This weekend, my older Sister-A took the courageous step of moving out of home. Before leaving, she told me how much she would miss my cooking, especially my homemade baked beans. Fearing she may be living on toast for the next few months, I dutifully set to making a big batch for her as a sort of house warming present. Each time I make these, I try different things: sometimes I alter the spices, or if I’ve just been to the supermarket I’ll add a ham hock to give them a smoked ham flavour. Below is the general recipe I follow, with the option of making them ham flavoured (with the ham hock) or plain tomato flavoured (without it). This recipe makes about 8-10 side serves if you are having them with eggs, or 4-6 servings the size of what’s in the photo. I love to freeze individual serves (about 200g) in plastic tubs to take out whenever I feel like them. Just heat them up in the microwave and voila!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp dried oregano
375g dried white beans
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 litres chicken stock
1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 smoked ham hock (optional)

salt and pepper

  1. Heat olive oil in a large casserole dish over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and a pinch of salt and stir until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. The salt keeps the onion from browning by helping it to release the juices.
  3. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika and oregano and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the white beans and tomato paste and stir to combine.
  5. Add the chicken stock, diced tomatoes, red wine vinegar and brown sugar and stir to combine. Nestle ham hock (if using) into the middle and bring mixture to the boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, covered, for 3 hours until beans are tender and ham is falling off the bone. Stir occasionally to make sure they haven’t stuck the the bottom. If the liquid is reducing too quickly, add a little more chicken stock.
  6. If you’re not using the ham hock skip to step 7. Otherwise: after 3 hours remove ham hock from the pot and discard the skin and fat. Shred the remaining meat using two forks and return it to the pot.
  7. Continue cooking gently, covered, until beans are tender and the sauce is thick, about 1/2 hour.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with poached eggs and, like Sister-A, a cup of green tea.

Makes 8 Side Serves / 4 Main Serves