Saturday 29 March 2008

WTSIM ... Chili and Cornbread

I have made many chilli non carnes in my lifetime but this blog has got me out of a rut and trying different recipes. My favourite discovery is the addition of cocoa for the dark slightly sweet and bitter edge. But I have long wanted to try the lager chilli and jalapeno butternut cornbread that Cassie seems to enjoy regularly on Veggie Meal Plans. I don’t drink a lot of beer but I love it in a stew or a bread.

This chilli non carne recipe included lager and cocoa so I knew I’d love it as much as Wendy. I followed the recipe pretty much but added more vegetables. I omitted the chilli powder but because this was my chance to use the cute but fiery red chilli peppers that my friend Penny gave me. The chilli non carne was an excellent combination of fragrance, flavours and heat.

Chili and cornbread is a classic and comforting combination. I loved the idea of Cassie’s cornbread with pumpkin and oats. It seemed like the perfect way to use up my leftover egg from glazing my pot pies. Egg is a necessary evil for me. I like the effect it has but I hate leftovers. I dislike the omelettes, scrambles and other ways people seem to use up eggs. I avoid recipes that use only an egg white or an egg yolk because I then have to work out ways to use the other half. If I was more organised I would freeze them like Haalo and use them for elegant plum friands.

So imagine my disappointment to re-read the recipe at lunchtime and remember that Cassie is vegan. Then I got home and found E had used all the milk this morning (I know it is not vegan but at least it feels an easy swap with soy milk). So I used the rest of the buttermilk and my leftover egg. But I loved this bread so much that I will try it vegan some time. It is moist and full of flavour. And the recipe made me think of some cultural differences that intrigue me in blogging apart from the term chili.

As I have discussed before, when I lived in the UK, pumpkins were as scarce as hen’s teeth. Now I have noticed that in America so many people seem to use pureed pumpkin from a can. I don’t know if you can even buy it in a can here in Australia but there are always large wedges for sale in any market or supermarket. I have found that it is quite easy to cut it into small chunks, put it in the microwave a few minutes in a plastic container and use a fork to mash it up. So simple it makes me wonder why it needs to come in a can. But I recently saw Ashley saying she wished for a pumpkin recipe that uses a whole can when baking her wonderful pumpkin pecan raisin muffins. Yet there are so many uses for pumpkin. It is excellent in chocolate cakes, scones or stews. I had a little of mine leftover from the bread and remembered a friend’s mother had told him that pumpkin will thicken a stew so I put my leftover in the chilli non carne.

The other cultural difference that made me curious was Cassie putting a bottle of lager in her recipe. (Actually she called for 2 but I halved the recipe.) How big is a bottle? Does she mean a stubby (375ml) or a long neck (750ml). I have assumed the former but I did wonder what is standard for a bottle of lager in America. I used one of our old-school and misleadingly titled Melbourne lagers that I drank too much as a student – Victoria Bitter. According to Wikipedia it has the highest market share of all beer sold in Australia but I don't drink it often these days. It does however make an excellent chilli non carne.

I am sure that Jeanne at Cook Sister will appreciate this fine chilli non carne. She is hosting this month’s Waiter There’s Something in MyPulses and is welcoming all recipes with beans, lentils, chickpeas and legumes of all varieties.

Chili non Carne with Lager
(adapted from Veggie Meal Plans)
Serves 4-5

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 large red capsicum, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 small red chillis, with seeds, finely chopped (or to taste)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cinnamon sticks, about 3 1/2 inches
1 teaspoons oregano
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g tins of kidney beans, drained
1-2 cups pumpkin, peeled and chopped
2 field mushrooms, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 stubby (375ml) of lager

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and peppers and cook until softened. Stir in garlic and chillis and cook for 1 minute. Add spices and stir (I did this off the heat). Add tomatoes and lager and bring to the boil. Add beans and remaining vegetables. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard cinnamon stick. Simmer, uncovered, approximately 10 minutes, or until chili is to desired thickness. Season.

Pumpkin Cornbread
(adapted from Veggie Meal Plans)

1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup plain wholemeal flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used half a small lemon)
1 cup (less 1 tbsp) soy milk (I used 150ml buttermilk and an egg)
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
1/2 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin

Preheat oven to 190 C. Grease and line a loaf tin.

