Bean, Pumpkin and Chestnut Chilli with a Very Special Secret Ingredient

Chilli is a regular feature in our household.  It is quick and easy to make, everyone (yes everyone) in my family likes it, it is healthy and low fat, you can make a truck load in just about the same time as it takes to make a normal portion so perfect for when all the aunts and uncles come to stay, you can jazz it up by serving with a nice salad and some garlic bread, it can be made in advance and either kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen…and the list goes on.  So why, I can hear you asking, am I messing about with something that is effectively a family dinner institution?  Well, I guess the answer to that is quite simply that I love to put my own spin on recipes.  This normally involves including more of what I like in a dish and creating an opportunity for myself to experiment with flavours.  I have to admit, it is a bit scary at first, but now I pretty much do it all the time.  The reward for being brave is creating a dish that you love which you might never have had otherwise.  There are of course times when it does not go to plan, but after a few swear words and deep breaths, I’m normally able to put it down to experience and take it in my stride.  I have every confidence that you will be able to do the same.

This recipe is the result of an afternoon of experimentation, and for want of a better expression, I think it has been a ‘roaring success’!  It’s vegetarian, because I don’t eat meat.  But fear not, I will also tell you how and where to add some meat because I know for some (my husband being one of them) chilli without meat is a crime.

Part of my motivation for this dish was in fact this months We Should Cocoa blog challenge set by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog.  The theme is ‘savoury and vegetarian’, and as with all We should Cocoa challenges, chocolate must be included.  I have got to say, this stumped me for quite a while, but then I remembered that special chocolate that had a whole TV series dedicated to it a couple of years back and which I have always wanted to try.  A little bit of internet research later and I found out I was thinking of Willie’s Supreme Cacao. It’s 100% cacao and although it looks like chocolate, it is not something you want to eat raw. I tried!!  The theory behind adding this to dishes, apart from it being cool, is that is adds a depth of flavour and chocolate compliments chilli beautifully.  So the very special ingredient in this chilli is cacao, but for the sake of ease, lets call it chocolate!  If you can’t get hold of Willie’s chocolate, some unsweetened cocoa powder will be a good alternative.

So go on, give this a go and impress everyone who will listen with your culinary knowledge (cacao, depth of flavour etc) and most importantly your willingness to try something a little bit different with splendid results.

Serves 2 adults and 3 children easily with a bit left over for kids tea later in the week

What you will need:

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans or leave this out and add a 500g pack of minced beef
  • 1 tin of black beans (or kidney beans if you can’t get black)
  • Half a medium pumpkin or 1 medium butternut squash cut into squares
  • 200g chestnuts (I brought mine in a pack)
  • 1 romano pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground paprika
  • 1 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp of grated cacao or 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 pint of vegetable stock
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 350g of tomato passata (about half a bottle)
  • Pinch of pepper for seasoning

  How to make:

  1. Preheat you oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.  Put your cubes of pumpkin into a roasting tray, sprinkle with olive oil and cook in the oven for 30-40 mins.  I like to roast pumpkin for most dishes as it brings out the sweetness and flavour
  2. Put your onions and garlic in a large saucepan and start to cook gently with a bit of olive oil.  Once soft, add the pepper.  Then add all the spices apart from the chocolate and cook for a further 5 minutes
  3. Now add beans/meat and cook for 5-10 mins (more like 10 mins if you have meat)
  4. Now add chestnuts, chopped tomato and passata and cook for 10 mins
  5. Add the vegetable stock and season with pepper.  Cook on a low heat for about 25-30 mins
  6. Towards the end of this cooking time, add the roasted pumpkin, and right at the end stir in the grated chocolate
  7. Serve with plain basmati rice

I’m also going to enter this post into the Fabulicious Food‘s Family Friendly Friday challenge.

PS:  Willie did not sponsor me to write this post

PPS:  There are still a few places left for my very first Bake Club evening, so if you live in the Sevenoaks area take a look at my Bake Club post for more info on how to book.

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07/02/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Family dinners, Savory Baking, Vegetarian. 10 comments.