Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beer for Breakfast: Beery Baked Beans

That’s right – Beer is not just for dinner anymore. There's no reason you can't incorporate beer into every meal of the day, and this is just one way to break the fast with beery-ness. While I don't know the exact nutritional breakdown of this dish, I do know that beans are incredibly good for you - high in protein and fibre. Remember that old ditty that starts 'Beans, beans, good for the heart...'?

I came across the recipe for Blackhook Baked Beans in Stephen Beaumont's Brewpub Cookbook. I was very lucky to be gifted with a copy of this book, which contains recipes from 30 brewpubs in the US. Not all the recipes contain beer, but all have recommended beer matches. I would love to see a similar book put together in Australia. There are now a few breweries, pubs and restaurants out there that do awesome food and beer matching.

I was attracted to ths recipe because (a) I love beans, (b) it contains no meat and (c) it's very simple (although does take several hours cooking time). Oh, and of course it uses beer! The recipe calls for a porter, but I took it a step further and used an 8wired Big Smoke smoked porter. Most baked bean recipes do use some kind of cured, smoked meat product - bacon or ham hock for example - so to compensate I thought the lovely smoke flavour of this beer might add an extra dimension to the orignal recipe.

What you put in:

750g Dried Cannellini beans
1 medium brown onion, diced
2 tablespoons of mustard powder
2/3 cup of molasses
1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup of tomato sauce (or chilli sauce)
350ml porter

How you do it:

This recipe does require you to think quite a bit ahead. To start with, you need to soak your beans overnight. I'd never done this with cannellini beans before, and wow - do they expand! Make sure you do this in a bowl or container that will allow them to at least double in size. In addition to the overnight soaking, you need 7-8 hours for cooking and preparation, so keep this in mind if you want the beans for a specific meal. As I wanted them for breakfast I did all the cooking the day before.

Once you have soaked the beans, drain and rinse them off, then place in a large pot with fresh water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer the beans for an hour, or until they are tender. Drain the beans, but keep the cooking liquid. Put the beans into an oven proof dish and put your oven on 170 - 180 C.

Mix all your other ingrdients together in a large jug or bowl, then pour over the top of the beans. Stir it all together and then top it up with the reserved liquid that you simmered the beans in, making sure all the beans are covered. Cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven for 5-6 hours. Yes, really, that long.

Check on the beans every hour to hour and a half. If they are looking like they are drying out, add more of the reserved cooking liquid or more beer. Once the beans around the edge start to go all bown and caramelised, they're done.

You can use these beans for breakfast, but also as a side dish for lunch or dinner with sauasages or steak - it's an all round versitile dish. Remember that ditty I mentioned at the start? It does end with the line, ' lets have beans with every meal!'

Serving suggestion
I do think my beans turned out a little dry. Next time I think I'll use less beans, or buy a bigger baking dish. This recipe does make a hell of a lot of beans - enough to feed a small army. My baking dish was pretty full though, and I don't think I had the space to add enough liquid. Also, I'm not really sure that the smoke flavour from the beer came through. It was definitely not noticeable, but I'd have to make a batch with a normal porter to see if there is a difference. That's okay - the beans are pretty tasty and I'll be more than happy to give this one a go again.

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