Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Black bean chili

October 10-14, 2011
On this work trip, I didn't just prepare driving snacks - I planned all our meals for several days. There was muesli, yoghurt and stewed rhubarb for breakfast; mango coconut rice salad for lunch; apricot delights, toast, fruit and nuts for snacking; then this black bean chili with polenta batons for dinner.

A slow cooker and a little chopping assistance from Michael kept the prep on this one to a minimum. All the real cooking happened while we slept; after that it was into a chiller bag for later reheating. It's remarkable how much texture remains in the vegetables after that much time - I always expect slow cooked dishes to turn out sludgy and sweet. Actually, it was mostly just under-seasoned. For some reason I got it into my head that salt during cooking would make the beans tough (maybe I was mixed up with the effect of acidity?). At least there was salt and pepper at the table, and avocado and lime besides.

Over the two nights I managed to perfect my polenta approach too. I'd set it into large flat rectangles and fit it into a lunch box for the ride. On the first evening I fried it in strips and was dismayed to see the outer layer lodge itself firmly to the pan, and the strips remain soft, almost gluggy. Second time round I grilled 'em. This yielded the lightly golden crust I'd been wanted all along, and plenty of soft savoury steaminess inside. It really burned through the baking paper though.

Black bean chili
(based on a recipe in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker,
by Robin Robertson)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red capsicum, chopped
1 corn cob, kernels shucked
3 small tomatoes, chopped
3 red chiles, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
400g can crushed tomatoes
2 x 400g cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water

Heat the oil in a large frypan. Chop the veges in turn and add them to the pan: capsicum, corn kernels, tomatoes, chiles and garlic. Sauté them gently for about 5 minutes. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to a slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients (light on the salt). Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Season to taste and serve.

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