A Feasting Pleasure

Tom Yum Soup and Ants in the Tree (sort of)

Cooking for guests, or just a deluxe family meal, can be challenging when trying to lose weight. However I have learned that it is not as hard as it at first appears.

Puddings are always the challenge but not all cultures place as much store in puddings/desserts as we do.

This meal draws on Asia with a little African influence and has two courses. If you reall want a pudding at the end make a fruit salad and add a dollop of sweetened crème fraiche or sweetened quark (no fat versions of course).

Tom Yum Soup With Prawns and Scallops


This version is adapted from a John Torode version on the BBC Food website. The only ‘naughtiness’ is the brown sugar but the quantity is so small I have not swapped it for sweetener.

It is meant to serve six but really it is best for three or four people


  • 1 litre light chicken stock
  • 4 small sticks of lemongrass
  • 6 lime leaves, torn in half (optional)
  • 1/2 long red chilli, deseeded and sliced
  • 20g fresh root ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 20g palm sugar or light demerara
  • 8 raw king prawns
  • 8 plump scallops
  • 1 portion of rice noodles softened in hot water
  • handful of picked coriander leaves
  • handful of basil leaves
  • 1 limes, halved


  1. Pour the water or stock into a pan and add the lemon grass, torn lime leaves, chilli, ginger, fish sauce and sugar.
  2. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a non stick frying pan sprayed with 1 calorie oil (I used coconut flavour)
  4. Carefully place scallops in the pan, and don’t touch for three minutes, until you can see the scallops colouring around the edges.
  5. Turn them over and add the prawns cook for a further three minutes (turning the prawns after 2 minutes to ensure cooked through). Make sure the prawns are an even translucent pink before removing from the heat.
  6. Distribute the coriander, basil and a small amount of the noodles among four little bowls. Squeeze a little lime juice over the top.
  7. Place a two scallop and two prawns in each bowl and garnish with a stick of lemongrass. With a ladle pour soup into each bowl and serve.

Ants In The Tree

This is a dish we have only had when we lived in Malawi and my version is one that we have adapted and developed over the years as the boys have both always enjoyed eating it. A key difference in this version to the traditional Chinese original one is that it is served with iceberg lettuce leaves within which the food is placed as you would with a wrap.

We have also added additional dishes to complement the meal and sometimes use beef instead of the traditional pork. You can use Quorn mince as well or just a veg mix.

At this point I should probably be honest and say that the only connection with the traditional Chinese dish is the name and a loose association of ingredients but that is how food evolves.

This version is a great sharing meal.

Ants In The Tree

Serves 4 to 6 people



  • 1 iceberg lettuce separated into individual leaves
  • 500g minced beef (or pork or quorn)
  • home made salsa (see snacks and nibbles)
  • 2 peppers of different colours thinly sliced
  • 1 portion of egg noodles (cooked)
  • Half a cucumber chopped into sticks
  • bowl of pickled jalapeno pepper slices
  • 1 can of five bean chilli salad. (Refried beans also works well)
  • 1 onion chopped finely
  • half of a red chilli (deseeded) chopped finely
  • 4 tbsps dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp  Worcester sauce
  • 2 tomatoes deseeded and chopped finely
  • 8 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 tbsps tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp  garlic granules or 2 cloves fresh garlic finely chopped or crushed in a press
  • 1 veg stock pot
  • 1 beef stock pot


  1. Prepare the lettuces leaves,  noodles, and salsa and put on the table with the 5 bean salad, jalapenos and cucmber sticks.
  2. Spray a frying pan with 1 calorie chilli spray.
  3. Add the onions and chillis, cook for five minutes until the onions are softened.
  4. Add the minced beef and cook, breaking it up in the pan so that it is mixed n amongst the onions and there are no large lumps.
  5. Add 2 tbsps soy sauce and 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce.
  6. Add the garlic granules and the beef stock pot with splash of water and mix the stock in.
  7. Add the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes and cook on a low heat for ten minutes until all spare liquid has cooked into the mince mix. Cover and put to one side to keep warm.
  8. Spray another pan with 1 calorie oil spray and add the peppers and halved cherry tomatoes. Cook for five minutes until the peppers are soft and the tomatoes are beginning to soften.
  9. Add the veg stock pot and a good splash of water. Put on a low heat and cook for ten minutes.
  10. Add to the table and call the hordes.

How to eat:

Put a lettuce leaf on your plate and add some mince and any other combination of the options that you like.


Roll up the leaf and eat. Keep your plate under your wrap to catch those bits that fall out and add these to your next one. Keep going until you are full or nothing is left.



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