Jamie Oliver's Beans on Toast

There are two things I've learned for certain since living in Europe...1. British English is very different from American English, and 2. Not all "baked beans" are created equally.

Our English television channels come from the U.K. (the United Kingdom, not the University of Kentucky). There are times when we are watching a show and we (or I) simply can't understand what they are saying. I know we speak the same language, but often the phrases are so kooky, or mainly the accent (Essex, oy!) is so thick it's not comprehensible. I now know what "have a cuppa" is...have a cup of tea. There are many phrases we hear frequently, "Bob's your uncle", "get cracking", "that's the bees knees", "bits-n-bobs", and everything is "brilliant". Then there is loo vs. toilet, lift vs. elevator, pram vs. stroller. I never thought I'd have to Google my own language for simple phrases! My kids have picked up some of the British lingo. One evening we were coming home from shopping and my little guy (4) said, "Are we nearly there?". Huh? My husband and I chuckled and said, "Do you mean, are we there yet?" I can't even say, "Are we nearly there?" in my head without a British accent! Another one my kids use is "ready, steady, go!" instead of the American "ready, set, go!". And, in case you were wondering, British English is what is taught in schools here. We have made certain with my son's teacher that American English will be accepted as we have heard from other Americans that their children were corrected on things like, "it's a lift not an elevator". Um, no, either should be acceptable.

Now the beans. I was not aware, until now, that British baked beans were so different from American baked beans. American beans are sweet, sticky and commonly associated with BBQ and grilled meats. They are loaded with brown sugar, molasses, or honey with a ketchupy base. Mmmm, American baked beans <smile>. I am the first to admit, I have bought the Heinz beans in a can over here, tasted them as is and thought they were too plain, then proceeded to add ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, bacon, and onion to Americanize them and make them edible. I knew that beans on toast was a common British dish, and when I picked up the new cookbook from Jamie Oliver, Comfort Food, there was a simple recipe for beans on toast. I thought this would be a good dish for me and the boys to try.

Before I put the skillet in the oven, I tasted the beans and thought they tasted similar to the canned beans. Is this what they were supposed to taste like? I had no idea. I REALLY wanted to add some brown sugar, but alas, I left it alone. So while the beans were baking in the oven, I Googled British vs. American baked beans. Eureka, there is a difference! British beans are way less sweet and more tomatoey. Once I figured this out, I kept an open mind about what I was preparing to eat. It helped that the smell coming from the oven was amazing.

In the end, I thought the dish was excellent, as did my older son (8). It's different, and you can't go into it thinking of American baked beans or you'll be very disappointed. I prefer my American beans, but I would not be opposed to eating this again. They put cheddar cheese on their beans. How can that be wrong?? It has been my goal to introduce different cultures, via food, to our family. I think we have been successfully introduced to British beans on toast!

*If you didn't want to make the rosemary and chili oil, use plain olive oil. The chiles, and Tabasco, do not make this dish spicy at all. Use extreme caution when working with the chiles. I highly recommend wearing gloves. Do not touch your eyes or nose!!

Jamie Oliver's Beans on Toast

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) smoked paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • 2-14 ounce (800 g total) cans of cannellini beans
  • 1-14 ounce (400 g) can of plum tomatoes
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 thick slices of bread
  • cheddar cheese

Rosemary & Chili Oil

  • 2 fresh red chiles
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil

Directions

To make the rosemary & chili oil: Seed and finely chop the chiles, placing them in a saucepan. Remove the rosemary from the stem and throw them in the saucepan. Cover with oil, and turn on the heat to very low. Allow the flavors to infuse for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat. Store the oil in a jar for future use. *I highly recommend using gloves when working with the chiles. Use caution not to touch your eyes or nose!

For the beans: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 C). Peel and mince the garlic and put it into a large, shallow ovenproof skillet. A good lug of the rosemary chili oil and heat the garlic over low heat. Peel and dice the onion; add it to the skillet along with the paprika. Cook the onion/garlic/paprika mixture for 10-15 minutes until the onions are softened, stirring frequently. Add the balsamic and stir to combine well. Drain most of the liquid from the beans, but not all of it, then pour the beans into the skillet. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands or use a potato masher. Add a few good splashes of Worcestershire sauce and couple of dashes of Tabasco. Season well with salt and pepper and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Scrunch of a piece of parchment paper, then wet it. Lightly tuck the parchment paper on the surface of the place.

Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until thick and dark.

To serve: Toast the bread, then divide the beans between the slices. Add some grated cheddar cheese and lightly drizzle over some rosemary chili oil. Serve hot.

From Jamie Oliver's book "Comfort Food"

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