Vegan Black Bean Chilli

Chris and I ate so much of this chilli the other night that we gave ourselves stomach aches. On Sunday after Mother’s Day breakfast, a quick run, two hours spent cleaning the oven, and a smoothie for lunch, I needed to set something bubbling away on the stove while I got down to some dissertation writing business (some of the aforementioned activities may have been procrastination tactics…). This is the second time in as many weeks that I have made a big pot of this vegan black bean chilli. The first time I greedily kept it all to myself. When Chris finally managed to scavenge a bite out of the last bowl he said ‘mmm good chilli.’

Vegan Black Bean Chilli | Gluten Free | Vegan | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Now, when your meat-loving, bacon-snuggling, chicken-chomping darling boyfriend expresses interest in your vegetarian – nay, vegan – dinner, lady, you better pay attention and make another pot of chilli – stat!

This is one of those best dishes layered with spices and filled with vegetables that makes your house smell like a home. As you ladle the thick, chunky stew into bowls and sprinkle it with coriander and spring onions you can feel a blanket of cosiness wrapping around you and your loved ones. Add some toasted bread, or some crackers, even some avocado chopped on top would go well. Then take yourself to the comfiest spot in the house, curl up beside the one you love, and nourish body and soul with a bowl of this vegan chilli.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, the boyfriend did end up having some roasted chicken breast stirred through his, which was enough to fill the ‘meat category’ for dinner.)

Vegan Black Bean Chilli | Gluten Free | Vegan | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Vegan Black Bean Chilli

Adapted from Cookie + Kate’s Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chilli. Thanks Kate for letting me feature my adaptation here.

Serves 6 | Vegan | Gluten Free |

I used dried black beans that needed soaking overnight. If you want to use canned black beans or even kidney beans, just skip the soaking step. If you wish for a milder chilli you could leave out the chilli flakes and decrease the chilli powder to 1 teaspoon. 

You could serve the chilli with these scones, or this cornbread if you feel like doing some baking while your chilli bubbles away. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried black beans
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • ½ medium red capsicum
  • 2 stems celery
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • Sprinkle of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 800 gram tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • Chopped coriander, spring onion, avocado and other toppings to serve

Method

  1. Place beans in a medium size bowl, cover with water, add baking soda and stir. Allow to soak for 8 hours, or overnight.
  2. Dice red onion, carrot, capsicum, and celery. Peel sweet potato and chop into small chunks.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or small stock pot over medium heat.
  4. Add vegetables to sauce pan. Sauté vegetables for a few minutes or until onions start to go clear and carrots begin to soften.
  5. Crush garlic and add to pot along with spices, tomatoes, and vegetable stock.
  6. Drain beans and rinse very well. Add to pot.
  7. Give everything a big stir and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for up to two hours. Stir every so often so that the chilli does not stick to the bottom of the pot. The liquid will reduce to a gravy-like consistency and the vegetables will soften during cooking time.
  8. Ladle into bowls, top with garnishes of choice and enjoy.
  9. Chilli will keep in the fridge for 3 days in an airtight container, or in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Vegan Black Bean Chilli | Gluten Free | Vegan | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Despite our Sunday night stuffed-with-chilli tummy aches, we will definitely be making several more batches of this during the next few chilly months (oh, a pun at the end!).

Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Stew with Rosemary Pecorino Cornbread

I have spoken before of my difficult relationship with winter. There is something about the empty cold blue sky and long windy nights that leaves me feeling expectant somehow (no, not that kind of expectant), restless, waiting for spring. One thing I do love about winter though is the long walks I take in the mornings, and the stories that I listen to along the way. I am currently obsessed with historical podcasts, in particular ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class‘ (I am currently working my way through their back catalogue) and the podcast produced by The National Archives.

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Some of my fondest memories as a child are the nights when either Mum or Dad would read to my sister and I before we fell asleep. When Jess and I shared a bedroom, Mum would settle herself between our twin beds and read to us from ‘Listen with Mother’ (a book produced from the BBC radio show of the same name). ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ she would ask. My sister and I would reply with a sleepy chorus of ‘yes’, and Mum would begin to weave a story in her smooth, perfect voice. Other nights my Dad would be on storytelling duty. These were the nights that Jess and I would be allowed to fall asleep in Mum and Dad’s big bed. All three of us would pile into their water bed, Dad snuggled in between, our very own captive storyteller. With his glasses perched on the end of his nose so that he could see on the awkward angle he was forced into. He would crack open ‘Stuart Little‘ or ‘The Giant Baby‘ and read us a chapter or two until our heads would drop back onto the pillows.

