Friday, 25 May 2012

Chilli con Carne

Despite popular belief, chilli con carne with kidney beans is a British concoction, not American . In the States they do make chilli, and take the whole business very seriously, but the beans are served alongside. Rice as a side dish is also a British thing, saltine crackers seem to be the typical accompaniment in the US.

Bad chilli con carne seems to be almost expected- it's student food, or greasy pub food, but there's no reason for this to be the case. Well made, it's delicious, warming and comforting. I use Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's recipe with little variation. It's never failed me. In his recipe, he suggests making a rich tomato sauce by reducing some tinned tomatoes with garlic until pulpy. I used to do that, but now I just add the tinned tomatoes straight from the can, and cook the chilli for longer, on the lowest possible heat. Both methods work, I just prefer to avoid the extra washing up.

Chilli with sour cream and cornbread

Olive oil, for frying
 1kg minced beef
750g pork shoulder or similar cut, cut into 2cm cubes
500g chorizo, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 400g tins of kidney beans, drained, or 200g dried kidney beans, soaked overnight
2 onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
800g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin
chilli powder, to taste. Start with about a tbsp, and increase accordingly
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 tsp good quality cocoa
pinch brown sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
750 ml pork or beef stock, or kidney bean cooking water

If you are using dried beans, drain them from the soaking liquid, and put in a saucepan. Cover with fresh water- about twice the volume of the beans. Bring to the boil, and boil hard for at least 10 minutes. Boiling kills the toxins in the beans, so don't miss this stage out. Turn the heat down to low and cook until the beans are soft, and not at all chalky. Retain the cooking water if you don't have any stock.

Heat a tablespooon of olive oil in a large frying pan. Brown the meats in batches, over a high heat. You will probably need to add more oil to the frying pan. Once a frying panful is done, transfer the contents to a casserole or heavy bottomed saucepan, something that is large enough to hold everything. Cook the onions and garlic in the same frying pan as the meat, over a lower heat, until softened. Add these to the casserole.

Add the remaining ingredients to the casserole, giving it a good stir. Put the pot on over a low heat, partially covered. Cook for at least two hours. Season-salt, pepper, and possibly Tabasco.

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