Well hello there, Autumn. How nice of you to drop by.
After months spent wallowing in my own sweat, constantly uncomfortable and unable to sleep at night, I greeted autumn’s blustery arrival last week with great joy (especially as the moody skies and rain considerately waited until the week after our entirely outdoor wedding to make an appearance).
While Pinterest convulses with an overload of really quite mad-looking pumpkin recipes, I have to confess to living a cliché: autumn is my favourite season (seriously, Buzzfeed, NO).
I’ve been craving tights and jumpers and snuggling for weeks. Dreaming about hot chocolates, and trying vainly to remember what it feels like to be so cold you have to wear gloves (an aside: isn’t it funny how hard it is to remember temperatures? I mean, you can remember being miserable or ecstatic about a certain kind of weather, but I can never remember what it actually feels like).
But I digress. The seasons are a-changing, and I am a-celebrating. So let this be a warning: now that my cooking attentions aren’t devoured by the need to test wedding cake recipes (they went down a storm, btw, but more on that and my darling sister’s heroic baking marathon anon), a deluge of seasonal recipes is on its way.
Here’s one for starters: a change of seasons chilli, inspired by the brilliant Some the Wiser (who’s photography is absolutely to die for). Chilli is a classic cold weather dish, generally made with wintery roots and warming spices for all those dark nights. This one is made with summer veggies, though, and is both a perfect way to use up vegetables passing their best AND to celebrate turn of the seasons. This is essentially a great vegetarian recipe, packed with vegetables and balanced out with beans. I did chuck in a bit of chicken that was about to go off as well, which worked wonderfully, but is totally unnecessary though.
Makes enough for… well, how hungry are you? It’s kept two of us going for 5 days now, so maybe 6-8 portions
Time needed: 1 hour 20 minutes
What you need:
2 medium aubergines, diced
1 fat courgette, diced
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
A handful of sweet green peppers, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small hot chilli (use whatever you have to hand)
Optional: 500g chicken thighs, roughly chopped
1 tbsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 cup water
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
400g chopped fresh tomatoes (As ripe as possible. You can of course use tinned chopped tomatoes here)
1 tin (400g) red kidney beans
2 cups sweetcorn
Salt and pepper to taste
How to make it
- First of all, salt your diced aubergine and set aside for 15-20 minutes to draw out the water (see this post to see why it’s a good idea to do this).
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a shallow frying pan until very hot (a little bit of bread should crisp up golden in a matter of moments, if you need to test the temp). Fry the diced courgette until the edges start to brown and crisp up. Used a slotted spoon to turn the courgette pieces every couple of minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oil with the spoon and drain on a kitchen roll covered plate.
- Next, without turning off the heat, rinse the aubergines under running water to wash off the excess salt. Squeeze out with your hands, and blot on kitchen roll spread out on the counter top. Now, taking care because any water left on the aubergines will cause the oil to spit furiously, slide the aubergines into the pan. Fry, turning every so often, until golden brown all over. Aubergines drink oil, so you might have to top this up every now and then. As with the courgettes, remove and drain once cooked.
- Now, place a deep, thick-bottomed sauce pan over a high flame and heat. Add the onion, green and red peppers, garlic and chilli pepper to the pan and stir fry until the onion and garlic are lightly browned.
- If you’re using chicken: add the chicken pieces and stir fry quickly until browned on all sides.
- Reduce the heat slightly, and add the ground spices. Stir to combine and stir fry for a minute or two. It’s really easy to burn everything at this point, so if the mixture starts to stick add a drop of water to loosen things up.
- Add half a cup of water and deglaze the pan (i.e. using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape off all the deeply brown and sticky mess that should be coating the bottom of your pan. Mmm, delish).
- Then crumble in your stock cube with another half cup of water and the chopped tomatoes. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes with the lid on.
- Add the kidney beans and sweet corn and stir everything well. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for another 15-20 minutes.
- Finally, return all those sautéed vegetables to the dish, mix and simmer for 10 final minutes.
- Serve with whatever you feel like: we’ve had spaghetti, rice, wraps and plain old toast, and every combo works. This chilli is also really good with sour cream and grated cheese.