Chilli was one of the first proper dishes I learned to cook. When I became vegetarian in my early teens I started helping my mum out in the kitchen by making the vegetarian version of whatever she was doing for the rest of the family. Chilli con carne is part of her regular repertoire, and I have particularly fond memories of her giving me a bit of onion, half a tin of beans, half a tin of tomatoes, and letting me be creative with my dinner while we sang along to the radio together and chatted about our day. Over the years I’ve been making it I’ve learned three important things:
- While you can knock up a half-decent chilli in 10 minutes or so, if you simmer it for a lot longer the flavours will develop.
- Use more herbs and spices than just chilli powder for a greater depth of flavour. I like to use both fresh and dried chilli, together with cumin, oregano, and cocoa powder.
- It’s seemingly impossible to take a photo of it that will do it justice.
This is the perfect way to try seitan if you’ve never had it before, for me this shows it at its best. It’s chewy, meaty, satisfying, and stands up well to the complex flavours without either dominating the dish or getting lost in there. It’s a good way to satisfy any meat cravings you have, and it’s crammed full of protein – the seitan and beans alone give you about 30g.
Recipe (makes two generous portions):
- 1 tablespoon or more vegetable oil
- 200g seitan, cut into approx. 1cm cubes
- 1 large onion, sliced into thin half moons
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
- 1 x 400g tin of kidney beans, drained (240g drained weight)
In a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, fry the seitan in the oil until browned on most sides, about five minutes. Transfer the browned seitan to a bowl and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium, add more oil if needed. Fry the onion for about five minutes, until it is softened and starting to brown round the edges. Add the garlic and fresh chilli and fry for a further 30 seconds or so. Add the cumin and chilli powder and cook for another 30 seconds. Then add the rest of the ingredients including the browned seitan. Simmer over a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve over rice, quinoa, or a baked potato.