Recipe: Vegetarian Chilli


(putting them in to soak before you go to work in the morning is fine)

This recipe is adapted from one of the Moosewood Cookbooks – I’m afraid I can’t recall which, as I keep on writing down the quantities and changing things and I’ve lost track a bit of where it started.  It’s fun to feed this to people and watch them try to figure out if it contains meat – it doesn’t, of course, but the tomato-soaked burghul looks a lot like mince, and the flavour is fairly meaty. It’s my favourite way of feeding a large group when I’m short on money.

I usually serve this with corn chips, grated cheese, sour cream and mashed avocado, which feeds 10-12 people easily.  If I bake a lot of potatoes to go with it, it stretches to 20 or more – which is to say, it very thoroughly fed 13 people, and I had about 6 potato-less servings worth of leftovers.  If I’m serving it to vegan friends, I replace the sour cream with a tub of tofutti cream cheese mixed with 6 spring onions, 3 crushed garlic cloves, salt, pepper, paprika, and the juice of half a lemon – it’s creamy and sour and pungent and nobody has complained about it yet.

Incidentally, this is a very mild (though still tasty) chilli, so do feel free to add more spices according to your tastes. 

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3 cups dried kidney beans (or borlotti beans, or black beans, or a combination – whatever you have in the house is my policy), soaked overnight or at least 4 hours – the longer you soak them, the faster they will cook and the tastier they will be.  Theoretically, adding some bicarb of soda to the water makes them less windy, but I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference.
1 cup tomato juice (in fact, I found tomato juice to be too thick – I used a 170ml can of tomato juice and topped it up with 80mls water)
1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat (burghul)
olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (which is three or four onions, if you cook like I do)
8 large cloves garlic, minced. Or 10. Or a whole bulb.  Garlic is your friend!
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp chilli powder, or to taste
1 tbsp paprika
salt (herbamare is excellent here, herbamare piquant, even better)
black pepper and cayenne to taste
3 medium capsicums (three colours!) chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
150ml tomato paste, or thereabouts


Now what will you do with it?

Beans take ages to cook, so once they are soaked, put them in your biggest stockpot, cover liberally with water, and bring to a boil. Partially cover and then simmer until tender. Keep an eye on the water to make sure they don’t boil dry. When the beans are done, drain any excess water off and return them to the pot, though I generally find that there isn’t too much water left by this time, so I just add everything in without draining it.

This whole bean cooking thing will take about 1 1/4 hours, so you have plenty of time while they are simmering to see what other ingredients you need, go out and buy them if necessary, and wash and chop them up.  And maybe have a shower.  You could also use the time to make a cake for dessert, since you aren’t using the oven!  Or experiment with vegan marshmallows, if that floats your boat.

But first you should probably get everything together that you need for the chilli, because you’ll need something savoury before you eat all those marshmallows later.

Place the bulgur in a small bowl. Heat the tomato juice (with or without water) until boiling, and pour it over the bulgur. Cover the bowl and let it all stand for about 15 minutes. At the end of fifteen minutes, you have the most disgusting-looking bulgur imaginable, because the tomato distributes itself unevenly and the whole thing looks like really fatty mince with streaks of blood. Or maybe brains. Quite revolting, either way. I see this as a selling point. Add the disgusting bulgur to the drained beans. Now you have brains with weird dark oxygen-deprived corpuscles in them! Yum!

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and add the onion, half the garlic, carrot, celery and seasonings. Saute over medium heat for about five minutes, add the capsicums and zucchini and saute until all vegies are tender.

Add everything in the skillet to your brains and corpuscles, along with the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes (I’ll let you decide what these symbolise). Turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add water as this is very thick and wants to stick.   Of course, if you didn’t drain the beans, you may well be just fine.  Add the rest of the garlic about 10 minutes before the end of cooking time, along with rather a lot of paprika, and more salt if you feel it is necessary.  If you feel like chopping some parsley and adding it at the end, I won’t stop you, but I am usually far too lazy to do this myself.

Eat, with accompaniments of your choice, and with a lot of friends to help you, because this really is a *lot* of chilli.  You’ll be glad to hear that it improves with a day or two in the fridge, which is good, because you will have way too much of it.  It also freezes well, which is even better, because after a day or two, you will be very tired of the leftovers, no matter how good they taste!  Incidentally, I’m fairly sure the original recipe said to serve this over rice, but I’ve never felt the need to do so – you have lots of lovely carbohydrate from the bulgur of exceeding revoltingness. It’s pretty much a complete meal in itself.


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