Baked Beans. Home Made À La Différence

Baked Beans. Home Made À La Différence

A few years back when our Mexican friends were visiting us in London we took them out for a traditional British Sunday breakfast down the local caff. They loved the instant coffee, white toast, margarine, sausages, mushrooms, bacon. Then Claudia made a face: “sweet beans? Wákala (yuk)”.

Obviously they didn’t go to waste. I grew up with baked beans and love them. But I thought I’d have a go at making baked beans fit for a Mexican. No cheating, mind: baked beans are sweet, just not so sweet they compete for dessert. They are also savoury with that oh so importnt twang of acidity. I think claudia liked them. For myself, I haven’t bought a tin of beans since


These are typically white beans such as haricot, or cannellini, but any bean is good. I’ve even tried baked chickpeas – they’re great!

The no faff method is to use cooked tinned beans. I find ready cooked beans tend to fall apart and I prefer to cook my own. But if you don’t mind your beans a bit mushy or if you don’t own a pressure cooker who can blame you for wanting to keep things simple?

Pressure cooked beans don’t need pre-soaking, though they will cook that much quicker if soaked. Throw them straight in the pot with 4 times their volume of water and a teaspoon full of salt. Yes, salt. Salt does not make your beans hard, instead producing beans with a lovely creamy texture

Cooking times varies with the type and age of your beans, your pressure cooker and the altitude of your kitchen. As a rule of thumb cook unsoaked white beans for 18-20 minutes at high pressure then turn off the flame and let the pressure reduce naturally to ambient – around 15 minutes

If you don’t have a pressure cooker soak the beans for 8-12 hours and cook in fresh water (with salt) for around an hour


Another thing about tinned baked beans is a sauce thickened with corn starch. Yes, corn starch produces a nice shiny glaze. But essentially if your sauce needs cornstarch it’s just too thin. The best thickener for a tomato sauce is tomato, albeit with a little help from …

Carrot and celery are a magic combo in Italian tomato sacues. For good reason. They are packed with umami (deliciousness) and impart a gentle sweetness to the sharpness of the tomato. They also add body – that is, they help thicken your sauce. So you’ll never need to resort to corn starch


Tinned tomatoes, of course … ? The pic indeed depicts tomatoes of the tinned variety. And if the alternative is the insipid hydroponically grown, sun-starved tomatoes we get in Northern European supermarkets you’re better off with tinned

Got access to decent fresh tommies? Great. Cut them in four, throw them in the blender and blitz them till smooth. No blanching, no peeling, no chopping, no sieving. Tomato skin is full of lycopenes. And discard the seeds and you’re throwing away half the flavour.


I’ve known chefs use tomato ketchup. Fair enough. But if it’s sweet and sour you’re looking for there are alternatives, Here’s a few

SUGAR jaggari, muscovado, demerara, white VINEGAR malt, wine, cider, sherry, rice
NECTARS honey, agave, maple, coconut CITRUS lemon, lime, bergamot, yuzu
OTHER pomegranite & blackstrap molasses, stevia, xylitol OTHER tamarind, dried mango powder


korean gochujang for baked beans

You can really go to town here. Or keep things simple. The recipe below has Korean gochujang: fermented rice and red chilli paste. Why? Because that high priestess of Korean food Maangchi keeps telling us how totally different real gochujang tastes to the shop bought variety and I was nuts enough to follow her recipe. Be warned: it’s massively hard work. And totally worth it

If gochujang is a step to far to exoticism, or you don’t have a Korean store nearby, or if you don’t want your beans spicy try Spanish paprika or whatever you fancy

Za’atar is a wonderful Palestinian blend of oregano, marjoram and thyme with ground sesame, sumac and salt. Using any of the above herbs singly or in pairs gives equally great results

Other condiments include

MEXICAN chipotle in adobo, guajillo, pasilla, ancho and just about any other fresh or dry chilli, epazote, hoja santa …
INDIAN cumin, garam masala, black cardammon, fenugreek, asafoetida …
FAR EAST gochujang, doengjang, ginger, siracha, takoyaki sauce, black bean sauce, sesame oil, sichuan pepper …
MIDDLE EAST sumac, ras el hanout, preserved lemon, za’atar, nigella seeds

