Amidst our group of food reviewers, my friend Jo Tracey (https://joannetracey.com) shares the most similar opinions with me about cooking and cuisine. Although I must confess, I’m not a big fan of black beans and would never consider making Black Bean Chili. However, Jo’s review of this recipe is so compelling that it may just change my mind. Read on to discover her take on this delectable dish.
When it was announced Oh She Glows For Dinner would be the May choice for cookbook club I have to admit to a little cringe. A plant-based book… and what’s with that title?
The thing is, even though I frequently order meat-free options when out and am trying to have more meat-free meals in our house, I’m not vegan and can’t imagine being so. Quite frankly, I don’t have the attention span for that sort of commitment (although admire those of you that do). And I love bacon…and cheese…and butter…way too much.
So even though I’d heard amazing things about this cookbook, and my friend Donna (whose taste in books I respect) loves it, I was convinced that I would not. With a let’s-get-this-over-with attitude I borrowed a copy from my local library and (reluctantly) sat down to read it.
It wasn’t long before I was reaching for post-it notes to mark recipes I rather liked (while I turn the corners of my own books, this was a library copy and I’m not a complete heathen…) and before I knew it my copy was full of little pink stickers.
After I’d renewed it the maximum number of times (twice – if there are no outstanding reservations), I took it back to the library only to borrow it again. Finally, I decided I might as well buy a copy for myself, so I did – from iBooks. Then I bought another copy – to give to my daughter who has a vegetarian housemate and, as a result, is eating more plant-based meals. It’s fair to say I’m a convert.
The thing is, I was wrong. Not about the title – which I still detest – and some of the overly cutesy recipe names and puns (which set my teeth on edge), but about everything else.
Of the three books we’ve reviewed so far in this little cookbook club, this one was the most stylishly produced and beautifully photographed. Far from being joyless and spartan (as most vegan cookbooks I’ve met have been), it’s exactly the opposite with an almost tangible generosity and lightness of spirit in every recipe on every page that left me with a When Harry Met Sally sort of impression: I want what she’s having. It’s also not just for vegans.
Saucy Little Black Bean Skillet
So far I’ve made the lentil soup; Romesco roasted potatoes and green beans (which I served with a juicy pork chop); the Balsamic roasted root vegetable medley (which I served with roast lamb); and the rustic roasted carrot and dill hummus. I’ve also bookmarked the crispy brussels sprouts in garlic oil for when they come back into season (which I’ll probably also serve beside roast meat) and the peanut butter veggie noodle bowls (I’m sorry, I can’t refer to them by her title – Dreamy Peanut Butter Crunch Veggie Noodle Bowls- the dreamy bit is a cutesy step too far for me).
The recipe I’m choosing to feature, though, is this black-bean chilli. Perfect for mid-week dinners it’s on the table in less than 30 minutes – including clean-up – and uses ingredients that are always in our pantry. The recipe below is how it’s in the book, but I also added a teaspoon of dried oregano, didn’t de-seed my chilli, and went for 3 heaped teaspoons of the Tex Mex spice (we like it spicy). I also found I needed to add a splash of water as it wasn’t saucy enough for us.
What you need… (serves 2)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large jalapeno chilli, deseeded and diced
- sea salt to taste
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 2 ½ – 3 tsp Tex-Mex spice blend*
- 2 ½ tbsp tomato paste
- 400g can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped**
What you do with it…
In a large wok or frypan, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic and chilli along with a pinch of salt and saute for 4-5 minutes or until softened.
Stir in the diced tomato and spice blend, increase the heat a tad and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the tomato is softened. Stir occasionally and reduce the heat if you need to in order to stop it sticking.
Stir in the tomato paste and black beans and cook for a few more minutes until heated through.
Finally, stir in the coriander and serve.
While the recipe recommends dolloping some of Liddon’s cashew sour cream on top, we went with real sour cream and some avo.
*For the Tex-Mex spice – combine 1 tbsp chilli powder, 1 ½ tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, ¾ tsp fine salt, ¼ tsp ground coriander into a jar.
** the eagle-eyed among you will notice there’s no coriander on my bowl – this isn’t because I’ve suddenly turned into someone who dislikes coriander but rather that the coriander I thought I had in the fridge turned out to be continental (flat-leaf) parsley that was now more than a tad manky. There’s also no avocado in the in the pic because I didn’t remember to put it on until after I’d taken the photo. #keepingitreal
Does this book belong on your bookshelf?
- You love a beautifully styled and photographed cookbook
- You want to bring more plant-based meals to your family meals
- You’re vegan or vegan-curious
- You’re after some interesting vegetable sides or nibbles
- You have food allergies and intolerances and need some delicious recipes
Don’t buy this book if:
- cheese means cheese and a substitution with cashews will never come even remotely close
- You roll your eyes at overly peppy puns and titles with the words “dreamy” or “glow” in them
- You want your vegan cookbooks to look (and taste) spartan and self-righteous
Joanne Tracey is an Australian author of contemporary women’s fiction and cozy culinary mysteries inspired by her travels, a love of baking and happy endings.
Based on the Sunshine Coast in South-East Queensland, Jo is an unapologetic daydreamer, eternal optimist, and confirmed morning person.
When she isn’t writing or day-jobbing, Jo loves baking, reading, long walks along the beach and posting way too many photos of sunrises on Instagram.
Jo’s life goals (apart from being a world-famous author) are to be an extra on Midsomer Murders and to cook her way through Nigella’s books.
You’ll find her foodie blog at Brookford Kitchen Diaries (BKD).
My website: www.joannetracey.com
Thank you, Jo, for sharing your expertise and humor with us. You make the world of cuisine a more interesting and enjoyable place. Your writing style is truly unique and engaging, and I always look forward to reading your reviews and posts.