A few years ago, around this time of year, I planned a birthday get together with a group of mixed friends. I say mixed in the nicest way. I was relatively new to Edinburgh at the time and had developed friendships with different sets of friends from the different aspects of my life. As a result, I was very conscious that most of them only knew myself and possible one or two other people I had invited to my gathering.
I decided to overcome this by borrowing an idea from a party I had been invited to many years ago in London. I was invited by a dear friend to a scavenger hunt around the city of London. It was brilliant! We were all required to have tube passes for zone 1 and we met at a pub near tower bridge where we were put into teams and handed a camera (this was before smart phones). We were also given an envelope with clues and questions. We then had to race about the city to a selection of sites where we took photos to prove we had made it to the said location and then answered questions from things in the area. All ending up at the couples home in the end with a warm meal.
What I loved about this idea, other than it immediately appealed to my competitive nature, is that you immediately form friendships with the people you are with (given you are working on a common goal) and it gives you great stories to talk about when you are done. I thought it would work brilliantly with my friends on this occasion.
So, I set about pulling together a list of sites and things for each team to run about Edinburgh, snap a picture and then move onto the next one. The more difficult the task or the longer it would take to achieve, the more points it garnered. There was a time limit with penalties for over-running. And we started in one pub and ended up in another, with bonus points for picking up wine or beer to bring back to my house at the end, where it would be enjoyed with some warm chilli and fresh baked rolls.
Given it was winter time in Edinburgh, usually cold and wet, and that we would have been running about the city for a few hours, I wanted to make sure the meal I served up was worthy. I researched lots of recipes and the history of chilli con carne. I read reviews and recipes from contest winners, and took my preferences and certain preconceptions I felt were sacred to make my own recipes. I had one with steak mince and the other vegetarian. This is my vegetarian recipe. The basis is the same but I have used green lentils and extra beans to replace the meat. I also added sweet corn. I love the colour it adds to the meal and the extra crunch you get in each bite. If it isn’t your calling, then feel free to omit it. For me it is sacred.
As for the scavenger hunt, it was a great success and it certainly gave us all a lot to talk about that evening. I also have a great selection of photos of all my friends doing amazing things around the capital. A bonus keepsake!
- Olive Oil
- 2 medium Onions, finely chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp Chilli Powder
- 1 tsp heaped ground Cumin
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 tin Green Lentils, drained
- 1 tin Black Beans, drained
- 2 tins of Red Kidney Beans, drained
- half a small jar of Sundried Tomatoes packed in oil (~50-70g drained weight), chopped
- 1 Red Chilli, fresh, finely chopped
- 2 14oz tins of chopped Tomatoes
- 1/2 stick of Cinnamon (or 1/2 tsp of ground)
- 5 ozs Water
- 1 small tin of sweet corn, optional
In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and then add the chopped onions. Sauté over medium heat until translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Stir in the chilli, cumin with a pinch of salt and pepper and heat through until fragrant. Then add the drained lentils and beans along with the remaining ingredients. Simmer, covered, on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning to suit and then serve warm with your choice of warm bread, rice or quinoa.
Can be kept for 3 days in the fridge, in an airtight container.