I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but in London it’s like we’ve skipped spring and fast-forwarded straight to summer! Our dour, mizzly city has been transformed into a hazily lit haven for free-spirited summer socialising, with people spilling out of pubs onto the pavements and all around me people excitedly planning their first barbecues of the year.
I love barbecues, really I do. But I have also been here before. The slight uptick in the mercury, the hastily made barbecue plans…and then it being April, a month renowned for its showers – the massive raging thunderstorm, the friends pressed into service holding umbrellas above a fizzling barbie, the sodden paper plates and the damp chef, and the overwhelming feeling of being cheated by our great British weather, again.
Luckily, this year I have come up with the ultimate barbecue plan. Once again I will put my heart on the line and attempt a wildly optimistic April barbie. But this time I’m also taking out a cast-iron insurance policy in case the weather lets me down. And that insurance policy? Well, it’s my hearty and deliciously meaty, pork belly baked beans!
This isn’t just another humble baked bean recipe, an artisan accompaniment to your chops and steaks. This is a meal in itself, full of all the delicious meaty flavours that I love in a barbecue, but easy to make inside, and more than satisfying enough to whip out in the event of a rain shower, to put a smile on the face of even your most ravenous of guests!
It takes chopped and sizzled pork belly, grilled to a golden crisp – teams it up with bright lemon, tomato and herbs, and then blends it with the velvety comfort of your favourite beans. The result is completely wonderful, and ever since I discovered it I’ve been making it every time I need a umami-rich comfort meal – so this isn’t just one for barbecue washouts!
On the beans front, your choices verge on the infinite. I like to use butter beans, mixed up with another type of bean I recently discovered on Brixton market – called rosecoco beans. But you can use whatever you like and can get your hands on. Oh, and I always use tinned beans for this. Life is just too short to soak beans overnight, don’t you agree?!
- 450g pork belly, skin removed
- 3 large spring onions
- 4 tomatoes
- 1 lemon
- Small bunch fresh parsley
- 4 x 400g tinned beans (your choice, I like to use half butter beans, half rosecoco beans)
- Using a sharp knife, chop the pork belly into small 1cm cubes and arrange on a baking tray. Grill the pork belly cubes under a medium hot grill for 10-15 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they are cooked through and the fat has turned a deep golden brown.
- Transfer the pork belly cubes, along with their cooking juices into a large heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Finely slice the spring onions, add them to the saucepan along with the pork, and cook gently over a medium heat until the spring onions turn translucent.
- Chop the tomatoes roughly and add to the pan, along with the juice of half of your lemon. Cover and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have rendered down.
- Drain your tinned beans and rinse well, then add to the saucepan, along with the juice of your remaining half a lemon. Cook over a low heat for a further 10 minutes, then scatter with chopped fresh parsley, check the seasoning (adding salt or pepper if necessary), and serve!