How To Cook Over A Fire

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If you’ve never had to cook on a fire before beyond opening cans and skewering things, it may seem rather mysterious. Where do you put the pot? Can normal pots withstand the heat of the fire? How do you control the temperature? How do you prevent burns? Where do you keep all the ingredients? 

Here, I am going to break down my method for fire-side cookery. It may need to be adjusted, depending on what you’re cooking and what tools you have available to you. But I think this is a good, basic guide to get you started. 

Step One: Know how to build a proper cooking fire 

I tried to find you folks a basic guide to building a campfire, but I couldn’t find anything suitable online. All the articles were written by manly men talking about fire like it was some sort of erectile dysfunction aid, or else were written by people who have never tried to cook anything bigger than a marshmallow over an open flame before. You want a cooking fire to be long-burning, stable, mostly coals (instead of big flames) and relatively flat (if you’re going to be setting your pot on the coals, vs. hanging it from a tripod above the fire).

  1. To start, build a basic tee-pee fire in a ring of rocks- the rocks are your fireproof counter, where you place the hot pots when adding or removing ingredients.
  2. Once you have logs big enough for your hand to grasp around it completely burning to coal in your tee-pee, build a log-house around it of four proper fire logs.
  3. When the logs are coal on the interior side and the tee-pee is a smoldering pile of hot coals in the center (approximately one hour in good weather without too much wind), arrange the logs as pictured above, with three logs perpendicular to the biggest log, with the coal side facing up. This will be your cooking surface.
  4. The bottom, uncharred side of the log will heat up as the top, charred side is cooking your food, so you can rotate the logs as needed to keep consistent heat. Check your food often and do not leave the fire’s side as you cook. This is the only method I know of to prevent burning your food. 

If you haven’t any beautiful, evenly split logs to make your cooking surface, you can still make do. In the picture below, we only had access to a giant limb of dry cedar and smaller branches. So, we built a teepee and put the cedar log over, the center of it directly in the middle of the hottest part of the fire. This way, we could burn through the log, rather than chopping, and later combine the two halves as long-burning fuel for the fire. In the meantime, we were hungry, so I made a pot of camp soup by collapsing the teepee under the ceder limb and straddling a few small branches across the logs. They were very dry, but held up long enough for me to boil a whole pot of soup in a heavy cast iron pot before collapsing. 

You can see the big ceder branch is almost ready to be split, meanwhile the pot has a nice, sturdy place to rest as the soup boils

You can see the big ceder branch is almost ready to be split, meanwhile the pot has a nice, sturdy place to rest as the soup boils

Step Two: Have the right tools for the job

You really don’t need to buy fancy, special camping cookware. You’ll want to use all metal or silicone construction utensils with long enough handles for you to safely reach your food. You can use wooden spoons, like I do, but be careful not to leave them in the pots. Wood handles burn as well as any stick. I used 3 wooden spoons, a metal spatula, a pair of tongs, and a ladle all week, and that was enough- it likely will be for you, too. Aside from that, a couple chef’s knives, a paring knife, and and bottle openers, two cutting boards and three dish basins (soap-rinse-sterilize) were all we used. The only special “utensil” you’ll need is a heavy stick with a crook or knot you can use to pry under the handle of your pot to move it about. Even then, sufficiently strong oven mitts (such as welder’s gloves) will do the trick. A smaller, sturdy stick can be used to loop into the pot lid to lift it off.

Bear in mind that camp fires are really, really hot. Unless you are confident you can get within arms reach of your pot without burning your face or hair, play it safe and keep your pot near the edge of the fire, and simply turn it often for better heating. Trust me, you especially do not want to accidentally burn yourself when you’re off in the woods and out of cellphone reception. 

Cast iron is perfect for campfire cooking for a few reasons. First, it’s heavy enough to withstand the incredible heat of the fire without warping or scorching. Second, it insulates food from the irregular flame, distributing the heat evenly across the pot and deterring hot spots. Third, if you burn it or burn something in it or wish to get rid of the char marks on the outside of the pot, you can safely use steel wool and re-season the pot as needed. If you use something other than cast iron, be careful, and be sure it’s not dual-metal construction (such as a copper-bottomed aluminum pot), since campfires can easily break the bond between the metals leading to spilling accidents. I used a 10-inch cast iron dutch oven, and my grandmother’s old 8-inch fry pan. Additionally, I had a stock pot, smaller pot and nonstick griddle for the Coleman stove- you won’t need those if you’re cooking for fewer than 4 people and without the stove. The Dutch oven doubles as an oven, so you can bake in it by putting coals over and under the fire. I successfully made strawberry rhubarb crumble for 15 in this pot, but I want the 12-inch as my next purchase. You can actually stack Dutch ovens on top of each other, with layers of coal in between, for more efficient and controlled heating. How cool is that? I learned everything I know about Dutch ovens here, so take a gander before you buy. 

