A meat-free dish that is related to a traditional Chilli con Carne only by implication, this is a popular meal when I’m catering for vegetarian friends or when I’ve eaten far too much meat and need some vegetables to balance my diet!
The weights and measures given are all only approximate and can be varied depending on how spicy you like your chilli and how many people you’re catering for.
2 – 3 onions, diced
4 – 5 large cloves of garlic, chopped finely or minced
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 – 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and either very finely chopped or roughly grated (leave stood in a bowl of water once prepared so that they don’t discolour)
2 – 3 carrots, topped & tailed and grated
3 heaped tablespoons red lentils
1-2 tablespoons medium oatmeal
2 tablespoons safe yeast extract (try vegemite or Tesco’s own)
1 tablespoon dried vegetable stock powder (the gluten-free organic Boullion powder in the orange carton is usually safe)
1 – 2 tablespoons dried mixed herbs (ensure you get a sage-free mix, or make your own using equal quantities of dried marjoram, basil, oregano and thyme)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch each of fennel seeds and cumin seeds
Either – 1 -2 teaspoons each: paprika, chilli flakes and cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it), OR 3 – 7 extra heaped teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, if you’re sensitive to chilli.
1 red pepper & 1 green pepper, de-seeded and diced (optional if you react to peppers)
2 or 3 tins of cooked beans chosen from the following: Black Eye beans, Butter beans, Canellini beans, Borlotti beans, Haricot beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly.
A few drops of gravy browning (optional)
Cornflour to thicken (optional)
1. In a large pan, fry onion and garlic in olive oil until they begin to turn golden.
2. Drain the grated sweet potato from the water and put it, the grated carrots, the lentils and oatmeal into the pan and stir well. Immediately add sufficient water to cover, and stir to combine.
3. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are soft, then stir in the yeast extract, stock and all the spices.
4. Add the peppers and beans to the pan, and top up with enough water to cover them and ensure you can stir the sauce easily. It has to be quite smooth, without being overly runny.
5. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so, adding a few drops of gravy browning if the colour is unappealing. This will enhance the colour and disguise the fact that you’ve not used any tomatoes in the dish. After this, take off the heat and leave covered for at least an hour for all the spices to infuse fully. This can be left overnight if desired, but ensure it is put in the fridge once cold.
6. Heat up your chilli for 10 minutes or so just before serving, adding a little cornflour mixed with cold water and stirring well if the sauce is too runny or thin for your liking.
This can be served with rice, spicy potato wedges, or any sort of home made bread or garlic bread.