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Listening to stories about historical figures or events makes me feel like I am back inside the cocoon of comfort woven during those story-filled nights. I am lost in the world of whichever character or adventure is the topic of discussion. From the strange life of Margery Kempe, to the spine-tingling true story of Broadmoor Hospital, or the real life pirate story of Stede Bonnet, I am kept captivated by the tale until the very last minute. Long winter nights are similarly made for tales – true or fantastic. A belly full of something warm and satisfying is all you need before settling back in your favourite chair with a book, or a podcast, or your favourite storyteller and losing yourself in the pursuit of adventure.

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Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Stew

For the beef to most satisfyingly fall from the bones and melt into the thick vegetable and wine stew this must cook for at least four hours. A longer cooking time of six hours will render the flesh so tender and flavoursome that angels and demons will weep together. There was little conversation at our dinner table last night as Mum and Dad scooped their bowls of stew out with Rosemary and Pecorino Cornbread (recipe follows). Make this on a weekend when you can curl up comfortably with a book while the scent of red wine and paprika fills the house and drives away the coldest winter day.

A note about wine: I used Lambrusco because my Dad loves it and the rest of the bottle didn’t go to waste. You can use whatever your favourite red wine is, and then serve the leftovers with dinner (or drink it while you wait for dinner to cook – we don’t judge in my house).

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 chunky beef short ribs (about 800 grams)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large brown onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, diced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, chunkily chopped
  • 3 small-medium potatoes, diced
  • 400 gram tin tomato purée
  • 400mL red wine (measured in tomato tin)
  • 1L beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF) and arrange oven racks to accommodate a large casserole dish.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large stove top safe oven-proof casserole dish with a lid. Brown the beef short ribs on each side and then remove to a plate. Add celery, onion and garlic to the pan and sauté until the onion is clear.
  3. Tumble the capsicum, carrot and potatoes into the dish and add the paprika and thyme leaves. Stir so that all the vegetables are coated. Cook for about 5 minutes with the lid off.
  4. Add the short ribs back into the dish and add the bay leaves, tomato purée, red wine and beef stock. Give the mixture a big stir so that all the ingredients are covered by the liquid.
  5. Bring casserole to a simmer. Remove from the stove top and place in the preheated oven.
  6. Cook for four to six hours. Give the casserole a stir every forty-five minutes. At the end of the cooking time you may want to thicken up the sauce a little. Simply remove the beef ribs and in a small glass mix together one tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch) and one tablespoon cold water and stir this into the stew. Bring to a bubble on the stove top again and then replace the short ribs.
  7. Serve in big deep bowls with a decent chunk of cornbread. And maybe a little butter too. And wine, definitely wine (or red fizzy drink for Mum).

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Rosemary Pecorino Cornbread (gluten free)

Just a few notes: one, I used fine grain polenta, not the the quick cooking or pre-prepared kind in the US this is probably labelled cornmeal; two, you can replace the buckwheat flour with plain flour if you are not cooking for a coeliac. If you cannot find pecorino cheese use a sharp cheddar or parmesan instead.

Ingredients:

  • 160 grams fine grain polenta
  • 80 grams buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary)
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). If you are cooking this at the same time as the short ribs above, 170ºC will be fine and may just require a few more minutes to cook. Line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together polenta, buckwheat flour, salt, black pepper, and baking powder.
  3. Whisk in rosemary and pecorino. Set aside for the moment.
  4. In a small jug measure out the buttermilk. Into this whisk the olive oil and eggs until thoroughly combined.
  5. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and briskly mix in the wet ingredients.
  6. Pour batter into lined tin and slide into the oven.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool, or not, before serving with a steaming hot bowl of soup, or simply a generous dob of butter.

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Tell me, dear reader, what are your childhood memories of storytelling? Any favourite books? Do you still like listening to a soothing voice telling tales of adventure and daring?

Why I am a Vegetarian Who Loves Meat

Two red glistening slabs hit the hot metal with a sizzle. The primal smell of cooking flesh fills the small kitchen with a satisfying nourishing fug. I turn from the pan, nose twitching, remembering the taste of grilled meat, my mouth waters: perfectly-medium porterhouse with buttery mushroom sauce; spicy mince patties coated in tangy tomato relish sandwiched in fluffy white buns; prosciutto wrapped chicken breasts oozing melted brie. I pick up a can opener and reach for my protein instead: chickpeas. The salty, ferric taste of flesh has not passed over my tastebuds in nearly three years.

I am a vegetarian: once my decision to be a herbivore was made I was sworn to it for life. Plant-fuelled since August 13, 2010.

