Bean Counter

It’s late January and I’m skint. And hungover. And fatter. I spent Christmas full of wine, rich food and meat, lots and lots of meat. And cake. and then minced meat. And then minced meat covered with more minced meat.

As I near the end of January it’s time to take my pulse, not literally but the green beige rainbow of lentils and beans et al. Anyone can eat really well and fill up with warming and healthy delicious [almost] vegetarian dishes for pennies e.g. a fine Egyptian red lentil soup, the even better and exotic [sounding] North African turkey soup, the monster that is Sweet Bengal Dal and the interesting unusual lentil stew . After a few attempts make lentils your own way; throw some into water, cook until thick, SEASON, and finally add your blend of tempered [oil fried] flavourings; garlic, onions, chillies, bay leaves, whole or ground spices. This can be loosely termed as ‘Tarka’ and some are more successful than others. If you prefer eating firm lentils they also sit well in salads and work with surprising ingredients such as horseradish and avocado.

And then there are beans and this week has been all about beans. Lovely wife put some on soak as preparation for a chilli but we only had butterbeans and no beef so instead i took leftover Roast Chicken with trimmings and made Cassillet (a silly Cassoulet as it has no duck). First I fried some onions & garlic in the chicken fat, a bit of bacon and a couple of stray sausages were chopped into chunks and well browned. I added leftover chicken meat, trimmings (carrots, onion, a couple of stray mushrooms etc) and the gravy, scattered over a few bay leaves and poured in the chicken stock I’d made. Once reduced it was tipped into a oven tray and topped with a breadcrumb gremolata (equal parts parsley, lemon zest & garlic folded through seasoned breadcrumbs). 30 minutes in the oven and out came crispy bubbling bliss; looking a bit rubbish, smelling and tasting fantastic).

Bizarrely my 4 year old had been banging on about Baked Beans so come Saturday morning we decided to make Ultimate (because whenever I cook with him I say never again) Beans on toast. Loosely (because i dont measure anything or remember recipes) based on Boston beans “we” browned 2 roughly chopped onions with 6 slices of pancetta, then added 2 chopped garlic cloves and 2 bay leaves followed by a liberal sprinkling of equal amounts paprika and my new favourite goes-in-everything Allspice [funky name jamaica pepper a.k.a. newspice, pimenta]. After a minute or two a big splosh of Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon of dijon followed up with a glug of maple syrup and a tin of tomatoes, a good bubble and then tip in the butterbeans. about 180 degrees [the oven is almost always at 180] for 25 mins until the sauce caramelises and the magic happens. Finally a handful of parsley to freshen it up. A thick slice of challah (egg enriched braided jewish bread) was lightly toasted, topped with a shaving of extra mature cheddar, then hot beans and more finely grated cheddar. Et voila; [Ultimate] Beans on Toast. Well almost, I added some Franks Extra Hot Hot sauce to mine and transformed them into Dirty Pimped Beans.


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Mediterranean, Recipes, Lifestyle