Posted by: lialeendertz | September 21, 2010

Posh baked beans

I am going to write about cooking. I haven’t done this before for lots of reasons. 1) I am a garden writer and this is a gardening blog, 2) there are lots of people who do it better than I ever could, and 3) I am not a great cook. But I do cook. Also it strikes me more and more that cooking from scratch – cutting out the packaging and the pre-prepped food and the food miles – is a political act. Producing your own ingredients isn’t enough: I have grown plenty of produce simply to feed the compost heap and I reckon I’m not alone. At the Soil Association Conference early this year I went to a talk given by Mike Small pioneer of the Fife Diet, the idea behind which is that you eat only ingredients from within a 100 mile radius. When asked what the main challenge was he said that it wasn’t the sourcing of ingredients. It was the cooking of everything from scratch. This made me want to jump on my chair and yell ‘amen, brother!’. It spoke to me. I would love to spend hours in the kitchen but I work, I have two young kids and a not-so-well husband. Many days I simply move something from freezer to oven to table and on the days that I don’t sacrifices have to be made. The kids end up fighting or watching telly (or both in quick succession), I work later into the evening, the washing gets left on the line all night, blogs get neglected, whatever. But I think it’s important and I want to do it.

So my aim is to do an occasional series telling you about stuff I’m cooking from scratch or preserving, either from allotment produce or from the veg box. It wont be professionally done, it wont be particularly original, it may even be a cry for help (of the ‘tell me what else to do with these parsnips!’ variety, nothing more alarming, I promise). Having said I will do it will make me both cook and blog a bit more regularly, I hope.

posh baked beans

So before I chunter on too long about why, I’d better do it. We picked the first of our borlotti beans from the allotment on Sunday and I miraculously and blissfully got a free couple of hours, son going off to a neighbour’s to play, and everyone else going to sleep. I chopped and fried up some little chestnut-skinned shallots and garlic, and then chucked in the beans, stirred them round a bit then poured on a carton of passata (this is the only ‘not from the allotment’ bit *smug face*), then let it bubble endlessly until it got so thick and gloopy that it started hurling thick clots of tomato paste high into the air, like a bubbling hot mud pool. Things were getting messy so I chucked it in the oven and then, last thing, chopped up some parsley and thyme and stirred that in. I think I have made something like this before, but couldn’t find the recipe anywhere, so I don’t know what it’s called (Michelle Wheeler tells me it might be fagioli in umido, but she isn’t sure) and I would welcome any thoughts on names or, indeed, how it should really be done. Feel free to chip in with borlotti ideas too, as I will be needing them.

In the end I settled on ‘posh baked beans’ in a bid to get the kids to eat it, this, of course, being the wickedly twisting ankle in the grow, cook, eat triathlon, just as the finish line is in sight. One of them refused point-blank, wouldn’t even let it touch her lips, the other ate one spoonful and announced that he thought he liked it, but that he wasn’t going to eat any more. Deep breath. Gritted teeth. It’s important to try.



  1. How satisfying but I’m afraid I’m with the kids – hate pulses and I would have run a mile!!

  2. Don’t suppose it would work with runner beans? Don’t have Borlotti . . never even heard of them so that’s not a very good start!


    P.S. If you are going to be a veg-box Agony Aunt . . . what do you do with swedes? (Something different each week for what seems like months please.)

  3. In our house this is called ‘Lou’s Special Beans’. I think it possibly when of my best inventions! loux

  4. Fagioli cotti di borlotti aromatizzati pomodoro sciccoso.

    If it doesn’t make sense blame a small fish.

    p.s. if you have a “surplus” dry them & use in place of kidney beans in a winter chilli con carne.

  5. One of those odd phrases where people drop a letter is ‘baked beans’…Im willing to bet at least a pound that everyone says ‘bake beans’. It’s like parliament…no-one says the ‘a’. I’m going to go now, I’m boring myself.

    Like Rich Man Poor Man, a lovely idea for a mini-series

  6. Great – I have just been eying up my borlotti beans and wondering what to do with them – I only planted them because I think they are so beautiful – posh baked beans for us tomorrow then.
    Thanks Lia

  7. And I have some of Karen’s surplus (to go with my own runner bean surplus) so that’s me sorted. I agree utterly about cooking from scratch as a political act, and it is cheap, and it takes control of the provision of food for your family back where it belongs. Just need to find quick ways of doing it and to hold your nerve until the children come into line. They will when they are hungry enough.

  8. Looks delicious, and makes me wish I had some borlotti beans to cook. From the garden, that is, as I am with you on the subversive nature of cooking from scratch. Mind you, easy for me to say as I have no kids and work from home, so have the luxury of weaving the cooking into my life. Am impressed you do anything other than resort to “ready meals”!

  9. I am a sucker for a pulse, me.*
    Borlotti beans in particular.
    In fact, I almost prefer them to Flapjacks.

    * Pulse as in bean not as in “Anything with a pulse”. Smut.

  10. Damn – I was firmly in the “grow for the compost’ camp and now feel I should mend my ways.

    Well, that, or I will just point Reuben in the direction of this post and make him do it.

  11. Patientgardener – but they eat baked beans! They LOVE baked beans. I dont know…

    Esther – I reckon it would work with runner beans, but give it a shot and report back. I will put swedes on the ‘to do’ list.

    Lou – Welcome! I like the insertion of the word ‘special’, serves a similar purpose to ‘posh’ I reckon, in attempting to convince the suspicious to give them a go.

    Simon – you can always be relied upon. Thank you *bows deeply*.

    MarkD – You’re wrong, of course: everyone says the ‘a’, no-one says the ‘i’. Ah, so satisfying…

    Karen – I hope they were alright. I meant to say that I did think after that I should have boiled them first – even though they were fresh, and cooked for ages, they werent as soft as I wwould have liked. rather expected someone to chip in with a recipe correction but as it hasnt happened, consider this one.

    Elizabeth and janet – political and subversive, I love it! But yes, there is a big leap between recognising its importance and actually prioritising it enough to get it done, with everything else crying out to be done too. Wonderful if you can do it, and for an appreciative audience. I will keep trying.

    James – I do believe you made that comment purely so you could say ‘anything with a pulse’, so ‘Smut’ right backatcha.

    Dawn – Delegation. As ever, I like your style. In fact, my son has just signed up for after school cookery lessons *strokes chin, does evil eyes, realises he’s only 5 and will be bringing home ‘Danish open sandwiches’ for many months yet*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: