A few people I know turn their noses up at Quorn because it “doesn’t taste of anything”. To my mind they are missing the point; it is precisely this quality of Quorn that makes it useful. Yes, the plain imitation chicken fillets are decidedly uninspiring (and a little odd) but ignore those and go for the mince or the pieces; Quorn is at its best in something like a stew or a chili where it can absorb all of the other flavours like a sponge.
This vegetarian chili is not the most elegant dish around but the huge batch I have just made will be most welcome over the next few weeks when I am going to be very busy with limited time to cook and shop. It freezes beautifully and is very highly rated by the more carnivorous half of the household.
The important thing with this one is that you have to make this recipe the day before you want to eat it if you want it to taste good. I think there are two reasons why this is even more important for a quorn chili than a meat version. Firstly, because parts of the dish are relatively bland tasting, you need to allow longer for that magical merging of flavours that happens to make any stew type dish taste more than just the sum of the individual parts. Secondly, some of the lovely aromatic compounds in the spices will dissolve in the water component of the dish and others in the fat. Because this version is so low in fat compared with a meat dish again you need to give it a bit longer for all of the flavours to spread throughout. So, make it while you watch a movie on a rainy Saturday afternoon, wandering into the kitchen to give it a stir occasionally, and then it will be ready and waiting as a quick dinner on Sunday or Monday night. Bag or box the remaining portions and put them in the freezer from which they will emerge even tastier.
If you are trying to bump up your fruit and veg consumption to five a day, there are about 1.5 portions of veg in each serving of this chili and you can easily add another serving by chucking in three tablespoons of frozen peas per person into the hot water as the rice boils. There are some excellent health reasons to have quorn occasionally instead of meat (it is much lower in calories and fat) and indeed most governments are currently advising that we reduce red meat consumption because it seems to be associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer. Quorn mince has about 94 kcals per 100g, 2g of fat of which 0.5g is saturated fat and 5.5g of fibre. In comparison ‘average’ beef mince has 225 kcals per 100g, 16g of fat of which 7g are saturated fat and negligible fibre.
Some people like to put a square or two of dark chocolate into their chili to add depth; my secret ingredient is tiny bit of Chinese five spice (mainly because it tends to hang around for a bit longer in the cupboard than the chocolate). We have ours with white or brown rice and a dollop of mango chutney.
p.s the picture for this one is also my first attempt at HDR style food photography
Recipe for Quorn chilli (vegetarian)
Makes about 8 generous servings
Don’t worry if you can’t get kidney beans in chili sauce – plain is fine and just add extra chilli powder. Similarly, the quantities don’t need to be very precise so don’t worry if your Quorn comes in slightly larger or smaller packs.
1 and a half tbsp Olive oil
2 x 350g (2 x 12oz) packets of quorn mince
2 x 400g (2 x 14oz) tins red kidney beans in chilli sauce
2 x 400g (2 x 14oz) tins chopped tomatoes
2 peppers, diced (ideally two different colours e.g 1 red and 1 green)
2 large onions, diced
2 tsp mild chili powder (you can add more later)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce or vegetarian equivalent
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
End of a teaspoon of chinese five spice
1 tsp smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper
First, find a very large pan as there are a lot of ingredients here and you’ll need room to stir.
Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil and fry the onion and peppers on a low heat for about 10 minutes. You want them to start to caramelise a little but not brown.
Add the other half a tablespoon of olive oil (or a good glug) to the pan and add the Quorn. Put in the chili powder, paprika, lots of black pepper and the chinese five spice and stir for a minute or so.
Add all of the other ingredients into the pan, stir and simmer on a very low heat for the next hour. You’ll need to stir it occasionally or it will stick but otherwise it doesn’t need much attention. About half way through taste the chili and add some more chili powder to get it to the right level of heat for your taste buds. I also tend to add a bit more of some of the other seasonings at this point depending on what I feel is lacking (and feel free to fiddle with the recipe and add bits and pieces of other spices that you fancy). Note that I haven’t added any salt at all as there tends to be high quantities of salt in the canned beans.
Cool, divide into portions and put some of it in your fridge to eat in the next few days and rest in the freezer.