About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Baked bean recipe - nearly there

I may have got a little overexcited and started this post before we'd actually eaten the beans...

This is the third attempt, and I'm getting there with the recipe for imitation Heinz beans, so I will share it with you. I'm writing down what I just did as best I can remember, before I forget any more of it. This is for two servings, i.e. about the same as one tin.

  • Borlotti beans (I believe Cannellini beans are the correct ones, but I don't have those) - about 2 1/2 oz dried; just over 100 g soaked (sorry for mixed measures - I can't help it, I grew up in Britain)
  • Water - I really couldn't tell you how much. Sorry.
  • Tinned tomatoes - half a can
  • White wine vinegar - two teaspoons
  • Sugar (white granulated) - I think I put three rounded teaspoons in, but it might have been only two.
  • Cornflour - one rounded teaspoon
  • Celery salt - sprinkle - mine's in a pot with that kind of lid
  • Mustard powder - pinch - probably about half as much as the celery salt
  • Dried parsley - sprinkle - less than you'd ever think of using for a herb
  • Pepper - very small sprinkle
  • Bay leaf - I forgot this again. It might be a good idea, perhaps instead of the parsley, or it might be completely unnecessary.


Start the day before if you're using dried beans and soak them overnight in plenty of water - they do swell up a lot. Then about an hour and a half before you think you need to start cooking, start cooking the beans in the water you soaked them in. You'll probably need to add a bit more water, unless you really did use lots for the soaking. Bring to the boil and keep boiling vigorously for ten minutes. Then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 70 min or so. These beans really do take this long to cook. Possibly longer. Test them to make sure they're soft enough and if not, cook them some more.

Now for the sauce. You need the cooking water from the beans in a pan and the beans themselves in some other container, waiting their turn. Add the half tin of tomatoes to the bean water and boil for 5-10 min, until the tomatoes are cooked and mushy.

Push this through a seive to make it smooth. I seive the sauce into the pot with the beans in, so that for the rest of the sauce making I also have beans in the mix. I do this to minimise washing up.

Put the tomato sauce (with or without beans) back into the pan and add the cornflour, mixed with a little water. Bring back to the boil to cook the cornflour, to thicken.

While waiting for it to boil again, or after it's boiled if you're more patient than me, add the other flavourings; vinegar, sugar, celery salt, mustard, parsley and pepper. At this point you might remember you were going to add a bay leaf. It's a bit late now.

Depending on how thick the sauce is at this point, you might want to boil it for a while, uncovered, to lose some water, or add a bit more. If boiling, don't forget to stir or it will stick and burn.

At this point, I took a teaspoonful of the sauce to Ian (he of the excessive taste buds) for tasting. His verdict on my attempt to imitate Heinz: Blimey, that's close! I was very happy with this!

So here it is, beans on toast fresh bread, straight from the oven, with butter melted in because it's still warm:

Home made baked beans

Then we actually came to eat them...

Ian's enthusiams waned at this point, as the beans taste too beany. This serves me right for being too pleased with myself! It's possible that leaving the beans in the sauce for longer would transfer more of their flavour into the sauce, leaving the beans themselves with a blander flavour. Actually though, I think it's time to admit that Borlotti beans are not the right kind of beans.

This is quite positive, because the point of the exercise was to answer that question. I'm only using Borlotti instead of Canellini because the seed supplier I ordered from didn't have Cannellini. Having got the sauce right, I can be sure that the No verdict really does relate to the beans, not my cooking. Therefore, it is not worth growing Borlotti beans.

I did notice that the beans I bought for growing and the beans I bought for cooking are pretty much the same thing. There's no shortage of Cannellini beans at the supermarket (there seem to be different varieties called Cannellini - the ones labelled as such in Morrisons are small and white, which is what I want), so I'll buy those, trying making baked beans with them and if it works, plant the rest.


  1. Your recipes make me laugh, I love the way that not having the right kind of beans for a baked beans recipe didn't put you off! That's the spirit.
    I will keep watching this space - you are my favourite chef.

  2. I was smiling after the introduction and laughing out loud once I got into the bullet points - I did enjoy reading this!!
    I applaud your tenacity - I'm sure I would have given up and waited til they were on offer in the supermarket by now.

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed it :-)

    It's become a challenge - I can't give up now! I despatched the husband for a packet of Cannellini beans today, so I'm all ready for the next attempt...


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