.

Bombay chicken curry with potatoes and chickpeas
Serves four

This wonderfully fragrant curry is quick to prepare, and it's easy to vary the ingredients to include your favourites.

200g (8oz) onions, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 sachet of Bombay potato dry mix or 1tbsp of curry paste
200g (1/2lb) cooked chicken (such as leftovers from a roast chicken)
400g can chopped tomatoes
200g (8oz) can chickpeas, drained and washed
450g (1lb) potatoes, boiled and sliced
300ml (1/2 pint) stock made with a chicken stock cube
fresh coriander, chopped
spray of oil for frying

Method: fry the onions and garlic until cooked. Add the curry paste or Bombay potato dry mix and stir thoroughly. Add the rest of the ingredients and the stock and cook for four to five minutes until they're all heated thoroughly. Serve with boiled rice and naan bread or poppadums.

Speedy stir fry
Serves four

This makes a quick and easy meal, which is easy to vary with different types of meat or a variety of vegetables. If you don't have a wok, use a large non-stick frying pan.

For the marinade
1 tbsp light soy sauce
100g (4oz) tomato puree
1tsp sesame oil
2tbsp dry white wine
3tsp cornflour
2tsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic

For the stir-fry
375g (3/4) lean rump steak, sliced thinly
1 tbsp sunflower or soya oil
100g (4oz) green peppers, sliced
200g (8oz) button mushrooms, halved
300g (10oz) green beans, cut into 2cm (1in) pieces

Method: mix together the marinade ingredients. Add the steak, cover and refrigerate for several hours. Heat the oil in wok or pan. Add steak and stir fry until the steak is lightly browned. Add the vegetables and the marinade and one to two tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for a few minutes or until the vegetables are tender but crunchy. Serve with boiled noodle