A baked bean special: chinese-y pork and beans
Cooking with baked beans
If you haven’t guessed from the title alone, my post today is all about cooking with baked beans.
Everyone here normally eats baked beans on toast, or as part of an English breakfast. For me, a tin of baked beans evokes a completely different memory, and that’s because the only time I ate baked beans as a child was in a pork and bean stew my mum used to make, and which we ate for dinner with rice and vegetables.
My brothers and I LOVED this dish. Still do!
When I moved abroad to study and had to start cooking for myself, this was another dish I tried to recreate. Unfortunately, I had to make the recipe up a little because my mum was one of those cooks that kind of just made up recipes every time she cooked. However, to make her pork and beans, there were a few staple ingredients – fresh ginger, a tin of baked beans, a bay leaf, star anise (I think!) and minced pork.
When I made it for my husband for the first time almost 14 years ago, I was sure he was going to hate it, and think of it as a kind of bastardised chinese Bolognese sauce, but to my absolute delight, he loved it too!
We make this a lot – in summer and in winter – and that’s because you can tweak it in so many ways.
I grew up eating it with rice and veg but it tastes equally lovely (but very different) when it’s piled onto a baked potato.
The garnishes you choose to put on it can change the flavour in a myriad of ways too. Adding fresh coriander or spring onions will ramp up its Asian flavours but topping it with cheese (cheddar works better than parmesan here) takes it to a whole new place. But when you scoop a big pile of these pork and beans onto a baked potato and top it with fresh spring onions, coriander and cheese… wow! Needless to say, if you eat this on its own, with a bowl of chips on the side, or slathered over a hot dog, it is awesome… and if you want more heat, think about spooning a few pickled green chillies on top (recipe here).
The only major change I’ve made recently is to the brand of beans we use.
All my life, I’ve been a Heinz baked beans baby. However, we converted to Branston baked beans after it launched a couple of years ago. I’ll probably piss a lot of English people off now – there’s a deep loyalty here to Heinz Baked Beans, but both my husband and I think Branston has created a winner as their beans have a nicer sauce and bigger beans. At the end of the day, use whatever tin of baked beans YOU like…!
I’ve yet to meet others who cook with baked beans like this so if you do, please do let me know because it’d be really nice to know what other people love to have baked beans with.
A chinese-y pork and beans recipe (serves 4-6)
For the mince pork marinade
300 grams minced pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
½ Maggi seasoning (or use fish sauce if you can’t get Maggi seasoning)
1 tablespoon chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
Mix all your spices in the minced pork and if possible, allow the pork to marinade for a couple of hours (FYI, my mum never had more than 15 minutes to marinate her pork when she came back from work and it always turned out lovely anyway).
To make the pork and beans casserole/stew
1 carrot, diced/chopped
1-2 sticks of celery, diced/chopped
2 medium sized onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tin of baked beans (approx 400 grams)
1 tin of tomatoes (approx 400 grams)
¼ – ½ tin of water (use the tin as a measure after you’ve poured out the tomatoes)
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 whole star anise
3 slices of ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Spring onions/coriander/cheese to garnish
In a casserole dish or saucepan, add your oil, a generous pinch of salt, and fry the celery, chilli, onions, garlic, ginger and carrots for about 5 minutes.
Push the vegetables to one side, leaving half of your pan free to add your minced pork. When you add the pork, resist the urge to move it around too much, let it seal for a minute or so and then try and flip it over immediately to seal the other side. By doing this, you’ll fry the pork properly. If you move it around too much, the pork releases its liquids, which ends up steaming the pork and the veg in the pan at the same time.
When you’ve browned the pork, stir it well to mix it with the vegetables and then add your bay leaf, star anise, tinned tomatoes, water and baked beans. Throw in your remaining sauces with a generous twist of black pepper. Stir it well and bring it up to a boil before reducing it to a gentle simmer.
Simmer your pork and beans for about 20-30 minutes, stirring it gently no more than 2 or 3 times during this time. Stir it gently so you don’t break up the beans too much.
Before you serve, remember to fish out the bay leaf, ginger slices and star anise (if you can find it).
Serve it on rice or potatoes garnished with spring onions, coriander and/or cheese, and a side of greens or salad.