Lots of folks talk about cast iron like it’s sacred- Never soap it! Never let it touch water! Never cook tomatoes in cast iron! Seasoning is an onerous task that takes hours and hours and must be done by the light of the full moon with extra-extra-certified-virgin coconut oil mixed with one part baby tears! Sorry to tell you folks, but none of this is true. So long as you use your pan regularly- every day or two- and don’t leave it soaking in water for a day, there’s no special care required for cast iron. Seasoning means oil cooked onto a metal. You can do this by heating any oil in the pot- i.e. swirl that tablespoon of olive oil around the pan before adding your onions, just like you normally would. Ta-da. That’s it. You can wash it off after and reapply oil each time you cook. No biggie. Don’t let all the dire warnings and stories of rust-ringed counter tops deter you. Cast iron only demands one thing- that you use it. Even if you don’t, it’s a simple thing to scour it with steel wool and re-season it. I pulled my grandmother’s cast iron out from under her stove ten years ago, covered in rust and untouched for 40 years. Fifteen minutes of scrubbing and an hour in the oven slathered in canola oil, and they’re still the main pans I use.

Nana's cast iron, being put to good use!

Nana’s cast iron, being put to good use!

Step Three: Prepare your mise en place and set up your cooking nook

Find a good place to sit, level with your fire. You don’t want to be above the fire- heat rises, it’s hot up there. So, park yourself on the ground, perhaps with a sit-upon to protect from the cold. Wear long sleeves and pants in materials that don’t melt, such as denim or canvas, to protect from sparks and heat. Bring your chopped ingredients all on your cutting board next to you, separated into piles if not all being added at once. Bring any utensils you need, plus your oven mitts and pot/lid moving stick and a fire-poking stick. Lastly, bring any ingredients that you might want to add to taste as you cook, such as seasoning, oil, water, wine, herbs or spices. In the picture above, you can see I have Magic Vegan Bacon Grease, Earth Balance, tamari, red pepper paste, minced garlic in the plastic container (don’t forget spoons to get things out of jars!) and a glass of wine for me/the pot as needed. Once you are parked with everything you need at your disposal, cook away! Keep friends around the fire with you to keep you in good company, pass you anything you forgot, and poke the fire when needed. 

Step Four: Enjoy your meal

Bring your pots and pans out of the fire and onto flat rocks of the fire ring as they finish cooking, then when everything is done bring the whole lot to a safe, lit place away from the fire to serve. Take your time and enjoy your meal around the lovely warm coals, or else by the lake to watch the sunset. Be sure that everyone else takes care of the washing up and putting away leftovers. The biggest pot can be emptied of food, rinsed, filled with water and put on the stove to heat water for washing up as you eat. You can let the fire die out on it’s own, but always douse with water, stir well, and douse again before leaving it unattended. We use the waste washing water for this job. 

I hope this little guide is helpful and encourages some of you to try campfire cooking beyond the vegan marshmallow and veggie dog next time! Let me know if you have any tips for outdoor cookery. 

Being an Anglo Vegan in Montreal

The absolutely delicious Lola Rosa vegan poutine. Sweet potato and Yukon gold fries with a rich black bean/mushroom gravy and Daiya, garnished with green onion.  This is the small, which is what I recommend you order if you're going to get the chocolate/avocado/coconut tart for dessert, as I always do.

The absolutely delicious Lola Rosa vegan poutine. Sweet potato and Yukon gold fries with a rich black bean/mushroom gravy and Daiya, garnished with green onion. This is the small, which is what I recommend you order if you’re going to get the chocolate/avocado/coconut tart for dessert, as I always do.

