Amelia Bellamy-Royds’ Vegetarian (or not) chilli

The 14th in a series of posts that bring together the two sides of my blog: food and technology. I’ve asked the great and the good from the web standards community to share their favourite recipes. This versatile recipe comes from Amelia Bellamy-Royds.

Information

Measurement converter

Makes:
6-8 cups (1.5−2L), or around 6-8 servings
Time:

Ingredients

  • 1-3 tablespoons canola (or other vegetable) oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • optional: 1-2 potatoes or small turnips
  • 1 large or 3-4 small carrots (approx 400g total)
  • Spices:
    • 2-6 cloves (depending on size & taste) of finely minced fresh garlic, or 1teaspoon garlic powder
    • 2-3 teaspoons paprika and/or cayenne powder (depending on how hot you like it)
    • ½ teaspoon each (if you have them) ground dried thyme, sage, mustard, allspice, cumin, coriander
    • ¼ teaspoon each ground ginger, anise, cloves
  • 19 US oz. (540mL) can of small red beans or black beans
  • 28 US oz. (800mL) can of crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250mL) beer plus 1 cup water (or use all water)
  • ½ to ¾ cup (approx 150g) dried split orange lentils and/or kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)
  • Savoury flavours, a mix of any of:
    • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (note: this is not usually vegetarian)
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic or malted vinegar plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
    • ½ ounce (15g) dark baking chocolate
    • ¼ teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Put a large (4L / 1 gallon) pot on the stovetop over medium heat.
  2. Add enough oil to the pot to cover the bottom completely.
  3. Finely dice the vegetables, in order (onions, celery, potatoes or turnips, carrots), and add to the pot, stirring, as you go, with a large heat-safe spoon or spatula. Most veggies should be ½-cm (¼ inch) cubes, carrots and turnips (if using) should be chopped smaller or grated with a large, sturdy cheese grater.
  4. By the time you’re done chopping, the onions should be starting to brown and everything should be getting soft and smelling savoury; if not, turn up the heat & keep stirring. (Alternatively, if the veggies start to burn at any point, turn down the heat!)
  5. Push veggies to the sides of the pot, to clear a space on the bottom.
  6. Add another spoonful of oil and all the spices to the base of the pot, let heat thoroughly, then slowly mix in with all the veggies.
  7. Add the canned beans and tomatoes, including all canning liquid, the water or beer (use it to rinse out the cans & add it all), and the lentils, then stir well.
  8. Stir in the savouries, adjusting for taste (see notes).
  9. Lower the temperature, cover the pot loosely, and let simmer, stirring every 5-10 minutes, for at least 20 minutes.
  10. Serve with buttered toast, or toast that has cheddar cheese melted on top.

Variants

After browning the veggies and pushing them to the side of the pan (step 5 above):

  • Add approximately 1 pound (400g) of ground beef or other meat to the pan, breaking it up with the spoon and stirring around until brown & no longer sizzling.
  • Then, push the meat and veg aside and continue with browning the spices.

When using meat, you don’t need as much of the savoury flavourings, or the lentils and kasha (which add a lot of the meaty texture to the vegetarian version). However, it definitely doesn’t hurt to add it all in, for an extra hearty meal!

Notes

This is one of those recipes that is slightly different every time I make it. Some ingredients were taken from an article in Cook’s Illustrated magazine, but otherwise the recipe has evolved from experience. I often make it when it’s been a long time since a grocery run and fresh veggies are running out,
so I make it with what I have on hand. Pretty much everything can be omitted or adjusted, although I make no guarantee that the end result will still look like a classic chilli.

Beyond the veggie-or-not decision, the biggest choice you make is crushed (puréed) or diced (chunky) canned tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes make a classic thick and hearty chilli; diced tomatoes make more of a vegetarian stew. However, with crushed tomatoes you run the risk of it tasting more like tomato sauce than chilli, especially for the vegetarian option, so you need to be more careful about balancing your other savoury flavours.

The goal of the different savoury liquids (including the beer) is to add a rich, deep flavour without tasting like any one particular thing. If you have
other “umami” ingredients in your pantry, like marmite or MSG, then can probably go in the mix, too. None of the ingredients are essential on their own, but it is essential that you have a mix so they cancel each other out. You don’t want chilli that tastes like beer. You don’t want chilli that tastes like vanilla, or soy sauce. But if you mix them all together, the unique flavours disappear and what’s left is a warm savoury taste.

After you add the savouries, stir well for a minute, then smell or taste: if you can still detect any one of the ingredients distinctly, add something to contrast. If it’s too acidic, add some baking soda. And of course, feel free to add more spices if that’s your taste. I usually go for a warm but not hot level of spiciness, and serve with hot sauce for those who like it more intense.

The chilli stores well in the fridge or freezer and reheats in the microwave.

PS. Chilli, chili, or chile? The folks at Merriam-Webster explain they’re all the same, just different regional spellings.

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