Lockdown lunches | Black bean soup with salsa

Maybe because dried black beans aren’t the number one shopping item for hoarders, I found packs of them still on the shelves. Black soup doesn’t look or sound very appetising but, trust me, this is one of the most delicious soups I’ve tasted in a while. It’s a Mexican-inspired recipe with a spot of Tabasco heat but what really makes it is the fresh salsa topping of lime-infused onion, chilli, coriander, tomato and extra-virgin olive oil. I made enough for my lunch this week and never tired of it – and it’s low carb. Let’s hope I’ll still be able to find black beans after I’ve published this because I think you’ll love it too!

Black bean soup

Serves 4

  • 250g black beans, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water 
  • 3 slices of streaky bacon, finely chopped into lardons
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, roasted and finely ground
  • 1.2 litres of chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon of Tabasco
  • 15g fresh coriander, stalks for the soup, the rest for the salsa
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 green chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 1 dessertspoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make …

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the bacon and cook for about 5minutes. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and coriander stalks and cook on a gentle heat for another 10 minutes.
  • Drain the beans and to the pan with the chicken stock, roasted cumin and tabasco. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook at this low heat for about an hour and a half with the lid on.
  • Make the salsa for later. In a medium-sized bowl, add the sliced red onion, the juice of half a lime, the chopped tomato, coriander, extra-virgin olive oil and chilli. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. The lime should mellow out the raw onion.
  • Once the beans are soft and cooked through, whizz with a hand blender until smooth. Season and return to a gentle heat.
  • Serve the soup in warm bowls, top with a spoonful of the salsa.

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

  • To get the latest #TheFridayRecipe from the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog, just add your email address to the subscribe box at the top right-hand column of the website.
  • Follow me on twitter @pigeoncottage,  on Instagram at Pigeon Cottage Kitchen and the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen page on Facebook.
  • Click on the link to get your very own copy of my family recipe book, Whats4teaMum?

NB: Always consult an appropriately qualified health professional before adopting a dramatic lifestyle change – we’re all different, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.

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Lockdown fish pie

This recipe was originally published in my book Whats4teaMum? as Lowestoft Fish Pie but in these days of ‘catch what you can’ in the supermarkets you can make it with any frozen fish you might have in the freezer. It’s comforting and homely and just what we need in these days of COVID-lockdown. I am officially working from home as opposed to being on Netflix-lockdown so apologies for not posting a new #TheFridayRecipe for a while. This one’s for you, Neil. There are a few steps to get this ready but if you do them in the order I suggest, you should be able to get this onto the table in just over an hour. Totally worth it!

Fish pie

Serves 4

  • 600g of fish (fresh or frozen) – cod, smoked haddock, salmon all work very well as a mix or solo. You could add a few prawns if you have them. Skin and cut into generous chunks. 
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs with a semi-set yolk, peeled and quartered
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • One banana shallot, finely chopped (use onion if you don’t have shallot but it will just take longer to cook)
  • 25g butter
  • Optional: 1 large handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • Mash for the topping: Make with a mixture of celeriac and potato if you’re on a carb-restricted diet or plain mashed potato made with about 900g of potatoes, 25g butter, a dash of milk and a handful of grated cheddar. 

To make…

  • Peel the potatoes for the mash (and the celeriac if you’re going half and half), cut into evenly-sized chunks and cook on the hob in a pan of lightly salted water until tender. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. It takes about 20 minutes depending on the variety of potato you’re using.
  • Get the eggs on next – 7 minutes in boiling water should be enough to get a semi-set yolk. Once cooked, remove from the saucepan and run them under the cold tap, peel (roll them on your chopping board first to make them easier to peel) and quarter.
  • Next, heat the butter in a pan and once it’s melted and foamy, add the finely chopped shallot and celery and leave to cook on a gentle heat for about 8 minutes until they are soft and sweet. Just give it a little stir if it looks like it’s sticking.
  • Meanwhile, lightly butter an oven-proof ceramic baking dish. Cover the base with the fish cut into generous chunks. Tuck the pieces of egg in between the pieces of fish so that each spoonful will yield a nice chunk of fish and egg.
  • Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  • The shallot and celery mix should be ready now. Take it off the heat, pour in the cream and mustard, mix thoroughly. Stir in the parsley and then gradually stir in the lemon juice. Add a little milk if it looks too thick. Season with a little salt and pepper. Pour it carefully over the fish mixture and then give the dish a bit of a wiggle so the sauce beds down nicely into the fish pieces.
  • The potatoes for the mash should be ready now so drain them, leave them a minute or two to let the steam dissipate. Throw in the butter and milk, mash and then whip it up with a fork to make it smooth (I like to add a little grated nutmeg). It needs to be fairly stiff so it holds when it cooks again in the oven and doesn’t disintegrate into the sauce. Top the fish mixture with the mash spoonful by spoonful so it stays evenly distributed. Run a fork over the top so there aren’t any gaps and then scatter with cheese.
  • Place the dish onto a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until bubbling and golden on top.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. I like this pie served with green veg – shredded cabbage, wilted spinach, steamed green beans – whatever you’ve got. Yum!

