Baked beans are synonymous with winter (the homemade variety, not the ones in a ring-pull tin). They are the bowl of goodness that you crave when the weather is cold, and all you want is something hearty and warm to make everything right. Cooked slowly in the oven, the sauce becomes thick and luscious making a thick slice of toast an essential accompaniment to wipe your plate clean once all the beans have gone.
We only eat baked beans in winter for dinner. I think this is because they take 4 hours to cook in the oven, which is not going to happen if you have a sudden inclination to have baked beans for breakfast. But having recently indulged in this fine fare, it became obvious that they would be delicious for breakfast too. Baked beans on toast with a fried egg on top – what more could you want! So either make them the day before and reheat in the morning, or heat up the leftovers for breakfast.
This is yet another recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s, The Cook’s Companion. This is one of the few things I cook from this book on a regular basis. That’s not to say that the rest of the book isn’t fabulous. I tend to dip in and out of it if I’m looking for something in particular. But like her lemon tart recipe, why bother looking for another version when this one delivers every time. She suggests you make a green salad to serve with the baked beans, which would give the crunch that is needed when eating a bowl of beans. But my favourite way is to add a dollop of sour cream with a slice of toast on the side.
I’ve categorised this recipe as vegetarian, which technically it isn’t because it includes a couple of rashers of bacon. A little on the misleading side I know, but it feels and seems vegetarian. So leave out the bacon and suddenly it is vegetarian.
We eat baked beans maybe once or twice a year and that’s all because of the climate we live in. We might not eat them often, but they have a special place at our winter table. Enjoy!
- 375 grams dried borlotti beans, soaked in cold water for at least 4 hours (ideally overnight)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 rashers bacon, chopped into squares
- 2 small red capsicum, seeded and chopped into 2cm squares
- 1 small green capsicum, seeded and chopped into 2cm squares
- 1 x 400 gram tin tomatoes, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 heaped teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roughly crushed
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 - 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Rinse soaked beans, then put them into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then strain and rinse with cold water.
- Heat oil in a large enamelled cast iron pot and fry onion, bacon and garlic and carrot until the onion is softened and lightly browned.
- Add the red and green capsicum, tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, paprika, and crushed coriander seeds. Mix well and add enough cold water to cover the beans by 4 centimetres. Bring to the boil and cover with the lid.
- Transfer the pot to the oven and cook for approximately 4 hours.
- After 2 hours, stir well, checking that it is still reasonably sloppy. If it is too dry, add a little water and reduce the oven temperature slightly.
- After 4 hours, stir in the maple syrup, and season with plenty of salt and pepper. The beans should now be in a rich sauce. If too thick, add a little extra water; if too runny and the beans are tender, increase the oven temperature and continue to cook.
- Check seasoning before serving.
- Serve with either a green salad; or toast and a dollop of sour cream.