January 12, 2011

Chili Sem Carne (Vegetarian Chilli) With Cornbread Muffins; And The Winners Of The Giveaway Are…….

Chilli con carne (chilli with meat) is a spicy stew with meat and beans in it and definitely not vegetarian. The vegetarian version has beans and usually a choice of 2 to 3 types of vegetables (sem carne/ sin carne). Serve it with some carbohydrates (bread or rice) and you have a well-balanced meal!

What actually goes into a chilli depends on who is cooking it, but a chilli isn’t a chilli without chillies (chilli peppers)! An essentially American dish (particularly Texan) and supposedly invented by the Spanish immigrants who settled in San Antonio, the original chilli had no beans. That chilli was made by pounding together dried beef, fat, salt and chilis and dehydrated into small bricks which could be cooked into stews on the trail by cowboys, adventurers and gold miners in the 1800s.

Over the years, the chilli evolved from a simple “on the go” dish to a slightly more sophisticated stew and you now have a whole lot of variety including some without beans, those with the beans and meat, and vegetarian versions as well.
It is still a very hearty stew and is a dish that can take on whatever identity you decide to give it so long as the basic ingredients are there to qualify it as a chili. What you add to the stew makes the difference to taste but vegetarian versions use beans (you can use your favourite kind or a mixture of 2 or 3 varieties, if you wish), bell peppers, tomatoes, some vegetables, chillies and spices.

Here is my version inspired by too many recipes to mention and somewhat adapted from Emeril Lagasse. I have tried to keep true to the identity of the chilli (beans and chillies) without deviating too much in my choice of ingredients. We found the American style chilli to be a slightly less fiery and spice-wise milder version of a rajma (kidney bean curry).

One of the time held traditions seems to serve chilli with cornbread so I made some cornbread as well, but that comes later in this post. Chili can also be served with rice or bread, and I understand it is also served with spaghetti so the choice is all yours.

Chili Sem Carne (Vegetarian Chilli)


1 tbsp olive oil (or oil of choice)

1 big (or 2 small onions), finely chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

1 medium red bell pepper (capsicum), chopped

1 medium yellow bell pepper (capsicum), chopped

1 small zucchini (trimmed, quartered lengthwise and diced)

2 medium carrots, cut into roundels (or halved lengthwise and diced)

2 green chillies, finely chopped

1 1/2 tbsps red chilli flakes

2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

2 large tomatoes, deseeded and puréed

1/4 cup tomato ketchup

salt to taste

1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans, drained

3/4 cup vegetable stock (or water)

1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

2 to 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Heat the oil, in a large heavy pot. Add the onions and garlic and sauté till the onions become tanslucent and soft. Add the carrots, zucchini, bell peppers and the green chillies and cook, over medium heat, till the vegetables start becoming soft.

Now add the chilli flakes, cumin and coriander powders and stir, allowing them to cook for about half a minute. Add the puréed tomato, the ketchup and the salt. Stir well and add the kidney beans and the vegetable stock/ water. Stir again, and bring to a boil.

Turn down the heat a bit and allow the chilli to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the chilli seems too thick, add a little stock (or water) to adjust the consistency.
Add the oregano, thyme and the chopped coriander. Stir a couple of times and take the chilli off the heat. Serve hot. This recipe will make 4 generous helpings. 
Cornbread Muffins

One of the recipes I tried out when I first started baking, was cornbread. The fact that I haven’t made cornbread since then should give you a pretty good idea as to how that particular recipe turned out. So what’s the big deal with making cornbread as it’s just a quick bread and not exactly the most difficult thing to make? True, but my only excuse is that back then, my baking skills must have pretty sad!

