How to make chilli con carne

There are, as we shall see, many techniques to make a wonderful chilli con carne. But initial, here is a single way not to: include a cigar to the pot. I discovered this beneficial lesson in October 2011, when I was invited to compete in the inaugural Chilli Stand-Off, organised by Jonathan Downey. Downey is a restaurateur, club proprietor and urban alchemist – he takes derelict spots in London and transforms them, temporarily, into thrilling temples to foods.

That morning, eight teams of chefs convened in a disused warehouse in east London. Amongst the competitors have been pop-up restaurateur Carl Clarke, Stevie Parle and James “Jocky” Petrie, then Heston Blumenthal’s number two, who had already slow-cooked his chilli sauce for 36 hrs. Outside, far more than 400 hungry folks queued to sample our wares, and to pass judgment on the winning chilli.

Daunted by the competitors, my crew-mate, chef Fred Dickinson, and I made the decision to make our chilli experimental. We threw in smoked pig’s cheeks, avocado leaves, cocoa nibs, 5 different types of chilli (devil’s penis, chile piquìn, bird’s eye, red lengthy, poblano) and – this was supposed to give it extra smokiness – a Cohiba cigar. Nevertheless the end end result was a mysteriously thin gruel. We lost by a resounding margin.

But I did find out a lot about chilli from the other participants, including this: there is no definitive chilli recipe. Chilli con carne is a mongrel of a dish, descended from the efforts of generations of cooks, cowboys and (in Britain) college students stewing up meat and beans.

So really feel free to tinker with our recipe and generate your very own signature chilli. Just make sure your signature is not a cigar. Don’t include a cigar. Really do not do it.

Meat: Minced beef is crucial for the simple and economical midweek chilli. I like to include a chunk of browned pork stomach to give extra flavour and a luxurious texture. If you want anything actually fancy, attempt 1cm pieces of chuck steak or skirt rather of minced beef.
To get it genuinely tender, you will probably have to cook it for longer. You can also use half beef and half pork mince, or a mixture of diced and minced beef. Some folks include chorizo or spicy sausage, which is also fancy for my palette.

Tomatoes: Older recipes leave out tomatoes altogether, utilizing stock or water for moisture, but cooked lengthy and slow, the addition of tomatoes is remarkably excellent. You may possibly want to add a tiny coffee (filter, not immediate!) or beer to the stock if you take this route.

The beans: Kidney, by default. Black beans or pinto beans can also be employed – or a mixture of all three.

Length of cook: Our recipe offers a relatively brief, midweek-supper cooking time. But the far more time you give it, the much better it will get. Cook for up to two hours, incorporating water if it dries out. You will be surprised at how the flavour deepens. For the same cause, chilli usually tastes greater reheated the following day.

The chillies: No require for devil’s penis, but this is an region the place you can go to town. My collaborator Jane Baxter sometimes puts in a total scotch bonnet or two for a super-spicy chilli, which outcomes in her son dashing for the yoghurt pot. You can mix it up with plenty of chilli varieties, fresh or dried (or the smoky chipotle). Tabasco, sriracha or other chilli sauces can also be added during cooking .

Other herbs and spices: We have gone with super-basic: ground cumin, dried oregano and bay are the most typical additions.

Toppings and sides: Grated cheese is important, ideally with yoghurt or sour cream. Fresh salsa is also good to lower the richness. Jane often adds a salad of chopped avocado, tomato, onion and lime. Toasted corn tortillas sprinkled on the top or on the side. Corn: boiled, grilled or braised. Greens: braised kale, chard or spinach or grilled broccoli or leeks. Have some yoghurt in the fridge to hand in case you have overdone the chilli.

Specific elements: Some men and women swear by incorporating coffee (see over), others include a dash of cocoa powder. I very like to stir in a grating of chocolate just prior to serving. My wife thinks malt vinegar gives a special twang. Discover your personal particular one thing additional.

Chilli con carne

This recipe is for a really basic chilli. Chilli tends to be quite private and is a great starting level for experimenting with recipes. Don’t overlook there are vegetarian options: see below for an superb black-bean chocolate chilli sin carne.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: one hr 15 mins

Have it your way: chiil con carne.
Have it your way: chilli con carne. Photograph: Jill Mead/Guardian

Serves 4-6
1 onion, finely chopped
1 huge carrot, finely chopped
½ leek or celery stick, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
500g steak mince
3 garlic cloves, crushed
two red chillies, chopped
one tsp chilli powder or cayenne pepper
two heaped tsp paprika
1 red pepper, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
300ml chicken or beef stock
400g tin cooked kidney beans, drained
Salt and pepper

one In a large pan cook the finely chopped veg in olive oil over a medium heat for about 15 minutes with out browning. Meanwhile, heat one more pan until finally it is quite sizzling, tip in the mince and brown it as considerably as attainable . If your pan is not sizzling enough, the meat may commence to stew: this is not a disaster you will just lose a minor flavour .

2 Tip the veg into the meat pan along with the garlic, chillies, chilli powder, paprika and red pepper and stir properly. Cook together for five minutes more than a medium heat and season well .

3 Add the tomatoes, mix together and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring up to a simmer. Flip the heat down and cook for one more forty minutes, stirring sometimes ahead of incorporating the beans. Leave it on a minimal heat for yet another ten minutes for the beans to heat via.

4 Examine and change the seasoning, then serve.

Recipe by Jane Baxter

A vegetarian alternative: black-bean chocolate chilli

This chilli can be served either in a wrap, with grated cheese and chopped tomato salsa, or with rice. Kidney beans or any white beans can be substituted for the black beans.

Prep time: ten minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves four
one tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
one aubergine, reduce into small dice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 mild red chilli, chopped
one garlic clove, crushed
200g chopped tomatoes (tinned are fine)
two tbsp soy sauce
one x 300g tin of black beans
Salt and black pepper
25g dark chocolate (or chilli chocolate), broken up

one Heat the oil in a large shallow frying pan, include the onion and red pepper and cook for five minutes above a medium heat.

2 Add the diced aubergine and proceed frying for a additional five minutes, stirring to avert the mixture from sticking.

three Sprinkle in excess of the spices, chilli and garlic, flip up the heat and stir for a minute, then tip in the tomatoes and soy sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes, or right up until the aubergine is tender.

four Add the beans to the pan and cook for a few a lot more minutes, then season well and remove from the heat. Include the chocolate, stir right up until it has just melted, then serve.

Recipe from Leon: Fast Vegetarian (Conran Octopus)

Henry Dimbleby is co-founder of the organic fast-meals restaurant chain Leon. Twitter: @henry_leon

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