Going meatless a few times a week is something that I want to put into place this year. Not only from an expense or ethical point of view, incorporating more vegetarian and vegan recipes into your cooking repertoire means a healthier diet in general plus a chance to explore a selection of myriad ingredients one might have never considered before. Enter my easy Vegetarian Chilli Con Carne – a spicy, colourful one-pot dish that can be thrown together with the minimum of fuss.

I feel that as a home cook, getting creative with items that you previously only considered to be side dishes broadens your culinary expertise. I mean, anyone can make a sirloin steak taste amazing, but how about a head of cabbage? Inspired in part by Jamie Oliver’s recipe out of his Superfood Family Classics book, my Vegetarian Chilli Con Carne uses up a mixture of fresh and dried vegetables and pulses that we always seem to have lurking about. Beans, carrots, onion, lentils, peppers and tomatoes make up the base of the Chilli, with fresh green jalapeños and lots of garlic adding a healthy dose of heat and flavour. By slightly overcooking the lentils, the Chilli is able to be instantly and naturally thickened and have the appearance of saucy ground beef. The topping is really the kicker – imagine a wonderfully warming bowl of Chilli, topped with melted cheese, zingy pineapple salsa, creamy guacamole, fresh coriander and my favourite Santa Anna‘s authentic corn chips. I also add a spoon of thick plain yoghurt and a final shake of smoked paprika to mine, but the dairy can easily be omitted for those following a vegan diet.

The best part about this recipe that it is the tastiest way to use up any of those pesky veggies cluttering up the bottom of the refrigerator. Cabbage, zucchini, butternut, potato and corn can all be added for a properly chunky chilli that easily makes up a good portion of your recommended 5 fruits and veggies a day.

Vegetarian Chilli Con Carne

Prep time: 20 mins / Cook time: 1 hour / Serves: 6

You will need:

  • 1 cup (250ml) of dried red lentils
  • 1 litre water
  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 large jalapeño chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 25ml olive oil
  • 1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin (400g) red kidney beans, drained
  • 10ml smoked paprika
  • 10ml chilli powder
  • 5ml powdered cumin
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock or 2 vegetable stock cubes (in the event of using cubes, add 1 litre of water to the Chilli)
  • 1 cup (250ml) dry red wine
  • 10ml Worcester or soy sauce
  • Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper

To garnish:

  • 400g mozzarella cheese, grated (optional)
  • 1 cup (250ml) plain yoghurt, sour cream or creme fraiche (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh coriander, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 pineapple, peeled and diced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 cup (250ml) of ready-cooked corn kernels, removed from the husks
  • 3 large ripe avocados
  • 2 limes plus extra to garnish
  • 10ml olive oil
  • Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
  • Corn chips

Thoroughly rinse the lentils, place in a heavy bottomed pot and cover with litre of water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 30 minutes or until soft and porridgy. Meanwhile, peel and dice the onion, place in another heavy bottomed pot and sauté in a little olive oil over medium heat until glossy and translucent. Seed and chop the bell peppers and add in, along with the chopped chilli. Peel and dice the carrots, add them to the pot and stir to combine. Ramp up the heat and stir through the spices (paprika, chilli powder and cumin) then when everything is nice and sticky and slightly charred, deglaze the pot with the red wine.

Reducing the heat to low, add in the tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and litre of vegetable stock/water. If using, crumble in the vegetable stock cubes and stir to combine. By now the lentils should be cooked. Add them to the Chilli along with a hit of Worcester or soy sauce and a crack each of salt and black pepper. Let the Chilli simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Set your oven to 220°C. When the Chilli is ready, dish up a helping into a heat-proof bowl and top with a handful of grated cheese. Pop the bowls into the oven to let the cheese melt and go golden and bubbly. While that’s happening, combine the pineapple, red onion and corn kernels in a bowl, add the zest and juice of a lime and season to taste. In another bowl, peel and mash the avocados, adding the zest and juice of the second lime along with a drizzle of olive oil and crack each of salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon some salsa and guacamole over each bowl of Chilli and melted cheese, along with a few corn chips and the fresh coriander. If using, add a dollop of yoghurt, sour cream or creme fraiche and a shake of smoked paprika and serve immediately.






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