Burnt courgette veggie chilli and all the fixings

Meat Free Monday. An initiative started up to encourage eating a vegetarian meal altogether as a family just one day per week, to improve your health as well as the health of the environment. Also there’s One Part Plant, started up by Jessica Murnane, with the idea to eat one plant based meal per day. Some use it as a chance for a healthy meal full of vegetables, others to reduce the impact of meat production on the environment. By vegetarian I’m talking vegetables, grains, legumes, a bit of dairy or eggs perhaps (I do love me a bit of cheese), but definitely not Quorn fish fingers and chips. Please can a vegetarian explain to me why you would want to eat something which resembles the taste and texture of a fish finger when you choose not to eat the real thing? I just don’t get it.

Now for many, a vegetarian meal completely devoid of meat, fish and sometimes eggs and dairy too if it’s vegan, well that’s not a meal. I’m from the North of England. The home of meat and two veg, bread and dripping, Lancashire hotpot and the legendary Pie Barm (google Wigan Kebab). If it contains, meat, potatoes and pastry, it’s probably Northern and the food that we were brought up on. It’s cold up here, we need the stodge to keep the warmth in our bones.

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The struggle here has to be the Dads. Happy with steak and chips every night I’m sure, the meal that always fits the bill, but not necessarily a happy one on the purse strings. A veggie meal for Meat Free Monday which isn’t too funky, not too many greens and no weird unpronounceable components like quinoa or edamame or tzatziki, that’s what we’re after. I always opt for a veggie chilli full of different beans, lentils and veggies for that texture and a lack of meat means we need to up the flavour for some oomph! Of course whenever the pan is set down at the table for dinner my dad has to ask ‘does this contain any meat’, well no it doesn’t. Nevertheless we all really enjoy it, and as soon as he has dug in the lack of beef isn’t mentioned again.

Chilli Con Carne is one of those meals I remember fondly from my childhood. Something which is quick and easy for busy families and makes everyone happy. One made from minced beef and tomatoes (basically Spag Bol minus the herbs with added spices and chilli) and a tin of kidney beans thrown in the mix. Probably the only meal we used to eat that contained beans or legumes (the chickpea was alien to me) and the beans I then picked out and left sucked of their chilli juices on the side of the plate. Oh how things have changed. Spooned on top of white rice and a side of garlic bread it was a regular on the meal rotation.

Perhaps traditional in the UK, but not so much a traditional recipe. Hailing from Mexico the Chilli Con Carne is a far cry away from what we are used to. Chunks of beef, like cheek, brisket or shin slowly simmered in a deeply rich sauce, no minced beef here, and technically kidney beans shouldn’t be seen either. A melange of spices, paprika and different chillies all balanced to give layers of smoky-sweet flavour which is finished off with some dark chocolate (it makes all the difference). Cooked up in one pot, cowboy style, that’s how a chilli should be.

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Well and truly burnt

For those Meat Free Mondays we want a veggie chilli which isn’t just a substitute or a side, but it’s even better than the real thing. So good that the vegetarians have to fight to get their fill before the carnivores tuck in. That’s when you know it’s good. Vegetarian food is no more difficult than cooking meat it just requires extra spices and flavouring tricks to pack in that flavour. Different pulses, grains and vegetables are used to provide varying texture and interest so every mouthful is different.

I like to serve this veggie chilli over a jacket or baked sweet potato, but brown or white rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, in a wrap or just in a deep bowl with tortillas to scoop up the juices. All will suffice here. The toppings are a necessity. Whether you go basic with some guacamole or all out with sour cream, coriander, lime to squeeze, feta or grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, pickled jalapenos, chilli sauce (Cholula Hot Sauce always is a winner), spiced up salsa and some sauerkraut. This is the pot that will suit all, just make sure to fill the table so everyone can DIY.

