Beans n Bacon- a skinny thing!

A creamy healthy bowl of goodness, from one pot and just five longlife ingredients.

A creamy healthy bowl of goodness, from one pot and just five longlife ingredients.

I’ve been away this last week on a brief tour of South Wales, not a typical holiday but one I have returned home from with two very typical concerns- an expanding waistline and an almost empty fridge. Gah!

I’m sure the former is familiar to most of us- there’s something about being away that just lets us cheat without really caring. Maybe it’s a matter of geography, that you leave your healthy brain at home on the sofa for a kip while you wander off to territories new, or hot, or exciting or Welsh. And there the little voice stays, quieting and weakening as it is gradually smothered in a layer of cheese and bread and chocolate and wine and pastries and more wine until all you can hear is that universal trickster devilry from every corner, simply saying oh go on, you’re on holiday….

I try every year and I never beat the abounding temptations, neither do I manage to do enough walking or swimming to counteract their fattening effects.  One simply has to say I’ll be good when I get home, and this time I did put a small amount of thought into having something edible and not evil available on my return to avoid further dietary damage in the form of the inevitable pizza call out.

OK fine, so I still made that call out when I got home last night BUT due to late availability of supermarket delivery slots the cupboards were similarly bare again this evening. My will to cook, however, was full to the brim. My longlife store cupboard options were bacon, various tinned things, garlic, dried piri piris and a spring cabbage that was starting to look a bit sad around the edges. Cue one of my favourite, most satisfying week day dinners- Beans n Bacon. 

What follows is neither spectacular not ground breaking, it is however quick, easy, mega tasty and packed with slimming friendly fibre and protein to fill you up plus some complex carbs and vitamin c. It’s a real comfort dinner and the creaminess from the cannellini beans can fool you into thinking it’s a lot less good for you than it actually is. So here we go. 

You will need:

Bacon- fat trimming optional
Tinned cannellini beans (Asda organic ones suit me best)
Garlic
Chilli
Spring cabbage or ‘spring greens’

cabbage, the high vitamin low calorie friend to all dieters.

cabbage, the high vitamin low calorie friend to all dieters.

I will leave off quantities here as tastes will vary, but assuming you use three rashers of bacon (fat and all) and one can of beans per person you wont go more over 500 calories per serving. I believe this is free on slimming world if you trim the bacon, otherwise the bacon fat (or olive oil) will be the only syns. 

To start, roughly chop up your bacon- if you’re keeping the fat on then put this straight into a hot pan with nothing else or if you have trimmed it you will need a smidge of olive oil to avoid it sticking. Add in your garlic, minced or chopped (I like 2 fat cloves per serving) and cook for a couple of minutes until the bacon is opaque but not quite done. Add your chilli now you can use fresh or dried just go with your own personal heat preference. Next add your beans- there’s very little liquid in the ones I get so I don’t drain them. You may or may not wish to add a little bit of water. Cover, turn the heat down and leave to cook for another five minutes with the odd stir to avoid the beans welding themselves to the pan base. While this is going on finely shred your cabbage, then when the beans are just starting to look a bit mushy round the edges throw it in the mix, stir gently but thoroughly then cover again and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until the cabbage is cooked through. 

Season heartily with black pepper and serve immediately. 

variations: You can swap the cabbage for collard greens or savoy cabbage if you like or spinach for a much lighter version. Veggies can skip the bacon and bulk up with some chestnut mushrooms instead, it also works well with some fresh basil or coriander added at the end. With the bacon you shouldn’t need to add any salt so taste it before seasoning!

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VIFC August Meeting- The Elizabethans.

Yes, yes, my VIFC write ups have been remiss of late and for that I apologise. I let myself off the hook for July as I was otherwise engaged in Twickenham that night and sadly unable to attend so your guess about how the 1930’s theme night went are as good as mine!

