Chilli with Ancho, Chipotle and Cayenne

Mixed chillies

Serves 4

This is a vegan dish. It is made special by the mix of chilli powders. The ancho and chipotle powders add flavour and the cayenne adds heat, and the cumin and oregano give the distinctive Mexican chilli taste that we all love so much. Ancho chillies, so called because of their shape (in Mexican Spanish, ancho means wide) are dried poblano chillies with a mild-to-medium heat. Chipotle chillies (chipotle is a derivative of the Aztec word for smoked chilli), are smoked and dried jalapeno chillies with a medium heat. Cayenne chillies (named after the city of Cayenne in French Guiana) are slightly hot.

There are reportedly up to 3,000 varieties of chillies, so why not experiment with your own blends? And if you create a winner, let me know!

3 tbs vegetable oil
2 large onions, roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
Chilli powder mix: (1 rounded tsp ancho chilli powder, I rounded tsp chipotle chilli powder, ¼ tsp cayenne, 1 heaped tablespoon dried oregano, 1 heaped tablespoon ground cumin, ¼ tsp ground black pepper, a generous pinch of salt)
400ml vegetable stock made with vegan stock powder
2 x 400g tins Mutti tomato pulp (or tins of chopped tomatoes)
250g black turtle beans that have been soaked in water for 24 hours then rinsed and drained.
1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 sweet peppers (1 each of green, yellow and red), deseeded and chopped
Optional: lemon juice and sugar

Heat the oil and sauté the onions until softened and starting to colour, approx. 15 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute. Add the chilli powder and stir fry for 1 minute, adding a splash of stock if it starts to catch. Add the stock and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the turtle beans and simmer covered until the beans are soft. This can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours; you never can tell with turtle beans. Check the seasoning, adding cayenne, salt, lemon juice and/or sugar as necessary to give strong flavours. At this stage the dish can be cooled and kept in the fridge for a couple of days or stored frozen until needed.

To finish the dish, reheat the chilli and add the kidney beans and peppers and simmer for 20 minutes.

This is good served with plain boiled rice, crispy iceberg lettuce and salty tortilla chips.

Fish Curry


Serves 2 as a main course

This curry has a wonderful aromatic sweet and sour taste.  The sourness comes from the tamarind.  Not so long ago you had to soak raw tamarind in hot water to extract the flavours.  Now the hard work is done for you as tamarind paste is widely available in supermarkets.  This curry is fairly mild, so if you like it hotter either add more chillies to the curry paste or add cayenne towards the end.

(By the by, the label on the tamarind paste said “concentrate” so LW stared at it for two hours solid.)

For the curry paste…
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 to 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
6 level tsp ground coriander
2 rounded tsp ground cumin
1 rounded tsp turmeric
Freshly ground black pepper
2 level tsp tamarind paste

Combine all of the ingredients.

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, sliced
350g passata
1 tsp sugar
Optional, according to taste: red wine vinegar, cayenne
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
2 fish steaks (salmon works well)

Heat the oil and soften and brown the onions, approx. 20 minutes.  Add the curry paste and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Add a splash of water if it starts to catch.  Add the passata, salt and sugar and simmer very gently, partly covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste and add sugar, red wine vinegar, salt and cayenne as necessary.  The sauce should taste quite strong at this stage.  Cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the coconut milk.  Return to a simmer and cook gently for 10 minutes.  At this stage the sauce can be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed.

To finish the dish, bring the sauce back to a simmer and add the fish.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the fish is cooked.

I like to serve this curry with rice mixed with Puy lentils.  I cook the rice and the lentils separately, partly because they require different cooking times and partly because you shouldn’t cook lentils with salt (it makes them go hard).  Cook the rice in simmering salted water.  Cook the lentils in simmering unsalted water.  When cooked, drain them and mix them together, adding salt as needed to make the finished dish.  This can all be done ahead of time.  Store the cooled dish in the fridge and reheat in a microwave for 5 minutes when you are ready to serve.

Harrira (Moroccan Soup)

Saffron threads

Serves 4 as a main course

Here is a recipe that uses lots of spices – Harrira.  Authentic Harrira is a Moroccan soup made with lamb but I use beef in my version as it is easier to come by and generally a lot cheaper.  Don’t be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients – many of them are just spices.  It is easy to make, it is a convenient one-pot meal, and it demonstrates how food can taste fantastic when you get the flavouring right.

(Note: if you do use lamb instead of beef in this dish, it can throw off a lot of fat, so it is best to pre-cook the dish then allow it to cool (or better still, chill in the fridge over night).  The fat will then come to the surface and can be skimmed off quite easily.)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground coriander
1 pinch saffron threads
1 kg beef knuckle or shin beef, trimmed & cut into bite sized pieces
6 large celery sticks, chopped
2 green peppers, deseeded and diced
2 green chillies, deseeded and diced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 ½ litres beef stock (made with 2 Oxo cubes)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons sugar
Red wine vinegar (optional)
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained

Heat the oil and sauté the onions until soft.  Add the spices and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the beef and sauté, stirring until hot.  Add the celery, peppers and chillies and sauté until starting to soften.  Add the tomatoes, stock, salt, pepper and sugar.  Cover and bring to simmering point.  Cook in the oven or simmer gently on the hob for 1 ½ hours.

Check the seasoning and add salt, pepper, cayenne, red wine vinegar and/or sugar as necessary.  The aim is to get a good balance between salt, spice, sweet and sour.  Add the chickpeas and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

Once cooked, this dish can be cooled and stored in a fridge for a couple of days.  To reheat, simply bring it slowly to a boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.