I know it has been a while since my last post, but I’ve got a really good excuse for this minor absence on the world wide web.
No, sorry, that’s a lie. I was just lazy.
But here I am, dear readers. Back with an incredibly yummy post (Because how else would I make up for an entire week of blogging silence?)
This post is all about – you’ve guessed it!- spices.
I know I’ve said this plenty of times before, but I won’t stop repeating myself until every freaking home cook on this planet has an entire spice cupboard in his or her kitchen: spices are the source of life. No matter how tasty your other ingredients may be, if you forget to add some spice, the end-result will be dull, flavourless and downright disappointing.
Many (inexperienced) cooks only think about spices sporadically –that is, if they think about spices at all!- as if spices were some long lost acquaintances you never really got to know when you were little.
They only add spices right at the end of a recipe, or just throw in the tiniest little pinch, because they don’t really understand the purpose of this strange looking and pungently powerful acquaintance.
Basically, most of us are too scared. We would rather live a plain, boring and dull life that is safe of risks, than try and take the spicy road.
Making a close friend out of an acquaintance is indeed a work-in-progress. You will stumble, you will fall, but once you’ve got the doses right, it will feel as if your heart has finally caught fire. You will feel alive.
That’s what spices can do for you. Not only will they add some vavavoom to your daily meals, but they will also –and more importantly- warm your heart.
So make spices your best friend and you will never be cold again.
Vegetarian Chilli Sin Carne with a Coffee and Spice Blend
For this naughty little vegetarian chilli, I decided to make my very own spice blend. Believe me, there is nothing more therapeutic than grinding some spices together in a pestle-and-mortar and making the aromas spread through your kitchen.
To make this spicy dish even more special, I added some instant coffee granules to my spice mix. This will add another dimension of bittersweet intensity.
Last but not least, right near the end, I dropped a tiny piece of dark chocolate in the sauce. You won’t be able to taste the chocolate per se, but it will give the already fabulous sauce even more depth and richness.
Ingredients (serves 4):
For the Coffee and Spice Blend:
- ½ tbsp. instant coffee granules
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
For the Chilli:
- 2 sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 courgette, roughly chopped
- 1 red onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 400gr or 1 tin of red kidney beans
- 400gr or 1 tin of cannellini beans
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
- 5gr of dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)
- Fresh coriander, leaves and stalks
- Sour cream
- Homemade guacamole
- Any type of flat bread
- Make the spice blend by grinding all the spices and coffee together in a pestle-and-mortar or a large and heavy bowl. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C. Take 1 tsp of the spice mix and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Mix until you get a nice paste. Brush the chunks of sweet potato with it and put them in the oven on some baking parchment and bake for 15 minutes. Once these beauties are roasted and are slightly turning black on the edges, take them out of the oven and set aside. The roasted potatoes will add an extra smokey flavour and will give the chilli an indulgent texture.
- In a large pan, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the onion, garlic, a tablespoon of finely chopped coriander stalks and the spice blend. Stir for one minute and now add the peppers and courgette. Let it fry for 3 minutes or so before adding the tinned tomatoes. Stir well and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the beans and give it a quick taste. You will probably need to add more salt.
- Let it simmer for another 10 minutes before adding the roasted potatoes. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes to enhance all the flavours. Just before serving stir in the chocolate and let it dissolve.
- Sprinkle on some fresh coriander and serve it with a good dollop of sour cream, guacamole, a squeeze of lime juice and a slice of bread.
White Bean Curry With Rum-Flambéed Pineapple
This is an incredibly easy curry. Beans. Coconut. Spices. That’s all you need. Add to that some marvelous pineapple slices flambéed with rum and you will be dancing around your tiny kitchen like a Disney Baboon on steroids.
Ingredients (serves 1):
For the flambéed pineapple:
- 3 thick slices of fresh pineapple (Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use tinned pineapple!)
- 2 tbsp Rum
- Zest of ½ lime
- Pinch of chilli flakes
For the white beans curry:
- 200gr or 1 small can of white beans (but you could also use chickbeans, flageolet, black-eyed peas,…)
- 200ml coconut milk
- 1 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 3cm piece of ginger, grated
- Fresh coriander
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- ¼ tsp fenugreek
- ¼ tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp garam masala
- Juice of ½ lime
- Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil or ghee in a small pan and add the ginger, garlic and all the spices (apart from the garam masala). Let it fry on a low heat for a couple of minutes.
- Add the beans and stir.
- Add the coconut milk and season with salt. Let it simmer away for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the garam masala, the desiccated coconut and the lime juice.
- Meanwhile, heat a knob of butter in a pan and fry the pineapple slices until they start to caramelize. Sprinkle on the chilli and lime zest.
- Finally, flambé the pineapple with the rum. Be careful. You don’t want to lose all your hair.
- Serve the curry with the pineapple slices and sprinkle on some fresh coriander.