The most important part of simplifying our lives is to leave more time to enjoy the finest things in life. Food and friends. Some people find cooking stressful, complicated recipes and hard to find ingredients can play a huge part in that. Cooking simple, delicious and hearty home food with a glass of wine in one hand and a beautiful friend on the bar stool in my kitchen is one of my favourite ways to spend my time.
Good food. Good wine. Good conversation. I’m not sure if anything is better than that.
As we move towards winter and the temperature starts to dip food becomes the centre of our days. More time is spent cooking and creating, more time is spent curled up on the couch with a warm meal balanced on our laps. In winter I cook the same meals on rotation, with access to a smaller range of locally grown food, we immerse ourselves in the autumn flavours that this time of year brings. It always reminds me of my grandmothers cooking, of the golden leaves of Canada, the apple cider, the maple syrup, the warm pumpkin soup and familiar taste of a country that holds such a special place in my heart. Family means so much, and so much of my family lives there, on the other side of the world. Food and memories go hand in hand for me, the taste of maple syrup alone instantly takes me back to being a child in a snowsuit with snowflakes on my nose.
SPICED MAPLE BAKED BEANS
1 x tin of Butter beans (washed and drained)
1 x tin of cannelinni beans (washed and drained)
2 x tin of diced tomatoes
1 x onion finely diced
1 x carrot, grated
3 x cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp ground clove
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 x knob of butter
1 x generous handful of both fresh oregano and fresh thyme (don’t be shy, the more the better)
salt + pepper to season
Preheat your oven to 180C.
In a heavy cast iron pot or frying pan melt the butter and then cook the onion and garlic until soft and glassy. Add carrot and clove, a pinch of both salt and pepper and stir until the carrot softens. Add large handfuls of fresh thyme (leaves stripped from the stems, and stems discarded) and oregano leaves, tomato, beans and maple syrup. Taste and season, the balance of flavours here is important and a lot will come down to personal taste.
A little more clove here, some more fresh herbs there, a pinch more salt, an extra splash of syrup. Don’t be afraid to have a play. Sometimes I even add a couple of sliced red chillies (with the onion and garlic right at the beginning) to really spice it up.
When you’ve got your flavours nicely balanced top the mixture with another bunch of fresh herbs (stems and all for this lot, just chuck them on the top) and bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes.
Serve hot for a warm and hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner.
We serve this beautiful little dish with burnt butter kale and grilled flat bread. It is the kind of dish that even if the pot isn’t finished, just leave it out on the table. The post dinner chatter will encourage spoon after spoon to be dipped into that pot and sauce to be mopped up with bread. By the time it’s time to clear the table and wash up, the pot will be well and truly empty. It’s totally moreish.
This meal is best enjoyed, like all the finest things in life, alongside a good wine, a good friend and a good story.