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This recipe I found in the January edition of Good Food magazine, from Izy Hossack (of Top with Cinnamon). It was a recipe for a burnt aubergine veggie chilli, and, not like me at all, we didn’t have any aubergines in and I couldn’t be bothered to walk down to the shops in the rain to get some. So courgettes had to do. If you’re familiar with making Baba Ghanoush, the courgettes need to be charred under a grill or directly on your gas ring until blackened and starting to collapse. The skins are then peeled away to leave a silky smooth interior with some smokiness that is to be folded through the chilli. If you’d prefer, here is the original recipe using the aubergines, but at this time of year I’m sure you avid gardeners are growing courgettes out of your ears. So for a respite from courgette chutney and fritters, add this into your courgette cooking repertoire.

Below are also the recipes for the sweetcorn and tomato salsa and guacamole with which I served the chilli. Super simple and quick and only require a few extra ingredients. But it’s the extras that make this dish shine!!

Burnt courgette veggie chilli

Ingredients

  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 30g red lentils, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin black beans
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce/tamari
  • 1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • 20g dark chocolate (70% plus, the darker the better)
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or more/less to taste)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 heaped tsp vegetable stock powder (I use Bouillon)
  • 400ml water

Directions

  1. Turn your grill up to high and place the courgettes under for around 30 mins to 45 mins, turning occasionally until well blackened and charred all over. If you have a gas hob place the courgettes directly on the ring and char until completely blackened. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion, carrots and celery and cook gently for around 20 minutes until softened. Stir often to make sure they don’t burn.
  3. Go back to the courgettes and peel away the burnt skin to reveal the soft inner flesh. Throw away all the burnt bits, making sure to scrape every little bit of the insides away and set aside.
  4. Once the carrots, celery and onions have softened add the red lentils and the two tins of beans along with the water in the cans. Add in the courgette flesh, soy sauce, tinned tomatoes, chipotle paste, all the herbs and spices, chocolate, vegetable stock and 400 ml of water. Stir everything together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a very low simmer.
  5. Put the lid on ajar, and leave to cook for 1 1/2 hrs, stirring very often, as it thickens it will stick to the bottom. If it starts to look a bit thick add a bit more water.
  6. After the time, take off the lid and check the consistency, if it seems a little thin leave to reduce for another 15 minutes or so longer. You want a thick sauce.
  7. Check the seasoning, adding more salt or chilli if you think necessary, then squeeze in the juice of half a lime, sprinkle with some coriander and take to the table to serve.

Sweetcorn and tomato salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • Handful of coriander leaves and stalks
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded

Directions

  1. Drain the sweetcorn and put into a bowl.
  2. Finely dice the tomatoes, slice the coriander leaves and stalks finely along with the deseeded chilli and add all to the sweetcorn.
  3. Squeeze in the juice of some lime, a big pinch of salt and pepper then taste for seasoning. Add more chilli, lime or salt if you like and serve spooned on top of the veggie chilli.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime

Directions

  1. Slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
  2. Add the juice of the lime and a large pinch of salt and mash well with a fork. Leave chunkier if you like or mash until smooth and creamy if that’s what you prefer. Taste for seasoning.

 

Let me know what you think if you cook this recipe. It doesn’t have to be on a Monday either, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, any day it will be good. And the leftovers even better. If you’re making this for a solo dinner or two people, make the full amount. Eat leftovers for dinner or lunch later in the week or freeze for a rainy day.

Snuggly warming hugs

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Mexican Black Bean Dip

Hummus is my GO-TO thing. Lunch or dinner looking a bit dull? HUMMUS. Need a healthy snack full of protein and fibre? HUMMUS. Need a dish to take along to a friend’s party or gathering? HUMMUS. Ran out of the last lot of hummus? Time to make some HUMMUS. 

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I understand how easy and accessible hummus is nowadays, your local Tesco Express probably stocks at least 4 or 5 different varieties, and it is a good way of adding some healthy fats and protein into your diet. Looking at the label, the ingredients are pretty familiar but the levels of fat and salt can be pretty high, so the serving size is limited to 1/4 of a pot. Seriously, does anyone stick to that guideline? It takes some stroonggggg will power, one of which, I don’t have.

I’m totally ok with that.