Yet, making cornbread has always been on my “to bake” list. Since I have the whole of this year ahead, hopefully I shall be able to cross off a large number of entries on that list starting with this cornbread. The only cornbread, like some other foods, I have ever tasted is the one I have made so I really do not know what an authentic one should be like. But I understand cornbread is made using the muffin method (minimal mixing of the batter) and the best cornbread is made in a cast iron skillet. It seems cornbread can be sweet, savoury or savoury with a hint of sweet depending upon preference and what it is served with.
I don’t have a cast iron skillet, and if I did have one I couldn’t have baked my cornbread in it. I have a countertop oven and it is too small to accommodate a skillet of any reasonable size. So my option is to use a cake tin or my muffin tins. Using my muffin cups seemed a good idea as it cornbread muffins are easier to serve. You could go ahead and make this in a skillet if you have one that fits your oven.

Given that my previous experience with making cornbread wasn’t the best, I decided to rein in my tendency to experiment with this recipe and just customised it to our tastes with some additions. This time my cornbread turned out lovely – crisp on the outside and golden yellow flecked with green and red, soft with a great crumb yet firm enough to slice if you choose to make it in a cake tin or skillet. Until I find a better cornbread, this is the one I’m going to be making.
Cornbread Muffins


3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup of yellow cornmeal

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tbsp. sugar

50gm butter, melted

1 egg

1 1/4 cup of buttermilk

(or 1 1/4 cup milk + 1 1/4 tsp white vinegar)

1/4 cup sweet corn kernels

1 small red bell pepper (capsicum), chopped finely

2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup, finely chopped spring onion greens (optional)


Put the dry ingredients ( cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar) in a large bowl and whisk it to blend everything together.

In another smaller bowl, lightly whisk together the melted butter, egg and buttermilk. Pour this into the dry ingredients. Immediately uniformly sprinkle the sweet corn, red bell pepper, chillies and spring onion greens on top of this.

Using a wooden spoon/ spatula mix everything using a few strokes (about 10 turns) and a light hand till you have a reasonably well mixed batter. It should be lumpy (not smooth) and if there are small bits of cornmeal/ flour in the batter, that is alright.

Divide the batter equally between 10 greased muffin cups/ muffin pan and bake for about 18 to 20 minutes (a bit longer, 20 to 25 minutes for cornbread) at 200C (400F), till the tops turn a golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool in the cups/ pan for about 10 minutes, loosen the edges and remove. Serve warm with the chilli or as you wish. This recipe makes 10 medium sized cornbread muffins.
My cornbread muffins are my submission for this month’s Bread BakingDay, whose 36th edition is being hosted by Girlichef.
I’m sending my vegetarian chilli to Simona who is hosting the 31st edition of My Legume Love Affair.

And the giveaway winners are .........
And now for the winners of my cookbook giveaway. The random number generator picked Suzan (who didn’t leave a link or e-mail id so I could contact her) as the winner of America’s Little Italys: Recipes And Traditions by Sheryll Bellman, and Archana (Spicyana) who won 500 Cheeses by Roberta Muir.

Congratulations ladies! Please send me your mailing addresses so that I can send you your books. If I do not hear from either of the winners in the next 10 days, I shall randomly pick someone else as the new winner(s).


Priya said...

Congrats to the winners, muffins looks soo tempting and catchy..

Prathibha Garre said...

I too make this...looks yumm n just perfect..:)

sylvie@gourmandeinthekitchen said...

Love that photo of the cornbread muffins in the muffin tins. I've never seen individual tins like that before, they are adorable!

Radhika said...

The last click is so amazing and mouth watering. Participate in the event that I am hosting. you can find the details here. http://ticklingpalates.blogspot.com/2011/01/announcing-my-first-event-deep-fried.html

Aparna said...

Thank you Sylvie. We get muffin cups like this here and they're perfect for my small oven which cannot accomodate the regualr muffin trays.

Happy Cook said...

Oh yes now i can comment ;-)
I love teh addition of zucchini and that is one of my fave veg here. I think it is years ago i made chillie but then the NV one this looks so good what i love the most is the corn muffin.

Deepahande said...

Thanks Aparna! Lovely recipe! How does this go eggless...? can one just drop the egg add a bit more of buttermilk and continue...? would really be greatful for an answer - the weather her is perfect for baking an i so love the way this muffin looks! :)

Sweet artichoke said...

Both the chilli and the muffins look delicious and very tasty! love your pictures!