Midweek is tough – Last weekend is as far away as the next one, hence the name. Midweek is also busy- We are all tired from work done and fretting about work still to do, so sad faces often appear around the Wednesday mark. With such stresses hanging over us we need something comforting, and we need it to be easy, convenient, quick and tasty. We ask a lot from our food, especially if, like me, you need to keep those costs down as low as possible.
I have always loved making a big pot of chilli- it’s warm, comforting, hot & spicy, and goes with everything. Back in the time before babies and budgeting we would be caramelising the onions, finely chopping fresh chilli and garlic, adding some minced beef, slow cooking for hours to get real depth of flavour. Lovely stuff, but not anything I have the time and money for any longer. But an alternative has been born – It’s healthier, more nutritious, faster, cheaper and I think it tastes just as good as the original.
Step one- Make it veggie. Have been doing this a lot since Hannah has been joining us for food, she likes meat, but absolutely loves all her veggies. She will pick up a stick of veg ahead of meat anytime. And simple maths; veg is cheaper than meat.
Step two- Bulk it out- Losing the meat leaves some space to fill. Get out all those bits from the store cupboard, try lentils, all types of bean (even baked beans if you fancy), at times we have even used things like couscous or tiny pasta shapes.
Step three- The third step (ironically) is to take the ‘steps’ out of the cooking process. Don’t bother frying those onions separately, or blending down the tinned tomatoes, put less on your to do list. Keep the veg chunky, babies like food they can handle, and adults feel like they’re getting a real meal when there’s some big chunks in there.
Here’s my recipe with specifics from today, the veg choices are yours though- Obviously the ‘slightly’ spicy in the title is due to our little dinner guest, but no baby no boundaries on the hotness. The spice list is long, but these are all commonly used, last a long time and aren’t too expensive in the supermarket.
‘Slightly Spicy Bean Chilli’
Recipe pros- super healthy, super cheap, comforting, bulk cooking, nutritious, fast prep, versatile, makes use of store cupboard pieces.
Cost to make – About £2.50 all in which will serve 8 and 2 babies, or 4+4 and 1+1 babies. Including the rice, tortillas, garlic bread and pasta as well as tomorrow nights salad, total cost £3.50
Tin chopped tomatoes
Tin kidney beans
Tin black eyed beans
Small tin sweetcorn
Mushrooms (about 400g)
2 large carrots
150g (ish) lentils
Tablespoon red onion chutney
Tablespoon tomato puree
About a teaspoon of each (adjust to taste) of sweet paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, chilli powder and pepper (if you’re missing one of these don’t worry, you will still have something chilli-like and tasty at the end.
Splash each (adjust to taste) of Worcester sauce, tomato ketchup and tobasco
Extra tobasco to serve for adults
I begin with an early morning veg chop, keeping it easy and chunky (had the above done in about 5mins and I am no knife expert), get everything straight into a huge pot and add everything else, yes all at once! Add enough water to cover and whack on the heat, when boiling turn down low, for as long as you have time for. Obviously longer is better and it will need no further attention other than the odd stir, adding water if needed.
Serving tonight with homemade tortillas and rice and some lemon garlic mayo for 4 starving adults, and 1 baby
Leftovers enough to cover pasta bake for tomorrow night’s dinner for 4 adults and one baby again.
I will add in some cream cheese to change up the flavour and grate some cheese on top and add a simple salad to finish it off.