UntitledAs for the 80’s night review, I was waiting for someone else’s photos to upload then I was busy then I had an itchy toe for a while and, yeah. It didn’t get written. I can summarise to say that we had Duck a l’orange (yum), potted shrimp (nom), chicken liver pate (drool) unintentionally blackened nutty shortbread (cough), a syrup sponge pudding (happy diabetic coma), my silly cake as pictured and something else that Matt made which I can’t for the life of me recall at this point. Sorry Matt.
80’s night was a funny one, as the more I googled, the more 80’s food I found was actually 70’s food, or 60’s or 90’s……because long story short a lot of food doesn’t change all that much and remembering stuff my mum cooked me in the 80’s she learned in the 70s and so on and so on. But to hell with the semantics and off we went and the main running themes we as a group identified from the 80s were dinner party favourites and the wider introduction of haute cuisine. Plus, you know, cake. Every generation needs cake.

So on to the August meet and another time period theme- The Elizabethans. Bit of a wider range than the 80/30s but not as easy as it might first appear. I for one will freely admit to much swearing for this task. I was allocated a starter or side dish and went to my usual information source, the jolly old interweb.

I found lots of information on what the Elizabethan’s didn’t eat, which didn’t help much, and lots of general blaaaah about how the rich ate meat and the poor didn’t, the majority of seasonings were spices and herbs tended to be eaten fresh in green salads rather than cooked in. Fish and fowl were popular, as were dried fruit and nuts plus the Great British staples of bread, cheese and beer. Could I find any helpful actual recipes though? Negatory. Fine, I’ll get something modern that has lasted since those times. Bread? I cannot make bread. I thought about trying it again then remembered the weapon like bricks of doom that my dough making has always resulted in and decided against it. However as the old wives say, those who don’t have bread hands do have pastry hands. I can make pastry and once won first prize in the Brownie’s Cornish Pasty making contest thing. Yeah. I made those eight year old bitches weep with my mad shortcrust skills. Pasties it was. Did the Elizabethans have pasties? Debatable. Some old history on The Globe Theatre tells us that arts lovers in the days of Shakespeare would merrily partake in a little sweet meat and nut pie topped off with a sort of marmalade as a pre theatre nibble. I could make something like that. I must confess I did not use a strict recipe but will try to recreate it properly for a later post but the basics were lamb cooked up with quite a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and ginger, plus dried berries and roasted nuts. Wrap it all up in a shortcrust shell, served with my friend Louise’s rather fantabulous fig and grapefruit chutney. You’d like her actually, read her blog here! I was pleased with the outcome, although the pastry wasn’t my best but I suspect that it would have made any of Queen Bess’ followers happy enough.

So, the results!

Sweet lamb pasties, from me! Chutney is slightly off camera. I have to say the meat mix was yummy, the lamb really nicely set off with the sweet spices and some texture from the fruit and nuts. I'll be trying this again, with a slightly more butter rich pastry.

Sweet lamb pasties, from me! Chutney is slightly off camera. I have to say the meat mix was yummy, the lamb really nicely set off with the sweet spices and some texture from the fruit and nuts. I’ll be trying this again, with a slightly more butter rich pastry.

And a partridge in a glass bowl! That's the 2nd time I've use that joke today and I'm still snickering. This was no joke though- partridge poached in lamb stock with mace butter from Dave. I've not had partirdge before and this was beautiful, moist and darkly gamey. A veritable treat.

And a partridge in a glass bowl! That’s the 2nd time I’ve use that joke today and I’m still snickering. This was no joke though- partridge poached in lamb stock with mace butter from Dave. I’ve not had partirdge before and this was beautiful, moist and darkly gamey. A veritable treat.

 

Roasted sweet potatoes with apple and sweet spices- nutmeg if memory serves? As Sheena, this dish's owner, tells us it was sweet potatoes, rather than white, that first came from the New World during the reign of Elizabeth I. I love sweet potatoes anyway and the sharp sweetness of apples complimented them perfectly. This would go amazingly well with a big lump of roast meat.

Roasted sweet potatoes with apple and sweet spices- nutmeg if memory serves? As Sheena, this dish’s owner, tells us it was sweet potatoes, rather than white, that first came from the New World during the reign of Elizabeth I. I love sweet potatoes anyway and the sharp sweetness of apples complimented them perfectly. This would go amazingly well with a big lump of roast meat.

