I read a phrase last week that captured my interest “cook once eat twice”, sort of a no-brainer, but for some reason we have always shunned leftovers. My cooking is spent avoiding left overs knowing that in most instances they will be abandoned mouldering in the refrigerator and one of my biggest hates is food waste! So, thinking on this, I decided to consider meals that could be cooked in larger quantities and reinvented to seem new second time around.
Where better to start looking than the young people I work with, these are busy people juggling finances, work and fun. From my conversations with these inspirational people came the idea for lentil braises – one was eating a chilli and one a Bolognese, straight away I had my idea to run with. Thanks ladies!
The next issue confronting me, and a surprising number of other people I talk to, is that of including more meat free vegetable rich meals in life that wont leave the meat eaters thinking something was missing. Once again lentils are a great answer.
If you need any further reason to make this, then that reason has to be that it is a real store cupboard / refrigerator meal. You can change up the ingredients and use those lonely carrots, bag ends of vegetables and pulses and at the end have a delicious meal (and a good conscience for your efforts!)
This is a weekend cooking-at-leisure meal that it will be better for time spent slowly cooking. Your reward comes once the Chilli is bubbling away, your work is done and you have enough for several meals.
Chilli is always good and this one worked the magic I was looking for. The idea is simple and I made this as I would any meat sauce, starting with slow cooking onions, adding celery and carrots followed by more slow cooking. Then, adding aromatics such as garlic and ginger and my spices and finally tomatoes and stock (or water). I then left it quietly bubble away on the stove top.
I am going to give you a recipe, but this is so easily adapted don’t think you need to follow it to the letter! Use what you have in the pantry and refrigerator, tinned tomatoes or passata or fresh tomatoes or paste. You can grate in that small wedge of pumpkin (or kumara,) or use what you have in the vegetable bin in your fridge instead of carrots. Add more or less chilli to suit your tastes. As always, make it your own and it will probably be a little different every time, but no less tasty or nutritious for all that.
LENTIL AND BLACK BEAN CHILLI
Enough for two meals for four
Start slowly sautéing your onions, (this will take a good five minutes or more!), and is an important step in starting the flavour base. You want your onions lightly browned and well cooked.
Add garlic, (and ginger if you are using it), then cook briefly. The garlic will burn easily so don’t have your pan on too high a heat. Next add your carrots and celery (and any other vegetables you may want to use), You need to allow this to bubble away slowly for about fifteen minutes as this is where you are creating the base umami flavour for your whole chilli.
Add the thyme and spices and stir well into your vegetable mixture.
Next add your tomatoes, lentils, beans, stock or water and salt and pepper.
This can now slowly simmer on the stove top for an hour or more, until the lentils are cooked through. Cooking time is approximately one hour but this will depend on the type and age of your lentils. It does not hurt to cook it longer, just keep adding water to keep the consistency wet enough and avoid it sticking to the pot.
Check your seasoning as it is cooking and adjust as necessary to your taste.
Finish with a bunch of chopped herbs such as parsley and coriander if you have them, a few wedges of lime or orange to garnish and squeezing over it just before eating would be delicious!
Now you have your versatile chilli sauce you can use it as you will
- Family shared platter – Toast some tortilla chips, add to a platter by spooning over lentil chilli and then greens of choice (such as spinach or rocket), pile on avocado, cherry tomatoes, radishes, fresh herbs and condiments such as citrus tahini, yoghurt and/or chilli sauce. Put this in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves
- Same as above – but pile on charred winter vegetables such as pumpkin and brussel sprouts and then add some tomatoes to freshen the palate.
- Serve on a toasted slice of thick brown bread with spinach or kale, tomato and avocado, and a poached or fried egg. I quickly sautéed the kale in olive oil and a little garlic in a pan before putting in the egg. Delicious and many thanks to Elizabeth for this idea!!!
- Make a big green salad and a bowl of brown rice or quinoa, then serve with chilli citrus tahini, yoghurt and chilli
- Layer or roll it in tortillas in a casserole with cheese and sauces and bake.
- Use it in Quesadilla, tacos or toasted sandwiches.
- Freeze half for another day.