Working from home brings many benefits. Apart from enjoying a flagrant disregard for sartorial etiquette in the workplace, I get to drink coffee from a proper coffee machine and real, loose-leaf herb tea. I also eat the most fantastic if not rather bizarre lunches.
My husband also works from home and between us we usually manage to concoct something from various oddities and leftovers in the fridge. Nothing is wasted in our house, and after the evening meal we scrape any leftovers off our plates and leave them in a bowl in the fridge. We usually deliberately cook too many vegetables so that we have plenty for lunch the next day. Yesterday was an exception – I opened the fridge and there was virtually nothing in it. I did however find a bowl containing the remnants of a three day-old ratatouille/pepperonata I had saved. So into the pan that went – a mixture of aubergine, red onion, yellow pepper, red pepper, tomato, garlic and herbs. There wasn’t much though, so I had to rummage through the cupboards. Consequently this lunch was a bit heavy on the tins, but that’s exactly what tins are for – stand-by. I opened a tin of sardines in spring water and in they went. Not enough for two I decided, so I added a tin of baby clams. Now you’re talking, I said to myself. It was still lacking a bit of bite, so I opened a tin of borlotti beans. It needed spicing up a bit so I added a few drops of hot red pepper sauce. Husband found a small bowl of something we were unable to give a positive I.D. to in the fridge. We guessed it might have been the juice from the chicken we had cooked a couple of days earlier, mixed in with some butter which had made it semi-solid. Whatever it was, in it went. Some rosemary and thyme which had survived the winter were picked from the garden and added the final touch. Voilà – a unique and, as it turned out, truly delicious lunch. I think you could call it a fish and bean stew.
Overall I would say it was the borlotti beans that were the stars of this particular show. Beans are the most overlooked, underrated and nutritious food and do not get the attention they deserve. When you think how heavily sugary cereals and other dietary tat of poor nutritional value are advertised you realise that it is only because there are no powerful commercial interests in beans that they barely get a look in. I’m not talking baked beans here – I’m referring to kidney beans, black-eye beans, haricot (the true identify behind baked beans) adzuki, butter and of course borlotti.
Rich in protein and fibre, beans contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre is the type that sweeps debris and waste out of the body and keeps you regular. Soluble fibre is partially digested and helps keep blood pressure down and regulates blood sugar levels. This fibre is also rich in compounds called oligosaccharides which provide food for the friendly bacteria in your gut, stimulating their growth. In addition to all this lovely protein and fibre, beans also contain very slow releasing carbohydrate (which stabilises appetite), plus good levels of iron, calcium and some B vitamins, especially folate.
What a shame I didn’t have any samphire to add to this fabulousy fishy creation. A bit of green and the taste of the sea would have been just the ticket, but the chances of my ever having any leftover samphire from a previous meal are none to zero.