When I came to Montreal three years ago, I learned very quickly that food is culture, and I couldn’t presume that the way I had grown used to handling eating out as a vegan would be the same. I fell in love with the city before I knew much about the local food scene, or the veg scene. The way of life here is slower, smaller, and more relaxed than other cities. Picnicking is a favourite weekend pastime, and they have a special term for going out for drinks before a late supper at home throughout the week. Biking makes more sense than driving almost every time here, and public pianos are set out at subway stations for citizens to entertain each other during their daily commute- and they do! My life here is idyllic- I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. But as a vegan, it took some work to adapt to the local food climate. While Montreal has a few excellent vegan and vegetarian establishments, by and large, omni restaurants- especially of the pricier variety- refuse to cater to vegans on principal. It’s just not the Quebec way, I’m told; ordering off-menu is an insult to the chef, vegetarianism itself is insulting to the lard-laden palate of the Quebecois. While some of this can be accounted for by the difficulty of catering to vegans on the spot (since lard and butter is in eevrything, even the beans), not all of my experience can be accounted for by this. It was shocking to me to experience being literally turned away at the door of restaurants, since the chef refused to simply omit cheese from a menu item. Since I am not a native speaker of Quebecois and am conscious of the threat of English imperialism in the Quebec nation, I am not sure how much of what I have experienced was a result of nationalist indignation- perhaps the experience of native quebeckers is different. One can never tell if the ire of the barista is the result of asking for soy milk or asking for soy milk in English, or both.

By comparison when I lived in Edmonton, while there were very few vegetarian establishments, I had enjoyed the American-style hospitality that larger omni restaurants offered, including reduced prices for cutting meat out of menu items, and vegan meat and cheese substitutes for almost any dish. While sometimes I encountered hapless waiters and chefs who would offer me fish or chicken broth when I specified ‘vegan’ (I even had a pizzeria inform me that none of their pizzas could be made vegan, since there was flour and oil in the crusts), everyone was happy- even relieved- when I explained what veganism entailed and offered suggestions for vegan fare off their menus. Managers and chefs would invite me to come back on a quiet afternoon to review the menu and ingredient lists with them to help make their establishments more accommodating to vegans. I couldn’t ask for a more accommodating, friendly dining experience.

In other ways, too, Edmonton values seemed more open and commensurate with vegan values. They have one of the best (if not the best) no-kill animal shelters in the world, and it’s entirely funded by the community operating in harmony out of the same building complex as the city animal control service. Meanwhile in Montreal, city animal services are entirely privatized, sometimes run by for-profit companies who have a horrific track record of killing first and answering questions later. Public outrage at lost family pets being killed by unqualified personnel without being scanned for microchips or giving owners an opportunity to retrieve them first has inspired some interest in improving the state of things. However, by and large, Quebec remains a very dismal place for animals.

As an outsider, of a sort (I had two bilingual grandparents, one of whom was Quebecois) I realize that my capacity as an advocate for veganism is reduced here. First, because of the linguistic barrier- my French is barely passable. Second, because in an environment where the francophone majority militantly protects a culture threatened by English (and by extension, anglophones themselves), any attempts to promote veganism are seen as yet another presumptuous and imperialistic attack on Quebecois values and culture by les Anglais. As such, I just avoid eating out except at expressly vegetarian-friendly establishments. However, there is some evidence that the situation here in Montreal is improving. A few of the newer eateries that have popped up in the Mile End area have veg options, and new veg establishments are opening up or expanding regularly. I have hope for this little city that I love, and hope for the millions of animals that are farmed for their fur, flesh, secretions, and entertainment value in Quebec.

With that heavy post, here are some of my ridiculously adorable (and available for adoption) foster kittens.

Puff, Norbert and Toothless

Puff, Norbert and Toothless

Veggie Pâté Sammiches

Veggie pate perfection! All it's missing is a pickle.

Veggie pate perfection! All it’s missing is a pickle.

I don’t think veggie pâté exists outside of Quebec, and even in Quebec it’s a bit of a culinary enigma. Across the internet you can find present and former Montrealers reminiscing and trying to recreate the staple food of the Quebecoise vegetarian, but no one seems to know the origin of this perfect vegan food in an otherwise very meat-centric culinary landscape. It’s presence in epiceries and menus throughout the province is ubiquitous, where it’s enjoyed by omnis and vegetarians alike as an appetizer with bread and pickles or in California-style sandwiches on seedy bread with tomatoes, sprouts, pickles, avocado and mayo. 

