Baked bean, unlike the name, is bean stewed in a rich tomato sauce. Beans are cooked over slow fire in the tomato sauce till fully done and soft. There are slight variations in the preparation of baked beans from one place to the other. Hommade baked beans are definitely superior in taste and flavor and also low on cost. Sausage and bacon make a value addition to your baked beans. Baked beans make for an excellent pizza topping too.
Baked Beans, most commonly available as a canned food in a tomato sauce base, may be used as part any meal during the course of the day or can be consumed as a self-sufficient snack by itself. It forms not only a healthful but also a flavourful addition to the diet. It lends itself to various recipes and can be in used singularly or in combinations with other ingredients that may enhance the final flavour of the dish. Again, if one does not wish to use the canned version of beans owing to its purported high sodium content, the white beans available at the local grocers may well fit the bill and produce a baked bean dish nowhere compromising on sensory characteristics.
• In case one opts for the white beans, it is important to clean and soak them for a minimum of 5-6 hours prior to cooking the dish. They may then be subjected to a round of quick pressure cooking which leaves them fully done within 10 minutes by applying 15 pounds pressure, or simmering in boiling water, wherein the time consumed to reach the fully done state would be more. A couple of teaspoons of cooking oil or butter may be added to the water along with a teaspoon of salt for roughly a cup of soaked beans. Water level must be at least about an inch above the beans in the pan. It is important to have sufficient water in which the beans may be cooked evenly as otherwise the beans may be left dry and undercooked. Seasonings as desired may be added, depending on the final dish to be prepared. It may take about an hour and half or two directly on the gas. To ensure the beans are fully cooked, one may keep checking intermittently and add boiled water if needed. Testing by pressing a bean to see if it is mashed easily, indicates that it has been adequately cooked and softened.
• In case one uses canned baked beans, these are already pre-cooked to tender stage and are presented in a tomato base; hence they simply need to be heated with additional spices or seasonings if and as needed. This can be consumed as such along with whole wheat toast as the popular baked beans on toast.
• 1 cup ~ 250 g serving of baked beans provides-
• 266 calories, total fat of only 1 g, saturated and trans fat -0 g, cholesterol 0 mg, sodium 3 mg, total carbohydrate 52 g, dietary fibre 14g, sugar 20 g, protein 12 g.
• Vitamins & Minerals (as % daily values) – Vitamin A 5%, Vitamin C 13 %, Calcium 13 %, Iron 4 %.
• Overall baked beans without added salt are low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. A good source of soluble dietary fibre, with an estimated glycemic load of only 20, these beans provide 79 % carbohydrates, 18 % protein and only 3 % fat.
Method of Preparation
Different dishes can be made using the white beans prepared in the above manner-
1. Using the cooked, softened white beans, without draining any residual liquid in order to avoid nutrient losses, 1 cup of the beans can be tossed into a pan which already has finely chopped onions and plenty of garlic lightly fried in a tablespoon of olive oil. Tomato puree or sauce can then be added, and finished with fresh parsley. This can be placed in a greased oven proof dish and then baked with grated cheese on top to deliver the traditional baked beans in tomato sauce.
2. An Indian version of this dish could include, a teaspoon of cumin seeds while frying onions, a sprig of curry leaves, a ½ teaspoon each of turmeric powder, coriander powder and dried red chilli powder and finished with a dash of lemon juice and some fresh chopped coriander leaves for garnish.
3. A Mediterranean version could include some chopped spinach, roasted peppers, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and peas to enhance the nutritional value of the dish which could be served on a bed of onion, garlic brown rice fried in a teaspoon of olive oil.
Word of caution: While addition of salt does not hinder the cooking process of beans, hard water used for cooking will prevent the beans from softening. Likewise, sugars naturally occurring in onions and tomatoes may prolong the cooking time for beans. Therefore the beans only after being completely cooked and soft, should be introduced to the onions and later tomato sauce/puree.
• Onions and garlic lightly fried in a little olive oil, not only help to enhance taste and flavour of the dish but have anti-cancer properties and garlic especially has been studied to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and has anti-oxidant value.
• Tomatoes are rich in carotenes, Vitamin A and Vitamin C, lend a characteristic sourness and sweetness to the dish and are helpful owing to the lycopene content which fights free radical damage within the body. Overall has anti-cancer, immunity boosting, cholesterol lowering impact.
• Cheese, used in a fat –free or low-fat version can add protein to the dish and help provide a crisp, gratinated surface texture to the dish.
• Indian spices have immense antioxidant value and turmeric is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial in nature, also curry leaves besides lending a unique Indian quality to the dish, is also high in iron, fibre and minerals.
• By including a variety of different vegetables, a lot of fibre, vitamins, and minerals are added. Making the dish nutritionally sound by use of whole grain cereal in the form of brown rice which along with the baked beans forms a complete source of proteins that each individually, fails to deliver. The combination of beans, rice and veggies make it overall a complete meal in the true sense.
Baked beans in the above forms is nutritionally fit for consumption by weight watchers, diabetics as well as those with cholesterol issues as these are low in simple carbohydrates and have adequate protein and fibre, which tend to keep the stomach full even with carefully measured portion sizes. For persons with elevated blood pressures, a low-sodium, version of the beans (not canned) can be allowed and it can be seasoned with different herbs and lemon juice, without adding salt. Persons suffering from gout, and acid reflux must always opt for tomato-free versions of the baked beans. Individuals who tend to experience gas and bloating on consumption of beans need to use baked beans in minimal amounts.