Baked beans

If you're looking for inspiration, try this dish. It takes a little planning, as you need to soak the beans overnight, but after that everything is simply put together and baked. Once you have tasted these, you will realize exactly how good homemade baked beans really are.

Serves 4

Soaking time: overnight Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 2-3 hours

1 cup small dried white beans 1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely minced 1 tbsp black treacle or unsulphered molasses 1 tbsp maple syrup V2 tsp ground cumin 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper 5 large tomatoes, about 1lb (450g), peeled and chopped 1 tbsp very finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes 1 tbsp tomato paste 1 tsp English mustard powder, such as Colman's sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold water—enough to cover by at least 2in (4cm). Let soak overnight.

2 Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Put in a large heavy pan, cover with plenty of fresh cold water, and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer for 1 hour; drain.

3 Preheat the oven to 275°F (140°C). Put the beans in a flameproof casserole with the remaining ingredients, except for the salt (this is important—adding salt at this point would toughen the beans). Season with a good grinding of pepper, and add 2 cups cold water.

4 Gently bring to a boil, cover, and transfer the casserole to the oven. Bake for about 4 hours, stirring from time to time. Keep an eye on the beans as they cook; if the mixture is too thick or starting to dry out, add a little water as needed. Once the beans are creamy and soft, add enough salt to season well. Bake for 5 minutes longer, then serve.

Variation To cook the beans without baking, follow steps 1 and 2, then put the beans in a clean pan with the rest of the ingredients, except the salt. Season with pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly, cover, and simmer very gently, stirring from time to time, for 1-2 hours or until the beans are tender. Season well with salt, and serve.

Works well with

Plum (pp64-73) Standard globe (pp22-35)

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