Baked Beans with Pumpkin

As a kid, I always hated the little tins of baked beans that sat in our pantry at all times, and for the longest time I just assumed I hated beans. It didn’t really take up much mental real estate, as we didn’t really eat beans, and there was never a situation where tinned baked beans were the only acceptable option. They were never forced down my throat, as Mum doesn’t like any beans, so I didn’t, either.

Or at least, that’s what I thought for the first 30 or so years of my life. As it turns out, I LOVE beans of all shapes and sized, I just don’t like the weirdly sweet sauce that smothers tinned baked beans (or tinned spaghetti, for that matter). I eat beans weekly, in some form or another, and haven’t found one I don’t like yet.

I’ve still been a little gun shy to make my own baked beans. 6 hours? Overnight soaking, just so I can forget they’re there? Nah. I survived 30 years without them, I can go a little longer, right? But then, I found a recipe in a Women’s Weekly vegetarian cookbook that used tinned beans and took maybe 5 minutes of hands-on time, and 30 minutes total. That, I would try. And, boy, was I rewarded handsomely for my investment. For 30 minutes of work and maybe 5 bucks in ingredients, this recipe yielded a thick, spicy, stew-like dish held together with just enough cheese to feel special, that fills you up for 410 calories per serveand makes you rethink everything you ever thought about baked beans.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a total convert.

Serves 5

Ingredients

500g kent pumpkin, cut into wedges

Spray oil

1 onion, diced

3 x 400g cans 4 bean mix, drained and rinsed

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2tbs barbecue sauce

1tbs honey

1tsp dijon mustard

2tbs tomato paste

700g passata

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste



130g grated cheddar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Spray a roasting tray lightly.
  2. Cut pumpkin into large-ish chunks, place on tray and spray lightly again. Roast for 15 minutes, until softened and starting to colour.
  3. Meanwhile, in an ovenproof skillet, cook onion over medium heat for five minutes, until softened. Add beans and chickpeas.
  4. Stir in barbecue sauce, honey, mustard, and tomato paste. Stir to combine and coat the beans and onion.
  5. Add the passata and cayenne, and season well. Boil for five minutes, until thickened slightly.
  6. Add pumpkin to the sauce, and gently stir to cover with sauce. Sprinkle cheese over the top, and bake for 15 minutes until thick and golden.

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Japanese Curry

Once again, dinner at my house was ascertained by the husband watching TV characters eat something, then looking at me with a half sly, half sheepish grin that absolutely means “hey… you could make that for us!” i KNOW that this is what this smile means, because the worlds usually tumble out of his mouth shortly after the grin spreads across it.

So, props to whatever show had the characters eating a Japanese curry. Actually… I think it might have been a Youtube video of some sort. At any rate, I spent the next hour or so hunting down a good recipe. Which was challenging, because while I have certainly eaten more than my fair share of Japanese food, and a moderate amount of curries, I don’t believe I’d ever had a Japanese curry. So evaluating it was tricky. What sold me on this recipe from Just One Cookbook was that while Nami assures us that we can use store bought curry roux (many sites insist that it’s the done thing), she also provides a fabulous recipe to make it from scratch. The whole dish was out of this world: the sweetness of the apples and honey is perfectly balanced with the heat of the other spices, and made my house smell nothing less than divine. Of course, I’ll keep researching Japanese curries (for science), but I could not be more pleased with this one. The whole family gobbled it up, and as is so often the case with curries, the leftovers the next day were possibly even better than when freshly cooked.

Honestly, I didn’t change much with this recipe. I just wanted to put it all together in one place for ease of reference. Because of the potatoes, rice is unnecessary (but not altogether unwelcome), and one fifth of the recipe is only 396 – very respectable for such a flavour bomb!

Ingredients

Roux:
3 Tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

3tsp curry powder (6 g)

2tsp turmeric

1 Tbsp garam masala

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Curry

  • 600g boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 pinch maldon salt flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • ½ tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups good quality chicken stock
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup
  • Rice to serve (optional, not included in calorie calculation)

Method

To make the roux:

Melt butter over low heat. Add flour, and using a rubber spatula, cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent roux from catching. When roux is browned and bubbling, add the spices and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside until step 7

To make the curry:

  1. Soak the potatoes in warm water while making the roux, or for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and set aside until step 5
  3. Heat oil over low heat and sweat the onions and carrots for five minutes. Add onions and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken, and brown all over.
  5. Pour the stock over the chicken. Bring to the boil.
  6. Peel the apple (discarding the skin) and grate directly into the broth. Stir in honey and potatoes and simmer for a 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not mushy.
  7. Incorporate a ladleful or two into the reserved roux, and stir until it is a smooth paste. Spoon the roux into the stock, and stir to combine.
  8. Add soy sauce and ketchup. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or so, until the curry becomes thick.
  9. Serve with rice if using, and steamed vegetables.
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Mongrel Chilli

Years ago, an online acquaintance from Texas gave me her recipe for some of the best chilli I’ve ever had. I’ve since lost both the acquaintance and the recipe, and spend my days searching to recreate this amazing celebration of spiciness.

What I remember most of this unicorn of a recipe is that it had black beer, coffee, whiskey and cocoa in it. It was dark, complex, dramatic and extremely impressive It also had red kidney beans and beef, tomatoes and – rather obviously – fresh chillies, ground cayenne and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. It was HOT. It also made the most insanely delectable chilli dogs ever.

Over the years, I’ve tried others – some good, some great, and some downright awful. It’s become obvious that I simply had to make my own recipe based on what I could remember of T’s chilli, and the good bits of other recipes – hence the name. Here, I’ve swapped the very delicious red kidney beans for inky black beans, which changes the flavour profile quite a bit, but not for the worse. I’ve decided they’re completely interchangeable here. Perhaps half and half would be an option? I’ll have to try it one day. I also used chuck steak here, but I feel the original recipe might have called for mince. The steak, however, falls apart after 4 hours of stewing, and lets the beans shine the ingredient that holds it all together – I don’t think kidney beans could do that quite so well.

This mongrel of a recipe easily feeds 8 – and still provide leftovers. Luckily, it freezes beautifully. I served this with cabbage and potato buns, and have plans to make burritos with them next Thursday night, which is crazy night in this household. Even after this second meal, I’ll suspect we will have have leftovers (I’ve portioned my frozen chilli so that none goes to waste). It makes a lot, but we don’t really eat it by the bowlful. Those who do, will obviously not be eating quite so much frozen leftover chilli.

Ingredients

2tbs oil,

1 onion, diced

3 red chillies, finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic

2tsp ground cumin

2tsp ground coriander

1tsp dried chilli flakes

750g chuck steak, cubed

80ml whiskey

330ml stout or black beer

375g dried black beans (no need to soak)

1/2 tsp cayenne

2tsp cocoa

1 shot espresso

750ml beef stock

400g diced tinned tomatoes

2tbs maple syrup or treacle

salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. Heat 1tbs oil in a large cast iron pot (with a tight lid) over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and add onion, garlic and chillies. Sweat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant. Stir in cumin, coriander and chilli flakes.
  3.  Increase heat to medium-high, add the extra oil, tumble in the steak and stir to brown.
  4.  Add the whiskey, and when this has stopped frothing, the beer. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour in the dried black beans, then the stock, tomatoes, espresso, cayenne, cocoa and maple syrup. Give it all a good stir, season, and bring to the boil.
  6. Transfer to the oven, and cook for 4 hours, checking periodically to ensure that it hasn’t dried out. If it’s looking a little parched, top it up with a half cup or so of water, stir, and place back in the oven.

 

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