Those of you out there who are regular readers will have, quite rightly, gone away with the impression that I really love beans in all forms. It’s true, I use them to bulk out an awful lot of recipes, when I want to cut out half of the meat in a dish, or just by their delicious self. But sadly, I do have to confess to (and quite possibly the only person who does, in this country at least) loathing tinned baked beans. In fact, they are actually the only food that I have discovered to date that I do not like. But, never fear, I am continuing on my mission to sample every food known to man, and others that aren’t just to make sure there aren’t any others. I do, however like my baked beans recipe, and if you have only ever eaten them to date out of a tin, I suggest you give them a go to see what you have been missing out on.
In case you remain unconvinced about beans, or naturally steer clear from them because of their gassy reputation, have a read of what I said about their health benefits in my last beans post (not long ago, I know, but what can I say, they are really tasty) here. If their not undeserved reputation still puts you off, have a look around at various bean recipes from all over the world and you will notice one common theme; they all include a variety of digestive aiding herbs and spices. In my recipe, I chose to use thyme and bay, but cardamon, coriander, cumin, rosemary, sage or parsley would all be good choices.
My favorite way of eating these beans is to smother a jacket potato with them topped off with a sprinkling of a strong cheese on top. It’s always a winner in my house, and at this time of year when the nights are drawing in and you feel like something really substantial to tuck into, is a perfect meat free Monday dinner. I have included alternatives that use a small amount of meat for those hard core carnivores out there, but you really can make these without it and not notice the difference, so be brave and give it a go!
Baked Beans Recipe
Serves 6 generously
4- 5 400g tins of various beans (I always use a combination of borlotti, cannellini and haricots, but then again, I am a creature of habit, you could mix it up a bit)
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 large red onion
2 sticks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
A good sized bunch of fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
Half a red chilli (if you can use chipotle; they will add a bit of smokiness)
A tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
A tbsp of sugar beet syrup, or if not a slight tbsp of treacle/ molasses
600 ml of good quality veg stock, or if you aren’t doing the veggie version some left over pork stock from cooking a ham. I usually soak a few dried porcini mushrooms in some boiling water, then use this to make my veg stock and dice up the mushrooms to go in as well.
If you can’t manage without 100g or so of diced pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, fried off before hand.
Crush your garlic and leave to one side, then soften your onion, chilli and celery in some oil (or the oil from the bacon) for about 15 minutes.
Add the garlic to the pan and soften for a minute or so.
Add all the other ingredients, cover and bring to the boil. At this point you can either transfer to an oven preheated to about 180 deg C, to get the true baked beans, or simmer on the hob for around 40 minutes, until the flavors have blended and it has thickened slightly. There really is no discernible taste difference, it is entirely up to you. Keep checking on it though, to make sure you have enough liquid, depending on how ferociously you are cooking them, you may need a top up.
Serve as you will, but you really can’t beat the jacket spud/ cheese combo.