I like vegetarian cooking, but have long had a problem with vegetarian chili, and in particular the texture. Without overcooking the beans and vegetables it’s always seemed like a spicy vegetable and bean soup. A friend suggested blending it a bit with a stick blender. I loved it!
Serves 4 hungry people, or 6 people whose appetites are smaller
- Oil (I used sunflower oil, but olive oil is good too.)
- 1 onion (I used a red onion, but a brown onion would be just as good)
- 1 red capsicum
- 2 carrots (on the larger size, but not the tree-trunk sized ones)
- 2 sticks of celery
- 3 fat cloves of garlic (or three big dollops of already-crushed garlic from a jar)
- About a heaped pudding spoonful of ground cayenne pepper (be bold; trust me)
- Ground cumin, more than a teaspoon, less than a tablespoon
- Ground smoked paprika, about the same amount as the cumin
- 1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs (I know, it sounds ridic, but it works)
- A good heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder (NOT drinking chocolate)
- 2 400 g cans of chopped tomatoes
- 2 400 g cans of beans (I used Woolworths Mexican Beans mix, which is a mix of kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans but you can use any beans you like)
- 1 400 g can of sweetcorn kernels (or you can use frozen if you have some in the freezer)
- 400 ml vegetable stock (I used stock powder and an empty tomato can full of hot water)
- A few drops of Tabasco sauce (enough to put the willies up you a bit, but not so much you’re genuinely afraid)
- Splash of white wine vinegar
Note: try to get the “no added salt” version of the canned stuff; it’ll taste better.
Chop up the capsicum, carrots and celery and dice the onion. Warm the oil in a big saucepan or pot or casserole or something (I used the 3 litre Ikea 365+ pot, which was a bit snug, and I reckon the 5-litre one would have been better) and toss in the chopped vegetables. Keep the heat low and turn them over in the oil before putting a lid on. Stir them every now and then and after about fifteen minutes they should be tender. If not, leave them a bit longer, but you don’t want them mushy; just tender.
Now turn up the heat and put in the garlic, the spices and the herbs stirring to combine, and then add the cocoa powder. Stir that in too: it will combine with the oil and vegetable juices and go lovely and glossy – that’s when it’s time to add the tomatoes, drained beans, and drained corn, as well as the stock (or water and stock powder). Use the stock too rinse out the tomato cans. Stir it all together and bring it up to a simmer.
Once it’s simmering, turn the heat down so it’s simmering gently and let it cook for about half an hour, stirring occasionally and making sure nothing’s sticking to the bottom.
After half an hour add salt and pepper to taste (if you add salt before you cook the beans they’ll end up tasting of nothing – that’s also why I recommending using cans with no added salt).
Now take it off the heat and leave it to cool down for a couple of minutes. It won’t get cold. Use a stick blender to give it a bit of a whizz – just a couple of pulses, but don’t go crazy: you’re not making soup. If you don’t have a stick blender (and honestly, if you don’t you really should get one, and a decent one – the best you can afford) you can put a couple of ladlefuls into an ordinary blender and whizzy whizzy before adding it back to the pot (and if you don’t have any kind of blender you could put a couple of ladlefuls through a mouli, or go at it with a potato masher, but I really do recommend doing something to get the contrasting textures).
Finally stir in a splash of white wine vinegar, check the seasoning and serve! I put some slices of avocado on top and it was delicious. I often put broken tortilla chips on chili too, and, while I don’t really like it, a lot of people put corriander leaves on the top. A dollop of sour cream and that grated Monterrey Jack cheese is nice if you’re not concerned about it not being vegan