We decided 2018 would be the year of going green, and in the spirit of reducing our waste and unnecessary food buying, I've been trying to clear out the recesses of our food cupboards. It's a lucky dip of pulses, grains and flours - usually in annoyingly small quantities and of questionable age. This week I picked up a pack of yellow eyed peas - not something I usually cook with. I stopped reading the pack at 'proper baked beans' and luckily there's nothing fancy required so we had everything we needed at home.

Beans on toast is a real guilty pleasure at home - sometimes you just don't want to cook and there are few things that are so simple (and quick!) that can deliver that vital combination of satisfaction, comfort and warmth. Thinking about it, I don't know why I don't already make a large amount of these periodically and stock up the fridge and freezer. After this weeks efforts that will all be changing!

As a bit of a last minute decision, I didn't soak the beans overnight, but they had about 8 hours over the course of the day. 

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Rather than using cornflour or other starch to thicken the sauce, I grated all the veg except one shallot which I finely diced. This makes for a really rich and naturally thick sauce, and eliminates a lot of the chopping duties which can only be a good thing!

It's worth letting the beans cook slowly in the oven for a number of hours - and as with everything, these are much tastier the next day! Make a cauldron full and you can stock up and make a host of easy dinners - beans on toast (obvs) - we also had them with a celeriac, potato and ossau iraty gratin and charred flower sprouts. 

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Baked Beans

Makes a lot! 8-10 portions

Ingredients: 

500g dried beans, soaked overnight (haricot, pinto, yellow-eyed, for example)

3 banana shallots

1 medium sized carrot

2 small sticks of celery

2 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp ground allspice

750g pasta plus 250-400ml water

Cold-pressed rapeseed oil

Sea salt and black pepper (use some smoked salt if you have it)

1. Drain the beans and place into a large pan with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour, or until just cooked. 

2. Meanwhile make the sauce. Grate the carrot, celery and two of the shallots. Finely chop the third shallot. Grate or crush the garlic and keep separate. 

3. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of oil and add the veg. Fry for a couple of minutes, then lower the heat and sweat until soft and reduced almost to a puree - for about 10-15 minutes. If the veg starts to catch or stick to the pan don't add more oil, just add a splash of cold water instead, and stir well.

4. Add the garlic to the cooked vegetables, and cook for another minute or two. Add the bay leaf, vinegar, paprika and allspice, and mix well. Cook for another minute or two before adding the passata and water and mixing again. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat so the sauce is just simmering. Let it cook for 30-40 minutes whilst the beans finish cooking.

5. Once just cooked, drain the beans and add to the sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 150C. 

6. Taste and season the beans with salt and pepper. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, cover with foil and bake for 3-4 hours until really tender and delicious.

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