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.


Recipe: A Perfect Panettone

2 01 2012

You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten good panettone. Not the expensive, butter heavy, taste-light, mass produced, dry and dull supermarket version (although some of them can be good); but a fresh, homemade, citrusy, vanilla-laced, rustic looking one. They are a beauty to behold, and a slice goes down perfectly with a cup of Monmouth coffee on a wintery morning.

I’d never made one before, and was desperate to add it to our repertoire of Christmas baking; previous entries including Christmas cake, spiced biscuits, stollen and lebkuchen. Two problems, however, stood in my way.

First, there is a surprising dearth of good panettone recipes around. None of our cookbooks contained one, hardly any of our usual go-to-websites had anything to offer (other than recipes for dishes using chopped up shop bought specimens) and one promising version we did come across bore a host of comments saying that it didn’t work. And second, we don’t own a panettone tin; who does?

So I was thrilled to stumble across this blog, which solved both my problems in one fell swoop. Not only was the recipe a great success, but the suggestion of cooking the panettone in an Ikea cutlery container was inspired!

I must admit, I’m not much of a baker. I’ve made a few cakes here and there (most of which have been successful), but this was my first serious foray into the world of breadmaking. We made three; one as a trial run and the other two as gifts. Each took around 8 hours in total, but it was well worth it for the satisfaction of being able to hold a beautiful, buttery, fragrant, handmade creation. I shall certainly be making them again, and I understand that they can be traditionally eaten at Easter as well as Christmas – a perfect excuse, which I intend to exploit!

Below is the recipe, accompanied with pictures. I’ve not changed it much from @maisoncupcake’s version, (except removing the chocolate chips and adjusting the fruit quantities accordingly), but I have annotated it with a few tips of my own and the odd thought here and there.


Makes 1 Large Loaf 


7g sachet dried yeast
400g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
half teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange and one unwaxed lemon
half teaspoon salt
175g softened unsalted butter
90g sultanas
90g mixed peel, chopped
40g unsalted butter to finish 


Mix 125g of the weighed flour with the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix the two whole eggs with the water and pour into the well. Using your hands or a dough hook, mix the flour into the liquid to make a smooth thick batter. I used my hand, which was infinitely more satisfying than a hook. Just remember to remove wedding rings first; looking like you’re single for a few hours is far preferable to having crusty dough stuck around your fingers! Sprinkle a little  flour over the batter to prevent a skin forming then leave in a warm place for around an hour or until the batter is bubbly.

Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla and grated zest using your hand. I’d never realised until this stage that it was vanilla that gives panettone its trademark aroma. But that, coupled with the zest immediately made the kitchen smell of Christmas.

Gradually work in 175g flour plus the salt to make a soft sticky dough. This bit, I admit, gets a little tough on the hands. I’d suggest putting a cloth under the bowl, which will grip it and stop it moving, making it easier to mix.


Next add the softened butter and work in with your fingers. Beat until the butter is incorporated with no streaks.







Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly by hand for 10 mins working in the remainder of the weighed flour to make a satiny soft pliable non-sticky dough. You may need to use a little more flour. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 2 to 2.5 hours. Don’t leave in a very warm place as the butter will melt.

Next uncover the dough and punch down to deflate. This is very satisfying. So much so that I photographed the process, enjoying the fist marks. Cover and let it double in size again (1-1.5 hours).

Meanwhile, combine the sultanas with the chopped peel. Stir in a teaspoon of flour to stop it clumping in the dough.

Given that we used our regular Ikea cutlery holder, we needed to sterilise it. To do this, wash it thoroughly and then put it in the oven on a low to medium heat to dry off.




Prepare the tin by first greasing it, and then lining it with parchment paper. I’m rubbish at this sort of thing, so Helen did this bit brilliantly. She cut a circle to sit in the bottom, and then a piece of paper big enough to wrap around and fit inside the tin. Make it about 6cm higher than the tin. Fold a flap around 1cm from the bottom, and then cut slits about 1cm apart, all the way along. Put the paper into the tin so that the flaps sit flat on the bottom and then put the circle of paper on top, sticking it down with a little butter or oil. The paper should extend 5cm higher than the height of the tin.

Punch down the risen dough again and turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle the fruit on top and work into the dough gently until evenly distributed. The dough gets quite tough, the more you work in.

All this time, try to keep the temperature in the room quite low, and don’t overwork the dough, as the butter easily melts under the heat of your hands.



Shape the dough into a ball and gently drop it into the tin. This is harder than it sounds, as the dough stretches, the paper flops and the butter melts! I found it necessary to put the dough in the fridge for just a minute to stop the butter melting, before moulding it into a ball. Try to get the ball as smooth as possible. The third time I made this, I had a fold on the outside, which caused me some problems in getting it out of the tin (see below).


Cut a cross into the top. On one of my attempts I cut the cross too deep, which meant that the top spread out a bit too much and didn’t keep its shape. Lay a sheet of clingfilm loosely over the top of the tin and leave for another hour or so until doubled in size again. I’d suggest putting the tin into an ovenproof dish, as this will catch any melting butter that seeps through. The original recipe didn’t mention this, but I learnt the hard way as I returned to find butter dripping onto the kitchen floor.


Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6. When ready to bake, melt 15g of the butter for finishing and brush it over the risen dough. Put a knob of butter in the centre of the cross.

Bake for 10 minutes or until just starting to colour, then brush again with melted butter. Reduce the temperature to 180c / 350f / gas 4 and bake for a further 40 minutes until a good golden brown and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean. After about 10 minutes the top of my panettone was going too brown, so I covered it in a little foil hat. @maisoncupcake’s didn’t need foil until about 30 minutes – it just depends on your oven, so keep an eye on it.

Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Allow to cool for a few minutes before teasing it out of the tin. If your crust is fragile allow to cool further before removing from tin. This was not easy! You’ll need to gently, but firmly, hold the cake with one hand, and turn the tin with the other. On the third attempt, I’d had some folds on the outside of my dough, so there were some protruding layers of bread, which caught as I tried to remove it from the tin. A careful knife around the rim, a long long time twisting gently and one (mild) swear word finally got it out!


Cool completely before slicing, or decorating, depending on whether this little beauty is for you or for someone else.

This should last about a week without going so stale that it’s inedible – however, I defy you to make it last that long!

Cow Club debuts… with a Red Beef Curry

10 10 2011

Red Beef Curry

Last Friday, late at night, I took delivery of 5kg of prime beef from the back of a car driven by a South African. Payment by cash. I know it sounds a little suspect, but really it was all above board… This was the culmination of the very first Cow Club; a collaborative project to buy a whole 100% grass-fed Sussex bullock! It was an amazing sight: a car full of cow pulling up outside the house, and searching through the package to find out what cuts we had got was like Christmas come early! If you haven’t heard about the project, check out the Facebook page or follow on Twitter to find out when the next animal will be on its way Londonward from the countryside.

I have some grand plans for the meat… Particularly looking forward to a slow roast rib with celeriac mash later in the autumn (dinner guests are already earmarked and booked in, before you kindly offer your help in eating it!). But tonight was the first taste, and we decided to use some of the braising steak to do a Sri Lankan Red Curry.

The meat was brilliant: really flavoursome and tender, and without all that icky watery fatty nastiness that usually bubbles its way off supermarket beef. And it stood up nicely to the spiciness of the curry. Originally from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible (which is by far the best curry book I’ve ever come across), this is a great, rich, medium-heat dish. The ingredients list may look a little daunting, but it’s worth the effort. And it you don’t have one of the more unusual ingredients, you can make do without, or substitute it… I’ve posted the original recipe below, though I made a few tweaks today, due to not having the right ingredients to hand. If you don’t have any pandanus leaf (as I didn’t today!) you can leave it out, and perhaps just up the fenugreek a little – though if you do have some, it’ll add a deep earthiness to the curry, so worth finding if at all possible. Brixton Market is my usual calling-point for all of these things… It hasn’t failed me yet! Also, I only had fenugreek leaves today, not seeds. Tasted fine…

Give it a go… and enjoy!

Red Beef Curry
Serves 4


450g braising steak, cut into 2.5cm chunks
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp cayenne pepper (Feel free to decrease this a little if you prefer a slightly milder curry)
2 tsp bright red paprika
Ground pepper
3 tbsp corn or peanut oil
1 medium stick cinnamon
4 whole cardamom pods
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 tbsp finely sliced shallots
2 finely sliced garlic cloves
2 thin slices of fresh ginger
5cm piece of pandanus leaf
10-15 curry leaves (If you don’t have them, feel free to leave them out… though they are nice, and apparently they’re good for keeping your hair healthy?!?!)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon juice
175ml coconut milk, well-shaken


Red Beef Curry

Put the meat in a bowl with the coriander, sum in, fennel, cayenne pepper, paprika and lots of black pepper. Mix and leave to marinate for 20 minutes (or longer if possible).

Pour the oil in a large, non-stick lidded pan, and put it on a medium heat. When hot, add the cinnamon, cardamom, fenugreek, shallots, garlic, ginger, pandanus leaf and curry leaves. Stir for about 2 mins, until the onions are translucent. Then add the meat and cook for about 3 mins, until lightly browned.

Add the salt, 350ml of water and the lemon juice. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for 80 mins, stirring two or three times, and adding a little water if necessary. (Mine pretty much burnt dry today, so needed a quick rescue attempt! But the disaster was averted…)

Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer… check the seasoning, and serve with plain rice!

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!

Musings on Muesli

16 07 2011


Whilst away in Brighton for a conference this week we were staying in a self-catering house, so I took the opportunity to grab breakfast on my way in each morning. I was introduced to Bircher Muesli one morning and found it so delicious that I figured I should try to recreate it at home. It looks pretty straight forward, so after a little research into wet/dry ratios I decided upon the following:

Part 1
100g rolled oats
80g sultanas
30g chopped nuts (think I had flaked almonds and hazelnuts)
20g sunflower seeds
200ml apple juice

Part 2
ground cinnamon
ground nutmeg
low fat greek yoghurt (100g per person ish)
1 eating apple (Braeburn was all I could get though I was hoping for a Granny Smith) – grated, skin on
pistachios, redcurrants and blueberries, to serve

The night before you want to eat the muesli, I gather it’s best to start soaking the dry ingredients, so I mixed all the Part 1 ingredients together and placed them in the fridge. I think you can use water or milk instead of apple juice if you prefer – I’m not really a milk fan.

