A friend of mine (the black pudding enthusiast) is dead keen on chilli con carne. He lives in Canada and hasn’t visited this year but I thought I would research and perfect my chilli recipe in an attempt to lure him over.
Although my friend is a historian, he is also someone who enjoys his food, so my research focused around how to produce the most moreish dish rather than what might be traditionally correct. I found that there are two approaches to making a reasonable (ie easy and not time-consuming) chilli con carne. One ingredient however is a must in my book – and it’s not chilli – it’s chocolate. Well, I accept that some chilli is essential too, but the amount depends completely on your personal taste. As a result I cannot vouch for just how authentically Mexican the rest of the recipe is.
In terms of the beef used in the chilli itself, you can either go for a straightforward mince, or you can go for a sort of flayed beef, which is a bit more serious and professional. This latter method is perfect for Aga owners as the meat is cooked so slowly that it pretty much falls apart on its own at the end of the process.
HEADS UP! This is best made the day before so that the flavours can meld.
There are myriad permutations and combinations of accoutrements, but somehow avocado has to feature somewhere. A good thing to do is to serve the chilli con carne topped with avocado, with additional lime-juice-sprinkled avocado served on the side – you will need a small avocado per person. Alternatively you could serve a cabbage, walnut and avocado salad, or guacamole. Basmati rice is essential too, especially if you are going down the minced beef route, although for a party my daughter has very successfully substituted rice for tortilla wraps. Other things to serve, especially with the stewing steak version, are a tomato salsa, grated cheese, and sour cream or thick Greek yoghurt.
What to do with leftover chilli con carne
Incidentally, chilli con carne makes an excellent filling for empanadillas – a tapas which is a sort of crispy-pastried mini-cornish pasty.
Or you can also use it as the filling for a Neolithic meat pie.
Ingredients for recipe for chilli con carne, and two methods
For six – eight people then:
- 4 kg/3 lbs minced beef OR stewing steak – ideally silverside – cut into about five pieces
- 2 onions – finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed with 1 tsp smoked salt
- 250-300g/8 – 10 oz – the nearest packet size Spanish chorizo (you can buy it already diced)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground allspice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 4 tsp chilli powder – or I prefer hot cayenne pepper. More if you like your chilli really hot. Or you can use a little homemade chilli oil
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- 2 tins red kidney or borlotti beans – drained
- 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 3 bay leaves
- 20g/1 oz 70%+ good quality chocolate, broken up into squares (most 100g bars are divided into six rows of four squares – just use one row)
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- About 10 grinds of Indonesian long pepper
If you are using stewing steak you’ll need:
- a little olive oil for frying
- 360ml/1½ cups red Martini
Method one – minced beef:
- In your largest frying pan fry the beef in its own fat, breaking it up.
- Once broken up add the onions and garlic.
- Fry for a little longer then add everything else except the chocolate.
- Simmer for about twenty minutes until it becomes thick.
- Add the chocolate, continue to heat gently until it’s melted in – stir as you do this.
- Serve with basmati and avocado.
Method two – stewing steak:
- Take the meat out to get it to room temperature (about half an hour).
- You can get away with using a lesser cut of meat by very slow cooking, so set the oven for 140°C (use the simmering oven if you own an Aga).
- In a big casserole, which you can use on the hob, sear the meat (go here to find out why) in a little olive oil and set aside.
- Add the chorizo and brown that off also, add to the meat.
- Add a little more olive oil and fry the onion, garlic, herbs and spices until the onion is translucent.
- Add the vinegar, tomatoes, and sugar.
- Add the meat and chorizo back into the casserole and add the red Martini.
- Cover and cook for three hours – you can cook the whole thing a day or two ahead.
- An hour before serving add the drained beans, and half an hour before serving add the chocolate.
- Just before you are about to serve take out the chunks of meat and pull them apart on a carving board – then return the flayed meat to the casserole and mix in well with the juices.
This post is dedicated to Robert Paterson.
While you cook your chilli listen to Baby, It’s Cold Outside