National Baked Bean Month

by Mark Broadbent

Mark Broadbent has enjoyed a food-obsessed career spanning three decades. He’s cooked in Five star Hotels, Two star Michelin restaurants, Gastro Pubs and Member’s Clubs, delivering unforgettable cuisine or acting as a consultant. London’s Bluebird was just one of his success stories. Under his creative direction, the restaurant achieved huge critical acclaim and was especially loved by AA Gill.

July 28th 2016

Okay, I admit it. I can be a little snobbish about food at times – but frankly, any chef worth their salt would be lying if they didn’t admit to a little culinary snootiness from time to time.

My personal pet hate list? Microwave meals, over-generous use of tomato ketchup and the biggest sin of all – pre-baked jacket potatoes. Shudder.

But let’s be clear: my food snobbery has nothing to do with cost, and I’m first to say that some of the greatest tastes on earth are not the most expensive.

There’s one store-cupboard staple that proves my point more than anything else – and seeing as this month is National Baked Beans Month, now seems like a pretty good time to celebrate it.

Yes, the humble tin of beans. For all my foodie airs and graces, I’m not ashamed to say I won’t hear a word against this most retro of basics.

When it comes to versatility and simplicity, a tin of beans is pretty unbeatable – whether it’s the old classic of beans on toast, gracing the side of a full English breakfast, or adorning a simple jacket potato (freshly home-baked I may add – seriously, it’s not hard!).

I see no dishonour in keeping a can or two of tinned baked beans in the cupboard. But if you want to try your hand at making your own, you’ll be rewarded with a truly hearty and comforting experience. Whereas tinned baked beans are often haricot, you’re best to choose cannellini beans if making your own.

This tasty version uses pancetta which makes it something really rather special:

Homemade Baked Beans with Pancetta

dried haricot or cannellini beans400g
extra-virgin olive oil3tbsp
red onions, finely chopped2
pancetta, finely chopped150g
garlic cloves, finely chopped2
can chopped tomatoes400g
dark muscovado sugar2tbsp
cider vinegar3tbsp
Preparation Time: 1hr 30mins
  1. Soak the beans overnight. Drain, place in a pan, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Cook for about 45 minutes-1 hour until tender, then remove from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onions and pancetta and cook for 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and 400ml water, then tip in the beans. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1½-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until you have a thick sauce and tender beans. Serve the beans on toast, with a grating of cheese if desired.

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