Monday, 23 March 2015

Uncle Will's Manly Vegan Plantain Chili

My younger brother is a scientist, vegan, and all-around good guy, and he has kindly shared this recipe with me. I was chatting to my family on Whatsapp about plantains, like normal people do, and my brother said he puts them in chili. Say what? - said I. Need. Recipe. Now. It's hearty and smoky (and hot!), with a bit of sweetness from the plantain. It has both beer AND whiskey (how's that for manly?), giving the broth serious depth. I had to make a few substitutions, which are noted at the bottom, partially because I'm a wimp and just reading it made my ears pop, partially to replace a few ingredients I couldn't find locally. But this is as written by Uncle Will, with Californian ingredients:

6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped fine
1/2 a red onion, diced
1/2 a green bell pepper, diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 cherry bomb peppers, diced (dunno if you can get these, about as hot as jalapenos but with a sweeter flavor. I love them.)
1 serrano, diced
2-3 chipotle peppers, whole (I prefer the canned ones in adobo, but dry is fine.)
3 fresh tomatoes, diced (I like the smallish ones that come in on the vine)
2 plantains, sliced into medallions
1 can crushed tomatoes (I prefer fire-roasted)
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can pintos
1 can black beans
3/4 of a dark beer (I used Deschutes Black Butte Porter for this batch, has a smoky, kind-of coffee/chocolate/bacon flavor)
Dram of whiskey (I used Ardbeg 10 year, smoky and peaty but lacks the "medicinal" flavor of some Islays... is it sacrilegious to use good Scotch for cooking? I don't know.)
4-5 crimini mushrooms
2-3 tbsp chili powder
Cumin & paprika to taste
Juice of 1 lime 

In a big cauldron, sautee garlic, onion, and peppers (adjust for your own heat preference, this batch turned out medium spicy... 2.5 alarms?) in your choice of veg oil (I had grapeseed on hand) on med-high heat for a good while. Add tomatos, plantains, then all the beans and chili powder. Once the cauldron's back to a-bubblin', add your beer and whisky. Add lime juice and mushrooms and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally.
While that's simmering, I prep my cornbread. I just use Bob's Red Mill gluten-free cornbread mix. I love gluten, but the regular mix isn't vegan. Substitute your choice of non-dairy milk (flax for me), and flax egg replacer (is there anything flax can't do?), add a diced jalapeno. Mix well and pour into well-oiled cast-iron skillet. Bake at 375F (190C) for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. I had some local, free, hippie-friendly honey on hand so I drizzled that on the finished cornbread. A big old bowl o' chili, a hunk of jalapeno cornbread and maybe half an avocado on the side to cool the heat. Perfect on a cold "isn't it supposed to be spring by now?" night.
Thanks for the recipe, brother! Notes from the UK:
 - Indeed, I can't find cherry bomb peppers, or even serranos. Which is probably OK, because that's a lot of chilis, bro! I did have chipotles canned in adobo, which I got from Whole Foods. I used four of them, and 1 jalapeno. If none of this is available locally, I'd use jalapenos and maybe add a dash of liquid smoke to make up for the loss of the chipotles.
 - I had to use ordinary canned tomatoes.
 - Also couldn't find crimini mushrooms, made due with plain chestnut mushrooms.
 - For some reason, I had to add a little water. I may have been stingy with my beer, or perhaps my tomatoes weren't as watery. Just use your judgement!
 - For our cornbread, I just did a half batch of the skillet cornbread from the Veganomicon, which, interestingly, is exactly the same as the recipe in my weirdly beloved Seventh Day Adventist cookbook that my great-aunt's church made.
 - I don't keep honey in the house, so I ended up using some leftover coconut maple sauce (I saw the recipe on Instagram, @theveganchef), which was lush. Just coconut cream cooked with maple syrup.
 - I served mine with greens, because I serve everything with greens.
 - Just for the record, I don't think it's wrong to use good booze to cook with, if that's what you keep in the house. Use what you drink.  
Soooo cozy.


  1. Sounds really delicious as a nice adult treat. Love the notes on subbing the ingredients, as so many of the (interesting) recipes online/in books are from the US, and as a wee Irish lass in the UK I wouldnt have a clue what to sub.

    1. Thanks!! Yeah, probably not for the kiddos! I know what you mean about the translation, when I first moved to the UK I was so confused, but now I speak both 'languages' - haha.