How to give the Tex-Mex classic a veggie spin
To a Texan, the idea of a meat-free chilli may seem as nonsensical as a vegetarian ragù bolognese would to an Italian – purists won’t even allow their beef to be contaminated with beans, let alone replaced by it. Just like bolognese, however, chilli is treated with less respect outside its homeland – the quick weekday suppers on which many of us grew up – full of mince, tinned tomatoes and kidney beans – are easy to adapt to a plant-based diet. But is it possible to replicate the real thing, with its complex spicing and unapologetically meaty, savoury flavour, without the meat?
(My first port of call is the International Chili Society, which puts me in touch with Henry Stephens, the most recent winner of the vegetarian category of its annual competition. He very kindly sends me his recipe, which turns out to be a white chilli, a spin-off generally made with chicken, and that contains cauliflower, corn and copious amounts of dairy. Here I’m looking for what might be termed “a bowl of red”, but it’s good to know there are other possibilities out there, when ingredients such as queso blanco might be more widely available.)