Baked beans spell out ‘holidays’ to me. Over years of travelling, I have come to expect baked beans as part of the breakfast buffet at most resorts. A bite of warm toasted bread dipped into the saucy goodness of baked beans and the feeling hits me – ‘I’m on a holiday!’ 🙂 I do love myself a well-made bowl of the beans, oh so comforting.
My craving for baked beans extends beyond holidays and breakfast buffets at resorts, though, so I taught myself to make them from scratch at home. Ready-to-use tins from departmental store shelves aren’t really my thing. I made some baked beans recently, because the chilly weather in Bangalore warranted it, and I’m here to share my recipe for the same. Interested? Read on!
What are baked beans?
‘Baked beans’ refers to a delicious dish that is made using dry beans, cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Traditionally, the beans would be parboiled, then baked in the tomato sauce for a long time, allowing the flavours to seep in – this is where the dish gets its name from. Baked beans as we know them are believed to have been popularised in the USA by Heinz in the 1800s, though its actual origins might date far before this.
As the popularity of the dish increased beyond borders, many different versions emerged. Today, different countries make baked beans in their own way, with different types of beans and other ingredients being used. Cooking techniques also underwent a change. The cans of beans commonly available in supermarkets today (like Heinz) are not baked, from what I understand, but go through a steaming process. They can be eaten hot or at room temperature, preferably with toasted bread, while some also like eating it on its own.
My version of baked beans
The recipe I am sharing today is a stove-top one, developed after several trials and errors. This is a vegetarian version, unlike the several non-vegetarian variants of baked beans eaten throughout the world. It is not vegan (plant-based), but it is gluten-free. Also, while the USA and UK typically use white beans (aka navy beans or haricot beans) in this dish, I have made it using the more ubiquitous black-eyed peas. I have also used very Indian ingredients in my version, as well as dried Italian herbs for seasoning.
I’m definitely not claiming that this is an authentic recipe. It is something I put together based on the ingredients listed on ready-to-eat tins and from my experiences eating the dish at hotels several times over. The black-eyed peas (also called ‘cowpeas’) make for a great (and cheaper) substitute for white beans, and I think the dish tastes just as lovely made at home as the ones I have had while on vacations.
Monsoon treats for the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge
I am sharing this recipe in association with the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge.
The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is undertaken by a group of passionate food bloggers, who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme every month. Group members are paired together every month, with each pair exchanging two ingredients secretly. These two ingredients are then used by each pair to create a dish that fits the month’s theme.
The group theme for July was ‘Monsoon Treats’, wherein members are sharing dishes that are best eaten hot during the rainy season. It was Shobha ji, author of Shobha’s Food Mazaa, suggested the theme the month. I am loving the healthy Drumstick Soup that Shobha ji has shared for the theme – can’t wait to try it out!
For the July theme, I was paired with Mayuri ji, the very talented blogger behind Mayuri’s Jikoni. She prepared this beautiful Warm Mexican Corn Salad for the theme. Mayuri ji suggested that I use tomato and garlic to create my dish, and I decided to use them to make my beloved Baked Beans.
How to make baked beans from scratch
Here is how I go about it. It is a simple proceedure that does not require too much time.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
1. 1 cup dry black-eyed peas
2. 4 medium-sized tomatoes
3. 1 medium-sized onion
4. 5-6 cloves of garlic
5. A finger of butter
6. 1-1/2 tablespoons cornflour
7. Salt to taste
8. Red chilli powder to taste
9. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder
10. Dried Italian herbs as needed
11. 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1. Soak the black-eyed peas in enough water for 8-10 hours or overnight. When they are done soaking, drain out all the water from them.
2. Transfer the drained black-eyed peas to a wide vessel. Add in about 1-1/2 cups of water – the level of the water should be about an inch higher than the peas. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for about 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
3. Peel the garlic cloves and onion. Chop the garlic and onion finely. Keep aside.
4. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Grind into a fine puree. Keep aside.
5. Take the cornflour in a small cup and add in about 2 tablespoons of water. Mix to make a lump-free slurry. Keep aside.
6. Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the finely chopped onion and garlic. Saute on medium flame till the onion starts browning.
7. Add in the tomato puree, still keeping the flame at medium. Add in a little salt. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell of the tomatoes goes away. Add salt and red chilli powder to taste.
8. Add in the cooked black-eyed peas, along with the water they were cooked in.
9. Add jaggery powder. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes.
10. Add in the cornflour slurry, stirring constantly. Continue to cook on medium flame for 2-3 more minutes or till the mixture thickens. If it gets too thick, add a little water. Switch off gas when the mixture is still a little runny, as it thickens up further later.
11. Mix in the dried Italian herbs and tomato ketchup. The Baked Beans are ready. Serve hot with toasted bread.
Tips & Tricks
1. I have used black-eyed peas, also called cowpeas, instead of the white beans typically used in this dish. Some varieties of black-eyed beans cook really fast, while some take longer. You might need to experiment with cooking times to figure out exactly how long. These beans I had took 4 whistles on a high flame after overnight soaking.
2. Remember that the beans need to be cooked through but not overly mushy. Overcooked beans might spoil the taste of the dish.
3. You may use fresh black-eyed peas (or any other variety of beans) instead of the dried ones I have used here. In that case, no soaking is required. Just cook the fresh beans directly.
4. I have used country (Nati) tomatoes here, instead of the ‘farmed’ version. I like the light sour taste they impart to the dish. If you don’t find country tomatoes, you may use regular farmed ones instead.
5. I have used onions here, instead of which you may use onion powder. I prefer finely chopped onions.
6. I have used red chilli powder here, instead of which you may use paprika (or smoked paprika). Adjust the quantity you use as per personal taste preferences.
7. I have used dried Italian herbs by Keya as we love it in this dish. To make an Indianised version, you may add a bit of roasted cumin and coriander powder or a dash of garam masala. Some even add in soya sauce or Worcestershire sauce, both of which I don’t use.
8. Sugar can be used instead of the jaggery I have used here. Adjust the quantity as per personal taste preferences.
9. Do remember that the mixture continues to thicken up even after the cooking stops. Hence, switch off gas when the mixture is still on the runnier side.
10. I have used home-made tomato ketchup here. You may use a store-bought version instead. Adjust the quantity you use as per personal taste preferences.
11. Use oil instead of butter to make this dish vegan (plant-based).
12. I have used cornflour here to thicken the baked beans. I think wheat flour would work just as well, though I have never tried that out. Do not use wheat flour if you want to create a gluten-free dish.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!