Recently our car has been acting far from right. As we travel along, it splutters and hiccups, actions which do not really instill a lot of confidence that you will, in the end, reach your destination. This probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it were just Buddy and I, but when you add a one year old and a three year old to the mix, the last thing that you would want is to be ditched by your treacherous vehicle at the side of the road.
As a result of this vehicular defection, we haven’t gone into town to pick up any groceries for quite some time. I must say, the cupboards are looking mighty bare. So dire is the situation that earlier I found myself attempting to whiten a cup of coffee with some old infant formula that actually had a cobweb festooned across its lid (this, by the way, was the worst idea ever, I would not recommend it even under the most desperate conditions… just go for black or forgo it…).
Of course, this has led to a bit of a quandary in terms of culinary creativity where, rather than thinking of an idea and then figuring out how to make it and what ingredients I need, I’ve had to scrounge around and see what ingredients I have, and then figure out what I’m going to make with it. Not my normal way of going about things, but a perfect opportunity to get imaginative.
Foreseeing this upcoming bout of concocting last night, I did a quick survey of the cupboard contents (fortunately not before the point of resorting to the use of infant formula) and found the following: dried beans, dried chipotle peppers, a few dried figs, an onion and a couple of tomatoes…hmmm, clearly the ingredients for some slightly spicy baked beans!
I love baked beans. They’re warm, comforting, versatile, and even the tinned ones are fairly good for you. Traditionally though they often include quite a bit of sugar, store bought ketchup and sometimes bottled barbecue sauce. With my limited ingredients, I wanted to see if I could make a delicious version with just the natural things that I had.
My original idea was to sweeten them with dates which I think have got a similar depth and sweetness to molasses or brown sugar. However, we had none. That’s where the figs come in. Figs are filled with gooey sweetness and I figured that once they’d cooked down they would sweeten the beans nicely, and give it a bit of a unique twist.
I also figured that with the smoky heat of the chipotles a bit more sweet stuff might be in order to balance out the flavours. What about some delicious caramelized onions?
If you’ve never caramelized onions before, I’d suggest you give it a try. They’re glorious and can add so much to such a variety of recipes. They’re really easy to do too, requiring minimal effort. Chop them up and start them cooking with some salt to encourage them to release their juices, and then when they begin to brown, reduce the heat and add a bit of water to keep them moist, then cover and leave them. They cook best if you just leave them alone so that their natural sugars can caramelize. Give them a very occasional stir to make sure that they all get a chance to work their sweet magic, and let them go until they’re a deep caramel brown colour.
A splash of balsamic vinegar gave the beans a last bit of sweetness while adding a vinegar tang, and some blitzed up fresh tomatoes maintain a little bit of fresh flavour, et voila!
The beans turned out sweet and salty with a smoky heat (if you leave the seeds in your peppers it will be a lot hotter if you want, or even add one or two more!). Healthy, homemade baked beans with a spicy, figgy twist!
- 100g dried kidney beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
- 100g dried pinto beans
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 dried chipotle peppers, de-seeded and chopped
- 3 dried figs, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 medium fresh tomatoes, blitzed in a blender until liquid-y
- 1 Tbsp flour of your choice
- Pre-heat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius.
- Put the drained kidney beans, the pinto beans and the bay leaves into a large pot and cover with 1 liter of water. Cover and set the pot over a hot heat, bringing the water to a rolling boil. Allow the beans to boil for 10 minutes and then remove from the heat.
- Put the beans with their cooking water and bay leaves, the figs and the peppers into a fairly large casserole or oven proof dish with a tight fitting lid. Leave them to slow cook for 5-6 hours.
- Near the end of the cooking time heat the oil over medium-high heat in a pan that has a lid. When the oil is heated, add the onions and salt and stir them around a bit. Leave them to cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown a little bit. Add a splash of hot water to the pan, cover with the lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Leave the onions to cook, stirring very occasionally and adding a splash of water from time to time just if they start to dry out, until the onions are soft and a deep brown caramel colour, then remove them from the heat.
- Remove the beans from the oven and give them a stir removing the bay leaves as you find them and breaking up the figs as much as possible with the spoon. Add the caramelized onions, vinegar and tomatoes, and give it a good stir. Add more water if it’s looking a bit dry.
- Mix the flour with a Tbsp of hot water and stir until free of lumps and then stir it into the beans. Cover and return it to the oven for another 45 minutes, removing the lid for the last 15-30 min if the sauce is a bit runny.
- Serve hot on toast or a baked potato/yam or as a side along with a burger for a barbecue.
- For less heat you could leave one of the chipotles out, or for more you could leave the seeds in them, or add one or two more.