Monday 23 October 2017

Forkful's easy suppers: Vegetarian Chilli

Vegetarian Chilli. Photo: Mark Duggan
Vegetarian Chilli. Photo: Mark Duggan

Aoife McElwain

A number of years ago, when I was just learning how to cook, I entered a chilli-making competition, purely for fun (though I think some competitors took it a little more seriously than I). At the end, there were 12 pots of chilli for our judge to taste. A number of us, myself included, had used beef mince while the winner's pot was a heat-packed delight of slow-cooked hunks of beef.

Before then, it had never even occurred to me to use "proper" meat in chilli. Of course, mince is much faster to cook but there's no comparison to the taste and texture that comes from a slow-cooked hunk of beef such as brisket that has been braised in a smoky tomato sauce.

When I seek the comfort of chilli, and want it to be speedy, I make a vegetarian chilli rather than using mince. This is the same base that I use for my meat chilli. When I have the time, rather than using mince meat, I use cuts like beef brisket (your butcher should have some) or regular stewing beef for my chilli pots. It means the cooking time is longer, certainly, but the flavour of the end result is well worth it.

Let it bubble away for upwards of three hours while you get on with your life. But, of course, this type of chilli is better suited for a weekend supper when you have time to get the chilli on the hob three to four hours before dinnertime.

To include meat, brown it off at the beginning of the process and then set aside until you're adding your spices and tinned tomatoes. Then you let it simmer away until the meat is tender.

This meat-free chilli pot is ready within an hour and it's just as comforting as a meat-loaded chilli, particularly when you go heavy-handed on the heat and smokiness.

Vegetarian Chilli

Serves 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes


1 red onion

1 red pepper

2 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons of chilli flakes

2 teaspoons of smoked paprika

2 x 400 ml tins of chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon of sugar



1 cooked corn on the cob

1 x 400ml tin of kidney beans

Yoghurt or sour cream

Small bunch of fresh coriander

1 lime


1. Add a glug of olive oil to a large heavy-based saucepan and heat over a medium to high heat. Peel and finely slice the red onion. De-seed and slice the red pepper. Gently fry the onion and red pepper for 10 mins, until the onion is translucent.

2. Peel and finely dice the garlic. Add the garlic to the onions and pepper, along with the chilli flakes and smoked paprika. Stir well and cook for 1 minute. Add the tins of chopped tomatoes, the tablespoon of sugar and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything together well and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chilli sauce has thickened and looks glossy rather than watery.

3. Use a sharp knife to remove the corn kernels from the cob. Drain the kidney beans and rinse them under cold water. Add the corn and the beans to the chilli. Simmer for another few minutes until the corn and the beans are warmed through. Serve the chilli in bowls topped with a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream, a few sprigs of fresh coriander and a slice of lime on the side for squeezing into the chilli.

This week's storecupboard essential:

Chillis: I find using dried chillis more reliable in terms of controlling the heat. The best source of dried chillis in Ireland is Picado Mexican Pantry in Dublin 2. Visit them in real life or online ( For interesting fresh chillis, check out the Irish Chilli Farm in Roscrea (

Irish Independent

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