Monday, 29 April 2013

An American feast: slow-cooked BBQ beans (with BBQ beef and sweet potato wedges)

I came across the recipe for the BBQ beans in Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home but was originally put off by the long cooking time. However, since I am now the proud owner of a slow-cooker, I decided to give it a go. It still requires a good bit of forward planning - you'll need to soak the dried kidney beans overnight, and cook them for 50 minutes on the stove before adding them to the dish - but it's a lot easier to throw everything into a slow-cooker and leave it to simmer than it is to spend 8 hours worrying about it drying out/spontaneously combusting in the oven.

Here's my version - I made a few minor adjustments to the ingredients (I skipped the tablespoon of Chinese chilli paste and added an extra tablespoon of grated ginger instead) and adapted it to be cooked in the slow-cooker.


1 pound dried red kidney beans
1 large onion
1 bay leaf
6 whole black peppercorns
175ml maple syrup (3/4 cup)
100g light brown sugar (1/2 cup, lightly packed)
125ml tomato ketchup (1/2 cup)
1(or 2) tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon of Chinese chilli paste
1 teapson salt
150g smoked bacon, diced

Soak the dried red kidney beans in a bowl of cold water overnight, making sure that the water covers the beans by at least an inch. Drain the beans and rinse well.

Cook the beans in a large pot with four pints (2.25l) of water, the onion (cut into eighths), bay leaf, and peppercorns.  Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 50 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Once the beans are cooked (a good trick is to take a scoopful of beans and blow on them - if the skins start to peel, they are ready), drain them, retaining the cooking liquid.

In a saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, chilli paste (if using), grated ginger, salt, and 375ml (1 1/2 cups) of the cooking liquid, reserving the remaining liquid. Simmer over a medium heat for around 6 minutes.

Transfer your beans to the slow cooker. Mix half the diced bacon into the beans, and place the rest on top. Pour the sweet sauce and 125ml (1/2 cup) of cooking liquid over the beans, and set the slow-cooker for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, transfer your beans to a heavy-based pot (I used my Le Creuset) and refrigerate until needed. When you're ready to use your beans, simmer on the stove top for a while to heat them through (and to thicken the sauce).

Sweet potato wedges - colourful and delicious
I served these beans alongside slow-cooked BBQ beef, sweet potato wedges and Cajun-spiced roast chicken as part of my American-themed dinner party.
Tasty, tasty BBQ beef