[This recipe is under development. That's why it looks like two recipes merged together.]
This recipe is from the old days when my family and I would have regular board game nights with friends each week. In the corner of the kitchen, bubbling away, there'd be a big pot of chilli. In between games, people would help themselves to a ladle or two of the chilli to stick in a taco or tortilla as well as whatever else they wanted to eat with it.
I make this recipe in a slow cooker. I do the prep first thing in the morning. It takes about half an hour. I then leave it cooking all day so that the flavours mix and intensify. The quantities below feed about six people. The base recipe is vegan so it's suitable for pretty much anyone turning up to the game night, but if everyone eats meat then you can follow the additional instructions for a traditional beef chilli.
- Six or eight good-quality beef, pork or meat-analogue sausages. Chorizo sausages work quite well;
- 250g of portobello mushrooms. This is just a marketing name for mature Agaricus bisporus, known as the chestnut mushroom when immature and brown;
- Three small red onions;
- Three medium carrots;
- Three stalks of celery;
- Half a bulb of garlic, or less if you're not as keen on it as I am;
- Chilli peppers, if you like this spicy;
- Three tablespoons of tomato purée;
- Three, four, or five red peppers, either fresh or jarred roasted ones;
- Two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes;
- A 400g tin of your favourite kind of beans (just not kidney beans);
- A vegetable stock cube;
- Up to 30g of dark chocolate (if desired);
- The spice mixture, made up of whatever you enjoy from the following: two bay leaves, three teaspoons of smoked paprika, two teaspoons of coriander, and a teaspoon each of black pepper, and chilli powder (or as much as you like really).
Roast the peppers if they aren't the sort to come in jars. Set your slow cooker to low to warm it up.
Finely chop the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and fry them in a bit of olive oil until they're soft. If you want this to be like a chilli, add the chilli peppers now.
Chop the roasted red peppers and put them into the onion mixture.
Mix the spices together and coat the vegetables in the spice mixture well.
Add the tomato purée and cook for a minute.
Tip the cans of chopped tomatoes and the onion mixture into the slow cooker.
Crumble the stock cube into the slow cooker.
Don't add water unless the mixture looks really dry because the water will come out as it cooks.
In the frying pan you used for the onion mixture, brown the sausages all over. Remember that the slow cooker can't brown them any more than you do in the pan. Add them to the slow cooker.
Give the whole thing a good stir and cook on low for six hours.
For the final thirty minutes of cooking...
Finely chop the mushrooms, ideally in a food processor so it's really fine, and fry them for five minutes with a bit of black pepper. Add to the slow cooker.
If desired, break up (or grate) all of the dark chocolate into to the slow cooker.
You can also add some fried chillis at this point for a bit more heat.
Drain the cans of beans and tip them into the slow cooker. When they are cooked, the stew is ready.
If you're making this like a chilli, top with grated cheese or thinly-sliced spring onions, stir in coriander leaves or parsley leaves, or squeeze over some lime juice. Serve with brown rice, jalapeños, avacado slices or guacamole, tortilla chips, salsa, tortillas, or yogurt or sour cream.
If you're making this more like a winter stew, you could have it with rice, potatoes or just some crusty buttered bread. Cheese would work well too. Maybe cheesy jacket potatoes. Sour cream might be nice too.
Experience with variants
- Beef. Fry 500g of mince or cut-up steak in some oil for about ten minutes or until it's evenly browned. Tip this into the slow cooker instead of the sausage. You can also use beef stock instead of vegetable stock.
- Wine. Some chilli and stew recipes call for a glass of red wine for a bit more flavour. You can boil the wine in with the sausages or meat. You keep going for ten minutes or so or until most of the wine has been reduced and it no longer smells alcoholic.
- Aubergines. I haven't yet tried this, but for a future stew, I want to char the skin of some aubergines, remove it, and put the chopped aubergine flesh into the slow cooker with everything else. I did roast aubergine cubes for a previous stew, but they tasted bitter. I had not cooked them for long enough, I think.
- Kidney beans. Oh, these always turn out bitter. I think I just cook them for too long and the beans should just be added at the end of the cooking, so I'll try that next time.
- Dumplings. Dumplings are always popular in stew. Take 200g of self-raising flour, 75g of either frozen butter or shredded suet, and 125ml of cold water. If using butter, you coarsely grate and coat it in the flour, one quarter of the butter at a time. Then mix it with the water into a dough and roll in a dozen small balls. Put these on top of the stew at the same stage as you add the mushrooms and beans. You can add cheddar cheese, parsley, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, sage, chives, or any other herby stuff.