One of the challenges that many students seem to face when they first move away from home is finding inspiration for decent, cheap meals. It’s not just inspiration that’s the problem either: obviously they’ve got a limited budget and they’re probably not used to supermarket shopping either (let alone on a budget), so they’re overwhelmed with the price and choice of food and end up sticking to the same two or three things that they know how to cook (or blowing a week’s budget on Domino’s then eating beans on toast at the end of the month). I promised Charlie I’d start to write up a few simple, quick and – most importantly – healthy recipes that he can refer to, so I came up this easy veggie lentil chilli for him, but honestly, we liked this one so much I’ve been making it about once a week. I serve it with brown rice and top with a handful of salad, sour cream or avocado. It’s also delicious served with sausages (veggie or otherwise).
This easy veggie lentil chilli is so versatile that I’ve added a ton of serving suggestions at the bottom, and they’re just for starters. It’s also a great way to feed a crowd – you can batch make large quantities and freeze it, and you can also vary the ingredients depending on what you’ve got left in the fridge or what’s on offer in the supermarket. I used the kidney beans in chilli sauce because they’re 65p a tin in our local supermarket, and the sauce adds extra flavour, but if you prefer just to use drained normal kidney beans and add a tin of chopped tomatoes instead, that’s fine too. Make sure any veg that you use – red or green peppers, carrots, celery, celeriac.. whatever you have – is chopped into similar sized small cubes.
Easy veggie lentil chilli
Serves 4 generously
You will need:
2-3 tbsp oil
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, bashed to loosen the papery skin, then finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 leek, sliced lengthways, rinsed then chopped
2 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
200g red split lentils
1 tin kidney beans in chilli sauce + 2 empty cans water
1 stock cube (chicken or vegetable is fine)
Warm the oil in a saucepan (it needs to be one that has a lid, or you can improvise with a plate or some foil) over a medium heat.
Add in the onion, garlic and chilli and stir them around until they start to soften and the onion starts to go translucent.
Sprinkle over the salt and spices, then pile in any vegetables that you’re using – I tend to use leeks, sweet potato, red pepper and carrots, but use whatever you have. Then add the lentils and the tin of kidney beans in sauce. Fill the tin twice more with water and add into the pan too. Finally, crumble over a stock cube.
Give everything a stir, then allow it to come up to a boil. When you can see bubbles popping in the liquid, turn it down to low, pop on the lid and leave it for 30 minutes, giving it the occasional stir.
And that’s it. Serve in a bowl with rice or just a chunk of crusty bread, or try one of my serving suggestions below. I promise you, once you’ve made this once, you’ll find a way to make it your own – maybe adding peas or sweetcorn, a tin of chickpeas – whatever you like. Do let me know if you make it and feel free to ask any questions too – find me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, or just leave a comment below. Happy cooking!
- Swap one of the tinfuls of water with a tin of coconut milk, and add a couple of teaspoons of your favourite curry powder. Serve with basmati rice or naan bread.
- Layer up with tortilla chips and grated cheese. Bake for 20 mins then top with guacamole and sour cream for the perfect sharing plate of nachos
- Make into quesadillas: spread generously between two tortillas, add grated cheese and then dry fry until the outside is golden and the inside is hot and oozing with melted cheese.
- Turn it into chilli cheese dogs by spooning generously into a hot dog bun, topping with the (veggie) hot dog sausage of your choice, then adding a generous mixture of grated cheddar and mozzarella
- Layer with a simple cheese sauce and pasta sheets to make a veggie lasagne (use my simple lasagne recipe here).
- Pile on top of a baked potato
- Leave out the chilli and spice (you might need another stock cube – not tried this one) and top with mashed potato
- Roll into a burrito with rice, iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, black beans, grated cheese, red onion, sweetcorn and some guacamole or salsa.