I’ve written about the home made baked beans I make a couple of times on this blog (most recently here). I use Stephanie Alexander’s recipe from the Cook’s Companion book and traditionally it is made in the oven, cooking it in my cast iron pot for over four hours. The long slow cooking time intensifies the flavours and make the beans amazingly soft and creamy. The only trouble with doing it in the oven is that it needs stirring every hour to stop it sticking and that cast iron pot is SO heavy getting it in and out of my under-bench oven. I thought it would be perfect for the slow cooker, allowing it to cook for many, many hours. Of course the down side to the slow cooker is that the sauce doesn’t thicken and intensify as much as in the oven. I guess you can never have it all.
375g dried borlotti beans (or kidney beans)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 rashers thickly sliced streaky bacon, cut into strips
2 red peppers, diced into 2cm pieces
1 green pepper, diced into 2cm pieces
1 can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup, golden syrup and honey
Soak the beans overnight in water (I add whey to the soaking water if I have some too).
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion, garlic, carrot and bacon. Fry for about five minutes until the onion is soft and the bacon sizzling, then toss the peppers in to the mix for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes (the recipe calls for pureeing the tomatoes in juice, but I’ve never bothered with that step) and stir, deglazing the pan at the same time. Turn off the heat.
Drain and rinse the beans then add to the slow cooker. Put the vegetable and bacon mixture in too, along with the bay leaves, thyme, and spices. Top with water (when I do it in the oven I add quite a lot of water and sometimes have to add more during the cooking, the recipe says to cover the beans by 8cm), in the slow cooker you need a lot less. I think I added just two cups, and there was plenty of liquid at the end.
I cooked these on low overnight. After that I took the lid off, added the golden syrup (I’ve used honey and maple syrup too in the past, I prefer maple syrup or a good quality honey), turned the cooker up to high and continued cooking for about an hour to thicken the sauce a little.
So having cooked it both ways, I think for ease and convenience the slow cooker is the winner, but the taste isn’t quite as rich and intense as when I do it in the stove. Either way this dish is a winner every time and is so versatile. Tonight I served it with a couple of the sausages I made over the weekend, some grilled bacon (I know I doubled up on bacon, but Mr Good insisted), eggs and flat bread. Yes we had breakfast for dinner, one of our favourite things to do. It can be a meal in itself, served with some tortilla chips and sour cream or grated cheese, add it to tacos or nachos in place of refried beans, as a topping for baked potatoes and I’m pretty sure it would be awesome served like this.