Valerie O’Connor on how to make the most of beans whether it’s with beer or burgers — even if the weather doesn’t play its part
ummer is when we love to take a break from the cooking. That’s probably the main motivator for most people to go on holidays abroad, so that they can leave the endless cycle of dishes, shopping, cooking, washing up and the repeat cycle of looking after yourself and others.
Summers in Ireland are sneaky and unpredictable affairs punctuated by blasts of heat waves that turns everybody into sunburned ice-cream inhaling maniacs. Usually the very next day when you wake up after a thunder storm, the sky will have reverted to a reassuring shade of Farrow and Ball grey, with howling winds and rain that have you reaching for wooly socks to wear in bed. It’s no wonder we scramble to sit on a plane and live in one room in a foreign country for a week or longer.
I love cooking and eating but there are days when I can’t be bothered and will realise I might have just had tea and a biscuit for lunch. I do most of my cooking at times when I won’t be eating, either early in the morning or late in the evening. I make stuff in batches that I can freeze and then when dinner time comes around I can yank something from the freezer and add other things to it, wedges, rice, salad and veg and out dinners pretty easily.
A big pot of beans can save your sanity. Beans, lentils and pulses in general are the backbone, or the meatiness of plant-based eating and they are so versatile that there are entire books with just beans as the subject. They can be stews and soups, bakes and burgers and here I’m going to show you how to turn a cheap bag of beans into a great pot of warming nosh to have over rice, in a tortilla with guacamole or just in a bowl on their own. Tinned beans just don’t have the texture of soaked and cooked, plus they create so much packaging waste. Saying that, I use them a lot too but you will only get one meal from a tin usually.
BBQ Beans with Beer
The quality of your beans is everything — and they are a relatively cheap food so get good beans, ideally organic from the health food shops. They often have cool silos that people serve themselves from, so you can buy as little or as much as you want. Soak the beans overnight in clean, filtered water. They will swell up like mad so use a really big bowl. The next day drain them and pop them into a large cast-iron or steel pot and cover with lots of clean water, bring them to a boil and cook them rapidly for a couple of minutes and then lower the heat to a healthy simmer and cook for about between half an hour to two hours. The time taken to cook the beans depends on their size and how old they are. Do not add salt to the pot as this will result in hard beans. I always add a bay leaf and you can add a clove of garlic too if you like, these will impart lovely flavour.
Check the beans for done-ness, you want them cooked but not mushy. Add salt to taste if you need to towards the end of cooking. When they are cooked, drain the beans through a colander and keep the cooking liquid, this is a great base for soups. At this point you can freeze the beans in bags with some of the cooking liquid and they will keep for up to a year, much cheaper and handier than buying new tins every time!
500g dried butter beans, cannellini or haricots - cooked as above
1 bay leaf
Garlic clove for the beans
2 onions - diced
Coconut oil for frying
4-6 cloves garlic - minced
1 tblsp mild chili powder or chili flakes - use less if you want less spicy beans
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tblsp smoked paprika
1 can of beer, any kind (this is optional)
2 large bottles passata
4 tblsp maple syrup
2 tblsp tamari or soy sauce
Sprig of thyme
Salt to taste
In a large pot heat up about 4 tblsp coconut oil and add the onions and garlic, cook slowly to get some sweetness into them and then add the spices. Cook everything for about five minutes more.
Now throw in your drained beans and add the can of beer, cook it on a high heat for a few minutes and then add in cooking liquid from the beans, pour in the passata and give everything a good stir. Add the maple syrup and the tamari and cook everything on a low simmer for about half an hour. Taste the beans and add a little salt for flavour. Be careful the pot doesn’t dry out, add some water if it looks that way, give them a few stirs.
You can enjoy these in so many ways and most kids love beans, these being much better than tinned bakes beans as they are sugar-free. Freeze them in batches now or keep them in the fridge for up to a week.
Burgers from Beans
I was struggling to find a really tasty burger for ages and then in dawned on me that I could use these beans as an ingredient in a meaty, meat-free patty. So far this is my favourite veggie burger recipe. It’s very easy and uses up leftover brown rice which you could have cooked the day before to have with your beans.
Makes about 8 burgers
Use a cup measure here as it’s just easier than weighing everything out
1 onion- diced
coconut oil for frying
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup BBQ beans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup breadcrumbs, use some good leftover bread like sourdough
Coconut flour or flaxseeds for binding
Cook the onion in a little coconut oil until softened, about 5 minutes.
In a food processor, whizz up the bread to turn it into crumbs and add the walnuts and whizz again, add in the onion, rice and beans and blitz everything. There should be enough flavour from the beans but you can add a little salt if you need it. If the mixture seems too sticky, add 2-3 tblsp of flaxseeds or coconut flour and leave it for a few minutes, this will absorb excess moisture and help everything to stay together. Form the mixture into patties and fry them on a hot griddle pan with a little oil. Serve in a decent bun with your favourite condiments. You can freeze any extra burgers you won’t be using straight away.
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