Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili with Azuki Beans, Barley and Mushrooms

Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili with Adzuki Beans, Barley and Mushrooms

Vegetarian chili is a comforting, warming and nourishing one-pot meal for which I never tire of exploring new ideas — nor do my husband and I hardly ever tire of eating, especially during the cold months. Despite the relative simplicity of chili, at times the infinite number of variations on the theme can be forgotten.

Chili is certainly a great practice dish because chili recipes usually yield a good amount, keep well, and are a great way to use up any vegetables nearing the end of their shelf life. But chili is also an edible canvas to dress up with whatever suits your fancy.

Now adding pumpkin is not an unheard of idea for vegetarian chilies, but this fall has brought about an especial indulgence for roasting and eating plenty of pumpkin, and I love the rich creaminess it lends to chili in addition to the extra nourishment. Red kidney beans are a staple of vegetarian and non-vegetarian chili recipes, but this time around I decided to use sweet little red azuki beans that go so well with pumpkin. Chewy nutty-tasting pearl barley included in the mix adds a terrific contrast in texture to the smoothness of the cooked beans and pumpkin and the crunchiness of peppers, carrots and celery.


I like my chili thick and creamy, and I like it hot and spicy, but it's easy enough to add more water or stock to thin it out somewhat — especially keep this in mind the next day if reheating as the chili thickens up as it rests in the refrigerator overnight. The spices and seasonings can also be adjusted, added or discarded according to taste, but if you don't already have liquid smoke on hand then I would suggest that a few drops does lend a wonderful depth and taste to this and almost any other chili. Red kidney beans or even black beans can certainly be used in place of the azuki beans for a bit more of a hearty chili experience. Really, this recipe is a document of a chili that I especially enjoyed making and eating, but it's also meant as an inspiration — the possibilities for vegetarian chili are as endless as the imagination of the cook.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup dried azuki beans (1 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 oz (30 g) dried mixed mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 celery stocks, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 to 4 red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Kashmiri or other chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 5 to 6 fresh button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin purée
  • 1/3 cup dried pearl barley
  • a few drops of liquid smoke (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water, or as needed
Instructions:
  • Rinse the azuki beans and soak in enough water to cover for 6 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a small saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, soak the sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain and chop*. Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  • Toss in the garlic, chilies, chili powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and garam masala if using. Stir for 1 minute until the spices are fragrant.
  • Now add the bell peppers, fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, fresh and dried mushrooms, pumpkin purée, beans, barley, liquid smoke if using, and salt. Pour in the stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes or until the vegetables and barley are tender. Add more stock or water as necessary to achieve desired consistency.
  • Serve hot with cornbread, biscuits or flat breads.
  • *Note: save the soaking water from both the sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms and use for stock.

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