Veggie pâté was one of the first vegan things I noticed on my very first trip to the grocery store just after moving to Montreal from Edmonton, the only other place I had lived as a vegan. The shrink-wrapped plastic packages came in several varieties, nestled in a group beside the hummus and other spreads. I was delighted, as I had enjoyed pâté in my pre-vegan days and interpreted this as a sure sign that Montreal would be a very vegan-friendly place indeed. Sadly, I quickly learned that I was mistaken- but that is a topic for another post. 

My first impression upon trying veggie pâté was that it tasted like Thanksgiving. Specifically, it tastes like stuffing. Dense, creamy and somewhat crumbly, characteristic flecks of carrot stud the fine loaf, which is pressed and baked in bread pans before being sliced or scooped into rounds like ice cream. Traditionally made by finely grating carrot, celery, onion and potato, it’s often made in the food processor these days. Wheat flour and vegetable oil binds it together, and chopped sunflower seeds provide textural interest. Herbal notes of thyme, sage and rosemary pull together the flavour profile, sometimes with white wine, nutritional yeast and garlic. Variations, such as eggplant, sundried tomato and cranberry are common, but even these flavours are subtle additions to the overall toasted wheat and golden-baked mirepoix base.

There are several varieties available for purchase, and several recipes published by Quebecois bloggers and tv personalities, such as the ever-loveable Ricardo. I am working on my own, and will share it when it’s perfected. In the meantime, here’s a basic veggie pâté sandwich recipe. It served as lunch during camping at least twice. However, the overall experience was greatly diminished by the omission of a pickle, the standard pâté accompaniment. Putter’s is the best choice. It’s what they serve along the famous Montreal smoked meat at Schwartz’s, and alongside the veggie pâté at Aux Vivres, the institution most representative of the Montreal vegan community. You probably can’t find Putter’s outside of Quebec, in which case go for the sharpest, cloudiest fresh brine pickle you can find. 

 

Veggie Pâté Sammiches

2 slices of multigrain bread
1 tbsp Grapeseed Vegenaise (or vegan mayo of choice)
2 slices of tomato
1/4 sliced avocado
1 leaf romaine lettuce
1 small handful of sunflower or broccoli sprouts
1/4 sliced green onion
3-4 slices of veggie pâté, 1/4 inch thick
1 Putter’s Pickle, sliced in the sandwich or whole on the side
Herbamare and pepper, to taste

Assemble sandwich with mayo on both sides. Enjoy with a beer if you’re like me, or a kombucha, if you’re doing it Aux Vivres-style.

The quintessential veggie pate

The quintessential veggie pate

Vegan Stovetop Mac and Cheese (with veggie dogs)

Mmmmm mac and cheese and veggie dooogs. Where's the ketchup?

Mmmmm mac and cheese and veggie dooogs. Where’s the ketchup?

You may not know this, but here in Canada, we love our Kraft Dinner. More mac and cheese is consumed in Canada than anywhere else in the world- in fact, Kraft Dinner is the top selling grocery item in Canada. It’s part of our cultural identity, the result of a deliberate and calculated effort by combined political and corporate forces. As a result, it plays an important role in many Canadian’s fond childhood memories. The perfect combination of cheap ($1/box on sale), easy (7 minutes or less), and portable (hurrah powdered cheese!) means that if you ever went camping, you probably had Kraft Dinner at some point; boiled in a big pot on the Coleman stove, toxic orange powdered sauce whisked up with the noodles, raw hot dogs chopped in and ketchup strewn liberally over top. It sounds rather vile, actually, now that I think about it. But let me tell you, when you’ve been canoeing in the driving cold late -September rain for four hours since your last meal and you haven’t had anything warmer than lukewarm tea at breakfast and the GORP wedged in your back pocket in two days, Kraft Dinner is the BEST THING YOU HAVE EVER PUT IN YOUR MOUTH.

Since I’m Canadian and actually enjoyed KD once upon a time, it was an obvious choice to veganize this classic for my camping trip this year. There are a gazillion rocking, fancy shmancy, and delightfully unlikely vegan mac and cheese recipes out there. For my purposes, I wanted something 1) very close to KD in simplicity and texture, 2) totally easy to make, and 3) no blender required. So, I went with a pre-made vegan ricotta as my base. This time I used a macadamia-based one from a local vegan cheesemaker, but Tofutti makes a good one, and of course you can whiz up your own super quickly, such as this cashew-based one from The Simple Veganista. Then, it’s just a matter of tossing a few ingredients in the pasta pot after you drain the noodles and stirring it all together. Just about as easy as KD, except made with real food and, I daresay, far more delicious. Also, less embroiled in scary global food politics. Win-win!

