Tag Archives: beans

DIY Baked Beans

This is very easy, but takes time. Elapsed time that is – there’s barely ten minutes’ work but it is spread out over twenty four hours.

  • 250g dried Haricot beans
  • 400g total of diced carrots, onion and celery (or whatever you happen to have to hand)
  • one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (with the juice!)
  • a handful (75g) of finely diced bacon
  • some herbs (I used a bunch of fresh thyme on this occasion)

Here’s what I do:

  1. soak the beans overnight in cold water (won’t hurt if they stay soaking until you get back from work the following day)
  2. put the beans in a change of water, and bring to a savage boil for fifteen minutes, reduce to a gentle bubble and leave for 45 minutes, but an hour won’t hurt – you could chuck in a bay leaf if you wanted to keep them company in the simmering phase
  3. meanwhile, gently fry the bacon in a heavy casserole until it’s brown and most of the fat has oozed out
  4. add the chopped veg, and a glug of olive oil, and continue to fry (you could use butter instead of olive oil for a more North European flavour)
  5. let the veg gently fry until they’re soft, and the onion is going gold around the edges; probably a good twenty minutes
  6. now is probably a good time to get the oven going at 150°C
  7. by now the beans should be starting to soften up, so drain them, and add to the casserole, reserving the cooking liquid
  8. add the tin of tomatoes, and then enough of the cooking liquid to cover
  9. there’s probably enough salt in the bacon, but taste, and add a touch more if you feel it’s warranted
  10. add the herbs, grind over some black pepper, give the pot a good stir and consign it to the oven

It will need around two hours. Not only are the beans continuing to cook, they’re soaking up liquid, and the rate at which they do this is known only unto themselves. So, keep an eye. If the liquid looks low, top up with some water from a freshly boiled kettle. At the ninety minute mark, have a taste – the beans need to be cooked through, so no grittiness. (Otherwise they will expand in your stomach and make you explode, at least that’s what my grandmother told me when I was small.)

Serve up as a posh side to sausages or duck, or a mid week supper in its own right.

Or wait ’til nobody’s watching and scoff it on toast with cheese on top.

You could of course add stuff. A splash of Worcester sauce wouldn’t hurt. You could replace the bacon with chorizo, and maybe add some garlic as well. Once you get going with the sausages and duck it becomes full blown cassoulet, which is glorious in its own right, but lacks the comforting simplicity of this dish.



Back in the day, when grander households than ours referred to this as “chilly con carny”, it was simply known by my parents as mince ‘n’ beans. Of course, this is simply an excuse to then eat vast amounts of cheese, sour cream and guacamole. (Which we certainly didn’t have when I was a kid.)

I’m fairly sure this is neither Mexican, nor even Texmexican, but it’s tasty.

Key ingredients, for this flavour, are the dried oregano and cumin. Go easy on the chilli, as you can always splash a bit of Tabasco over it later on.

In tonight’s batch I used:

  • 300g beef mince
  • two small onions, diced
  • one red capsicum, diced
  • four cloves garlic, peeled and sliced finely
  • one 450g tin of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • one 450g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a teaspoon of…
    • ground cumin
    • dried oregano
  • half a teaspoon of…
    • dried chilli flakes
    • dried thyme (maybe)
  • you can also add some fresh coriander leaves at the end if you fancy

Start by browning the mince in a small amount of oil. If it ain’t brown, it’s grey, and grey ain’t right. A spot of salt and pepper will help it on its way.

Pop the mince in a holding bowl, add a bit more oil and fry the chilli flakes for about a minute, add the garlic, fry for another minute, add the ground cumin and fry for a slow count of ten, before chucking in the onion and capsicum, then stirring like crazy, to incorporate all the brown goo from the bottom of the pan into the dish. (If you’re using cumin seeds, add them at the same time as the garlic, so they get a good minute or so.)

The veg need to soften up, and get brown around the edges, so a good ten minutes of medium heat and the occasional stir are required – there’s nothing worse than crunchy capsicum in a dish like this. Boil the jug whilst you’re doing this. Once that’s done, return the mince, plus the tomatoes, the beans, and enough boiled water from the jug so everything’s almost submerged.

Stir in the herbs, bring to the boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer and leave for an hour to reduce. An hour? That’s enough time to whip up some tortillas and have a couple of beers.

Tonno è Fagioli

I am deeply suspicious of anyone who says they like Mondays. It has nothing to recommend it, especially after a sedate, but enjoyable weekend. By the late afternoon I have zero focus, zero concentration, and an urge to get home as soon as possible and do as little as possible. Random things acquired at the supermarket en route in the hope of a more creative week ahead.

Tonight: the remains of the borlotti beans, a tin of tuna, a hefty splash of balsamic, one red onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, used to produce some tonno è fagioli which I scoffed wrapped up in a couple of tortillas.

Might win the Nobel Prize for Snacking, but little else. (It is much improved when done with some parsley – fresh or from the freezer.)

Good intentions reserved for the rest of the week.


It’s almost cold, and actually wet today. Where once there was a veritable herd, there’s now only a single dispirited chugger by the station.

About 500mL of last night’s tomato goop has been popped into a saucepan with some dried basil and oregano, and half a tin of borlotti beans. It would have been nice to have used up the whole tin, neatly, but life’s not as neat and as convenient as that, so the remainder go into a tupper and into the fridge. Hopefully I can think of something useful to do with them, rather than discover them six months later.

It’d also be nice if you could just chuck the handful macaroni straight in, but it really needs to be cooked in a separate pan, before being added. By now the mixture’s heated up, so I turn the heat down to a low simmer. It’s looking a bit thick, so I add some boiling water to get it to the right consistency, and then switch the heat off before grating in some parmesan.

A kind of minestrone, I guess. (Or is it ribollita? Not sure. I think the real thing would need beans, cabbage and a ham bone.)

The remaining kilogram of tomato goop will have to go in the freezer.