Traditional Native American stew in which squash, beans and corn are braised in a deliciously piquant sauce. This vegan chilli is gluten-free and dairy-free
Three sisters stew is a vegetarian stew which combines three staple foods from the Native American diet. It is a celebration of a traditional farming method called companion planting, whereby different crops are sown together to maximise plant health and yield. In this case, the tall corn plants provide a trellis for the beans to climb up, the bean plants provide fertiliser by fixing nitogren into the soil, and the low-growing, big-leaved squash plants provide ground cover to stop the soil from drying out and inhibit weed growth. By happy co-incidence, they all taste delicious when combined in a stew!
Three Sisters Stew is commonly served with cornmeal dumplings floating on top, but also works well served with plain rice.
- 1 can (400g) pinto beans / 100g dried pinto beans
- ½ teaspoon salt (if using dried beans)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion (130g), peeled and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- ½ – ¾ teaspoon chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it!)
- 400g (1 can) tinned chopped tomatoes
- 400ml of homemade stock (I used chicken stock, but you can use vegetable stock for a vegan option)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped into 2cm cubes
- Neck of a large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes (500g prepared weight)
- 100g frozen sweetcorn
- Prepare the beans.
- if using canned beans: drain and rinse the beans.
- if using dried beans: place the beans and salt in a bowl and cover with a generous amount of cold water. Leave to soak for 8 hours. Drain and rinse when ready to use.
- Sauté the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole / deep-sided saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry until translucent but not brown, stirring occasionally – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic fry for 1 minute.
- Fry the spices. Add the cumin and chilli powder and fry for 30 seconds.
- Simmer the stew. Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, salt and black pepper. Stir until blended. Cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a brisk simmer.
- if using dried beans: add the beans. Cook, covered, until the beans are mostly cooked and have lost their chalky texture – about 45-60 minutes, depending on the age of the beans.
- Cook the vegetables. Add the butternut squash and bell pepper. Cook, covered, until the squash is tender – about 20 minutes.
- Add the sweetcorn and cook, uncovered for 5 minutes.
- if using canned beans: add with the sweetcorn.