Well, it’s getting on. Let’s make some beans

Baked Beans A La Différence

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Cuisine: European
Keyword: beans, pulses
Servings: 6


  • Pressure cooker (optional)


  • 400g dry white beans eg haricot, cannellini OR 2 400g cans cooked beans
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 400g tin tomatoes or 4-5 fresh plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp za-atar or any combination of thyme, oregano and marjoram
  • 2 tbsp vinegar eg apple cider
  • 1-2 tsp sugar, nectar or stevia
  • 2 tsp Korean gochujang or 1tsp Spanish smoky paprika


Dry Beans Without Pressure Cooker

  • If you're using tinned beans skip this step
  • soak the beans in plentiful water 6-8 hours or overnight
    white beans soaked overnight
  • discard the soaking water and rinse the beans under a running tap
  • cook the beans generously covered with water with a teaspoon of salt for around 1 hour or until tender but not mushy

No-soak Beans In A Pressure Cooker

  • place the beans with 4 times their volume of waterf and teaspoon of salt in the pressure cooker and cook on a low flame at high pressure for around 20 minutes. But please note that the cooking times will depend on the type and also age of your beans. Turn off the flame and allow the pressure to come down gradually to ambient pressure (about 15 minutes)
    white beans soaking

Make The Sauce

  • peel of scrape the carrot and celery stick, then chop very finely
  • finely chop the onion and garlic
    chopped vegetables for tomato sauce
  • saute all the above in a pan with a little oil. When the mixture is well covered in oil pop a lid on and cook until very soft (this can take 15-20 minutes). Avoid browning by adding a large pinch of salt and an occasional small splash of water
    sauté for tomato sauce for baked beans
  • Cut fresh tomatoes in quarters and liquidze in a blender. Chop whole tinned tomatoes
  • add the tomatoes, za'atar herb mix and gochujang or paprika
    korean gochujang for baked beans
  • Add the "sugar" and vinegar
  • cook the sauce for 10-15 minutes

Purée The Sauce

  • purée in a globlet blender or a hand-held to a very smooth sauce
    tomato sauce for baked beans
  • adjust the seasoning, sweetness and acidity to your taste
  • Add in the beans and cook them in the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring gently so as not to break the beans, and adding a little water if the sauce starts to get too think
    baked beans
  • eat with a couple of poached eggs and sautéed mushrooms on hot buttered toast, crumpets or english muffins
Khaman Dhokla

Khaman Dhokla

Famous Gujarati Savoury Chickpea Cake

I first tried this savory snack in Southall, west London, an area famous for it’s sumptouous Indian textiles (my excuse) and the best curries outside of India, possibly in the world (my real reason)

Dhokla is a savoury snack made from fermented chick pea or yellow-split pea batter steamed into a cake, then garnished with an aromatic oil of mustard seed, curry leaf, dried red chilli and hing

My dhokla was light and airy with lots of body, a marvellous lactic tang, and a rounded sweetness. And it was wonderfully moist, a sharp-sweet fruity sauce of dates and tamarind rounding it off to perfection.

No wonder, then, that when I subsequently visited India I looked for this – far and wide, as it happens: dhokla is not ubiquitous in northern India. And when I did find it – in Delhi – I was rather disappoined! It was almost too light and spongy, and also dry, with little or no sourness. It did come with a great coconut and green chilli chutney, though, hot enough to make my throat burn, my nose run and my eyes cry. Marvellous

I learnt two hings from this:

  1. Indian cuisine is highly regional and to enjoy the best food it’s best to stick to the local fair
  2. Dhokla can be made the instant way with chickpea flour and citric acid without having to wait for an overnight fermentation. The result, though tasty and, with a little effort, moist enough, to my mind simply illustrates the vital importance of making dhokla the proper way

Method Summary

You’ll find the step-by-step recipe below. Here’s a summary of the main points of the dish. The spices mentioned are the most commonly used, but you’ll find plenty of variation with just a bit of research, and you’re always free to try your own

