Hello and welcome to my new food blog! My name is Jess – or ‘The Hungry Northener’ – as no one has called me, ever. I am however, a Northener living in London, and am generally in a permanent state of hunger. Except of course when I’m eating lots of delicious food – whether that’s prepared by me, bought from one of London’s many amazing street food markets, or served at a restaurant. The point is, I LOVE food; all of it, all the time. I also love writing, so to write about food seemed a natural life choice.
I’m also an accidental part-time vegetarian, due to recently moving in with my full-time vegetarian boyfriend, who no matter how much my mum badgers, simply will not just give in and eat a bit of steak. My food journey over the past several months has been finding and developing recipes that work for both of us; that are veggie but don’t leave me feeling like something was lacking. My ‘Meaty’ Vegetarian Chili is a prime example – and it also happens to be one of my all-time favourite meals.
I come from a big family and grew up on dishes like chili con carne, spag bol, and chicken curry – anything that you can easily make large quantities of in a big pan. Catering to four kids’ fussy requirements is no mean feat, and chili con carne was the dish that had it all: meaty enough for my protein-mad brother, spicy enough for me (did I mention I have a penchant for food, like, off-the-chart level spicy?), and yet not too spicy for my two korma-loving sisters. Since moving out of my family home I have continued to love chili just as much. It’s a great meal for when you’re nearing the end of available fresh food, but don’t quite want to buy any more, as most of the ingredients are from the cupboard. It’s an easy dish to throw together at the end of a long day, and most crucially; it’s undoubtedly delicious.
When I first ate vegetarian chili it was of the ‘five bean’ variety – substituting mince for an extra tin of mixed beans. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but as someone used to getting a meat fix from my meals, I found it slightly samey. After substituting those extra beans for quorn mince, I fell in love with the dish once more, and as an incidental bonus – quorn is a less fatty source of protein than regular mince.
Everyone has their own way of cooking this delicious dish made for sharing, and the best thing about it is that you can add stuff in as you go along, depending on what strikes your fancy. Traditionally I’d eaten mine with white or brown rice, but recently discovered it works well with cous cous or bulgar wheat, as the grains don’t dilute the flavour as much as rice. I’d generally cook the dish with a beef stock cube, as it gives that depth of meaty flavour that you miss without the meat, but if you want to steer clear of any meat products a good splash of Lea and Perrins will do the trick.
‘Meaty’ Vegetarian Chili Recipe
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red and 1 green pepper, cut into small chunks
1 chili – if you like it spicy
1 small pack of quorn mince
1 can of kidney beans (or mixed beans)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp each cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper
1 beef stock cube or 1 tbsp Lea and Perrins
A good glug of red wine (optional)
Small pot of low-fat natural yoghurt
1 tsp dry chives
Cous cous, bulgar wheat, or rice
Lime wedge (optional)
1. Heat some olive oil in a large deep pan and fry the onion until slightly softened, then add in the garlic, chili, and peppers.
2. When all the veg has softened, add in the quorn mince, cooked until it is mostly defrosted (it will cook completely during the simmering process) and then add the kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, red wine, and Lea and Perrins if using.
3. Add all the spices – and crumble in the beef stock cube if using – do a taste check and add in more if it needs it, season with salt and pepper, and leave to simmer for 15 to 20 mins.
4. While your chili is gently cooking away, pour the natural yoghurt into a small bowl, add a teaspoon of dried chives, and mix well.
5. Prepare the cous cous, bulgar wheat, or rice according to the packet instructions, and serve with a generous dollop of the yoghurt and chive garnish, and a quarter slice of lime each.
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, the chili makes a great lunch to take to work and eat with toasted pitta bread.