A veggie chilli recipe that packs a punch

You don’t want to miss out on the flavours of this dish…

I love cooking. And I love a delicious, warming, flavoursome chilli – great for those cold and wet winter (or in Britain’s case, summer) evenings to make you feel all scrumptious and satisfied inside. There’s nothing quite like a rich, beefy spiced chilli con carne to hit the spot. Or so I thought…

Earlier in the week, I decided to make the effort and plan a few healthier meals for the next week or so. Not that there’s anything too unhealthy about a beef chilli (unless you load it up with nachos, guacamole, sour cream & cheese of course), but in my scrolling through the BBC’s Good Food website for healthy recipes I came across a rather enticing vegetarian chilli recipe. Full of spices, a dash of cocoa, peppers and beans aplenty, it compelled me to give it a whirl. The taste test proved beyond expectations – and they were already quite high!

During cooking, I was getting all the rich and thick spicy aromas that point to a good,20747837_10210656555991097_1575086748_o flavoursome chilli as it bubbled and thickened in my casserole pot. The preparation took a little effort, but nothing that I’m not used to. It involves blitzing a few ingredients in a food processor to make a paste and a certain amount of chopping, but once all that’s done it’s largely a case of adding the prepared items as and when called for. Then it’s just down to time and heat to mingle the magic inside the pot of glory. The ingredients that give the dish it’s full-on flavour are the roasted peppers – of which you reserve the jar’s liquid and use that in cooking (adds a slight tang, which is an unexpected pleasing quality) – chipotle chilli paste, great for smokiness and punchiness, and a can of refried beans alongside the kidney and black beans. It’s a beany bonanza!

Little side note for anyone else out there with a garlic intolerance like I have: you don’t need to adapt the recipe! There’s no garlic in it! There’s likely to be some in the chipotle paste, but not much over a whole dish. I have to adapt my recipes so often to reduce or eliminate the garlic that it’s really quite refreshing to find a chilli recipe that doesn’t need any changing for my needs, yet still gives such a satisfying and complex flavour 🙂

If you want to jazz it up, go ahead and add cheese, jalapenos, coriander, whatever floats your boat. But honestly, give this recipe a go and I bet you won’t miss the meat! I’m going to let you in on a secret… It’s actually even vegan friendly! But Shhhh – don’t tell the hardcore meat-eaters! You just know that they’ll turn up their noses before they’ve given it a chance.

The recipe is quite simple at heart, but like all good dishes it requires a little time. But most chillies do anyway, so why not give it a go? You really have to try it! The taste is really quite something. Honestly, I troughed my bowlful without even thinking about it and was disappointed when it had all gone! There’s always seconds, and a few more days’ dinners to look forward to…

If you fancy giving it a go, then please do check out the Double Bean & Roasted Pepper Chilli recipe and cook away! You will not regret it or be disappointed with the flavours, I promise!

Reviewski rating: a bottle of rich Cabernet Sauvignon to warm you from head to toe, just like the chilli does.

 

Top marks for a smokey roast at The Poet’s

Full of flavour and feeling full! This was a roast with the most.

Raise your hands, who likes roast dinners?! As 95% of the UK raise their hands and wave eagerly, crying out “Me, me, me!”, drool escaping down the side of their quivering jowls. The other 5% are stared at with utter bewilderment – who could not like a big ol’ Sunday roast with all the trimmings? Well, a few of us.

I’m not a hater of roast dinners, by any means. I’m in the rare 1.5% of Brits who aren’t too bothered, but just every so often, a really, really decent roast with tons of veg and good quality meat would actually do rather nicely, thank you very much. So before you oust me, wrongly branded as one of the 3.5% who are true Roast Haters, I do partake in the Sunday tradition from time to time and enjoy it. Maybe once every three or four months. And undoubtedly at Christmas. But Christmas dinner is a whole other sub-genre of Big Dinners, so we’ll leave that one there for now.

The past weekend was one of said occasions, having promised during the week to treat us (me and the hubby) to a pub roast. It turns out to have been one of the best ideas I’d had all week. Presenting to you……

The Poet’s Smoke and Ale House’s Roast Dinners! 

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They honestly were The Business. Our plates were literally piled high with heaps of delicious vegetables, succulent meat, roast potatoes and a very proud-looking Yorkshire pudding. Honestly, this roast gets points for being the tallest Sunday lunch 20354055_10210527025752922_1083156051_oI’ve ever been presented with. I wonder if there are any pubs that go as far as to present roast dinners taller than they are wide…

The Poet’s Smoke and Ale House is a pub that we’ve frequented a good handful of times, both for drinks and eats, so we already knew the standard would be pretty decent. During the week the pub specialises in American-style grub, with burgers aplenty, smoked ribs, smoked pulled pork, smoked half-chickens, meat platters, nachos, chilli dogs, the works. (They do some very good quality vegetarian fare too amongst the mighty meaty menu.)

