Ok here it is, the last recipe I made in my London kitchen. And it’s a very British dish: beans on toast. Here’s my sweeping generalization: British people love beans and they love toast. (I mean who doesn’t, but still it’s a stronger love in the UK).
Anyway, before moving to London I didn’t know about beans on toast. But now that I know about it, I can’t forget because it’s delicious ya’ll. Beans on toast might be to British people what peanut butter and jelly can be to Americans. It’s easy, inexpensive, quick food that hits the spot when you’re feeling lazy, tired, and can’t be bothered to cook.
I decided before leaving London I had to make beans on toast for myself. To ensure I was doing it right I asked my friends for advice. For a seemingly simple recipe, my friends had a lot of expert tips and suggestions. Everyone agreed that you have to use cheap white bread. One friend told me that after toasting you have to let the bread sit a bit so it can cool and crisp up (and therefore be a better holder for the beans).
Most people said to spread lots of butter on top of the toast before adding the beans. I decided butter was a must. It was a must, in part because when I arrived in the UK I was surprised by how many sandwiches did have butter on them (like a bacon sandwich), so butter on anything bread related felt especially fitting to me. Again, top tip from a friend – make sure your butter is room temperature so it doesn’t rip up your toast!
After butter comes the beans. I went with Heinz, although my friend Charlotte swears by Branston beans. I chose Heinz though because they have the biggest displays in every grocery store I ever went to. As well, more than one person had told me that Heinz was a very popular British brand (but side note, it’s not a British brand) and it was a go-to for beans and soup – therefore beloved Heinz it would be. So, the beans get heated in a saucepan and then poured on top of the buttered toast. This is the most intense “cooking” part of the whole dish.
Final step is cheese! I know, surprise twist right? There’s no cheese in the name of this dish but everyone told me that you have to top the beans with mature cheddar cheese. After a generous handful of cheese, the whole thing goes in the oven and under the broiler/grill until the cheese gets melted. Take it out of the oven and then if you like season it with a few sprinkles of ground pepper. Now dig in with a fork and knife!
So, beans on toast is a little more work than pb&j – I mean you actually have to heat things! But it’s so easy to make and frankly really delicious. I mean it’s really freaking good. It hits the spot because it’s warm, cheesy, a little fatty, and filling. It ticks all the boxes for a dish when you want to eat RIGHT NOW but can’t be bothered to do a lot. I know that I’m back in the US now, but I think I’ll be making this for myself again. It’s tasty and it’s nice to have a bit something to connect me to the people I love back in London.
Messy level: It’s one spoon of messiness because you need to use a saucepan to heat the beans. Actually, I have one friend who likes the beans cold so if you choose that way you’ll have even fewer dishes in the end. But basically this dish is all about heating individual pieces and then layering them on top of each other. Really straight forward and clean!
- bread, number of slices depends on your desired ratio of beans. I'd say 2-4 slices of bread to one can of beans.
- butter, softened so easily spreadable
- 1 14oz/415 gram can of baked beans
- grated mature cheddar, amount used depends on your preferences
- ground pepper, optional
- Turn on the broiler/grill in your oven.
- Using a toaster, toast the bread to your desired level of brownness.
- Remove bread from the toaster and let sit for 30-60 seconds to let the toast cool and crisp.
- Generously slather the toast with butter. Put the toast on an oven safe plate or baking sheet.
- Empty the can of beans into a small saucepan. Heat the beans on medium until warmed through. This can take about 5-10 minutes.
- Spoon the beans evenly over your pieces of toast.
- Generously sprinkle grated cheese over your beans. I like a lot of cheese, but do what feels right to you.
- Put your beans on toast in the oven. Heat under the broiler until the cheese is melted. This is quick stay near the oven and watch it.
- Remove from the oven, garnish with pepper if you so desire.
- Eat with fork and knife. Enjoy!