Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for oven-baked chilli

Alot of the things I do today will pay me back at a later date. From planting seeds, which will flower next spring, to less visible actions such as remembering to put salt in the dishwasher. At the more satisfying end of this list is batch cooking. There’s nothing more smug than getting home late to realise you have a pot of something in the fridge or a meal in the freezer waiting for you – and, as pandemic-worn cooks, we all need a night off every now and then.

Oven-baked veggie chilli with butternut squash
This is a forgiving dish that can take a fair bit of personalisation, especially when it comes to the final flourishes. Eat it topped with tortilla crisps, pickles or even a spot of Oatly creme fraiche cut with salt and lime.

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Serves 8-10

3 tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash (1kg), chopped into 2cm chunks
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
2 red peppers, stalk, seeds and pith discarded, flesh cut into 2cm cubes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
3 x 400g tins beans (kidney, black, mixed), drained
50g vegan dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa content)

To serve
Pickled jalapeños (or green chillies)
Tortillas or rice
1 handful chopped coriander

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Put a tablespoon of oil in a large casserole pot over a high heat, then add the chunks of squash and fry, stirring regularly, for five minutes, until they start to turn bronze in colour. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate.

Pour the remaining two tablespoons of oil into the pot, add the onions and peppers, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until they start to collapse and soften. Add in the garlic, cook, stirring, for two minutes more, then tip the squash back into the pot with the salt, ground spices and bay leaves. Give everything a good mix, then add the chopped tomatoes and beans. Fill two of the tomato tins with water, pour that into the pot, too, then break the chocolate into squares and add to the mix.

Bring everything up to a boil, then cover the pot, transfer to the centre of the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Take off the lid and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the squash is meltingly soft and the chilli has thickened. Stir through a few tablespoons of the brine from the pickled jalapeños to taste, and serve with the chopped jalapeños, some fresh coriander and tortillas and/or rice.