Sautee the onion and garlic in a medium-sized pot with a splash of water over medium-high heat (you can use oil if you prefer). Once soft add the red pepper and cook for a few minutes to soften.
Once most of the water has evaporated, add the tomato paste, herbs and spices and stir for about 30 seconds to release the flavours of the spices.
Add the tomatoes (if using whole, break them up with your spoon), lentils, beans and vegetable stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Allow the chili to simmer very gently until the lentils are soft – about 30 minutes. If too much liquid evaporates, add a touch more stock or water. If it’s too liquidy once the lentils are cooked, uncover and allow it to reduce.
Finally, stir through the maple syrup, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary, adding more smoky, spice or sweet to your taste.
Serve with fresh lime to squeeze over and your choice of toppings.