More sweet spuds from Amanda, this time mashed and buttered with a liberal throw in of orange zest. Perfect alone, great alongside the partridge and everything else. Bloody lovely. Did I mention that I love sweet potatoes?

More sweet spuds from Amanda, this time mashed and buttered with a liberal throw in of orange zest. Perfect alone, great alongside the partridge and everything else. Bloody lovely. Did I mention that I love sweet potatoes?

Chicken broth soup from Paula- a thick and hearty mix of chicken and mixed grains, so very very satisfying and warm with pepper. Great stuff.

Chicken broth soup from Paula- a thick and hearty mix of chicken and mixed grains, so very very satisfying and warm with pepper. Great stuff.

Spinnage Pie! Found on an authentic recipe from Dr Stuart, this was a heavy shortcrust pastry pie filled with simply cooked spinach flavoured with cinnamon and either mace or nutmeg. It was really nice and put me in mind of a spanakopitak (sp?)- the greek spinach and cheese filo pastry pie which I ate a lot of visiting a friend from school with a Greek mother. Much better pastry than my pasties too, a truimph for the creator!

Spinnage Pie! Found on an authentic recipe from Dr Stuart, this was a heavy shortcrust pastry pie filled with simply cooked spinach flavoured with cinnamon and either mace or nutmeg. It was really nice and put me in mind of a spanakopita (sp?)- the greek spinach and cheese filo pastry pie which I ate a lot of visiting a friend from school with a Greek mother. Much better pastry than my pasties too, a triumph for the creator!

 

Rice pudding from Tom. Tom has to win dish of the night as this is the first rice pudding I have ever eaten and, well, actually eaten without gagging and spitting up. I loathe rice pudding, but I didn't want to be childish so I tried some and it was fine. Proper stodgy thick (it needed a knife and fork) and subtly sweetened with honey and more cinnamon. I managed a small portion. Don't tell my brother or mother or step mother or anyone else who's rice pudding I have steadfastly refused to consume since I was old enough to speak.

Rice pudding from Tom. Tom has to win dish of the night as this is the first rice pudding I have ever eaten and, well, actually eaten without gagging and spitting up. I loathe rice pudding, but I didn’t want to be childish so I tried some and it was fine. Proper stodgy thick (it needed a knife and fork) and subtly sweetened with honey and more cinnamon. I managed a small portion. Don’t tell my brother or mother or step mother or anyone else who’s rice pudding I have steadfastly refused to consume since I was old enough to speak.

This dish din't have a name, rather a literary introduction as The Lord Devonshire, His Pudding. Conjoured by dessert addict Matt this was a big square bread and butter pudding with dates and stuff. Possibly some more cinnamon. Job jobbed.

This dish din’t have a name, rather a literary introduction as The Lord Devonshire, His Pudding. Conjoured by dessert addict Matt this was a big square bread and butter pudding with dates and stuff. Possibly some more cinnamon. Job jobbed.

And finally, a honey cake from Ian. Delightfully moist and highly satisfying I shall be needing the recipe for this.

And finally, a honey cake from Ian. Delightfully moist and highly satisfying I shall be needing the recipe for this.

So there we have it and don’t I sound like a suck up again going on about how good everything was! Well it was, I can’t lie. Well I can but I’m not right now. Or am I?

Anyway moving on to the summary- Elizabethans ate some OK stuff, heavy on the meat and carbs though, one has to wonder just how uncomfortable those corsets became if this was standard dinner fare. I certainly could have done with a cart ride home by the time we were finished. More fatty stodge from the nuts too, maybe a saving healthy grace in all that cinnamon which is all kinds of good for you, though not enough good to fend off the masses of scurvy that came from such a low vitamin C diet. Good job potatoes were right around the corner really!

Next month we have our first Celeb Chef night, where we all have to bring a Rick Stein dish. Three guesses which Celeb Chef’s books I own non of?

Back to my old mate google then, until next time.