Recipes From The Wee Fat Lawyer’s Diet Book – Part 1

As I mention in the book, for all calorie counting I refer to the My Fitness Pal app. If I am cooking something substantial, such as a piece of meat or fish, or using an ingredient with a very high calorie count such as butter, then I will weigh it. Otherwise it's an approximation; however, if, like my first recipe, it's coming in at about 70 calories per portion, even a 10% variation is not material.

Note that the calorie count in these recipes will normally be per portion. If you eat more, adjust accordingly.

Tom's Famous Minestrone  (10 portions) - about 70 calories per portion

There is a diet out there called the Cabbage Soup Diet, where you more or less live on the stuff. Alternatively, you could spend time in a Soviet Gulag. I'm not sure which would be preferable. You can add as much cabbage as you like to this soup, but as it's in the company of other good things, you'll like it. Chop your veg fairly small and evenly - that's the only fiddly thing about the dish.

I hesitate to write a recipe for minestrone, as mine is never the same twice. Onions, carrots and tomatoes are essential, otherwise play around with what you have. A traditional Italian soffritto to get it started would contain bacon. 3 rashers of streaky would add about 240 calories to the potful. You may be surprised to see both beans and pasta included. Quite calorific both, but this soup will fill you up. I sometimes have two bowls as a meal in itself. You will need a very large pan. This will last for a few days and, just like wee fat lawyers, will improve with age.

For a vegetarian option, replace the chicken stock with vegetable.


2 onions chopped; 3 large carrots, peeled and quite finely chopped; 2 sticks of celery, peeled and chopped; 1 large pepper, red or yellow, deseeded and chopped; 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped; 1 courgette, finely chopped; half a small cauliflower, cut into very small florets; half a small cabbage, cut into half, then cut into very thin ribbons; squeeze of tomato purée; 400g tin of plum tomatoes; 2 chicken stock pots; handful (about 30g) of small pasta (I use alfabetini or stelle, but you could break up spaghetti); 1 pack or tin of beans such as cannelini or borlotti, drained and well rinsed; small drizzle of olive oil; about 2½ litres of water; salt and pepper.


In a very large pan, add the oil then gently soften the onions, carrots, chilli, celery and pepper. After a few minutes, add the courgettes and cook for a further few minutes, stirring occasionally. Season at this stage with pepper and a little salt. Assuming you are using stock pots, be light with the salt, as they are quite salty in themselves. Add the tomato purée and stir all the ingredients together. Add the tomatoes and break them up, then chuck in all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover, then allow to cook for 40 days and 40 nights. OK, I exaggerate, but this really will benefit from a long, slow cook. As with all soups, adjust the seasoning before serving.

Alternative ingredients

Over the years I have included broccoli florets, kale, chopped mushrooms, and just about any other green veg. If you have it, a Parmesan rind will add a glorious umami kick. And feel free to grate some Parmesan on top of your bowlful. A tablespoon is only 20 calories.

Marie Rose Sauce -  Total 157 calories 

Yes, I know this isn't a dish, but bear with me and read on. Most people don't know how to make a proper Marie Rose - it's more than just mayo and ketchup.


25g Hellmanns light mayonnaise; 25g tomato ketchup; 100g fat free yoghurt; Tabasco, or similar hot sauce, to taste; lemon juice, to taste; 15ml brandy (please don't use the good stuff)


Mix the mayonnaise, yoghurt and ketchup in a bowl and combine well. Stir in the brandy, then season to your taste with lemon juice and Tabasco, remembering that you can always add, but you can't take away.


If you really want to wear a hair shirt, using all yoghurt and no mayo would save 48 calories. Omitting the brandy would save a further 36.

What to do with your Marie Rose?

The obvious dish is Prawn Cocktail. 100g of prawns are about 67 calories. If you're going for this as a starter, do as unscrupulous hoteliers used to do and load the plate with lettuce.

But think laterally. A zingy sauce can be used for all sorts of things. As a dip for raw veg, for example. 1 large raw carrot is 30 calories. Or slather it on a baked potato instead of butter. A 200g potato is 218 cals (but do weigh in advance - they may be heavier than you think).

Multi Purpose Sauce/Dressing (68 calories)

You will note I use a lot of fat free yoghurt. By itself it's pretty dull stuff, but it's easy to zap it up.


200g fat free yoghurt; ½ small cucumber; skinned, deseeded and cut into very small dice; handful of chopped mint


Mix all the ingredients well and refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Like the Marie Rose this can be used in a lot of ways. Try it as a dip, or as a salad dressing. Play around with the herbs. Coriander, for example or parsley. Add  finely chopped chilli or some chilli flakes for heat. Substitute the cucumber for a chopped gherkin (5 calories) and 5 green olives (12 calories) and use dill as the herb. Voilà! You have low calorie tartare sauce.

The limits are your own imagination. Your food should never be boring.






  1. Michael Greenlaw on 12th June 2021 at 12:31 am

    Thanks Tom, we’ll definitely do the minestrone and it’ll be no bother to leave out the pasta to fit in with our carbohydrate free diet.
    You don’t mention any herbs – would a traditional Italian minestrone have any??

    • Tom Johnston on 13th June 2021 at 10:40 am

      I’m not sure there is such a thing as a traditional minestrone, as you can do what you feel; however, the absence of herbs is deliberate on my part. Although flavours are starting to morph by day three, I like the freshness of letting the veg speak for themselves. For me, it’s rare to have an Italian dish with no garlic, but the rationale is the same.

      As I say in the recipe, use whatever you like, provided you have the key staples of onions, carrots and tomatoes. Let me know what goes into yours.

Leave a Comment