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English beans on toast?

I like to read British mysteries. Strangely, the food most often mentioned
in this genre is "beans on toast", evidently an everyday item used for
breakfast lunch or dinner (at least according to the authors).

Being a lover of (Boston type) baked beans, I tried some on wheat toast.
Didn't seem to be different enough to make it worthwhile.

Am I missing something? Did I use the right kind of beans or bread?
Could some chowhound Brits fill in the blanks here?

Don Shirer
Westbrook, CT.

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  1. That's all it is -- baked beans on toast. English food tends to be hearty, and somewhat bland IMO.

    39 Replies
    1. re: boogiebaby

      They started eating this during the war, as a cheap form of protein. And never stopped. (Groan)

      And why do they still make faucets with separate hot & cold water taps? Makes no sense to me.

      1. re: pdxgastro

        "why do they still make faucets with separate hot & cold water taps?"

        Simply so we can irritate foreigners

        1. re: pdxgastro

          Old sinks still have the separate taps (faucets) so replacements are needed would be one reason.

          What is your problem with baked beans? Great with an egg for a protein rich and economical meal.

          1. re: pdxgastro

            Is this an invitation for me to list more? :o) Does a country of people REALLY think wiping dishes gets all the dish soap off? Of course, nobody's died from it.

            1. re: pdxgastro

              I'm sorry, you say an entire nation only wipes dishes to get the dish soap off? Can you clarify just where you got this amazing insight from on the washing habits of 62million people?

              1. re: pj26

                Ha, ha, great reply. I rinse all my hand washed dishes in hot water. It only takes one sip from a cup with the taste of detergent to make sure it doesn't happen again. I always pester anyone helping me to do the same.

                1. re: cathodetube

                  What's this talk about detergent? I give my dishes a wipe with rag dipped in petrol, and back in cupboard they go. Clean as a whistle. No pesky soap residue to deal with.

                    1. re: foreverhungry

                      Just don't light up while doing the dishes....lol

                    1. re: pj26

                      Nope. Never rinsed anything after washing it. Goes straight from sink to draining board.

                      Never occured to me that anyone would think there was anything odd about it until reading this thread. Certainly won't be altering my practice of several decades of washing.

                      I also never pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher - I recall a thread from a couple of years back where I was in a minority there as well. I suepct it;s just that Americans tend to be more hygienic that we Britons. In fatc, I'm surprised that with our poor crockery hygiene practices that we havnt all died out years ago.

                      1. re: Harters

                        Hear, hear. There is such a thing as being too clean.

                        1. re: Harters

                          You'd have LOVED my ex -- there were a few soap bubbles on the *bottom* of a skillet in the sink...he proceeded to throw a hissy fit, accusing me of causing a case of diarrhea before it happened. (It never did happen, by the way).

                          Yeah, there's a lot of reasons why EX is the key part of that sentence.

                          1. re: Harters

                            Actually, American dishwashers require pre washing because they don't work as well as British & European ones.

                            I like a thin slice of brown bread toasted and buttered. The I fry one egg in a non stick frying pan & transfer it to the plate. The heat of the fried egg warms the butter on the toast again. Add butter to your frying pan and half a can of Heinz baked beans. Warm them up and ladle them onto the eggs on toast. Salt and peper as desired

                            1. re: Kalivs

                              Not true -- my dishwashers in the US and Europe clean about equally.

                              I do tend to rinse, simply because we don't manage to fill the dishwasher every day, and things tend to pong a bit by the second day.

                              1. re: Kalivs

                                I disagree . My American dishwasher requires no pre wash and will clean and dry a full load of dishes (pots and pans included without rinsing first) in no time. 40 minutes for a regular wash and about an hour for heavy duty. Now I can add a pre wash or sanitize to the cycle if I like and that can take anywhere from 90 minutes to an hour.

                                1. re: Kalivs

                                  Kal-
                                  ok great! I' starving now....thanks :)

                                2. re: Harters

                                  I guess all you people who don't rinse your dishes after washing like the taste of detergent in your food. The very thought of this makes me wretch.

                                  1. re: DANelson

                                    It's how it's done in the UK for the most part -- I'm pretty sure that with a population of 60-some million people in the US, if it was an issue, they would all rinse their dishes.

                                    They don't, so it isn't.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      As you know, sunshine, we Brits care nothing for the taste of fine food and our diet is appalling. The taste of detergent is a considerable improvement on the taste of most foods we eat.

                                      Beans, toast, Finish. Yummy.

