Chili Sans Carne (Vegan)

Chili is a pretty free-style dish, almost by definition. Here's a typical batch, as best I can describe the process...

In a 6L (200 oz.) slow cooker, put 4 cups dried beans (picked over carefully for stones or other foreign matter, and rinsed) typically, about half kidney or pinto beans, and half some combination of chick peas, navy beans, whole dried peas, or whatever other beans you have around. Brown lentils don't give quite the right flavour, and red lentils or split peas tend to disintegrate quickly. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; it gives a thicker liquid with less actual solid stuff in it. Sometimes I'll include some barley, which helps to balance the protein. If I do add barley or split peas, I'll usually do it later if there seems to be too much liquid.

Add 9 or 10 cups of cold water, a chopped medium onion, a bit of garlic powder, and half a pound of mushrooms, chopped. (I like my onions well cooked; you could add them later if you prefer. Mushrooms hold together well, and the long cooking helps to bring out their flavour better, but you could add them later as well.) If you're going to be using canned tomatoes, you can add the tomato juice from the can at this point as well. Sometimes I'll throw in a dozen whole black peppercorns now; with long cooking, they swell up and become soft.

Cook for a day or so.

Add other vegetables. A 28 oz. can of tomatoes, crushed, or a pound and a half of fresh tomatoes, chopped coarsely. A small red pepper and a small green pepper, chopped; perhaps some hot peppers. Half a pound of chopped carrots. Some frozen corn or peas. Whatever suits you.

Also add spices, to taste. About a tablespoon of salt is about right, to my taste; it's better to guess low and season with salt at the table than to put too much in. Chili powder, about a couple of tablespoons; also some cumin. You can use cayenne to spice the chili up a bit. I sometimes add a bit of soy sauce.

Other optional additions: A bit of oil (olive, vegetable, whatever) can help to bring out the flavours a bit but isn't really necessary. One can add texturized vegetable protein, AKA simulated ground beef, though it doesn't tend to appeal much to dedicated vegetarians nor does it convince dedicated carnivores. Another possibility is to freeze and then thaw a block of tofu, giving a rather crumbly granular protein substance which can be added to the chili.

If the chili seems to be too liquid, this is when you'd add barley or split peas.

Cook for another day or so.

Serve. It's good to eat this with a grain-based dish, such as corn tortillas (a nice taste combination) or bread, since the combination of beans and grain gives a complete balanced protein.

Copyright (C) 1998 by Joel Polowin. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this material in any non-profit medium provided that its content is not altered and that this notice is appended. I would appreciate receiving a copy of any publication in which it appears: Joel Polowin / 18 Norice St. / Nepean, Ont. / CANADA / K2G 2X5 but remove the XYZZy it's a little magic to baffle the spambots.

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