Spilling the Beans

In Recipes on July 20, 2011 at 4:42 am

Dried beans are the most versatile, cheap and easy ingredient to use.  Many people are put off by the fact that they need to be soaked in cold water overnight before they are ready for cooking.  This is just a matter of a bit of forward planning, it certainly doesn’t present any real difficulty.  You can substitute canned beans but I find the dried ones, cooked from scratch have a lot more flavour.  One of the most famous bean dishes is the French cassoulet – a long slow cooked casserole of haricot beans, pork and duck confit among other things.  Stephanie Alexander’s recipe contains five different cuts of pork and twelve confit duck legs along with the essential haricot beans.  I would not suggest it as a budget recipe.  I often use red kidney beans to a make Mexican chilli that can be served with burrito tortillas or tacos and a couple of sides such as guacamole, salsa, sour cream and cheese.  These are cheap, easy and filling.

Another bean dish I like to make is Boston Baked Beans.  These are delicious sweet, tangy slow cooked beans that I would usually serve with eggs as a breakfast dish.  This works well as the beans are best made the day before and stored in the fridge overnight to develop their flavour.  The next morning all you have to do is gently warm them while you are cooking your eggs.  Leftover beans can be frozen.

Beans make a great breakfast dish

     Boston Baked Beans  


1 cup each of dried borlotti and cannelini beans (soaked overnight in cold water)

1 smoked ham hock

2 large onions (finely chopped)

2-3 tbs molasses, treacle or maple syrup (to taste)

1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar

2 tbs cider vinegar

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp dried mustard powder

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup ketchup or tomato sauce

1/2 a can of Italian diced tomatoes

 1 or 2 bay leaves

1 tbs olive oil


Pour beans, along with their soaking water, into a large pot.  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 mins – 1 hour or until beans are tender when pierced with a fork.  Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.  Gently fry the onions in the oil until translucent.  Add all other ingredients including the reserved cooking liquid.  Add a little water if there is not enough liquid to cover the ham hock.  Cover and simmer gently on the stove top for two hours.  If the ham hock is tender, remove from pot.  Discard the fat and bones and shred the ham, set aside.  Cook the beans for a further 45 mins uncovered, allowing the sauce to thicken and reduce.  Add the ham and simmer for a further 15 mins.

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