                                      I prefer the flavour of Finish tablets, rather than the loose stuff. Just seems a tad more refined.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        What about a nice glop of original Fairy liquid?

                                        1. re: cathodetube

                                          I've heard that Gordon Ramsay is offering an amuse-bouche of a Finish tablet garnished with Fairy liquid.

                                          (and that was supposed to be 60-some million people in the *UK*....)

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Isn't Fairy Liquid some type of dish soap, too? Lmao. What will Gordon Ramsey come up with next?

                                            1. re: DANelson

                                              yes, Fairy is the brand name of one of the leading dishwashing liquids in the UK.

                                              Finish is a dishwasher tablet.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                I know about Finish dishwasher tablets. We have them, too. They aren't as popular as Cascade dishwasher detergent, however. I could just imagine Gordon Ramsey swooshing that over a blue Finish dishwasher tablet, dramatically.

                                                1. re: DANelson

                                                  Yes, those have 100% of your daily requirements for surfactants, all in one easy-to-swallow tablet.

                                          2. re: cathodetube

                                            Yes, I've heard that there are Michelin starrred chefs in Britain who are serving Fairy, presented in that fashionable swoosh across the plate.

                                            1. re: Harters

                                              the blue and pink make a nice contrast to the gastrique.

                                      2. re: DANelson

                                        .....if I'm hand washing&then set to dry on the counter receptacle, I thoroughly rinse with hot water. that's how I was taught.

                                        if I'm doing a pre-rinse because they're going into the dishwasher, I semi wash to get solids off then rinse well and into the DW they go. that's how I was taught.

                                        always have rinsed in hot water water as I don't want to get sick, taste soap, leave anything on dish, utensil, pot/pan, glass or cup. that's how I was taught and.........I'm married to my husband, 2 good reasons to continue tradition.

                                      3. re: Harters

                                        I'm not interested in eating soap - !?!?!

                                        Do you all have soap bubbles in your soup?

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          Yes, indeed, sandylc.

                                          The green of the Fairy goes particularly well with creamy soups - good colour contrast.

                                          1. re: Harters

                                            I saw a mango-scented washing-up liquid when I was in Coventry last autumn -- I'm certain it would add exactly the right notes to a curry!

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Hm-mm, soap and food pairings....a new hobby?

                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                seriously -- I've never had a single meal anywhere, public or private, in England (anywhere from Lancs to Hants), Scotland, Wales, or Ireland that tasted even remotely of soap.

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                We've settled on Ecover camomile & marigold. It lends the right notes to such a wide spectrum of dishes. Unfortunately, not available in dishwasher tabs, only hand wash liquid.

                                                (PS: Yes, this is our usual washing up liquid)

                                      4. re: pdxgastro

                                        I gotta say, the practice of just pouring water over the backs of the soapy dishes horrified me when the guy I was seeing in London did it twenty-five years ago, and it still horrifies me when my in-laws do it now....I've just never learned to appreciate the soap bubbles in my coffee, sorry.

                                        1. re: tonifi

                                          but nothing tastes of soap bubbles, at least not in any of the private homes where I've eaten....

                                          and any nation as fanatical about tea (and more recently, coffee) as England would certainly not keep a stiff upper lip about soap bubbles in their hot beverages...

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            I just bet that those who don't rinse their dishes aren't using tons of soap. I think we here in the US like a sink full of bubbles. I remember my mom complaining that I used too much soap and didn't rinse the dishes well enough, when I was a kid. So, I cut down on the amount of dish soap I used and rinsed them off after washing, as per usual.

                                        2. re: pdxgastro

                                          - the years of wiping pots... covered in mild green Fairy foam - what were we thinking?

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Yup, Heinz beans in tomato sauce. Blue can. Those are indeed the ones to use.

                                      2. Yes, Heinz. They're good as a topping for baked potatoes, or "jacket" potatoes, as they say over there.

                                        1. A favorite of mine...add a dab of Gulden's mustard

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Lettucepray

                                            I like it with a little mayo and onion.

                                          2. Just to clarify, it's Heinz baked beans in the blue tin--in "tomato sauce." The same ones served in English breakfasts. They're not the same as the brown-sugary ones that Americans often associate with baked beans. I don't remember seeing these very often in American shops, but I know they sell them at Kalustyan's in New York--along with Marmite and PG Tips tea and other British items! Beans on toast isn't exciting, but it is a British staple.