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

  • To get the latest #TheFridayRecipe from the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog, just add your email address to the subscribe box at the top right-hand column of the website.
  • Follow me on twitter @pigeoncottage,  on Instagram at Pigeon Cottage Kitchen and the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen page on Facebook.
  • Click on the link to get your very own copy of my family recipe book, Whats4teaMum?
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Eat to beat diabetes | Reading and understanding food labels

Once you understand that, if you are pre-diabetic (or trying to lose weight), overloading your body with glucose by regularly eating large amounts of carbohydrate is to be avoided, learning to read food labels in a purposeful manner becomes second nature.

I created a simple spreadsheet of all the food products I buy regularly so that I can see quite clearly the total amount of carbohydrate in everything I eat. That way, I can make healthier meal choices, compare brands and make simple food swaps such as eating low-carb cauliflower mash instead of high-carb potato mash. It took a little while but it was totally worth it for the insights it gave me to create a much much healthier diet for myself and my family.

Food labelThe nutritional information for the food you buy has to appear somewhere on the packaging by law. It’s usually in tiny tiny writing so make sure you have your glasses to hand if you need them! The information is usually quoted per 100g or per 100ml. Often, there will be a serving or pack size like this one for cold-pressed rapeseed oil.

You can see the amount of energy in the food i.e. the number of calories, the types of fat (the best kind for managing your cholesterol levels is monounsaturated fat), the amount of protein and carbohydrate with the % of sugar present (the total amount is what counts) and salt levels. This oil label also shows the important vitamins and the level of Omega 3 fatty acids present.

Traffic lights

You will also see, prominently featured on the packaging, the so-called traffic light system of nutritional information. Although you can see the % of sugars, it doesn’t quote the total carbohydrate level (the important number) and you’ll have to search for it on the nutritional information panel elsewhere on the pack. It’s very annoying and the packs should really include the total carbs clearly because that’s what really drives type 2 diabetes and also obesity.

JS nutrition

If you shop online, you can easily look at the product information panel on each product page to review the nutritional information. That way, you can make brand by brand comparisons (they can vary quite a lot) and save your choices to make your shopping easier.

You can also see the colour coding here used in the traffic light system but just remember the total grammes of carbohydrate is what counts, not simply sugar levels.

In this example, you can see that the sugar content per pack is 9.5g but the total carbohydrate is a whopping 41g. If you are trying to stay under e.g. 40g of carbohydrate/day to lose weight, this equals more than your daily total allowance.

Just remember…

  • Anything made with flour i.e. pasta, pizza, crackers, biscuits, bread and pastry will be high in carbohydrates. It means that these food items will raise your blood glucose levels quickly.  As dishes made with them are usually combined with lots of fat, it also makes them calorie-dense i.e. not good for weight loss either. Bulghur wheat, rice, quinoa, couscous and pearl barley, often the base for veggie salads, are also high in carbohydrate.
  • Loose items such as fruit and vegetables generally don’t carry food labels so you need to be extra careful about making the best choices. For example, although we are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, be aware that exotic fruit like bananas, pineapple and mango are high in sugar/carbs so choose berries, apples and pears instead which are much lower. As a rule of thumb, veg that grows below the ground tends to be more starchy/carby than ones that grow above the ground. So, potatoes are high in carbs, cabbage and broccoli aren’t.
  • Fat does not spike your blood glucose and is necessary for good health. Many products marketed as low fat often have sugar added to give them flavour and texture so it’s best to give them a wide berth. When looking at the fat content of food, olive oil and cold-pressed rapeseed are high in monounsaturates which is the best for HDL ‘good’ cholesterol. Oils such as sunflower and palm are very high in polyunsaturates which can raise your LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. Saturated fats such as those found in dairy products, eggs and meat are all OK but can also be high in calories so eat them in moderation.
  • If you make your meals from scratch, you know what’s in them. If you eat out a lot, eat ready-meals or so-called junk food such as burgers and pizza then just be aware that you may not know what all the ingredients are. Have an occasional treat, by all means,  just keep the junk in check.

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

  • To get the latest #TheFridayRecipe from the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog, just add your email address to the subscribe box at the top right-hand column of the website.
  • Follow me on twitter @pigeoncottage,  on Instagram at Pigeon Cottage Kitchen and the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen page on Facebook.
  • Click on the link to get your very own copy of my family recipe book, Whats4teaMum?

NB: Always consult an appropriately qualified health professional before adopting a dramatic lifestyle change – we’re all different, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.

Posted in eat to beat diabetes, Recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment