Baby, it's cold outside

Well, OK, maybe not if you live in New Zealand. But over here it's been bloody freezing (literally) for at least a week now and we are all sniffly and miserable. To combat the winter blues we've tried all of our heartiest recipes: Irish stew, French onion soup, bangers & mash... And this one, which despite hailing from sunny Merkia is wondrfully warming and very comfort-foody due to the high starch content (while not being too-too unhealthy, which is a bonus).

Hooray for bad cooking!

It's a very odd recipe for me to node, and even more so to cook: it relies almost entirely on prefabricated ingredients and condiments, and perforce includes annoying, imprecise measurements like "a can" or "a stick", which I usually hate and often rant about. In fact I would never have touched it with a barge pole if it hadn't been for the fact that I first tried it without knowing how it was made and fell in love with its warming wholesomeness.

Mmmm, Tex-Mex

As I understand it this is a South-Western recipe with both Mexican and Soul Food influences, and my friend Lucia passed it down to me via her Californian mother (in fact that's why it's called what it's called - over there chick peas are known as garbanzo beans, hence 4 beans and not "3 beans and some peas too"). I'm sure it could be made from scratch if you're a real purist, but who want to bother when the easy version tastes so good?

You will need:

  • 1 can baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 1 can pre-cooked red kidney beans
  • 1 can pre-cooked French (green) beans
  • 1 can pre-cooked chick peas
  • .5lb (250gr) minced beef
  • .5lb (250gr) streaky bacon, chopped
  • .5lb (250gr) finely chopped onion, or 1 large/2 medium ones
  • A few cloves of garlic, to taste, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional - you can use a pinch of Cayenne pepper instead, or skip the fire altogether)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • Between 2-4 tablespoons of your favourite BBQ sauce or marinade (for the Brits, HP sauce might work very well but the quantity would have to be somewhat reduced I think)
  • 1 teaspoon red wine, sherry or malt vinegar (unless using HP)
  • 1 Oxo cube (this is not American at all but a very British ingredient, and my personal contribution to the development of this recipe. It makes for a lovely gravy which you otherwise would not get and makes the dish more savoury at the same time as being quite sweet. You can skip it if you want to be more faithful to the original.)
  • 2-3 dried laurel leaves
  • At least 1 tea spoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Having assembled this mind-bogglingly long list of ingredients, the rest is deliciously simple:

  1. Preheat the ove to 180C, Gas mark 5.

  2. Fry off the bacon, mince, onions and garlic (I personally do this consecutively rather than concurrently, but if you're a bit lazy I don't think it will be the end of the world) in a little vegetable oil.

  3. Drain the chick peas, green beans and kidney beans but not the baked beans. Mix all 4 pulses in a bowl with the fried meats and onions. Add all the condiments and flavourings except the Oxo cube and mix thoroughly. Check the flavour and adjust seasoning if necessary. Place in an oven proof dish, a glass one for preference as you'll get less sticking.

  4. Bake, covered, in the oven for at least 1.5 hours. After about 30 minutes, when the mixture is already hot and bubbling, crumble the Oxo cube over it and give it an extra mix. Serve immediately or save for later and reheat. Best served in large bowls with a side salad and crusty bread, or in a more Mexican style with rice, lime wedges and corn tortillas.

Enjoy! And if you make it, let me know how it came out...

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