Hello there! My name is Rachael, and I’m currently undertaking some Work Experience at Jellybean while I am on my University summer holidays. It is really exciting to be immersed in an agency totally focused on food, aka one of my favourite things in the entire world.
It is a deep seated love that has followed me throughout my life; at age 5 after finishing my first term of school, my favourite subject whenever asked was always ‘Lunch’, to age 17 achieving a Level 1 Diploma in Cookery from the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Woking (RIP). To now, doing Work Experience at Jellybean, writing passionately about the pros of grilled onions on burgers on my own blog, and having perfected the recipe for one of the greatest meals in the world…
Beans on Toast.
You think I’m joking. You are wrong.
I recently went on holiday with my friends and threatened to leave when they all revealed themselves to be traitors, who dislike the beautiful simplicity of the baked bean.
The baked bean was originally created as a cheaper, tinned version of the traditional French ‘cassoulet’ dish, a slow-cooked casserole of meats in a sauce with haricot beans. Which is why original versions contained sausages becoming known as ‘Boston Baked Beans’, and why the current American tin of baked beans still contain pork fats. The UK version had this pork removed during WWII rationing as the Ministry of Food classed them as an ‘Essential Item’ for rationing, but the porky bits much less essential. I am inclined to agree with the Ministry here, as baked beans remain an essential part of my diet.
This change in recipe while very valid at the time, has now created a major international issue around the concept of ‘Beans on Toast’; the nature of what a baked bean is gets lost in translation, and whether having them on toast is socially acceptable. In America, the baked beans on sale in shops are vastly different to that of the slightly sweet, tomatoey orange beans we know and love in this country. Love so much in fact, that the UK has the largest number of baked bean eaters in the world. What an accolade!
So, back on point, the tinned beans on sale in America are giving us our bad culinary rep; if I was also only faced with plain beans, chilli beans, mustardy beans or most-commonly, super-sweet BBQ beans, I too, would not be on board the ‘Beans on Toast’ express train. They are so removed from that of their Brit counterparts that American baked beans contain brown sugar, with 14g of sugars overall per tin, compared to just 7g of sugar in our UK beans. See, practically a health food and one of our Five-A-Day.
This is the only valid excuse I will hear by beans on toast haters – that they have been woefully misinformed and have led a sadly sheltered beany life, only being exposed to an inferior array of beans. Or that they dislike joy.
So, here are my ‘tried-and-tested’ Beans on Toast tips, to celebrate the best way to consume a proper tomato-sauce baked bean. I cannot recommend these tips for any other sort of imposter baked beans as I have not, and will not, be trying them.
My secrets to the perfect Beans on Toast are:
• 2 slices of toast, any type, as long as there are crusts. Only cowards have one slice of toast. And you are not a coward.
• Butter. For the toast. Duh. But if you want to feel ~fancy~ pop a bit of butter into the beans while they cook. I’m not entirely sure if this enhances the flavour much, but it feels like one is making a bit more effort that just heating the contents of a tin.
• Your preferred Baked Beans. I am not one to dictate the brand or specifics of the beans, as I know the international, political and societal implications of bossing people and their beans around. But they must be in tomato sauce, as stated before. All (tomato) baked beans are good baked beans.
• Cheese. Beans on Toast without a mountain of grated cheese is frankly, offensive and incomplete. I would suggest a Cheddar so mature that it goes on SAGA holidays. Put it underneath and on top of the beans, so it all melts together.
• An obscenely large amount of black pepper. So much that it looks like your pepper mill spontaneously combusted while cooking.
I hope this post enlightens you on the noble history and diverse nature of the baked bean here and across the pond, educates you on the correct ‘Beans on Toast’ preparation, and encourages you to stand up for this paragon or British cuisine, in the face of non-believers and the misinformed!