Then, in the morning divide the soaked mixture into bowls, add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, then yoghurt, along with the grated apple. Stir to combine, and drizzle with honey. We served it topped with pistachios, redcurrants and blueberries, but you can use whatever fruit you have in the cupboard/freezer.

I reckon the soaked Part 1 mixture would keep in an airtight container for about 3 days.

The Part 1 mixture makes 4 generous servings, you’ll just need one apple per 2 servings I think. We enjoyed eating it 🙂

Tomato and Pesto tart

6 07 2011

I forget where we came across this recipe, it was in some magazine or other, and I’m pretty sure it used to be on the Good Food website, but alas, it appears to have vanished. This is a nice, easy, fresh, vegetarian, summery tart… we tend to make it and eat it over a few days. It’s equally good cold, or reheated.

The higher quality the tomatoes the better… standard ones will work fine, but you will notice the difference.

Tomato and pesto tart 
(serves 4-6)


1 x 375g pack ready-made puff pastry
150g mascarpone
50g grated parmesan
3 tablespoons pesto
6 decent sized fresh ripe tomatoes


Preheat the oven to 200°c/180°c fan. Line a 20x30cm baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll out the pastry and lay it on the baking tray. Roll over the edges of the pastry to make a small lip.

Mix the mascarpone with the pesto and grated parmesan. Season it, and then spread it over the pastry, leaving a small border of 3-5 cm.

Top and tail the tomatoes. (If you’re anything like me, they’re too good to waste. I tend to leave them to the end, grate a tiny bit of salt and pepper on them and eat them before the wife notices… it’s the simple pleasures…) Slice the tomatoes and lay them on the pastry, slightly overlapping. If you’re feeling a little OCD, you may want to try to get the lines and seeds facing the same way!

Drizzle with olive oil and season. Then bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 40 mins.

Turn the oven down to 150°c/140°c and bake for another 30-40 mins until the pastry is golden and the tomatoes crimson. If it’s beginning to burn, you may want to cover it with foil, and if you’re planning to reheat it the next day, I’d recommend not cooking it for quite the full time.

Serve with a green salad! Beautiful!

Moroccan aubergine pie

3 06 2011

We’re having an unusually fun week in terms of cookery. We had a bunch of people round for dinner on Wednesday, including a vegetarian or two. So the challenge… making something everyone could eat and meat-eaters would enjoy, without realising we’d duped them out of their hunk of flesh. I tend to think that aubergine is a good meat-replacement. It still has the ‘bite’ of meat, and is nicely versatile. And given that we had some beetroot arrive in our veg box, we decided to ‘de-meat’ a dish we’ve done many times before. It’s a great meal which looks impressive, but is surprisingly easy.

The original recipe is for Moroccan Spiced Pie. Below is our vegetarian version, which was a reasonably good imitation! The major differences were substituting aubergine for meat, upping the spices to compensate for the lack of depth from the lamb, and leaving out the cranberries, which would have been just too sweet without the lamb to counter-balance it. It was nice, although the spices were still a little too subtle. So for future, I would increase the cumin and coriander even further; perhaps to 2 1/2 tsp each… or better still, just keep the meat!!


500 g aubergines
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cm fresh ginger, grated
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
4 medium carrots, grated
1/2 leek (We just happened to have this in the fridge, so chucked it in.)
2 raw beetroot
100 g pine nuts
25 g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
200 g filo pastry
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tsp harissa
200 ml Greek yogurt
2-3 tbsp milk
pinches paprika, to garnish


Cut the aubergines into 1cm cubes. Fry them in a little oil until they begin to go soft. Add the leeks, garlic, ginger, spices and seasoning and fry for 2-4 minutes. In order to grate the ginger, you may find it easiest to freeze it first. It then grates far more smoothly, without any of that stringy nastiness you usually get.

Add the carrots, beetroot, and most of the pine nuts, reserving a tablespoon for decoration. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Take it off the heat and allow to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 220C / Gas 6. Melt the oil and butter together in a pan. Brush a 28cm round loose-bottomed tin with the oil and butter, lay one sheet of the pastry in the base allowing a little to hang over the edges. Brush lightly with oil and butter and continue to layer up to 8 sheets of pastry at alternate angles so that the whole base is covered and there is plenty hanging over the edges and all round.

Pile the filling into the tin and bring the pastry up over the top, scrunching it together. Add 5 or 6 more sheets of pastry scrunched up on top to make it look interestingly textured, and drizzle with the remaining oil and butter.

Bake for 20 minutes and sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. Continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden and crisp.

Mix the harissa paste with the yoghurt and milk and sprinkle with a little paprika. Slice and serve the pie hot.

We served it with a potato salad and some spring greens, sliced and fried with cumin and garlic.