A great British tradition with its origins across the pond, but molasses-sweet Boston baked beans wouldn’t pass muster as a toast topper in Boston, Lincolnshire. Instead, we like our beans in a bright, tangy, tomato sauce – just right for spooning over a jacket potato with a handful of cheese or, if you must, ruining a fry-up.

Prep 10 min, + soaking time
Cook 1 hr 15 min (depending on the age of the beans)
Serves 6

3 tbsp fine salt, plus extra to season
450g dried haricot beans (see step 1)
2 tbsp oil
2 garlic cloves
1 small carrot
1 stick celery
1 x 400g tin tomatoes
2½ tbsp tomato ketchup
1½ tsp cornflour
Black pepper
, to season

1 Dried beans v tinned

Boston Beans 01

This is best made with dried beans. Haricot, also known as white beans, are usual in commercial versions, but you can, in fact, use whatever you happen to have to hand, from kidney to cannellini. If, however, you are really pushed for time, you can use drained tinned beans (three 400g tins should do it), though they tend to go a bit mushy if cooked again.

2 Soak and salt (yes, really) the beans

Pour three and a half litres of cold water into a large bowl or pan, stir in the salt to dissolve, then add the beans; contrary to received wisdom, adding salt to uncooked beans does not make them tough, but instead helps them go extra creamy. Leave them to soak at room temperature for between eight and 12 hours.

3 Drain and cook the beans

Drain the beans, rinse them well, then put in a large pan and cover generously with fresh cold water. Bring to a boil, skimming off the scum that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon. Once it’s boiling, turn down the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, but not falling apart.

4 Start on the sauce

Boston Beans 02

While the beans are cooking (which will probably take at least an hour, though it will depend hugely on the age and variety of your beans), prepare the sauce. Peel and crush the garlic, and wash and finely dice the carrot and celery. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on a moderate heat, add the garlic and fry briefly, stirring, until you can smell it.

Boston Beans 03

5 Add the tomatoes

Add the carrot and celery to the pot, stir to coat with oil, then turn down the heat and fry very gently, stirring regularly, for about 20-25 minutes, until soft and limp, but not brown.

Boston Beans 04

Tip in the tomatoes and ketchup (mash the tomatoes if they’re whole), stir everything together, then turn up the heat and bring to a simmer.

6 Puree the sauce

Leave the sauce to bubble away undisturbed for about 10 minutes, then use a stick blender, food processor or mill to puree the mix (if you don’t have these things, but do have patience, push it through a sieve instead). Return the sauce to the pan over a medium heat.

7 Finish the sauce

Mix the cornflour with a splash of cold water to make a smooth paste, then whisk this into the sauce, followed by about 300ml more water.

Boston Beans 06

Season to taste with salt and pepper (if you like, you can also add more ketchup, too; I won’t judge you), then add the drained beans. Simmer for 10 minutes, then serve.

8 Added extras

For a really decadent pan of baked beans, melt in a knob of butter or dairy-free spread just before serving. You can also add other flavourings as takes your fancy: a splash of Worcestershire or chilli sauce along with the butter, perhaps, or give them an Indian flavour with some fresh green chillies, diced onion and a tablespoon of garam masala in step 4.

Boston Beans 07

9 How to Americanise your beans

If you like the sound of American baked beans, make a basic version by frying some smoked bacon lardons in the pan in step 4 until the fat begins to run, then scoop out and set aside before adding the garlic and continuing with the recipe as above. Stir the fried lardons into the sauce in step 7, along with a couple of tablespoons of dark brown sugar and a little treacle.



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