Mexican food is awesome. Tortillas, tacos, refried beans, guacamole and salsa. But the king of Mexican food, the absolute pinnacle has to be the chilli. Lets face it, you can have some mince, chuck whatever you like in it and call it a chilli. When have you ever been to two different places, ordered a chilli and had exactly the same meal? I’ve even been to a chilli cooking competition and one of the ingredients on offer was chocolate. Chocolate in a chilli? No, not for me either.
Since becoming a vegetarian I have had a few worries about things that I may miss with a chilli being one of them. A chilli con carne has great emphasis on the meat, obviously, but I wanted to make a chilli where the meat could easily be replaced, because it wasn’t necessarily the main event. Plus I was worried as a chilli has been the kid’s favourite for a while now. Here’s the recipe I came across where I replaced the beef mince with vegi mince. This is so chock full of veg, it remains the kid’s favourite and they haven’t even noticed the switch!
- 500g of vegi mince or 500g of minced beef
- 2 red peppers
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp of chilli powder
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- Olive oil
- Freshly ground salt and pepper
- 1 400g tin of chickpeas
- 1 400g tin of kidney beans
- 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- Small bunch of fresh coriander – remove le
- 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
- Peel and finely chop the onions
- Chop carrots in half widthways. Chop each part in half again lengthways. Slice into 0.5cm chunks all the way along
- Chop the red peppers into chunks of approximately 2cm squared
- Chop the celery in slices approximately 0.5cm thick
- Remove leaves from coriander and save then finely chop stalks and put to one side
- Take a large, deep casserole pan and put it on a medium heat
- Pour olive oil into the bottom until the whole base is covered
- Tip in all of your vegetables (onions, garlic, carrots, celery, red peppers)
- Add the chilli, cinnamon and cumin and plenty of salt and pepper
- Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring continuously until the veg has softened up a bit
- Chuck in the chickpeas, kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, mince (vegi or beef), chopped coriander stalks and balsamic vinegar. Season generously to your taste
- Fill up one of the empty tomato tins with water and pour it in. Mix everything together
- Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer
- Put a lid on the pan and leave a little gap on the side
- Let simmer for an hour, thoroughly stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the sauce has thickened
If using vegi mince then it will likely take less than an hour for the liquid to evaporate. Feel free to stop cooking when it’s at a consistency you desire.If using beef mince, ensure you cook for at least the full hour. There will be more liquid than the vegi mince so you may need to cook for longer.
Serve with rice, pitta bread and whatever other accompaniments you like, tacos, tortillas, guacamole, salsa or sour cream.
One of my favourite vegetables has just appeared in Tesco! I first came across a Romanesco Cauliflower when it was delivered in a box from one of those organic vegetable companies and if truth be told when I first laid eyes on it I had no idea what it was! When I heard the name I wasn’t massively excited. I mean cauliflower, hardly the most dynamic of vegetables. I don’t dislike it, I don’t like it either but I will eat it. It’s basically a tasteless mush if you overcook it and has an unpleasant bitter taste when you undercook it. Mix it with cheese sauce, top it with bread crumbs and grill it and turn it into cauliflower cheese, now you’re taking. But the reason that dish is so nice probably has more to do with the cheese, rather than the cauliflower.
Anyway, a Romanesco cauliflower may have the name ‘cauliflower’ in the title, it may grow like a cauliflower with leaves around the bottom and a lumpy flowering part in the middle, it may also be from the same family as a cauliflower, but a cauliflower it ain’t. In fact it’s only in the UK where we add the word ‘cauliflower’, in most other places it’s just called Romanesco. I guess that’s because it wasn’t that long ago when cauliflower, carrots and peas were the only vegetable we ate so they added the ‘cauliflower’ to make it less scary for us!
Once you take the leaves off then it bears very little resemblance to a cauliflower, it looks more like broccoli on acid, the kind of broccoli you’d expect to see in Alice in Wonderland. It’s a better raw eat than cauliflower and it’s flavour in much nuttier and more earthy.
As well as eating it raw it can be sautéed, or cooked through. You can add garlic and lemon, stick it in a curry or make Romanesco cheese, as above! Romanesco absolutely soaks up flavour so go nuts!
Here’s an accompaniment to a Shepherdess Pie I made last night. It’s simple and very tasty.
- One Romanesco cauliflower
- One large carrot
- 1tsp dried marjoram
- 1tsp dried thyme
- 500ml vegetable stock
- Break the Romanesco small florets
- Chop the carrots into chunks – Cut the carrot in half then cut it in half again lengthways. Chop each part in half lengthways again, push the halves together then proceed to chop into 1cm cubes
- Place a large pan on the heat and bring the vegetable stock back to the boil. Chuck in your Romnesco and carrot and the herbs and mix it all up. Put the lid on the pan, keep it on a medium to high heat and leave for 10 minutes.
- Serve with a slotted spoon as an accompaniment
Tip: Use a large enough pan so that the Romesco isn’t fully covered by the stock.
“I thought that learning how to make a decent cheese sauce would be appropriate”
Kids like cheese. Let’s face it, everyone likes cheese don’t they? I have a mate who grates cheese onto every meal, he’s a hero. Yes he’s obese and has trouble breathing but he’s still a hero. I have another acquaintance, he goes out for a meal and orders pizzas without cheese. He is not a hero, he’s weird.
With that in mind I thought that learning how to make a decent cheese sauce would be appropriate, especially as it is such a piece of piss. You can also use it for quite a few kids meals, I’ve given some suggestions below. These aren’t meant to be adult meals, hence the simplicity and the fact that most of them just involve cooking something and then pouring the cheese sauce over the top!
- Cauliflower or Broccoli Cheese or Vegetables with Cheese (cook cauliflower, broccoli or both and pour cheese sauce over it. If your kids are babies or fussy, mash up or blend it to oblivion so they can’t see the veg). You can also add cheese sauce to other cooked veg like carrots, peas or courgettes. Kids are more likely to eat stuff covered in cheese.
- Fish and Cheese Sauce (get some filleted white fish, cook it as per instructions, then pour the cheese sauce over the top, leave the fish whole or flake it into the sauce with a fork)
- Pasta with Cheese Sauce. The jewell of daddy cooking, the go to guy, pasta. From fussy kids to eat anything kids they all like pasta. Just cook pasta, drain and then mix up with the cheese sauce. Then you can add in any cooked meat you like and mix it up, also any cooked veg. Overcooking broccoli slightly and then mashing it to kingdom come and mixing it with the cheese sauce is a great way to hide veg.
So, to the cheese sauce. You’ll just need the following, which you’ll probably have in.
- 15g butter
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 150ml of milk
- 50g grated cheddar
You can use other cheeses like Edam, but let’s face it, cheddar is the daddy of cheeses so it’s appropriate. Stronger cheddars give a better flavour in my opinion too.
Put your saucepan on a low heat and chuck in the butter. Wait for it to melt, slowly. Don’t be tempted to turn the pan up. Then chuck in the milk and the flour. Whisk until thickened and all the lumps are gone (use a fork if you can’t find a whisk). Some people will tell you to add the flour slowly to the butter and stir it gently to make a roux and then add the milk, what the hell is a roux?! You can do it that way if you like but I don’t think it makes a jot of difference, it just makes it much more likely you’re going to burn your pan!
Once you have all the lumps out and you’ve got a smooth sauce then turn off the heat completely. Add the cheese into the pan and stir. All the grated cheese disappears very quickly and you have yourself a cheese sauce. Sorted!