13 Jan vegetarian chilli
A number of years ago, when I was just learning how to cook, I entered a chilli making competition, purely for fun (though I think some competitors took it a little more seriously than I). There were around twelve competitive pots of chilli for our judge to taste. A number of us, myself included, had used beef mince while the winner’s pot was a heat-packed delight of slow cooked hunks of beef. Before then, it had never even occurred to me to use “proper” meat in chilli. Of course, mince is much faster to cook but there’s no comparison to the taste and texture that comes from a slow-cooked hunk of beef such as brisket that has been braised in a smokey tomato sauce.
When I seek the comfort of chilli, and want it to be speedy, I make a vegetarian chilli rather than using mince. This is the same base that I use for my meat chilli. When I have the time, rather than using mince meat, I use cuts like beef brisket (your butcher should have some) or regular stewing beef for my chilli pots. It means the cooking time is longer, certainly, but the flavour of the end result is well worth it. And you’re not toiling over the pot as your brisket cooks. You just let it bubble away for upwards of three hours while you get on with your life.
But, of course, this type of chilli is better suited for a weekend supper when you have time to get the chilli on the hob three to four hours before dinnertime. To include meat, brown it off at the beginning of the process and then set aside until you’re adding your spices and tinned tomatoes. Then you let it simmer away until the meat is tender. By all means, if you like mince, please feel free to add to the recipe at the same steps as the brisket. But do consider trying the beef brisket chilli approach on a day off soon.
The meat-free chilli pot is ready within an hour and it’s just as comforting as a meat-loaded chilli, particularly when you go heavy-handed on the heat and smokiness. Rather then using fresh or powdered chilli, go for a dried and smokey chilli. I find using chilli flakes is more reliable in terms of controlling the heat. I’ve found that some fresh chilli peppers can turn out to be very mild (or extremely hot), and I’ve found that this is less so when using dried chillis.
1 red onion
1 red pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of chilli flakes
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 x 400 ml tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 cooked corn on the cob
1 x 400ml tin of kidney beans
Yogurt or sour cream
Half a ripe avocado
Small bunch of fresh coriander
1. Add a glug of olive oil to a large heavy-based saucepan and heat over a medium to high heat. Peel and finely slice the red onion. De-seed and slice the red pepper. Gently fry the onion and red pepper for 10 mins, until the onion is translucent.
2. Peel and finely dice the garlic. Add the garlic to the onions and pepper, along with the chilli flakes, smoked paprika and ground cumin. Stir well and cook for 1 minute. Add the tins of chopped tomatoes, the tablespoon of sugar and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything together well and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chilli sauce has thickened and looks glossy rather than watery.
3. Use a sharp knife to remove the corn kernels from the cob. Drain the kidney beans and rinse them under cold water. Add the corn and the beans to the chilli. Simmer for another few minutes until the corn and the beans are warmed through. Serve the chilli in bowls topped with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, a scoop of ripe avocado flesh, a few sprigs of fresh coriander and a slice of lime on the side for squeezing into the chilli.
Storecupboard Essential: Chillis
The best source of dried chillis in Ireland is Picado Mexican Pantry in Dublin 2. If you can’t visit their shop, their online shop (www.picadomexican.com) is fully stocked and ready to blow your socks off. If you prefer using fresh chillis, you should place your order with The Irish Chilli Farm in Roscrea. This family business have been growing chillis on their land since 2014, after noticing that one of their favourite ingredients was being flown in from afar. Order fresh chillis from them on www.theirishchillifarm.ie.
This recipe first appeared in The Irish Independent on Thursday 12th January 2017