Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cookbook Challenge, Week 4, Stephanie Alexander's Baked Beans from The Cook's Companion

I'm a bit of a homemade Baked Beans fan, in case you couldn't already tell. I think this is about my fifth baked beans post!
Recently, I've eaten some bloody amazing baked beans out and about. The two most memorable were at The Little Ox in Brighton and at the Wye River General Store. Ever since then, I've wanted to attempt to recreate some beans as good as I'd had there. I knew that was going to take some slow cooking and patience. It turns out that Stephanie Alexander's Book, The Cook's Companion calls for both of those. I'd heard good things about her baked beans recipe, so I thought I'd give it a go.

The beans turned out sensationally. I think the two things that really help this dish along are making sure that you use the best bacon you can find. I honestly believe that free range bacon tastes bettter. If you don't believe me, give it a go - you'll smell the difference when you're cooking it. The other thing is to use REAL Maple Syrup. However, if you can't get a hold of real maple syrup or just don't want to spend the money on a bottle, you could really just use honey, golden syrup or treacle. All will produce a slightly different final result, but just experiment, I say. Just be warned that you need to be patient when making these beans. Best to make them the day before you want to eat them, then slowly reheat them in the morning for breakfast.
Here I've attempted to copy the Little Ox's poached egg on top. Give it a go, it's delicious to have the runny yolk mix in with the tomato sauce. Wow!

375g dried Borlotti or Red Kidney beans - soaked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion - diced
3 cloves garlic - chopped
2 carrots - diced
2 rashers thick, streaky bacon - cut into 1cm wide strips
2 red peppers - cut into 2cm squares
1 green pepper - cut into 2cm squares
1 400g can peeled tomatoes - don't drain
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons maple syrup, treacle, golden syrup or honey


Preheat oven to 160 degreesC.
Rinse soaked beans, then put into saucepan & cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil, then strain & rinse with cold water.
Heat oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole & saute onion, garlic, carrot & bacon. After 5 minutes, when onion has softened & bacon is sizzling, add red & green peppers.
Puree tomatoes & juice in a food processor & add to casserole with beans (I just used passata here) & remaining ingredients, except maple syrup.
Mix well. Add sufficient cold water to cover beans by 4 cm.
Transfer casserole, tightly sealed, into oven & bake for at least 4 hours.
Stir well after 2 hours, checking that it is still reasonably sloppy ( if too dry, add a little water & reduce oven temp).
After 4 hours, stir in maple syrup, extra salt & plenty of freshly ground pepper.
The beans should now be in a rich sauce. If too thick, add a little water; if too runny & the beans are tender, increase oven temp & continue to cook.

Be careful not to allow the bottom of the beans to burn, especially when you're reheating them.


Rambling Tart said...

Oh my goodness, now I'm craving baked beans like crazy :-)

Rilsta @ My Food Trail said...

Your baked beans look so, so much better than the crap that comes out of a can! I love the addition of a poached egg on top too!

John said...

They sound awesome dude.... might have to give them a shot over the xmas break I think (and I don't care what you say... there is NO substitute for REAL maple syrup :P)

Iron Chef Shellie said...

Looks amazing! Shall have to give these a go =)