Monday, 22 February 2010

Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping

In celebration of all things grains, I made a vegetarian chili with a cornbread topping this week from Nigella Lawson's Feast.
I am a sucker for any stew, pot pie or casserole with a baked-on lid.
Now, I am generally an in-the-moment chili maker, I like to adjust as I go along. I made this recipe, cut in half, using a large can of diced tomatoes (28oz) and a large can of kidney beans (14oz). No water, just a splash of beer when needed. Nowhere does the recipe mention salt. You need salt when you cook if you want to have flavour. Add salt as necessary. Kosher or sea salt preferably. What is with people publishing recipes without salt? They are not fooling anyone. Okay, lecture over.
I also doubled the seasoning and added a chipotle pepper and spoonful of adobo. I like big flavour in my chili. Definitely adjust to your liking as you go along.
I do love the red lentils in there, and the cardamom in the chili - very nice. The cinnamon in the cornbread is really good too - I love the subtle accent it lent the dish. Another winner from Nigella.. with a little help.

Soon we will be switching to another chef at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Voting starts next week to decide which chef we will spend the next six months with. Feel free to join us!

Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping
Nigella Lawson and Feast

I know it must be irritating for vegetarians to have me commend this by saying it tastes wonderful to meat-eaters too, but that happens to be the case. Nigella Lawson


For the Vegetarian Chili
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•2 medium onions, finely chopped
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•2 large red bell peppers, deseeded and finely diced, yields 3 cups
•2 teaspoons dried chili flakes, or to taste
•1 teaspoon ground coriander
•1 teaspoon ground cumin
•3 cardamom pods, crushed
•1½ cups red lentils
•3 cups tomato pulp or thick puree
•3 cups water (beer)
•3 cups canned red kidney beans
•1/4 cup tomato ketchup
•¼ cup tomato paste
•1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

For the Cornbread
•3/4 teaspoons salt
•2 cups cornmeal
•2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or WW)
•3 teaspoons baking powder
•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1 1/2 cups buttermilk
•2 eggs
•1 teaspoon honey
•2 tablespoons vegetable oil
•1 cup Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

To Serve
•4 ripe avocados
•4 scallions
•juice of 2 limes
•¼ cup chopped cilantro
•2 cups sour cream
•paprika to dust over
•3¾ cups Cheddar cheese, grated

In a large pan – one that will take everything later and that has a lid – heat the oil and fry the onion, garlic and bell peppers until everything softens, about 10 minutes. Add the chilli, coriander, cumin and cardamom pods, stirring everything around in the spices. Tip in the lentils and stir again.

Stir in the canned chopped tomatoes, water, kidney beans, ketchup, tomato paste and cocoa and bring the mixture to the boil. Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes stirring frequently. If the mixture is too liquid – check every now and again – uncover the pan slightly as it cooks.

The best way to approach this is as with the chili con carne, so cook the above ahead of time and then transfer to an ovenproof dish – I use an old Pyrex one which is about 9 x 13 inches and about 3 inches deep – and keep, once cooled, in the fridge until you’re ready to top with cornbread and bake.

For the cornbread topping: Combine the salt, cornmeal, flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, honey and oil in a glass measuring cup, and then stir into the dry ingredients, mixing to make a vivid yellow batter.

Pour the cornmeal topping over the chili con carne, or blob it over to cover the top as evenly as possible. Don’t worry if some of the chili seeps through as this won’t matter one tiny bit.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the cornbread and then bake in the oven until the cornbread topping is risen and golden and the chili underneath is bubbling. How long this precisely takes depends on how cold or hot the chili was when it went into the oven. I find in a dish of about these dimensions, the veggie-chili needs about 25 minutes at 425°F.

Let the chili stand for about 5 minutes once out of the oven before cutting the top into squares or slices to serve with a helping of chili underneath.

Alongside this chili, you should dollop out an un-chilled guacamole, some cool sour cream and a mounded pile of strong grated Cheddar. So, mash the ripe avocados with the finely chopped scallions and add the lime juice and some salt to taste. Stir in most of the chopped cilantro and turn into two bowls, sprinkling each with the remaining cilantro.

Divide the sour cream into another two bowls, and dust with a little paprika and, into yet another pair of bowls, grate the Cheddar so that people can take clumps and add the tangy cheese to their plates of guacamole and sour-cream splodged chili.

*Definitely serve it with a very zingy salad too, the lemony dressing really accented the chili nicely.

Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping for Great Grains week at I Heart Cooking Clubs