Easy, hearty and delicious
This slow-cooked pork in beans & smoked bacon is good for the soul.
PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOKING TIME: 3 hrs slow-cooking
IDEAL FOR: crowd-pleaser, family
I’ve had a week of culture.
Since we can’t travel these days without PCR tests, lateral flow tests, quarantine hotel, the list goes on…
We decided to spend a few days in London Town.
And get a good dose of culture.
But I can tell you, it’s exhausting.
Not only were my feet sore from all the walking.
But I frazzled my brain a little absorbing all this highbrow tourism.
I say ‘highbrow’ but some of it was pretty brutal and terrifying.
Like learning about London’s infamous Newgate prison during a tour of the Old Bailey.
So, if you decide to do a day or two of culture somewhere, my two tips are:
- Comfy shoes
- A hearty meal (dinner the night before or lunch before you head off)
This is why I’m introducing you to this hearty, slow-cooked pork in beans & smoked bacon.
Simple. Tasty. Good energy release.
But before I let you delve into the recipe.
I thought I’d share some of the more interesting (sometimes gruesome) facts of London’s criminal and justice system from over 700 yrs ago.
The name alone would send a chill through the heart of any Londoner.
It was a terrifying place.
And was the most notorious prison in London was built in the 12th century by order of King Henry II.
It sat in the City of London (behind St Paul’s Cathedral).
And housed London’s wickedest for more than 700 years, until 1902.
(and some not so wicked but very unfortunate).
From thieves to highwaymen, to cutthroats and murderers.
Newgate grew in notoriety in 1782, when they moved London’s public gallows here from the Tyburn Tree (corner of Oxford St and Hyde Park).
This was to help control the immense crowds that gathered for public executions.
Some would bring between 20 000 – 30 000.
They took place outside the prison walls on the Old Bailey Road.
The Central Criminal Court (a.k.a. The Old Bailey) now stands on the site of the old Newgate Prison.
And actually has part of the old Roman wall used as a low bearing structure for the Old Bailey.
Newgate (post-Tyburn site) wasn’t the only public execution site.
There were 5 and they were set up for specific types of crimes:
- Tyburn Gallows – for felons
- The Tower of London – for traitors
- Execution Dock at Wapping – for pirates
- West Smithfield – for heretics, witches, servants who killed their masters, and women who killed their husbands (also called “petty treason”)
- East Smithfield – was often used to execute riverside thieves
A little lightness in the darkness
Tim and I were lucky enough to have a tour of the Old Bailey with the City of London’s Sheriff.
And discover many intriguing, gruesome stories about Newgate prison.
(NB: the Sheriff is an annually elected official who supports the Lord Mayor with their civic duties and ‘runs’ the Old Bailey).
And although most of his stories were fairly unhappy tales.
He did share one story of the inventor of the toothbrush, William Addis.
In 1770, William Addis was thrown into Newgate prison for inciting riots.
He couldn’t pay to get out of prison so during his time.
So, the story goes that Addis whittled holes into a pig bone leftover from his dinner.
Then threaded them with bristles from a nearby broom… and created his toothbrush prototype.
Addis started mass-producing his contraption after leaving prison.
Setting up a company called Wisdom Toothbrush which is still going to this day.
Slow-cooked pork in beans & smoked bacon
Food was not something that was high on the list of priorities to provide to those thrown into Newgate prison.
Most prisoners under sentence of death were kept shackled.
They were fed on bread and water for the final 2-3 days of their miserable lives before being hanged.
So, a big bowl of slow-cooked pork on lovingly cooked beans… was a no go.
So we should count out lucky stars that we weren’t born back in the days of Newgate prison.
And open up the fridge, get out these simple ingredients and start cooking this soul-warming dish.
Then sit around your table and enjoy it with friends and family … without any shackles.
PS. if you want another classic slow-cooked beans recipe.
Then make sure you take a look at slow-braised oxtail with pit beans.
Slow-cooked pork in beans & smoked bacon
- 500 g dried beans, such as cannellini, borlotti or pinto
- 1 stick celery
- 4 large sprigs rosemary
- 2 large carrots, halved lengthways
- 2 large onions, one quartered, one chopped
- 2 heads garlic, halved horizontally
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 200 g pack smoked bacon lardons
- 400 g pork belly slices (rind removed), halved horizontally
- 4 tbsp black treacle/molasses
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp dark brown soft sugar
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 – 2 tbsp cider vinegar (or to taste)
- Put the beans in a bowl, cover with plenty of water and soak overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 160ºC.Drain the beans and put them into a large ovenproof casserole dish with the celery, half the rosemary, the carrots and the quartered onion. Add plenty of pepper and cover with water (enough to cover the beans by about 3-4cm). Bring to the boil on the hob, then cover and transfer to the oven.Bake for 1 hour.
- Remove the carrot and celery, then add the rest of the rosemary, the chopped onion and the garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and brown the bacon and the pork then add to the casserole dish as well. Stir in the molasses, mustard, sugar, tomato purée and chilli. Season well. Bring to the boil on the hob again, then transfer to the oven, leaving the pan uncovered. Bake for 3 hrs (maybe longer), gently turning the beans over a couple of times and checking the level of the liquid. You want it to reduce so that you are left with a thick mass, not too liquidy, but you don’t want the beans to get too dry.
- When the beans have an hour left to cook, taste them and decide whether you want to add the cider vinegar – it cuts the sweetness. In the last hour of cooking, leave the beans so that they get a nice baked crust on top
- Serve on its own or with some greens.
Diane Henry recipe