This dish was writer and broadcaster Bel Mooney's first culinary effort as a teenager - it proved a success and is still in her repertoire today.

"When I was 17 I went on an Easter CND March in London, and my friend Helen and I volunteered for a silent vigil outside the Houses of Parliament. It was bitterly cold and when we had done our shift we ran to the tube, frozen. When we reached the place we were staying at, our American hostess, a friend of Helen's parents, had the following supper dish waiting for us and it tasted better than anything I'd ever eaten. I got the recipe and it was the first dish I learnt to cook. When my husband went through a vegetarian phase I made it with minced Quorn, but obviously it's not as good."

Ingredients (serves 6):

1 mug dried haricot beans, soaked overnight

1 large spanish onion, thinly sliced

1 medium-size tin chopped tomatoes

six rashers streaky bacon

500g organic minced beef

3 to 4 tbspns brown sugar (do not leave out)

salt and pepper


"Cook the beans in water for about an hour, until tender, adding salt to taste in the last half hour of cooking. Drain and put on one side. In a large frying pan brown the meat, then add the tomatoes. Season and cook for 10 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another five minutes. On the bottom of a casserole dish put half the sliced onions, then half the bean mixture. Sprinkle with half of the sugar, then add the remaining onions, then the rest of the bean mixture. On the top lay the strips of bacon to cover, and top the bacon with the rest of the sugar. Cook in the oven at gas mark 4/180C for an hour and serve with jacket potatoes or crusty bread."

Bel Mooney's 'Devout Sceptics: Conversations on Faith and Doubt' is published by Hodder & Stoughton (£10.99)