Pork & beans: a rodeo for your inner cowboy

There’s something special about one-pot cooking. This hearty combination of beans, onions and smoked pork belly needs only a wedge of bread to soak up the flavour-rich juices.

To make pork and beans to feed six people, you will need:

  • 200g fresh broad beans
  • 500g mixed dried beans
  • 600g smoked pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon 
  • English mustard
  • 12 pickling onions
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 cloves (spice, not garlic)
  • Salt and coarsely 
  • ground black pepper on demand

Let me clarify the mystery of mixed dried beans. This is a standard packaging method in Durban spice shops. Alternatively, you can mix the dried beans of your choice. Next, a warning against temptation. In this recipe do not substitute canned beans for the dried version. What we want here is a sense of each bean-type’s identity, texture and flavour.

Begin the whole cooking process the day before you plan to eat by soaking all the dried beans in plenty of water overnight. Drain the beans the next day and shell the fresh broad beans. Submerge the soaked beans (but not the fresh) in a large ovenproof casserole of water and bring them to a rolling boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Drop the temperature to a mild simmer and leave the beans to cook for an hour.

The idea here is to produce beans that are not yet soft right through. If this was pasta, the texture would be al dente. Remove and reserve for later in the proceedings. Preheat the oven to 140°C. Cut the smoked pork belly (which should come in a single piece) into generous sections about 10mm in width. Leave the rind on. The cooking renders it soft and the additional texture is another great feature to boast about to your guests. If you can’t locate smoked belly of pork, feel free to substitute an equivalent mass of streaky bacon.

Peel the little pickling onions and leave them whole. Stick a clove into three of them. Add all the peeled pickling onions to the pot, along with the molasses, sugar, fresh broad beans and mustard. Molasses is essential; don’t be tempted to leave it out or worse, substitute some other sugar product. Stir in some freshly ground black pepper to taste and add a little water to ensure that the beans remain submerged.

Place the covered casserole into the preheated oven and let it slowly bake for three hours. Remove the lid and let the final fourth hour in the oven reduce the liquid and brown the pork, beans and onions on the surface. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary, remembering that smoked pork or bacon are salty to begin with.

Serve this with mashed potato or fresh bread, plus a salad on the side. All the cowboys and cowgirls in my house drink red wine with a strongly flavoured casserole such as this.

Contact David Basckin at [email protected]. Please state ‘Real cooking’ in the subject line of your email.