When I first started taking driving lessons, each week would bring with it a rising sense of dread. I’d wait by the window, willing my instructor to just somehow not arrive. I wasn’t wishing some horrible car accident on him. I didn’t picture him, bloody and broken, having fallen foul of one of Edinburgh’s most confusing roundabouts, or being T-boned by a speeding truck mid-three-point-turn. But I dared to imagine that, perhaps, with so many young incompetents learning to drive in the city, he might just forget about one of us.

He never did.

I passed my driving test at the first attempt and, while it took me – minimum – a year to feel confident reverse parking or (God help me) hill starting after my ancient and temperamental VW Beetle stalled for the gazillionth time (this was in the days of the stick shift), I’m now a perfectly passable driver.

It’s kind of the same with cooking. I think Matt can sense my resistance. We’ve been “meeting” weekly for about just over a month – him a cordon-bleu trained chef, me the reluctant learner; him coaxing me gently to have fun in the kitchen, me wondering why we don’t just cut out the middle woman (me) and order in.

This week’s recipe was a good, old-fashioned breakfast fry-up – with home-made baked beans. To save me going grocery shopping, he hand-delivered little baggies containing all the necessary spices, leaving me to just get bacon, eggs, and beans.

Highlights included Matt telling me the corn starch paste should have the consistency of “spit or sperm” and me, after about 45 minutes of cooking and 15 minutes of washing up, wondering why we didn’t just go out and buy a can of Heinz in the first place.

I’ll tell you why: because these are WAY more tasty. They’re WAY more healthy. And, having made them, I now have enough to last me at least a month. Look out, ozone layer!



1 can white beans

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

2 tbsp tomato paste (or more ketchup)

2 tbsp garlic powder

2 tbsp onion powder

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp HP sauce (optional)

2 tbs white vinegar

1.5 liters water

2 tbsp corn stretch dissolved in 3 tbsp water

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Drain the can of beans and put in a large saucepan

2. Add all the ingredients except the corn starch, stir, and bring to a gentle boil before simmering for – oh, about 30 minutes, until the water has reduced and it just covers the beans (don’t boil to aggressively or the beans will break up into mush).

3. Mix the corn starch and water into a paste that resembles “spit or sperm” and stir into the beans. Stir it in immediately. Do not do what I did, which was pour the mix in, go put the bowl in the sink, then come back to a congealed blob. Keep stirring until it starts to thicken and resemble baked beans, then turn the heat off.

4. Serve your beans with sourdough toast, fried egg and (if you’re me, not Matt, who’s veggie), sausage and bacon. You won’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

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