Beans in tomato sauce

I first began developing this recipe as an alternative to baked beans - not that it tastes anything like them. At the time, I used haricot beans and I would cook them in my slow cooker. Because it was a bit of a trek to the Old Kent Road or the Camberwell Road (where the closest shops that stocked soya beans were), and because I still needed to hard boil the beans for 10 minutes and sauté the onions even before their hours of slow cooking, I started using black eyed peas instead, and began cooking them on the hob.

I love this made with black eyed peas, but here I'm using pinto beans, though cannellini beans would also do the trick (I tend to save cannellini beans for making fasulye, the other kind of beans in tomato sauce I make, which is a little like baked beans though far superior). This sauce is slightly chunky, not too sweet, and with a surprisingly buttery taste. I'd happily eat this as a simple supper with a slab of well buttered crusty baguette.

Serves 3 as a supper dish.

Serves 4 on toast for brunch, or at room temperature as part of a Bennett & Luck-style salad.


120g dried beans, soaked overnight then boiled till tender

or 1 tin of beans

1 onion, finely chopped

a splash of olive oil

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1/3 tin of water

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

a scant 1/8 teaspoon allspice

a scant 1/8 teaspoon jerk seasoning (optional)

a scant capful of white wine vinegar

a small bay leaf

If you're unfamiliar with any of the ingredients, find out more about them here:



Once your chosen beans are cooked and perfectly tender, sauté the onion in olive oil on a low heat for several minutes.


Meanwhile measure out your brown sugar and spices and stir in the white wine vinegar to dissolve them.


Add the can of tomatoes to the onions with the water. Scrape in the spice mixture, then add your cooked beans and the small bay leaf. Bring to a boil, pop a lid on, and simmer for 35 - 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Keep an eye on it towards the end of the cooking time. If it looks like it's drying out, add a splash of water. If it's too runny, remove the lid and whack the heat up so the sauce reduces.

To be absolutely honest, ideally I would not serve them on toast. This gorgeous, buttery dish deserves so much more than that! Some crusty buttered bread on the side...or served at room temperature as part of a Bennett & Luck salad. Even a plain old jacket potato would do...

Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.

Did you know?

You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series:

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