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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Coconut Overnight Muesli

I get it. We don’t always have time to prepare meals ahead, eat Instagram worthy breakfasts every morning, occasionally a proper meal doesn’t even get a look in. In reality breakfast is porridge splodged into a bowl dripping down the sides, and lunch on the go comprises of an apple and a bag of almonds. For those desperate times convenience food is called upon, whether it’s Pret, M&S, Itsu, ‘insert name of food place here’, they’re easy, offer lots of choice for all diets and appetite, however it sure can all add up.

The past few weeks I’ve been here there and everywhere. Last minute jobs and changes of plans resulted in throwing clothes in a bag (not forgetting the toothbrush) and making a dash for it. Packed lunches went out the window, dinner and mealtimes completely thrown all over the show, mouthfuls taken in between hair plaiting and foundation applying. At times like these food is fuel, not eaten mindfully and enjoyed as it should.

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When I know I’m going to have a crazy busy day, no scheduled mealtimes and the lunch option only centres around curled up sandwiches and party sized bags of Haribo, I ensure to have a really good breakfast. One that’s enjoyed slowly, peacefully as a moment to myself. I cherish those moments. Something with a good mix of slow release carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and a bit of sweetness. Overnight oats pretty much ticks all of those boxes. Plus, the added extra that it can be made in a jar ready to pick up on your way out via the fridge, and eaten on the train, in your car whilst stuck in traffic or al desko. WIN WIN.

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I’m having a bit of a moment lately with muesli. The textures and sog that you get when it’s been soaking in milk for a brief sitting and every mouthful is just that little bit more different than the last. Yet again in the summer months I do enjoy a little fling with overnight oats. Porridge’s cooler friend, the one that was just thrown effortlessly together, walks with a breeze and without a care in the world with a touch of prepped smugness. I’ll have some of that please.

Grab your favourite muesli, I lean towards Rude Health’s Super Seed muesli, favouring more grains and seeds rather than dried fruit to control the sweetness levels. Prepared in the same way as we would overnight oats, stirred up with ground linseeds, yogurt, milk, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. We all have time for that surely? Prepare a large batch for the week ahead and divide into individual jars ready for the morning dash.

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To make it super thick and creamy, yogurt is a necessity. It adds a tang along with soaking the grains so they are more easily digested. An organic full fat yogurt with probiotic cultures, such as Yeo Valley, is an accessible choice found in most supermarkets here in the UK. I love yogurt, and eat dairy so that isn’t an issue for me, however I do enjoy mixing things up a little. On the odd occasion going for a coconut yogurt such as Coyo or Coconut Collaborative, some goats yogurt or almond or cashew yogurt. We’ve had a sudden influx here of alternative dairy products, Nush and Abbot Kinney are both coconut, almond and cashew yogurt brands which have recently appeared on the shelves. I even spotted a rice milk yogurt the other day. Don’t get me started on oat yogurt, a variety I have been desperate to try for AGES, Oatly my favourite oat milk brand from Sweden are yet to bring the yogurt to the UK. I am waiting, fidgeting, not patiently at all, but waiting all the same. Yes, alternative yogurts are more expensive, but it’s enjoyable to try new products and discover what you like, even if it is only very occasionally as a payday treat.

This particular day I had an opened tub of natural Coyo (if you have ever tried the salted caramel flavour, it is so good it’s just plain wrong!). Coyo is a lusciously thick coconut yogurt, more like coconut cream, so you don’t need much to be satisfied. That’s why I manage to stretch out one pot to a few servings. This overnight muesli could be made with any yogurt as a substitute, whichever you have open or is your favourite.

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I like to top this with fresh fruit, berries particularly are wonderful, or some mashed banana or grated apple stirred through just before serving to add a nice sweetness. A spoon of nut butter and some more seeds on top (you can never have too many) for crunch and bee pollen, because why not. If making your breakfast look pretty nourishes your soul, then go on and have a field day.

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Coconut overnight muesli

This makes just the one serving but you can double, triple or multiply the quantities as many times as you need to make a jar for breakfast every weekday. Eat on the train or whenever you get a chance to breathe and enjoy, and DON’T FORGET THE SPOON!!

Ingredients

  • 45g muesli
  • 1 tsp ground linseeds (ground flax or chia seeds work too)
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 (large) tbsp coconut yogurt
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of milk (nut, oat, rice, cows, they all are good)
  • Berries to serve
  • Bee pollen
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almond butter

Method

  1. Mix the muesli, salt, cinnamon and ground linseeds in a bowl.
  2. Add the yogurt and stir until evenly combined.
  3. Starting with a 1/4 cup of milk mix well, if it is still quite thick add a splash more until the thickness of pancake batter, remembering it thickens up overnight. Place in the fridge until the next day or whenever it is served.
  4. At breakfast, give it a good stir add more milk if you like it thinner and top with berries, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and bee pollen, of course the almond butter too.
  5. If preparing for a few days ahead divide evenly into jars and add the toppings that you like where they will keep for 5-7 days, ready to be taken as and when needed.

I’m ready now for some much needed chill time. No more meals out of tupperware. Sitting at a table eating with a knife and fork (not plastic ones), perhaps a small glass of wine surrounded by my family. That’s what food should be about. And I cannot wait.

Hugs and kisses

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