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.


Braised and (Theoretically) Barbecued Pork Belly with Chorizo

16 08 2011

I am a sucker for pork belly. I don’t mind how it comes: braised in cider with apples, chinese style, or simply slow roasted with nothing but a grating of salt. Just so long as it’s cooked on a low heat for a protracted period, and ideally with the fat crisped beautifully at the end, I’m happy.

This week, two moods collided, and I felt insatiable cravings for both a BBQ and my beloved slow roasted pork. So since I had some time, and some guests coming round, I got to work…

Pork belly is one of the cheaper cuts of pork, so a great bargain from a supermarket; though if you have a little cash spare and a desire to splash out, do try and get it from a butcher. That we did, from Canterbury’s Goods Shed. And a beautiful piece of meat it was! If you’re just planning to roast it, best to ask the butcher to remove the bones and rind for you: it’s a little bit of a faff, unless you have razor sharp knives. Last time I tried, it took me about an hour, and I massacred the poor thing. But since I was planning to braise this, I left the bones in, to give it some added flavour.

I decided to braise the belly with white wine and chorizo for a few hours, before crisping it up on the barbecue. Sadly, my barbecuing skills left much to be desired, and the darned thing never quite made it to a useable temperature! So I ended up frying the pork off to crisp it up, thus missing out on some of the smokey goodness it should have had.

My ineptitude aside, the result was great! The meat was tender, and the fat crispy. The meat had a nice, faint hint of white wine, and I was also left with a beautiful liquid, some of which I thickened to make a sauce, and the rest of which I used as the base for a stock to make Boulangère Potatoes. We also served it with a courgette and mint salad and green beans.

So here’s my recipe. Do feel free to customise it. Having never made it before, it was a bit of an experiment, and I’m pretty sure it could be improved. Perhaps if I were serving it with particularly spanish themed foods, I would add some extra paprika and chilli to give it a little more of a kick. And I’d suggest doing it as part of a larger barbecue repertoire. Serve it alongside other barbecue regulars, as it does seem a little bit of a waste to heat up the coals for only 15 minutes of its 4 hours of cooking time!

Braised and (Theoretically) Barbecued Pork Belly with Chorizo
Serves 4-6


1.5 kg pork belly, rind removed. Bones left in.
100g chunk of chorizo
500ml white wine
500ml water
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
6 peppercorns
1 tsp. brown sugar


Preheat the oven to around 150°C, and find a casserole dish or deep roasting pan big enough to house the pork.

Assuming the rind is already removed, score the fat and grate a little salt over the top. Start off by frying the pork for a few minutes; just give it a minute or so on the meaty side in order to seal it, and then focus the majority of your time on the fat, until it goes golden and begins to crisp.

Meanwhile, dice the chorizo and chop the onion into around 8 pieces. Sweat them off in the casserole dish, allowing the paprika to bleed and dye the onions a kind of menacing red. Then add the peppercorns and garlic cloves, peeled, but left whole. Fry off until the onions have coloured (if you can see that beneath the chorizo stains!) then place the pork belly in the dish, fat side up, nuzzling it down in between the onions.

Pour in the wine, and top it up with approximately the equivalent of water; just enough to cover the pork. Then stir in a teaspoon of brown sugar. Depending on the wine you’re using, you may want to add a splash of white wine vinegar as well, but our wine was acidic enough without: an embarrassingly cheap bottle from our France trip!

Then cover, either with a lid, or parchment paper, and pop in the oven. Braise for about 3 hours. If you happen to have an entire day free, then feel free to drop the temperature and cook it for even longer, but 3 hours will do just fine.

Remove the pork from the liquid and leave to cool (chill overnight if you want). When cool enough to handle easily, cut into strips, using the bones as demarcations. Then when it’s time to eat, make sure the barbecue is good and hot (ha!), and then put the pork on, skin down to crisp it up. Once the skin is beautifully crispy, give it a couple of minutes on each side to ensure the pork is heated right through. And serve!