Chili Gone Barmy

I’m not great eater of chili and I am a great eater of meat. So when I proclaim that I will be cooking cornbread topped vegetarian chili for a party, I am met with raised eyebrows and some skepticism, hence the name – Chili Gone Barmy.

This is a Nigella dish, basically a delectable Chili Con Carne (without the carne – meat in Spanish) using chili flakes to give a warm, more-ish piquant mouthfuls without too much eye watering. But what makes it really special is the cornbread topping. Yup, Cornbread, that yellow stuff they eat in America that you’ve spotted on many a TV screen over the years and wondered ‘What is THAT?’. Well I did any way. But wonder no more – it’s here, it’s easy and it’s delicious.

This chili can be made with or without meat and so far it’s always been a success for me especially served when there are drinks to be soaked up – melted cheese, saccharine cornbread and the warmth of the chili work wonders after one to many margaritas…plus I always make it in a big disposable foil tray. The next day is usually bad enough without having a chili caked dish to tackle.

No dishes!

Serve with big dollops of sour cream and watch it be devoured…

The 'barmy' can be served on the side...

Chili Gone Barmy

For the chili:
Splash of oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 red peppers, deseeded & finely diced
2 teaspoons chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
375g lentils
2 x 400g can of diced Italian tomatoes
1 x 400g can of red kidney beans
1 big dollop of ketchup
1 big spoon of tomato paste
1 tbsp UNSWEETENED cocoa powder
For the corn bread topping:
1 teaspoon salt
300g cornmeal or polenta
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
250g buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
100g coarsely grated Cheddar cheese
For serving:
1 big tub sour cream

The chili – This dish is super easy if you start off by getting everything ready first, so get chopping.

Then heat your oil in a BIG pan (that has a lid) and add your onions, garlic and red pepper and sauté until softened for about 5 minutes. You want your onions to soften, not to colour.

Then add chili flakes and the rest of the spices. Throw in your lentils and stir to coat the lentils.

Next, in go the tomatoes, kidney beans, ketchup, tomato paste, cocoa and about 600ml water.

Stir well. Cover, and simmer, stirring frequently, don’t let the bottom stick and it will thicken and reduce and should be done after 45 minutes, test by tasting a bean and checking they are tender.

This can be made ahead to this point and then add the topping later.


For the topping – In a mixing bowl, combine salt, cornmeal, baking powder and cinnamon. In a separate bowl or big jug, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, honey and oil. Pour liquid ingredients into dry; stir until combined.

Get your chili into your dish/ dishes. Blob/ pour the cornbread topping and spread it evenly over your chili.

Cornbread is tops

To cook–  preheat your oven to hot, 220c, sprinkle cheese on the top and then cook if for 25 minutes so that the cornbread has risen and the cheese has turned a golden brown. It will be HOT (temperature wise) so leave it for 5 minutes or so and then serve with large dollops of sour cream and watch as it is devoured by even the most devote carnivores…

Because vegetarians party too


  1. Mary Dunworth says:

    Can’t wait to try it. Sounds and looks delish

  2. Eilish Roche says:

    I will definitely try this out. It seems so easy and all those spices…..yum!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s