I love cooking and it was a chilli con carne that first got me into the kitchen. I remember, when I was still living at home and couldn’t have been more than 14 (and completely incompetent in the food department), rustling up the closest thing to ‘chilli con carne’ I could with the items in my parent’s not-so-well-stocked fridge. My dad has always been big on cooking, and I used to wait for him to come home from work every night so I could have a proper, lovingly-made dish at 8pm rather than chicken dippers from mum at 5pm. The fact that my face shows under ‘hangry’ in the dictionary is testament to how much I enjoyed his cooking. And his chilli was gooooood. One day, he was off work and snoozing in the living room, while I, unbeknownst to him, tried to repay the foodie favour. As far as I remember, no chilli will every come close to how good that one was. It took hours (and hours and hours and hours) and looked spectacular (heads up: when worried about the taste, I’ll always make up for it with presentation). But you’d have to ask him for the genuine account..
So, chilli con carne. I like it because it’s so so simple, so easy to put your own spin on and can take as long or as little time as you want. I really enjoy the fact that with a few basic and cheap ingredients – beef mince, onion, chopped toms and a few spices – you’ve got a really tasty meal. And I’m quite fond of the fact that you only have to chop those things up, add them one at a time and keep stirring for a pretty lovely outcome.
Years after my first chilli, I’ve grown confident enough to play with it a bit. I’ve tried adding steak, different chillis, lots of peppers in lots of shades, with lots of sauce and not much sauce, with chickpeas, with spinach, on sweet potatoes, in a jacket spud… It’s all been great. But this, this is my favourite way to eat chilli con carne:
For 4 people
500g lean beef mince
400g chopped tomatoes
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic (or a teaspoon of Lazy Garlic, which I rate highly)
Red wine (something meaty, like a Shiraz or Merlot works best IMHO)
2 beef stock cubes
Henderson’s Relish (or Worcester Sauce)
First of all, I like to get everything out in front of me. Finely chop the onion and jalapeños, cut some chunks of chorizo with scissors, get the garlic pressed, get the spices out in front of you – you get the idea. Then it’ll just be a case of chucking everything into your casserole dish or wok, one at a time. The one at a time bit is something I’ve learned the importance of recently and it rings true in most recipes. By allowing each ingredient to do it’s thing, to really cook, you get alot more flavour from it. So be patient.
Heat a casserole dish or wok for a few minutes and then add a generous lug of olive oil. Add the onion and a little salt and pepper and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes on a medium heat. Keep stirring and scraping those darkened sticky bits off of the bottom. When the onion is lightly browning, add the garlic. Another 5 minutes should do.
Now add the meat. Do this gradually, ensuring you separate the strands to avoid lumps later. Sprinkle a generous amount of paprika and chilli powder, a little cinnamon and chilli flakes and 1 stock cube over the meat and stir everything together. If you’d like to add wine (which I thoroughly recommend), now’s the time to pour in a glass or so and then add the chorizo. Keep cooking and stirring till the meat has browned and the liquid is thick.
Add a little water if you feel you need it and when that has evaporated add the chopped tomatoes.
Keep stirring and let the tomato-y sauce really absorb into the ingredients. Then taste and add more paprika, chilli powder etc to your liking. Add chopped jalapeños. I like to add another stock cube at this point, partly for flavour but also because it gives it a more ‘chilli’ colour.
Let that simmer on a medium heat for a minimum of 20 minutes, but go on up to an hour for a really strong taste (or if you’re waiting for rice to boil, your favourite TV show to start, your guests to arrive). Remember to keep stirring to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom – though thanks to the oily chorizo, this is unlikely.
Serve with rice and / or bread, a dollop of soured cream and a little grated Cheddar.