Clinton Navarro, 34
My husband, Clinton, put down his knife and fork and said, ‘You know what, I think we’ve excelled ourselves!’ Our home-made, low-Syn take on traditional Greek pastitsio (a baked pasta dish similar to lasagne) had taken a bit of trial and error, but tonight we’d nailed it.
Without a doubt, getting creative in the kitchen has brought us back together as a couple. There was a time when we were so busy doing separate things, and pursuing different hobbies, that spending proper time with each other became quite difficult. Then we joined Slimming World and cooking became ‘our thing’.
When Clinton and I first started dating 16 years ago, we rarely cooked from scratch. We’d often go out for drinks, then back to each other’s houses for takeaways and, over the years, my weight gradually crept up. Then, in 2015, my sister Faye lost 3st in six months with Slimming World, so I decided to join, too.
From the very first day, I loved the flexibility and freedom of Food Optimising. It wasn’t until Clinton joined three months later, though, that we started making proper meals. We had fun playing around with flavours and recreating our favourite recipes, and what we loved most was putting slimming-friendly spins on dishes we’d eaten on holidays.
Now, making simple ingredient swaps comes naturally to us, and we really enjoy creating tasty Food Optimising feasts.
Friends often ask us how we find so much time for cooking, but the truth is, we don’t! We still eat out loads, ordering the healthier options on the menu whenever we can. And we live for our holidays – not least so we can bring some more foodie inspiration home...
Pizza bianca – Amalfi coast, Italy
We went to Sorrento for our wedding anniversary in 2019, and while we were there we visited Positano, Ravello and Pompeii. We trekked up Mount Vesuvius, too, and the views were incredible!
That area of Italy is famous for pizza and we can honestly say they were the best we’d ever had. It was the first time we’d tried pizza bianca (which translates as ‘white pizza’), and we couldn’t wait to have a go at making our own once we got home.
We used ricotta cheese for the sauce, because it’s rich and creamy and you get a generous amount (90g) as a Healthy Extra ‘a’ choice. Our low-Syn dough works perfectly with this recipe, but if you’d like to make your pizza Free, you can create a base from a Healthy Extra ‘b’ wholemeal pitta, mashed cauliflower or an omelette.
Grab a slice of the action: Use this pizza dough recipe and top it with 90g ricotta to make your own pizza bianca. You could add some Parma ham (count ½ Syn per slice) and spinach like Zoe and Clinton have, for extra flavour and colour.
Spanakopita – Corfu, Greece
Our first holiday together was to Corfu. We were only 18 and didn’t have much money, so we booked a cheap package deal and stayed in a small family-run complex in Sidari. We fell head over heels in love with the island – and with the food!
Since then we’ve been back every year, and we’ve tried all sorts of local dishes – from kleftiko and souvlaki to pastitsio. We’ve given all of them the Food Optimising treatment, and this spanakopita is a dish we make again and again. It’s a brilliant brunch – and so easy to do.
Go Greek: Slimming World members will find this low-Syn spanakopita recipe on our app and website.
Currywurst – Germany
This one is Clint’s baby. He grew up in Germany and bratwurst was usually on offer at his family get-togethers. Even today, we always take some bratwurst and our home-made curry ketchup to barbecues.
While we’re happy to count 8 Syns each for an authentic bratwurst, you can keep this dish Free by using Slimming World Pork Sausages or Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Red Onion and Rosemary Sausages instead.
Zoe and Clinton’s curry ketchup recipe
Ready in 25 minutes
Low-calorie cooking spray
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp curry powder*
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
150ml hot chicken stock
*Watch out for spice/seasoning blends that have added ingredients (like sugar, oil or starch). To protect your weight loss, count ½ Syn per level tsp/1½ Syns per level tbsp.
Spray a non-stick saucepan with low-calorie cooking spray and put it over a medium heat. Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, then add the cinnamon, paprika and curry powder and cook for another minute.
Turn off the heat and stir through the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée.
Pour the mixture into your food processor and blitz until smooth.
Tip the ketchup back into the pan and stir in the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste and serve.
Cheesy hake bake – Algarve, Portugal
We discovered this back in 2018, in Ferragudo – a gorgeous little fishing village close to our villa in Carvoeiro. After a busy day of dolphin and whale watching, we’d stopped off at a restaurant and absolutely loved this local fish dish.
As soon as we got back, we set out to make a slim-safe version and it worked perfectly. We used traditional hake, but it would be just as beautiful with cod, haddock or pretty much any fish you like!
Zoe and Clinton’s cheesy hake bake recipe
12 Syns per serving (deduct 6 Syns if using the mozzarella as a Healthy Extra ‘a’ choice, and another 6 Syns if using the Primula as your second Healthy Extra ‘a’ option)
Ready in 40 minutes
Low-calorie cooking spray
120g Primula Original Cheese
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp paprika
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large potato, thinly sliced
2 small skinless and boneless hake fillets
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large onion, roughly chopped
80g mozzarella, grated
Preheat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.
Spray a large non-stick saucepan with low-calorie cooking spray and add the passata, Primula, mixed herbs, paprika and garlic. Season to taste and cook for 5 minutes.
At the same time, cook the potato in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Spoon some of the tomato sauce into a baking dish, then add a layer of overlapping potato, followed by the hake. Top with the tomato slices and chopped onion. Spoon over the rest of the sauce and sprinkle over the mozzarella.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and fish cooked through.
Zoe and Clinton’s world food bucket list
There are so many places we haven’t had the chance to go to yet, but that hasn’t stopped us bringing our dream destinations to the dinner table…
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.