Chilli con Carne

Is this my third or fourth Mexican food installment, I'm starting to lose track? I'll have to start organising this site a bit better soon - categorise recipes and all that, eek! Not right now though, I'll procrastinate a little more and use the time to talk about my Chilli. Chilli con Carne. A classic mid week dinner and as with Spag Bol everyone has their own faithful recipe, which rarely alters. But why? I'm guilty of it too. So now I'm changing the pattern. The universe seems to be doing a good job of it with my life so I'm taking charge in my own small way - in the kitchen. Let's begin with the kidney bean. I'm not a big fan of the kidney bean. I believe I mentioned this in my Negril review in reference to their glorious rice and peas, which has black eyed peas and not those unattractively coloured pulses shaped like an organ (that in itself is freaky deaky!).  Nethertheless I've blindly used them in every Chilli I've ever made without questioning their inclusion. Look, I may be exaggerating. I don't hate the little blighters but in the same token I don't love 'em. So why it's never occured to me until now to replace them with a pulse I could eat in abundance is beyond me.

The chilli is looking and tasting better for that swapsie already so while we're on it I see no reason not to add some bacon - that extra fat goes a long way in heightening flavour, agreed? And I always thought a chilli was called so for a reason so apart from fresh (just didn't have any) I've chucked every other kind of the famous hot pepper into the pot that I could get my hands on: jalapenos, chilli flakes, chilli powder, paprika and tabasco sauce. Rather aptly and to quote the pop group The Black Eyed Peas, "It's gettin' here!!"

Finally, don't forget the cumin. If Heston reckons it's the key to a great Chilli then who are we to argue.


1 onion

1 green pepper (i only had half left but it was rather large in the first place)

5 rashers streaky bacon

350g minced beef

400g canned tomatoes

400g canned black eyed peas

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp sofrito

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp jalapenos, cumin, chilli powder, chilli flakes, paprika, sugar.

several splashes of tabasco (by which I mean I lost count!)

salt and pepper

Heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a large pot. Finely dice the onion, add to pot, season and sweat for a few minutes with lid on. Then add the garlic, cumin and 1/2 tbsp of chilli powder (we'll use the rest later) and cook for a further few minutes. If I were using fresh chilli's I would add them at this stage too - I'm a sucker for a habanero but be careful they are super hot, one is plenty!

Chop bacon - I use scissors, it's easier - and add to pan with onion. Fry until cooked but not crispy. Add beef and brown with lid on.

Chop pepper into large chunks: too small and they will dissintegrate. Add to pan and cook for another few minutes.

Stir in sofrito (don't worry if you can't find this), tomato puree and ensure all the ingredients are evenly coated. Add canned tomatoes, sugar, jalapenos, chilli flakes, rest of chilli powder, paprika, and tabasco. Season too:) Mix thoroughly and bring to a gentle simmer with lid on. If it looks very thick add a touch of water.

Simmer for about 45 minutes. Drain and rinse black eyes peas and add to pot for a further 15 minutes. Remember to taste and season. You can adjust the hottness to your liking by adding more tabasco.

Serve with grated cheese (maybe some sour cream too if you have it) and absolutely, definitely tortilla chips. I know the temptation would be to serve with rice but trust me this way is far superior. If you can get hold of the blue corn variety even better!

mexicanAine Carlin