Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beans on toast

Late last night, in between two back-to-back episodes of Spielberg’s Pacific, I got an inexplicable hankering for something I haven’t eaten in over a decade – beans on toast. Needless to say, I didn’t have a tin of Heinz baked beans to hand – I can get them from the local supermarket but I refuse, out of principle, to pay €2.50 for the privilege (anyone travelling through these parts from the UK any time soon please bear this in mind).

There was only one thing to do when faced with such a situation. Adapt. Because although it might seem that beans on toast was invented in the UK, I’d hazard a guess the idea actually originated closer to home (least, home as it is today). They just call it by a different name.

Bruschetta, crostini or crostoni are Italy’s answer to toast with a topping. The are minor semantic differences between the three, if you really want to be pedantic, but generally speaking they are treated synonymously. At it’s simplest bruschetta is made by rubbing a clove of garlic over a piece of toasted bread, drizziling liberally with good quality extra virgin olive oil and finishing with a generous sprinkling of salt.  It’s known in Tuscany as fett’unta (literally an ‘oiled slice’) and although the Tuscans would probably like to lay claim, it is just as likely to have originated in Lazio or Umbria or any other Italian region for that matter. Furthermore, a bruschetta can then be topped with any number of toppings – fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, roasted peppers, cheese, the variations are literally endless.

Wherever it comes from, the principles are always the same. Good bruschetta relies on the quality of the bread and the quality of the topping. The rustic country loaves, once ubiquitous throughout Italy, are in my mind best suited to the job. Cut thickly, the bread can develop a satisfying crunch on the outside whilst remaining soft on the inside. I carved out two hefty wedges, brushed a little olive oil on either side and threw them on top of a smoking griddle.

While I was waiting I sliced half a red onion and threw it into a bowl along with a tin of cannellini beans. I added a tablespoon of fresh chopped chives, a good glug of olive oil and gave everything a quick mix. By the time I’d done this my toast was perfectly browned on either side. To finish, I rubbed the toast with garlic for some underlying flavour and topped with the beans and onions. To finish, another drizzle of extra virgin and a generous grinding of salt and pepper. So, with a plate of beans on toast in hand, I went back to Pacific, episode 2! 

1 comment:

  1. Why not add reduced tomato sauce, a dash of vinegar, sugar or molasses to taste and - if you like it hot - some dried chillis. Much more like the real thing!

    Add some cooked local italian sausages, top with breadcrumbs and cook in oven on a low heat for a marvelous italian winter warmer.