Lots of my parents’ cooking was done without cookbooks, but they had a small collection ranging from huge reference tomes to classic Women’s Weekly books, and one that I remember very clearly was The Wholefood Book by George Seddon and Jackie Burrow, published in 1978. It takes you through a huge range of different food types in a pretty opinionated (and now dated) way – no good fats here! – but I found its summaries of the nutrition, history and varieties of different food groups completely fascinating.
I particularly like the jacket blurb; the fact that they had to justify their approach with the line ‘you don’t have to be a crank, a vegetarian, a yogi…’ still cracks me up!
I remember using it for a primary school assignment – on grains I think. Anyway, despite its fascination to me for browsing, it wasn’t used very much for cooking, so I took with me when I left home!
Away from home, with not many cookbooks or recipes to hand, I began using it more; and while some of these mid seventies versions of the classics don’t quite stand the test of time!, I found a few recipes I still love. One of these is for homemade baked beans.
I’ve always liked tinned baked beans, I even have a soft spot for the ham flavoured ones :), but these really take them to another level. Firstly, they are made with haricot beans, which are smaller than the beans that are often used, and beautifully tender; second, they contain Worcestershire Sauce, molasses and bacon, third, you cook them for about five hours…
The result is meltingly tender beans coated in a rich, smokey sauce that I usually serve with pumpkin cornbread and grated cheddar as a wonderful comfort food dinner; but they also make a great breakfast with (more) bacon and eggs. The recipe is a bit time consuming, though not difficult, but luckily it freezes well, so make a big batch and freeze in meal sized portions to enjoy later!
- 250g dried haricot beans (use cannellini if not available)
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbs blackstrap molasses
- 2 Tbs tomato paste
- 2 tsp dried mustard powder
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 250g thickly sliced bacon (or salt pork if available)
Soak the beans overnight in cold water – I prefer to use a large Pyrex jug as it’s easier to see any unwanted extras (animal or mineral) that have crept in. Pick them over, removing any stones, stalks, or beans that are damaged. Drain, then put in a medium saucepan, covering with 600ml of fresh water.
Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for about an hour, until tender. Drain again, reserving the water this time, and measure 300ml of the water into a jug or bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, apart from the bacon, to the bowl and stir well until thoroughly mixed. Add the beans to either a slow cooker or an oven proof casserole, and pour over the combined liquid. Lay the bacon over the top.
Cook in the oven at either 180C for about 2 hours, or 130C for about 5 hours, adding a little more of the reserved cooking liquid if the beans look dry. If using a slow cooker, I cook on high for about 5 hours, but I imaging low all day would also work fine.
Serves four to six depending whether you serve as a main or side.