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Stewing over vegetables

You don't need to be vegetarian to enjoy these warming dishes

Autumn is the time to enjoy a bubbling, savoury, saucy creation, such as a curry, stew or chili. Today's recipes prove they don't have to contain meat to be sustaining and delicious.

For my nicely spiced chili, I pulled out my slow cooker and used it to prepare a tomatoey creation rich with a mix of beans, small cubes of yams and other vegetables. After cutting up the vegetables, the preparation of the chili is easy - you simply throw everything into the slow cooker, no sautéing required, and cover and cook on the low setting for six hours.

Don't be tempted to remove the lid and stir the chili during cooking. Slow cookers are designed so foods won't scorch on the sides of the cooking pot even after longer periods.

More importantly, particularly early on in the cooking, if you remove the lid, it can take several minutes for the slow cooker to regain the heat lost by doing so and you'll increase the chili's cooking time.

The chili makes eight servings and you'll need a slow cooker with at least a five-litre capacity to make it. The chili freezes well, so if you have any left over and don't envision reheating it for a hot lunch the next day, you could spoon it into freezer containers, label, date and freeze for two to three months, ready to thaw and reheat.

My curry is a Thai-style one with a coconut milk base that's spiced up with red Thai curry paste and other flavourings. That curry paste is sold in small jars at Asian food stores and in the Asian food aisle of most supermarkets. It's named after the colour of the spicy chilies and other ingredients used to make it. I made my curry fairly mild tasting, but you could make it as spicy as you like by simply increasing the amount of curry paste used.

The curry contains an abundant mix of vegetables, bamboo shoots and tofu and is given a last-minute flavour lift by stirring in your choice of either chopped fresh mint, cilantro or basil. I served the curry over steamed jasmine rice with some lime slices for squeezing. In the introduction to the recipe, I provide other ways you could dress up the curry once in serving bowls.

My stew recipe is an Italian-style one that simmers together chickpeas, artichokes, tomatoes and other good things. For a fresh green colour and a fine basil/garlic taste, baby spinach and pesto are added to the stew near the end of cooking. When the spinach has just wilted, you taste the stew and adjust the seasoning and it's ready to go.

Serve the stew over pasta, such as rotini or rigatoni. Once in the bowl, grate some Parmesan cheese over the stew, spice it with some chili flakes, if desired, pour a glass of wine and make a toast to autumn.

Eric Akis is the author of the just-published, hardcover book Everyone Can Cook Everything. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.



A hearty chili you could serve with tortilla chips for dunking. The chili will look thick when first put in the slow cooker, but as steam builds during cooking, that moisture will fall back on the chili, making it the right consistency when cooked.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 6 hours Makes: 8 servings

2 (19 oz./540 ml) cans bean medley, drained, rinsed and drained again (see Note)

1 (28 oz./ 796 ml) can crushed tomatoes

1 (28 oz./ 796 ml) can diced tomatoes

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 large yam (about 375 grams), peeled and cut 1/2-inch cubes

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium green bell pepper, diced

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp oregano

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

? salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

? sour cream or thick yogurt, to taste (optional)

? 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or slice green onion

Place all the ingredients, except salt, sour cream or yogurt and green onion, in your slow cooker and mix to combine. Cover and cook on the low heat setting for 6 hours. Taste the chili and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Ladle the chili into bowls. Top, if desired, with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

Sprinkle with cilantro or green onion and serve.

Note: This recipe is designed for an oval slow cooker with a five-litre or more capacity.

Bean medley is a mix of four legumes. It is available in the canned bean aisle of most supermarkets.


This is a fairly mild-tasting curry. If you like things spicier, simply add another teaspoon of curry paste or even more, depending on your fondness for heat.

Serve the curry with steamed jasmine or regular long-grain rice.

Although not noted in the recipe, once in the bowl, if desired, you could top the curry with fresh bean sprouts, lightly crushed, unsalted peanuts, and/or sliced green onion Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: About 12 minutes Makes: 4 servings

2 (14 oz./398 mL) cans coconut milk

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp Thai-style fish sauce (optional; see Note)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, sliced and cut into strips

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 small red bell pepper, cubed

1 small carrot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on the bias

2 tsp red Thai curry paste, or to taste

12 to 16 small cauliflower florets

1 (227 grams) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained well

175 grams firm tofu, drained well and cut into 1/2-inch wide, 2-inch long pieces

12 to 16 snow or snap peas

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, cilantro or basil

to taste ? salt

8 lime slices or wedges for garnish

Place the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Mix in the fish sauce, if using, and then set aside until needed.

Place the oil in a medium to large pot set over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, onion, bell pepper and carrot and cook and stir 3 minutes. Mix in the curry paste and cook one minute more.

Add the coconut milk mixture, cauliflower, bamboo shoots and tofu. Bring curry to a gentle simmer, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain that simmer (don't rapidly boil). Simmer curry 5 minutes.

Add the snow or snap peas and cook 2 minutes more, or until they and the other vegetables are just tender.

Stir in the fresh herb of choice (mint, cilantro or basil), season with salt, and serve.

Note: Red Thai curry paste and fish sauce are available at Asian food stores and in the Asian food aisle of most supermarkets.


This tomato-rich, Italian-style vegetarian stew tastily combines chickpeas, artichokes, pesto and spinach. Serve the stew over pasta, such as rotini or rigatoni. Any leftover stew and pasta will make a nice lunch reheated the next day.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 (14 oz/398 mL) can diced tomatoes

1 (14 oz/398 mL) can artichoke hearts, drained, each heart quartered

1 (19 oz./540 mL) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and drained again

2 cups vegetable stock

1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise, and sliced

3 Tbsp homemade or store-bought pesto

2 cups packed baby spinach

? salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

? freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste

chili flakes, to taste ? crushed (optional)

Place the oil in medium to large pot set over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook 3 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste and cook 1 minute more. Add the diced tomatoes, artichokes, chickpeas, stock and zucchini. Bring stew to a gentle simmer, and adjust the heat as needed to maintain that simmer. Simmer stew, uncovered, 15 minutes. Mix in the pesto and spinach; season stew with salt and pepper. Simmer a few minutes more, just until spinach wilts, and then serve. Allow diners to top and flavour the stew, to taste, with Parmesan cheese and, if desired, crushed chili flakes.

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