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I do prefer home made though. It leaves space to mix up the beans and pulses, as we all know eating a predominantly plant based diet requires lots of variety, so rotate those legumes. Chickpea is the classic, but try Butter bean or Cannellini bean for some smoooooth dipping. I always try to buy the best tinned beans I can afford, in the supermarkets they do an organic range which is in a carton with no added salt. I would soak and cook them myself but always end up forgetting, and this girl is not waiting for beans to soak to get her hummus fix. If you’re much more organised than me, than by all means using dried beans is a thriftier (and usually tastier) option.

 

Most of my recipes and creations tend to involve using up a glut of things in my fridge. This time it happened to be coriander, which always wilts quicker than I can use it up. And the Saturday curry night never uses the entire bunch – I do love my coriander it gets sprinkled on everything – but still there will be some left. I also wanted to make a black bean dip to change things up a bit. Refried beans has to be up there in one of my favourite things to eat. Just give me a bowl of refried beans, guacamole and salsa. That’s one happy Thea, just leave me be. 

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So the general elements of hummus, chickpeas, lemon, garlic, cumin, olive oil, tahini and salt all get a little switch around. Here we have black beans (but feel free to use kidney beans if you can’t get hold of them), lime, garlic, ground cumin and coriander, chilli, pumpkin seeds, fresh coriander and salt. Rather simple, takes only a few minutes in the trusty food processor (mine is older than me, it’s vintage!) and is ready to dollop at your hearts desire. Carrot sticks at the ready!

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of black beans, drained
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 small bunch of coriander
  • 1 small handful pumpkin seeds
  • 1 green chilli, de-seeded
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • Lime
  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil/rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Put the drained black beans into a food processor along with the peeled garlic clove, pumpkin seeds and ground spices
  2. Chop the stalks of the coriander roughly and add it all into the food processor along with the zest and juice of 1/2 the lime.
  3. Chop the chilli and add along with a big pinch of salt and the oil and blitz.
  4. Leave the motor running for a minute or two, you may need to scrape down the sides until smooth, then taste. Add any extra salt, lime or chilli you feel necessary.
  5. Scrape into a serving dish or Tupperware where it will keep for 5 days.

Enjoy you lovely lot!

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A tribute to toast

Bread

All you carbophones keep on scrolling as you won’t be interested. BUT YOU SHOULD BE.

Is there anything better in life than some fresh bread, sourdough, baguette, white, brown anything goes, and smothered (we’re not talking a thin coat, I mean 1 inch thick) with butter. That’s salted. Always.

I went through a sad time in my life after reading too many of these health food blogs in this ‘wellness world’, when I decided that carbs were bad. Which meant completely avoiding bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, even grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, spelt and at one point even rye. I thought they would make you put on weight, all we need is a paleo way of life. Vegetables and protein and lots of fat.

But my idea of that didn’t include much protein. So basically I was surviving on just vegetables, avocado and nuts. And I wondered why I was hungry all the time…

(Do not go down this route, it’s not good, not good at all!)

So in an attempt to get my life together and learn to practice balance, carbs have come flooding back in. BIG TIME.

You see they are kinda necessary. Carbohydrates in the form of starchy foods need to make up up to a third of what we eat. Apart from being an excellent source of energy (the slow releasing sort) they contain calcium, iron, B vitamins and most importantly fibre. Every little bit adds up to that 30g of fibre we need a day.

So in a bid to put on some much needed pounds and give myself the energy to power through not just workouts but my whole day, more carbs it is. There could be worse things.

Now when it comes to bread I do love some sourdough. Hefty, chewy and with that must have tang, as it is is best. Or dunked into some steaming soup. My love affair with bread however was rekindled by a certain rye bread. Now considered to be popular among the health food lovers amongst us, and the main component of a #basic breakfast, Biona rye bread is the one. 

Sworn on by the Danes, and most of Scandinavia, rye bread is nothing new. It’s been eaten daily by all walks of life before it became trendy. And why shouldn’t it be, with such a rich deep flavour, that toasts up to perfection.