So yeah, they smoke a lot of their food. I just LOVE smokey flavours, so there was a good chance I’d be having something smoked for my roast dinner. Eagerly eyeing up the Sunday specials, one thing caught my attention: smoked leg of lamb. Now, I’m actually not a big lamb fan, always deeming the flavour too farmy, the meat too greasy, and just generally not my thing – most of my lamb-tasting experiences have consisted of plain grilled cutlets which gives you the full whiffy fatty lamby farminess. But I’m keen to change my view and try different incarnations of the meat to see whether I can find a lamb dish that excites my palette. The smoked lamb got my palette, taste buds, and stomach so excited that they all did a joyful, greedy dance as I hoovered up those tender slices of meat. It wasn’t greasy, didn’t have that pungent strong farm-like taste that I’m so offended by, oh no – the lamb was smooth and succulent, the smokey flavour ran through the meat without being overpowering, it was deliciously savoury, not too rich, and without a doubt the best lamb I’ve ever eaten. Woohoo for taking a food risk!

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The full Sunday Roast menu

My partner in delicious crime chose to have the 14hr smoked grain fed Australian brisket – this also did not disappoint. More subtle in its smokiness than my lamb, the beef was rich in flavour and again beautifully smooth and fall-apart tender. However, we both felt that the lamb won the battle of the tastebuds. Both dishes were awash with a rich not-too-thick-or-too-thin gravy, perfect for Yorkshire pud swirling and roast potato sponging. The roast potatoes had a thick crisp crust and fluffy centre to boot (I have a confession here, I’m not big on roast potatoes…. *Gasp!* Aaaaargh *Someone faints, someone else fetches the Emergency Extra Strong Tea to whiff under them and bring them back* …They’re just not my thing. Give me mash any day over roasties. Please don’t judge me!) – my husband appreciated the roasties at least. The Yorkshire pudding was gorgeously puffy with crisp edges, yet also had decent substance and a lovely pancake flavour to it.

And the veg. Oh the veg! I thought my greens, purples and oranges would never end, there were so many! A superior selection of vegetables is something that I really look for in a roast dinner, and The Poet’s did not fail to perform: a buried treasure of cooked red cabbage, blanched kale, roasted/sautéed carrots, mashed swede and chunks of roasted beetroot were hidden beneath the swathes of meat and tide of gravy, brightening up our plates and nourishing our bellies. They all tasted wonderfully fresh, each carrying with it its own earthy or sweet or strong individual flavour (I’ve experienced some awful roast dinners before where all the veg tastes like the same watery mush, I knew we’d be safe from such vegetable tragedy here). Having them all cooked differently too provided the dish with some nice variation – though perhaps the carrots could have been cooked a fraction less. I like a little bite to my orange roots. Still, it was a terrific selection and we hungrily devoured the lot.

By the end of our meal, we were two very satisfied diners. Two pints of a local ale (GoldBier by Harvey’s of Lewes) and a massive plate of food down and I was pretty much done. I know that the desserts are awesome at The Poet’s too, but I couldn’t face shovelling a whole load more calories down my throat. Somehow, my husband could! Mississippi Mud Pie was ordered after much dithering over the many superb sounding sweets (I would have plumped for the Pecan Pie – next time, I guess!). To quote the man himself, “It’s like a brownie on steroids!” came the review of said gooey, chocolatey dessert, which came served with a scoop of chocolate ice cream.

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Mississippi Mud PIe – please excuse its half-demolished state, I was a bit late in remembering to take a picture!

A successful Sunday roast it was indeed! I do enjoy The Poet’s, both its food and the pub itself. The décor is quite trendy, full of wooden furnishings – some tastefully painted in blues and creams – with some quirky hangings and mirrors adorning the walls and plenty of light to illuminate the heaving bar and brighten up the space. The staff are friendly too and the service always quite quick. I’m surprised and slightly saddened that it wasn’t busier. Sure, it’s summer, so not typically roast dinner season, but lately it’s been pretty grey and damp – surely the perfect excuse to hide yourself away in the cosy confines of your local public house to chow down on their delicious food. Worked for us anyway!

I’d say that this Reviewski is worthy of a few well-pulled pints of your favourite golden ale or lager, served by a charming barman or cheeky barmaid with the sunlight just glinting through the rain-flecked windows and some cool Sunday blues riding the soundwaves.                                                                             Poetic, right? For The Poet’s pub!

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If I’ve enticed you to try a meal or just to pop along to The Poet’s Smoke and Ale House for a pint or two, you can find the pub tucked into the Poet’s Corner area of Hove just behind Portland Road. Check out their website or Facebook page to be tempted further – cheers!

Berries, cabbage and sunshine: all available at your local Pick Your Own

Getting carried away with the thrill of finding the finest fruits.

Full blown Summer with a capital ‘S’ comes to England and several things come to mind: trips to the beach with picnics on uncomfortably stony beaches, walks in the countryside admiring the patchwork fields from a hilltop, strawberries and cream (with or without Wimbledon – I prefer mine sans tennis), and the sudden urge to go an pick said strawberries from a local Pick Your Own (PYO) field. A trip to a PYO has to be up there as one of the more quaint and quintessentially British pastimes. Take a rare hot, sunshiny weekend, the desire to go out somewhere and make the most of the weather, and an appreciation for fresh produce and you’ve got the makings of a sweet, bountiful afternoon full of sticky fingers and heaving punnets full of nature’s finest.