Still, I love meat. I love its versatility. I love the smile a perfectly crisp slice of bacon elicits on my boyfriend’s face when I slide a full Sunday breakfast in front of his barely-opened eyes. I love the moans that rise unbidden from a table of otherwise professional people when they lift pork ribs to their mouths: the flesh so tender from four hours in the oven that angels and demons weep together.

I am a vegetarian. I am a vegetarian who loves meat.

I love meat because I love to feed the people I love. And those people eat meat. Cooking for them nourishes me in ways that no food group can. Placing a dish on the table for my loved ones to share is the balm to a rushed day, a thank you without words, and the very least I can do when they help me so much.

Last night was cold and damp – the perfect weather for Slow-Braised Lamb Shanks with Bacon and Lentils in a Mushroom and Onion Gravy.

Make it for the ones you love.

Slow Braised Lamb Shanks

Slow Braised Lamb Shanks

Slow-Braised Lamb Shanks with Bacon and Lentils in a Mushroom and Onion Gravy

This can sit in the oven on low heat for hours, which makes it perfect for a lazy Sunday dinner. Just chop everything at lunch time and then allow the meal to braise slowly in the oven all afternoon until you feel like gathering the family to the table.

I served this meal with rice and steamed green beans, but it would be perfectly at home atop a billowing cloud of buttery mashed potatoes or some cheesy polenta, or served more simply with thick wedges of fresh-baked bread to sop up the gravy.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium-large lamb shanks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 purple onion, diced finely
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced into chunks
  • 3 pieces short-cut bacon
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 6 shallots, peeled
  • 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups salt-reduced beef stock
  • 1/4 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup puy lentils

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150ºC (300ºF) and make sure you have all your vegetables prepared as per the ingredients list.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stovetop safe casserole dish. Brown lamb shanks all over, then remove to a plate.
  3. Add onion, mushrooms, bacon, oregano and thyme and sauté until bacon starts to crisp. Add flour and stir until you can feel the flour start to thicken slightly.
  4. Add shallots, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, and port. Replace lamb shanks in the pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Turn off the heat, cover casserole dish with lid, and place in the preheated oven.
  6. Cook for two hours (or more if desired) until the meat is falling off the bone. Half an hour before you wish to serve the casserole add the puy lentils and stir well.
  7. Place lamb shanks onto plate and spoon over the lentil, bacon, and mushroom gravy.
  8. Serve with rice, mashed potatoes, or thick wedges of bread. Enjoy.

 

“In fact, people who posses not magic at all can instil their home-cooked meals with love and security and health, transforming ingredients and bringing disparate people together as family and friends. There’s a reason that when opening one’s home to guests, the first thing you do is offer food and drink. Cooking is a kind of everyday magic.” 
― Juliet Blackwell 

Soothing Spiced Lentil Stew

Mist rose steadily in clouds from the storm water creek as we started the day with a morning walk. The crisp air reddened cheeks and numbed hands even as the sun rose bright and clear in the unclouded blue sky.

In the depths of midwinter we decided that it was time to clean. To purge the old, save that which is needed and useful, and shed the superfluous in favour of simmering down to essentials. From the sorting and shifting, the de-scaling of our lives, there arises a sense of rebirth, of purity, of the elemental needs of life that are exposed when we chose to lose the clutter. It can however be a little exhausting, a little exposing, and soul-wearying. At the end of a day like this a soothing spiced lentil stew studded with sweet potato and peppered with kale serves to warm and restore.

Soothing Spiced Lentil Stew

A blend of spices lends this stew depth of flavour. I owe a great debt to Nigel Slater as this is adapted from one of his wonderfully warming recipes.

Serves 2 but is easily doubled, or makes great leftovers for a single girl like me.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium brown onion, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 150g dried Puy lentils
  • 500mL water
  • 1 tsp powdered vegetable stock
  • Few stems of kale
  • Natural yoghurt, to serve.

Method:

  1. In a large saucepan heat a dash of olive oil. Add the diced brown onion and sweet potato. Cover with lid and cook on a low heat until onion has softened.
  2. Add paprika, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Stir to distribute spices, and take a moment to revel in their fragrance.
  3. To this pot add Puy lentils, water, and powdered vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. The lentils should still be firm and the sweet potato soft.
  4. While the lentils are simmering away add a splash of olive oil to another smaller pan. Keep on a low heat and add thinly sliced red onion. Cover and cook until onion is golden brown; then, add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.
  5. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop the curly leaves. Add to the cooked lentils and cover so that the kale wilts into the stew.
  6. Serve lentils topped with onions and a dollop of natural yoghurt.

Allow the stew to soothe you, and the spices to restore your soul. Then sit back and take in the night, and the new start that every dawn brings.