Creamy vegetarian chilli

I had a theory recently that I could turn Melissa Clark’s amazing shakshuka recipe into a tasty vegetarian chilli. My theory was borne out.

This chilli is made creamy by the addition of feta cheese — an ingredient maintained from the shakshuka recipe. Really, all I’ve changed from Clark’s original is I’ve doubled the recipe, added serrano peppers for variety, and thrown in the requisite chilli powder and beans (white kidneys to compliment the feta) to make it count as chilli. I recommend finely chopping one onion and slicing another because the sliced rings make for occasional oniony mouthfuls, which when you cook them kind of slowly is definitely a good thing, because it adds a bit of sweetness. Also, when I made this, I definitely used more cayenne than I call for here, but the consensus around the table seemed to be that I’d gone a bit too far. Use discretion.

I served this alongside J. Kenji-Lopez-Alt’s fabulous brown butter cornbread, which is super easy to make, even for baking-challenged souls such as myself. And I drank Shiraz with it, which was stupid. Don’t do that. Try Pinot Noir. Or beer.

⅓ cup olive oil
2 large onions; 1 finely chopped, 1 sliced in rings
2 red bell peppers, chopped
4 serrano peppers, sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne
1 tsp chilli powder
2 28 oz cans whole plum tomatoes in juice
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 cups crumbled feta cheese
2 540 ml cans white kidney beans, drained
Cilantro for serving
Hot sauce for serving

Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the olive oil, the bell peppers and the serrano peppers and cook until soft, 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika, cayenne and chilli powder and cook one minute. Add tomatoes and their juice, roughly breaking the tomatoes up with a spoon as you stir. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tomato juice has thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add crumbled feta and stir in until melted and incorporated, raising heat if necessary. Add kidney beans, and let sit for 5 minutes on low heat. Serve topped with cilantro and hot sauce.

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