Food takes me back to places I physically can’t get to anymore. A plate of corned beef hash with lashings of HP Sauce and I’m 8 again, balancing a slightly too hot tray on my knee of a Saturday evening, watching Blind Date and wondering when I might be old enough to ask clever questions to potential suitors.
Lemony roast chicken accompanied by a very cold glass of Jacob’s Creek Sauvignon Blanc and I’m 17, playing house with my boyfriend and studying Delia’s Complete Cookery Course with the attention my A Level texts never quite got. And then there’s sausage and mash with salted butter beyond belief and sticky onion gravy; that is the taste of my university years. A plate piled so high us girls would have a little break halfway through, just to pace ourselves.
And here, with my veggie chilli, I am taking you back to about 9 years ago. I was living in London, rarely in the flat for dinner; more often out, drinking red wine or gin and loving my city life, despite feeling just a little bit lonely sometimes. Most Sundays, as a restorative measure I’d make a vat of this chilli and gobble up a huge bowl before visiting to the Clapham Picture House and munching on a large bag of chocolate raisins. Life is all about balance after all.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large onion
- 200g mushrooms
- 1 red pepper
- 1 thumb (about 4cm x 2cm) fresh ginger, grated
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 x 400g tin kidney beans in chilli sauce
- 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
- 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 x tin sweetcorn, drained
- 10 tbsp red lentils
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat and add the salt. Peel the onion and chop into 2cm squares. Add to the oil and stir then leave to soften for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Quarter the mushrooms and prepare the pepper by removing the stalk and seeds and chopping into 2cm-ish chunks. Add both vegetables to the onions and stir well. Leave to fry for 5 minutes.
Add the ginger, garlic, chilli, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, black pepper, kidney beans in their sauce (or use the ones without simply drained if you can’t find them), chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and give it a good stir. Fill the chopped tomato tin with water and add this to the pan. Stir well and leave on a low heat to simmer away for 20 minutes.
Lastly add the drained sweetcorn and red lentils, stir well and leave to simmer gently for 15 more minutes. The sauce will thicken and then it’s ready to serve. With soft tortilla wraps, chopped avocado, rice, sour cream or whatever else you might fancy.
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