Did I just mention toast?

Stuck in a mealtime rut, or just so hangry that you need something in your mouth, RIGHT NOW!

Toast is always the answer.

It can be topped an infinite number of ways. Sweet, savoury, or mix the two together, and you don’t have to stick to plain avo with salt and lemon. Although why mess with a classic, it has a time and a place.

Black tahini, kiwi and passionfruit


So let’s av’ it. Toast up your bread till nice and crispy and get ready to devour, veerrryyyyyyy soon.

Arf n arf. For you lot not from the north, it is indeed half and half (usually in the form of half chips and half rice with a curry)


Sweet options are up first.

  • Peanut butter and banana

Ok, ok use almond, cashew whatever else, but pb is LIFE, and its’ soulmate is banana. Sprinkle with a good amount of cinnamon, bee pollen and cacao nibs. Fancy pants enough for you?

  • Nut butter and berries

So this is where the sweeter flavour of almond or cashew comes into play. If you can grab a coconut almond butter from either Meridian or Pip and Nut, you’re laughing. It compliments the tart berries to perfection, add some flaked coconut and perhaps more seeds for that crunch factor. 

  • Peanut butter, kiwi and granola

Granola on toast? Yep you read that right. After having seen @jescoxnutritionist post this on Instagram I knew she was on to something. It really is as good as it sounds. Make sure the kiwi and ripe and juicy, sliced thinly on top of some (make it crunchy) peanut butter, a good dousing with granola and a drizzle of date syrup for a little sweetness. The best by far, I think so!

  • Apple, tahini and cinnamon

If you’re a tahini lover this will float your boat. Smother the bread with dark, light or black tahini. Thinly slice an apple (British if possible), fan out across the toast, add the obligatory cinnamon and whatever other sprinkles you like. Quick, simple and most importantly tasty. 

  • Baked Fig, tahini and yogurt

Now if you follow me on instagram you’ll have seen me post this the other morning. Figs are in season for such a short time so grab em quick! Bake some figs for around 10 mins until warm and juicy, spread the toast liberally with tahini, swirl on the teeniest tiniest bit of raw honey, top with figs, yogurt dollops and lotsa cinnamon. The sweet stuff.

  • Avo, berries and nut butter

Feeling indecisive, why not mix the two together.

  • Peach Melba toast

Spread with coconut yogurt, top with thinly sliced peach and raspberries, sprinkle with hemp seeds and bee pollen. Feel like the ultimate summer goddess.

Now for some savoury tings, acceptable for breakfast lunch or dinner. Get on it! No I’m not going to get all egg on toast here, although that’s always a good option, here’s to something different. 

  • Avo on toast #basic

Go simple and smash it on there with a squeeze of lemon or lime to be zesty, and good pinch of salt and some chilli flakes.

  • Miso and tahini (future names for my cats), avo on toast   

An idea I got from the lovely blog, Dolly and Oatmeal. Mix a good tbsp of your favourite tahini with a small amount of white or brown miso and spread on toast. Top with sliced avo a good squeeze of lime and some sesame seeds for a sprinklinn’.

  • Avocado, strawberries and feta

When it’s summer and the sweetest of strawberries are in season,this is stellar. Mash the avo, spread on your toast, top with thinly sliced strawberries (nectarine/peaches are also good) and add feta or goats cheese. Its got that salty, sweet thing.

  • Avo, pea and feta smash

It is what is says, add some finely chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon and get spreading. Top with seeds and some rocket leaves.

  • Tahini, cucumber and smoked salmon
  • Beetroot, smashed avo and smoked mackerel
  • Hummus, mashed butternut squash, sliced tomatoes and chillies. Throw a little smoked paprika on there too. 

Messy, but still delicious. Hummus is always the right answer.


Obviously this not a definitive list, use up whatever’s left in your fridge to create something new, or stick to a well loved classic. Just always try to include some protein (animal or plantbased) and a small amount of fat, that way you’ll keep on chugging easily until the next big feed!

A toast to toast

Much love

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