28 April 2011

An ode to the Brits: beans on toast, Indian style!

Across the Channel, the Brits are all up in a frenzy about Friday's royal wedding, when Prince William and the lovely Kate Middelton will say "I do". Here in France, there has been no royalty since the Revolution. Liberté, égalité, fraternité are great and all, but this also means no royal weddings and the accompanying national holiday that comes with them. Not only no national holiday, but unlike the Brits who will have a four-day weekend between Friday's wedding and Monday's Labor Day observance, we have no holidays period in May this year since both Labor Day (May 1) and Victory Day (May 8) fall on Sundays and both Ascension and Pentecost fall in June. Quel scandal...a month of May full of work!

To soften the blow and satisfy their oft-denied but very real curiosity for all things British, many French will tune into TF1's live broadcast of the ceremony on Friday morning, while others will celebrate with English-inspired luncheons, apéros and pub visits. Many could care less and will stay as far away from the whole thing as they can.

As for me, I decided to give a nod to tomorrow's festivities with one of my favorite things about England...not tea and crumpets or any fancy puddings, but the good old English breakfast! I have always been a HUGE fan of traditional English breakfasts, ever since enjoying them in the various parts of Anglophone Africa in which I've worked. A weekend in London wouldn't be complete without at least one. Fried or scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and of course beans on toast (my favorite!), talk about a great (albeit not so healthy) way to start the day! Many people are disgusted by the idea of beans and other savory foods for breakfast, but not me! Part of my affinity must stem from the fact Indians traditionally eat very filling and savory meals to start the day, rather than just a little coffee and croissant or a bowl of cereal. The upma that I posted yesterday is the perfect example.

In honor of the Brits, the fabulous English breakfast and of course the royal wedding, I decided to make my beloved but admittedly humble and commoner beans on toast...though of course with an Indian twist! Baked beans are hard to come by here in Paris (outside of British, and not surprisingly, Indian supermarkets), but I scored a couple of cans here at the UNESCO commisary, which stocks a random assortment of "foreign" foodstuffs. Sauteed with some onion, ginger and garlic and seasoned with cumin, coriander and chili powders and a bit of garam masala, these were the tastiest baked beans that I've ever had and were such a snap to make! Even Luis, who claimed that he would not eat baked beans, enjoyed them. Served with some toast and ideally eggs and the other English breakfast goodies, this is the perfect breakfast to enjoy Friday morning as you watch the wedding festivities!

Cheers to you, Will and Kate!

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 can (415 grams or 14.5 ounces) baked beans
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
4 slices bread of your choice

1. Heat oil in a small saucepan over a medium flame. Once it is warm, add the cumin seeds.

2. Once the seeds start popping, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir well and saute.

3. As the onions become translucent, add the can of beans (undrained).

4. Add the cumin, coriander and chili powders and the garam masala. Stir, reduce heat to low and cook until warmed through (about 5 minutes).

5. Remove from heat and stir in coriander.

6. Toast your bread and serve with the beans and additional coriander as garnish, if desired.


  1. a neat idea and a really yummy toast in the bargain :)

  2. Now that is funny! Yes, it's rare that in France that we have less holidays in May than in the UK ;-)
    My kids LOVE baked beans on toast for supper but the odd occasion I do serve it, we have to "hide" it from their French dad: he thinks it's just awful! Perhaps next time he might approve if I do your curry version...

  3. Brilliant! Great way to ring in the non-public holiday in France. Since I live in a British overseas territory, I get tomorrow off as well, however I have to get up at 4am to watch the ceremony! I'm thinking these baked beans (and some mimosas of course) are a great motivator to get me out of bed :)


  4. Beans on toast !! Why didn't I ever think of that ? :) I like beans a lot and I usually eat it only with poori .. but with bread would be so perfect !

  5. Cute! I love a good English breakfast, too.

  6. Okay...you got me! Never heard of beans on toast as an English breakfast. But baked beans are definitely very American. We call them Boston Baked Beans. Scrambled or fried eggs are a regular morning breakfast in our house. I like your Indian spice version though!
    Here's a nod to American/England AND India. I read the original Worcestshire sauce contained the ingredient asafoetida or hing. The Brits brought a variation of the sauce back to England from India. Then the sauce made its way over to the New World. Today the ingredient list doesn't list asafoetida but historically, it makes sense!