Homemade of course!
The cold weather makes me want to have rich, warming smells wafting through my home promising of tummy filling goodness later. It's a rich smell. I don't mean the richness of the sauce, I mean the richness and generosity of spirit it inspires. It makes me feel secure, it makes me feel love, it makes me feel full, knowing that my family is provided for and will have that same feeling too when they walk in the door, even if they don't understand why. And I'm sorry, but popping the lid off a tin just won't cut it!
Oops, actually I'm using tins...... I mean they are the starting point, I could soak the beans overnight and all, but we do need to be practical and tins of plain beans are fine. Really. Truly.
1. I start by popping the lid off a tin -ha ha. I like to use a variety of beans for flavour and texture. Make sure you rinse the beans thoroughly and get rid of all the goopiness. Drain in a colander for a bit.
2. Make a basic mirepiox of carrot, onion, celery and garlic and soften in some oil over a medium to low heat. You just want to sweat and bring out the sweetness of the vegetables without browning them.
3. I would normally add in a few tablespoons of tomato paste at this point, but someone -I'm looking at you BigJ- forgot to tell me we were out. Hmmm.... a quick rat through the cupboard revealed a jar of Avjar, a type of red capsicum paste that I've been meaning to use in a Paprika Chicken dish. Let's say, add in 1/2 a jar.
4. Put in other spices and flavourings now, but not salt. Never salt beans until they[re completely finished cooking as it will retard the process and you don't want chalky beans, you want soft beans that will squish satisfyingly between your teeth.I used cinnamon, smoked paprika, cracked black pepper and a dash of liquid smoke for extra kick. I also added a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar for sweetness, but maple syrup is good too. Cook mixture off for a few minutes, stirring around so it won't stick. This will take the rawness off the spices and pastes.
5. Add in (yes, I know) a tin of chopped tomatoes and cover the whole lot with stock. You can use any kind, keep it to the veggies if you like, but I prefer chicken. Stir it around a bit, then cover.
6. This is when I like to pop the whole thing in the oven for a slow bake. Just check the moisture levels now and then and top up if necessary. It's done when the beans are still holding their shape, but are soft to bite. Check seasonings.
You can also leave this to cook on the stove top, but it needs more looking after and checking that it doesn't stick,etc.
Something else I like to do for my carnivores, just as I'm about to pop the lid on, is to top the beans with a couple of smokey ham steaks or speck to bake on top and baste their juices into the beans as they cook. If this is the case, take the lid off the dish about 10 mins or so before taking out the oven so they can burnish up their colour a little. Or you could also add chopped speck, bacon etc. when you are sweating down the mirepoix. I don't do this though, as then the Meat isn't obvious enough and my BigJ is a sook when it comes to vegetables only.
Serve these yummy beans with some bread or toast to soak up the juices and smile smugly, knowing the superiority of opening 4 tins to create a better product instead of just 1!