I don’t own a slow cooker. Crazy right? I feel like everyone owns a slow cooker. It’s been on my list of things to explore for a while now. There’s something about cooking food longer and letting flavors seep in really slowly. (Not to mention the convenience of coming home to a meal that’s ready to go!)
I’ve decided that I will definitely need to invest in one soon. But for now, I have my trusty Le Creuset pot that I use almost daily. I want to share with you some tips I’ve learned on creating dishes that are bursting with flavor and don’t involve all the slow cooking.
I take a lot of Indian cooking techniques and incorporate them into my non-Indian food. One of the ways that we infuse more flavor into Indian cooking is by a process called tadka, which best translates into tempering. I use this method in a lot cooking, including this three bean vegetarian chili.
The process involves frying whole spices in hot oil or ghee. The heat and oil help release the flavors of the spices and create a nice aroma. Tadka can be done at the beginning of cooking where the spices are heated and the rest of the ingredients are added after it. It can also be done separately and drizzled over a dish that is already cooked. Either way, you get the benefit of getting all the essence out of your spice.
This chili uses whole cumin and cinnamon in a tadka, and the rest of the ingredients follow. You will immediately smell how fragrant the spices are once they hit the oil and really start to sizzle.
If you’re worried about the cinnamon, the flavor is subtle and not strong. Once the chili is done, you can also remove the cinnamon stick if you want. This way no one accidently takes a big bite of it!
I also make sure I give vegetables ample time to cook down. The onions and garlic are given their time first and then the peppers.
This gives these ingredients time not only to cook but also for their flavors to really mix into the oil before we add all the beans. Finally, we let the whole pot simmer for a good 30 minutes to really let it thicken and get those deep flavors.
Oh, and there’s one more secret to this three bean chili. Adding unsweetened cocoa powder makes a big difference. It does not taste chocolaty at all, but it really masks the slightly metallic sour taste of canned tomatoes and adds a slight smokiness to the chili.
So what are you waiting for? This is the perfect time to enjoy some delicious warm comfort food. Serve it up with some sour cream, tortilla chips and your favorite cheese, unless you’re keeping it vegan. Then just stick to guacamole on top!