Friday, 3 December 2010

Chilly con Carne

I don't know about you but this weather is making me crave rib-sticking soups and stews and I suddenly really fancied making a chilli or - maybe more appropriately - Chilly con Carne.

I was thinking of making this south-west American version (in the rather messy, quickly snatched photo, above) which I included in my beer book An Appetite for Ale and which uses chopped rather than ground beef. What clinched it was finding a one and a half kilo joint of top rump in the Co-op reduced to £3.72 instead of £9 odd a kilo for braising beef. (There was even enough left over to make another stew.)

My original (for which I've given the recipe below) used a mild chile called Chile Molido from Santa Fe which gives a particularly good rich texture but as I didn't have any left I used a tablespoon of mild chilli powder, a heaped teaspoon of sweet pimenton, a teaspoon of hot pimenton and about the same of some smokey ground chile I brought back from Chile earlier this year. (You can buy Chile Molido aka New Mexican Red from the Spice Shop in Blenheim Crescent or online if you want a more authentic south-western flavour)

I also used 2 tins of kidney beans rather than cooking them from scratch because I couldn't face going out in the cold to buy some!

Serves 6

For the beans
250g dried red kidney beans
1 bayleaf
1 tsp epazote - a Mexican herb which is often used for cooking beans (optional)
A few black peppercorns

Or use 2 x 400g tins of red kidney beans

For the chile
5-6 tbsp sunflower or other cooking oil
800g-1kg braising steak, topside or top rump, whatever's cheapest
2 onions (about 250g in total), peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 heaped tbsp tomato paste
5-6 tbsp chile molido (or a mixture of mild and hotter chile as described above - about 2-3 tbsp in total. You want something, ideally to give it a smoky edge)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 level tbsp plain flour
300ml beef stock
175ml lager (optional - you could just add extra stock but it gives it an edge)
1 tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Drain them, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum and boil hard for 10 minutes then turn the heat down and add the bayleaf, peppercorns and epazote if using (it flavours the beans and makes them less flatulent!). Cook for about an hour to an hour and a quarter until the beans are tender, topping up with boiling water as necessary. Set aside till the chile is cooked.

Meanwhile pat the meat dry, remove any fat or gristle and cut into very small cubes. Pour a little of the oil into a frying pan and brown the meat in batches, transferring it to a casserole as you complete each batch.

Add the remaining oil (you’ll need about 3 tbsp) and fry the onions until soft but not coloured. Add the crushed garlic, cook for a minute then stir in the flour, 2-5 tbsp of ground chile (see above) and 1 1/2 tsp cumin.

Cook for a few seconds then add the stock and lager, if using, and bring to the boil. Pour the sauce over the meat, stir well, bring back to the boil then turn the heat right down and simmer for 2 hours or so till the meat is tender adding a little water if the sauce gets too thick.

Drain the beans and add to the meat and cook for another half hour. Taste the sauce and add a few drops of cider vinegar and a little more chilli powder just to lift the flavour. Serve with baked potatoes and homemade coleslaw or corn or wheat tortillas and an avocado salsa.

* Actually if you can leave this overnight and reheat it it tastes even better. Like most stews.

What's your favourite way of making chilli? And favourite way of serving it?


Scandilicious said...

Perfect cold climate food Fiona, we made chilli con carne last week and I planned on having enough for leftovers but two hungry boys gobbled it all up. Must make more again, great tip on using sliced steak rather than mince...

notSupermum said...

Perfect timing Fiona, I've been looking for a good chilli recipe and this looks great. thanks.

daphne said...

These sound delicious. Chili con carne is the best. I’m saving the recipe to my file and will make it soon! Thanks for the recipe. :-)

Fiona Beckett said...

Glad you all liked it. I really like the effect of chopping the meat like this. It seems to make a more substantial, serious stew of it.