Archive for January 11th, 2010

Chilli con Carne is one of our most popular family recipes.  The name comes from the Spanish chile con carne, meaning ‘peppers with meat’, but it is actually the official dish of the State of Texas in the USA, making it ‘Tex-Mex’ rather than Mexican, as is sometimes thought.  My version is not taken from any particular book but has been adapted and improved whenever I have discovered a new ‘twist’.  Some years ago we had an excellent Chilli con Carne for lunch in a pub, leading me to experiment with adding cumin as well as chilli powder, which adds extra depth to the spice flavours.  More recently I discovered that Nigella Lawson, in her book Feast, adds cocoa powder to her Chilli con Carne.  What a good idea!  Chilli can be added to chocolate recipes, after all, so why not chocolate to chilli recipes?  It really does enrich the sauce and you do not detect the flavour at all.   Smoked bacon similarly adds good background flavour, with diced red and green peppers (capsicums) adding colour, as well as vegetable content.  If you wish to make the dish a little healthier by reducing the red meat content per head, add finely diced aubergine which will cook down to be almost invisible.  The amount of chilli powder to be added is optional, of course.  When my children were young I used to cook the mixture without chill, divide it between two pans and then add the spices later (not ideal, I know).  One pan had the full (adult) quantity of spices and the second had some cumin and a very little chilli, just enough for the children to get used to the taste: one was known as Chilli con Carne and the other as Carne non Chilli!  My ruse obviously worked as we all now eat food cooked in the same pan!  

As with the Lasagne al Forno I posted a few weeks ago, this method is my own tried and trusted recipe and special because it has been adapted and improved .  It is worth making a double quantity as the recipe can be frozen for later use, as can individual portions of leftovers.  Chilli con carne is lovely finished with a spoonful of cool and soothing soured cream.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Special Chilli con Carne
(Serves 6)

15ml/1tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
½-1tsp (or more) chilli powder, depending on taste
1tsp cocoa powder (optional, but recommended)
1tbsp water
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
125g/4ozs diced bacon, smoked or unsmoked
125g/4ozs button mushrooms, quartered (or larger ones, sliced)
1 medium aubergine, diced (optional)
15ml/1tbsp mixed herbs
500g/1lb minced beef steak
30ml/2tbsp tomato purée
1 x 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
150ml/¼pint water (about ½ tomato tin) 
1 red pepper (capsicum), deseeded & chopped
1 green pepper (capsicum), deseeded & chopped
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
Salt & black pepper

1.  If using aubergine it is usual to sprinkle it with salt, place it in a colander, cover it with a plate and place a weight on top of it for at least 30 minutes, to let the juices can run out.  You can cut out this step if you are short of time: I have never noticed much difference in taste.

2.  Mix the cumin and chilli with the water to make a paste.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan, stir in the spice paste and fry briefly (no more than 30 seconds).  Reduce the heat, stir in the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the diced bacon, mushrooms and mixed herbs (at this point the diced aubergine should be added, if using), put a lid on the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.

3.  Add the beef mince, stir to break up and cook for 1o minutes, stirring occasionally so the meat cooks through.  Stir in the cocoa powder, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes and water, stir and bring to the boil.  Season and taste.  Reduce heat, cover and cook for a further 10minutes.

4.  Add the chopped peppers and red beans, stir well, cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending  on how well cooked you like your pepper. Check seasoning.

5.  Serve on a bed of white rice or as a filling for a jacket potato, flour tortilla or pancake along with a spoonful of sour cream.  A small side salad makes a good accompaniment along with a few tortilla chips if serving with rice.

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