Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Risen Bean

I used to hate beans on toast, that British classic. I detested the sort of mealy texture of the beans, and I hated the fact that I knew there was nothing but sugar in the tomatoey sauce. I *particularly* refused to eat them because Jeff kept trying to convince me that they are some sort of Council Estate Health Food (whether or not this is believed to be true on the housing estates themselves I don't know, but what I do know is that two tins of beans does not supply the necessary vegetable for a day, and it gives way too much sugar to small children, who all seem to be hopped up on Capri Sun all the time anyway). But, then I tried an experiment and managed to change my mind, resulting in pretty much weekly bean consumption here. Which is nice, because Jeff loves beans, and this way we have reached a compromise between his preference for salt of the earth (or sugar, I guess) and my preference toward pretentiousness.

Inspired by the comment made on The Roquefort Files by one Lucky Duck, I will now share with you my secret to truly lovely beans, just in case Keith and I don't get around to slaughtering anything besides our respective sobriety any time soon... I actually was thinking maybe I should put this oneout there before reading Lucky Duck's comment, but I was wondering if maybe I wanted to keep it to myself, instead.

Furthering the twin blogging that Keith and I seem to have been doing this week, this alteration was actually mostly pilfered from Nigel Slater's "The Kitchen Diaries", which, as Keith has mentioned, is awesome. It has a really good balance between East and West, seasonal recognition and managing to eat something other than root veg in January, farmers' market trawling and recognition of the ease of popping out to the corner shop for oven chips and beer. Good stuff, and I think a really nice introduction to eating with the seasons, with a nice recognition of even a chef's human frailty and without the 'raise your own' intimidation factor of some of H.F-W's stuff. Plus, I love seasonal cookbooks, because that way I only let myself read one month at a time, and then it feels like there is a new cookbook for me each month. This is much cheaper than actually buying a new cookbook every month, and it also saves space in a kitchen that already has three shelves full of books.

So, any more tangents aside, what you do is toss some bacon (cut up into wee bits) into a pan at low heat and let it leak out some nice bacony fat while you chop up an onion. It helps if the bacon is quite good-- like butcher's or farm bacon-- because then it actually has some fat to lubricate the pan, and it doesn't just leak injected water and E numbers. I think it would work with grocery store bacon in a pinch, though, if you let it fry gently for a little bit and then dump out the gross watery stuff that leaks out, then add a drop or two of olive oil. Let the onion soften and the bacon cook a bit, without getting much colour, then dump in your tin of beans. Heat them up, and add a teaspoon of black treacle (mo-lasses for the Americani), a glug of mushroom ketchup (no U.S. equivalent, though perhaps a smidge of A1 might be a worthy addition here), and either some Tabasco sauce or a bit of chopped or dried red chilli (I used both Tabasco and chillies, but this is because we enjoy the spice. Not everyone does). Stir it around so the treacle mixes in nicely (it takes the colour from disturbing neon-y red to a nice, deep rust), and what you have is about 6 trillion times superior to the original. I like it most on baked potatoes, with a criminal amount of butter, but it is enjoyable on toast, as well.

Do with this what you will. I know it sounds like too much time invested for a supper of baked beans, but it actually only takes about 5 minutes, and really makes all the difference in the world. Oh, and don't be confused-- there is even MORE sugar in my way of doing it, but I accept this because it is MY sugar. Being arbitrary is my life.


Blogger Lucky Duck said...

Oh my stars! That's amazing. I decided to try out your recipe last night (in an effort to trick myself into thinking I was having something different for a change). It totally worked, what with the molasses and all. It was so far removed from my usual humble Heinz fare that for a moment I actually felt like I'd cooked something proper.

Yesterday at work, they held a cake bake and I paid one pound to judge the efforts of my colleagues. I had to sample a piece of nine cakes. My bean diet is surely yielding results as my mini Ipod-sized stomach struggled to sample cakes 4-9.

I found out today that someone else is planning a cake bake at the end of the month. Inspired by your genius, I'm going to suggest instead a 'bean bake' in the hope of uncovering some more exciting dining options.

Thank you.

5:06 PM  
Blogger TooBlue said...

Hmm... I have two cans of the offending grossness in my cupboard, thanks to Mr. T.'s tendency to shop when homesick. Unfortunately for him, I think they smell like vomit and taste worse. I was, however, inspired to try them out with your judicious improvements, even to the point of finding mushroom ketchup in DC. Mr. T., however, was not impressed with this idea and thus he will have to eat them, unadulterated, when I am away. Thumbs up for making it work, though, DehDeh.

2:20 PM  

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