Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Vegetable Chilli for Gloomy January (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

Ugh! January is miserable isn’t it? All the jollity and porky bloater over-eating behaviour of December is finished, and this is the month of restraint.  Everyone has had a bellyful (oh the pun!) of overindulgence and in January we say to ourselves, ‘Right, enough of the excess, it’s time to calm down a bit’.

Except, it’s probably the worst month of the year to try and get motivated, isn’t it? What is it with the sun? I know they are all having a party down there in the southern hemisphere, all tanned, toned bodies frolicking in the surf, but can’t the sun drag itself to the frozen north before 0830? How am I supposed to leap, fresh and positive from my bed, when all my senses are screaming,
‘Don’t get up you fool, can’t you see it’s still the middle of the night?’.
The lack of sun is definitely a de-motivating factor in January.

And then there’s the issue of fat. I mean body fat. Specifically, I mean my body fat. It’s never really under control at the best of time, but having spent December larding it up like I have the metabolism of a particularly frantic shrew (I don’t), there is definite padding around my thighs. Sort of dimpled padding which is of course, the worst kind. I've spent my life fighting the padding and I know I will have to up my exercise regime to shift it. I have a dog who needs a good run every day or she behaves like a nut job, so I’ll just slip on my trainers and go for a run.

But I can’t, can I? Because of the bloody snow. Of course I’m lucky that I don’t live in the UK, or I really would have something to whinge about. And although Paris is braced for another dump of snow, the roads are clear and the French can drive with their usual disregard for health, safety, alcohol-in-the-blood limits, speed limits, general good sense limits...
So why am I complaining? Because all the paths and tracks and woods where I usually exercise are iced up, making my dimpled-padding fat-reduction plan a little tricky. I DID manage to get out for a run today, but had to choose between doing a sort of mincing trot on the icy path, or waddling on the snowy verge piled high with dog shit. (Picking up your dog’s shit has not really caught on this side of the channel). I went with the snowy verge /dog shit option and remarkably came out unscathed. But still, the snow is crap and isn’t helping me lose weight.

I’m supposed to be detoxing. That’s what January is about isn’t it? I hear women say things like,
‘Oh I drank so much at Christmas! 2 Malibu and Cokes in one go, can you imagine? I’m off alcohol until Easter now’.
Just hearing that kind of talk makes me want to uncork a good bottle of red. Even NOT hearing that kind of talk makes me want to uncork a good bottle of red because, well, I always want to uncork a good bottle of red. I know I’m supposed to only be drinking 2 days out of 7, but – news flash - I’m failing miserably.

What else is rubbish in January? Adverts for beach holidays. I don’t want to see images of gorgeous, brown, slim women and perfect, impossibly happy, beautiful families loving life big styley in some extortionate resort. Because the chances of me being gorgeous, brown, slim, perfect, impossibly happy and loving life big styley this year, are fairly slim. So go away horrible adverts, show me some gruesome footage from Afghanistan and then I’ll feel better about my life.

Ah yes, Afghanistan. And Iraq. And whatever the hell they are brewing up in Iran. And who knows when Uzbekijizikmenistan might discover a rich deposit of plutonium and hold the world to ransom? Bleak. Bleak. Bleak.

So it’s a good thing that I have a heart-warming recipe for you. (I hope you noticed that flawless segue from gloom to comfort-eating. I am rather good at that...)

It’s hearty and full of fibre to send those kilos on their way. It has red wine to soothe your alcohol cravings. It has spice to increase your metabolism. And you get to eat it with crisps, to satisfy your need for salt and fat in these dark, gloomy days of January.

Enjoy darlings!

Vegetable Chilli for Gloomy January (serves 1-4 depending on your capacity for comfort eating)
Top Tip!  Always keep your fresh chillis in the freezer.  When you want them, get them out and use a sharp knife to slice them.  You won't get perfect round slices, but you won't burn your fingers and they are really, really easy to chop.

100g puy lentils
1 onion
4-6 mushrooms
1 carrot, peeled & topped and tailed
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil to fry
1 medium fresh green chilli (or more) If making for kids, omit this if you wish
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans (drained)
120ml red wine (the alcohol burns off apparently, so you can keep this in for the kids)
2 x 400g of tinned peeled plum tomatoes
1 tsp chilli powder (more or less as you see fit) or paprika if making for kids
1-2 tbsps tomato puree
1 tbsp yeast extract
1-2 tbsps cocoa powder (check it's GF)
1 tsp sugar to taste
1 tsp salt to taste
GF tortilla chips to serve (or healthy Basmati rice, your call)
  • Cook the puy lentils as per the packet instructions (usually put them in cold water, bring to boil for 10 minutes, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 mins), and set aside
  • Finely chop the onion, garlic, green chilli (reserve a little to garnish), mushroom and carrot and place into a large, heavy based frying pan with the olive oil.  Heat gently, covered, until sizzling, and let it cook for 5 mins or so, stirring ocasionally
  • Chop the peppers and add them to the frying pan, stir
  • Add the chilli powder or paprika and stir again
  • Add the tins of tomatoes, and chop them up finely.  I dump them in the pan and then fish them out to chop them up.  Very illogical, but a woman must have her foibles that someday her daughter-in-law will detest
  • Stir the mix together, add the tin of drained kidney beans, slosh in the red wine (resist the urge to drink it! resist the urge to drink it!) and let it simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring ocasionally
  • When the liquid is starting to reduce, add the tablespoon of yeast extract and the tablespoon(s) of tomato puree.  Let it carry on simmering for another 10-20 minutes.  Add some water (or red wine) if you think it's looking too dry
  • When the veg is looking cooked, add the puy lentils, stir and give them 5 minutes to warm through.   Stir in the cocoa powder (start with 1 tbsp) and taste.  Add salt to taste, and sugar if it's too acidic.  Add more tomato puree if you think it needs it, maybe more red wine?  Does it need more salt?  More yeast extract?  Up to you
  • Serve in a bowl with tortilla chips and a garnish of green chillis.  If you can, sprinkle on some grated cheddar
  • Now, cheer up, not long until February, and then it's nearly March and before you know it we'll be hunting for Easter eggs in the garden...

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