Baked Beans

by Lucy Dearlove, creator of Lecker, a podcast about the power of a good meal
When I was a kid I absolutely hated baked beans. Growing up in North East England in the 90s I could barely get away from them: school dinner ladles dipping threateningly into stainless steel vats of the stuff, with the cheap orange sauce encrusted on the edges; slopped onto plastic plates on kids’ menus and at friends’ houses, staining the rims; even in my own home I couldn’t get away from the ubiquitous turquoise Heinz tins (my mum had a penchant for them). I’m not really sure what it was about them that I found so vile: tinned spaghetti hoops came in an identical sweet grainy lurid sauce and I willingly ate them by the bucketload, so it wasn’t that. I think it was something about the soft, yielding texture of the beans themselves: having no bite, they essentially just dissolved in your mouth and I found that disgusting.

But also - generally I was a fussier eater as a kid than I really like to admit. I didn’t like butter or mayonnaise in sandwiches and would insist on dry bread around the filling. I refused to eat anything that had small chunks of onion in (when making bolognese my mum would just cut the onion in half to fry it, so the flavour was present but the pieces were big enough to pick out and avoid me getting any.) I despised any baked goods with raisins in, so scones, fruitcake and toasted teacakes were a no-go, despite frequently very happily snacking on those tiny pillar boxes of Sunmaid raisins. Sometimes, as they find their way in the world, kids are irrational about things and mostly my mum just let me get on with it.

Unlike the pivotal moment I had in a chain Italian restaurant on Tottenham Court Road (where, aged 18 and newly arrived in London, I suddenly decided I was now a person who ate olives) I don’t really remember when or where I started eating and even enjoying beans. But now I can’t get enough of delicious legumes in any form: rich Brazilian feijoada, fresh French coco beans cooked slowly in stock and vegetables, beautiful Borlotti beans looking like miniature Yayoi Kusamas gradually fading in the bubbling water. And yes, I love baked beans now too. Heinz and only Heinz, and by preference the Five Beanz ones (containing haricot, kidney, cannellini, pinto and borlotti), which are a true luxury, priced as they are almost double the regular ones.

I first learnt to make my own when I worked in a cafe in Brixton in my early 20s, and I remember the shock of recognition and delight as the glossy tomato sauce destined for the beans was blended from a rich red to a vibrant orange, and began to resemble the tinned one so familiar to me. The key is to sweeten indulgently, balance with the savoury notes of meat (if you’re using it) or smoked paprika (if you’re not), and give a little kick with some chilli too. In these strange times we’re in tinned tomatoes have become a sought-after item - while this recipe will produce enough beans for quite a few meals (in our household of 2 it does 3 meals generously), the sauce is bulked out with bean cooking/tin water, and only one tin of tomatoes is required, which I hope alleviates the stress of burning through the amount you have.

Scroll down para receita em português

Ingredients

Beans (dried or tinned - I used 200g each of dried cannellini, black eyed and kidney, or 2-3 tins of your preferred beans would work well)
Pancetta (optional and also flexible - you can use nduja, chorizo, bacon, sausage, salami or anything else you like instead. Use as much as you want: I use about two handfuls of pancetta. If you don’t eat meat, just skip step 2 in the recipe)
1 onion, finely sliced into half moons
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tin of tomatoes
Smoked paprika
Chilli flakes
Brown sugar
Salt

Method

  1. If you’re using dried beans, you’ll need to cook them first. I pressure cooked mine for 35 minutes without soaking - if you’re boiling them you’ll need to soak and boil until tender as directed on the packet. Don’t throw away the cooking water. If you’re using tinned beans, don’t drain them!
  2. Cook the pancetta (or whatever you’re using) in a large wide bottomed pan until the oil renders out and the meat is browned. Remove the cooked pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving any hot fat in the pan.
  3. Add 1-2 tbsp of neutral oil to the pan, and sweat the onion on a low heat for at least 20 minutes until sweet and soft and tangled. Towards the end of the cooking add the garlic and sweat that for a few minutes too.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the pan (if they’re whole then crush them with your hands as you tip them in) and stir. Pour in either the cooking water from the beans or the liquid in the bean tins, and add smoked paprika, chili flakes, brown sugar and salt to taste. Cook on a low to medium heat for 10-15 mins, tasting to adjust sauce.
  5. This is optional, but I like to blend the sauce until smooth at this stage for that glossy Heinz style. If you don’t want to or can’t be bothered, just leave it as it is and return the pancetta to the pan if using, and then add all of your beans to the pan and stir to combine with the sauce. If you need to, add a little water to thin the sauce; it should be nicely thickened and cling to the beans.
  6. Cook on a low heat for 10-15 mins or until you’re ready to eat them. Serve on toast (classic) or on a jacket potato, or however you like. Just like their branded inspiration, they go with anything!

Receita em PT

Ingredientes

Feijões (secos ou enlatados - usei 200g de 3 tipos diferentes de feijões secos, mas podem também usar 2-3 latas de feijões)
Pancetta (opcional e também flexível - pode usar-se chouriço, bacon, salsicha fresca, salame ou nduja, o que preferirem e na quantidade que quiserem, eu usei duas mãos cheias de pancetta. Se não comem carne, omitam o ponto 2. da receita)
1 cebola finamente cortada em meia-lua
2 dentes de alhos fatiados
1 lata de tomate
Paprika fumada
Piri-piri moído
Açúcar mascavado escuro
Sal

Como fazer

  1. Se usarem feijões secos, primeiro é preciso cozer. Eu uso uma panela de pressão e ficam prontos em 35 minutos sem demolhar - se optarem por cozê-los numa panela comum, deixem de molho durante a noite e cozam no dia seguinte seguindo as indicações do pacote, até ficarem tenros. Guardem a água da cozedura, ou a calda da lata de feijões!
  2. Cozer a pancetta (ou o que estiverem a usar) numa panela de fundo espesso, deixando derreter a gordura até que a carne fique tostada. Com uma espátula ou garfo, escorram e tirem a carne para um prato, deixando a gordura na panela. 
  3. Adicionem à panela 1-2 colheres de sopa de óleo neutro, e refoguem lentamente a cebola, pelo menos 20 minutos, até que fique doce e tenra. Perto do final da cozedura, juntar o alho fatiado e cozê-lo levemente junto da cebola por mais uns minutos. 
  4. Juntem os tomates à cebola (se estiverem inteiros, esmaguem com as mãos à medida que vertem a lata para dentro da panela) e mexam. Vertam ou o caldo da lata de feijões ou a água de cozedura, e temperem com a paprika fumada, piri-piri moído, açúcar mascavado e sal. Provem à medida que temperem! Deixem cozer em lume brando por 10-15 minutos, e vão provando o molho.
  5. da Heinz. Se não vos apetecer, deixem assim. Juntem a pancetta à panela, seguida dos feijões todos e envolvam no molho. Se o molho estiver muito espesso, juntem um pouco de água.
  6. Cozinhem mais 10-15 minutos em lume brando, ou até que estejam dispostos a comer. Sirvam com torradas ou batata cozida, o que preferirem. Sabe bem com tudo!
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