Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Recipe: Quick & Filling Weeknight One-Pot Vegan Mexican-style Chilli (Aussie Friendly!)

So I've been ordering takeaway a lot lately. Now that I'm working in a commercial kitchen preparing food for everyone else, I'm finding that my "cooking for myself" mojo has gone right out the window. During the week I live on experimental potential menu items, and bite sized morsels of *anything* that I can slap on the grill, eat quickly and go about my day (how do they do it? how do gas-fired grills make EVERYTHING taste incredible?!)

Tonight, I was determined to ignore my intense desire to visit my local Indian restaurant (Taj Bengal in Ashgrove - it's incredible. The best Indian food in Brisbane I've come across), but I wanted something thick, hearty, smoky and delicious - like their famous spinach dhal. I wanted to eat as fast as possible and was looking through Isa Chandra Moskowitz' new book, Isa Does It, and saw an easy recipe for a thai lentil curry that reminded me of a sweet potato lentil chilli by Dreena Burton that I made a million times as new vegan. 

You know how it is when you're hungry - you start cooking and chopping to save time before you've even checked the pantry. It wasn't too far in to the process that I realised I had almost nothing I needed to make the/any curry, least of all curry paste or coconut milk (for curry, they're really non-negotiable ingredients)... So I turned this into a mexican chilli, and boy, it was delicious. Fast, easy, minimal mess, and it sure hit the hunger spot. It also reminded me of why I love cooking - the flavours you can achieve at home with minimal effort that you so rarely get when dining out. Sometimes you need a reminder that you can't make something awesome in just as much time as it takes to get in the car and pickup takeaway.

This is thick and "hearty" (gosh I hate that word - why does it always remind me of gross canned soup?) due to the addition of both black beans *and* tofu. I don't feel satisfied with a meal if I'm just eating one or the other - combine them for extraaaaa awessssomeeeneessssss!

Don't be put off by the list of ingredients - this recipe requires minimal effort, but a few spices to make it extra tasty. You're chopping a few things, and pouring/shaking/splashing a few other things in the saucepan. Easy.

One Pot Vegan Mexican-Style Chilli

Preheat a 4 litre (/quart) or larger saucepan/stockpot over medium heat.
2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 large red onion, diced
2 red capsicum (bell peppers), chopped
Approx 300g pre-seasoned extra firm/pressed tofu, cubed - I used teriyaki flavour (don't get too hung up on what flavour it is - it'll take on the other flavours of the dish)
1 teaspoon of salt.
Saute for approximately 10 minutes, until the onion is sweet and soft, and the tofu beginning to brown.

1 cup of red lentils, rinsed
2 cans of diced tomatoes (or approx 5 medium tomatoes, diced)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or two large cloves garlic - I realise they're not interchangeable, but I like the different flavour of garlic powder, and I didn't want garlic all over my hands tonight - that's not quick - or fun).
4 cups water
2 cubes vegetable stock (enough or 4 cups of water)
approx 500g sweet potato, sliced and diced into 1 and 1/2 cm wedges
approx 200g potato, prepared as per sweet potato
1 cup of fresh or frozen corn.
2 cups of frozen or canned blackbeans (I have black beans in the freezer at all times, if you're using canned - add them ten minutes or so later, after rinsing, so they don't end up as sludge).
1 to 1 and 1/2 tablespoons "mexican chilli" powder (I use "Masterfoods" brand. American chilli powders are far, far less spicy than Australian varieties, so add this to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
3 medium size zucchini, sliced lengthwise and cut into half cm half-moons.
a dash of your favourite hot sauce (tabasco chipotle, if you have it!)

Increase heat to high simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for approximately 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so (scraping the bottom to ensure the lentils aren't sticking), until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender and cooked through. Remove lid, taste for seasoning and spice intensity, then cook for an additional 5 minutes (replace the lid, on an angle, if the pot is splashing), to thicken the sauce.

Serve in deep bowls. No need for rice or a grain - this chilli should be thick, like a super-stew. Enjoy!

By the way - after being a little underwhelmed with the last few of Isa's books, I can't recommend "Isa Does It" enough. It's absolutely beautiful. The recipes are practical, fast, easy, informative and inspiring.  The book itself is packed full of photos, and beautifully laid out. Just add "Let Them Eat Vegan" by Dreena Burton, "Vegan Diner" by Julie Hasson, "Nonna's Italian Kitchen" by Bryanna Clark Grogan and "The Urban Vegan" by Dynise Balcavage, and you've got pretty much all your awesome vegan cooking bases covered.


  1. Nice idea, I'll try it. Looks great.

  2. Totally with you on your cookbook choices! I have all of those and use them ALL!

  3. Sounds awesome...I would still want cornbread or tortillas with it though :P

  4. Sounds awesome...I would still want cornbread or tortillas with it though :P

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