Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Baked Beans

I'm home on a Tuesday, and I'm making baked beans. No, I'm not sick again, but I have to go to work on Friday for a meeting. Since I work four days a week and not Friday, the easiest thing for me to do is to take a different day off than usual. As soon as I thought of that, today seemed perfect - what with being sick, and going to Sydney, things have got a bit out of control. I need to unpack, tidy up, shop, and do laundry, and write newspaper columns, and do the research for my writing. So far I've put on the laundry, cleaned out a shelf and put some stuff away, made the shopping list, and I'm all set to go out.

Baked beans can cook while I'm out. They don't need much attention, since I'm using the slow cooker. I made this recipe up on the spot, based on experience with any number of other versions I've made in the past, and what just happened to be in the house.

Recipe: Baked Beans with Ham
1 cup haricot or navy beans
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 onion
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
100g lean ham
brown sugar, salt, pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Drain, and dump beans into slow cooker. Chop the onion finely, and the ham into small cubes. Mix in with beans, add tinned tomatoes, molasses, vinegar and mustard. Add about another tomato tin of water to make sure beans are well covered. Do NOT add salt.

Cook on slow setting for 6-8 hours. Stir occasionally if you're around, and add a little water if it seems to be drying out. When beans are soft enough for your taste, add salt, pepper and brown sugar to taste.

Adding salt earlier will tend to harden the beans. Use no-salt tomatoes if you can. I'd normally do double this amount, but I only had one cup of beans left in the pantry. A vegetarian modification is obvious: just leave out the ham. If you fancy Boston style baked beans, leave out the tomato, use more ham and onion, and add at least 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. I'll probably only use 1 tablespoon. A ham hock is traditional, but I had some regular ham that needed using up.

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