  1. chickpeas are soaked overnight then ground to a smooth batter with a drizzle of oil and only just enough water to allow the process of liquidizing
  2. spices can be added: try a pinch of fenugreek (dried leaf or seed), another pinch of hing and a quarter teaspoon of turmeric. A scan teaspoon of sugar, honey or maple syrup encourages fermentation and adds a hint of sweetness
  3. the batter is allowed to ferment for 12-36 hours, depending on the ambient temperature
  4. adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda at the last minute definitely helps the batter to rise and be fluffy
  5. the batter is steamed for 15-25 minutes in a cake tin of your choice, covered with a tea towel to stop water dripping onto your cake
  6. once done splash on some water with your fingers while still hot – this prevents the dhokla from feeling claggy and sticking to the throat
  7. cut the dhokla into squares with a sharp, wetted knive
  8. a tarka (aromatic oil) is prepared by popping black mustard seeds in hot oil, along with half a teaspoon of whole cumin, a pinch of hing, a handful or curry leaves, fresh or dry, and a couple of dry red chillies or some red chilli powder to your taste
  9. the hot tarka is poured over the still hot dhokla
  10. enjoy dhokla warm or cold as a snack or starter with some coconut, date-tamarind or other sweet-cour chutneys: try pommegranite-molasses with agave nectar and grapefruit. Be inventive. Have fun!

Khaman dhokla

A steamed savoury fermented-chickpea cake from Gujarat, India
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
presoak and fermentation2 d
Total Time2 d 40 mins
Course: any, Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Gujarati, Indian
Keyword: cake, chickpeas, fermented, pro-biotic, pudding, pulses, snack, steamed, vegan
Servings: 6


  • a round or square cake tin
  • a steamer with a well fitting lid


Dhokla Batter

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas soaked overnight
  • 1 pinch fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 level tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (optional)

Tarka (aromatic oil)

  • 3-4 tbsp neutral oil with a high smoking point
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin
  • 1 pinch hing
  • 1 handful curry leaves (10 - 15)
  • 2 whole red chillies, roughly torn
  • ground chilli powder to taste (optional)



  • put all the batter ingredients in a liquidizer with just enough water to make a thick batter, the thicker the better
  • transfer to a covered non-metal bowl and leave in a warm place for 12-36 hours, depending on the time of year, to ferment
  • The fermented mixture should be quite fluffy and pleasantly sharp to taste


  • Prepare a steamer or put a trivet or saucer in a pan with water and bring to the boil
  • Oil a square or round cake tin
  • Add the bicarbonate of soda to the batter and stir lightly so you don;t lose the air (CO2)
  • Put the batter in the cake tin, place in the steamer and cover with a well fitting lid
  • Covering the pan with a teatowel will prevent water from dripping on your dhokla, but this is optional
  • steam on a low flame for about 20 minutes
  • Remove from the steamer and immediately splash on some water. This stops the dhokla from sticking in the throat

Make The Tarka

  • Heat the oil in a small pan
  • Add the chillies and allow to just darken. Follow with the mustard seeds until they begin to pop, then add the cumin and curry leaves, letting them sizzle for a few seconds. Finally add the hing and extra chilli powder to taste. Remove from the flame immediately
  • allow to cool and enjoy with a sweet chutney such as tamarind and date sauce, or coconut-green chilli and corander chutney

Our Vegan Blog Posts

Our Vegan Food Posts

Plant-Based Articles & Recipes
Khaman Dhokla

Khaman Dhokla

Dhokla is a steamed savoury cake of fermented chick pea batter, garnished with an aromatic oil of mustard seed, curry leaf, chilli and hing

read more
Pomegranite Molasses At Home

Pomegranite Molasses At Home

Absurdly simple to make, for taste your molasses will outcompete any store-bought variety by 1000 miles – at a conservative measure

read more
Gluten Free Oat Hot Cakes

Gluten Free Oat Hot Cakes

There’s so much more to oats than porridge. Here’s the first of my non-porridge oat recipes. Great for breakfast, lunch, tea and supper

read more

Our Veggie Blog Posts

Our Veggie Food Posts

Our Ova-Lacto Articles & Recipes
Khaman Dhokla

Khaman Dhokla

Dhokla is a steamed savoury cake of fermented chick pea batter, garnished with an aromatic oil of mustard seed, curry leaf, chilli and hing

read more
Pomegranite Molasses At Home

Pomegranite Molasses At Home

Absurdly simple to make, for taste your molasses will outcompete any store-bought variety by 1000 miles – at a conservative measure

read more
Gluten Free Oat Hot Cakes

Gluten Free Oat Hot Cakes

There’s so much more to oats than porridge. Here’s the first of my non-porridge oat recipes. Great for breakfast, lunch, tea and supper

read more

Our Mind-Body Posts

Our Mind & Body Posts

yoga & body-work for your wellbeing
foodie posts
Rest And Digest With Yoga Nidra

Rest And Digest With Yoga Nidra

A bordeline state between waking and sleep where you can deeply relax while remaining fully conscious. Nidra is thought to be as ancient as yoga itself …

