Tim: What do you think of the stew?
Maureen: I like it!
Andrew (12): What? You hate stew!
Maureen: As I have often explained, both to you father and others, is that I don’t have a problem with the concept of stew, but I do have a problem with the stringy beef of beef stew. Yuck.
Tim: What does everybody else think?
Andrew: I thought it was alright. I liked the sausages, and I liked the tomatoes, but I didn’t like the beans.
Nicholas (8): I agree with Andrew. I didn’t like the beans.
Maureen: You boys clearly have not had the British classic of Beans on Toast more. Maybe we need to introduce that dish into our regular rotation.
Maureen: Just to be clear– the whole raison d’être of the dish, the beans– you didn’t like.
Andrew: The sausages were nice, the sauce was nice, but the beans I didn’t like.
Nicholas: I agree. It’s good, but it could be improved.
Tim: What’s not to like? Beans are good for you. I bet you would like it if you substituted pasta for the beans.
Nicholas: Yes, that would be perfect.
Tim: Then all you’d have is sausages with pasta. What’s interesting about that? I liked it. I would have it again.
Maureen: Me too. This is the good thing about being in charge. I can make it again, and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Spicy Bean Stew with Sausages from “The River Cottage Family Cookbook”
To serve 4
Olive or vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons
Pork Sausages, 8 good free-range ones
Onion, 1 medium
Garlic cloves, 2
Cannellini beans, 400g tin
Kidney beans, 300g tin
Brown sugar, 1 teaspoon
Nutmeg, a good grinding from a whole one, or 1/4 teaspoon ground
Cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon
Ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon
Thyme 1/2 teaspoon dried or 2 sprigs fresh
Plum tomatoes, two 400g tins
Salt and black pepper
1. Place the saucepan on the hob and spoon in the oil. Turn on the heat to medium, add the sausages and fry them, turning them over until they are browned on the outside. Fish them out of the pan, setting them aside on a plate.
2. While the sausages are browning, peel the onion and garlic and chop them as small as you can. Drain the cans of beans into a colander and rinse them with cold water.
3. Add the onion to the pan, turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and sweat the onion– frying it gently in the pan for around 10 minutes, stirring it from time to time so that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. It will pick up all of the lovely sausagey good in the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the brown sugar and grate in some nutmeg. Stir in the cayenne, cloves and thyme.
5. Pour in the tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the sausages to the pan, along with the beans.
6. Season with salt and lots of black pepper. Give everything a good stir and turn up the heat to medium. When the stew starts to simmer, put the lid on, turn the heat down and let it bubble away gently. Stir occasionally to make sure it isn’t burning on the bottom of the pan. You can leave it for at least an hour and anything up to two hours.