Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Growing up I never liked Heinz baked beans. The sweet artificial tasting syrup that leaked from the pile of squashed beans was enough to render inedible anything it touched. I know that by saying this I risk being hanged, since it is probably a law in this country to like baked beans, fry-ups and roast dinners (and baked beans are by a long shot not even my most hated on that list). Despite social exclusion, disliking baked beans has an enormous advantage. Firstly, it means that I grew up associating beans with a variety of different meals and as an ingredient (not as a household tinned good), and secondly this allows me to experiment with bean-tomato-slightly sweet-reduced-on toast type meals without thinking that some sort of blasphemy has occurred.
To demonstrate my point I recall a Saturday morning cookery programme I watched years ago. A chef (I can't remember which one) spent a good hour and a lot of effort preparing his version of baked beans. Much to his disappointment the tasting panel all said they didn't really like it because when they thought of baked beans they thought of Heinz, which they grew up on. Shame. But as I said, the advantage of not liking them growing up means I am free from their grip - which means I can make my own "baked beans". Don't be put of by the ingredient list, most of which are dry goods and are probably lurking somewhere in most people's cupboard. I usually use three different types of beans, the two listed below plus pinto; however I only had butter and red kidney beans. If you do use three types then use 100g of each.
Also, if this is being made for a weekend brunch then a handful of smoked lardons would go wonderfully, tossed in a few minutes after the onions.

Beans on toast
Makes a large batch

- butter beans, 150g
- kidney beans, 150g
- chopped tomatoes, 2 tins
- oil, 2 tbsp
- an onion, finely chopped
- garlic clove, minced
- cumin seeds, heaped tsp
- star anise, 2
- smoked paprika, tsp
- tomato purée, tbsp
- balsamic vinegar, tsp
- dijon mustard, heaped tsp
- brown sauce, tbsp
- soy sauce, a few splashes
- black treacle, tbsp
- sea salt, a good pinch
- toasted multi-seeded sourdough

Soak the beans over night. Refresh and cook to the packet instructions, but don't cook them for too long - you want them falling apart slightly in the sauce later, not the cooking water. If using tinned beans, then add slightly later in the cooking process.
In a large pan, heat the oil over a medium heat and add the onion. Cook for about five to ten minutes, till softened.Add the garlic, cumin seeds and star anise and cook for a further couple of minutes. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a gentle boil for a minute. Reduce to a gentle simmer and add the tomato purée, balsamic vinegar, mustard, brown sauce, soy sauce and treacle. Stir in a good pinch of salt and black pepper and leave to simmer for 25-30 minutes, till thickened a bit.
Stir in the cooked beans and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve alongside toasted sourdough slices. Sprinkle over dried chilli flakes and a dash more salt, if required.

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