Give Me Five: Home-made baked beans
A home-made version of the ultimate convenience food tastes so much nicer
Home-made baked beans: a really nourishing quick-fix supper that’s cheap and easy to make
I love beans on toast. It’s a really nourishing quick-fix supper that’s cheap and easy to make. It has been years since I’ve actually bought a tin of beans, so I was a bit disheartened recently when I did and it was just a watery sweet sauce with little beans that needed to be chased around the plate.
I was amazed at the amount of sugar in the sauce, so I decided to make my own and, as with most things, the home-made version is so much nicer.
You can start out with dried beans: simply soak them and then cook them according to the instructions on the pack. Depending on the bean, you could be waiting a few hours, however. It’s always worth buying a big bag of organic beans, soak and cook them, then freeze in portion-sized bags. They defrost really quickly, almost as soon as they hit a hot sauce. I do this with lentils too. It’s so handy and very cheap.
For this recipe I use cannellini beans but haricot beans are perfect too. Butter beans can be used at a push.
Traditional American baked beans usually include salt pork and some molasses or maple syrup. For my version I’ve added maple-cured rashers. They give just the right amount of salt and a subtle sweetness and flavour from the maple. Make this recipe vegetarian-friendly by leaving out the bacon and adding half a teaspoon of maple syrup to get the same sweetness.
Perfect breakfast fare
A little brown sugar encourages the treacle-like tastes to develop. This dish is a lovely lunch or supper but it’s perfect breakfast fare too. Make it the night before and serve on a Sunday morning with thick slices of buttered sourdough toast. Little else is needed except for a pot of hot tea and the newspapers.
Tinned pork and beans were one of the very first convenience foods in the US. It was in this form that baked beans were exported to Europe in the early 20th century and their popularity spread. Along the way the pork was lost and the sauce became sweeter. Baked beans were first sold as an expensive foreign delicacy in London’s Fortnum and Mason in 1886.
I love seeing home-made beans on toast on menus. The Cake Cafe in Dublin makes a gorgeous version with sausage and tomato. It uses cannellini beans too. Some people use a handful of grated cheddar cheese to top their beans. I love a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Any leftovers become thick and even more tasty for the following day. I love to serve them as is on a slice of toast but they make a great side dish too. Simply roast a chicken or grill some pork chops.
Upgrade these beans to more of a cassoulet style dish by adding confit duck legs and some meaty sausages, top with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven. Cassoulet is one of my favourite French dishes.
Traditionally it’s “peasant fare”: food to nourish workers in the fields. I’m sure it did just that and more, as it has an impressively long list of ingredients including ham hock, duck legs, pork belly, lamb breast, sausages and, of course, beans. For me it’s the most luxurious version of beans on toast, and I make it at least once a year, on special occasions.
In the meantime I’m quite happy with this lovely five-ingredient version – a big hit with all the family.
HOME-MADE BAKED BEANS: SERVES 4
The five ingredients
120g maple-cured rashers, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
400g tinned tomatoes
435g cooked, tinned cannellini beans
1 loaf sourdough bread
From the pantry
1tsp brown sugar
1tbs cider vinegar
Heat a little olive oil in a heavy based pan and fry the bacon for five minutes or so.
Add the crushed garlic, tomato, sugar, salt and vinegar.
Stir in the water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat then leave the sauce to simmer away for 10-15 minutes, until slightly reduced.
Add the beans and simmer for another 10 minutes until the sauce is thick and rich.
Meanwhile toast and butter the bread.
Serve the beans over the warm toast.
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