Last weekend my kitchen turned into a baked bean factory. A great friend of mine, Clare Hargreaves, who runs Feast with a Chef (bringing amazing Michelin-starred chefs out to strut their stuff in a village hall), was organising a dawn chorus walk in the woods and a fabulous breakfast to follow. Clare asked me to provide some proper baked beans to accompany the carefully sourced sausages and bacon and, since she addressed me as the “bean queen”, how could I refuse? I promised early risers that I’d post the recipe and here it is, if you nip down to the bottom of the page.
For those of you who might need a bit of encouragement when it comes to getting out into the woods here’s a quick glimpse of our little walk earlier on today; there are bluebell woods all over Britain and now’s the time to get your wellies on. If you’re reading this blog abroad then please forgive my showing off a little, we may have plenty of dank, dark days in the UK but we get our rewards too; there really is nothing more beautiful than a glade of bluebells.
Prior’s Wood sits above the village of Portbury, just a few miles from Bristol. There are carpets of wild garlic, just beginning to flower with its lacy white starbursts of blossom, and then the swathes of bluebells. It’s unimaginably beautiful.
There’s a carrot dangling at the end of the walk too, just to help you up the hills. Every year there’s a fabulous cake stall set up in the driveway by the footpath; villagers bake cakes in aid of St Peter’s Hospice, the church and school. Let me tell you, there’s quite a selection: fruit cakes, lemon drizzle, brownies, marmalade cake, chocolate cake, banana and chocolate chip, coffee and walnut, Victoria sponge and the cakes just keep arriving. This year we actually managed the walk before the cake, but it does take some self discipline. The cake stall will be open this year until 15th May 11am -5pm at weekends and on the bank holiday Monday ( I thoroughly recommend the banana and chocolate chip)
Should cakes not be your thing, or perhaps you can manage a quick cider after your cake (we did), then just a couple of miles down the lane is one of the West Country’s most glorious pubs, The Black Horse at Clapton-in-Gordano. It’s a proper pub that’s managed to escape the poncey -fication of recent years, no light oak and carefully placed prints, just an open fire, old chaps downing the scrumpy and the odd Adge Cutler ( he of Wurzel fame) album cover on the walls.
So that’s your next weekend’s walk and refreshments sorted and now I’d better get down to the beans.
Real Baked Beans
Serves 4 -6
750 g preferably home-cooked or 3 x 14 0z tins haricot beans
1/2 tsp English mustard powder
1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1 x 400 g can of chopped tomatoes
200 ml of good beer (I used Bath Ales – Gem)
2 small onions, peeled but left whole
350 g pork belly, in thick strips, rind removed
salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 140 c/275 F/Gas Mark 1
Drain your beans, if using home cooked you’ll be using the liquid as stock later, if using canned just tip the gloop away and give the beans a rinse.
Pour the beans into a large cast iron pot or casserole.
Mix up the mustard, treacle, sugar, tomatoes and beer and tip over the beans. Stud your onions with the cloves and toss those into the pot too.
Now, nestle the piece of pork down in amongst the beans with a good teaspoon of salt. Grind over plenty of black pepper.
If the beans are not completely covered with liquid then add a little bean cooking liquid or water. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid or be creative with the tin foil (you just don’t want to lose all those delicious juices) and place in the oven for 3 hours.
Remove the lid and have a taste, this is when to up the salt and pepper then, ( to play around with a dash of Worcestershire sauce if you feel the need (and usually I do). If the beans seem a little dry do add a splash of water but the end dish wants to be thick and sticky.
Pull out the pork and chop it into large chunk, stir it back into the beans and then put the pot back into the oven, uncovered this time, for another 45 minutes to an hour.
Serve with crusty bread .
The veggie beans had a sofritto of onion, carrot and celery (fried until soft in olive oil) added with the treacle etc and then were finished off with a some Shiro miso to taste. The miso is absolutely wonderful at creating that Umami (savoury) depth of flavour.
AND PLEASE DON’T FORGET NEXT WEEKEND…….. Bristol, Food Connections Festival
Sunday May 1st – No 1 Harbourside, 4.30-7pm
Get your pulses racing!
I’ll be taking part in a fun cook-off with a selection of local chefs. Ideas on how to make beans, lentils and chickpeas the centrepiece of so many really tastey dishes. Click here for info
Monday May 2nd – College Green, 2.00-3pm
Finger on the pulse
Ten chickpea dishes in under an hour. Family-friendly, super-tasty, cheap, healthy, quick to prepare. Come along and let me inspire you; from simple hummus to Tuscan soup and Punjabi curry. Book here.