Minnesota Baked Beans (not actually from Minnesota).

We had visitors from Minnesota! (I know, I had to look it up, too. It’s in the U.S. and it’s so far north that some of it is further north than bits of Canada. It’s so cold there that our guests from Minnesota came to London in December for the blistering heat.  Then they went to Scotland. These people are tough. And nuts. Tough nuts.)

They brought us the best gift that anyone can bring; a type of food I had never seen before. Namely, Red Lake Nation wild rice from a food company owned by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.

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And they brought Award Winning Maple Syrup. Not just Award Winning Maple Syrup but NATIONAL AWARD WINNING MAPLE SYRUP!!

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That, as we say in the world of improvisation, is an offer.

I was making chicken fajitas and thinking of re-fried beans (the recipes for these 2 are in the Essex Road Recipe deck which you can pre-order here) when Him Indoors said, “What about baked beans?” and you know he didn’t mean those disgusting slimy sugary things in a can…

So, I began the insanely long yet satisfying process of making our own baked beans with Award Winning Maple Syrup served with Red Lake Nation Wild Rice.

Thank you, Mame, Eric and David.

Ingredients:

500 g white beans.

The sauce.

4 rashers streaky bacon

2 medium onions

4 cloves garlic

5 medium tomatoes

Teaspoon salt

Teaspoon ground black pepper

Teaspoon harissa powder (or paprika if you don’t have harissa)

2 teaspoons maple syrup or brown sugar

Tablespoon cider vinegar

What to do. …roughly speaking:

Soak the beans in plenty of cold water for 12 hours (or overnight).

Drain them, rinse them and drain again, then place in a large saucepan with lots more fresh water. Bring to boil for about 10 minutes, then turn down to a simmer for about an hour. If you notice that the beans have used up most of the water, add a little more.

The sauce.

Peel the tomatoes. You can do this by dropping them into a pan of boiling water for a minute and then taking them out again. The skins will split and, once they have cooled a bit will be quite easy to peel. Chop the tomatoes, removing the tough stalky bits, and set them aside in a bowl.

Chop the bacon into small pieces (about 2 cm cubes). Fry the bacon pieces in a large frying pan or saucepan for 4 or 5 minutes. Keep them moving and/or add a little cooking oil if they start to stick. Add the finely chopped onion and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, harissa powder and stir it around. Keep the heat up fairly high for a few minutes to drive off some of the liquid. Now turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and add the maple syrup or sugar and cider vinegar. Mix this in well, put on a lid and simmer for about 40 minutes.

Taste it and add a little more salt and pepper if you like.

(I then blended about half the sauce with a wand blender, leaving it with some chunky bits, but you don’t have to do this.)

Preheat your oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7.

Spread the strained, cooked beans out on the bottom of an ovenproof dish or deep roasting tray (the beans will still be a little bit hard) and pour the sauce over them. Mix it around so that the beans are well covered and coated in sauce, and cover tightly with a lid or foil.

Place in the hot oven for about 15 minutes and then turn it down to 180ºC/350ºF/ Gas 4 and cook for another 60-75 minutes.

We ate them with wild rice (takes about 45 minutes to cook) and chicken fajitas. But I’d say they would also be really good with baked potatoes.

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