Back in the U.S.S.R.


From a very young age I knew that Georgia, together with the Ukraine and the city of Moscow belonged to the former U.S.S.R. This was not because I was particularly geeky but thanks to The Beatles and their Beach Boys parody in the White Album. But that’s as far as my knowledge went.







Recently, my knowledge about Georgia has been considerably expanded. Not only did I learn to make my first authentic Georgian dish but I also learnt my first (and only) Georgian word!


I bought some vegemince (Quorn) at the supermarket the other day since it was on offer and it had been sitting in my freezer until I decided to cook something with it.


Many times, when finding that I have no meat in the fridge (almost always, here in the UK), I find myself turning to Linda McCartney’s cookbook (God knows why). Thumbing through my boyfriend’s copy of Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking (we both have copies I am embarrassed to admit) I decided to make the vegetarian version of chilli con carne because that’s what I had on Saturday and I felt a craving for it. Now I refuse to cook anything with a name as silly as Chilli non carne, therefore, I have taken the liberty of changing the title.

Had Linda done her homework (like Nigella does) she would have discovered that there is a Georgian version of meatless chilli con carne called Лобио. Lobio is made with бобы (which means “beans” by the way but that was not thanks to my English-Russian dictionary as, бобы, someone dutifully pointed out, means beans in Georgian).

I followed the recipe with some changes. Inspired by the lobio, I also add a pinch of dry coriander which I added as optional in the recipe below because both the jalapeño chillies and the chilli powder were so overpowering that you wouldn’t notice the cumin one way or the other. I am not saying that spicy is necessarily bad, though. I like my meals spicy which was a very good thing in this case because the dish was, how shall I put it, otherwise bland so it was good to have the kick of the chilli there.

The morale of the story (or more precisely my conclusion) is that if you are a vegetarian who absolutely refuses to eat meat, you are far better off leaving the mince out (fake or otherwise) and having a bowl full of lobio and not Linda McCartney’s chilli. At least you’d be having something authentic on your plate.




Meatless Chili – adapted from Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking by Linda McCartney
6 Servings


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion — chopped (I found that using half an onion was enough)
  • 1 ½ tsp. chili powder — (or more, according to taste)
  • 2 packets TVP Chunks/128g vegetable mince or (4 ½ oz vegetable burgers, crumbled) (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable stock or water — (3/4 when using vegetable burgers)
  • 1 can tomatoes — (16 oz) chopped, liquid reserved
  • 1 can red kidney beans — (16 oz) do not drain
  • 2 Mexican green chilis in brine, drained — chopped (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper — to taste
  • pinch of dry coriander (optional)

Heat oil in large saucepan.
Add onion, sauté until golden brown.
Add chili powder and TVP, sauté for 5 minutes.
Add vegetable stock, tomatoes, kidney beans, green chilis and reserved liquid from tomatoes.
Cover, simmer 20 minutes.
Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or an avocado salad.


Note: I simmered mine, uncovered, for quite a lot longer than 20 minutes as it was quite liquidy and I wanted the sauce to reduce and get something closer to bolognaise (we can all dream, can’t we?)




Лобио  (Georgian beans)


1 can chopped tomatoes

½ can red kidney beans

2 cloves garlic, chopped

half a red onion (if big) or one if small, chopped

salt and pepper

generous pinch of dry coriander

bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

2 tbsp. vegetable oil, for frying


Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the fresh coriander and the garlic. If you think the sauce is too thick, add some vegetable stock or boiling water to it, just play it by ear. Season to taste with dry coriander, salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes or longer. Halfway through the cooking, add the garlic (if you add it when you are frying the onion it will go bitter). Serve on a bed of boiled white rice.




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