I’ve been going through a serious cooking funk lately. On Friday night, I scorched not just one pan of rice, but two. Have you ever burnt rice? The odour it leaves throughout your home is horrific and omnipresent. Now times that by two. Not a good scene. The previous week, I made a red lentil soup that I’ve made several times with rave reviews. This time however, I messed it up badly (hint, do not use lime when it states lemon). And then yesterday I decided to make a soup recipe that I found on Pinterest. It was fairly disgusting. I ate half a bowl and then poured the whole pot out. Wasting perfectly good food due to carelessness, bad luck or a bad recipe never sits right with me.
But tonight, friends, I think I might have kicked that bad cooking ju-ju to the curb. This lentil and sweet potato chili was so tasty that even my vegetarian-sneering husband shared no ill will about dinner. He even said he liked it. There you have it….sayonara, bad kitchen vibes!
It’s a pretty great empty-out-the-pantry kind of meal. Lentils, canned tomatoes, green peppers, a sweet potato, even ketchup. Yeah, don’t bug me about the ketchup–it was my trick to lessen the heat of an overzealous hand of super spicy chili powder. It worked, along with the balsamic vinegar and cocoa to quell the heat.
Usually, chili is a great meal when you’re stuck in the dark depths of winter. I don’t want to brag, but out here on the west coast, we’re living it up like it’s SPRING! This weekend I planted the prettiest primulas out on the balcony and I only wore a short sleeved dress (no tights even!). A few of the cherry and plum trees are already in bloom, while snowdrops and crocuses have already popped their pretty heads out from the ground. Even the ski hills have closed up shop because there is no snow on the mountains. It’s a very warm winter out here and yet I totally feel for the wretched, long winter that exists to the east. Where ever you are, it’s probably chili time.
lentil & sweet potato chili
You can use green or brown lentils interchangeably for texture, though the green lentils might take a bit longer to cook. Pass on the canned lentils.
1 c green or brown lentils
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 sweet potato (or yam), peeled & diced
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1/4 c ketchup
1 T ground cumin
1 t chili powder (more or less depending on heat & preference)
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1 can of kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 c frozen corn
1 t unsweetened cocoa
1 t balsamic vinegar
pinch of kosher salt, or more to taste
optional: shredded cheddar cheese & chopped green onions for serving
Rinse the lentils and add them to a small saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until nearly tender, about 15-20 minutes – green lentils might take a bit longer.
Heat oil in a large pot and sweat out the onion, garlic, green peppers, celery and sweet peppers. Stir in the tomatoes and ketchup, along with the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Cover and let simmer.
When the lentils are nearly tender, drain and add them to the pot. Stir in the kidney beans, cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add in the frozen corn, cocoa, and balsamic vinegar along with a pinch of salt and simmer until lentils and vegetables are tender. Make any adjustments in flavour, if needed, and serve. Sprinkle bowls with green onion and cheddar cheese.