Disclaimer 1: Long before I started on the toxin-free, green-living path, I thought baked beans were the work of the devil. My baked beans recipe is not designed to replicate those frightening white things floating in tomato sauce but to provide a healthy, cheap, bulk dish that can be served any time of the day.
My kids aren’t that keen on meat, but they LOVE beans, lentils and chickpeas, including baked beans. Seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen my two-year-old eat a whole bowl of baked beans with her chubby fingers in 2.5 minutes flat. I would YouTube it if I didn’t think it would come back to haunt her one day.
Like most mums, I call baked beans “dinner” sometimes because I’m super busy, under the weather, late or just don’t want a battle. It’s something I know my kids will eat and baked beans are a vegetable right?
But. There are many things I don’t like about tinned baked beans (aside from the taste, texture and appearance):
- The high salt content – just under half what experts say is okay for kids (based on a 100g serve).
- Seven grams of sugar per serve
- The highly processed nature of the food
- The likelihood that the tin is lined with BPA
- The fact they bear no resemblance to the original Boston Beans on which they are based
- Not knowing where the ingredients come from
The solution is to cook my own baked beans from scratch, using as many local ingredients as I can. I got my recipe from a packet of navy beans bought in Kingaroy, which is home of the Navy Bean Marketing Board and just up the road, and I’ve adapted it to suit my tastes, I hope it suits yours!
Disclaimer 2: As an experiment, we served my children homemade baked beans and then beans from a tin on separate mornings. They preferred the tinned ones (ARGH!) BUT when I served my baked beans recipe with rice and cheese on top for dinner, they wolfed them. #mykidsareweird
Baked beans from scratch recipe
1.5 cups (200g) Australian navy beans (aka haricot beans)
4 rashers quality local bacon/ham
2 tbsp oil/butter/lard
2-3 tbsp wheat/spelt flour (optional – see method)
2 cups (500ml) crushed organic tomatoes in glass or fresh and peeled, chopped
1 organic stock cube OR 2 cups homemade stock
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pepper to taste
Wash the beans well, cover with boiling water and soak overnight. The next day, cook in salted boiling water until tender (around three hours depending on the freshness of the beans). Make sure they are completely tender as they will not cook further and no-one likes crunchy beans.
Heat the oil or fat and cook bacon/ham. Add enough flour to take the shine off the fat and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. [If you don’t want to use flour to thicken, you can add cornflour after the liquid or the thickener of your choice].
Add tomatoes and a cup of water if not using liquid stock. Add whole sprigs of rosemary or any other herbs you have handy, balsamic vinegar and pepper.
Bring to the boil, adjust flavours with vinegar, salt and pepper.
Bake in slow oven (130 in my fan-forced electric oven) for two to three hours, stirring every half hour or so [can also be simmered on very low on the hob, but then they’re not baked beans, right?]. You may need to add water if sticking to the bottom.
When you reheat the beans, scoop what you need into a small saucepan, add a dash of water and stir. Serve on toast, with eggs, on rice with cheese or straight out of the pan if need be.
This baked beans recipe will yield at least eight serves as a side dish or child’s meal. You can freeze small batches, although they lose some of the glossiness, they’re still totally yummy and healthy. These Wean Green glass cubes from Biome are the perfect size for freezing side serves of beans.
Does your family love baked beans? Got any tips for making them healthier?