I would really encourage everyone, where possible, to get hold of the new River Cottage book, ‘Veg Everyday’. Even look up a few recipes online! As the introduction rightly points out, the aim of the book is not to convert ‘carnivores’, but to persuade everybody into indulging in a little less meat for food sustainability. The reasons put across are sound and well explained, making even the most fierce meat eater (such as my boyfriend, who lives on a farm) recognise the need to perhaps reduce their weekly intake of animal. The book aspires to refocus the mind – deterring the popular assumption that a meal is not a meal without meat. Instead of providing recipes that have an evident replacement for meat, for example a vegetarian lasagne substituing mince with Quorn, River Cottage presents an array of simple, colourful and great tasting recipes that are undeniably delicious. The brilliance of the book’s intentions is its ability to show that dishes that taste good and are healthy are not missing anything, because they are tasty and healthy; the criteria for enjoying food, regardless of whether they have meat or not.
This way of thinking is excellently demonstrated by the chili recipe – though not using a clear and definite substitute for the meat, the flavours, colours and textures of the dish show that you don’t need to, and will probably forget to, yearn for meat when something tastes as good as this! The flavour of the dish does not fall flat without mince. River Cottage manages to create a wholesome taste, by building layer upon layer of flavour, using a variety of spices, and a combination of both fresh and dried. This creates an overall impression of warmth from the chilis, fragrance from the garlic and cumin, with elements of richness from both the tomatoes and wine, dispelling the common myth that vegan food is tasteless. Allowing these flavours to simmer over a low heat gives them time to infuse together, resulting in a flavoursome sauce that combines each element of taste instead of enjoying each component in singularity. Try it for yourself, along with a big helping of guacamole – its sustainably cheap and healthy nature is a benefit you’ll take for granted as its taste takes centre stage!
From Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage ‘Veg Everyday!’
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 onions, sliced
- 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of hot cayenne pepper, or to taste if you like spicy foods
- ¼ teaspoon of allspice (use sparingly!)
- 2 large courgettes OR 6 baby courgettes, diced
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
- 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 400g tin of pinto or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
- 100ml red wine
- 200ml water
- A generous handful of parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Pour the oil into a large frying pan and warm over a medium heat. Once hot, reduce the heat, and add the onions. Allow them to sweat down, stirring occasionally until they are soft. Add the sliced chillies, ground cumin, garlic, cayenne pepper and the allspice. Stir to coat the onions in the spices.
- Add the courgettes and peppers, and stir to combine. Add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, the beans, red wine and parsley. Pour 200ml of cold water into the sauce, and season. Simmer the chili gently for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan!
- When the sauce has thickened and the courgettes and peppers are tender, taste and season again if necessary. Using roughly 75g of rice per person, rinse the grains under cold water in a sieve. Bring twice the amount of water to rice (2:1) to the boil in a large pan. Add the rinsed rice, place a lid on the pan, and boil for 13 minutes over a medium heat.
- Serve the chili with the rice, and optionally sour cream or guacamole if you want something to counter the spice!