Southwestern Black Bean “Cowboy” Chilli (Slow Cooker)

Southwestern Black Bean "Cowboy" Chilli
As promised, here is another slow-cooker recipe, and definitely my current favourite – it tastes brilliant, and is incredibly easy to make! Slow cookers are FANTASTIC. Did I already mention that? Well it’s worth repeating. I am in love with my slow cooker, and this dark, chilly time of the year when you’re craving stews, chillies and curries is the best time to dust it off and put it to good use. Here are two important things I’ve learnt while experimenting with (vegetarian) slow cooking:

1. You don’t have to pre-cook anything. That’s right. You do not actually have to pre-cook anything! It is this step that puts people off. The whole point of a slow cooker is that you can throw stuff in it, bleary eyed first thing in the morning, leave it alone and return to a cooked pot of deliciousness many hours later. Minimum effort, maximum return! You can even prep the veg the night before, to make things even more mind-blowingly easy. The effort of pre-cooking makes people wonder what the point of slow cooking is – after all, it’s not exactly a speedy solution for the busy morning rush hour people. If you’ve GOT the time and don’t mind the hassle of dirtying and washing extra pots, softening and sautéing onions/garlic/spices/vegetables etc will enhance the flavour and texture. A little bit. But it’s not essential. Of course, this logic only applies to vegetarian dishes – I have absolutely no idea about the implications of not pre-cooking meat so you’re on your own there…

2. Adapt your favourite ‘normal’ recipes. Most stews, chillies, curries (and suchlike) can be made in the slow cooker. You don’t actually need a specific slow cooker recipe, you only need to follow a few basic guidelines to adapt the cooking times etc. Most recipes with an average cooking time of around 30 minutes on the hob will need 3-4 hours on high, 5-6hrs on medium, or 6-8hrs on low. Just halve any liquid content, as it won’t reduce/thicken in the same way. And of course, the reverse applies; you can cook most slow cooker recipes – including this one – in a pan on the hob (adding more liquid as necessary). Easy, innit?

Anyway, back to the recipe. This chilli is a variation of the endlessly adaptable Southwestern (or Southwest) chilli, found, funnily enough, across the American Southwest. It is a bit different to the regular chilli we’re all familiar with, and is frequently made using chicken instead of ground (minced) beef. Regular chilli has quite a dark, chocolatey richness to it whereas this one tastes lighter and fresher, and has the added pop of flavour that comes from adding salsa to the mix. I have used Quorn here instead of chicken, but you can use firm tofu if you want to keep things vegan. My daughter loves this chilli. We renamed it Cowboy Chilli – for her benefit – owning to its origins. I have found that if you give a new dish a funny name, children will eat it, no questions asked. This one is a keeper. Incidentally, it is a marriage made in heaven with my previous post for Southern Corn Bread.

Serves 5-6 adults, or 4 adults and 2 children, depending on portion sizes.

300g bag of Quorn chunks, defrosted (microwave for 2-3 minutes)
1 onion, finely chopped (red or brown, doesn’t matter)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 green pepper, diced
1 x tin sweetcorn, drained and rinsed (or use 250g frozen, no need to defrost)
1 tbsp chilli (I used mild)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
300g hot salsa (I used 1 regular jar. Handy to keep in the cupboard!)
2 x 400g tins tomatoes
1 x tin black beans, drained and rinsed
Fresh coriander, to finish (optional)

To serve: Your favourite rice, grated cheese, tortilla chips… whatever you like. You know how to eat chilli.

Make it Vegan! Simply use firm tofu instead of Quorn, or extra veggies/black beans.

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Place the defrosted Quorn, onion, garlic, pepper and sweetcorn in the slow cooker. (You can sauté them in a pan first, using a tablespoon or so of oil if you like. I didn’t do this). Sprinkle the spices and herbs over everything and mix well.

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Add the salsa, tomatoes and black beans. Stir thoroughly and put the lid on. That’s it. How easy was that? Cook for around 3 hrs on High, 4hrs on medium or 5hrs on low. Whichever fits into your day best. This is a pretty easy going dish, it doesn’t take long to cook but it won’t matter if you leave it an hour longer, either. Chill any leftovers as quickly as possible and keep in the fridge for a few days, or freeze.
Southwestern Black Bean Chilli Vegetarian Vegan Chili 2

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