Monday, 17 March 2014

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

When I did a cupboard inventory and realized we still have lots of dried black beans and sweet potatoes, I recalled that they are a popular combination for vegetarian south-western/Mexican style dishes; chili seemed to be the simplest of these so off I went with it.

I quite liked it, but it turns out that Mr. Ferdzy is firmly of the opinion that sweet potatoes don't belong in chili. Oh well; you live and learn. If you are little more flexible in your views on chili and like the combination of the sweet and the spicy, I think you will find this is well worth making. I used our Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans, but your standard Turtle bean will be just fine.

6 to 8 servings
2 1/2 to 3 hours - 45 minutes prep time
NOT including cooking the beans

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

Advance Cooking:
2 cups dry black beans
900 grams (2 pounds) sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Rinse and pick over the beans, and put them in a large pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them to a boil, then cover them and turn off the heat. Let them soak for several hours. Repeat this process 3 or 4 more times until the beans are tender. This can be done a day or two in advance, and should yield about 6 cups of cooked beans.

When you are ready to proceed, wash and trim the sweet potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them with the oil into a large shallow baking dish, toss them to coat, and bake them at 400°F for an hour to an hour and a quarter. This should be FINISHED at least an hour and a half before you plan to serve the chili.

Mix the Spices:
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
4 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon rubbed oregano

Grind the cumin seed, grate the orange (or use a slightly more generous quantity of dried zest) and mix all the seasonings together. This can be done while the sweet potatoes bake.

Finish the Chili:
2-3 medium onions (2 cups chopped)
1 head of garlic
1 green or red pepper (optional)

4 cups crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Peel and chop the onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Trim, de-seed, and chop the pepper, if using.

Drain the beans, saving some of the cooking water. Put them back in the very large pot with the tomatoes, and bring them to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions (and peppers if using), and cook them for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions  are translucent and slightly browned. Add the garlic and the spice mixture, and mix in well; continue cooking and stirring for another 2 or 3 minutes until the spices are well amalgamated. Tip this mixture into the pot of beans and tomatoes, along with the roasted sweet potatoes. Stir well but gently; try not to break up the sweet potatoes too much. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, adding a little of the bean cooking water if it gets too thick. Leftovers reheat well.

Last year at this time I made Carrot, Parsley & Quinoa Salad with Sunflower Seeds, and Custard Pie.

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