Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.
Baked beans, cooked and canned in sauce, are popular not only with kids and campers but with people of all ages and from all walks of life, in several different countries. So why are they so often used or served so unimaginatively? It is surprising how versatile baked beans can be and how the enjoyment of them can be enhanced with just a little imagination and effort.
The types of beans and the sauce in which they are canned vary hugely from region to region or country to country, but the principle is the same. In these dishes, I used cans of haricot (or navy) beans in tomato sauce, but the recipes can easily be prepared with other types.
Canned Baked Beans
Although canned baked beans do have many positives in terms of nutritional value, particularly with regard to fibre, there are significant negatives that we should consider.
Two of the biggest detriments are salt and sugar, often included in considerable excess. The good news is that many producers now offer reduced salt and sugar alternatives, making baked bean consumption a much healthier option.
The variety featured above has an impressive 35% less salt and 40% less sugar than the standard cans. As for the taste? I honestly didn't find much difference, so there is little if any loss for plenty of long-term gains.
Beans on Toast
One of the easiest ways of varying beans on toast is by using a different type of bread. Instead of using the same old supermarket pre-sliced bread, buy a whole loaf and cut a thick wedge to toast. Grate a clove of garlic into the beans before they are heated, add a dash of sauce, and throw on a handful of chopped chives as a garnish.
Cheese Beano with Basil and Black Pepper
A cheese beano is simply baked beans in tomato sauce on toast with grated hard cheese (usually cheddar) scattered over the top. The cheese may or may not then be melted by placing the toast on a tray and under a hot, overhead grill for about a minute. It's an incredibly simple variation and it doesn't take much.
This cheese beano was enhanced by the addition of a couple of torn basil leaves before it was put to the heat and some black pepper ground over the top as a final flourish.
A variety of herbs, spices, and sauces could be used so why not experiment, or even allow your family to come up with their own variations?
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Baked Beans and Fried Eggs on Toasted Bread Rolls
Eggs go very well with baked beans. This idea sees the beans firstly spooned on to toasted bread roll halves before being topped off with soft yolk fried eggs and an optional little scattering of hot chili powder. When these eggs were fried, they were transferred firstly to a separate plate and trimmed carefully to size to improve the presentation, but this is not of course essential.
Baked Beans with Poached Egg and Toasted Soldiers
This is still technically baked beans and toast, though this recipe technically features beans with toast, rather than on toast.
The beans were gently heated in a saucepan while the egg was poaching (see video below). When both were ready, two slices of bread were put into the toaster.
The small serving dish simply makes for a better presentation. The beans are spooned in first before the poached egg is carefully laid on top. A few basil leaves were finely sliced and added to the top of the egg as a simple garnish.
The toast was lightly buttered before being halved across the way and each half quartered into soldiers for dipping. This idea doubles as a tasty alternative to a simple boiled egg and soldiers, at breakfast time or any time.
Baked Beans as Part of Breakfast
Baked beans for breakfast may not be to everyone's taste, but they are a very popular ingredient in not only a full English breakfast but also a full Scottish breakfast, full Welsh breakfast (shown above), and the Ulster fry. In these creations, the baked beans will almost certainly be served with sausages of one type or another.
Aberdeen Angus Sausages With BBQ Beans, Mooli, and Chives
These prime Aberdeen Angus beef sausages were a bit more expensive than the standard offerings from supermarket butcher's counters but— as is so often the case— quality costs extra. The difference in taste, texture, and overall enjoyment more than justifies the price.
(for one serving)
- 3 Aberdeen angus beef sausages
- 1 small (8 oz) can of baked beans in BBQ sauce
- 1” piece fresh mooli (daikon radish) (or horseradish)
- 1/2 tsp chopped chives
- Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Put some oil into a non-stick frying pan. Do not prick the sausages— this will simply allow the juices to escape and cause the meat to dry up. Instead, cook them very gently for fifteen to twenty minutes, turning frequently.
- This time use mixed beans with red bell peppers in a BBQ sauce.
- Heat the beans gently in a small saucepan and spoon them into the centre of a deep plate. Lay the sausages on top. Season with black pepper before sprinkling over the grated mooli (daikon radish) and chopped chives.
Pie, Chips and Beans: A Big Scottish Favourite
A Scotch Pie (usually just referred to as a pie in Scotland) is traditionally made from mutton or lamb in a hot water pastry case, though beef is more commonly used in modern times. One of the most popular ways of eating a pie like this is with homemade chips and baked beans served alongside or on top of the pie. It may seem that there is not a lot can be done to vary this recipe but one idea is to top the hot pie with warmed beans and freshly made mash before toasting the mash under a hot grill.
The wider concept of baked beans in a pie, with a pie, or encased in the pastry of some sort is the one explored in the next two recipes. Hopefully, they will get you thinking of some ways you can develop your own combination.
Baked Beans, Beef, and Onion Pasty
It is possible to include just about anything in a pasty, just like a pie. As long as you follow the basic format of folding the ingredients inside pastry which is then baked golden, what you end up with is technically a pasty. Baked bean pasties may sound unusual but they are absolutely delicious.
(for one serving)
- 1/4 pound minced/ground beef
- 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 pound puff pastry
- 2 tablespoons baked beans in tomato sauce
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Flour for rolling pastry
- Beaten egg for glazing
- Butter for greasing baking tray
- Put the beef into a dry pot on low to medium heat.
- Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the beef is browned— about two to three minutes. Stir in the onion and pour in enough boiling water to cover. Simmer for fifteen minutes.
- Turn off the heat, cover, and leave for at least an hour to cool.
- Roll out the pastry on a clean, dry, floured surface with a rolling pin to a 13" square. The pastry may seem very thin but puff pastry rises considerably during cooking. Use a 13" dinner plate as a template to cut a circle from the pastry.
- A slotted spoon is best for laying the beef and onion on one half of the pastry, being sure to leave a border of approximately an inch around the edges. Carefully spoon the (cold) beans on top of the beef. Glaze this border with beaten egg before folding over the empty half of the pastry and crimping around the edges.
- Transfer to a baking tray, lightly greased with butter and glaze all over with more beaten egg. Do not forget to make a slit in the centre about 1" long to allow steam to vent during cooking.
- Bake in the oven preheated to 400°F/200°C for 35 to 40 minutes until the pastry has risen and beautifully golden.
Individual Baked Beans Cottage Pie
Cottage pie is a combination of beef and usually vegetables such as onion and carrot, topped with mashed potatoes. In this instance, baked beans are mixed with the beef and vegetable combination before the pie is assembled.
(for one serving)
- 1/4 lb minced/ground beef
- 1/2 small onion
- 1 small carrot
- 2 tablespoons baked beans
- 1 medium baking potato
- Pat of butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Brown the beef in a dry pot. Finely slice the onion. Peel the carrot and chop to a medium dice. Stir the carrot and onion through the browned beef and season before adding enough boiling water to cover and simmering for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the pot, and leave for an hour or two to cool completely.
- Peel the potato, roughly chop and add it to a pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes until the potato is soft. Drain and return to the pot with a little bit of butter and salt. Mash, cover, and leave to cool.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C. Spoon the meat and beans into a small ovenproof dish. Spoon the potato on top and smooth gently with a blunt knife dipped in boiling water. Cook on a baking tray for twenty minutes.
- The pie is now technically ready to eat but placing it under a hot overhead flame for two or three minutes browns and crisps the top of the potato to make for a more attractive presentation.