"Cheese has always been good to me."
Jim Friteuse

Friday, September 14, 2012


As Jim was completing his spycraft training, Claire’s TV show Cooking With Cans became an instant success. Literally hundreds of New Zealanders tuned in every week to watch their new culinary heroine tackle such classics as Tinned Salmon Sandwiches, Tinned Ham and Mustard with Iceberg Lettuce and Gourmet Beans on Toast. The book that accompanied the series, Cooking From A Can, became the biggest selling cookery book in the history of New Zealand. 

Cooking From A Can. Bigger Than the Bible?

The male population of the country were eternally grateful to Claire for introducing their wives to such a varied and delicious form of cookery. Cooking From A Can revolutionised the way women cooked in New Zealand and their men were eternally grateful for it as up until then their meals had consisted mainly of undercooked meat, overcooked vegetables, raw bananas, nuts, berries and Alpen breakfast cereal.

What follows is Claire’s now classic recipe for gourmet beans on toast from page 82 of Cooking From A Can.

This is the world’s most wonderful beans on toast recipe. The colour alone, the beautiful orange hue, perfectly matches the aromatic deliciousness of their taste; and the bready crunchiness of the toast exactly compliments the squishiness of the haricot beans in luscious tomato sauce. Of all the recipes in this book, this is the one that pleases me the most, especially if you use gourmet beans.

This is the perfect hearty meal for your husband or the person you love after he has spent a long gruelling day at the cheese factory, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce turns it into a meal fit for a king with guaranteed sex afterwards – if you fancy it, of course.

For the beans:
1 tin of gourmet beans
1 can opener
1 small to medium sized saucepan
1 wooden spoon

For the toast:
2 slices of granary bread, crusts left on
1 large portion of salted butter
1 butter knife

Turn the ring on the stove to medium and set the toaster for 3 minutes.

Open the tin of gourmet beans using the can opener. You can use a Faringdon Butterfly opener for this task if that is all you have, but I think there are many more decent innovative plastic can openers on the market that work very well. Alas, the Faringdon is not one of them – it tends to spin without moving along the top of the tin. My personal favourite is the Brabantia plastic can opener – it is durable and easy to clean and comes with a stainless steel hanging loop for convenient storage.

Tease the gourmet beans out of the can and into the saucepan with a fork, being careful not to cut yourself on the edge of the freshly cut rim. I keep a large box of sticking plasters within reach for just such an emergency. Once some of the beans start to tumble out of the can, just give it a shake and the rest will follow. You may find that not all the beans have vacated the can – even with some vigorous shaking. Don’t be alarmed by this – there will be plenty of time for tears when your husband gets home – with cheap own brand beans there is always a lot of sauce and they come out easily, but gourmet beans are densely packed in, so you may need to use the fork again to coax the last few out. Give the contents of the pan a good stir.

Now take the two slices of ready sliced granary bread and place them into the toaster. Push down the handle thingy on the side so they start to cook. If it is a new loaf of bread you may have to open the plastic bag in which it is contained. This can sometimes be tricky as the ties that certain manufacturers use can be fiddly and difficult to remove, especially when you are wearing false nails. I find that a pair of scissors will do the trick, but you must be careful not to hold the bag upside down when you are cutting as all the slices of bread will tumble onto the floor and dinner will be ruined!

Make sure that you stir the beans every now and again to keep the heat moving around the saucepan. I like to stir in a clockwise direction, although Australians, I have been told, for some peculiar reason, like to stir their beans in an anti-clockwise direction, which, I think, ruins the all round flavour of the finished dish.

When the two slices of toast merrily pop up, remove them from the toaster – watch out, they will be hot – and place them onto a large dinner plate. Use the knife to butter them with, making sure that you have taken the butter out of the fridge beforehand. I like to use Anchor butter myself, but if you are poor you can use any butter you like – but never margarine! Only retarded people and Egyptians spread margarine on toast.

Once the toast has been buttered, remove the saucepan from the heat and delicately pour the beans onto the scrumptiously buttered toast.
Serve hot.
For an exciting variation of this recipe why not try using melted cheese instead of beans. I was served this once as the main dish at a lavish dinner in the residence of the Welsh Ambassador for New Zealand in Auckland, where I was informed by his excellency, Dai the Bread (a most charming and erudite man who wore his country's traditional costume - a miner's helmet and green blazer with a leek sewn onto the left lapel - throughout the evening), that it was the national dish of Wales. It was scrumptiously delicious and you can find that recipe along with a few photographs of his excellency's fine collection of life-sized porcelain sheep on page 153.
I was going to cook this dish tonight but my husband left the cheese in the fridge at work and I had to make do with Tinned Sardines on Toast (page 95), even though I don't really like fish.

Of course, Claire's book was not a success with everyone in New Zealand. A sizeable proportion of the population (around 13%) preferred to cook from packets and there was only one recipe (well, half a recipe for those who like to split hairs) that catered for their needs, that of Tinned Sausage and Smash (page 97), but they were mostly from South Island and therefore didn't count.

As sales of Cooking From A Can increased, outselling even the Bible in some parts of the country, events were taking place that would change Claire's life forever.

No comments:

Post a Comment