I get these bizarre obsessions once in a while and the making of the dish being obsessed over suddenly takes priority over everything else in my to-cook list. Baked beans suddenly became this latest dish, due in part to my having a large bottle of maple syrup from Toronto. The recipe below isn’t for the true Boston baked beans (for that, substitute the maple syrup for molasses and even then that might bring up arguments) but instead is more like a Québécois feves au lard and is just as delicious.

Baked Beans

I’d rarely cooked beans from dry, usually using canned ones when cooking. However, these beans were tender in a much shorter amount of time than I expected – only about 2-3 hours on the stove. I’ve always loved baked beans in this style and they’re one thing (amongst many) from North America that I do miss. While all the cans of baked beans in the UK are full of tomatoes and sugar, there are lots of variants available over the pond – in tomato sauce, with pork, with cocktail hot dogs, with molasses, with maple syrup, with brown sugar, in barbecue sauce. I do love them all but, for me, while I’m happy to mix and match the sweeteners, melt-in-your-mouth, slow cooked bacon is a must. The beans from this recipe were sweet but not too sweet and wonderfully porky.

Baked Beans

But it wasn’t just the baked beans I wanted; I had to have the entire bean supper. Baked beans are very traditional in New England and baked bean suppers are often held as fundraisers for churches and other public services; a great description of both can be found here at the Maine Farmhouse Journal – they are feasts! Along with the baked beans themselves, hot dogs, bread, salads and desserts are served. The traditional bread to have alongside is a unique steamed brown bread but I opted instead to serve a Bostonian baked bun, the Parker House roll (recipe in my next post). It was a real stick-to-your-ribs meal, perfect for a cold night or just big appetites!

A Baked Bean Supper

The leftovers keep very well too. When cooked together with sliced frankfurters/hot dogs, you end up with beanies and weenies (aka franks and beans) – I love its name.

Maple Baked Beans
serves 6-8, depending on appetites.

500g dried beans (I used flageolet but haricot, cannellini or kidney beans would also work)
a 400g chunk of salt pork or bacon (I used a Polish boczek), cut into smaller pieces
60 ml maple syrup
1.5 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsps dark rum (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves
1 tbsp dried mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

The night before, dump your beans into a large pot/casserole, cover with lots of cold water and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the water and add the onion, bacon, cloves, mustard, maple syrup, sugar, Worcester sauce and rum, if using. Add water to cover and set the whole thing over medium-high heat. When it starts boiling, turn the heat to low and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 hours, until the beans are tender.

Preheat your oven to 160 Celsius. After the 2-3 hours on the stove (until the beans are tender), season with salt and pepper and then pop it into the oven without a lid on. A crust should have formed after an hour and it’ll be ready to serve. To cook it the entire time in the oven, you’ll want to cover it and place it in there for about 5 hours prior to removing the lid. You’ll also want to check periodically to make sure it isn’t drying out.

You could call this breakfast for dinner, albeit a Mexican style one.

Beans and Eggs

I made a batch of these quick beans with cumin and oregano but used pinto rather than black as in the recipe. At least, I think they were pinto beans… As they were cooking, I took my trusty potato masher and gave the beans a good smash here and there and ended up with pseudo refried beans. Of course, you could always make truly refried beans from any leftovers from the recipe.

A few flour tortillas were heated up in my frying pan and the same pan was then used for frying a few eggs. Onto the plates went a couple of tortillas, a few large spoonfuls of the beans, some grated cheese, the fried eggs, sliced avocado and a sprinkling of chopped coriander. Can’t forget the salsa and sour cream on the side! It took almost no time at all and satisfied any Mexican food cravings I had!

Botifarra amb mongetes

Botifarra amb mongetes is a classic Catalan dish of sausage with white beans – though they are a particular kind of bean that is quite long and cylindrical. Not much to report in terms of a recipe: grill sausages of your choosing (I used a 97% pork sausage that was lovely and meaty and I think are most like Catalan sausages) and boil your beans. I found a jar of these boiled beans at a local shop; they were a Spanish brand and were definitely mongetes, as Blai confirmed, but any other white bean would be a good substitute. And eat the beans with lots of extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top!

Swiss Chard

We had bledes (Swiss chard) on the side, you know, for health reasons. Gotta eat our veggies! Anyway, I made them in a sort of Spanish style, using some of that lovely pimentón, the smoked paprika from La Vera. Now for this dish I can provide a recipe.

Spanish-Style Swiss Chard
adapted from Food and Wine magazine
serves 2.

a large bunch of Swiss chard
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced thinly
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Pimentón de la Vera
1/4 cup chopped canned tomatoes (optional)
1 tsp sherry vinegar
salt and pepper

Slice up the entire bunch of chard, both stalks and leaves, and clean it all thoroughly. In a pot of boiling water, blanch the chard until tender. Drain and press out excess water.

In a pan, heat up a good swirl of olive oil and fry the garlic slices until golden. Add the pimentón and tomatoes (if using) and cook for a few minutes (less time if just using the pimentón). Add the Swiss chard and stir thoroughly, adding a little water if it’s all looking too dry. When the chard has been heated through, add the sherry vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

It’s not often that I open a tin of baked beans – Heinz if you must know. I hardly grew up with them even though every Sunday morning, my mother would cook an English breakfast for us. Not a full English but…shall I call it a general English? Fried eggs, bacon (English back bacon when Marks and Spencers was still around in Vancouver), toast, and only very very occasionally, baked beans. This last was mostly for my father who seemed to like them; actually, I think he was the only one who ate them back then. Later on, my mother would doctor the usual tomato sauce with a few extra ingredients to make them more palatable to her. Nowadays, I do the same. Last weekend, a craving hit and I had them on toast.

Beans on Toast!

More Palatable Baked Beans

A tin of baked beans (the kind in tomato sauce – I buy Heinz)
A small chopped onion or a few chopped shallots
Bacon, any kind, chopped
Olive oil
Chili sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Fry the onion and bacon in some olive oil (~ 2 tbsps) until the onion is turning golden and the bacon is cooked through. Stir in the beans and add a couple of good shakes of chili sauce. I’m currently on a bottle of Yeo’s Hot Chilli Sauce and next in the queue is a bottle of Lingham’s. A few grinds of black pepper and the whole thing is ready when heated through.
Serve on toast or as part of a general English breakfast.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that there’s no bacon in the beans in the photo. I ran out. Boo.