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Boston Baked Beans

Photo: BBC

I’ve found that most British recipes for this just use a piece of belly pork, but I think salted/smoked meat is much better as it counteracts the sweetness much better. So I use a piece of bacon or pancetta instead. This does have more ingredients than most BBB recipes – but I’ve based it a bit on one my mother always used to make and I think it has more depth of flavour whilst still being what is essentially a very good side dish. I’d eat it with sausages and a big pile of spring greens.

The alcohol also isn’t necessary or at all authentic, but all are good and add flavour (I’ve tried all three at various points, this time I used sherry). If using Bourbon could always call it Bourbon Baked Beans.

This makes quite a large quantity – I thought that best as it takes a long time to cook and freezes very well.


500g haricot beans, soaked over night.

300g piece of belly pork, cut into thick chunks

100g smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, cut into thick slices

1 large onion, finely chopped

100ml red wine, sherry or Bourbon (optional)

3 tbsp black treacle or molasses

1 tbsp English mustard

4 cloves

1 mace blade

1 bay leaf

1 thyme sprig

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

A dash of Tobasco

A dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)


Put the beans in a large saucepan or casserole and add enough cold water to just cover. Bring to the boil and skim off any starch that collects on the top, then boil fiercely for 20 minutes. Turn down and simmer for a further 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Dry fry the pork and bacon in a frying pan until the fat starts to render out and the meat has browned. Add this to the casserole. Fry the onion in the same frying pan until softened and starting to caramelise, then add this too. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, sherry or bourbon if using, otherwise with a little water, scraping up any brown bits, then pour this into the casserole.

Tie the cloves, mace, bay and thyme into a piece of muslin, then drop this into the beans. Add the tomatoes, black treacle and English mustard then season well with salt and pepper.

Cover the casserole and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, then remove the lid and cook for a further hour. The beans should be very tender and the sauce should be well reduced. Remove the bouquet garni bag before serving.


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