vegan courgette and bean chili

(from http://www.featsoffeasts.com)

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!’

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. Serve the chili with the rice, and optionally sour cream or guacamole if you want something to counter the spice!

black bean chili with chocolate and lime

Yesterday it poured with rain, and today it is brilliantly sunny. The weather really influences the food I desire – when it is cold and miserable outside, I want something in the evening to make me feel like being cooped up inside isn’t so bad after all. So yesterday, this Black Bean Chili was a fine example of the type of warming hearty dish you’d long for when you’re in need of comfort, because it’s just not that nice outside.

I’ve wanted to try to make a Black Bean Chili for ages. Although it’s not particularly any different to a normal chili con carne in terms of flavour, I wanted to see the textural differences between beans and the usual mince component. After the success (and personal enjoyment) of the spaghetti bolognese using lentils and beans last term, I thought this would be similarly tasty! The black beans are soft to bite, which means as a comfort meal, it has an element of indulgence, as essentially it doesn’t require much strength to chew! Moreover, the beans soak up the flavours of the spices – the chili powder and the smoky paprika make an excellent combination, that is flavoursome throughout the dish in comparison to a usual chili, where the flavours only usually reside in the sauce.

The thing that sets this aside from a meat chili con carne for me, however, is the addition of cocoa powder and the topping with lime juice. Hearing about both of these accompaniments to chili con carne, I couldn’t wait to try them out. Whilst I was initially sceptical about using chocolate in a spicy dish, I was brought round to the idea by seeing the popularity of items such as chili chocolate – if chili/chocolate is a combination that can be enjoyed where chocolate is the main staple, chili/chocolate must surely work where there is a hint of chocolate amongst a wealth of warming spice. In actual
fact, the use of cocoa powder gives a depth and a richness that I haven’t really tasted elsewhere! It doesn’t taste at all sweet, but the sauce takes on a new consistency, appearing more like velvet; something I am sure must come from the chocolate. The lime squeezed on the chili before serving gives a refreshing zesty tang to the beginning of the dish. As it is not stirred throughout, its citrus tones are not lost in the dish; it stays as an accompaniment that is authentic, as limes are used frequently in Mexican dishes, such as guacamole. Together, they give an excellent spin on the usual chili con carne that I was previously unaware of, but from now on, will be using with regularity. So for those, like me, experiencing strange day-on-day-off weather, combat the rainy blues with a helping of this comforting chili.

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Button mushrooms, halved
  • Half an orange pepper, chopped
  • Half a yellow pepper, chopped
  • 400g tin of black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
  • Small tin of kidney beans
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 4 tsps chili powder
  • 2 tsps smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • Juice of a lime to taste, squeezed before serving

Method

  1. Place a saucepan over a medium heat, and add a drizzle of oil. Fry the chopped onion until it begins to soften, and then add the crushed garlic cloves. When the garlic becomes fragrant in the pan, add the peppers and mushrooms and fry until the peppers begin to soften.
  2. Sprinkle in the chili powder and the paprika, and stir to coat all the ingredients in the spices. Allow to fry for a few moments further, before adding the drained and rinsed beans and the tomatoes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, and the tin of kidney beans. Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the cocoa powder, and stir well.
  4. Place a lid on the saucepan, and heat through for thirty minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced.
  5. Accompany with rice, and a fresh salad for garnish. Before serving, squeeze the lime juice over the dish, to add zesty freshness! If desired, top with grated cheese.


sun dried tomato and charred chili bread

As promised from quite a while ago, a homemade bread recipe that would be perfect to mop up the jus from the summery chicken recipe. Unfortunately, in truth the weather outside could not be further from summery! As I write it is pouring with rain and extremely windy outside; I think a thunder storm is approaching. But that is not in any way stopping me – sitting inside with the heating on, when I close my eyes and eat this bread, I am able to pretend that I am actually sitting outside in the Mediterranean sun.

Homemade bread isn’t actually difficult to make. It sounds like a challenge, but in fact bread is the ultimate ‘prep-and-part’ – most of the cooking process doesn’t involve you. It will take around ten to fifteen minutes of your actual time, and the rest the bread itself takes care of. It may not be convenient for every day use – but for a weekend treat or a special occasion, it is brilliant. Not only is there something distinctly satisfying about eating the fruits of your labour with your evening meal, or for use as a mid-afternoon sandwich, but the process is almost therapeutic. I actually heard on Radio 4 a few weeks ago about how making loaves of bread is used as therapy in some parts of the world – it is a great distraction to anything going on; a diversion culminating in a product you can be proud of. If you’re feeling stressed, there are worse things you could do than to treat yourself to a loaf or two of this!

the inclusion of finely sliced tomatoes and chili give it fantastic flavour throughout

Even though plain white, or crusty wholemeal bread, are enjoyable, what gives this loaf the edge is its Mediterranean flavours. The use of the oil throughout the cooking process – in the dough, on the clingfilm, as the grease for the tin – gives it a great flavour throughout. Adding pieces of tomato and chili give a stronger flavour in the parts of the bread they are found in; they are a segment of flavour available in every slice. These flavours lend themselves to any dish it is used alongside – this evening, for example, the bread was used in lieu of a usual seeded bun for beef burgers. The flavours of the tomato and chili from the bread added subtle extra tones to the beef burger, making it a far more enjoyable meal.

Ingredients

  • 700g strong bread flour
  • 1 sachet yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 425ml hand-hot water
  • Chilies and sun dried tomatoes, roughly sliced, to taste
  • The oil from the chilies and tomatoes

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast, sugar and salt and lightly fold with a wooden spoon.
  2. Push the flour mixture to the sides of the bowl, creating a small well in the middle. Add the hand-hot water, and drizzle in some oil from the chilies and tomatoes – stir to combine. If the mixture needs more liquid to combine, add more chilli/tomato oil; if it is too liquid, add a touch more flour.
  3. Add the finely sliced chilies and tomatoes, and stir. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured side. Knead the dough – starting from the centre of the dough, push outwards with the heel of your hand. Then, fold the pushed out side of the dough back into the centre. Rotate the dough clockwise and repeat the process.
  4. The kneading will be complete when the skin of the dough begins to have a slightly blistered appearance – this is the presence of the gluten network, which will make it rise and have a fluffy centre.
  5. When the dough has been kneaded fully, place it in a clean bowl. Lightly oil some clingfilm with some more of the chili and tomato oil; cover the bowl with the clingfilm oil side facing the dough. Leave to rise – it should double in size. This can be done overnight at room temperature, or, if you’re short of time, leaving it in a warm place can speed up the process. It is important to NOT leave the dough in too warmer area, because this can kill the yeast and it will not rise!
  6. When the dough has doubled in size, the air needs to be knocked out of it. You can do this by simply punching the dough (be careful of your hands if you consider yourself of above average strength!) in the bowl. This will cause the dough to return to its original pre-risen size.
  7. Then, transfer the dough to a lightly greased loaf tin. Cover the tin with the oiled clingfilm once more, and leave to rise again. This is called proving, and it will give the bread a better texture.
  8. Once it has risen, place in a preheated oven at 230 degrees and cook for 35 – 45 minutes. Pop the loaf out of its tin, and knock the bottom of the bread – it should make a hollow sound, and this will confirm it is cooked.
  9. Leave to cool, and serve in thin slices.