I don’t know if it is just me, but I think there is something rather fun about taking food that is normally a slobby snack and transforming it into a more grown up dinner. It challenges your expectations while being tinged with a nostalgic fondness for times when you’ve eaten the original. Beans on toast is stereotypical student fare for when you can’t, or won’t, cook, but homemade baked beans can be upgraded with a more sophisticated seasoning of spices and good quality bread underneath. It is also far healthier than the original, with a fraction of the sugar and a few extra vegetables hidden in there, while the beans provide an excellent low-fat source of protein and fibre. Here I have added a nod to the student cheese toastie too by topping the beans with gooey melty cheese.
Cooking time: 5 minutes preparation and 15 minutes cooking ahead of time, 20 minutes baking on the night
Dietary info: vegan (if you use vegan cheese and don’t use Worcestershire sauce), gluten-free (without the bread)
- 1x500ml packet passata
- 1x tin kidney beans (about 235g drained)
- 1x tin haricot beans (about 235g drained)
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 1 aubergine, chopped
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp tamarind
- 1/2 tsp sugar or sweetener such as Stevia
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (if you aren’t making a vegan version you can replace the tamarind, sugar/sweetener and soy sauce with 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce for the )
- 2 tbsp malt vinegar
- Grated vegan cheese to top (optional), about 30-50g depending on how much you like cheese. You can of course use normal cheese instead if you don’t want this to be dairy-free / vegan
- Bread/toast to serve (see tasty little extras below)
- Put the onion in a saucepan with a splash of water to stop it sticking and let it cook to soften while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Add the chopped aubergine, beans, passata and the seasoning (i.e. all the other ingredients except for the cheese), cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes until the onion and aubergine are soft.
- Put the bean mix in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the cheese on top and bake at 160C fan for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melty and browning and the bake is bubbling. You may want to put a the dish on a tray to catch any overflow if it bubbles over. Serve with bread or toast and salad or steamed vegetables on the side.
A few tips to prep ahead:
- The bean mix can be made ahead and kept in a container, or the oven proof dish, in the fridge for up to a week. If it is in the ovenproof dish then you can even add the cheese on the top then it only needs to be taken out of the fridge and baked on the night.
- The bread (below) can be made a few days ahead. Soda bread keeps quite well in the fridge or a bread box as it doesn’t go stale very quickly.
- If you like your bread fresh on the night then you can measure out all the dry ingredients and keep them in a covered bowl at room temperature. On the night you just need to stir in the almond milk and lemon juice, mix together, shape and bake.
Some tasty little extras…
Bread is one of those things that can be wonderful but can also be a complete non-event. I absolutely love homemade bread and am rather spoilt because my dad bakes every week and kindly gives us some every time we go round. My dad’s sourdough is my favourite bread in the world, but it can take a bit of time and effort to start making bread properly so here is my recipe for the quickest, easiest bread I know. It is a soda bread which means it rises with bicarbonate of soda instead of yeast so doesn’t need time to rise. It is quite a dense, moist bread so probably not the one for you if you like your bread dry or with an open structure full of air holes, but I really like the oaty taste and soft crumbly texture.
Dairy-free oaty soda bread
Cooking time: 5 minutes preparation and 20-35 minutes cooking
Dietary info: vegan
Serves: at least 8
- 150g wholemeal flour
- 150g spelt flour
- 100g oatmeal
- 50g oats
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 350ml unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Put the dry ingredients into a bowl then stir in the almond milk and lemon juice.
- Mix the ingredients together until you have a soft, smooth dough then turn out onto a non-stick baking tray (I use a baking tray covered in a silicon baking sheet) and shape into a rough rectangle or oval shape about 20-25cm long, 15cm wide and 3-5cm high, and cut some slashes across the top of the bread with a knife.
- Bake at 160C fan for 20-35 minutes. The top should be golden brown and crusty and the bottom should not be doughy and make a slightly hollow side when tapped. You can even turn the bread over for the last 5-10 minutes to help it dry out.
- Serve fresh with the beans on top or toast in the toaster or under the grill if you prefer.