Baked Beans for Cold Days

I have a cold. My head aches, my eyes are streaming and my nose is dripping. Drip, sniff, drip, sniff, sneeze.

L also has a bug, only she has managed to sing her way through her choir practice and leap about in her Grade 3 ballet exam this weekend. Oh – and keep me awake most of the night too. But we won’t talk about that.

One of my favourite cookbooks for cold days like these is Ainsley Harriott’s Feel-Good Cookbook. And one of the ultimate feel-good, comfort foods has to be baked beans on toast.

Well, how lucky can I be? There’s a recipe for Best Boston Baked Beans on page 28 of Ainsley’s book. Only I can’t wait 8 hours for the beans to soak. And I don’t have any belly pork. And I want my comfort fix tonight, before my shivering limbs collapse me into a little heap on the kitchen floor and I can’t scrape together the energy to open a can let alone stir a large, simmering pot with a wooden spoon.

So you’ll see, if you have Ainsley’s cookbook, that I took a few shortcuts. And because I didn’t soak any beans, I didn’t have any soaking liquid, so I had to make a few alterations there, too.

Apologies in advance if anyone follows this recipe and thinks they have ended up with a huge stonking amount of baked beans. If you aren’t seeking as much comfort as I was when I doubled Ainsley’s recipe, feel free to halve the amounts below. But don’t blame me if you find yourself wishing you’d made more. I’m convinced the feel-good factor of this dish increases exponentially the more of it there is.

Baked Beans (adapted from a recipe by Ainsley Harriott)

4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tsp English mustard powder
4 tbsp light muscovado sugar
4 tbsp molasses sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp tomato puree
800g (2 tins) chopped tomatoes
8 slices of unsmoked streaky bacon
470g (2 tins) tinned borlotti beans, drained
1 pint chicken stock
1/2 pint water
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/ 310 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large casserole pan. Add the onion and cook gently until it softens and begins to caramelise.

Stir in the garlic, mustard powder, sugars, paprika and tomato puree. Cook gently for a minute, stirring to prevent the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add the chopped tomatoes and stir.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and add to the pot.

Add the beans, stock, water, bay leaves and thyme. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours until the beans are soft and the sauce has thickened (stir occasionally during this cooking time to make sure that the sauce doesn’t dry out).

Season and eat on thick slices of hot buttered toast.