Recipe: Chilli Con Carne

10 04 2013

So it’s been 8 months since I last updated this blog. Unforgiveable. But the arrival of a new batch of Cow Club beef reminded me that I’ve never typed up my chilli recipe. I know there are heated debates over what constitutes the perfect chilli, so offering my own version probably insults some sacred cows… but cows are there to be turned into chilli, and the ones from Cow Club are more sacred-tasting than most! So I’m pretty happy with this one… 

This recipe combines elements from a few that I’ve used over the years; in particular those in Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef and Heston Blumenthal’s Heston at Home (with the fiddly bits removed due to the lack of a pressure cooker!) with a good number of additions of our own. It makes a pretty big pot (which I typically serve to large groups, or freeze in batches), so you may want to shrink it down. And I prefer it done with diced steak, but it can be done equally well with mince – just make sure you drain off the fat well.

Chilli con Carne

1kg braising/stewing steak or beef mince
2 medium onions, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil
2 star anise
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and finely diced
2 red peppers, de-seeded and cut into good-sized chunks
Small stick cinnamon
500ml beef stock
187ml red wine
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 540g tin/bottle passata/creamed tomatoes
30g tomato purée
Juice and zest of 2 limes
3 x 410g tins of kidney beans


Set the oven to 150c.

Add oil to a heavy-bottomed pan, over a high heat, and fry off the meat to brown it. Remove it from the pan and drain off excess fat. Deglaze the pan with a splash of water, and add the beef-bitty-water to the meat so you don’t lose the flavours.

Decrease the heat to medium and add more oil to the pan. Add the onion and star anise and cook for about 10 mins. If the idea of star anise puts you off, don’t worry, your chilli won’t end up tasting like liquorice. Star anise boosts the meatiness of the dish. (Check out the science from Heston here.)

Add the celery, and cook for another 8 mins. Celery isn’t necessarily a regular ingredient in chilli, but I like it. (And I also love the fact that if you cut it really quickly it sounds like you’re doing up a zip! Weird, I know…) Add the garlic and peppers – I personally prefer the pointy sweet ones, but regular peppers are fine – and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Add the chilli, chilli powder, cumin, cinnamon stick and tomato purée and mix in well. Cook it for another 5 minutes, until it turns a dark red colour. Of course, feel free to alter the chilli quantities if you wish. This version is about right for Helen, but I like it a little spicier… see my comments at the bottom about spiced butter.

Add the red wine and reduce it by 2/3. To be honest, I think it needs more wine than this – about 400ml would be ideal – but I often just use a miniature bottle, unless I have some spare wine to hand.

Remove the star anise and discard. Add the beef stock, passata and chopped tomatoes. If you don’t want to use passata, that’s fine; double the amount of tinned tomatoes. We just like the different textures that you get from the combination of smooth passata and chunky chopped tomatoes. And Cirio have just started doing 540g bottles of passata, which are really good.

Bring up to a simmer, season and stir in the meat. Pop it in the oven for about 2 hours. The longer, slower, and lower heat you can cook it on, the better. After 2 hours, mix in the kidney beans and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

To finish the chilli, stir in the lime zest and juice and season with salt and pepper. The lime adds a nice fresh zing to it. You may also want to stir through a square of dark chocolate too… but I don’t very often. I find it can sometimes make it a little musty, and I prefer the lime-freshness. And if you’re serving it all in one go, add chopped coriander (though if I’m freezing it, I tend to leave that out, as it goes a little odd in the freezer). Then serve however you wish; with rice, on nachos, on jacket potatoes, with bread/salad/soured cream/guacamole… This chilli is best a day or two later, so if you can, make it in advance and leave it to allow the flavours to develop.

One of the elements of Heston’s recipe that I rarely do, but which makes a really nice difference, is the addition of spiced butter. He adds some into the recipe part way through, and also allows people to stir in more at the end if they want to customise the heat of their chilli. This is a great idea if you are cooking for people who appreciate different heats (though the added butter makes it considerably less healthy!), and it gives it a nice smoky flavour and glossy shine.

Spiced Butter

2 tbsp olive oil
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp tomato ketchup
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp Marmite
125g butter, softened to room temperature


Heat the olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the cumin and chilli powder for 90 seconds. Pour into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix it together and once it’s cool you can either pop it in the fridge to set (if you’re planning to use it that day), or roll it into a log in parchment paper and keep it in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month.


Durban-Style Chicken

30 05 2011

Let’s face it… roast chicken is always good. But sometimes I fancy doing something a little more interesting than just shoving a lemon inside – It’s nice and simple, but it’s not very dignified for the poor bird! We had friends over yesterday, and decided to cook a chicken, and I was in the mood for something a little different…

This is my absolute favourite more ‘exotic’ recipe to elevate the humble roast chicken. It’s not too hot, but very flavoursome, and it works surprisingly well in the summer with a good salad.

It’s from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible, (which, of the many curry cookbooks I’ve tried, is absolutely the best!), slightly tweaked. The biggest faff is skinning the chicken. I’m getting quicker at this. The first time took me the best part of 40 minutes! This time I did two chickens in 16 minutes. I’ve found it’s easiest to slice the skin at the base, peel it over the sides, and then work up the legs. Then do the same at the breasts, and work down, meeting halfway. The legs and wings are the hardest bits. I keep tugging tentatively at the skin, in fear that it’s going to ping off and slap me in the eye! I tend to just leave the wings, because, let’s face it, when it comes to serving up, I’m going to eat those before anyone else gets a look in anyway!

Here’s the recipe for one bird… we doubled it and did two on this occasion. If you do that, you’ll need to significantly increase the cooking time: we went for 90 mins covered and 20 mins uncovered.


1 chicken, approx. 1 ¾ kg, skinned.
4 tbsp. lemon juice (though this did make the paste a little sloppy. In future I think I’d consider reducing this to about 2 ½ tbsp)
5cm fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 fresh, hot, green chillies, chopped (I tend to use whatever colour chillies I have around, a mixture of red and green this time. I deseeded half of the chillies, as not all our guests would appreciate the burn!)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin (I always increase this, because I personally love the strong flavour of cumin. I usually go for about 1 ½ tsp.)
2 tsp. ground coriander (Likewise, if you up the cumin, increase the coriander too, to balance it out)
½ tsp. chilli powder
Ground pepper


Peel the chicken, and make two deep, diagonal slits in each breast, going right down to the bone. Make two deep slashes in the thighs and drumsticks as well. Line a roasting dish with a large sheet of foil, large enough to encase the chicken. Place the chicken (breast up) on the foil.

Combine the lemon juice, ginger, garlic, chillies, salt, olive oil, cumin and coriander , and blend until you have a paste. Rub it into the chicken, working it into the slits. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200°C / Gas Mark 6.

Dust the top of the chicken with the chilli powder and black pepper. Bring up the foil over the top, crimp it together to cover the chicken in a little shiny coffin, then cook for 1 hour. After the hour, baste the chicken, and then bake it uncovered for another 15 minutes, basting it again every 5 minutes.

Serve however you want really… We went for a leafy salad with feta and pine nuts, roasted jersey royals, and roasted shallots. Heavenly!