This is exactly what happened to my husband and I last weekend when we had a rare free sunny Sunday with no jobs to be done. So off we trotted over to the Roundstone PYO Farm in Worthing – a place I’d not visited for years but have fond memories of. Strawberries were my favourite fruit as a child, and I’d probably end up eating more fruit at the farm than ended up in the basket. What kid can resist the fresh, warm, sweet allure of a beautifully ripe strawberry hanging tantalisingly from its stalk? And, in all honesty, what adult can resist it either?

We arrived in the glorious mid-afternoon sun to a busy field with plenty listed as in season and ready to pick. Strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, loganberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, early blackberries and plums, cabbages, peas, broad beans, green beans and many more fruit and veg aside. We went with the thought of bringing back strawberries – who wouldn’t? It’s the first thing I think of if someone says ‘Pick Your Own’ to me, and I still love the fruit – nothing beats a ripe English strawberry. It’s like the Top Trump of all the fruits, sure to floor any Spanish blueberry or French apple. But nonetheless, we actually came back with anything but the idolised red fruit, instead foraging punnets of tayberries, blackberries, gooseberries and a gorgeous red cabbage.

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Some of you might be wondering what the heck a tayberry is. Hey, I hadn’t even heard of one before last weekend! As soon as I saw that tayberries were among the available fruits, I just had to learn just exactly what they were, so off we headed on a taste adventure. Turns out that tayberries are like longer versions of raspberries in appearance, less tart in taste than their sister fruits and perhaps a touch floral and smoother on the palate. Into the punnet they went to be put to further culinary experiments at home!

The blackberries were a touch on the sharp side – perhaps to be expected as it’s still early in the season for them – but perfectly edible and honestly it’s just a joy to be out their picking fresh berries from their stalks. I kept saying both to myself and my other half ‘That’ll probably do’ but found myself irresistibly scouring the brambles for more, risking the prickles and rejoicing with another fresh handful to add to the basket.

Gooseberries were our next prey. Excited by the experience that is probably as close to real foraging as I’ll ever get, and maybe on the tiniest sugar high from the consumed berries, we hungrily set off to the next field. What we found was not what I expected at all. The gooseberries were superb. Seriously, they were massive and so, so sweet and delicious. I’d never eaten a raw one, always assuming that they’d largely be too sharp – when do you ever see fresh gooseberries as a garnish on a dessert? – but I dared to taste one and was so pleasantly surprised. They were the star of our findings, for sure. I couldn’t help but reap a whole bagful of them, not yet knowing what scrumptious fate lay ahead for these beauts. However, BE WARNED: the bushes have super long sharp thorns that shred your hands to pieces. You either need to be fully committed, or prepared with gardening gloves to pick the blighters.

Time was pressing as the afternoon drew on, and we just had to at least find the strawberries, maybe sample one or two. Or ten… Most of the bushes had been ravaged already, leaving only a few overripe squishy ones or overlooked bizarre-shaped strawberries. Their malformed exteriors still contained the most luscious flavour you’ll find during summer though.

As we made our way to the counter to pay for our glorious fruits, we happened upon the veg patch. Convenient for me, as I wanted a red cabbage for some homemade coleslaw. Having not prepared for the occasion or cabbage cutting, we didn’t have a knife to free it from the stalk. However, my handy husband knew exactly what to do: brandishing his door keys, he hacked away determinedly until the purple ball of glory was severed from its earthy confines, and lo! We had a cabbage. It made for the best coleslaw.

Our wonderful harvest came to a little over £5 – great value for such excellent produce. We’ll definitely be returning for another round of fruit & veg picking. It made for such a joyful, satisfying and carefree afternoon. Something about the open air, the excitement of finding the best fruits, and the anticipation of eating them when you get home gives one quite the mild homely thrill.

Our trip to the Roundstone PYO is certainly worthy of a few refreshing glasses of Pimm’s, which of course wouldn’t be complete without being packed full of (freshly picked) strawberries, blueberries, orange slices, cucumber and mint. It’s the stuff that British summers are made of! If you fancy wiling away the afternoon in amongst the fruit bushes, check out the Roundstone PYO website for all of the details and to see what’s in season.

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Oh, by the way, most of the gooseberries were lovingly thrown into an amazing gooseberry and ginger cheesecake. It was a big cheesecake, but it barely lasted a few days – it had no chance! The tayberries were made into ice cream, which I’ve yet to try but hear rumour from my husband that it’s pretty darn good, and the rest of our berries were made into a lovely fruity crumble.

Gooseberry & Ginger Cheesecake
The cheesecake of dreams. I’m sad it’s all gone.

The recipe for this super cheesecake can be found at delicious magazine. Enjoy!