Chilli con Carne

Chilli con Carne NachosBelieve it or not, but there was a time when I was completely at sea when it came to cooking and Chilli con Carne was my only lifeline!

Admittedly back in my university days, my Chilli’s “secret ingredient” was a packet of Knorr Chilli con Carne flavouring, but given the dish was also made with cheap soya mince, the dubious origins of its flavour-base was the least of its problems! That said, my Chilli was still the stuff of legend in my digs and its fame wasn’t without merit. In spite of its shortcomings it still tasted pretty damn good, but given my only real competition was marmite on toast, my culinary supremacy was pretty much a given!

Mercifully, my cooking has improved somewhat since those dark days and my Chilli con Carne has since had a much needed makeover. Rather unsurprisingly, the soya mince and glorified packets of MSG have fallen to the wayside and have been replaced with more natural ingredients, but don’t be fooled – this is still good eating, just on a slightly improved budget!

Aside from the exclusion of various e-numbers and MSG, key to the elevation of my Chilli from student fare to tex-mex bliss is the inclusion of some dark chocolate. By simply adding a bit of chocolate, this dish develops a depth of flavour that is hard to beat…give the Chilli sufficient time to mellow and you’ll have an overnight sensation!

There are many ways to eat Chilli. You can simply serve it with some plain white rice, topped with a spoonful of sour cream and snipped chives or you can use it as a filling for burritos by wrapping it up in a tortilla with salad and guacamole. These days, however, my favourite way to eat Chilli is by making nachos! Simply add the chilli to a pile of tortilla chips, sprinkle with all your favourite toppings and voilà: nachos’fantastico!

Chilli con Carne

  • 500g minced beef
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 400ml beef stock
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • ½ tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. tomato purée
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 20g dark chocolate

To make Nachos:

  • Plain tortilla chips
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Pickled jalapeño chillies
  • Sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • Fresh coriander leaves
  • Guacamole
  • Tomato Salsa

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on the hob over a medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onions are soft. Now add the crushed garlic and diced red pepper, sauté for another minute
  2. Stir in the chilli powder, paprika and ground cumin. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the spices from burning
  3. Add the minced beef and turn the heat up to high. Brown the meat thoroughly, breaking it up with your spatula as you go. Ensure you maintain a high heat so that you sear and brown the meat instead of stewing it
  4. Pour in the hot beef stock, followed by the tin of chopped tomatoes, ½ tsp. dried herbs, 1 tsp. sugar, 2 tbsp. tomato purée and season with salt and pepper
  5. Give the sauce a good stir, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook gently for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from catching on the bottom of the pan
  6. Once the chili is thick and glossy, stir in the drained kidney beans. Bring the chilli back to the boil again and gently cook without the lid for another 10 minutes
  7. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly
  8. Finally, add the chocolate and stir until melted through
    Leave your chilli to stand for as long as possible before serving, preferably overnight
  9. Reheat gently before serving
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