Pop’s Peppery Chili

Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili

~ Harry James

On the stove, simmering in a saline broth are fluffy pods of supple-skinned beans bearing pearly starch on the inside, like a patch of fertile brown earth unfolding in a pot. In that patch of earth, one sees a flash of harvest season, Dad’s mulch-smeared hands at work, stripping away dry pods of dark red beans. With a little help from sauteed vegetables cajoled by robust spices, the starchy bean bulk can be magically transformed into a pot of chili. The onions and garlic that leave a trail of gossamer skins and piquant aromas are suggestive of the warmth at the dinner table, with Dad passing bowls and spoons around as the hungry munchkins sing the stir-the-soup song to complement Mom’s actions. The chillies are in a league of their own. From groovy greens to raging reds, not to forget the mellow yellows and coy oranges in between, the shiny hues belie the fieriness within. With their cooked-down textures, and stray seeds that sneak in, trailed by feeble tails of piths, they suffuse the vegetables and the beans with heat and vigor. The veracity of their meaty essence is somehow evocatory of a backyard scene in the summer, where Dad clearly seems footloose, free of that workday stiffness, with his loveable stubbly cheeks and cotton shorts. Whether it’s piles of hamburger buns that are readied for a sloppy joe showdown or Mom’s lineup of rotis and naans skittering off a hot tava, there’s nothing that can come even close to the smiles that reach Dad’s eyes as he digs into his bowl of red. A big bowl of red and all that jazz for Dad this Father’s Day, from Mom and her helpful but noisy nuggets.

Peppery Chili with Pickled onions and Makki-ki-rotis

(Serves 3-4)

2 Tablespoons light olive oil

½ Teaspoon cumin seeds

1 Dry red chilli pepper

1 Big onion, chopped

2 Carrots, finely diced

3 Large garlic cloves, grated or crushed

2 Cups chopped mixed hot and sweet peppers (We used one each – Jalapeño, Serrano, yellow chilli, Anaheim, Thai chilli, Mini sweet pepper and half each – Poblano and red bell pepper)

1 Zucchini, finely diced

Spices –

  • 1 Teaspoon each cumin and coriander powders
  • 1 Teaspoon each unsweetened cocoa powder and cornmeal
  • ½ Teaspoon each black pepper and red chilli powder (adjust as per the heat of the peppers)
  • ¼ Teaspoon cinnamon

4 Tomatoes, blanched, de-skinned and puréed

2 Cups red kidney beans, cooked (cooking liquid reserved) or canned beans, drained and rinsed

1 Cup bean cooking liquid, vegetable stock or water

2 Cups poached or roasted chicken – shredded, optional

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cumin seeds and dry chilli. Once they sizzle and darken, add the onions, carrots and a big pinch of salt and let the vegetables soften on low heat, about 5 minutes. Grate in the garlic, and after a few stirs add the peppers and zucchini. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often, and then toss in all the spices and salt. Stir for about a minute and then pour in the tomato purée, beans and liquid. Mash the chili slightly with the back of a ladle. Stir in the chicken if using. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Allow the chili to rest for half an hour or so, if possible, for the flavors to mingle. Re-heat and serve in bowls topped with pickled onions, grated paneer and chopped cilantro/coriander leaves with hot, buttered makki-ki-rotis to scoop it all up.

Pickled Onions

1 Red onion, sliced into rounds, separated into rings

A few Red/Green Chillies, optional

½ Cup regular white vinegar

1 Tablespoon sugar

A pinch of salt

Heat the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan until it boils. Add the onion rings and chillies, switch off  the heat and allow to cool. The onions will quickly leach their color into the pickling liquid and turn it pink. The onions can be served right away, store leftovers in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator and use over the next 4-5 days.

Makki-ki-rotis (Corn flatbreads)

(Makes 12, each about 4″ across)

¾ Cup Makki-ka-atta (corn flour available at Indian markets)

¼ Cup whole-wheat flour

¼ Teaspoon salt

Warm water to knead (about ½ cup)

Mix the flours and salt in a wide bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in enough water to make a dough. Knead for a while and then break off 1 inch  balls, press flat between sheets of plastic or wax paper and cook both sides on a hot cast iron griddle until browned and toasty, adding a few drops of oil/ghee. Butter the rotis liberally while they are hot.

We’re linking up Pop’s Peppery Chili to

   Photobucket   It's a Keeper   http://sobha-goodfood.blogspot.com/2011/06/event-announcement-cook-it-healthy.html

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16 Responses to Pop’s Peppery Chili

  1. vincent says:


    We bumped into your blog and we really liked it – great recipes YUM YUM.
    We would like to add it to the Petitchef.com.

    We would be delighted if you could add your blog to Petitchef so that our users can, as us,
    enjoy your recipes.

    Petitchef is a french based Cooking recipes Portal. Several hundred Blogs are already members
    and benefit from their exposure on Petitchef.com.

    To add your site to the Petitchef family you can use http://en.petitchef.com/?obj=front&action=site_ajout_form or just go to Petitchef.com and click on “Add your site”

    Best regards,


  2. Love those pink onions! Thanks for linking with the Hearth n Soul hop.

  3. Apu says:

    Good looking combo!!

  4. mindie says:

    I would love for you to link this and more up to my linky party that runs Friday evening through Sunday night. You can find the button for the party at http://www.bacontimewiththehungryhypo.blogspot.com/

    Our last party, the first ever, had over 300 links so this week there will be a special give away just for linkers, hope to see you soon.

    Come strut your stuff!

    Great pics btw!

  5. Thanks for linking to THIS WEEK’S CRAVINGS! Tomorrow we post the TOP CLICKED recipe, make sure to come by and take a look. Today we opened this week’s theme “30 MINUTE MEALS”. We hope you stop back by and link up again! Happy Blogging!


    • Tadka Pasta says:

      Wow, now that sounds like fun! Right up our alley too what with all the multitasking we get upto! Thanks for stopping by and we’ll see you soon again! 🙂

  6. Sobha Shyam says:

    Wow, very interesting recipe..liked it a lot….Thanx for sending it to my event. 🙂


  7. Claire says:

    Your collection of peppers looks like the one I bought for my blog header! I made enchilada sauce with mine. Lovely chili!

  8. Pingback: Event round for Foodelicious Event – FSF event | Dinner Recipes from Sonia's Kitchen

  9. Pingback: Crusty Corn-a-cups for the Connoisseur | Tadka Pasta

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