The 5th of November - Bonfire Night - is one of my favourite nights of the year.
Bonfire Night, for the uninitiated, is the night when we celebrate the fact that Guy Fawkes and his band of plotters were foiled in their attempts to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Obviously, the way we do this is to imagine what it would have been like if the Houses of Parliament had exploded and indulge in extravagant firework displays and make large bonfires where we burn effigies of Guy Fawkes. It's probably the time of year that I feel most proud of being from this slightly bonkers island.
Bonfire Night has always seemed to me to mark the start of winter. Once it's over, attention can be firmly fixed on Christmas. It feels like we're on the home straight of the year now, ready for our winter coats and six months of daily discussions as to whether it's cold enough to snow. The giddiness that I feel at the prospect of a firework display will pretty much characterise my mood for the next two months.
Even if, unlike this year, Bonfire Night isn't particularly cold, there is something about it which demands that you watch the fireworks with your hands firmly wrapped round a mug of hot soup or, in this case, a fiery vegetarian chili with as many types of bean as I can get my hands on.
Mixed bean chilli
Yield: Serves a generous 2 or a slightly less generous 4
- 250g (10 oz) mixed beans*
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 chipotle chili in adobe, roughly chopped (if you can't get this, leave it out and just add a touch more chili powder)
- 1 x 400g (16 oz) can of chopped tomatoes
- 200g (8 oz) passata (you can use more chopped tomatoes if you can't find passata)
- 500ml (2 cups) water
- If you're using dried beans, prepare them by soaking overnight in cold water, draining and then simmering for about an hour and a half until they are pretty much cooked. Set aside until needed.
- To make the chili, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and garlic and fry until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, chili powder and chipotle chili and fry for another couple of minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, passata and water, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the mixture has reduced by a third. Add the beans and cook for another 10 - 15 minutes until they are warmed through.
* Dried for preference but can use canned, I used a 10 bean mix from Waitrose which is a mix of black eyed beans, black turtle beans, butter beans, haricot beans, lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, rose cocoa beans, alubia beans and mung beans. I bet you wish you hadn't asked.