If using soy milk, place tablespoon of lemon juice in a measuring jug and add enough soy milk to make up one cup. Leave for 5-10 minutes to thicken. Then add oil, agave and pumpkin. If using buttermilk and egg, mix with lemon juice, oil, agave and pumpkin.

Place dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and mix. Add wet ingredients and stir til just combined. Spoon batter into prepared loaf tin and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Sit a few minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

On the stereo:
The Best of: Don McLean


  1. What an impressive meal! I would never have thought to put pumpkin in my chili, but I won't forget this! I'm also a huge fan of cornbread, and again, I would never have thought to put pumpkin in that either. You do learn something new each day.

    Maintaining a food blog surely does provide one with inspiration in the kitchen.

  2. Oh yes lovely. You just can hardly beat chili and corn bread - I just did one and bake the cornbread right on the top.
    Love your idea to use those beautiful red chilies!!

  3. No better combination than chili and cornbread. And of course using your fresh chili's will surely make it pop! I have enough chili's in my container garden to make 50 pots of chili! Wish you were closer as I would send over a load! And the color of your chili looks all the more inviting!
    Great music on the stereo!

  4. Looks like just my kind of meal--I love both those dishes. I've been using cocoa in my chili for some time, and sometimes also put in a dash of instant coffee for that same bitter undertone, which seems to work so well in chili! And the cornbread sounds fabulous, too.

    I'm not sure why we get mostly canned pumpkin around here; but there are true pumpkins around near Halloween, though I've been told they're too big for cooking.

  5. Oh, wow! Sounds fantastic! I am a huge supporter of cocoa in chili, and my mouth is watering at the thought of chili and cornbread...

  6. Have you seen the Nigella recipe where she bakes the cornbread right on top of the chilli? Of course, hers is heavy on all the wrong things, but it's a fun idea nonetheless.

    Love Penny's chillies!

  7. thanks Lisa - I hope you get a chance to try pumpkin because you will not regret it! And yes, food blogs are fantastic for inspiration and learning.

    thanks MCiHC - I often see the cornbread baked on chili (and have my favourite mexicale pie recipe which does just that) but your comment makes me wonder if I could bake any cornbread recipe on top of the chili?

    thanks Deb - would be lovely to get chillis from your garden! Maybe I will try growing them some time as they are so beautiful to look at!

    Thanks Ricki - I had wondered about putting a wee bit of ground wattleseed in my chili because it gives the bitterness of coffee without the taste (which I can't stand). Might try it sometime. I wonder why it is canned - is it to travel long distances or because it is seasonal or because it is seen as too hard to chop up??? Curiouser and curiouser!

    thanks Kathleen - cocoa in chili is a fantastic discovering for me - chocolate in anything makes me happy!

    Thanks Lucy - haven't seen nigella's recipe but it baked cornbread on chili does seem quite a common recipe which I would try more except I keep going back to my favourite mexicale pie which is my first baked cornbread on chili love!

  8. It is odd that we don't have fresh pumpkin available year around in the States considering we have every other type of squash imaginable, just not pumpkin. I suspect it is because most Americans think of it as a special Halloween/Thanksgiving item only.

    I'm quite excited about trying your cornbread, sounds great!

  9. thanks LisaRene - I love our fresh pumpkins and are sad not everyone has that joy - although I still have trouble getting my head around what is meant by squash in America - I suspect it is actually similar to our pumpkins! And I think you will love this bread!

  10. LOL about the culinary cultural differences... I experienced the same thing when moving from South Africa to London. Lager cans here are often what we would have called "long Toms" at home, not the standard 340mls, so you can't write a recipe just calling for a can of beer. And soft drinks are inexplicably packaged in 330ml cans (not 340ml) here. Go figure. When I was first living here in 2000, our supermarket simply did not sell butternut squash and when I finally found it at Harvey Nichols, I paid like £5 for one, just because I missed it so much!

    But on to your dish - superb!! I love the idea of both cocoa and lager in the chile and will definitely be trying this. Thanks so much for taking part in WTSIM this month :)

  11. thanks Jeanne - the pumpkin homesickness does make one a bit desperate at times doesn't it? BTW Cassie has let me know that her standard bottles of lager are 341ml

  12. This looks great. My husband's chili recipe also calls for cocoa, but he's more likely to use a stout than a lager. (It is very strictly a con carne recipe, though.) I think that the cocoa gives it a certain depth, one I haven't figured out how to replicate with other ingredients yet.


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