Chilli Con Carne

Chilli Con Carne

Chilli is great – easy, cheap, filling and delicious. Ok, this recipe is pretty far from an “authentic” chilli con carne, but it is what our family has been making for many years. I’ve never met anyone else that adds sweetcorn, but the sweetness balances out the smoky depth of the beans and the heat of the chilli beautifully. I tend to prefer using chilli powder here, instead of chilli flakes or chopped fresh chillies, as the extra spices included (like cumin) add an earthy richness. I also use baked beans as well as kidney beans, as I like the sweet flavour the sauce adds, but you can opt for just kidney beans/mix up the ratio as you prefer.

This recipe is designed for big batch cooking (12-14 servings in total), so in theory you can freeze up plenty of separate portions. In reality it tends to mean we eat chilli solidly for the next three days, as it’s even tastier the next day and is so easy to reheat after a busy day at work. I use my two largest cast iron pans for this recipe and juggle the mixture between them – be prepared for large volumes of chilli – but it would also work in large casserole dishes simmered in the oven.

Cooking time: 45min – 1 hour

1.5kg beef mince
6 onions, diced
550g mushrooms, sliced
4 fat garlic cloves, sliced
2 tins of baked beans
1 tin of kidney beans
1 large tin of sweetcorn
2 tins of tomatoes
50g tomato puree
500ml beef stock
3 dessert spoons of mild chilli powder…or according to your own taste!

Heat a good big heavy based pan to a medium heat – my cast iron pans are my favourite for this dish – then add a good glug of olive oil and your onions. Fry off for a couple of minutes before adding the sliced garlic and continue to cook gently until golden. Transfer the onions to another dish, then turn the heat up.

Once the pan is good and hot, add your minced beef in small batches at a time. This is essential to avoid overcrowding the pan, dropping the temperature and resulting in “stewed” mince…yuk. Your aim is to keep the heat high and get the mince to caramelize and brown quickly before it can leach its juices out. This is my rule of thumb for all minced meat dishes – I still remember watching a flat mate dump a whole block of fridge cold mince into a pan and the resulting soggy grey gloop – fine if you like broiled mince…

If you find your mince starting to stick (which it almost certainly will) then add more oil as needed and a dash of water or stock to help deglaze the pan and loosen the mince before it burns. Transfer your batches of mince to the dish with the onions.

Give the pan a wipe out with some kitchen roll, turn the heat down to medium, add a healthy knob of butter and add the mushrooms. Fry these off until they are softened and sweating, then add the mince and onion mixture back into the pan and stir it up.

Now is the easy and rather satisfying part. Start cracking open all the tins of vegetables and just pour them all into the pan on top of the mince mixture. Add the tomato puree and the beef stock, season with black pepper, and stir the whole batch up.

Bring it to the boil, and then turn it down to start the simmering process. At this point the chilli will be very wet and loose; you want it to simmer down until there is a denser sauce that clings to the meat and veg, so that it oozes thickly around your spoon as you stir and turn it over in the pan.

Simmer down from this…
…until it looks more like this.

As it approaches the point of reducing to its final concentration, start adding the chilli powder and taste testing for general seasoning. Serve with boiled rice, on a baked potato, or just in a big bowl with a spoon.

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