Vegan Stovetop Mac And Cheese (with veggie dogs)

500 grams dry macaroni 
2 cups vegan ricotta
1/3 cup Earth Balance
2 cloves minced garlic
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
3 tablespoons ketchup
salt
cooking water, reserved from the pasta
Optional; sliced veggie dogs, more ketchup

1) Light up your Coleman stove or whatever you happen to be using to make pasta today. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups of cooking liquid

2) Add all remaining ingredients into the pot along with the drained pasta. Stir thoroughly, moistening with reserved cooking liquid until it reaches the desired consistency. We’re going for just a little sauce here, not enough to drip off the fork 

3) Cut in veggie dogs and serve her up with plenty of ketchup on top. Bon appetite!

Definitely try eating this in your black kitty pj's, to complete the effect

Definitely try eating this in your black kitty pj’s, to complete the effect

 

 

Vegan MoFo 2014 – The Outdoor Cookery Edition

vegan mofo 2014

Today we start another month of writing about vegan food! Today is also my first day back from 9 days of camping in the woods with 20 people, no oven, no microwave, and no dishwasher. The coolers are still packed (why did I buy all that salad?), I’m eating cold leftover vegan mac and cheese for dinner, and there’s a giant bag of empties waiting to be returned to the depanneur (Quebecois for convenience store). Everything, including me, still smells like campfires. The cats are giving everything the cursory sniff-down and threatening to never let us out of sight again.  

Over the next month I’ll be sharing my outdoor cooking adventures with you, with a substantial dose of nostalgia and recipes on the side. If you ever went on family camping trips or were a member of Guides or Scouts (I was both), you’ll probably get a kick out of these veganized versions of camping favourites. If not, hopefully the methods and recipes will inspire you on your next foray into the wilderness (or your local urban park). Mixed in with the camping stories will be the usual collection of random recipes from work, pictures of foster kittens, and insight into la vie Montrealaise. 

Ratatouille and fried portobellos in the making

Ratatouille and fried portobellos in the making

Amazing Vegan Gluten-Free Bread

This is what I make when I need a vegan, gluten-free bread. It’s healthy, delicious, and easy to make once you’ve done it a couple of times. It’s adapted from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats From Around The World, which is a great book all around. I found her recipe was way too wet for me… This may be because wherever she is cooking, they don’t have as high humidity as we do here in Montreal. Therefore, if you are in a place like Edmonton where there is no humidity, you might need to add up to a half cup more liquid! Start with less, though. The bread should be firm, moist, with a consistent crumb throughout, no sagging in the middle, a nice brown, crisp crust and delicious flavour. I slice it when cooled and keep it in the freezer, toasting it as needed. But if you keep it on the counter, that should be fine too. Let me know how it goes!

 

Amazing Vegan Gluten-Free Bread

400g/ 2 1/2 cups brown rice flour
65g/ 1/2 cup corn or tapioca starch
18g/ 1 tbsp powdered or 4 tbsp whole psyllium husk (just make sure you get 18g total)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
20g/ 2 1/2 packs yeast
50g/ 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups warm unsweetened almond or soy milk, divided
1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water, divided (see note above)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
12g/ 1 tbsp ground chia seeds
sesame and poppyseeds for the top

1) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, starch, baking powder and salt

2) In a large bowl, whisk the yeast, 1 cup of almond milk, 1/2 cup water, and sugar

3) In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk together with a fork 1/2 cup of almond milk, 1/2 cup water, vinegar, oil, chia, and psyllium

4) Add the dry ingredients and the contents of the liquid measuring cup into the yeast mixture. Stir together about 5 minutes by hand, or 1-2 with a handheld mixer. Cover the bowl with saran wrap

5) Have a glass of wine and read a book for an hour

6) Punch down the dough, then transfer to an oiled, parchment-lined standard-sized loaf pan. Top with plenty of seeds and pierce all the way through the center

7) Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit in the hot oven for 30 minutes. Test with a knife through the center- moisture is ok, smears of dough are not.Let cool on the counter another 20 minutes before removing from the pan and allowing to cool completely before cutting into it. Enjoy with some more of that wine you opened. If you don’t eat it all, you can store the rest in an airtight container in the freezer. 

