Kidney bean and soya chilli

Soya (TVP) chunks aren’t particularly cheap or easy to get hold of, which is a shame because they’re a fantastic ingredient – shelf stable, adaptable, and really easy to cook (I’m lucky enough to have a cheap supply  close to home). If you don’t have access to soya chunks you can use a meat of your choice, quorn, or firm tofu.

I owe it to my friend Sam for revealing the secret ingredients of a really good chilli – instant coffee and cocoa powder.

Thoroughly rinse 1 400g can kidney beans (you can soak them in water with a few spoonfuls of baking soda to reduce problems with wind). Preheat the oven to 180°C. If you have an oven safe saucepan or stovetop safe casserole dish, use that for cooking – if not, cook in a saucepan and transfer to a casserole dish. Fry 1/2 onion, sliced, and 2 large cloves garlic, sliced, in a spoonful of oil until golden. While the onion is cooking, rehydrate half a cup of soya chunks using boiling water, leaving to soak while you cook the vegetables. Add to the dish 1 small sweet potato, diced into 1cm chunks, and 1/4 red cabbage, also diced. Once the sweet potato is beginning to brown, drain off the soya chunks and kidney beans and add them to the dish with 1 400g can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp instant coffee powder, 1 tsp cocoa powder and a pinch of chilli flakes. Refill the tomato can with hot water and stir in 1 tsp stock powder; pour about half into the chilli and leave the rest aside in case you need it later. Cover the casserole dish (use foil if you don’t have a lid) and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, adding more stock if needed, until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce and the soya chunks are soft to the bite. Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, stir in half a cup of sweetcorn.

Makes 3 portions, keeps in the fridge for a few days. Can be eaten hot or cold.

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Guest Recipe: Rhey’s Jambalaya

My American friend Rhey and I made this together over Skype on Thanksgiving. It’s not strictly authentic, but personally I prefer Rhey’s less-meat-more-vegetables take on this traditional Cajun dish.

Cut 1 small plantain and 1 small sweet potato into large chunks and place on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and a few cracks of black pepper. Roast at 180°C while preparing the rest of the dish. Cut 2 pork sausages into chunks and brown in a little butter in a large saucepan. Remove the sausage chunks and fry 1 onion, roughly chopped, and 2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced, until beginning to soften. Add 1 red or orange pepper, cut into chunks, and a large handful of red cabbage, roughly chopped. Fry until the onion becomes translucent, then add the sausage, 1 cup long or short grain rice, 2 cups hot stock, 1 tbsp paprika or smoked paprika, a pinch of salt, a generous crack of black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste, and a splash of Worcester sauce or soy sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes until the rice is almost cooked through, lifting occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan but not stirring. Take the plantain and sweet potato out of the oven and mix it into the jambalaya with a large handful of pre-cooked prawns. Cook for a final ten minutes or until the prawns are heated through and the rice is done, then serve.

Makes 3-4 portions, depending how hungry you are. Keeps in the fridge for a few days.

Variations:

  • Instead of prawns, Rhey used chicken, cooked with the sausage. It’s traditional for jambalaya to have two meats, but it’s not vital.
  • What vegetables you add to the jambalaya depends on what you have lying around. Any other hard vegetables, such as carrot or parsnip, can be roasted with the sweet potato. Soft vegetables like peas or sweetcorn could be added towards the end of the cooking time; vegetables like green beans or broccoli would probably be best steamed separately and again added with the sweet potato.

Sticky Chinese Vegetables

Adapted from a recipe for squirrel fish in an old Chinese cookbook. Fairly quick and simple once you get the hang of the technique.

In a small bowl, mix 1 heaped tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp tomato ketchup, and 2 tbsp fruit juice (I used pomegranate juice because it’s what I happened to have in the fridge – apple, orange, pineapple, cranberry etc should be fine as well. If using lemon or lime juice substitute 1 tbsp fruit juice with water). In another small bowl slake 1/4 tsp cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water to form a paste. Slice as thinly as possible 1-2 inches aubergine, 2 inches plantain, 1/4 bell pepper, a handful of red cabbage, a handful of frozen peas and 2 mushrooms. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan or wok above a high heat until a haze forms above the oil, then add all the vegetables. They should begin to sizzle immediately. Fry, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes or until the cabbage has softened and the plantain is beginning to caramelise. Stir in the sauce mixture, then stir the cornflour paste and add it to the pan. The sauce should thicken, making the vegetables look glossy. Take off the heat and serve in wraps or with rice.

Serves 1 or 2 with sides

Variations:

  • I’ve tried this with sweet potato, but it needs to be cooked for a few more minutes than the rest of the vegetables to make sure it’s softened. Onion would probably need the same treatment too.
  • Goes very well with smoked mackerel.

Lentil Lasagne

Takes some time and practice, especially the sauce, but it’s an old favourite of mine.

Cover 1/2 cup red lentils with boiling water and leave to stand. Fry 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced and 1 red onion, thickly chopped, in a little oil over a medium heat until beginning to soften. Add 1/2 medium sweet potato, cubed, 1/2 bell pepper, thickly chopped and 1/4 red cabbage, thickly chopped, and fry for five minutes, stirring. Strain the lentils and add to the pan with 4-5 mushrooms, quartered, 1/2 can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard and 1 tsp cumin seeds. Leave to simmer while preparing the sauce.
To make the sauce, melt 2 tbsp butter (about 1cm cut from a 100g block) in a small saucepan, then at add 2 heaped tbsp plain flour and stir thoroughly. The mixture should be thick and gluey, coming away from the side of the pan. If it’s thin, stir in a little more flour. Stirring constantly, slowly add 1 cup milk in increments – allow the sauce to thicken before adding more. Continue to cook the sauce for 2-3 minutes, then add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp paprika and/or a handful of grated cheese if desired.
Spoon half of the lentil mixture into a large casserole dish and cover with sheets of lasagne (the amount you need will depend on the size of your dish). Pour over half of the sauce and smooth it out. Don’t worry if the sauce is thin – it will taste fine. Add the rest of the lentil mixture, cover with lasagne sheets, and pour over the rest of the sauce, making sure the pasta is covered. Crack pepper over the top and place in the oven at 180°C for 40 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and easily cut with a knife.

Serves 3 generously, easily frozen

Variations:

  • For vegan, substitute the butter for margarine and milk for a non-dairy milk. I think soya milk works best for this recipe – better than dairy milk – but other milks should be fine. I’ve tried making white sauces with coconut milk, though, and I wouldn’t advise it.
  • Any of the vegetables can be substituted out for others; hard vegetables should be added with the cabbage and soft with the mushrooms and tomato. Particular favourites of mine are aubergine, peas, carrot and cauliflower.
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes can be arranged on top of the lasagne before baking. Particularly impressive if you have guests.
  • The lasagne sheets can be replaced with thinly sliced aubergine, although it will take longer to cook in the oven.