Waking up on a January morning to the smell of beanjar permeating every inch of the household is a privilege unique to us in Guernsey. It is our national dish – or jar, rather.
That smell certainly took the edge off of my 4.30am start this morning, when I had the inspired idea to share with you the recipe causing this irresistible aroma.
Family recipes reach back centuries, and are jealously guarded.
In olden times, families would drop off their jars of beany goodness – moussaettes au four, in Guernésiais – to the bakers, who would kindly put them in their ovens to sit and simmer overnight in the heat of the day’s baked bread.
Low and slow does the trick.
Big butter beans start to fall apart in the thick and wholesome stock, you get a little bit of sweetness from the carrots, and a delicate herbiness from the bay leaves.
Makes my mouth water just writing it.
The prospect of beanjar is often what motivates me through wintry swims, and a generous bowl will be my reward after a choppy one today.
Beanjar is a good incentive to get friends to swim – and sometimes mulled wine, too, if you can be persuaded.
I hand out portions in old plastic containers. I even gave two portions as presents this Christmas.
If you want some of the good stuff, you can either ask me, or follow my recipe below.
Traditional beanjar is simple.
You put your beans to soak in water overnight. The next day, you fry veg, adding pigs trotter or ham hock, beans and stock. Bish-bash-bosh, Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt, Dave’s your best mate’s dog – in the oven until the next morning. Low and slow, baby, low and slow.
I don’t eat meat and don’t include it here, because I’ve made a beanjar recipe that doesn’t require portions of pig limb to be delicious, and I maintain that my recipe is actually more delicious without it. Taste, before you disagree.
I get my beans, lentils and bouillon from the Guernsey Weigh. Cheap, cheerful and packaging-free.
I have taken some creative license with beanjar. Sometimes it worked, other times not.
This is the product of times it worked. You needn’t use the lentils or potato stock, but I would highly recommend it. They give that stodgy, gelatine thickness that would traditionally be provided to an inferior degree by the bone of the hock or trotter.
I eyeball everything, but have included rough measurements here.
You need a big pot, a large saucepan and an oven.
Let’s do it.
- 2 Onions
- 4 Carrots
- 2 Potatoes
- Frying Oil
- 5 Bay Leaves
- Veggie Builloin
- 200g Red Lentils
- 500g Butter Beans
- 200g Haricot Beans
- 200g Cannellini Beans
Step 1 – A Relaxing Soak
Soak your beans and lentils in water overnight. Those babies grow fast, so cover them by a few inches.
Step 2 – Frying Veg
The next day, set your oven to 120 degrees centigrade.
Dice and fry off your onions and carrots on a medium heat in your oil of choice – I use olive oil. Add bay leaves, saving one leaf for the stock.
Aim to fry for 10 minutes, or until translucent, not brown.
Step 3 – Potato Stock
Fill up and boil your kettle, shag.
Peel and finely grate your potatoes for the stock.
Once grated, put the grated potato in a saucepan, add some bouillon, a big pinch of salt and the remaining bay leaf.
Fill the saucepan from the kettle and simmer for at least 15 minutes, until thick and starchy.
Step 4 (Optional) – Creative License
With veg fried off, I usually take some creative license here.
Black pepper, smoked paprika, cumin and chilli powder all work great, adding a bit more warmth and wholesomeness.
Thyme, perhaps? Maybe you try it for me.
The inclusion of the humble carrot is a cause for contention in Guernsey. This is why I state that these extraordinarily exotic additions are optional.
Step 5 – Mix It
Add your beans, lentils and potato stock and stir thoroughly.
You may need to add boiling water, as you want two inches or more of liquid covering your beans as it is absorbed and evaporates overnight.
Step 6 – Low ‘n’ Slow
Put the lid on your pot, and whack it in the oven overnight. Low and slow baby, low and slow.
You may need to add water during cooking to ensure it is covered for the overnight stretch. Give it a good stir if and when you do.
There you have it, glorious beany goodness, traditionally served with bread and Guernsey butter.
Always worth the wait, and always worth the swim.