Thursday, July 28, 2011

Midnight Spice: Vegetarian Beer Chilli

I was pretty excited when I stumbled on a few recipes for vegetarian chilli made with the added awesome of beer. Not only does it satisfy my red-meatless dietary needs, but I love Tex-Mex style meals. This recipe is a Frankensteinian concoction of several recipes. Although the beer is not a stand-out flavour – it can be hard to pick it amongst all the spice – I think it does make this a damned tasty dish. So far I’ve made this recipe with a few different beers, including amber,  porter and even a chocolate stout (nothing special, just a Youngs Double Chocolate) and it turned out very tasty. Chocolate goes really well with Chilli, as anyone who has had a mole sauce can attest to.

This time I used a Grand Ridge Mirboo Midnight - Oaked Dark Ale. You need to stick to the darker spectrum of beers in order to stand up to the spice. This is also one of those recipes that improves over time, allowing the flavours to develop.

Raid your spice rack:

1 bag or can of mince alternative – I use Quorn, but any pseudo-mince should work. Or, you could probably leave this out and add another can of black beans...or see the note at the end.
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 green capsicum (large), sliced into strips
1 red capsicum (large), sliced into strips
1 jalapeno chilli finely diced, seeded if desired (it will be less spicy if you do).
5 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 cup of beer – amber ale, brown ale, porter or stouts are all good choices.
1 large (400g) can diced tomatoes
2 cans of red kidney beans (or, two cups dried beans, soaked)
1 can black beans (or one cup of dried beans, soaked)
1 can corn (or 1 cup frozen or fresh kernels)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon of dried coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon paprika*
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil – just enough to coat the bottom of your pan
Grated cheese and/or sour cream to serve

*For a twist, use smoked paprika

How to spice up your life:

Get everything ready before you start. Chop all your veggies. Open all the cans of beans and corn, strain the liquid and rinse. In a small bowl combine your dry spices - cumin, chilli powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.

In a heavy-based pot, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and put on low to medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft, then add the capsicum and continue to cook for 5 minutes or so. Add your mince alternative and turn the heat up to medium. (Quorn needs to be cooked from frozen, so you will need to break it up while it thaws out. Continue to cook until all the chunks have broken up and fully thawed.)

Pour in the beer and turn the heat up to high. Add the can of tomatoes, all the beans and corn and stir well. Bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer for a few minutes.

Stir in the spice mix and jalapeno, turn heat to low and cover. It should simmer for about an hour, but stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pan. Taste to test the spice level. If you like your chilli really nuclear, you can add some hot sauce.

Serve topped with cheddar cheese and/or sour cream, with Mexican rice and / or tortillas. You could also use it as a topping for nachos, or possibly a filling for tacos.

This can be a pretty spicy dish, so you’ll want to drink something pretty refreshing with it. Lager can work in this way, although some might be a little too delicate. IPAs are a classic match for spicy foods too. I’m quite fond of more amber ale…usually a Mountain Goat Hightale Ale, which is my go-to beer.

Note: You carnivores will be happy to hear that this chilli can be made using real meat as well. Beef, chicken, turkey, possibly lamb or pork even. You will need to cook it separately in a fry pan, then try to drain as much fat as possible. Add it to the pot when you would add the fake meat - after the capsicum has softened and before the beer, tomato, beans and corn.

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