Day 28

September 28, 2008

I had quite a productive day today, at least for a Sunday: I got my washing done, mucked around a little bit in the garden, did some tidying up around the house. Nothing earth-shatteringly important, but still OK.

I didn’t eat much during the day, just a little snacking here and there. Some nice garlic and herb pitta breads, though.

When it came to dinner time, I was at a little bit of a loss; I couldn’t really think what I wanted to eat. I was sort of in the mood for something a little spicy, but couldn’t figure out what to have. I also had some peppers in the fridge which I had to use up a bit quick, because they were about ready to go wrinkly, and were already a little crinkly, to tell the truth. I also wanted something fairly quick and easy, because I wasn’t really in the mood to do a lot of cooking.

I go through stages like that sometimes, where I just don’t feel like it; as much as I enjoy cooking most of the time, sometimes it just feels a little like too much effort.

Anyway, I was in the mood for something spicy, and I had those peppers, which immediately brought to mind that I should cook some chili. And then I had a brainwave moment. I decided to stay withe the idea of lentil chili, but instead of putting the peppers into the chili, I would put the chilli into the peppers! Peppers stuffed with lentil chili, in other words.

Sometimes, it just needs the spark of a new idea to make you take renewed interest in something.

I started with a finely chopped onion, and a stick of celery, also finely chopped. I think the key with making stuffed anything is to make sure that anything which has to be chopped isn’t too large – you want your filling mixture to be fairly small so it can get right down into the nooks and crannies and fill the space efficiently. I also chopped a single green chili, and two cloves of garlic.

All of this went into a pan with some oil, and was gently fried for a while. Meanwhile back at the ranch I opened a can of red kidney beans, which I drained. These were added to the mix, along with maybe a 1/4 lb or so of red lentils, a can of chopped tomatoes, a canful of water, two teaspoons of ground cumin, some ground coriander (cilantro to you Americans) and some salt and pepper; I also added a teaspoon of chipotle paste, because I like the smoky flavour it gives to whatever you add it to. I brought it to the boil, and then down to a low simmer.

I left it cooking for maybe 20 mins to half an hour, uncovered, so the lentils could break down and the water cook away, making sure to stir frequently, because red lentils will stick the moment your back is turned if you’re not careful. I eventually ended up with a stiff chili, because I had purposely let a touch more of the water cook out that I would ordinarily, just because it would be used to fill something rather than just eaten alone. I then stuffed it into three peppers, which I had blanched previously in some boiling water: two green and one yellow. They then went into the oven on a high heat for about 15 mins, and emerged slightly browned here and there.

Delicious all round — the peppers were tender but not falling to pieces, and the extra cooking gave the spices in the chili a little extra time to cook and work their magic. It was excellent, and I’ll definitely make it again some time.

I also made far too much chili to actually go into the peppers, which I have to admit I was nipping at while doing the stuffing, although that leaves me with leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Two more days of the experiment left, and I’m half-sad and half-impatient to see it through. It’s been good to have some kind of direction and some focus to my month. I’d been feeling a little directionless as far as my diet and personal life went, so it’s been good to have some kind of rudder for the month, something to aim towards.

I think I’ll kind of miss that.


Day 25: Pick Me Food

September 25, 2008

The other day when I was writing about the curry I had, I got the name wrong. I mistakenly thought the company was called Vegalicious, when it was actually just the curry. The company is actually called Pick Me Food, and they’re a small outlet supplying vegetarian food made by hand using fresh ingredients and interesting flavours.

Aside from their delicious curry, they also make a chili, which I had tonight. And it was really very good. Instead of meat, there was red lentils, in just enough amounts to provide body without being overpowering, along with red kidney beans, peppers, lashing of garlic and just enough chili to kick up some spice on your tongue without burning it out. I can honestly say that it was the best chili I’ve eaten in quite some time, and that’s saying something, because I can make an absolutely killer chili if I put my mind to it. It’s a bit of a process, mind, involving black coffee and sometimes even dark chocolate. My wife also makes a great chili, entirely different in character – she uses beans and tomatoes in it, for example, whereas I prefer to leave them out or serve the beans on the side, and makes it with lentils instead of meat, which is a smoother and more pleasant texture. Hers is pretty damned good, too, though; it’s milder and more subtly-flavoured than my meaty efforts, which can tend towards the fireball end of the spectrum.

I have to admit that over this month I have been craving meat chili with a vengeance; I can just imagine it, thick, rich and dark brown, almost like a guisado, piled inside fluffy flour tortillas… Aagh! I’m torturing myself here.

Tomorrow will be without a post, as usual, because I’ll be at my grandfather’s in the evening. It also seems kind of fitting that the last few days of my experiment will be big posts with a lot of content. It just seems right to do it that way.

Anyway, I’m off to bed. G’night!