You may recall that following our highway harvesting a couple of weeks ago I found myself with a kilo of fresh borlotti beans and no idea what to do with them. Until I asked good old Twitter for ideas (so useful for a quick shout-out, that place) and @BZB suggested Boston baked beans – bingo!
For years I’ve seen gorgeous-looking recipes for luscious, caramelly Boston baked beans and always wanted to try them, but had never gotten around to it. So this time I did, and now I’m addicted. I even love canned baked beans as an instant comfort food, but as we try to avoid packaged and processed stuff as much as possible these days, so I haven’t eaten them in years.
A quick trawl for real baked bean recipes showed that most traditional recipes seem to use treacle, and lots include some form of smoked pork. I wanted to do this quickly, and without having to shop for strange ingredients (can’t see myself using treacle much round here ….) so I did the usual kinds of kitchen substitutions and ended up with my own quickish and easy version. I’ve made these baked beans twice now, once with the fresh borlottis and once with dried white beans. The picture here is with the white beans, and as they’re more usually to hand, so is this recipe.
With our lovely fresh roadside borlottis (pictured podded here) there was no soaking involved, obviously. In fact despite being a bit unsure of what to do, I just tossed them uncooked into the saucy mix and baked them for several hours – while I was off attending a pro-carbon tax rally, to be precise. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned sign-waving, foot-stomping, slogan-shouting protesting for working up an appetite for these babies! (and no, I won’t be sullying this blog with the gags about gases and emissions that are just begging to be made right here; you’ll have to enjoy those in the privacy of your own home…!)
Back to the recipe. I began with Maggie Beer, as I so often do, and her recipe for Boston baked beans from Maggie’s Kitchen – the same recipe is conveniently provided on her website here. I’ve always found Maggie’s recipes work perfectly, so am sure this one would do as well, but as I was improvising with stuff to hand, my baked beans are a little different. First, as I said, I skipped the treacle and instead used a combination of maple syrup and honey. I also used ordinary (but scrumptious free range) bacon instead of smoked pork belly or speck, and my beans didn’t take as long to cook as indicated in her recipe. Otherwise, it’s really very much the same. Here’s what I did. The cloves and bay leaves are especially essential.
- 500g dried white beans
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 cloves
- 1 large onion, halved
- 100g smoky bacon
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 x 400g tin chopped Roma tomatoes
- 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
- Salt & pepper
1. Soak the beans overnight (these days I add a few spoonsful of natural yoghurt to the soaking water, as recommended by Zoe, the Bean Queen, who knows stuff about stuff and tells me the enzymes rolling about in this process aids with alleviation of the aforementioned gaseous emissions! Am yet to try adding kombu, which is even better, apparently – care to elaborate, Ms Zoe?). Discard the water and rinse.
2. Place the beans in a heavy pan, cover with water and slowly bring to the boil. Simmer gently over low heat for around half an hour; drain and leave to cool.
3. Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.
3. In a bowl combine the mustard, honey and maple syrup.
4. Insert 1 clove into each onion half, then toss over a high heat for a few minutes in a large, ovenproof heavy-based saucepan, casserole or deep-frying pan with the bacon and bay leaves and a splash of oil.
5. Add tomatoes, beans and the mustard mix, stir and cover.
6. Bake in the oven for anything up to four hours, checking every 30 minutes or so to see how tender the beans are and adding water if it gets too dry.
7. For the last half hour, remove the lid, add the vinegar and cook uncovered.
8. When beans are as tender as you like them, check seasoning – adjusting the sweetness to taste – and serve. These are fantastic with poached eggs for a hearty weekend breakfast, or on their own in a small bowl for a workday lunch.
Now – much as I love these, I would also love your version. Anybody made them? What’s your twist?