New Year, New Me-als

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

I despise the saying ‘new year, new me’. The phrase probably does more harm than good, placing undue pressure on people to change drastically (usually physically, I see you diet culture and I will not succumb) all because it’s the start of a new calendar year. I say, NO MORE.

Instead, I’m going to show some kindness to my body by nourishing it with tasty food. I therefore declare - new year, new me-als!

So here I am sharing a few of my go-to recipes for PGR life in wintertime. All these recipes are convenient to make and use minimal pots/pans. I’m also keeping the spice list and skill level simple to help make your life easier - without compromising on taste.

Basic tomato sauce

Excellent for a simple pasta sauce or as a classic base for bolognese, chilli con carne, sausage casserole etc

I find this makes a sauce that can cover 250 g of mince, but if you’re a big sauce fan or have a lot of mouths to feed, then double up the quantities.

A bowl of tomatoes.


1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 x vegetable stock cube

1 x garlic clove, chopped

1 x white onion, diced finely

1 tsp olive oil

Pinch of salt

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

  • Saute onion until translucent and soft

  • Add garlic and fry for 1 min

  • Add the remaining ingredients, stir and reduce until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.

This sauce can then be modified to make a bunch of different meals: e.g. for chilli con carne and my spicy sausage casserole I would at chipotle chilli flakes and smoked paprika, meanwhile for my bolognese I would add oregano and fresh basil into the mix.

Again, just play around and see what works for your tastes.

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

Spiced carrot and parsnip soup

A bowl of carrot and parnsip soup with crispy parsnips and spinach on top. the Bowl is placed on top of a larger plate with 2 triangles of brown seeded bread.

Makes 4 hearty servings of soup



3 x large carrots, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces

1 x bag parsnips (around 5 to 6 small/medium parsnips), peeled and chopped into bite size pieces

1 x large white onion, chopped roughly

1 x vegetable stock cube

2 x cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tsp mild curry powder

½ tsp garam masala powder

Pinch of salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper (optional)

  • Place all ingredients into a large pan and add boiling water until water level just covers the vegetables.

  • Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the stock and spices.

  • Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft to pierce with a fork.

  • Remove from the heat and place on a heat-proof surface (e.g. a metal cooling rack, failing that, a folded-up tea towel should protect your worktop).

  • Blitz using a hand-held blender (mine cost under £10 and has been so useful). If you don’t have a hand blender, a metal potato masher with small holes should break down most of the ingredients, but you might end up with a chunky broth as opposed to a smooth soup at the end.

  • If you find the soup is too thick for your liking, stir in more boiling water until you reach your desired consistency.

  • Serve it up!


  • I like to shallow fry some parsnip peelings to put on top for a bit of crunch.

  • For a pop of colour try stirring in some wilted spinach (I do this to almost every dish I cook).

  • Try playing with the spice levels to suit your own palette- remember you can’t take a spice out once it’s gone in, so go little by little.

Slow cooked Japanese shredded chicken curry

If you like katsu curry, you’ll love this sauce. I cheat a little here and use a premade curry stock cube for convenience.

5 helpings

Basic ingredients:

1 x 100g pack of Yutaka Katsu curry sauce cubes (can be found in the world food section of Morrisons and other supermarkets, or bulk buy on amazon to save a few pennies).

2 x large red bell peppers, chopped into bite-size pieces

1 x large white onion, chopped into bite-size pieces

4-5 x chicken breasts

For slow cooker users:

  • Break up the curry stock cubes and dissolve in around 700 mL of boiling water (the pack suggests you use 1000 mL, but the juices from the chicken and water released from the vegetables during cooking makes up for the lack of water at the start)

  • Place the vegetables and chicken breasts inside a slow cooker

  • Pour over the curry sauce mix

  • Place the lid on the slow cooker

  • Cook for 2-3 hours on the high setting or 6+ hours on the low setting (or whilst you are at work)

  • You will need to mix the sauce up after cooking as the water may settle on top

  • Using two forks, shred the chicken breasts

  • Serve with boiled rice or sticky rice (sticky rice/sushi rice can be found in the same section of the supermarket)

Non-slow cooker users:

  • Wrap the chicken breasts in foil and bake in the oven at 180 degrees celcius for 20-30 minutes (or until cooked all the way through)

  • Whilst the chicken cooks, fry the peppers and onions in a pan until slightly softened

  • Break up the curry stock cubes and dissolve in around 700 mL of boiling water

  • Add the curry sauce mix to the pan and simmer to reduce the sauce until you reach the desired consistency (around 10 minutes)

  • Once cooked, shred the chicken with two forks and stir in to the sauce

  • Serve with boiled rice or sticky rice


  • I like to stir in wilted spinach for a pop of colour, or if I’m trying to hide green vegetables from my fussy brother, I blend up spinach leaves to make a puree and stir this into the curry (picture above on the right). WARNING: This turns the curry quite a vibrant green; my brother was skeptical at first BUT he makes audible yum sounds when eating it so I figure it’s good.

  • Try mixing up the combination of vegetables for variety, I like adding chopped up green beans.

  • If you find that the vegetables are too mushy when it comes to eating, leave them out of the slow cooker and add them in closer to serving time for an extra crunch.

  • If the sauce is too thick for your taste, stir in some extra water.

  • Katsu curry lovers, try adding a bread crumb to chicken breast (I like panko bread crumbs) instead of shredding the chicken. Shallow fry in olive oil or oven bake until the chicken is cooked through. Then add the sauce on top when serving.

Creamy gnocchi

Serves 2 very hungry people, or makes 3 smaller dishes




300 mL of single cream

1x 500 g pack of gnocchi  

1 x vegetable stock cube or stock pot

1 x large white onion, diced

1 tsp olive oil

1 x 250 g pack of chestnut mushrooms (or mushroom of your choice), sliced

2 x clove garlic, peeled and chopped

Any green vegetable of your choice, I stir in spinach or chop up asparagus, green beans or add petit pois

  • Saute onion and mushrooms in olive oil until soft

  • Add salt, pepper and garlic to pan and fry for 1 minute

  • Add spinach and cook until leaves have wilted

  • Dissolve the vegetable stock cube in a small amount of boiling hot water (about 2 fingers worth of water in a mug)

  • Add the single cream and vegetable stock to the vegetables and gently simmer over a low-medium heat (I like to add a pinch of chilli flakes at this point for a bit of a kick)

  • Boil the gnocchi in water for 2-3 minutes until they can be pierced easily with a fork

  • Drain the gnocchi and add to the sauce

  • Continue to simmer the mix until the sauce thickens (between 2-5 minutes depending on how high you have the heat)

  • Serve it up!


  • Try serving this dish with grated parmesan

  • Meat eaters, consider serving with smoked bacon

I like to bulk cook and store food away to help me get through a working week. Once cooked, I keep these meals in the fridge for up to 2 days or stored in the freezer for up to one month. If you’re unsure, see NHS guidelines for the safe storage of leftover food.

With that, I wish you all a very happy and tasty new year!

Like these recipes and want more? Tweet @UofG_PGRblog or @S_Cumberworth to let us know!

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