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Psycho-Somatic Medicine

Psycho-Somatic Medicine

“Psychosomatic” can be associated with negative beliefs such as: disease resulting from neurotic behaviour … Nothing could be further from the truth

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Nearly There

Nearly There

Though we’ve been blogging about veggie food for some time the idea of blogging about yoga and body-work is quite new

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Rest And Digest With Yoga Nidra

Rest And Digest With Yoga Nidra


A Sanskrit term literally meaning “yoga sleep”, the sleep of the yogi is both a practice and a state of consciousness. Nidra is a bordeline state between waking and sleep where you can deeply relax while remaining fully conscious.

The practice is thought to be as ancient as yoga itself with references to nidra found in the earliest yoga scriptures. The modern practice of yoga nidra, however, was revived by Swami Satyananda, founder of the Bihar School, with some practices possibly influenced by ideas from Western psychology and psycho-somatics

There are as many nidras as there are reasons for practising. And different schools of nidra exhibit varying approaches and applications. To experience the psycho-somatic healing discussed in the previous post here is the simplest of nidra practices to help you just rest and digest

Audio: De-stress with yoga nidra

Pomegranite Molasses At Home

Pomegranite Molasses At Home

What to do when you can’t get pomegranite molasses but have unfettered access to fresh pomegranites? Do the unthinkable and make your own. Absurdly easy to make, for flavour your molasses will outcompete any store-bought version by 1000 miles – and that’s a conservative measure

 Pomegranite molasses is a middle eastern staple used in a multitude of dishes from salads to sauces, stews and desserts. I love it in my homemade baked beans

While many recipes call for sugar I’ve never found it necessary to sweeten my molasses. On the contrary, the sweet syrup often needs balancing with lemon or lime juice. I realize I’m talking about Spanish pomegranites, so if your fruit is on the sharp side, go ahead and use your judgement to adjust the sweetness



 Pomegranite molasses needs just freshly squeezed pomegranite juice and maybe a little lemon juice. Heat to boiling point and cook at medium heat until it reaches a rolling boil and the color has deepened. This can take anywhere from 30-50 minutes, depending on how deep or shallow your pan is and how thick and dark you like it. Finally adjust the taste with a little lemon or lime juice or agave syrup and when cool enough store in a jar in the refrigerator.

The recipe is for a small jar of molasses using 8 pomegranites. Double or triple it to your needs.

Check the video tutorial at the end of the recipe

Fresh Pomegranite Molasses

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr
Cuisine: Mediterranean, middle east, Worldwide
Keyword: fruit, no added sugar, vegan


  • orange squeezer


  • 8 large pomegranites or multiples thereof
  • lemon or lime juice to taste


  • juice the pomegranites as you would an orange. The citrus squeezing attachment of a food processor is ideal
  • Keep the seeds back and squeeze out the remaining juice using a piece of muslin or similar thin cloth. You don;t have to do this, but you;ll find there's a lot of juice still left in the seeds
  • place the pomegranite juice in a pan. A wide, shallow pan will speed up the process, but you can use any pan
  • bring the juice to a boil and let it cook at medium heat, stirring occasionally for a good 30-40 minutes. After this time look out for a rolling boil, meaning the juice has turned syrupy. If the result is too thin you can cook it some more, but if you;ve overcaramelized or even slightly burnt the molasses there's no going back
  • adjust the sweetness with a light syrup such as agave syrup, and the sharpness with lemon or lime juice to your taste. I never use a sweetener. On the contrary, I find the local pomegranites, even the pale looking ones really sweet and adust only the acidity
  • when warm store in a small jar with a good seal and keep in the refrigerator to use in your favourite recipe

Gluten Free Oat Hot Cakes

Gluten Free Oat Hot Cakes

I’m not especially gluten intolerant, but I do like to avoid the insulin spike you get from starchy food with a high glycaemic index, basically flooding your bloodstream with glucose to be inevitably stored as fat for a rainy day

High 70 or above
Medium 56 – 69
Low 55 or less

The glycaemic index of unprocessed oats averages 58 putting it at the lower end of the medium category. Compare this with instant porridge oats which have a whopping 83 glycaemic rating!

