Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pantry in Action: Vegetarian Chili

The "Pantry in Action" series shows creative ways of using all the wonderful food we've preserved during the year. I will include recipes wherever appropriate with links back to the post(s) where a particular ingredient (or ingredients) was canned.

Although it's now the second official day of spring, you would hardly know it by the weather!  It feels more like January now than it did in January!  And they are forecasting up to 10cm of snow by Thursday!  Arrgh!

So, to help combat this (hopefully) final blast of winter weather, I decided to make a batch of hearty, warming chili, without the carne for a change to keep my vegetable intake up. When I make chile con carne, I normally use a combination of ground beef and ground pork, but in this vegetarian version, I am using chopped portobella mushrooms as a substitute.

First, roughly chop about 6 large-ish portobellas, then load them into a food processor and pulse them for about 10 seconds or so until they are in fairly small pieces. Peel, chop and process 1 large white onion and several large cloves of garlic.

Sauté chopped mushrooms, onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil on medium-high heat until the mushrooms have cooked down somewhat and have released some of their moisture, the garlic is soft and the onions are translucent -- about 5 minutes or so.

Chop a few stalks of celery, some sweet peppers (I'm using a red, a green and an orange one here -- you could also seed and chop a jalapeno or habanero pepper for more heat, but I'm not for this batch) and slice a few white button mushrooms or creminis.

Pour a jar of your favourite home made tomato sauce (mine is this one from the Bernardin website -- canning instructions can be found here) into the bottom of a slow cooker, pile in the sautéed mushroom-onion-garlic mixture and add the chopped peppers, celery and the sliced button mushrooms.

Drain and rinse a can of mixed beans, red kidney beans or your favourite beans and add to the slow cooker.

Add a jar of home made tomato paste to help thicken and add a bit of body to the chili, then add your seasonings. I am cheating here and using a pre-packaged chili seasoning mix, but concocting your own blend can be fun and very satisfying. When I do, I usually start with the three C's -- cumin, coriander and cayenne and go from there, rifling through my spice cupboard, trying a bit of this and a bit of that. No two chili batches are ever the same and to me that's the beauty of it!

Cover and turn the cooker on to High until it's hot, then turn down to Low and leave it to slow cook for 8-10 hours. I like to start a batch of chili in the evening while I'm getting dinner ready and leave it to cook overnight.

The next morning, I turn off the cooker, give the chili a good stir, then leave it covered all day to cool to room temperature. I usually give it a taste test at this point.  If it's a bit flat, I'll add some salt and taste it again, adjusting until I feel it's right. If it's a little too acidic and/or tomato-ey (which this batch was due to the strength of my tomato paste!), I'll add a bit of white granulated sugar and taste again until the tomato acidity has been mellowed. Be careful adding the sugar as you don't want any sweetness to come through. For this batch, I ended up adding about 1 teaspoon of sugar in total.

In the evening, I take the crock out of the cooker and put the whole thing into the fridge to chill for another 24 hours or so. I find this really brings the flavours together and re-heated chili really does taste better.  

So, although it's two days in the making, it's definitely worth the wait, IMHO! Top with a dollop of sour cream and some shredded cheddar and you have a hearty warming supper on a cold early spring evening. You can find my recipe here.

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