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Wild Food Diaries: The Smoky Mexican Chilli Bowl!

Updated: Jul 2, 2023


When Cass messaged me asking if I was vegetarian and if so, would I be interested in writing for Wild Magazine, I had to pause for a minute.

I’ve had a somewhat tumultuous past with Vegetarianism and Veganism. When I was 9 or 10, I came to the conclusion that eating fluffy sheep and little piggies was gross and declared to my parents that I was becoming a vegetarian forever. I would not let meat or fish pass my lips ever again.

I made it a week. Seven long meat free days until I finally succumbed to the temptation of Mum’s homemade lasagne. As soon as I tasted the salty beef and cheesy bechamel, my ethical concerns instantly disappeared from my mind.

Cue eight more years of meat loving. I was always the first to order steak at a restaurant and swore blind that I could never live without bacon.

Then, after watching Cowspiracy at the age of 18 I decided to embark on ‘Veganuary’ – an initiative to challenge the general public to go Vegan for the month of January. But as a poor and lazy student (who had zero interest in cooking) I found myself eating a diet consisting purely of tortilla wraps, bagels and rice milk. I felt weak and lifeless. I persevered, but on the 1st of February I went to Byron and promptly devoured a double bacon cheeseburger and a salted caramel milkshake. Meat had never tasted more delicious. I later found out that I was severely anaemic, which probably didn’t help my cravings.

In December of the following year, I returned from University shivery, swollen and just plain exhausted. I was diagnosed with Glandular Fever and had to suspend my studies due to the crippling chronic fatigue. Four months into my illness, I was desperate and would try anything feel better. Inspired by the stories vegan ‘Wellness bloggers’, I decided to learn how to properly cook and prepare plant based food. I also cut out processed food and within weeks my energy improved dramatically. I found that when eating well balanced veggie meals, I didn’t need to eat meat to feel full and satisfied and healthy. I also discovered a passion for cooking.

Now that I have got my health back, I really don’t worry too much about what I eat. I don’t need to cut out chocolate and I still enjoy a good KFC. But now that health doesn’t need to be my number one priority, I’ve begun to think more and more the health of our planet. If I can survive without a bit of bacon and actually enjoy eating sustainably, I think that’s a pretty great way to give a little love back to the environment.

But I’ve learned from my mistakes. This time I am not going cold turkey. Sticking to a limited diet forever clearly doesn’t work for me in the long run, so I think I’m going to call myself a ‘“flexitarian.” It’s just not possible to transform into one of those perfect Vegan bloggers that seem dominate my instagram feed. I’m just going to do my best and make a conscious effort to eat more sustainably! Every other Monday I’ll be posting a ‘Meat Free monday’ recipe here, along with tips and tricks to inspire other like-minded students. So here we go, wish me luck! X

Lydia’s recipe for a Smoky Mexican Chilli Bowl (and Homemade Guacamole!)


Here’s what you’ll need for the Chilli:

- Brown rice (more sustainable than white as it’s less refined

- 1 large sweet potato

- 1 white onion

- ½ pack of Chilli seasoning (or more if you like)

- 1 tsp of smoked paprika

- 1 can tinned tomatoes

- ½ can of pinto beans

- ½ can of black beans

and for the Homemade Guacamole:

- 1 Avocado

- 1 large tomato

- Half a small red onion

- 1 lime

- Salt and pepper

- Coriander

1. Chop up one big sweet potato into little chunks. Place them on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and season.

2. Roast the sweet potato cubes in the oven at 200 degrees c for 30/40 minutes. Keep an eye on them and when they’re golden and soft you know they’re ready. If you’re short on time, you can always pop them in the microwave for 5 ish minutes!!

3. Whilst they’re in the oven, put some brown rice on the boil.

4. Slice one white onion and fry it in some olive oil on a medium high heat.

5. Once the onion softens and starts to colour, sprinkle in 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp smoked paprika OR you can use half of a ready mixed Chilli seasoning packet from the supermarket along with 1 tsp of smoked paprika. Fry for a couple of minutes so that all the flavours are blended nicely.

6. Pour the tinned tomatoes and the beans into the pan. Bring the chilli to the boil for a couple of minutes and then leave on a medium heat for around 20 mins – or just until it thickens.

While the Chilli is bubbling away, you can make the guacamole!

1. Grab one large tomato and roughly chop it up into little pieces. Then finely chop half a small red onion.

2. Slice the avocado in half, take out the stone and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add the tomato and onion into the bowl too.

3. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime then season with salt and pepper and some fresh coriander – this is what makes it taste really great. Smash it all together and dollop on top of your chilli bowl.

I sprinkled with chilli flakes for some extra kick and you can also top with sour cream, yoghurt or cheese. But without these added extras, this recipe is totally vegan!

It’s useful to make a big batch of this on the weekend and eat it throughout the week, it can also be frozen!

Happy Meat-free Monday 🙂

About the Author: Lydia Hayman is currently studying English at the University of Exeter alongside writing her Meat-Free Mondays column at Wild Magazine.

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