Power! and hurricane chili with sweet potatoes, red beans, kale and pumpkin ale

Clio sleeps on Malcolm

The Ordinary has power!! POWER! All the lights shut off the evening of the storm, and yesterday, on DAY TEN (!) they came on just as the first snow started to fall. I cried like a baby! First of all, I know we’ve been very lucky in many ways. Our home and our family are safe and sound. But it’s been such a strange week and a half! So memorable – certain vivid moments glow in my head – and yet altogether such a blur, each day melted into the other, and now it all feels like some strange dream. We had some fun, even euphoric, moments, but mostly it was stressful. I’m exhausted, despite having done very nearly nothing for ten days. I spent ridiculous amounts of time sitting and waiting. We went for lots of walks, and played games and wrote stories and read a little. We stayed a few nights with our kind warm-homed, warm-hearted families. But I felt foolishly incapable of concentrating. And then it got too cold to hold a pen. I was embarrassingly frazzled by the whole situation. It was as though without electricity I couldn’t do even simple non-electrical tasks like cutting my nails. I spent a lot of time sitting and thinking, and you know you’re going to hear all about that! The past day and a half have been spent trying to catch up – cleaning out the tank of dead fish and the fridge full of spoiled food, scrubbing down the toilets after two little boys have peed in the dark for more than a week. And then filling the fridge with good food and baking anti-depressant oatmeal-chocolate chip-spice cookies to warm up our kitchen and fill it with good smells. I missed cooking! I missed writing! I missed writing about cooking! So I’ll tell you all about everything, eventually. Whether you like it or not!

But for now I’ll leave you with a recipe for the chili I made last Monday before the power went out. It has sweet potatoes from the farm, red beans, yellow split peas, kale, corn, pumpkin ale, sweet spices, spicy spices. I started it early in the afternoon in case the power went out, and it sat on the stove for a few hours, but we could have eaten it sooner. I kept throwing other things in as the day wore on, so it ended up with quite a few ingredients! Use what you have! We ate it with basmati rice and cheesy garlic bread. The next day we spread some inside of tortillas with sharp cheddar, folded them over, wrapped them in foil, and cooked them in a fire in the back yard. Good as well! I didn’t take a picture of the chili, because I was worried about batteries in the camera, and I was just too off-kilter to remember! So you get a picture of Clio lying on Malcolm’s head instead, during the storm. He makes her feel safe, and she was protecting him, too, I think. She fell asleep like that!

And here’s a list of songs about power and electricity. Can you think of any I should add? Some of the songs might be a little sweary. Listen to the first one, at least, though. Curtis Mayfield with the demo version of Power to the People. (Who gave me that? I love it to pieces!!)

2 T olive oil
1 large shallot (or 2 small)
3 cloves garlic
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/3 inch dice
1 t oregano
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 cup yellow split peas
1 can small red beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked kale (1 small bunch, stems removed, boiled in salted water for ten to fifteen minutes, then drained and chopped)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 t smoked paprika
1 t nigella seeds
pinch each cinnamon and ginger
1/2 cup sweet corn
1 t salt
lots of pepper
1 cup pumpkin ale
1 t lime juice
1 T butter
1 T masa harina (optional)

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, cook for about a minute till they start to brown, and then add the shallots and garlic, the red pepper flakes and the oregano. Cook for about another minute, until the garlic is just starting to brown, and add the sweet potato and the yellow split peas. Stir to coat, and continue to cook for about five minutes. Add the red beans, kale, tomatoes and corn, and stir and cook for a minute or two. Then add the ale, salt, paprika, nigella seeds and spices. Cook until the ale is thick a and syrupy. Add enough water to cover everything by about half an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour, till the potatoes and split peas are soft and all the flavors are nicely combined. You can leave it to simmer on very low longer if you like. Mine was on the stove for a few hours.

Add the lime juice, butter, masa harina and lots of pepper. Taste for salt, and serve with grated sharp cheese.


13 thoughts on “Power! and hurricane chili with sweet potatoes, red beans, kale and pumpkin ale

  1. Claire: So glad you’re back. I thought about how awful it must be at this time of year and the longer it went on the more worried I was. I was thinking ‘how do you feed a vegetarian family in the cold and the dark, it’s not like ordinary folk who can go to McDonald’s or wherever in an emergency. How and what did you eat?

    • Hello, Goneforeign! We ate fairly well. I’ll probably do a whole post on power-outage meals! It was fun scrounging and cooking outside for a few days, but once it started to get very very cold – not so fun anymore.

      • Well, but stressed. Jess is due to play [flute, as part of a HUGE Bradford Junior Ensemble] at the Royal Albert Hall (yes, that one, in London) on Monday evening, but several of her classmates have gone down with a sickness & diarrhoea bug over the last 36 hours. Given that Monday will be a 23hr session from getting out of bed to getting back in it again – a bit much for an 11y.o., IMO – if she gets ill now, all that practice, anticipation and kudos will literally disappear down the toilet!

  2. Power to The Ordinary! Yay! No power here yet. Love your recipe. Twenty years ago, Aedwynn Darroll, a wise design teacher, said to our class, “Use what you have, not what you don’t have.”. I always remember those words. A design for living! Especially during a blackout. My comfort food through this has been Hot Chocolate made with water, heavy cream, cocoa, sugar, a piece of Lindt chocolate, salt, vanilla, and a suspicion of oil of peppermint.

    • Wow, that hot chocolate sounds delicious! I can’t believe you still don’t have power!! If you need anything let us know! Do you have a generator? If you need wood for your fireplace or candles or anything at all…

      • We have a mini-gen. Honda is her name and CT says she’s a 2-cycle 120 volt kinda gal. CT and Honda have been having fun being creative and testing the limits of our off- the grid system. Not to sugarcoat; there has been plenty of cranky-time here.

  3. Yay! So glad to hear you’re back online, safe and well and not too bashed around. I’m looking forward to reading your ramblings….I have missed them! Take care, Jane.

  4. Great to hear you are all okay, we had one day of power off here, no storm just working on it and really thought of you all. Beautiful photo
    . – Ruth

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