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What to make when... it's beans on toast for dinner, but you still want to feel fancy

Try these grown-up takes on a classic empty-cupboard dinner.

Image: Shutterstock/Ekaterina Kondratova

WE HAVE ALL grown up eating beans on toast for lunch or light supper, and there are probably few houses in Ireland that don’t have a tin of baked beans on standby in the cupboard.

With their great nutritional profile, versatility and value for money, it’s not surprising that we’re all fans of beans. Add a few slices of toast and you’ve got a quick and wholesome meal. 

There is a huge variety of beans available to us, the most common being cannellini, borlotti, butter, pinto and black beans. Most of these varieties are easy to buy either dried or tinned, and they make an excellent store cupboard staple. After all, beans are a great source of protein, and also contain significant amounts of fibre and other nutrients, depending on the variety. 

While the name might suggest baked beans are in fact baked, the humble tin of baked beans we’re accustomed to are actually stewed. I’m going to use a quicker simmer method for most of these recipes – to help you satisfy the need for this perfect comfort food a little faster. 

Read on for some of my favourite recipes for times when a beans-on-toast craving strikes, but you want something a little bit fancier.

1. Mediterranean inspired beans: The taste of chorizo, along with some paprika and garlic, really enhances this simple recipe. Fry some sliced chorizo in a saucepan until crisp, then add a clove of crushed garlic and a pinch of paprika. Stir through a tin of drained cannellini beans, a tin of chopped tomatoes, and season with sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Adjust the seasoning according to taste, and serve on toasted bread of your choice. For something more substantial, you could top this with a soft poached egg – delicious! 

2. Smokey black beans: If you have time, you can soak black beans in advance, or, you could use ready the ready-to-consume, tinned variety. Black beans are quite robust in that they hold their shape well when cooked, and they’re excellent for mixing with bold flavours. Start off by adding a tin of black beans to a saucepan along with these spices: smoked paprika, cumin and ground coriander. Stir through 200g of passata and a clove of crushed garlic, and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve on toasted sourdough. A few toppings like sour cream, jalapeños and fresh coriander would make an excellent addition! Or, take inspiration from food writer Eat Like a Girl, and top with sliced avocado.

3. Mexican-inspired beans: Beans are a staple in Mexico, and there are lots of ways to cook them, but we’re keeping things simple with this tasty recipe. Heat some oil in a saucepan and fry a clove of crushed garlic and a finely chopped onion until soft. Next, add in a finely chopped red pepper, some finely chopped fresh chili and fry again for another two minutes. Stir through a teaspoon of cumin, then pour over a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of drained pinto beans (or any beans of your choice). Season with salt, pepper and sugar, and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve on a warmed tortilla wrap topped with a fried egg and fresh coriander.

shutterstock_260419781 Source: Shutterstock/Katerina Belaya

4. Cheesy baked beans: These cheesy baked beans really make the ultimate comfort food. To start, make the beans by adding two tins of butter beans, a tin of tomatoes, tomato paste and a splash of water to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add a pinch each of salt and sugar, and simmer for a further five minutes. Transfer the beans to a small gratin dish and top with grated white cheddar, breadcrumbs and some black pepper. Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes until the beans are bubbling and the cheese is melted and starting to turn golden. Serve straight from the gratin dish with a baguette to soak up all of the wonderful flavour.

5. BBQ beans with sausage on wholegrain: This recipe takes inspiration from the classic Boston baked beans, which adds pork (usually pork belly) to sweet and smoky BBQ beans. Heat some oil in a pan and fry some chopped sausages. Once golden, add some finely chopped onion and garlic to the pan and fry gently for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise. Some bacon could make a nice addition here, which is included in Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. Add a spoonful of brown sugar, chilli powder, smoked paprika and a generous spoonful of BBQ sauce and stir. Tip in a tin of mixed beans and a tin of tomatoes, and stir everything together. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, adding a little hot water if needed, and serve with toasted wholegrain bread. 

More: What to make when… you want a flavoursome salad that’s more than just a bowl of leaves

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