Monday, January 16, 2017

3 Bean Chili

We love to have meals replete with vegetables in the winter. That's the season in which we get the best veggies in Delhi, so salads, freshly made soups, baked and roast vegetables are very welcome. Yesterday was one of those meals since we had just harvested a great crop of Lollo Rosso lettuce from our garden and had many other veggies on hand.

The first time I had Chili - which I have blogged about earlier - was in Seattle years ago. Due to an unusual stroke of luck, dad and I were both working on a client project and had to travel to Seattle. While there, the client took the team on a walkabout of the city. After a couple of hours, dad was tiring out so the two of us decided to opt out of the rest of the walk and look for dinner. We found a tiny but cozy establishment near Pike's Place Market and spied vegetarian Chili on the menu. It was a fabulous intro to the dish, with complex flavours, a chunky texture and a topping of browned cheese. I have recreated it innumerable times since.

Yesterday's version was a little different. Beans are a family of edibles that have always fascinated me. Not the green kind but the dried ones. So any soup recipe that calls for beans is always tried out. Yesterday, since we happened to have three varieties of beans on hand, I decided to make an experimental Chili.

3 cans of cooked beans ( I used one of aduki, one of butter beans and one of black beans), rinsed and drained
2 onions, finely chopped
4-5 pieces of garlic, crushed
2 tomatoes, grated, with their juice
1 cup tomato puree
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp unsweetened chocolate powder
Salt to taste
2-3 chillies, chopped fine
1 green capsicum, 1 red capsicum, chopped
2 cups yellow pumpkin, diced
2 cups water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
Finely minced coriander leaves for garnish

Heat the oil; add the garlic and onions and stir until translucent. Add in the cumin and coriander powder and mix well. Add in the chillies, tomato puree and grated tomatoes, the capsicum and pumpkin and the 2 cups of water. Let it come to a boil and simmer for about 10-12 minutes until the pumpkin is half cooked.

Add the beans, chocolate powder and a touch more water if required, the chili powder and paprika and the salt. Mix well and taste to check seasoning - we like it spicier so I probably added more than 1 tsp chili powder. Then let simmer on medium flame for about 15-20 minutes more.

Ladle it out into oven-proof bowls and top with the grated cheese ( and breadcrumbs if using). Pop into a pre-heated oven at about 175 degrees for 5 minutes or till cheese is melted. Garnish with minced coriander.

Serve as is or with a dash of sour cream and Pico de gallo ( tomato salsa).

Our dinner yesterday consisted of a salad with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and walnuts in a feta and olive oil dressing, a potato each baked in its jacket with a dash of Amul salted butter and the 3 bean Chili. Healthy and delicious!

Sephardic Almond Cake

JLF, or Jaipur Literature Festival has now been an agenda on my winter horizon for the past 6 years. Every year, with some of my dearest friends, I spend 3-4 days soaking in panel discussions about eclectic topics, readings from books I haven't heard of before and interviews with new authors to be discovered. For the most part, we have stayed focussed on the festival itself, with a rare break for coffee or a shopping and lassi run during a one hour lunch break.

But a couple of years ago, it began pouring on day 2 of the fest. One of the trio was stuck on a flight that got directed from Mumbai to Delhi, Ahmedabad and then Jaipur due to the downpour, thus postponing her arrival time to sometime that evening. The other two - my soulsister M and I - rattled around the environs of the sodden Diggi Palace for a dispirited hour or so before we decided to make tracks.

We had heard about some interesting stores around Jaipur including Dhora, so we decided to head there. Anokhi Cafe happened to be a hop, skip and jump away so we landed up there for lunch. Unfortunately, so had half the litfest crowd, so we had a pretty long wait before we could finally sit and order. We opted for the salads with blue cheese and other fixings, which were absolutely marvellous - the rocket and lettuce about the freshest I have ever seen. And then we opted, rarely for us, for dessert. The Sephardic Cake sounded interesting and we decided to try it. Love at first bite!!! It was simply the most moist and flavourful cake we had ever tasted, with a fragrant citrusy tang to it.

Ever since, I have wanted to recreate it myself, and this year, for New Year's Eve, I finally did. It was magnificent - truly a worthy cake to bring in a new year, with enough comfort and exotica to be the perfect mix. And most of all, given my predilections, easy to make!!! Try it, you won't regret it.

2 oranges
200 grams almond meal
200 grams sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp baking powder

Boil the whole oranges for 1.5 hours or until they are soft - peel and all. Cut, de-seed and puree the whole thing - peel and all!
Beat the eggs until fluffy. Beat in the almond meal, sugar and baking powder. If you like, add a splash of vanilla and some saffron.
Bake in a preheated oven in a lined or floured 9 inch tin at 190 degrees for an hour or until the inserted knife comes out clean.

Sprinkle icing sugar on top if you really want to decorate this masterpiece of simplicity, or curls of orange peel. But frankly it doesn't need any gussying up. Serve warm, with a side of mascarpone or cream if needed.