Originally printed in August 2019
There is an odd, although I guess understandable, thing that happens when people find out that you make food for a living – the idea of inviting you to dinner, often even to a BBQ, disappears. You can almost see the cloud of thought evaporate when they think of cooking. Not cooking in general, you understand, just cooking for you. Specifically, you. There seems to be a fear of cooking for chefs and food professionals presumably based on one of two thoughts. Either we all eat five-star meals every night or, to become an accredited member of the hospitality industry, we have to agree to judge everybody else’s cooking as if it were a reality tv cooking show with us playing the part of Gordon Ramsey in one of his especially prickly moods.
In reality, we all say pretty much the same thing, and that is “any meal that I don’t have to cook is great”. Don’t get me wrong, we looove cooking (we must, we do it for a living despite the wages and conditions), but having someone cook something for you, anything for you, is sublime and something we will enjoy. When I say ‘anything’ I almost literally mean it. People think I joke when I say that I’d be happy with baked beans on toast, but I actually would be.
Having said that, despite have very fond memories of eating tins of baked beans with Dad (often while tramping, sometimes cold, but always out of the tin) I would suggest that even the humble baked beans on toast can be jazzed up a little. For starters, using a thick slice of decent bread puts you well ahead. If you want to really go all out, you could think of making them yourself. ‘Posh baked beans’ are on many café menus and they are something that can be comparatively quickly whipped up and easy both to make ‘your own’ as well as to vary each time.
Part of the ease of making a batch of posh baked beans is that we’re very much in chef type territory – pinches of this, dash of that, season to taste etc. – rather than the required accuracy of baking which is much less forgiving on variation. Baking is a craft and a science (there is a reason that a bakers’ recipe is called a formula) while cooking is much more of an art.
For example, if you don’t have cannellini beans but you’ve got a tin of mixed beans and a tin of black beans, got for it. Don’t like wine or garlic? Leave them out. Want to use the last of the sausages sitting in the fridge rather than buying bacon? Fine. That’s what makes a recipe like this almost infinitely changeable. As long as there are beans of some description involved, and they’re sitting in a tomatoey sauce, I think we can safely refer to it as baked beans.
In case you’re wondering, the reason we call them ‘baked’ beans is in reference to when they are made in bulk. Blanched beans get put into the can along with the sauce, the lid is sealed on and the cans are then heated, cooking the beans.
Posh baked beans
4-6 rashers of bacon, rind removed
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
150-200ml red wine
2 tins (400g) tomatoes chopped in purée
2 tins (400g) cannellini beans
- Dice the bacon, chop the onion, and make a paste from the garlic*
- In a hot pan, fry the bacon in a little oil. Keep frying until browned and slightly crispy.
- Stir in the onions and continue to fry. About a minute after adding the onions, add in the garlic (don’t add the garlic too soon as it will burn quite quickly). Fry for 30 seconds.
- Pour in the wine and allow it to simmer. Once it has reduced to almost nothing, pour in the tomatoes and give everything a wee stir
- While the tomatoes are coming to simmer, drain the beans. Once the tomato is stating to look thickened, add in the beans and continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
*If you don’t have a garlic crusher or are uncomfortable making garlic paste, either chop it as finely as you can or leave it out