Even old favourites need a new lease of life - give the humble baked beans the love they deserve with Elliot and Victoria Warne's simple but flavoursome family meal ideas.
There would be few mums who haven't turned to a tin of baked beans for a quick and easy meal on a busy weekday night. And there'd be few kids who don't scoff down a plate full of the iron and fibre-packed little bullets swimming in a pool of tomato sauce.
OHbaby! nutritionist Leanne Cooper recommends seeking out a salt-reduced brand, particularly for babies. She says, because baked beans are high in iron, but non-haeme iron, you need vitamin C to increase the uptake. So try dishing up some slices of orange or fresh red capsicum afterwards.
Leanne says even though baked beans tend to have added sugar and additives, it's fine to give them to babies occasionally. "Try small amounts from about 10 months, but they're best from 12 months," she says.
You can mash them up to make a nice soft consistency so they're a good, albeit messy, first finger food.
They're also a great base to work with to get toddlers and preschoolers trying new flavours and textures. The following recipes are designed with the whole family in mind - just adjust the spices to suit.
Roast kumara boats with baked beans, red onion and grated mozzarella
Push the boat out with this innovative vegetarian meal!
8 small Beauregard (golden) kumara, split in half
4 Tbs olive oil
2 tins of baked beans, partly drained
1/2 tsp cumin powder, mixed into the baked beans
1 large red onion, finely diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
3 Tbs chopped parsley
Half a tin creamed corn
1 cup grated mozzarella
Place the kumara on an oven tray, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 25 mins at 180°C or until tender. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out most of the flesh and place in a bowl. Leave the kumara skins on the baking tray and prepare the mix.
Combine the baked beans, red onion, spring onion, creamed corn and parsley in the bowl of kumara flesh and mix well. Add a little salt and check the seasoning. Spoon the filling into the "boats" and top with plenty of mozzarella. Place in the oven at 200°C for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
For a meat-lover's variation, add sautéed chicken mince and top with crushed pineapple as well as cheese.
Sausage, baked bean and cheesy crumb casserole
A hearty meal for the cooler months.
6 full-flavoured sausages
Half an onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
3 Tbs olive oil 1 tin of baked beans
1 Tbs tomato paste
Half a cup of frozen peas
1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
5 slices of day-old white bread, crusts removed
Half a cup grated cheddar cheese
Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a frying pan and sauté the sausages on a low-to-medium heat for about five minutes, until cooked through. Place sausages on a paper towel to rest. Then slice them into four or five big chunks and set aside. In the same pan add the remaining olive oil, onion, garlic and rosemary and cook for four minutes. Finally, stir in the tomato paste, peas and baked beans. Taste to see if it needs any salt, and if so add a pinch and stir through.
Roughly chop the bread and place in a food processor with the cheddar. Pulse until it resembles large grains of rice. In a casserole dish spread the sausage mixture and top with the breadcrumbs. Bake in a 180°C oven for 10 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden.
Serve with a fresh watercress salad drizzled with a little olive oil.
Advance prep: The cheesy crumb can be made early and stored in the fridge.
For a fancier version, try using chorizo sausage and adding a little smoked paprika. Spoon the mix into individual oven-proof ceramic dishes and, when cooked, garnish with coriander and drizzle with olive oil.
Individual baked bean shepherd's pies
You will need four or five oven-proof ceramic dishes for this variation on a classic English dish.
400g good-quality beef or lamb mince
4 Tbs olive oil 1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 tin baked beans
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs powdered beef stock
Half a cup of water
1 Tbs tomato paste
1-2 cups frozen peas and corn mix
4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs cream
Half a cup cheddar cheese
For the mashed potato topping, place the potatoes in a saucepan with salted water and simmer till tender - about 20 minutes. Drain and leave to dry for three minutes. While still warm, push through a potato ricer, or use a potato masher. Quickly whisk in the butter, cream and cheese and check the seasoning. Place in a piping bag or thick plastic bag with an end cut off and set aside for completing the pie.
For the pie filling, sauté the mince with two tablespoons of olive oil until lightly browned.
Drain in a sieve and set aside. In the same pan with the remaining olive oil sauté the onions, garlic and carrot until softened.
Stir in the beef stock powder, water and tomato paste and simmer for five minutes. Lastly, add the peas and corn, baked beans and Worcestershire sauce. Transfer the filling to individual ceramic dishes, leaving enough room for the mashed potato.
Carefully pipe small domes of potato topping all over the surface of the mince until well covered. Bake in a 200°C oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
For a vegetarian option, leave out the mince and stock, increase the amount of beans and add diced tofu.
Mexican baked bean quesadillas with avocado and tomato
Try these for a great quick snack or a dinner with a difference.
2 tins of baked beans, partly drained
1 Tbs cumin powder (mix into drained beans)
2 capsicums, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced (save a little for the salsa)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
12 six-inch four tortillas
2 avocados, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
Small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
2 Tbs olive oil plus some for finishing
On a large flat surface, lie out flat six tortillas and top each with diced onion, capsicum and celery. Cover with a thin layer of cheese, followed by a generous amount of baked beans. Sprinkle over another thin layer of cheese and top with the remaining tortillas. Press lightly on the top tortilla to make sure it has stuck. Cut quesadillas into quarters and arrange on a baking tray, with them slightly overlapping each other. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 200°C or until the cheese melts and the tortillas turn golden. While the quesadillas are cooking, prepare the salsa.
In a bowl combine the avocado, lemon juice, the reserved diced onion, coriander, tomato and olive oil. Mix gently so as not to break up the avocado. Check the seasoning and set aside. If the tomatoes are too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to balance it out.
Remove the quesadillas from the oven and arrange on plates. (Three or four are a good amount.) Spoon salsa over the top and drizzle with a little olive oil. For a meatier version, add some fried pork mince or diced salmon to your quesadillas, or try a stringy cheese such as mozzarella.
Curried baked beans with roasted cauliflower and spicy yoghurt
This is a cunning way to turn the kids on to cauli!
1 small cauliflower, roughly chopped into florets
1 onion, finely diced
3 Tbs olive oil
2 tins of baked beans
1 Tbs curry powder
1/4 tsp of turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs of finely chopped raw ginger
Small handful of chopped fresh coriander (plus extra for garnishing)
1 packet naan bread, warmed in the oven
For the spicy yoghurt:
1 cup good quality natural yoghurt
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
Half a chilli finely chopped
1 Tbs chopped coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Place cauliflower florets on an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 25 minutes at 180°C. They should be soft and slightly caramelised.
In a large saucepan heat a little olive oil and sauté the onion and ginger for three minutes over a medium heat. Add the curry powder and turmeric, then stir in the baked beans and lemon juice. You may need to add a pinch of sugar to balance out the lemon and spice.
For the spicy yoghurt, mix all ingredients in a bowl and check seasoning.
To serve, spoon a generous amount of bean mixture onto warmed plates. Carefully top with roast cauliflower. Spoon over spicy yoghurt, top with chopped coriander and arrange slices of warm naan bread on the side.