As most you know, Jane and I are not vegetarians, but we do love our veggies and quite often eat meat-free meals. This post is about one of those.
Having had a lot of red meat recently, and with a kitchen brimming with pulses and other good things, it seemed appropriate to make something from store-cupboard ingredients. I decided on "Vegetarian Chilli with Polenta". This is a dish which has everything going for it. It is easy to make, inexpensive, tasty, nourishing and well-balanced.
This is how to do it...
First make some "hard" (i.e. set) polenta.
Line a deep dish or baking-tin with clingfilm.
Bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a large (preferably non-stick) pan, and slowly pour into it 170g of instant polenta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
When all the polenta is incorporated, cook it for however long it says on the pack - usually just 3 to 5 minutes. By this time the polenta will be the texture of fairly sloppy mashed potato, and just beginning to come away from the sides of the pan.
Now add 25g butter and 25g grated Parmesan cheese. Stir thoroughly to incorporate the new ingredients.
Tip the polenta into the dish or baking-tin, and spread it out roughly.
Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then place in fridge to solidify. (Allow 4 hours at least).
Shortly before cooking-time, cut the set polenta into conveniently-sized pieces.
To make the Vegetarian Chilli.
Heat oven to 120C
Peel and chop one large onion, they fry it gently until translucent.
Peel and crush 2 cloves of Garlic and fry with the onions - just make sure it doesn't burn!
When onions are ready, tip into their pan one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, approx. 100g cooked Black Beans* (or Red Kidney Beans) and 100g cooked Sweet Corn (I used frozen corn).
Add 1 tsp dried Oregano, 1 tsp chilli powder (adjust according to preference) and half tsp ground Cumin. I also added 1 tsp of my home-made harissa!
Add a splash of water and mix all ingredients thoroughly.
Cook in oven for 75 minutes. Ensure the dish is piping hot before serving. [Note: You are not really cooking the ingredients, simply heating them, so timing is not critical here.]
* I used 100g of dried Black Beans, soaked for two hours, and then cooked until tender with two Chipotle chillis in the same pan to add some flavour. You could of course use a can of beans...
Cook the polenta.
Heat about 2 tbsp. vegetable oil in a frying-pan
Slowly slide the polenta pieces into the hot oil, avoiding splashes!
Fry until golden and slightly crispy, turning carefully once or twice, using a fish-slice or spatula. [Allow approx. 10 minutes.]
Spoon the Vegetarian Chilli onto plates and place the polenta pieces nearby. I made the mistake of placing the chilli on top of the polenta, which caused it to go soft quite quickly.
Top with grated cheese - such as an extra-mature Cheddar - and a wedge of fresh Lime.
A good accompaniment for this dish would be a salsa like "Pico de Gallo", although I served a tomato and red onion salad dressed with red wine vinegar.