When it comes to planning for a week of dinners I sometimes find it a good move to ask the kids for suggestions. That way there is a small guarantee that the meals will be eaten. I usually pull out a couple of cookbooks for the kids to flick through and Levi seems to be the one who goes for something new each time which I love. This week his request is Lemony Chicken and Veal Burgers from the fabulous book ‘In The Kitchen’ by Australian duo Allan Campion and Michele Curtis. I’ve promised the kids that when they leave home I will send them on their way with two cookbooks. “In The Kitchen’ and Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cooks Companion’. I figure you don’t actually need any more than those two but the state of my bookshelves says otherwise.
My girls, on the other hand, consistently request Chilli Con Carne. They love it because of the beans and rice and they love to mix it all together with a good heaped spoonful or four of Greek yoghurt. But neither of my girls like meat very much so I have been making a vegetarian version lately which they prefer. Tilly is our veggie, bean and legume loving girl so this dish has been declared ‘Tilly’s Chilli’ and I think she would happily eat it every night of the week. Levi misses the meat but Joel doesn’t and actually prefers this vegetarian version. It is based on the Vegetarian Chilli in Gwyneth Paltrow’s book ‘Notes From My Kitchen Table’ which is a really good book. I have cooked my way through a lot of the recipes in both her books and highly recommend them.
My version is slightly different. I saute the onions, carrot, capsicum and garlic until soft and then add the spices and chipotle and cook for a further minute. Then I add the whole, peeled tomatoes, lentils, beans and water and leave everything to cook together for about 30-40 minutes until the lentils are tender. Then I get my stick blender.
I find if I let the whole tomatoes simmer, rather than crushing the tomatoes before cooking, it sweetens the sauce. So when the lentils are cooked I just turn off the heat and stab each whole tomato with the stick blender and blitz for a few seconds. I don’t want the whole thing blitzed, just the tomatoes. A few beans and lentils get blitzed in the process but I find the resulting texture is that of minced meat which is kind of what I’m after.
I then put the heat back on and let the chilli simmer until nicely thickened. Check for seasoning and serve with rice. The kids love a table full of toppings to choose from but it really doesn’t need anything. We had a sparse selection last night of just yoghurt, avocado, grated cheese and hot sauce. But I suggest going all out and having bowls of coriander, finely sliced red onion or green shallots, lime wedges and steamed or grilled corn. A great family meal to share with others, vegetarian or not, and everyone can tuck in and make their own creation.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 red capsicum, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 chipotle chilli in adobe sauce, finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 x 400g tins of whole, peeled tomatoes
100g black puy French lentils, rinsed and drained
1 x 410g tin of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 x 410g tin of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Greek yoghurt or sour cream
thinly sliced red onions or green shallots
finely sliced red cabbage
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently saute the onions, carrot, capsicum and garlic until soft and tender. Add the spices, salt, pepper and chipotle chilli and cook for a further couple of minutes. Tip in the tins of tomato, leaving the whole tomatoes intact, the lentils and beans. Fill one of the tomato tins with water and add it stirring everything together. Bring to the boil then turn down to a medium bubble and pop the lid on. Leave to cook for 15 minutes then uncover and leave to cook a further 20 minutes. Test to see if lentils are cooked.
When the lentils are cooked, take the pan off the heat and use a stick blender to stab each tomato and blitz. Add a good pinch of sea salt flakes and place the pan back on the heat and let it simmer away until the chilli is nicely thickened. Check again for seasoning and serve with rice.