But when it comes to cooking them, I’m a tad slack. I rely on a supply of tinned beans because of my tendency to decide on meals last minute, and I find they are cooked to perfection, unlike my past attempts.
Plus the only time I’ve nearly burnt the kitchen down was when cooking beans, so I’m a bit scarred (as are a few pots) by my forays into this method of preparing them.
But, it is years later and since I now rely on my kitchen timer for a shrilling reminder that I have things on the stove, I decided to try cooking beans again. And what better way to use them than in baked beans. I’ve never really been a fan of baked beans, but I tried them at Rita’s Café in Abbotsford last week and couldn’t get over how good homemade ones can be. So I’ve made up the below based on looking at over a dozen recipes, so if you want to substitute or not use any of the herbs or spices, I’m sure it will work out fine.
And you can use any bean – pinto is commonly used, as are borlotti or lima. And if cooking beans aren’t your thing, then you can use tinned ones and reduce the cooking time dramatically. Just try to find ones that don’t have a plastic lining, as they are pretty nasty – see my friend’s post on this can of worms (sorry, couldn’t resist).
1 cup dried cannellini or pinto beans (or 1-2 tins drained and rinsed)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp fresh
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp rapadura or brown sugar
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
400g tin tomatoes or passata
1 tsp apple juice concentrate (optional)
- soak the beans overnight or for at least 8 hours
- Drain the water, rinse the beans then put them in a large saucepan filled with water. Do not salt the water, as salt stops the beans from softening fully
- Bring the pot to the boil and boil for 10 or more minutes, then simmer for 1.5 hours, or until soft. If you can legally buy kombu, add a small piece (1 cm or so strip) to help improve the digestibility of the beans
- When the beans are nearly cooked, heat a frypan with olive oil and cook the onions until translucent
- Add the garlic, herbs, mustard seeds, mixed spice, chilli flakes, paprika (used smoked paprika if you enjoy a smoky flavour) and cook for another few minutes until aromatic
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt, pepper and apple juice concentrate (if using) and stir well
- Add the drained beans and half a cup of water
- Cook for 2-3 hours on a low heat (use a diffuser if you can). Keep checking every 20-30 minutes, adding half cups of water if/when the sauce starts getting too thick
- If you’re using canned beans, don’t add the water unless the sauce is very thick and just cook for 30 minutes
- When the beans are your desired consistency, check the flavour and add more salt or sugar if needed and serve with your favourite bread or salad.