Whenever I suggest baked beans to clients as a way of getting more beans into their diet, they assume I'm taking about the tinned Heinz crap we all grew up with and give me a brief look of disgust invariably followed by 'are you sure those are good for you?'. No, I don't think they're particularly good for you, as despite containing beans and a bit of tomato, they're also packed with sugar, salt and 'flavours' (and IMHO are waaaay overcooked).
So let's make our own! These beans are much more sophisticated than anything from a can and very quick to make. I love to stuff a whole sweet potato with them so I've included instructions for the sweet potato if you're interested in doing the same - it's a very easy mid-week lunch meal with a bit of baby spinach for greenery. Enjoy!
Makes 4 serves
- 1kg/2.2lbs roma tomatoes OR 1x 690g bottle of passata (tomato purée) OR 2x 400g/14oz tins diced tomatoes
- 2x 400g/14/oz tins borlotti, cannellini or navy/haricot beans (drained and rinsed) or 3 cups cooked from dry
- 1x carrot, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 brown (yellow) onion, diced
- 2-3 ribs of celery, diced (no leaves, just the stalks)
- 2 tsp molasses (not blackstrap)
- 1 tbsp sugar OR 1 tbsp maple syrup or 1 tbsp other liquid sweetener
- 2 tsp good quality balsamic vinegar. I'm serious when I say good quality - I used an ancient bottle I found in the back of my pantry for one batch and it tasted like battery acid, so buy a decent bottle!
- Optional: 1 tsp or so of Dijon mustard for a bit of a kick
- 2 tsp dried Italian herbs
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 1 tsp cornflour (corn starch) dissolved in 2 tbsp cold water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: some fresh torn basil to garnish
- If you're using whole roma tomatoes, cut them into quarters and place in a large frying pan with a splash of water. Cook down over medium heat until the tomatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced (mine took about 15 minutes). You'll need to stir every now and and again and squash the tomatoes with your wooden spoon to encourage them to soften. When cooked, transfer to a large mixing bowl and give the frying pan a quick rinse.
- Place the carrot, garlic, onion and celery in frying pan over medium heat with a splash of water and cook until soft and fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, beans, molasses, sugar (or maple syrup/liquid sweetener), balsamic vinegar, herbs, bay leaves and Dijon mustard (if you're using it) and stir with a wooden spoon. Leave the pan over medium heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavours to combine and the tomatoes to reduce further.
- To thicken the sauce, add half of the dissolved cornflour mixture and stir. It's better to err on the side of caution with cornflour as if you add too much the sauce will be gloopy and disgusting. Wait a minute or so before adding the other half of the cornflour mixture if you think you need to.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with sweet potato, or on toast, or with rice...the possibilities are endless!
For the sweet potato:
- 1x small sweet potato per person (roughly 250g raw). Give the skin a scrub with a vegetable brush under running water before cooking.
- To cook sweet potatoes you can either bake them whole at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit) or pierce with a knife and microwave whole (one sweet potato will take around 10 minutes). Pop it on a plate so it doesn't ooze onto the microwave plate.
- Slice the sweet potato down the middle and stuff with the beans. Top with some sliced spring onions (scallions) or fresh herbs (parsley, chives) and a little tahini and lemon dressing.