I seem to have become rather fond of one pot, slow cooking. If I were the type I would probably get myself an actual slow cooker - they seem to have become popular again – but I just can’t bring myself to like them. It’s not just that they aren’t as simple as they appear – who in their right mind wants to be braising meat at eight in the morning? (And, let’s face it, a casserole made without sealing the meat first isn’t really worth having.) My main gripe is that no matter what combination of ingredients you use, everything comes out tasting the same. Blah. I base my rather disenchanted opinion on a few months experimentation with a boyfriend’s much loved slow cooker. No matter how hard I tried, I just felt disappointed with it, sitting on my kitchen worktop, making my house smell like school dinners. It just wasn’t going to work for me, and so I gave up on it (both the cooker and the boyfriend) and moved on to pastures new.
In comparison, this way of slow cooking dishes is an absolute joy and not so slow that you have to start preparations at the crack of dawn. I hold my hands up to the fact that the principles of making this dish are not dissimilar to that of my Busy Boston Baked Beans, but since that is one of my favourite recipes I don’t see it as such a bad thing. This particular dish is more of a stew than anything else; the recipe is based on one taken from The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson, although as you can see it is no longer vegetarian. I have played around with the cooking method and made the addition of the sweet potato and smoked bacon. I was just so inspired by the idea of a whole garlic clove, baked slowly, hidden inside the depths of the beans, oozing its sweet juices in to the sauce – heaven. The dried chillies add a warming hit and play against the salty bacon and the sweet potato, while the meaty beans mean that this really is a one pot wonder. I serve it as it is, ladled into bowls, the soft, sweet garlic squeezed from their skins and offered up with a spoonful of steamed quinoa or rice. It’s a peaceful embrace for the soul.
BUTTER BEANS WITH SWEET POTATO, BACON AND CHILLI
You will need an oven proof casserole pan with lid for this dish
2 x 400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 large sweet potato
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
150ml chicken stock
1 large white onion
1 whole head of garlic
4 leaves of sage
3 dried red chillies
3 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 140c (120c Fan). Peel the sweet potato and then chop in to chunks approximately 3cm in size. Next, peel and finely chop the onion and streaky bacon, and slice the garlic in half across its middle.
Pour the olive oil into the casserole and heat over a medium flame. Once hot, add the bacon and fry until golden and nearly crisp. Scoop out the bacon with a slotted spoon, turn down the heat and add the onion and chillies to the pan. Season well and fry the onion gently until soft, then add the sweet potato and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Tip the beans into the pan and stir through, keeping them on the heat until the beans are warmed through.
Pour over the stock and add the whole head of garlic, cooked bacon and sage leaves to the beans and potatoes. Gently stir together until all the ingredients are combined, season and then cover the pan and cook in the oven for 1 hour until the potato is tender. Serve hot from the oven, ladled in to bowls with cloves of the sweet garlic squeezed from their skins.