These oven-baked beans are cooked slowly to create a richly flavoured vegetable dish – a revelation if you've only ever eaten the canned variety. Serve alongside grilled meat, together with potatoes or bread.
220g dried haricot beans, soaked for at least 8 hours
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
5 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
620g canned no-salt-added chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
2 cups dry cider
pepper to taste
30g dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
sprigs fresh continental parsley to garnish
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Drain the soaked beans and rinse under cold running water. Place them in a saucepan, cover with plenty of fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 50–60 minutes or until tender. Drain well and place in a flameproof casserole dish.
Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the shallots, garlic and celery, and sauté for about 5 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the canned tomatoes with their juice, the dried herbs, cider and pepper. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the sugar, treacle and mustard to the tomato sauce, and mix. Pour the sauce over the beans and stir to mix. Cover the casserole and bake for 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve the beans hot, garnished with continental parsley.
Instead of haricot beans, you can substitute other dried beans, such as black-eyed beans or cannellini beans.
Treacle is a sticky fluid refined from molasses. Though it is primarily carbohydrate in the form of sugar, black treacle can provide useful amounts of potassium, calcium and iron.