Oats are also rich in soluble fibre helping to regulate blood cholesterol. And besides being delicious they are indisputably versatile

Tasty as it is there’s so much more to oats than porridge. Here’s the first of my non-porridge oat recipes. Great for breakfast, lunch, tea and supper: oat hotcakes

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Hotcakes

Gluten free oatmeal hotcakes great at any time of the day
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: any
Cuisine: Worldwide
Keyword: gluten-free, grains, oats, pancakes, vegan option


  • any heavy based pan or skillet


  • 1 cup oat flour oat flour can be made really easily by milling oats in a coffe or spice grinder for a few seconds
  • 1 small pot yoghurt or keffir dairy or vegan, eg soy or coconut
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1 tsp sugar of stevia (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • milk or water dairy or vegan


  • mix all the wet ingredients in a bowl
  • incorporate in the oat flour and other dry ingredients to obtain a creamy consistency
  • rest for five minutes. Oats soak a lot of fluid and the mixture becomes much stiffer. Adjust the consistency to a thick pouring cream by adding more liquid or flour
  • add spoonfuls of the batter to a medium hot skillet greased with a little oil or butter
  • after a 2-3 minutes when the top is partially cooked flip them over and cook for a further minute or so
  • serve them warm or at room temperature with your favourite sweet or savoury sides and toppings


I love these for Sunday brunch with a couple of poached eggs, griddled oyster mushrooms and my homemade "baked" pinto beans with Korean gochujang
Psycho-Somatic Medicine

Psycho-Somatic Medicine

Mind-Body Medicine

The term psychosomatic, though having a precise scientific meaning, is often associated with negative beliefs such as: disease resulting from neurotic behaviour, or maybe an imagined ailment which exists only in your mind. This could not be further from the truth

The term embraces psycho (mind) and soma (body) and refers to the observation that there is an intimate relationship between mind-body where the condition of one is reflected in the other

Shiozuke: Salted Cucumber With Kelp

Shiozuke: Salted Cucumber With Kelp

Using salt to preserve food spans millennia. The earliest known records span back to 6000BC in an area around the Nile valley and Mesopotamia known as the fertile cresecent. Japan, however, has turned this process into the artform tsukemono

Tsukemono or pickled thing in Japan accompanies literally every meal, can be served over a bowl of rice and even forms part of the tea ceremony

The simplest of tsukemonos is salt pickle (shiozuke) and includes fermented and non-fermented varieties. The lactofermented plums in the previous post are in this category

Vegetables with a high water content such as cucumber are best just lightly and briefly salted just to extract water and concentrate their flavour without fermentation

Basic methods

  1. salt can be added directly to the vegetable
  2. the vegetables are steeped in a 5 – 10% slat-to-water brine with the help of weights. You can buy special fermentation weights or just use suitable crockery to keep the vegetables fully submerged in the pickling brine
    • 5% brine requires 8 hours pickling and will last for 2-3 days
    • 10% brine requires 5 hours of pickling and will keep closer to a week


You can pickle vegetables with or witout extra condiments. This recipe uses kombu (sea kelp) and dried chilli with whole coriander seeds. The flavour combination is potentially endless: for cucumbers try dill with sumak, or preserved lemon with black pepper. Experiment to your heart’s content

Salted Cucumber With Kombu And Chilli

Prep Time5 mins
Course: any
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: pickles, raw-food, salt pickle, tsukemono, vegan


  • 1 cucumber thickly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp non-iodized salt
  • a few thin strips of kombu (dried sea kelp)
  • a few thin strips of dried chilli
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds


  • put the sliced cucumber in a bowl with the salt and toss with your fingers to disperse the salt evenly. Add the coriander, kombu and chilli.
  • Rest, covered at least an hour and preferably 5 hours in the regrigerator. Set a timer so you don;t end up with overly salty vegetables
  • Before serving squeeze firmly with your hands to extraxt and discard the salty water
  • serve in a clean bowl with the kelp and chilli. Try garnishing with a few black sesame seeds