In a survey on meals that Britons could cook from memory chilli-con-carne, along with spaghetti bolognese, topped the list. This isn’t very surprising – it’s one of those dishes that even the most basic of cooks can cook.
And it seems that everyone has their own version of chilli-con-carne with often their own twist or special secret ingredient (when I was a teenager mine was tomato ketchup, now it’s dark chocolate). In its worst guise chilli can be awful (think grey fatty mince, stewed peppers, overbearing heat without any flavour) but when made with care it’s one of my favourites and just perfect for a night in front of the TV watching World Cup football.
Someone once told me that authentic chilli-con-carne is made with pieces of beef not mince so I started to make it that way and I much prefer it. Since you probably already have your own chilli recipe you may not be fussed about trying another but here’s mine anyway. You may find it interesting even if it’s just to compare it with your own.
- 1kg of lean braising or stewing steak
For the marinade
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
- A sprig of fresh thyme, stalks removed and chopped
- ½ – 2 teaspoons chilli flakes (depending on how hot you like it) or you can use 1 or 2 fresh chillies
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 10 twists of the pepper mill
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
For the sauce
- 1 onion
- 400g tomato passata or a tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tin kidney beans, drained
- 1 Knorr beef stock pot or other concentrated stock
- 20g good quality dark chocolate (optional)
I like to buy my steaks whole so that I can cut them to the size I want and remove any fat. I chop the steak into pieces roughly 3 cm square.
Once you’ve cut up your steak put the pieces in a bowl and add all the marinade ingredients. With your hands give everything a good mix massaging the flavour into the meat. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
Take the meat out of the fridge and leave to come up to room temperature for half an hour. Heat a little oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the steak pieces. Arrange so that each piece has a centimetre of space around it so that you can get a really good colour on your meat. When the meat is a lovely dark brown colour (this usually takes about 5 minutes) turn each piece over and colour on the other side. You may need to fry the meat in a few batches but don’t rush this part as it is essential for the deep meaty flavour of your chilli.
Place the browned meat into a casserole dish with a lid. Now in the same frying pan add a little more oil and fry the onion until soft and a nice golden colour. Add the tomato passata (or tin of tomatoes) and concentrated stock to the pan and when they are bubbling add this mixture to the casserole dish. Give everything a little shake to settle. If the tomato mixture doesn’t completely cover the meat then add some water so that the meat is just covered. Put on the lid and place in an oven heated to 160oC fan for 1 hour.
After this time turn the heat down to 140oC and cook for a further 2 hours, or until the meat breaks apart easily with a fork. Check periodically to make sure that the sauce isn’t getting too thick – if it is before the meat is tender then just add a little more water and stir.
Add the tin of kidney beans and dark chocolate and give everything a good stir. Cook for a further 10 minutes to heat the beans through. It is also a good idea to test the heat of your chilli at this point so that you can add more chilli flakes if necessary.
Serve with rice, a good dollop of sour cream and (if you like it really hot) some extra fresh chilli.