Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chill-Busting Chilli

I do like chilli, I really do, but it lacks adventurousness and, while not particularly unhealthy, doesn't really pack much of a punch in the nutrition stakes. Don't get me wrong, I'll never turn down a big steaming bowl of chili, but when picking something of a hearty, inexpensive nature to cook, it tends to get sidelined by other dishes that have a little more, well, personality. This vegetarian version, on the other hand, I feel will become a regular fixture in my eating schedule, and one I'll turn to again and again in the winter months when I need nutritious warming up from the inside on the cheap. It is absolutely rammed with health-givingness, thanks to an abundance of pulses and veggies. It isn't invaded by any (relatively) sneaky, treaty ingredients like cream or cheese - though obviously it is entirely possible to make these additions if you so wish. For me, it's the loveliest kind of healthy food, that which leaves you feeling neither cheated nor empty, but, rather, full and satisfied and not wanting of any further addition or embellishment. It's from the kitchen of one Gwyneth Paltrow, a recipe she conceived to feed her vegetarian daughter. The recipe says that it serves four. I put away the lot within 24 hours, initially scoffing it down with basmati rice after a cycle, and then I finished it off the following day in a pitta to quell the devious hunger brought on by wedding celebrations the night before. A more ladylike and decorous appetite than mine should find that it will serve up four to six portions. This is definitely one for the athletes among you: it does that essential task of refueling after a training session and allowing the option of further portions in a healthy manner, significantly reducing the urge to tell yourself that you have earned the right to recompense your body's efforts with empty calories.

Another reason why this is sure to become a future favourite is because of the minimal effort involved. It takes a little time to cook alright, but there is barely anything to do over the course of two hours other than plonk a few ingredients in, give it a stir and get on with other household tasks. The greatest amount of prep is in the chopping of the initial additions to the pan: one carrot, diced, half an onion, diced, half a large red pepper, diced, and two cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped. 

Heat up two tablespoons of olive oil in a pot and pop the chopped veggies in there, along with 3/4 teaspoon mild chilli powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. This recipe uses mild chilli powder, though it's really just a case of knowing your audience; if you're cooking for children, chances are you'll need to keep the heat to a minimum. Personally I like it hot, so I didn't hold back on the chilli powder. 

The veggies take about 15 minutes to soften, after which you need to add one teaspoon of chipotle chillies in adobo sauce. I made a fairly lame effort to locate this particular ingredient. I didn't have the time to go chasing it all over town, so after looking it up online and asking the twitter community about what their thoughts about an alternative were, I decided to use some sambal oelek, which I had bought to make an egg curry. The overall consensus is that any hot sauce will make a decent substitute, but ultimately you'll be missing out on the smokiness of the chiptoles. 

Next comes two tins of tomatoes; again, the recipe specifies tins of whole tomatoes, but I just used the two cheapie tins of chopped tomatoes that I had in the press. Bring that lot to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes.

Now it really starts to get nutritious: 100g puy lentils (uncooked! They cook in the pot, and are added uncooked to stews and suchlike because they hold their shape as they do so, rather than turning to mush), a can of black beans and a can of kidney beans. Fill one of those cans with water and add it all to the mix, along with a big pinch of salt, bring it to the boil and then take it back down to a simmer. After 40 minutes add three tablespoons of tomato pureé and cook it for another 20 minutes at which point it should all be one big harmoniously spicy bean love-in.

I practically ate this right out of the pot after I made it; I had cooked it right up to the addition of the tomatoes until I headed out for a cycle, and then when I came back I continued on with the pulses. In between attending to the various additions and stirrings I showered and dressed and tidied and distracted myself from my hunger. When I finally got stuck in, I paired it with a steaming cloud of fluffy basmati rice. And it made a tasty alternative to a blah-blah-blah sandwich when I scooped it into a wholemeal pitta the next day. The Gwynster suggests pairing it with créme fraiche or yogurt, chopped spring onions and coriander. As I was opting to keep it simple, I left those ingredients off my shopping list, but do play around with it at will.


  1. Oh I love a woman who is as big a piggie as me!!!! Looks delicious.

  2. Heh heh heh...oh I take piggery to a whole new level entirely!

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