This vegetarian chilli is a lovely spicy dish. The chocolate makes it that bit more interesting. Chocolate is used quite a bit in Mexican and South American cooking. The key is to use a good dark chocolate.

The Irish palate seems to have got to like the taste and it is now much easier to get good dark chocolate. This meal would be sickly sweet with a regular milk chocolate. Another meal dark chocolate goes well with is venison; I have used it in the jus for venison dishes and loved it. I like to serve this chilli with coriander, spring onions, avocado, lime wedges and tortillas, but grated cheese and soured cream are also delicious. You could try butternut squash or cauliflower instead of the pumpkin.

For my second recipe you can of course make your own gnocchi but as it can be a bit of work to make these small potato dumplings - you can purchase them ready-made in the supermarket. Again for the veg, there are alternatives. If you can’t get pumpkin, use butter­nut squash or sweet potatoes. We are so lucky to have Kevin, our gardener, at the restaurant. He grows Tuscan and Russian kale as well as the regular variety and I have used them all in this dish.

Happy cooking,


Vegetarian chilli

Serves 6-8

  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 3 mixed peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp chipotle paste or chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 x 400g tins of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 25g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • To serve

  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, peeled, stoned and sliced
  • 20g fresh coriander, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 18–24 small flour tortillas
  • 1. Heat the oil in a casserole dish (with a lid) over a medium to high heat. Sauté the onions, celery and peppers with a pinch of salt for 8–10 minutes, until softened and starting to caramelise around the edges.

    2. Stir in the garlic, spices and oregano and sauté for another two minutes, until fragrant.

    3. Stir in the pumpkin, tinned tomatoes and tomato purée along with the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer gently for 45 minutes, then tip in the black beans and kidney beans. Give everything a good stir and season generously.

    4. Cook, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened. Add the chocolate and sugar, stirring until melted. Keep extra portions in the fridge or freeze at this stage.

    5. To serve, put the warm chilli in a serving bowl with separate bowls of lime wedges, spring onions, avocado slices and coriander. Have the warm tortillas to hand and allow everyone to help themselves.

    Pumpkin & gnocchi bake with goat’s cheese

    Serves 4-6

  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 4 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced (you’ll need about 675g)
  • 1 x 500g packet of gnocchi
  • 3 small red onions, cut into wedges
  • 225g shredded kale (remove rough stalks)
  • 1 x 125g log of goats’ cheese
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 220°c (425°F/gas mark 7).

    2. Put the oil in a small bowl with the balsamic vinegar, honey, chilli, garlic and thyme. Season generously and whisk to combine.

    3. Tip the pumpkin, gnocchi and red onions into a large roasting tin and drizzle over most of the oil, reserving about a tablespoon. Toss until evenly combined, then spread out in an even layer in the tin.

    4. Roast for 20 minutes.

    5. Toss the kale in the remaining oil and use your hands to massage it to wilt it down slightly.

    6. Remove the tin from the oven and give everything a good toss to ensure it’s cooking evenly. Fold in the dressed kale, then roast for another 4–5 minutes, until the kale is starting to crisp up, the gnocchi are golden and the pumpkin is tender.

    7. Toss with the crumbled goats’ cheese, season with pepper and serve straight to the table.

    Neven’s latest book “More Midweek Meals - Delicious Ideas for the Daily Dinner” (Gill Books) is out now.

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