‘Giant’ Bean Bruschetta

. . . or our “Baked Beans on Toast”

This is another quick one from our Legume series and is based on the fact that everybody loves baked beans on toast. Heinz who make the most popular ready brand of baked beans have been improving their recipe in terms of health over recent years, and we think it’s a pretty good product. The main problem has been the Sugar and Salt content and the they have been slowly reducing these elements. However, a dramatic change would likely cause a public backlash and so they seem to have adopted a slow weening strategy. The current recipe contains 9.8g of Sugar per serving (1/2 can) and this equates to 2.5 teaspoons of Sugar which is still a reasonable amount. Salt comes in at 1.2g which actually isn’t too bad (6g current daly recommendation, although this in-itself is slightly controversial depending on your perspective of the evidence — a discussion for another day). Otherwise the ingredients are good without any nasty suprises — Beans and Toamtoes making up the majority.

Heinz also produce a ‘healthy version’ which has 6.7g of Sugar (30% less) and 0.9g of Salt (25% less) but this obviously has a ‘flatter’ flavour — if you want to control weight or Cardiovascular risk factors then this would be a better choice. Here lies a fundamental issue with most ‘pre-processed foods’ — because they lack the flavour boost of fresh ingredients they have to enhance the flavour with Sugar, Salt etc. We still think tinned Baked Beans are a good convenience food but our ‘Baked Beans’ are definitely better, when you have a little more time!

This recipe is perfect for the Spring/ Summer season when fresh Tomatoes are at their best and you get a natural sweetness. The basic base of the sauce can be used in lots of different dishes including Huevos Rancheros, with Pasta and its beautiful with grilled meat or fish. We usually make a batch and it will keep really well for a few days to be used in multiple dishes. You can also ‘pimp-up’ the basic sauce to include even more vegetables — we really like sliced Mushrooms or Courgettes.

Most Baked Bean recipes use Haricot Beans. For this recipe you can use any Bean you fancy or have available — we like Haricot (classic), Borlotti (a favourite when fresh and in-season), Flageolet, Cannellini etc. All can be bought fresh (when available) or, more commonly in the UK, dried (and soaked before cooking) or tinned/ tetrapack and used immediately for convenience. For this one when we have used Butter Beans for the fun ‘Giant’ element although you tend to get a higher bean to sauce ratio which may not be to everyones liking.

Beans for two:

  • 1/2 Large Onion or 1 Medium
  • 1 Large clove of Garlic
  • 2 Sweet Bell Peppers — Red, Orange, Yellow (not Green)
  • 5 medium Tomatoes (or equivalent Cherry Tomatoes) — if the Tomatoes are not at their sweet best, you can enhance with a teaspoon of Tomato paste
  • Handfull of chopped Chives
  • Tin or Tetrapack Beans of your choice — this recipe is 380g (230g drained) Organic Butter Beans from a Tetrapack
  • Extra-virgin Olive Oil, Salt and Black Pepper
  • Crusty toasted wholegrain/ Granary bread

  1. Put the Peppers on a baking tray and place under a very hot grill to char on all sides (turn when the skin starts to blacken).
  2. Meanwhile finely dice the Onion and Garlic. Add to a non-stick pan with a glug of Olive oil and cook gently over a medium heat until the Onions are soft. Season with a little Salt and Pepper.
  3. If you are using large Tomatoes you can easily peel the skins for a smoother sauce. Cut a shallow cross into the base of the Tomatoes, place in a bowel and pour over freshly boiled water from the kettle. Leave for 1 minute and then lift out. The skin should now easily peel away (you can skip this step if you you prefer for speed). Roughly chop the Tomatoes and add to the Onions.
  4. The Peppers should now be done. Place in a bowel and cover with Clingfilm to allow them to steam and cool.
  5. Meanwhile gently cook the sauce while adding a little extra water if drying out to maintain a ‘saucy’ consistency and stirring occassionally. The Tomatoes should break down completely into the sauce. Taste and add more Seasoning if required.
  6. When the Peppers are cool enough to handle you can destalk, deseed and lift off the skins (they should peel easily now). Don’t worry if a few small bits of blackened skin remain. Roughly chop and add to the sauce.
  7. Drain and rinse the beans and add into the mix. Cook altogether for another 5 minutes for the flavours to amalgamate.
  8. Finally toast a nice slice of crusty wholegrain/ granary bread. Finely chop the Chives straight into the mix. Give a final stir and pour onto the fresh toast and serve — delicious.

This is a great Spring/ Summer brunch. Really versatile — try topped with some tinned sardines, grilled chicken livers or placed in the oven under Eggs until they are just set.

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