Friday, 11 November 2011

chili con carne; the perfect tv dinner

chili con carne on brown rice with crème fraiche
i have always taken love for chili con carne as granted. it is wholesome and comforting food that is very easy to make. but that was before i met o who didn’t really have that kind of affinity for chili con carne. in fact he wasn’t even a fan of minced beef dishes. i am convinced that this is because he didn’t eat keema (pakistani beef mince) at my house. i loved aloo keema with large chunks of potato that collapsed under the fingers when eaten with roti. keema mutter flecked with peas brings back memories of picnics near rawal lake and nasty oversized crows that would try and pick our plates. then there was keema simla mirch made with green capsicum, it’s slight bitterness tempered with cumin and spice. more recently mama starting adding channas (chickpeas) to the mix. my love for chili con carne is perhaps an extension of my love for keema because they have something in common. minced beef is only good when spiced right and cooked to a deep brown. when making mince the pakistani way i sauté it well to bring out its colour. this process of bhuno although tiring is what makes keema so tasty. in chili con carne the combination of frying the mince and then simmering it to let the flavours get to know each other well is what makes it good.

i love cooking chili. a big casserole of it will mean i’ll have plenty left-over for a week night supper and even a packed lunch at work. it is also the perfect tv dinner because you can put everything into one bowl and tuck in. this sunday i took out my large le crueset. i like leaving my chili to simmer gently for a little while so i usually put it to cook around three. i’ve been working on this recipe for while and am quite pleased with it now.

two tablespoons olive oil
one large white onion, sliced into half and then into thin half moons
one big red pepper chopped
four garlic cloves, sliced thinly
500 grams 10% fat beef mince
a bay leaf
one teaspoon cayenne pepper
one tsp paprika
one teaspoon cumin powder
one teaspoon marjoram
half a teaspoon oregano
one tablespoon brown sugar
one tablespoon salt
two cans chopped plum tomatoes
one tablespoon tomato puree
chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped fine
two tablespoons cocoa powder or two square of dark chocolate
a dash of worcestershire sauce
two cans of red kidney beans, drained

start with warming the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan on a medium heat. once the oil is warm tip in the onions and sweat them until they are soft and translucent. add the chopped red pepper and garlic and sauté till the peppers soften. now turn up the heat and add the minced meat breaking it up with your fingers. fry the meat until it is brown. you can introduce the spices starting from the bay leaf down to the salt at this point and fry for a minute or so. next add the canned chopped tomatoes and the tomato puree and bring the chili to a furious boil, stirring in between.    

now reduce the heat and add the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. i use the canned kind and they have an aggressive heat so add carefully and to your taste. make sure that you have chopped it as fine as possible so that the peppers are stirred through evenly. also add the cocoa power or chocolate and a couple of drops of worcestershire sauce.

let the chili simmer gently for at least an hour or two. when you are about half an hour from serving put in the drained kidney beans and let them simmer for half an hour. the late addition is to prevent them from disintegrating and become mushy since they are already boiled.

o and i eat our chili con carne with short grain brown rice and crème fraiche. it is also good with jacket potatoes with salty skins. i often like eating just a plain bowlful. i reckon it would be good with a chunk of corn bread too. whilst the chili was deepening its relationship with the spices and tomatoes on the hob i got to looking it up on the world wide web. i didn’t realise that chili con carne has a rather debated history. there is an international chili society complete with a set of rules and regulations and chili cookoffs and they have put together a chronicle on the fact and conjecture on chili con carne. my chili con carne recipe it seems is a cross-over of the so called original texan recipe and the more interesting and legendary recipe of the san antonio chili queens. it seems that tomatoes are agreeable to some and not others and surprisingly felicity cloake and i are at odds on this one as her perfect chili con carne is tomato free.   

and, i am proud to say that o loves my chili con carne. he says it is one of his favourites, a compliment that he extends to my home-made keema as well.     

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