Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

June 25, 2017

© Eva Kolenko

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Lentil, sweet potato and ancho chili

A vegetarian chili that achieves the ideal gravy-to-chunk ratio

i One of the hardest things about vegetarian chili is getting the consistency right; it’s hard to achieve the ideal gravy-to-chunk ratio. This lentil and sweet potato version gets very close. The secret is pureeing half the stew and adding it back in as a thickener. Fresh ginger, garlic and basil sautéed in butter, and a pinch of cinnamon and allspice give it some zing.


1 lb. (455 g) dried green lentils, soaked for 4 to 6 hours then drained (about 2½ c. / 625 ml)
1 large sweet potato, chopped (do not peel)
1 lb. (455 g) tomatoes, chopped (about 2½ c. / 625 ml)
1 tbsp. (15 ml) sea salt
1 tbsp. (15 ml) sweet paprika
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) cayenne pepper
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) ground cloves
4 c. (1 L) vegetable broth
3 dried ancho chillies
½ tbsp. (7.5 g) butter
2 large or 4 small garlic cloves, chopped
1-inch (2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (about 1 tsp./5 ml)
6 leaves fresh basil


Put the lentils, sweet potato, tomatoes, salt, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, and cloves into a Dutch oven. Cover with the broth, cover the Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 1½ hours.

Tear the anchos in half and discard the stem and easily removed seeds. Toast the anchos in a dry skillet over medium heat until warm and aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes each side. Turn off the heat and transfer the chillies to a small saucepan and cover with water. Press them down into the water so that they’re mostly submerged. Heat the water over medium heat for a few minutes, then turn off the burner. Do not boil. In a small frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in fresh basil leaves and wilt for about another minute. Remove from the heat.

Once the sweet potatoes are tender, ladle about half of the solid ingredients (about 4 cups/1L) into a high-powered blender or food processor, allowing most of the liquid to drain back into the pot before transferring.

Drain the softened anchos. Chop coarsely and add to the blender along with ginger and garlic mixture. Puree until very smooth and thickened; the mixture should be a thick paste. Use a rubber spatula to return the paste to the pot and stir well to integrate completely. Continue simmering over low heat for about 15 minutes to combine flavours. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve in a bowl, family style. Serves 10 to 12.

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