Sultry Sweet Potato and Chipotle Chili

My lady over at IGVD shared her famous bean burger recipe recently… She says it’s my burger recipe, but in fact I am just the person who came up with the chili recipe that makes an approximate fuckton of leftovers that she got stuck with, and so needed to come up with ingenious ways to use it all up. To make matters worse, she added too much chipotle (despite my strongly worded warning) and so concocted this burger recipe to dilute that somewhat. Since her recipe goes along with my chili so nicely, here it is- my favorite chili! I have no pictures of it, so here’s something cute instead.

MEOW

MEOW

This is a pretty cheap, healthy, warming chili that uses the classic flavour combination of chipotles and sweet potatoes and then adds a healthy dose of seductive depth from cocoa and cinnamon. This is a true pantry dish, you can keep the ingredients on hand and whip it up when you have a crowd coming over or when you need a special meal. You’ll only need up to a quarter cup of chipotles in adobo altogether, depending on your heat tolerance. The remainder freezes well squished flat in a baggie, then you can break off however much you need the next time you want to spice up your rice or beans. If the chipotles are too hot, but you want some more smoky goodness, add some smoked paprika or natural smoke flavour. Be sure to use fair trade cocoa, preferably dutch-processed (darker in colour and flavour). You can substitute a couple of cups of cooked quinoa or even brown rice for the veggie ground round, just add some more veggie stock to balance the flavours. If you happen to live with someone who is afraid of vegetables (like I do), you can puree all ingredients up to the addition of bay leaves after cooking them, then return them to the pot and continue with the recipe.

Cans:

1 large can diced tomatoes (28 oz. preferably no salt added)

1 small can Mexican stewed tomatoes (19 oz.,or 1 small can regular tomatoes plus 1 tbsp chili powder)

2 small cans pinto beans (14 oz.)

2 small cans black beans (14 oz.)

1 small can green chilies (7.6 oz., look in the Mexican section of your grocer)

1 tbsp from small can chipotles (7.6 oz. Start with a tablespoon, and slowly go up from there, checking for heat as you go. Chop carefully with gloved hands.)

1 can corn (or about a cup and a third of frozen corn- add the juice from the can if you’re a big fan of corn)

oil for cooking

Veggies:

1 large peeled sweet potato, cubed into bites, about three cups

2 large peeled carrots, diced, about two cups

1 large yellow onion, diced, about two cups

1/2 a head of garlic, minced

1 or 2 bell peppers, whichever kind you like, diced, about a cup

stems from 1 bunch of cilantro, about 1/3-1/2 cup, washed well and minced

Flavour flavour:

1 veggie bullion cube (I use fake beef kind, more if substituting grains for soy, or to taste)

1 tbsp Ancho chili powder (or some other dark chili powder, not chili flakes)

2 bay leaves

1/4-1/2 cup fair-trade cocoa

2 tsp cinnamon

Soy:

2 packages veggie ground round, beef style (or substitute 2 cups of a cooked whole grain)

Garnish (optional, but awesome):

chopped cilantro leaves, chopped green onion, lime wedges, soy plain yogurt or sour cream, soy cheese

Saute the onions and carrots in a bit of oil with a pinch of salt over medium heat in your largest pot. When the vegetables are translucent, add the cilantro stems and the garlic, cooking for about a minute. Toss in the tomatoes, chipotles, bullion, chili powder, bay leaves and all the beans. Bring to a boil and add the sweet potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and the liquid has reduced a bit, about 20 mins. Add the cocoa, cinnamon, ground round, bell pepper, corn, green chilies and adjust for flavour. This is where you may decide it needs more heat (chipotles or Ancho chili powder), smokiness (chipotles or smoked paprika, salt (bullion), or depth (bullion, cocoa, blackstrap molasses might do it). By starting with a conservative amount of spices, you can build it up slowly and hopefully avoid the risk of going overboard. Be careful not to add too much cinnamon–as tasty as it is, it’s supposed to play a supporting role in this dish, and can easily overpower the subtle flavours of the chilies and cocoa. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then serve it up and allow people to garnish their own bowl. We served this with plain, steamed collards, cut into ribbons, and Jackie’s tasty corn bread with margarine and agave nectar for dessert. Heavenly.