Friday, March 27, 2015

"Delia Smith's Winter Collection" - Black Bean Chilli with Avocado Salsa - for that "not quite" First Day of Spring

Date I made this recipe:  March 24, 2015

Delia Smith's Winter Collection by Delia Smith
Published by:  BBC
ISBN: 0-563-36477-7
Purchased at Barnes and Noble Used Books – Har Mar Mall, Roseville, MN
Recipe:  Black Bean Chilli with Avocado Salsa – p. 122-123

So spring arrived on March 20th this year and that was a good thing.  Snow arrived on March 22nd this year and that was a bad thing. 

Around these parts, we tend to laugh at the calendar's version of any climate-related event like spring because we really don't have one.  Spring, that is.  We have winter and road construction.  Spring, if you want to call it that, is brief.  So brief that if you're not paying attention, you might miss it.

Oh, we've had semblances of spring this year, evidenced by nary a drop of snow and warmer temperatures than we are used to i.e. in the 40's and 50's (and even a few moments of high 60's and 70).  After last year's Polar Vortex, this is something to celebrate.  And according to the weather experts, we had as much snow on March 22nd as we did for the past 39 days.  Well, that's bragging rights material to be sure.

But as these things go, spring will likely "spring ahead," just like daylight savings time, taking us from winter (whenever it ends) to our equally short summer and then back to winter in no time.  I don't make these rules.

So when the snow was falling down upon us, all thoughts of making a "spring" dish in honor of the first day of spring flew out the window.  Instead, I turned my attention to Delia Smith's most-aptly-named Winter Collection cookbook.

That cover art?  That's what our lawns and trees looked like the other day.  Delia gets it.  And Delia's recipes reflect that as many, like the ones for braised roasts, fit nicely into the "not-quite-spring" slot.  In my humble opinion, roasts, soups and stews are good year-round which is a relief considering winter lasts almost year-round in these parts.  Kidding.  Nine months, tops.  Kind of like a pregnancy.

As per usual, whittling down the recipes from this book proved difficult.  One of the recipes, "Warm Roquefort Cheesecake with Pears in Balsamic Vinaigrette" – p. 92 and 93, sounded so good I want to revisit that for my holiday party in December.  Others, like "Roasted and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto" (p. 99) and "Beef in Designer Beer (p. 124-125)" were in hot contention for the recipe du jour, as was "Meatballs in Goulash Sauce" (p. 115).  And then I flipped the pages to the "winning" recipe – "Black Bean Chili with Avocado Salsa."

So why that dish over the others?  Because "avocado" signals spring and summer.  I mean, I'll eat guacamole any time of the year but really, are we not all thinking of summer patios, "guac" and chips and tequila shots?  Okay, maybe that last part is just me.  Anyway, it triggered my taste buds plus black bean chili sounds so healthy, right, and spring or no spring, it's time to start getting into my best shorts and flip flops shape, STAT!

Now you should know that this dish takes some time to prep in that you have to soak the beans overnight (or carve out 3 hours the day of to make them) and then you have to cook them for 2 hours and that's just the bean-cooking portion of our program, not the entire prep/cook time.  But was it worth it?  Yes, it was.  So just do this on a day when you've got fingernail-filing time on your hands.

Delia Smith also produced a Summer Collection cookbook and once this "spring" thing is over, my thoughts will turn to that book with new recipes.  I can't wait...for any of it.

And PS—Delia Smith is "Britain's best-selling cookery author."  I love how it's "cookery," not "cook book."  So British.  As it Delia's spelling of "chilli" with two "l's."  Also, why do the Brits pronounce "banana" "bah-naan-er." There's no "er" in banana!  There is not.  And unfortunately, no banana recipe in this book either.  Shame, that.

Black Bean Chilli with Avocado Salsa – serves 4-6
For the chili
1 lb braising steak cut into very small pieces (Ann's Note:  round steak, chuck roast or stew meat work best.  I used chuck.)
8 oz black beans
1 oz fresh coriander (reserving leaves for the salsa)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 green chillies, de-seeded and chopped small (Ann's Note:  I used one large jalapeno)
1 rounded tablespoon plain flour
2 – 14 ounce cans chopped tomatoes
1 large red pepper
Juice of ½ lime
For the salsa
2 large, firm tomatoes
1 ripe, firm avocado
½ small red onion, finely chopped
Reserved chopped coriander leaves
Juice of ½ lime
A few drops Tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
To serve
4 tablespoons creme fraiche (optional)

Either pre-soak the beans overnight or start this recipe 3 hours ahead of time and begin by placing the beans in a large saucepan, covering them with cold water and bringing them up to boiling point and boiling for 10 minutes.  Then turn the heat off and let them soak for 3 hours. 

When ready to assemble, pre-heat the oven to 300F.

Strip the leaves off the coriander stalks into a bowl, cover with clingfilm  and place them in the fridge.  Ann's Note:  yet another British word – "clingfilm."  Translation?  "Saran Wrap."  Then chop the coriander stalks very finely indeed.  Ann's Note:  so polite, those Brits! ("...very finely indeed").  Also, this was the first time I've ever heard of using the stalks instead of the leaves but I liked it.  It reminded me of chopping chives yet with a completely different flavor profile.  Or should that be "flavour?"

After that (the chopping), take a casserole (4-pint and oven-proof), heat half the oil in it and cook the onions, garlic and coriander stalks and chillies gently for about 5 minutes. Then transfer them to a plate, spoon in the rest of the oil, turn the heat up high, add about a third of the beef and brown it well, keeping it on the move.  The remove it and brown the rest in 2 batches.  Now return everything to the casserole and sprinkle in the flour, stir it in to soak up the juices, then add the drained beans, followed by the tomatoes.  Stir well and bring it up to simmering point.  Don't add any salt at this stage – just put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the oven to cook for an initial 1 ½ hours.

Towards the end of that time, stir the pepper in to join the meat and beans.  Put the lid back on and give it a further 30 minutes' cooking.

While the meat finishes cooking, make up the salsa.  Skin the tomatoes by pouring boiling water over them, then leaving for exactly 1 minute before draining and slipping the skins off when they're cool enough to handle.  Then cut each tomato in half and, holding each half over a saucer, squeeze gently to extract the seeds.  Now chop the tomato flesh as finely as possible.

Next halve the avocado, remove the stone, cut each half into 4 and peel off the skin.  Chop the avocado into minutely small dice, and do the same with the onion.  Finally combine everything together in a bowl, adding seasoning, the juice of half the lime, half the chopped coriander and a few drops of Tabasco.

Before serving the chilli, add salt, tasting as you add.  Then stir in the rest of the coriander leaves and the juice of half the lime.  I like to serve this chilli with some plain brown basmati rice.

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