Smoky Bonfire night baked beans

It’s Bonfire Night tomorrow, an evening of fireworks, sparkles, chilly feet and warming comfort food. Thinking about it, it seems a strange event to mark each year in our increasingly secular multicultural society – a day to commemorate the failure to blow up Parliament, a plot devised by Catholics against Protestants. Remarkably, it was actually illegal NOT to celebrate Bonfire Night up until 1959!

No matter what the historical background is, many of us still celebrate the events of 5th November in our own way. Now that my kids are pretty much independent, there’s no real excuse to set off our own fireworks, but I do love watching everyone’s displays. Although, after having been in India during Diwali, our fireworks are more damp squibs than the thunderous assault of noise and colour you experience there!

Bonfire night makes me think of food – thick comforting soup and piping hot baked potatoes always spring to mind, as do Boston beans. Traditionally made with fatty pork rind and thick molasses, my husband’s best friend made these beans for a couple of Bonfire nights we celebrated together in our early 20’s (along with lots of alcohol I seem to remember!). Deep smoky, rich flavours mixed with hearty beans, they were perfect for a cold winters night spent in the garden with colourful explosives.

Beans are of course a fantastic source of protein, fibre and micronutrients, and a staple in any diet, plant based or otherwise. Research has found they can help reduce the onset of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and that if more were included in everyone’s diet it would have a big impact on long term health.

So as it’s that time of year, I’ve made my own smoky baked beans, similar to Boston beans but of course plant based and animal free. Packed full of deep smoky flavours, you can make this on the cooker top, in the oven or in a slow cooker if you have one to hand. And if you have time, make it the day before so the flavours have a chance to develop. Serve on top of a crunchy skin baked potato with a good dollop of dairy free sour cream, this will keep you so warm and snuggly whilst you partake in our slightly odd historical celebration and enjoy the fireworks

Smoky beans stuffed potato
Smoky baked beans
400g tin of beans (flageolet are good)
1 small onion
1 large clove of garlic
500g carton of passata
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
salt and pepper
coconut amines or tamari
If you are baking in the oven, pre-heat to 150ºC and use an oven proof pan like Le Crueset if you have it. If you are using a slow cooker, prepare in a saucepan and transfer to the pot at the oven stage of the recipe.
Finely dice the onion and garlic clove. Heat the pan and add a little water. Sauté the onion until it starts to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the passata and stir in the spices, coconut sugar and vinegar and stir well to combine. Fill the passata carton with water and add to the pan. Stir in the beans then add salt and pepper plus tamari or coconut amines to taste (this provides a deep, umami flavour). Put the lid on the pan.
If you are using a slow cooker, pour the mix into the bowl, put on the lid and leave to cook for 6 -8 hours.
If you are cooking in the oven, now is the time to pop it in. If you are cooking on the hob, turn down the heat and simmer. For both the oven and hob, stir after an hour and add more water if it’s drying out. Do the same after 2 hours and check the flavour – your beans will be ready after about 2 1/2 hours. If you are making in advance, leave to cool then reheat gently.
Serve on pipping hot baked potatoes. Enjoy!

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