                                            12 Replies
                                            1. re: Kagey

                                              Kagey has it right -- you need to make sure to buy Heinz baked beans. They're much less sweet than the Boston variety.
                                              This may be a simple dish but it can be very comforting. Pile the beans on a couple of slices of thickly buttered toast. Brown HP sauce is my preferred accompaniment. You can probably buy that in the same shop as the beans. You can make the dish more substantial by topping with a fried egg or some grated cheddar.

                                              1. re: katielp

                                                That's interesting, because the only thing I could find when I was in the US were the canned beans with tomato sauce, and the baked beans I was used to were made with molasses and salt pork.

                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                    No, it was California. I grew up in Western Canada, but my Dad was from Southern Ontario, and he made the most amazing baked beans, with the molasses and salt pork. Mmmm....

                                                  2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                    Wow really? Where were you when you were here in the US ? In my parts I've never ever heard of beans in tomato sauce . All I've ever seen are the sweet pork and beans. I'd like to try the other kind though

                                                    1. re: nikups

                                                      The UK Heinz beans in tomato sauce in the blue can is available at most of my local supermarkets in the NYC 'burbs, especially visible at A&P. This is relatively recent, the past 2-3years.

                                                      1. re: nikups

                                                        You're kidding? The common 'Pork 'n Beans' we grew up eating here in the US...ie.,Campbell's & the like... were (and are still) ALL in tomato sauce!

                                                        1. re: The Professor

                                                          Many US baked beans do not have tomatoes in their sauce. Especially Boston/New England style. Heinz and Campbells do. But what we are talking about is that Campbells, Heinz, B&M, etc. are in a sweeter sauce. The UK Heinz in tomato sauce are a more savory and tomato flavored sauce, with many less spices, no molasses, and less of other ingredients.

                                                          Bush's original: white beans, water, brown sugar, sugar, bacon, salt, mustard, corn starch, onion powder, caramel color, spices, garlic powder, and natural flavors. No Tomato.

                                                          B&M regular: Baked Small Pea Beans In Sauce Containing Water, Sugar, Molasses, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cooked Bacon (Cured With Water, Salt, Sugar, Smoke Flavor, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite), Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Dried Onion, Spice, Brown Sugar, Natural Smoke Flavor, Dried Garlic, Natural Flavor.

                                                          B&M bacon & onion: Baked small pea beans, water, sugar, molasses, bacon, salt, corn starch, dried onion, spices, brown sugar, smoke flavor, dried garlic, natural flavor.

                                                          B&M vegetarian: Baked Small Pea Beans In Sauce Containing Water, Sugar, Molasses, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Dried Onion, Spice, Dried Garlic, Natural Flavor.

                                                          Look's are a fantastic New England bean.
                                                          Look's Atlantic yellow beans: Yellow Eye Beans, Water, Pork, Fancy Grade-a Molasses, Evaporated Cane Juice, Salt and Proprietary Spices.

                                                          Look's Atlantic Soldier beans: Soldier Beans, Water, Pork, Fancy Grade-a Molasses, Pure Cane Sugar, Brown Sugar, Salt and Proprietary Spices.

                                                          Heinz US and UK have tomatoes or tomato paste as an ingredient.

                                                          Heinz UK beans in tomato sauce: Beans (51%), Tomatoes (34%), Water, Sugar, Modified Cornflour, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Spice Extracts, Herb Extract.

                                                          Heinz US vegetarian: Water, Prepared Beans, Tomato Paste, Brown Sugar, Sugar, Salt, Distilled Vinegar, Modified Corn Starch, Spice, Mustard Seed, Mustard Bran, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Paprika, Turmeric.

                                                          Campell's beans: Water, Cooked Pea Beans, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Pork, Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Distilled Vinegar, Oleoresin Paprika, Caramel Color, Flavoring.

                                                  3. re: Kagey

                                                    It's quite true, they are not the same (ours are way better IMHO!). To make the dish a little more exciting, you can top with mustard and diced sweet onion.

                                                    Heinz are available here at Indian grocery stores.

                                                    1. re: Kagey

                                                      We have PG Tips tea bags (with pyramid shaped bags)in the big boxes here,too. As well as, Marmite and Vegamite in the regular grocery stores in Montana. I wonder why we have so much Brit food in a place that likes to call itself "Butte America". Lots of people claim to be Irish here but, few claim to be Brits.

                                                      1. re: DANelson

                                                        "I wonder why we have so much Brit food in a place that likes to call itself "Butte America". "

                                                        Obviously, a community that enjoys quality food.