Every Guy Fawkes night we eat chilli con carne. There is just something about it’s homely smokiness that is reminiscent of autumn and fireworks for me. It’s exactly the kind of comfort food that is easy to eat and warms you up so you’re ready to stand outside in the cold and watch people celebrate a failed act of treason with fireworks and bonfires and burning effigies.
It’s also the kind of meal that feeds a lot of people with very little effort, and cooks long and slow so you’re not tethered to the stove. It can be made in a slow cooker, although I prefer its texture when cooked on a hob.
And it’s forgiving; you can adapt chilli con carne with different beans and spices, and you can put as much or as little chilli in as you like. It really is a dish you can play around with and make your own. So here is my version, a delicious mash up of pretty much every chilli recipe I’ve ever looked it – plus a special, and authentic (so I am told) addition you might not expect.
Why not serve it with home made guacamole, and sour cream on the side?
- 2 medium white onions - roughly chopped
- 1 whole bulb of garlic - crushed and chopped
- 3 peppers - one red, one green, one yellow/orange. Sliced into thin strips and the seeds removed.
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1 rounded tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon chipotle paste (usually available in the cooks selection/special ingredients section of the supermarkets)
- 1kg beef mince - don't worry about it being overly lean
- 1 400g tin red kidney beans
- 1 400g tin flageolet beans
- 2 400g tins tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 500mls chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons of hot pepper sauce, or use a fresh chilli chopped up if you prefer.
- 2 squares of dark chocolate - at least 70% (or use a rounded teaspoon of good quality cocoa powder)
- the juice of half a lime
- salt and pepper - to taste
- In a large, deep pan or casserole, sweat the onions and peppers on a medium/high heat until they begin to soften, then add the garlic, all the dry spices and chipotle paste. It should start to smell aromatic and smokey. If you are using fresh chillies, throw these in, too. If you're using hot pepper sauce, hold off for now.
- Next, drain and rinse the beans and add to the pan. Give everything a good stir.
- Add the meat to the pan and mix well until it starts to brown. Meat juices and fat should stop it from catching on the bottom. Then add the tins of tomatoes, the tomato puree and the stock.
- Bring to a simmer and if you're using hot pepper sauce to pep up the dish, now is the time to add it.
- Give it all one final stir and bring down the heat a little - remember, this chilli cooks for a long time, so you don't need to rapidly boil it. Keep checking it every 20 minutes or so. Each time, give it a quick stir and then leave well alone. You'll find the longer it cooks, the softer the meat becomes and the more intense the flavours are as the sauce reduces down.
- For at least the final hour of cooking, transfer to an oven proof dish and cook at 160°C. And this is when you add the secret ingredient - the chocolate. I don't know how or why, but the addition of a square or two of dark chocolate rockets this dish to a completely new level! It brings out all the flavours and is definitely magic.
- Just before serving, test the flavours, add more hot sauce if you think it needs it and then squeeze in the juice of half a lime. It freshens the chilli up like nobodies business.
- Serve over rice, with cornbread, tortilla chips or jacket potatoes and have a tub of sour cream and guacamole on the table. Tuck in!
- This amount happily serves 6 adults and 4 children, or 8 adults, or LOADS of children. Alternatively, portion it off and freeze it for chilli goodness at a fraction of the cooking time!