Baked beans have to rank pretty highly on a list of favourite comfort foods, and they’re so easy to make from scratch. These are a regular lunch in our home, with whole wheat bread or stuffed in a baked potato with coleslaw or sauerkraut. They don’t have any nasties found in the commercial varieties (modified cornflour, anyone?) and are made from natural ingredients. They count as one of your five a day, are high in fibre and, when paired with whole grain bread, are a complete protein. They’re smoky, sweet and tangy in a rich sauce, and my children love them.
To make them, drain a large (800g) tin of white haricot beans and rinse well, or substitute the same 500g of home-cooked beans. Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large frying pan and add the beans and a grated clove of garlic. Heat gently, then add a heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika. Stir gently so you don’t break the beans up too much, then add a heaped tablespoon of tomato puree and a good splash of water to loosen. Stir in two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and simmer until heated through and the sauce is thick, rich and coating the beans. Taste for balance; you might want to add a little more apple cider vinegar.
What is Blackstrap Molasses?
Blackstrap molasses is a by-product of sugar cane’s refining process. It has the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product, and is high in calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, potassium and vitamin B6. It is thick like treacle, and the taste reminds me of liquorice. The boys love it drizzled on tahini-topped rice cakes as a snack, my OH drinks it diluted in warm water as a fortifying drink, and it adds a ton of flavour (and stickiness!) to flapjacks and other baked goods.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar (or ACV) is fermented apple cider and, if you buy organic unrefined, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar with the mother it will contain a culture of beneficial bacteria that can support your health. It is a natural probiotic, so I try to take some daily to support my immune system. Try a ‘shot’ of a tablespoon of acv mixed with two tablespoons of water first thing, or sip a teaspoon in a large glass throughout the day. I use it in salad dressings, sauces and to dress sushi rice. In fact, I tend to replace other types of vinegar called for in a recipe with acv.
You should be able to find blackstrap molasses and acv (Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar is a popular brand) in your local health food shop. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Buy Whole Foods, as they have just about everything I use in cooking, from coconut oil to acai berry powder and a huge range of grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. They deliver in the UK and to mainland France, too.
Now that the weather is getting cooler and Autumn is definitely here, I’d love to hear what comforting foods sustain you during the colder months.
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