Chili Sans Carne

August 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

Sorry about the horrible pun.

I became officially unemployed last Friday, so even more serious austerity measures are being adopted to keep myself afloat during this hopefully brief period without an income.

This means vegetarian black bean chili. And we don’t need to have a conversation about whether or not beans go in chili because this one doesn’t even have meat. Take that, internet food geeks.

A couple of notes about the recipe:

For the spicy smokiness in the dish, I use one dried chipotle chili (from a bag of them bought at Casa Iberica) crushed up in a mortar and pestle with a couple of dried red chilis. This gives it a nice back-of-throat-and-tongue kind of heat, which you can increase with hot sauce. But you could always add more or less dried chili depending on your spice-tolerance. And if you can’t buy chipotles, it’s still a good recipe, I promise.

As with minestrone, this is a recipe in which you should toss most of those vegetables that are looking a bit sad in the fridge. No one will know. The only things that aren’t optional are the onion and carrot, and the mushrooms, the latter contributes a nice meaty chewiness to balance the soft beans and potential pulse fatigue. For an idea of the size of the chopped vegetables, I thought I’d include a handy picture of the combination of vegetables I used most recently in this chili:

Best Vegetarian Chili, the vegetables

Requires about 2 hours of cooking

You will need: 1 cast-iron pot with a lid

Makes a lot of servings.  Perhaps nine?

1 cup dried black beans soaked overnight or express soaked (instructions below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large brown onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf (optional, I have a bay tree, so I’m always using them)
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried chipotle chili
2 dried red chilis
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large carrot chopped
6 regular mushrooms chopped
And a few optional vegetables: celery, zucchini, capsicum (red or green), eggplant, sweet potato, tomatoes… you know the drill.
1 tin crushed or diced tomatoes
2 tablesoons of malt or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (not strictly vegetarian but a nice addition)
2 teaspoons salt

For serving:
Top with what’s in season, cherry tomatoes, coriander, kernels of corn, avocado, a salsa fresca, sour cream. And tortilla chips. And hot sauce!
Or mix with rice and have in a burrito.
Just eat it.

To express soak the black beans:

Place them in a small saucepan and cover with 1 1/2 inches of cold water. Bring to the boil on the stove then turn the heat off, put the lid on the saucepan and leave for an hour. The beans won’t be cooked through, but will be ready to cook in the chili.

Black Bean Chili:

Pre-heat oven to 160°C

Put your cast iron pot over medium heat on the stove and pour in olive oil. Allow to heat up then add the onion and garlic. Allow the onion to become translucent then add the carrot and celery (if using).

While these soften, crush your chilies in the mortar and pestle with the cumin seeds. This requires a lot of straight-up bashing, but the chilies don’t have to be turned entirely into powder, their skins will soften in the cooking.

Add this spice mix to the pot, along with the bay leaf and cinnamon. Add the rest of your vegetables and turn the heat up if necessary, cook until these are all just tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the black beans and the water they were soaked/cooked in, then the tin of tomatoes and the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and salt. Stir.

You can now move the dish into the pre-heated oven, so it can cook for a couple of hours without you having to do any work. Cook for one hour with the lid on, then one hour with the lid off. Stir a few times if possible. You want the chili to thicken and darken.

Taste it for seasoning (salt, mainly) then serve with all the things, or none of them.

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