JUMP TO RECIPE -
I’ve been having a tug of war of sorts with chilies for a while now. My objective has been to establish the amount of - respectively - fresh, dried, green, red, large or small chilies that will create the degree of hotness I want. Their objective has been to either lay dormant and pretend they are sweet peppers, or burn me alive.
I am by no means an expert on or a connoisseur of chillies – proof readily surmised from the fact I never know if the little buggers should be spelled with one or two ‘l’s. I don’t know my habaneros from my chipotles or scotch bonnets from aleppos. I’ve heard of jolokia only through the Fugu Jolokia Challenge*. I carelessly rub my nose after handling chilies. I simply score zero Scovilles.
A small battle was won with this vegetarian chili though – and at least I know for sure that the dish has only one ‘l’. I managed to hit the right balance: a nice kick but not gasping for water. The recipe is dead simple beside that, and a good weekday supper if you put in canned beans. Soaking and boiling is as much worth the bother as it gives you the right cookedness – tinned beans might get mushy after half an hour in the company of tomatoes.
The NY Times Cooking recipe originally but frankly, a no brainer. Beans and tomatoes – and the only issue is figuring out how much chillies to throw in.
*Fugu Jolokia Challenge as appears in Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4. It was what people did before World of Warcraft.
- For the pickled onions:
- 1 lime
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- a large pinch of salt
- a large pinch of sugar
- For the chili:
- 200g dried haricot beans (or 2 tins)
- 2 tbsp. grapeseed or groundnut oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño chili, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 tsp chili powder or paste
- 2 tsp dried oregano, marjoram or both
- 200g chopped tinned tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. ketchup
- chopped coriander or mint, diced avocado and sour cream, grated Cheddar or Gruyère cheese for garnish (optional)
If you’re using dried beans, soak them in plenty of water overnight. The next day drain them, place in a pan with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour, until tender. Drain and put to one side.
To make the pickled onions, which are a lovely addition to the chili, juice the lime into a bowl. It will be much easier to juice it if you microwave it, whole, for 20 seconds on full power. Add the thinly sliced onion to the bowl, sprinkle with salt and sugar and let it sit for at least 20 minutes.
Heat a large skillet, add the mustard seeds and let them start to crackle, then add the oil. Fry the onion for a few minutes until softened, then add the garlic and chopped chilies, stir in the chili powder or paste (a little at first) and the dried herbs. Throw in the beans and tomatoes, season with at least 1 tsp of salt, add the ketchup and simmer for 20 minutes until the tomatoes break down and there’s hardly any liquid at the bottom.
You can cover it with lid for some of the time but take care not to catch it.
Check for seasoning, add more salt or chili powder if needed and serve with the pickled onions, garnishes of your choice and some plain rice if you fancy.