You know it’s cold when you can see your breath, and for sunny Sydney, that time has arrived! It’s well and truly winter, with mid-winter festivals and Christmas in July all over the city and up in the Blue Mountains. Time for some hot food, really hot!
When most people think hot, in food terms, chilli (chili) is what springs to mind. We’ve all seen tv docos or YouTube clips of people trying to eat the hottest chilli peppers, and suffering for their courage! Are they mad?
It’s much easier to enjoy chilli’s heat in a good dish of chilli beans or chilli beef, or in a more subtle form in a good red curry. The heat in chillis comes from a phytonutrient called capsaicin, also found in capsicums (bell peppers), which may have anti-inflammatory effects, and is being researched for possible effects on tumours. It’s also rumoured to help you burn fat faster. Whatever the truth of these claims, capsaicin certainly warms you from the inside!
Cayenne pepper also contains capsaicin, and is a great garnish sprinkled on soups, scrambled eggs, toasted cheese, or added to a stew for a hint of fire.
So, to the recipes
Vegetarian Chilli Beans
I couldn’t do a post on chilli without giving the recipe for the best chilli bean dish I’ve tried, thanks to a friend of a friend in the US. The addition of oregano, cumin, fennel and cayenne give it a Cajun flavour. Since it’s an American recipe, I’ll give the American terms first, followed by the Aussie/English ones. If you leave off the cheese or sour cream, this is a totally vegetarian/vegan dish.
1 medium yellow (brown) onion, chopped
1 medium yellow or red bell pepper (capsicum) , diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed, crushed or chopped finely
1 teasp paprika
1 tablesp chili powder, or dried chili, or 1 tablesp sambal oeleck paste
1/2 teasp dried thyme
1/2 teasp dried oregano
1/2 teasp fennel seeds
1 teasp ground cumin
generous pinch or sprinkle of cayenne pepper
1x 15 ounce (425 gram) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1x 15 ounce (425 gram) can diced tomatoes
Salt and black pepper to taste
olive oil for sautéing
Sauté the onion and capsicum gently in the oil until soft but not browned. Toss in the beans garlic, chilli and spices, sir to coat with oil. Toss in the tomatoes, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.
Adjust seasonings to taste and serve on rice, (white or brown), polenta, noodles, a baked potato – whatever carbohydrates you favour. Garnish with chopped cilantro (coriander) or flat leaf parsley, and you could also add a handful of tasty cheese. A dollop of sour cream goes nicely too!
Spicy Brown Rice and Bean Soup
Chilli heats up this minestrone-style soup, and turmeric deepens the flavour while adding extra iron.
2x 425 gram (15 ounce) can kidney beans, or any other beans or chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
1x 425 gram (15 ounce) can of tomatoes
6 tablesp partially cooked brown rice
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced or cubed
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped (more if you like)
2 tablesp chilli powder, or dried chilli, or 1 tablesp sambal oeleck paste
1 tablesp turmeric powder
salt & pepper to taste
oil for sautéeing
1.5 litres (about 6 cups) stock or water and stock cubes
Sautee the vegetables , apart from garlic, in the oil, until onions start to soften, add the half-cooked rice. Tip in the turmeric and chilli and stir to release aromas and to coat the rice and vegetables. Add the garlic and tomatoes.
Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes , until rice is cooked. Add the beans and simmer gently for another 10 minutes, or until the soup smells and tastes right. Garnish in the same way as the chilli pot, and serve with crusty bread or thin toast
Variation: you could replace the potato with cubed pumpkin (winter squash), which goes really well with turmeric and chickpeas.