While we Gourmandistanis have been privileged to encounter several different British people on the Internet, we have somehow never managed to discuss beans on toast. From our readings, advertising and a hefty dose of British satellite TV (we miss you, Come Dine With Me!), we’ve concluded there is some strange cultural connection to what appears to be creepily plain canned baked beans. On toast. Often, microwaved.
This affection for one of the ultimate expressions of boringly prepared bland brownness may explain why, in his River Cottage Meat Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall offers the option of discarding the bits of pork belly in his delightful recipe for Baked Beans. We strongly advise against it. We sacrificed our last piece of pork belly (though the next batch of pig pieces is due to arrive soon) to make this simple, slow-cooked dish, and we were not about to give it up as merely a “spice” or “lubricant.” Instead, we went in the opposite direction—lifting the softened belly chunks from the beany broth and frying them crisp before using to top hearty helpings. And we served our beans with some excellent rye bread, from a recipe we found on Susan Eats London’s site.
Britannia, we may not always understand you. But despite what we say, we often think you rule.
RECIPE NOTES: We omitted the cloves and cut the pork belly a bit smaller than the recipe calls for (into 1″ cubes). Also, we used pinto beans rather than the white haricots, just because that’s what we had on hand. (Fearnley-Whittingstall said in a Guardian piece that you can basically use any sort of dried bean you want.) Finally, as mentioned above, we fished out the belly squares and crisped them up in a hot skillet before serving. The recipe that appears on the Guardian website adds half a tin of chopped tomatoes, which likely would make them a bit closer to the beloved Heinz Beanz.