Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Chilli con carne

I had never tried chilli con carne before I met my husband, but his mother used to make it regularly. I developed my own version of the recipe over the years. No doubt, it contains ingredients 'proper' chilli con carne shouldn't, and omits things 'proper' chilli con carne should include, but that's the whole beauty of cooking... you can adapt things to your liking!

The one ingredient that might take you by surprise is the chocolate. But in fact, that is an absolutely genuine Mexican thing to do. And, if you've never tried it, now's your chance. I use a chocolate shaving stick (from Hotel Chocolat) but, in keeping with my promise not to make you dash out and buy an ingredient you'll never use up, you could opt to use ordinary dark chocolate. Go with the highest cocoa percentage you can find.

500g lean minced beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
15-30ml tomato paste
1 cup dried red kidney beans
125ml cheap red wine
Chopped red and/or green chillies to taste (I only use one)
5ml grated chocolate stick and 5ml sugar OR 2 squares of dark chocolate
1 star aniseed
Pinch salt to taste

  • Rinse and soak the beans for a few hours (or cheat and use canned ones)
  • Lightly fry the mince and onion (I don't use oil, but you might like to add a smidge) until the mince is brown and the onions translucent
  • Stir in the chopped tomatoes and the spices and salt
  • When the tomatoes have started to soften, add the tomato paste, wine and beans
  • Add enough water to cover the mixture - remember the beans will absorb water
  • Cover and simmer until the beans have softened (about 30 minutes in a pressure cooker). If the mixture still contains a lot of water at this point, let it simmer uncovered for a while
  • Serve with white rice, topped with a splodge of soured cream and a salad. A sprinkle of paprika (or cocoa) over the soured cream looks good.
This also works with corn bread or a baked potato. And leftovers can work as a sandwich filling.

If you have kids who won't eat vegetables, try finely grating a couple of carrots into the mince during cooking (you can do this with any mince dish, including bobotie). They'll never even notice! Obviously, if you're cooking for young children, you need to consider the chilli levels!

It's worth noting that fussy eaters often readily eat meals they have prepared themselves, even when these contain ingredients they refuse to eat otherwise. There is a school of thought that being a fussy eater can be about exerting control, and in being allowed to prepare the meal, the child has already exercised control. It's worth a shot!

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